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Title: A Comedy of Elopement
Author: Reid, Christian
Language: English
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                     NOVELS BY CHRISTIAN REID.


  =Valerie Aylmer.= 8vo. Paper, 75 cents; cloth, $1.25.
  =Morton House.= 8vo. Paper, 75 cents; cloth, $1.25.
  =Mabel Lee.= 8vo. Paper, 75 cents; cloth, $1.25.
  =Ebb-Tide.= 8vo. Paper, 75 cents; cloth, $1.25.
  =Nina’s Atonement, etc.= 8vo. Paper, 75 cts.; cloth, $1.25.
  =A Daughter of Bohemia.= 8vo. Paper, 75 cts.; cloth, $1.25.
  =Bonny Kate.= 8vo. Paper, 75 cents; cloth, $1.25.
  =After Many Days.= 8vo. Paper, 75 cents; cloth, $1.25.
  =The Land of the Sky.= 8vo. Paper, 75 cts.; cloth, $1.25.
  =Hearts and Hands.= 8vo. Paper, 50 cents.
  =A Gentle Belle.= 8vo. Paper, 50 cents.
  =A Question of Honor.= 12mo. Cloth, $1.25.
  =Heart of Steel.= 12mo. Cloth, $1.25.
  =Roslyn’s Fortune.= 12mo. Cloth, $1.25.
  =A Summer Idyl.= 18mo. Paper, 30 cents; cloth, 60 cents.
  =Miss Churchill.= 12mo. Paper, 50 cents; cloth, $1.00.
  =A Comedy of Elopement.= 12mo. Paper, 50 cents; cloth, $1.00.
  =The Land of the Sun.= (_In preparation._)


          New York: D. APPLETON AND COMPANY, Publishers.



                             A COMEDY

                           OF ELOPEMENT


                                BY

                          CHRISTIAN REID

                             AUTHOR OF
     MISS CHURCHILL, BONNY KATE, A SUMMER IDYL, MORTON HOUSE,
      VALERIE AYLMER, NINA’S ATONEMENT, HEART OF STEEL, ETC.


                          [Illustration]


                             NEW YORK
                      D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
                               1893



                         COPYRIGHT, 1892,
                    BY D. APPLETON AND COMPANY.


  ELECTROTYPED AND PRINTED
  AT THE APPLETON PRESS, U. S. A.



                      A COMEDY OF ELOPEMENT.



                              PART I.


                                I.

The short December day was drawing to its close; but, though the
month was December, the temperature was not that which is usually
associated with the season. Instead of gray skies, leaden waters,
and brown or snowy earth, there was a sky of glowing beauty, a
glittering sea, and a land covered with the evergreen foliage of
the South--for it was December in Florida. At noon the sun had
shone with uncomfortable power on the broad plaza and old Spanish
houses of St. Augustine; but now that his last rays were gilding
the ancient fort and the Moorish belfry of the cathedral, the air
was full of that delicious softness--a caressing warmth without
heat--which in such latitudes makes the mere fact of existence a
delight.

On the gray sea wall there were several loiterers; but, as the sun
finally sank, and the purple veil of twilight fell over land and
sea, most of these departed, leaving only two girls, who still
paced the narrow promenade, talking earnestly.

At least one was talking earnestly--the other only listened. But
the mere fact of listening can be eloquent sometimes, and this
girl’s face seemed made to express all things eloquently. It was a
delicately molded face, with a pale complexion and the most gentle
and lustrous eyes possible to imagine. As yet she was altogether
immature in appearance and manner, being not more than fifteen
years of age, but her slender figure gave indications of more than
ordinary grace when time should have transformed its angles into
curves, just as her face promised to prove even more than beautiful
when a woman’s soul should shine out of those eyes, now soft as a
fawn’s and innocent as a child’s.

Her companion was more ordinary in appearance, yet nine people
out of ten would have admired her most. She was an exceedingly
pretty girl, and, being four or five years the senior of the two,
possessed all the advantage of presence and of manner which such
a difference in age at this period of life bestows. Her face had
none of the delicate regularity of the face beside her, but her
features were charmingly piquant, her complexion brilliantly fair,
and her sunny, hazel eyes were full of mirth. At least they were
usually full of mirth, but this evening there was a shade in them
that looked like anxiety. It was she who had been talking for half
an hour, while the girl who clung to her arm listened with rapt
attention. As they still paced up and down in the twilight she went
on:

“You understand now, Aimée, how it is, and how I am almost at my
wit’s end to know what to do. I declare it is almost enough to make
one wish one were ugly, to be tormented as I am!”

“I would not wish that,” said Aimée. “It is like a novel--only
better--to be as pretty as you are, and to know that two men love
you to distraction; that you are almost engaged to one, but that
you love the other and are going to elope with him--”

“Hush!” cried the other, with a pressure of the arm she held almost
as sharp as the tone of her voice. “Think, if somebody were to hear
you! I am _not_ going to elope with him! That is just the point. I
have promised--but I can not, I can not! I like him--of course, I
like him--but I don’t like him well enough to ruin all my life for
him, to give up everything and break mamma’s heart. Aimée, I can’t
do it.”

“What are you going to do, then?” asked Aimée, while her eyes
seemed to grow momently larger and darker and more full of interest.

To an impressionable girl of fifteen, with her head full of
romances, all this was thrilling beyond expression. A beautiful
girl, a worldly mother, two ardent suitors, and an elopement
planned--what could any romance furnish better? Yet it was here in
her own every-day world, and _she_ was promoted to the dignity of
receiving the confidences of the heroine. What could life hold
more exciting, save the joy, of which she as yet hardly dreamed, of
being a heroine herself?

“What are you going to do?” she repeated in a voice as sweet and as
full of dramatic expression as her eyes. “If you have promised to
go to-night, how can you break your promise?”

“Breaking my promise does not matter at all,” said Fanny Berrien,
impatiently; “but getting rid of Lennox Kyrle without trouble does
matter. And how it is to be done I do not know, unless you will
help me.”

“I will do anything--anything in the world!” said Aimée, fervently.
“But how can you make up your mind to give him up?”

“It does not exactly mean giving him up,” said Fanny, “though I
suppose it will come to that at last,” she added with a sigh.
“But _just now_ I only want him to understand that it is quite
impossible for me to go with him. He is so impetuous and rash, he
will not understand at all how I am placed; and if I do not meet
him at the time when he expects me, he will be quite capable of
coming for me--as he has threatened to do--and then there _would_
be a fearful state of affairs!”

“He must be like young Lochinvar,” said Aimée. “I should think you
would adore such a lover as that.”

“He has given me more trouble than any other man in the world, so I
suppose I ought to adore--or else hate him,” said Miss Berrien. “Of
course, you don’t understand about these things, Aimée, and I ought
not to be talking of them to a child like you, only I have nobody
else to talk to; but Lennox Kyrle is one of the men to whom one
can’t say no. He has more power over me than any one else in the
world, and yet I am not at all sure that I want to marry him.”

“Why not?” asked Aimée, who was drinking in these new ideas as a
plant absorbs water.

“Oh, for a great many reasons,” replied the other. “For one thing,
I am not sure that I want to be domineered over for the rest of
my life; and then he has nothing in the way of fortune--at least
nothing to speak of. Now, Aimée, you know it is not at all
pleasant to want money and not have any.”

“No,” said Aimée decidedly--she evidently understood this--“it is
not at all pleasant.”

“And Mr. Meredith is rich, and will be richer; and he is devoted
to me, and mamma is anxious that I shall marry him, and I like him
very well--when I don’t see Lennox! So I have nearly made up my
mind not to see him any more.”

There was a pause. Aimée felt that this was a very unheroine-like
decision, a lame and impotent conclusion for a romance; but she did
not know what to say, being somewhat confused by the multiplicity
of new ideas presented to her consideration.

“At all events, I can not go to-night, though I was mad enough to
promise him that I would,” pursued the young lady desperately. “And
I can not see him; if I did, I _should_ go. I am ashamed to think
how little will of my own I have when I am with him--in fact, I
have none at all. He simply makes me do whatever he likes. So I
dare not go to meet him, and this brings me to the point I have
been trying to reach all this time--will you go for me?”

If she had asked Aimée to spring from the wall into the waves
washing softly against it, the girl could hardly have been more
surprised. Her face showed this plainly, but after an instant’s
hesitation she said:

“I will do anything that I can for you--where do you want me to go?”

“It will not be pleasant at all, and I feel as if it was very
selfish to ask it of you,” said Miss Berrien. “But then you are
only a child, and it can not compromise you as it would compromise
_me_; and you are as brave as a lion, so you won’t be afraid to
come here after dark, will you?”

“_Here?_” said Aimée, glancing around.

“Yes, here,” answered her companion. “A boat, with Lennox in it,
will be here at midnight. You must tell him that I can not come,
that I--But never mind, I will give the message at the time. Will
you do it for me?”

If Aimée’s courage failed at such a prospect, she felt that it
would never do to betray as much. She had pledged herself to do
“anything,” and she must not fail when something was demanded.

“Yes, I will do it,” she said, “if there is no other way; but why
can you not write and let him know?”

“Write!” repeated the other. “Why, you foolish child, have I not
told you where he is?”

“I don’t think you have,” said Aimée--conscious, however, that in
the multiplicity of statements which had been made to her, the
particular statement relative to Mr. Kyrle’s whereabouts might not
have received due attention.

“He is there,” said Fanny with a comprehensive wave of her hand
toward the Atlantic Ocean. “Did I not tell you that he is in a
yacht?”

“Oh! has he a yacht?” cried Aimée; “and can you refuse to go with
him?”

“I might not refuse if it was his own yacht--for a man must be
very rich to afford a yacht--but it is not his own. It is borrowed
from a friend ‘for this occasion only,’” said Fanny, with a slight
laugh. “His plan is certainly very well arranged. He borrows the
yacht, as I have said, runs down here, lies off the inlet and
brings a boat up to St. Augustine for me--I step into it, we return
to the yacht, run to Key West or Pensacola and are married, then
cruise for a month among the West Indies. How would you like such a
programme as that, Aimée?”

“How would I like it?” repeated Aimée. Words were evidently too
weak to express her sentiments; but she clasped her hands and her
eyes shone like stars. “It would be glorious!” she cried, with a
thrill in her voice. “I never read of anything more beautiful. I
don’t believe, I _can’t_ believe, but that you mean to go.”

“You may believe it, then,” said Miss Berrien, shortly. “It is
very well to be romantic when you don’t have to pay a price for
romance; but when you do, and it is such a heavy one as a life of
poverty--sailing and love-making can’t last forever, and what is to
come after? I asked myself that question, and the answer made me
stop.”

“I wonder if it was not Mr. Meredith who made you stop?” said
Aimée. “I saw the diamonds he brought you; but, though diamonds are
very pretty, they are not as good as a lover like young Lochinvar.”

“You will change your mind when you are a little older, my dear.
Lovers are plenty, but diamonds--However, it is not certain that
I will take them. It is only certain that I can not throw away
everything by going with Lennox to-night. He must wait.”

“But perhaps he won’t wait,” said Aimée. “If he is so impetuous,
perhaps he will say that it must be this night or never.”

“There is no danger that he will say anything of the kind,” replied
Fanny, with a comfortable assurance of her own power. “He will
never give me up until I am married to somebody else. He makes
love like an angel,” she added, with a stifled sigh. “I have had
a great many lovers, of course, but nobody that I ever liked half
as well as Lennox. But I must not think of him; and as for seeing
him--well, if I did that, I should be on board the Ariel before
day. I will give my chance of a cruise over to you, Aimée.”

“I only wish I could take it,” said Aimée, with the most evident
sincerity.

“Now we must go home,” said the other, glancing out at the
darkening water. “But first come and let me show you exactly where
the boat will be to-night.”



                                II.


Twilight had given way to night, and the sky was thickset with
golden stars, when the two girls reached the door of their boarding
house. A stream of light from the dining room, and a clatter of
knives and forks and voices announced that supper was in progress,
so they turned at once into that apartment.

A party of about a dozen people--chiefly feminine--were gathered
round the table. One of these, a handsome middle-aged lady, looked
up when the two entered.

“Why are you so late, Fanny?” she asked. “You know that I do not
like you to be out after dark without an escort.”

“But it is so hard to get in _before_ dark, mamma,” said Miss
Berrien, taking her place at the table. “It is lovely on the sea
wall at twilight, and the air--oh, what a feeling it gives one! Do
you suppose it can be ozone?--ozone in the air, I mean? Well”--as
nobody appeared able to answer this question--“whatever it is, it
is wonderful in its effect. My appetite is a most serious fact, and
I am quite ready to do justice to your good things, Mrs. Shreve.”

Mrs. Shreve--an elderly faded widow, who presided at the head of
the table--smiled faintly. The faintness of the smile was not owing
to any disapproval of her young boarder’s appetite, but was due to
the fact that, like a good many other estimable people, she lived
persistently in the shadow rather than in the sunshine of life.

“I like to see people with good appetites, Miss Fanny,” she said in
a tone which seemed to imply that appetites were perhaps a slight
mitigation of the sadness of existence. “Try the cup cakes; they
are nice to-night.--Why, Miss Aimée, _you_ are not eating anything!”

“I am not hungry, Mrs. Shreve,” replied Aimée, who could not say
that she was incapacitated by excitement from eating, and who
looked with amazement at Fanny’s gastronomic performances. How a
girl on the eve of a promised elopement, with a lover on his way to
meet her, could exhibit such a keen appreciation of cup cakes and
other delicacies was quite beyond Aimée’s comprehension.

Her attention thus directed to the latter, Mrs. Berrien glanced at
her.

“What is the matter with you, Aimée?” she asked. “Your eyes are
shining as if you had been listening to a ghost story.”

“She has been listening to a moral lecture,” said Miss Fanny,
giving Aimée an admonitory touch under the table, “and she is
reflecting upon it.”

“Nothing is the matter with me, Aunt Alice,” said Aimée. “I have no
appetite--that is all.”

“Want of appetite is very far from being the trifling thing
that most people consider it,” said an elderly gentleman on the
other side of the table, who certainly himself had no ground for
complaint on that score. “There is no effect without a cause, and
no physical derangement which may not be attended with the most
serious results. If people would only be warned in time--”

“I suppose nobody would ever die,” interposed Fanny, a little
flippantly; and then, feeling that to talk of dying to a company
chiefly composed of invalids was not the extreme of tact, she went
on hastily: “O mamma! who do you suppose I met at the hotel to-day?
Your old friend Mr. Denham, who is here for his throat--that same
throat of which he has been talking ever since I can remember. I
also saw the English gentlemen who are going soon on that hunting
expedition which Mr. Meredith thinks of joining, and which I should
like to join, too.”

“I have no doubt the party would be glad to receive you as a
recruit, Miss Berrien,” said one of the ladies with a smile. “At
least it is easy to answer for one member of it.”

“Yes, I think I might count on his vote,” returned Miss Berrien,
composedly.

After tea this young lady retired for some additions to her toilet,
while Aimée--who felt as if she lived, moved, and had her being in
a dream--went into the parlor and sat down ostensibly to read. She
was usually a great bookworm, having been a devourer of all kinds
of literature from her earliest childhood, and to-night she had a
novel which at another time would have absorbed all her attention.
But for once the letters danced before her eyes and conveyed no
meaning to her mind. The romance of reality in which she was so
soon to play a part engrossed all her thoughts. How would she
acquit herself? What would she be called upon to do? How could
Fanny possibly be so composed when _her_ fate was hanging in the
balance? These questions formed the burden of Aimée’s reflections,
while her head was bent and her dark eyes rested on the open page
of the book which she held.

Suddenly, however, she roused with a start, for some one said, “How
are you, this evening, Mr. Meredith?” and looking up she saw Miss
Berrien’s lover number two crossing the room.

A man with whom the world went well and easily was Mr. Meredith,
evidently. Rather short, rather stout, rather rubicund, but not
ill-looking, and apparently not cast by Nature for that villainous
part which is assigned in melodramas to the obnoxious suitor,
Aimée’s gaze followed him with a species of fascination. This man,
commonplace as he appeared, was, unconsciously to himself, one of
the _dramatis personæ_ in the romance now proceeding. “If he could
know!” thought the girl, with a thrill.

Exemplifying the proverb that ignorance is sometimes bliss, Mr.
Meredith sank easily into a seat and began talking to one or two
people, without observing the solemn young eyes regarding him from
a shady corner. “If he could know!” Aimée thought again when Fanny
entered, bright, sparkling, coquettish, and gave him her hand as
he came eagerly forward to meet her. If there was a single weight
on Miss Berrien’s mind, a single cloud on her spirit, no one could
possibly have suspected it; and Aimée began to wonder somewhat if
the whole thing was not a jest, when, in the midst of the lively
banter which with Fanny generally did duty for conversation,
she sent a sudden, swift glance across the room, which made the
wondering girl understand that it was reality after all.

The glance conveyed a warning, and fearing lest she might
unguardedly betray to Mrs. Berrien’s quick observation that
something unusual was in the atmosphere, Aimée rose and with her
book in her hand went quietly from the room. As her slender young
figure passed, two ladies near the door looked up and nodded a
kindly good-night.

“What a sweet girl that is!” said one of them. “She seems the
embodiment of gentleness.”

“She is so pretty, too,” said the other. “At least, she promises to
be pretty--and there is so much mind and soul in her face!”

“Poor child! I fancy it is doubtful what will become of her,”
said the first speaker. “Her father is dead, and her mother has
married again--married a certain Major Joscelyn, who is very much
gone to pieces in all respects. I know the family well, and Mrs.
Berrien was talking to me about the Joscelyns--whom she dislikes
exceedingly--the other day. Aimée, you see, is her brother’s
child, and for that reason she has her with her at present. ‘I
found that the Joscelyns were simply making her a drudge,’ she
said, ‘and her health was breaking down under it, so I decided to
take her for a time at least. Perhaps, when Fanny is married, I may
adopt her altogether.’”

“She can well afford to do so if Miss Fanny establishes herself
in life as well as _that_,” responded the other, glancing
significantly across the room.

Aimée meanwhile--altogether unconscious of being a subject of
discussion--went to the chamber which she shared with her cousin,
and, without striking a light, sat down by the open window through
which even at night the air came with balmy softness. She felt
strangely puzzled, and strongly averse to the service which she had
pledged herself to perform; yet the idea of retreating did not for
a moment occur to her. She had promised Fanny, and she must perform
whatever was exacted from her in fulfillment of that promise. But
how much she shrank from this fulfillment it is difficult to say.
This impetuous lover, whom Fanny herself was afraid to face,
what would he say, what would he do? Would he rage with passion,
or be overwhelmed by despair? Aimée decided that she would prefer
passion to despair, for she had a most tender heart, and the sight
of distress always unnerved her. She pictured to herself the Ariel
lying off the bar, with the eager lover pacing her deck, sure that
happiness was within his grasp, fancying no doubt that Fanny, like
himself, was counting the hours to their time of meeting; and
then a picture of the scene in the parlor below--of Fanny gay and
enchanting, of Mr. Meredith fascinated and amused--rose before
her mental vision. “How can she?” the girl thought. “How can she?
To bring a man here just to disappoint him! It is--yes, it is
shameful!”

As she so sat and so thought, a clock tolled out ten strokes. Soon
thereafter the different inmates of the house--being chiefly of
middle age and quiet habits--were to be heard exchanging good-night
salutations on the staircase and in the hall, several doors closed,
and then Aimée heard her aunt’s footsteps approach her chamber.
There was no light, and the girl hoped it would pass on--for she
had the feeling of a conspirator, and dreaded to be addressed by
one whom she felt as if she was betraying--but Mrs. Berrien paused,
opened the door and looked in.

“Are you asleep, Aimée?” she asked.

“Oh, no, Aunt Alice,” replied Aimée’s voice from the window. “I am
sitting here.”

“What! in the dark, and by an open window! Are you trying to take
cold? What is the matter?”

“Nothing at all,” answered Aimée, conscious that guilt was in every
cadence of her voice. “It is so warm that I did not think I could
take cold, and I--I like to look at the stars.”

“Close the window at once and go to bed,” said Mrs. Berrien. “You
need not wait for Fanny. She will probably not be up for some time.
Why are you so foolish and so peculiar, my dear? It is better for
you to stay down-stairs in the evening.”

“I will hereafter, if you desire it,” replied Aimée, lowering
the window as she spoke. She was always docile to the least
suggestion, but at that moment she would have promised obedience in
anything, to atone for the deception she was aiding to practice.

“Well, good-night,” said Mrs. Berrien. “Have you matches at hand?”

“Oh, yes,” answered the girl, glad not to be obliged to show her
face.

As her aunt went away, she threw herself on the outside of her
bed, and lay there almost motionless, but wide awake for another
hour--the delightful hour for which Mr. Meredith invariably waited,
for in it he had the society of his pretty ladylove to himself.
Fanny, however, who always sent him away punctually on the stroke
of eleven, was to-night not remiss in doing so. Ten minutes after
that hour the door of the chamber opened, and that young lady
appeared, bearing a light which flashed full in Aimée’s face.

“Oh!” she cried, “how you startled me with your great, solemn eyes!
You foolish child, have you not been asleep? I hoped when you went
away so early you would take a good sleep, and be fresh and ready
for my little errand.”

“I am ready,” answered Aimée, “but as for having gone to sleep, how
_could_ I? It is all too exciting!”

“One would think it was you who were going to elope,” said Fanny,
putting down her lamp. “As for me, I am so tired of men, that if it
were not for mamma I would go into a convent, where I would never
hear of them again. You can not fancy how Mr. Meredith has been
tormenting me, until I have half promised to marry him just to get
rid of him.”

“But you will not get rid of him if you marry him,” said Aimée,
with her eyes more great and more solemn than ever.

“Simpleton!” returned Fanny. “Of course not; but between promising
and doing a thing there is a very great difference, as poor Lennox
will find out to-night. Dear me!”--sitting down meditatively on
the side of Aimée’s bed--“I wonder what made me such a fool as to
imagine for a moment that I would go with him? The mere thought
makes me shudder--to be running off wildly and being seasick (the
idea of my forgetting that I always am seasick!) instead of going
to bed comfortably and getting up to-morrow to torment Mr. Meredith
by flirting with one of those handsome Englishmen!”

“O Fanny, are you not ashamed!” said Aimée. “To think what Mr.
Kyrle must be feeling at this moment, while you--”

“Yes, really, I _am_ ashamed!” said Fanny, hastily. “It is
abominable conduct, I know. But you see I am shallow--shallow
as that”--indicating about a quarter the depth of her little
finger--“and I can’t help it if one nail drives out another in
my mind. I wonder if it is my mind or my heart, by the by? Well,
anyway, in _me_. It is not my fault that I am shallow; and, on the
whole, I think I rather like it. One has a much easier life. Isn’t
it a great deal wiser for me to make the best of things as they
are, for instance, than to be distracted about Lennox Kyrle, who I
really like better than anybody else in the world, if I let myself
think of him?”

“I--I don’t know,” said Aimée, who found this question too deep
for her solving. “You must decide, of course.”

“I _have_ decided,” said Fanny. “Things are best as they are. But
now we must have done with talking and proceed to action. In the
first place, I will tell you exactly what you must say to Mr. Kyrle
when you meet him.”

“Yes,” answered Aimée, beginning to shiver at that anticipation.

“You are to say,” went on Fanny, “that I feel it is impossible
for me to take such a desperate step as to elope with him; that
it would break mamma’s heart; and--and that it would ruin his
life, for I should only tie him down to hopeless poverty. Say that
I am sorry, and blame myself dreadfully, that my feelings will
not permit me to see him, and that--be sure to make this point
emphatic!--he must not dream of attempting to see me. My resolution
can not be changed. I am sure I can trust you to put it all as well
as possible, Aimée--you have a great deal of tact and judgment.”

“But why not write it?” demanded Aimée, whose dismay was not
soothed by this compliment.

“My dear child, could he read a letter in the dark?” asked the
other, impatiently. “Besides, I _never_ write; I have learned
too much of the mischief that lurks in ink. Tell him all this as
quickly as you can--and be sure to make it very positive about his
not trying to see me--and then run back to the house as fast as
possible. How lucky it is that we live so near the water, else I
could not let you go!”

It is safe to say that, in this view of the case, such lucky
proximity was something for which Aimée did not feel very grateful
as she rose to prepare for the expedition. Her courage was sadly
failing, not so much on account of the lonely walk through the
midnight streets, as from the realization of the strange and
awkward position in which she would be placed. She was trembling
like a leaf from nervousness and excitement as Miss Berrien
enveloped her in a large, dark cloak, and drew the hood over her
head.

“Now,” said Fanny, glancing at her watch, “it is time for you to
go. I hate--oh, I hate dreadfully to send you! If there were any
other way--”

“But there is none,” said Aimée, trying to smile. “And I am not
afraid.”

“It seems so cowardly to send you,” said Fanny, half under
her breath. “Yet I can not trust my own resolution if I met
Lennox!--and then if it should be discovered--”

Her pause said more than many words. At that moment the Meredith
diamonds, and all that the Meredith diamonds represented, shone
brightly before her eyes. To risk the loss of them by keeping this
midnight tryst, was more than she could dare. And the girl before
her looked up with brave, generous glance from under the dark hood.

“Don’t think of it, Fanny,” she said. “If _you_ were discovered,
what would everybody say? while if _I_ am, it does not matter.
Nobody knows or cares about me! Come, now, and let me out. You’ll
wait downstairs to let me in, will you not?”

“Yes, indeed, I shall wait and count every instant. For Heaven’s
sake come back as quickly as you can! And be certain, very
certain, that it is Lennox Kyrle to whom you speak. It would be
awful if you gave the message to any one but him!”



                               III.


Being a little excited, and not at all sleepy, it chanced that Mr.
Meredith, after parting with Miss Berrien, betook himself to the
sea wall, where he proceeded to pace to and fro, smoking a cigar
and wrapped in very agreeable thought. Despite her coquetry, Fanny
had yielded to his suit more than ever before, and he felt no doubt
that in the end she would yield altogether. He liked to be played
with in this manner. It was not enough to discourage--Fanny was
too wise for that--but just enough to give a zest of uncertainty,
to sustain and keep alive the interest which in similar affairs
had more than once failed him. In short, he was completely
conscious of being in love, and very much pleased with the same,
finding in it none of the “pang, the agony, the doubt,” which are
poetically supposed to accompany the tender passion, but only an
agreeable stimulation. He was even conscious of feeling distinctly
sentimental, and disposed to cast lingering glances at Mrs.
Shreve’s house whenever he came to the spot where it entered into
his range of vision.

On one of these occasions he was surprised by a sudden and very
unexpected sight--the opening of the street door and the emerging
thence of a figure. For an instant he had a startled sensation;
the next he said to himself, “It is only a servant, of course.”
But a moment later he knew that it was not a servant. How he knew
it, is difficult to tell; but he felt instinctively sure from the
walk, the bearing, and the motions. He stood still, a prey to
very odd sensations, and watched the approach of the figure that
had in every line a familiar aspect. If it was not Fanny, who
could it be? He knew that all the other inmates of the house were
elderly people, except Aimée, of whom he did not think at all. But
to conceive that it could be Fanny, alone and disguised in the
streets at midnight, was impossible. He said to himself that it was
impossible, yet his pulses were beating in a most unaccountable
manner, and there was a sound in his ears like the rush of many
waters. It was natural that at this moment he did not pause to ask
himself whether or not it would be honorable to act the part of
a spy: he only felt that he must know who it was that came forth
from Mrs. Shreve’s house at midnight, with Fanny Berrien’s air and
movement.

Meanwhile the shrouded figure walking so swiftly, with head
bent down, did not see him. Poor Aimée’s pulses were beating
tumultuously like his own, and she was thinking of nothing save her
desire to accomplish her errand and return to the shelter of the
house she had left. The night seemed to her invested with terror,
and the sound of her own light footsteps on the quiet street
brought her heart into her throat. It is doubtful if she would
have noticed Mr. Meredith had he stood immediately in her path;
she certainly cast no glance either to right or left, but hurried
forward to the place Fanny had designated, intent only upon one
object, to deliver her message and return.

As she mounted the sea wall she heard the sound of oars, and when
she paused, shrinking and trembling on the steps that led down to
the water, she saw in the starlight the dark outline of a boat
containing two or three figures. Her heart gave a wild bound and
then seemed to stand still--for was not this the moment of fate;
was not the impetuous lover, who would take no denial, before her?

Certainly one of the figures sprang from the boat as she appeared,
and reached her side with all the impetuosity conceivable in the
most desperate lover. Before she could speak she found her hands in
a close clasp, and a voice was saying, in a tone of eagerness and
delight:

“So you have come; you are really here!”

Even at this moment it struck Aimée that there was surprise as
well as delight in the voice. Evidently Mr. Kyrle had been by no
means sure that Miss Berrien would appear. But the rapture of his
greeting made it harder for Aimée to explain that she was not the
person so eagerly welcomed, and when she tried to speak her voice
failed. She could only gasp, after a moment:

“I have come to tell you--”

“Never mind what,” interrupted the young man eagerly, with probably
a prudent fear of what the communication might be. “You are
here; that is enough. There will be time to tell me anything and
everything when we are afloat. Come, here is the boat.”

He drew her toward him, and so compelling was his grasp that Aimée
felt that in another moment she might be in the boat and _en route_
for the West Indies. This gave her the courage of desperation.
She made a determined effort to release herself as she said more
clearly:

“You are mistaken. I am not the person you think. I have only come
to tell you that _she_ can not come.”

“Not the person I think!” repeated the young man. He released her
hands and fell back a step in his amazement. The violent revulsion
of feeling which he underwent was evident in his voice, and the
sharpness of his disappointment so pierced Aimée’s heart that she
forgave the sharpness of his tone, as he went on:

“Then who are you--and why are you here?”

“I am Fanny’s cousin,” the girl replied, then suddenly checked
herself. “But you--who are _you_?” she said. “I was told to ask
your name before I gave any message.”

“There is no doubt who I am,” he replied, sternly. “My name is
Lennox Kyrle. What message have you for me?”

“Only that--that Fanny can not come,” answered Aimée, tremulously.
She paused and clasped her hands nervously together, trying to
recall all that Fanny had impressed on her mind to be delivered,
but only the principal points remained, and before she could gather
them into shape, as it were, Mr. Kyrle justified his character for
impetuosity by breaking in:

“That she can not come,” he repeated. “Is that all, after having
brought me here? _Why_ can not she come?”

The indignant emphasis of the last question was, under the
circumstances, natural enough; and, confronted with it, Aimée felt
in every fiber the shame of the answer which she was bound to give:

“Because she--has changed her mind,” she said desperately, grasping
the main fact and forgetting all the fluent words with which Fanny
had clothed it. “She bade me tell you that she is very sorry, but
that she can not elope with you and break her mother’s heart.”

“Her consideration for her mother is most admirable,” said the
young man with grim sarcasm. “It is only a pity that it did not
influence her a little sooner. And so she is ‘sorry’ that she can
not elope! She could say no more for the calamity of missing a
ball.”

“Fanny has not very deep feelings,” said Aimée, in a voice of as
sincere compunction as if the feelings in question had been her
own, “but I think she _is_ sorry.”

This simple statement, made in that sweet, pathetic voice, said a
great deal more than the speaker intended to Lennox Kyrle. He was
silent for an instant, then spoke in a softer tone:

“I know that she is easily influenced by those around her,” he
said, “and so this might have been anticipated. But if I were to
see her--”

“Oh, that is impossible!” interrupted Aimée, hastily. “She charged
me to tell you above all things not to attempt to see her.”

“Ah!” said the young man. Keen disappointment and mortification
were in his tone, but also something of comprehension. “Then there
is another lover,” he said.

Aimée did not reply. It was no part of the message with which she
was charged to enlighten Mr. Kyrle with regard to the other string
to Miss Berrien’s bow; and since his assertion was fortunately an
assertion, not a question, she suffered it to pass unanswered,
forgetting that silence, in this case as in many others, was
equivalent to assent.

“That accounts for everything,” said the young man after a
pause--in which, perhaps, he had waited for contradiction--“and I
only regret that I should have given Miss Berrien the pain which
I am sure she must feel acutely of treating me in this way. But
it may relieve her sorrow, perhaps, to know that it is the last
opportunity she will ever have to inflict a pang upon me. I have
been the slave of her caprice and my own folly long enough. As I
came here I resolved that this should be the decisive test. If she
cared for me, she would go with me; if not, it was well to know
the truth and be no longer the plaything of a coquette. Well, I
am here, and she refuses even to see me. She breaks her word and
throws me over without compunction. It is the end. Tell her that
from me.”

It flashed across Aimée’s mind, as he spoke, that this was very
much the ultimatum which she had prophesied, but she had not been
prepared for the stern resolution of the voice which uttered
it. Plainly, Mr. Lennox Kyrle meant all that he said, and Miss
Berrien’s comfortable belief that he would remain her slave as much
as ever was a delusion of her own vanity.

“I will tell her,” the girl answered, in a subdued tone. “I wish I
had been able to--to give you her message better. She said a great
deal--”

“Which I can easily imagine,” interposed Mr. Kyrle. “It is not
necessary that you should make an effort to remember it.”

Thus discouraged, Aimée felt that she need no longer remain, that
she had done all that was required of her, and might now return
with speed to the shelter of the roof for which she longed.

“I must go now,” she said, yet still she hesitated. She longed to
say a word of sympathy, but it was not easy to do so. At length,
however, she summoned courage, and spoke quickly:

“I am sorry, very sorry for you,” she said. “It is dreadful to
trust and--be deceived. I would not have come on such an errand,
only it was necessary you should know, and Fanny could not come.”

It is not too much to say that these words brought her personal
individuality for the first time to the attention of the man
before her. Up to this time he had not given a thought to the
consideration of who or what she was. To him she was simply the
mouthpiece of and means of communication with Fanny Berrien. Now it
suddenly occurred to him that here was a young, shrinking girl,
who had come alone at midnight to bring him the message of the
woman who had failed him.

“She could not come, but she could send _you_,” he said, suddenly
rousing to something like indignation, “though I hear from your
voice that you are young, and this is no fitting time or place for
you. Do not let me detain you longer--or, rather, let me take you
at once back to your home.”

“Oh, no, no!” cried Aimée, mindful of Fanny’s promise to watch and
wait for her, and fearing an encounter of the two at Mrs. Shreve’s
respectable door. “You must not think of it. I have only a short
way to go, and the streets are quiet.”

“Do you think I will force my way in to her?” said the young man,
scornfully. “I assure you that I have not the least desire to do
so. What have I to say to her? Nothing, except that I shall never
trouble her again, and _that_ I can trust you to say for me.”

“I shall say it,” Aimée answered, feeling not altogether
disinclined to do so, “but I beg you not to come with me. I shall
be at home in a minute. Indeed, you _must not_ come.”

“I will not insist, then,” he said, hearing in her tone how greatly
she was disturbed. “But you must go at once. This is a service that
only selfishness would have asked of you.”

“I came willingly,” said the girl. “It might have compromised
Fanny, but I am of no importance--it can not harm _me_. I am only
sorry that I had to bring you such a painful disappointment.”

“If a man is a fool, he must suffer, and deserves to suffer,” said
Mr. Kyrle, with a decision that did credit to his common sense.
“But you are as kind as you are brave, and I shall not forget you.
Now, go.”

Aimée needed no second bidding. She turned and hastened back in the
direction of Mrs. Shreve’s house and Mr. Meredith, who had watched
the meeting and conversation from afar, divided the while between
an overwhelming desire to break in upon it and the salutary fear of
making himself ridiculous, had the satisfaction of seeing the door
open and close upon her.



                                IV.


“Oh, what a time you have been, Aimée!” cried Miss Berrien as she
opened the door. “I have been in an agony! What kept you so long?”

“Have I been long?” said Aimée. She was almost breathless, and as
she sank down on the first seat at hand, pale and trembling now
that the need for exertion was past, Fanny’s heart smote her for
her words of reproach.

“Of course it has seemed long to me,” she said, “but I do not
suppose it really has been long; and what does it matter about me
in comparison to you--you poor, brave child! What a selfish wretch
I was to send you! You look perfectly overcome, and I have not even
a glass of wine to give you.”

“I don’t want any wine,” said Aimée. “After a while--when my heart
stops beating so dreadfully--I will tell you--all about it.”

“Yes,” said Fanny, eagerly, “but at least you can tell me this
now--did you see him?”

Aimée nodded, being for the moment past speech; and Miss Berrien at
once locked the door, as if she feared Mr. Kyrle might be on the
other side. Then she watched Aimée anxiously, and when the latter
presently opened her lips as if to speak, interposed with a warning
whisper:

“No, no--not here. We must go upstairs. Are you able to walk?”

“Oh, yes--why not?” answered Aimée. “I was out of breath when I
came in; that was all.”

“You looked as if you were about to faint,” said Fanny, taking up
her lamp. “How thankful I am that it is over, and that you are
safely back!”

Aimée might have assured the speaker that her thankfulness on this
point was trifling compared to her own, but the action of her heart
not being yet sufficiently regulated to make speech easy, she
silently followed Miss Berrien’s stealthy footsteps upstairs.

Once safely in their own room, Fanny was full of eager questioning.

“You saw him!” she exclaimed. “Did you give him my message? How
did he take it? What did he say?”

“Yes, I saw him,” replied Aimée. “He was waiting, and at first
could scarcely believe that it was not you--”

“Poor fellow!” cried Fanny, in feeling parenthesis.

“But when he understood that it was not you, and that you meant to
throw him over,” proceeded Aimée, not without a sense of pleasure
in the recital, “he was very indignant, and he told me to tell you
that you would never have another opportunity to treat him in such
a manner, and that he came here meaning this to be the decisive
test: that if you cared for him you would come with him, and that
if you did not come he would never ask you again. It was to-night
or never.”

“‘To-night or never!’” repeated Miss Berrien. For a moment she
was too much amazed to say anything more. Then her customary easy
philosophy reasserted itself. “He must have been awfully angry,”
she observed, “and when a man is angry he will say anything. But
for his sake I am rather glad that he takes it in this way;
he will not feel the disappointment so much. I was afraid that
he would be desperate, and insist on seeing me. It is a great
deal better that he should be furious, and talk about ‘to-night
or never’--which, of course, is all nonsense. It may be never,
indeed”--with a slight sigh--“but, if so, it will not be _his_
fault.”

“You would not think so if you had heard him,” said Aimée. “Whether
you marry Mr. Meredith or not, I am sure that Mr. Kyrle will never
ask you to marry him again.”

“You do not know Mr. Kyrle as well as I do, my dear,” said Fanny,
complacently. “He will be quite certain to ask me whenever he has a
chance. I only hope he may not have a chance soon. I hope you told
him that he must go away at once?”

“No,” answered Aimée, “I did not tell him anything of the kind. In
the first place, you never told me to do so, and, in the second
place, I would not if you had. It was bad enough to bring him here
only to disappoint him. You have no right to order him to go away.”

“Upon my word, you seem to espouse Mr. Kyrle’s cause very warmly!”
said Fanny. “Right or no right, I wish I had sent him word to go
away at once. It would be terrible if he stopped here and met Mr.
Meredith.”

“It would not surprise him,” said Aimée. “As soon as I told him
that you said he must not attempt to see you, he exclaimed, ‘Then
there is another lover!’”

“Did he?” said Fanny, with a laugh. “How like him! He always had
that kind of penetration. One might try to deceive him, but he
would go straight to the root of the matter. But then, of course,
jealousy helped him in this case. He knows me well enough to be
sure that, if I had not somebody else, I would not want him to go
away.”

“So it is not _him_--it is just somebody--that you want,” said
Aimée, indignantly.

“Not exactly,” replied Fanny. “But you are a child--you don’t
understand.”

“I should be sorry to think that I would ever understand such
heartlessness,” said Aimée.

“Your sympathies must have been greatly wrought upon by Lennox,”
said Miss Berrien, composedly. “It is not surprising; I know how he
can influence one. Ah, I shall never have such another lover! You
may think me heartless, and, luckily for myself, I am not very much
troubled with my heart, but if I chose to let myself go, I could be
as desperate about Lennox Kyrle as--as he is about me. If his rich
uncle would only die and leave him a fortune--But there is no hope
of that.”

“If he has a rich uncle, why is there no hope of his dying and
leaving a fortune?” asked Aimée.

“Oh, he will die some day--no fear about _that_,” said Fanny,
vindictively, “and he will leave a fortune of a million or two. But
poor Lennox will not get it. That is all hopelessly settled. The
old wretch has made his will in the most elaborate form, and left
his money to found some kind of an institute that is to bear his
name and have his statue. It is all a miserable piece of vanity and
self-glorification; but he will be called a ‘public benefactor,’
and all that stuff, after ruining Lennox’s life--and mine.”

“I don’t think he will ruin yours,” said Aimée; “but poor Mr.
Kyrle, what will he do?”

Fanny shook her head in a way to intimate that this gentleman’s
prospects were dark indeed.

“He might have done very well,” she said, “but then, you see, he
is impracticable, and that is what would make it such madness to
marry him. His uncle told him frankly that he had not the faintest
intention of leaving him a fortune, but that he would give him an
opportunity to make one for himself. ‘I’ll give you a better start
in life than _I_ had,’ he said, ‘and if you don’t take advantage
of it, that will be your fault.’ So he offered him a place in
his business house, which, of course, meant the entire control
and reversion of the business; and would you believe that Lennox
declined the offer?”

“Why?” inquired Aimée, wisely refraining from any expression of
opinion.

“Because he has no liking for commercial life--as if that had
anything to do with it! He tried it for a while, then gave it up,
saying he could not waste the best years of his life in work that
he disliked. So he has gone into literature, and is connected with
a newspaper. Conceive the difference! And fancy _me_ dragging
through life as the wife of a ‘special correspondent’!”

“But he may be a famous author some day,” said Aimée, with
brightening eyes.

“He may--and again he may not,” responded Fanny, dryly. “And even
if he were a famous author, it does not follow that he would be
anything save a poor man. Now, I was not made to be the wife of a
poor man; any one can see that.”

“I--suppose not,” said Aimée, slowly. These were mercenary ideas
to be introduced into the world of her young dreams of romance;
but she took them in as she had already taken in the facts of
faithlessness and heartlessness, and no doubt assimilated them, by
some mental process, to such knowledge of human nature and human
life as she already possessed.

“But now I think we have talked enough,” said Fanny. “If you are
not ready to go to sleep, I am. I feel so light and comfortable to
think that I have safely disposed of the Lennox difficulty! It has
been a dreadful weight on my mind ever since I received his letter
saying that he was coming. I was at my wits’ end. I did not know
what to do until I thought of taking you into my confidence. You
have been a perfect jewel, Aimée. I shall never forget the service
you have done me, and if ever I have a chance to repay it in kind,
I will.”

Aimée laughed. She had not a keen sense of humor, but it occurred
to her that Fanny was about as likely to do for another what had
been done for her this night, as she--Aimée--was likely to elope.

“I am sure that you will never be called upon to repay it in kind,”
she said. “I can not imagine myself promising to elope; but if I
did promise, _I would go_!”

“I dare say,” replied Fanny. “You are romantic, and you would
enjoy--or you think you would enjoy--dangers and difficulties. But
as for me, I like the comforts of life.”

Ten minutes later Aimée was listening to the soft, regular
breathing which told how the speaker was enjoying one of the
comforts of life. It was incomprehensible to the girl who was
still tingling with excitement from head to foot, and felt as if
sleep would never visit her eyelids; but her thoughts did not long
dwell on Fanny. They went back to the lover, for whom her tender
heart ached as she pictured him returning alone to the yacht which
waited the coming bride in order to spread its wings for the South.
What a cruel thing it was to let him come--only to disappoint him!
Indignation and pity were mingled in her mind; and as hour after
hour of the silent night passed, she still lay wide awake, her
great, solemn eyes, as Fanny called them, fixed on darkness, but
her fancy seeing plainly the starlit deck of the Ariel, where a
figure paced alone.



                                V.


Toward daylight, weariness overcame even excited imagination, and
Aimée fell asleep. When she awoke it was from a dream in which she
fancied herself on board the Ariel, and that Fanny had come to take
her away. “Aimée, Aimée!” said the familiar voice; and when she
woke, it was to find Fanny’s voice indeed sounding in her ears, and
Fanny’s eyes anxiously gazing at her.

“What is the matter?” she cried, rousing herself at once. “Have I
slept very late? Is breakfast ready?”

“Breakfast is over long ago,” Fanny answered. “I would not disturb
you, for I thought you had certainly earned the right to sleep as
late as you pleased; and fortunately mamma never comes down to
breakfast, you know. But I have come to rouse you now, because
something dreadful has happened. O Aimée, what do you think?--Mr.
Meredith saw you last night!”

“Mr. Meredith!” cried Aimée. She sat up in bed, a picture of
consternation. “It is impossible!” she gasped. “I saw no one. He
could not have seen me.”

“There is no doubt about it,” said Fanny. “He certainly saw
you--saw you talking to Lennox, and he thought it was me.”

“You?”

“Yes. And I could not make him believe otherwise except by telling
him that it was you. Even then he seemed to doubt; so I said I
would bring you to tell him yourself. O Aimée, it is mean beyond
words to ask such a thing of you; and yet there will be no good in
what you did last night, if you refuse to do this!”

“But--I do not understand,” said Aimée. “How will it make any
difference? I went for _you_.”

“But he does not know that,” said Fanny. “He thinks--oh, my dear,
you must forgive me!--that you went for yourself.”

“You told him so?” said Aimée, in a voice that did not sound like
her own.

“How could I help it?” answered Fanny. “He had been nursing his
anger and jealousy all night, and when he came this morning I
hardly knew him. He was ready to leave me at a word, and I should
never have seen him again. So what _could_ I do but tell him that
the person he saw was you?”

“You could have told him the truth,” said Aimée. “I am sure he
ought to have been satisfied to hear that you sent Mr. Kyrle away.”

Fanny shook her head. “You don’t know men,” she said. “And I did
not know Mr. Meredith before this morning. He was so angry, that
I saw at once he would never forgive me if he knew the truth; so
there was nothing to do but deny the whole thing. I suppose it was
cowardly; but I _am_ a coward. There is no doubt of that.”

Aimée agreed that there could be no doubt of it; but the frankly
admitted fact did not make her own position better. As far as
she could understand, Fanny had boldly transferred the whole
matter--intended elopement, broken promise, midnight tryst--to
her shoulders, and asked her to acknowledge it. She could hardly
realize all that was demanded of her.

“Do you mean to say,” she asked, “that you told Mr. Meredith that
_I_ had promised to go away with Mr. Kyrle?”

“What else could I tell him?” replied Fanny, desperately. “O Aimée,
don’t you see: what is the good of what was done last night, if I
acknowledge it this morning? I should lose Mr. Meredith just as
much as if I had gone with Lennox. So I thought I might trust you.
I thought you would help me. It is only to say it was you last
night; the rest will be understood.”

“The rest--that is, the falsehood!” cried Aimée, indignantly. “O
Fanny, how can you ask it--how _can_ you? I did not mind what I did
last night, though it was hard enough. I would do that, or anything
else of the kind, over again. But this I can not, I will not, do!”

“Then,” said Fanny, sitting down with a gesture of despair, “there
is simply no hope, and I wish I had gone with Lennox. It is useless
for me to face Mr. Meredith again. If I told him that you refused
to come, he would never believe that it was not me last night.
Well,” with a long-drawn sigh, “I suppose it serves me right. But I
am sorry for poor mamma.”

Sobs followed, while Aimée sat staring at the wall before her.
Fanny’s grief did not touch her as much as it should have done,
perhaps, for she understood exactly the degree and quality of the
regard which that young lady entertained for Mr. Meredith, and she
did not yet realize that disappointment over the loss of possible
diamonds might be as acute as that over the loss of a lover. But
the allusion to Mrs. Berrien had more effect. Aimée knew that her
aunt’s heart was set upon Fanny’s marrying Mr. Meredith, and for
her aunt Aimée felt that she was bound to do much--for was she not
the only person in the world who had ever given a thought to her
sad girlhood, or attempted to throw a little sunshine upon it?
There was not much in common between Mrs. Berrien and her niece;
but on the side of the latter there was a deep sense of gratitude.
“Should I hesitate to do _anything_ for Aunt Alice, who has done
so much for me?” she asked herself. It was this she was thinking
while Fanny sobbed.

Presently she said abruptly, “Is Mr. Meredith downstairs yet?”

“I don’t know,” replied Miss Berrien. “I told him to wait for me,
but he may have gone. I hope he has. I can never face him again.”

“I am sure,” said Aimée, tremulously, “if you would only make up
your mind to tell him the truth--”

Fanny interrupted her by a petulant motion. “Pray talk of something
that you understand,” she said. “If you will not help me, of course
I can not force you to do so, but allow me to be the best judge of
my own conduct.”

Poor Aimée! Her own eyes filled with tears--tears far more genuine
than Fanny’s. How, after all, could she refuse this service which
was asked of her? It was hard, infinitely harder than the one of
the night before, but it seemed to her that she was bound to do
it--to immolate herself and the truthfulness which was one of the
strongest instincts of her nature--in order that her aunt’s desire
might be accomplished. With an effort she said, at length:

“And if I were to do what you ask--if I told Mr. Meredith that it
was I last night--should I have to tell him anything else?”

“No, no,” cried Fanny, with eyes sparkling through her tears. “That
is all. Leave the rest to me. I don’t ask you to _say_ a thing
which is untrue.”

“It is all the same if I let it be understood,” said Aimée,
dejectedly. “But I suppose I must do it--if Mr. Meredith has not
gone.”

“Oh, I don’t think he has gone,” said Fanny, forgetting her
contrary statement of a moment back. “I told him that you had not
risen this morning because you were awake nearly all night. So, if
you will dress quickly, he will not think we have been long.”

Thus animated, Aimée rose, dressed as quickly as her trembling
hands would permit, and followed Fanny--who dried her tears with
wonderful celerity--down-stairs. When they reached the parlor door
Miss Berrien took her companion’s hand in an encouraging pressure.
“Don’t be afraid,” she whispered. “I will not let him annoy you.”

At a more auspicious moment Aimée might have resented this offer
of protection from the person who was dragging her into the lion’s
jaws; but she had no opportunity to do so, for the next instant
they were in Mr. Meredith’s presence.

It had never occurred to Aimée before that this was at all an
awe-inspiring presence; but now she felt herself trembling from
head to foot before the rotund, genial gentleman, who looked
unusually pale and grave, and whom she was going to aid in
deceiving. It was this last consideration which made a coward of
her, and fastened her eyes to the floor as she entered the room.

“Here is my cousin, Mr. Meredith,” said Fanny, whose conscience
did not apparently make a coward of her. “She has kindly come to
satisfy you as to who it was that you saw leave this house, go to
the sea wall, and return last night.”

Aimée lifted her glance and looked at Mr. Meredith then--who, in
turn, looked at her. More than ever her eyes were at this moment
the eyes of a startled fawn, and as they gazed at him full of
wistful appeal and fright and pain, he said to himself that with
such eyes deception was not possible. He had thought only of Fanny
before, but now he felt a sudden thrill of pity and compunction for
this girl whom his suspicions had placed in such a position.

“I am very sorry,” he stammered. “I had no desire to interfere in
anything which did not concern me; but I thought--I believed--It
was you, then, whom I saw last night?”

“Yes, it was I,” answered Aimée. She spoke with a clear
distinctness for which Fanny blessed her, and met his steady
gaze unflinchingly. As long as it was the truth--so she said to
herself--she did not mind.

Mr. Meredith, on his part, was staggered by her self-possession.
Shrinking as she looked, there was no faltering in her speech, no
shame in her manner. From her calm and ready answer, it might have
been the most natural thing in the world for a young girl to leave
her home at midnight to hold a tryst on the sea wall.

“I beg your pardon,” said the amazed man, who began to think
that a girl capable of this coolness was capable of anything
else--although up to this time he had looked upon her as an
insignificant child, fit rather for dolls than love affairs--“but
it was so strange to see a lady go out at such a time that--one
could not help drawing certain conclusions. And the thought of
_you_ never occurred to me, for I should have said you were much
too young for anything of the kind. And--by Jove! you _are_
too young!” he added, with honest warmth. “Your aunt should be
informed.--It is not right,” addressing Fanny, “that such an affair
should be allowed to go on.”

“I thought I told you that it was at an end,” said that young lady,
coolly. “Aimée sent Mr. Kyrle away; and I promised her that if she
came down to satisfy your doubt, she should not be annoyed further.”

“I have no desire to annoy her,” said Mr. Meredith, “but she is so
young that really--This Mr. Kyrle can not be a man of honor, to
try to make such a child elope!”

“Aimée looks more of a child than she is,” said Fanny, hurriedly;
“and--and I have told you that it is all over. Mr. Kyrle is
gone.--And now, Aimée, that you have satisfied Mr. Meredith, I
think you may be allowed to go also.”

Perhaps it was something in her tone which roused renewed suspicion
in Mr. Meredith’s breast. He looked from one to the other; his brow
lowered, and he said, stiffly:

“If you have no objection, I should like to ask Miss”--he found he
did not know her name--“Miss Aimée a question or two.”

“You have no right to question her about her own affairs,” said
Fanny, who feared what Aimée might reply to those questions. “I
promised that she should not be annoyed.--Come, Aimée!”

But Aimée read rightly the lowering cloud on the suitor’s brow and
held her ground, resisting Fanny’s attempt to draw her away, and
looking up with her clear glance into the suspicious eyes bent on
her.

“You think, perhaps,” she said, meeting his suspicions boldly,
“that I am saying this to shield Fanny; that it was not I who met
Mr. Kyrle last night. But you are mistaken. It was I. I will swear
it, if you like.”

“There is no need of that,” said Mr. Meredith, still somewhat
suspicious, but again disarmed by those candid eyes. “I should be
satisfied by your word. Only, it is strange--”

He paused--for at that moment the door opened, and a servant
appeared, saying:

“If you please, Miss Berrien, Mr. Kyrle asks to see you.”



                                VI.


Fanny’s courage was of good metal that it did not fail altogether
at this juncture. She felt for a moment as if it must, and if Mr.
Kyrle had followed the servant into the room it is certain that
she would have thrown up her game in despair. Thought is so quick
that even in the midst of her consternation there was a flash
of keen regret that she had not followed Aimée’s advice and told
Mr. Meredith the truth; but it was too late for candor now. What
would have been graceful confidence an hour before, would now seem
only the desperate resource of exposure. She looked at the door,
fully expecting to see Lennox’s face; but when she understood that
he would not enter without permission, her courage rose to the
difficulty and her ready wit perceived a way of escape.

“It is _you_ whom he wishes to see, Aimée,” she said, addressing
that terror-stricken young person. “Go to him at once, and take
him into Mrs. Shreve’s sitting-room. You can speak to him there
quietly. But pray _make him go away_ as soon as possible. Remember,
mamma may be down any moment.”

She fairly pushed Aimée from the room before the girl could
utter a word or collect her thoughts, and then turned with great
self-possession to Mr. Meredith.

“He is an impetuous young man, who will not take ‘No’ when it
has been said to him,” she observed, “so it is best that Aimée
should say it over again herself. He thinks, no doubt, that I am
influencing her.”

“You should influence her,” said Mr. Meredith. “You should see that
there is an end to such folly at once.”

“I _have_ influenced her,” said Fanny, very truthfully. “But
for me, she would not have sent him away last night. And so you
were positive that it was _me_ whom you saw!” she went on, with
absolutely mirthful eyes. “It is true, Aimée is as tall as I am;
but then she is so slight, and so unformed--”

“How could I tell that at night?” said Mr. Meredith. “And how could
I think of her? She always seemed to me a mere child. I confess
that I thought only of you--and a most miserable night I spent in
consequence,” he added, feelingly.

“I am not at all sorry,” said Miss Berrien, with uncompromising
decision. “You had no right to think such a thing for a moment,
after all that I have said to you. It was shameful! It shows that
you have no trust in me--no real regard and respect for me. If I
did what was right, now that I have proved how you misjudged me, I
should never speak to you again!”

“Oh, you would not be so cruel as that, I hope!” said the now
humbled and alarmed suitor. “Because, after all, I was hardly to
blame--I forgot all about your cousin’s existence; and you know you
have never _promised_ anything, so I had no right to feel certain
of you.”

“You will never have the right if you can not trust me better
than this,” said Fanny, perceiving her advantage and pressing it
ruthlessly.

It was not difficult to foresee the state of subjection to which
Mr. Meredith would soon be reduced in order to make amends for
the mistake into which he had been betrayed. Miss Berrien was
determined upon two things: first, to keep him well engaged until
she was sure that Lennox Kyrle had left the house, and, secondly,
to revenge herself for the fright she had suffered; but despite her
self-command, her nerves were in a state of considerable tension,
and it is to be feared that it was rather a bad quarter of an hour
which he was called upon to endure.

Not so bad, however, as that of poor Aimée, who was sent forth to
again encounter and overcome the ill-used Mr. Kyrle. She found
him standing at the hall door--a slender, handsome young man,
whose refined face and brilliant, eager eyes presented a type as
widely different from Mr. Meredith as it is possible to conceive.
He turned quickly at the sound of her footstep, and Aimée felt as
if the glance which fell on her pierced to her trembling soul.
But there was nothing which she desired or had need to conceal,
so she came forward, the movement of her slight, shrinking figure
reminding him of the night before, and her dark eyes full of an
unconscious appeal.

“I am sent,” she said, in a low, hesitating voice, “to tell you--”
And then she paused. What had she been sent to tell him?

“To tell me that Miss Berrien is engaged and declines to see me,
I presume,” said Mr. Kyrle, quietly, coming to her assistance. “I
anticipated some such message. But may I ask why Miss Berrien has
developed this sudden fear of meeting me? She certainly can not
think that I will proceed to extremities and carry her off by
force. It is possible that she might have feared something of the
kind last night, but _now_--”

“Oh, pray don’t say such things here!” interrupted Aimée, finding
her tongue in sheer dismay, as she glanced in apprehension from the
staircase, down which her aunt might descend at any moment, to the
parlor door out of which Mr. Meredith might issue. “Fanny told me
to take you into this room, where we can speak quietly,” she went
on quickly. “Will you come for a moment?”

She opened, as she spoke, a door which led into a small
sitting-room. It was Mrs. Shreve’s private domain, but Fanny (who
was her prime favorite) had obtained permission to use it in
emergencies like the present, and when directing Aimée to go there
she knew that Mrs. Shreve was at this time out of the house.

Mr. Kyrle hesitated an instant, then followed Aimée into the room,
and when she had closed the door looked at her a little curiously.

“Why do you let your cousin put such a duty as this upon you?” he
asked, abruptly. “Why do you not decline to aid her selfishness
and duplicity? Then she would be forced to come and face the truth
herself.”

“I do not think it would do her any good,” replied Aimée, simply,
“and I am sure it would not do you any at all. I have come because
she asked me--that is all. I do not approve of the way she is
acting”--with a grave shake of the head--“but I could not refuse to
help her, for she is in a difficulty.”

“I can very well imagine what it is,” said Mr. Kyrle, grimly, “and
I assure you that I have no desire to add to the embarrassment of
her position. I am simply here to end in a definite manner what I
have been foolish enough to regard as a tie between us. I believe I
told you last night that I would make no effort to see her, and had
I followed my inclination I should have adhered to that resolve.
But a little reflection showed me that to leave our relations
as she desired them to be left was impossible on my part. It is
necessary”--he spoke with emphasis, drawing together his straight,
black brows in an unconscious frown--“that she shall clearly
understand that by her own act she has ended all between us. I have
a right to demand that she will see me in order to hear this.”

“Of course you have a right,” agreed Aimée, thinking the while how
different this was to the pleadings Fanny had anticipated; “but
just now it is _impossible_ for her to see you, so the best thing
you can do is to go away. I promise you that I will tell Fanny
whatever you wish.”

“I have no doubt of that,” he said. “Any one who would undertake
for another what you have already undertaken in this matter can be
trusted, I am sure, to make a truthful report. But there are some
things which should be said face to face; so I must beg you again
to request Miss Berrien to see me. I will not detain her more than
a few minutes.”

“But--” said Aimée, and then she paused, asking herself what
she could possibly urge that would be likely to influence this
very determined young man, and save Fanny from the Nemesis that
seemed about to overtake her. The absolute self-forgetfulness
of her wistful gaze, as she stood with her hands clasped tightly
together, struck Kyrle in the midst of his own preoccupation; but
before he could speak she went on hurriedly: “If it were possible,
Fanny would see you, I am sure. But she is placed in a very trying
position just now, and she can not help herself--she _can not_ see
you. If you would only believe this and go away, perhaps some other
time--”

“I believe it because you say it,” answered Kyrle, moved by a
sudden impulse of compassion for the distress on her face, “and for
your sake I will go. But there will be no other time, so far as
any attempt of mine to see Miss Berrien is concerned. Her refusal
to receive me, coming after her conduct of last night, makes it
impossible that I shall ever again approach her. May I ask you
to be my embassador, as you have been hers, and tell her that I
disregarded her wishes and attempted to see her, not because I
desired in the least to change her resolution, but because I wished
to bring matters between us to a positive and definite conclusion.
I did not want to leave any loophole for misunderstanding. Be kind
enough to make this clear.”

“I will,” said Aimée, in feverish haste to be rid of him. “I
promise you that I will make it perfectly clear. And shall I tell
her that you are going away at once?”

“At once,” he replied, with decision. “She need fear no further
annoyance of any kind from me; and you need not fear being sent
again on such an errand as that of last night. At least there is no
possibility of your being sent to _me_, and I strongly advise you
to decline to serve Miss Berrien in that manner again.”

“She is not likely to ask me to serve her in that manner again,”
said Aimée. “But though it was not pleasant, I would rather do that
than--some other things,” she added, with a keen recollection of
the service she had lately been called upon to render.

“It was simply unpardonable to have sent you on such an errand,”
said the young man, his indignation growing with his interest in
the childlike creature. “What if you had been seen and recognized!
She should have known, if you did not, the grave risk you ran.”

Aimée was too loyal to acknowledge that she had been seen, so she
only repeated her former statement: “It would not have mattered. I
am of no importance at all; nobody thinks of me.”

“Apparently not,” said Lennox Kyrle dryly. To his credit it may be
said that nothing had so completely disillusioned him with regard
to Fanny Berrien, not even her perfidy toward himself, as her
selfishness toward her young cousin. To take advantage of a child’s
ignorance and generosity, to put her into a position that might
have seriously compromised her, seemed to him an act so unworthy,
that he could not entertain a shade of respect for the woman who
was capable of it. “But it does not follow that, because nobody
thinks of you, nobody _should_ think of you,” he went on with
energy. “You should think of yourself, and not allow your cousin to
make use of you in this manner.”

“I am quite willing to be made use of, if I am not asked to do
anything wrong,” said Aimée, simply; “and it seemed to me that it
would have been worse in Fanny to go away with you, than to send me
to tell you that she could not go.”

“Perhaps so,” said he, unable to resist smiling, “and I am quite
willing to acknowledge that it was better she did not keep her
appointment--better to break faith than keep it with an unwilling
heart; but she might have had courage enough to own the truth
herself.”

“She was afraid of you,” said Aimée, candidly. “And then there was
the danger of her being seen. If Mr. Meredith had seen _her_--”

She stopped short--confusion and alarm painted on her
face--conscious how far her tongue had betrayed her. There was an
instant’s hope that Lennox Kyrle would not observe the name which
had slipped out, but the next moment proved that hope vain.

“It would have been awkward, certainly, if Mr.--Meredith, did you
say?--had seen her,” he replied quietly. “But how if he had seen
_you_? Perhaps he did!” (with a sudden flash of comprehension). “I
remember now that after you left, as I stood watching to see you
safely home, I noticed a man on the sea wall who seemed watching
you also. If that is the case, he shall understand the truth. I
will go to him myself.”

“Oh, no, no!” cried Aimée, in an agony of apprehension. “You must
not think of such a thing! You would only do harm to Fanny, and no
good to me--for how does it matter what Mr. Meredith thinks of me?
I am of no importance.”

“You have said that several times,” answered Kyrle, “but I beg to
differ with you. Because you are a child now, it does not follow
that you will always be a child, and the time must come when you
will understand that it is of great importance that you should not
be suspected of making midnight appointments like that of last
night. It was in a measure my fault that you were sent on such an
errand, so I am bound in honor to let the truth be known.”

“And ruin Fanny’s prospects?” said Aimée, who felt that the
situation was critical, and that something must be done at once to
restrain the impetuosity of this young man. It was characteristic
of her that the first idea which occurred to her was of an appeal
to his generosity. “You can do that,” she went on, fixing him with
her dark, earnest eyes, “but it will seem like a revenge--and a
very mean one. You will injure Fanny, you will make a scandal that
will almost kill my aunt, and you will do me no good--for nobody
knows anything now except Mr. Meredith, and he cares nothing about
me. But if you go to him, everybody will soon know something,
though not the truth.”

Lennox did not answer immediately. He simply stared at her, so much
was he struck by her decision and good sense. It was true what she
said. By interfering he could do no good, and it would certainly
look like a revenge--“and a very mean one.” Aimée had instinctively
struck the right key. While a man of different nature might have
stretched out eager hands for any form of revenge, this man drew
back from the chance put into his hand as if from a viper.

“You are right,” he said, after a moment. “I should place myself
in a false position by interfering, and perhaps do more harm than
good. But, all the same, it is a shame that the truth should not be
known, and a greater shame that your cousin should trade upon your
generosity. However, you will say that is no affair of mine. It is
true. And since I can do no good to any one except by going away,
I will go without loss of time. Only one thing more: besides my
message, will you deliver this into your cousin’s hand? I have no
longer the right to retain it--nor the inclination.”

He drew from his pocket as he spoke, and gave to her, a small
golden locket which contained, Aimée afterward discovered, a
picture of Fanny and a curl of her sunny hair. As she received it,
a voice suddenly sounded in the hall which brought dismay to her
soul, for it was the voice of Mrs. Shreve, and this is what Mrs.
Shreve was saying:

“Come in, if you please, sir. I will send and let Mrs. Berrien and
Miss Vincent know that you are here.”

“Miss Vincent!” said Aimée, in a frightened whisper. “That is
_me_--and nobody ever comes to see me! Who can it be?”

Meanwhile Mrs. Shreve’s voice went on amiably: “You wish to see
them in private? Then step into my sitting-room, where you will be
altogether private, and--Oh! _Miss Aimée!_”

It was a tableau for a moment--the open door in which stood Mrs.
Shreve, bonneted and shawled; Aimée a picture of confusion, with
the locket in her hand; and Lennox Kyrle, tall, straight, and
handsome, standing before her. The scene, to all appearances, told
a story evident to the dullest comprehension; and it was not alone
to Mrs. Shreve’s eyes that it was revealed. Behind her was a young
man whose glance over her shoulder took it all in.

The tableau lasted only a moment; for Aimée, seeing the face over
Mrs. Shreve’s shoulder, uttered an exclamation of surprise, in
which pleasure evidently bore no part. “Percy,” she cried, “is it
you?”

“Yes, it is I,” answered the young man, coming forward as
Mrs. Shreve moved aside. He cast a look of angry suspicion at
Kyrle, then, taking Aimée’s hand--which she made no movement to
offer--bent and kissed her cheek: “You did not expect to see me,”
he said.

“No; why should I?” she answered, blushing so furiously that it was
evident his salute was not a customary matter. “Why have you come?”

“To see you--and to take you home,” he answered, with another
suspicious glance at Kyrle.

This the latter returned with one of coldly careless scrutiny, and
then held out his hand to Aimée.

“I will not intrude longer,” he said. “You will wish me _bon
voyage_? I am leaving St. Augustine immediately.”

“Oh, yes,” answered Aimée, eagerly. “I wish you _bon voyage_ with
all my heart, and I shall not forget--”

She paused abruptly--remembering that she must not say, “I shall
not forget to give your message to Fanny”--and of course the
sudden pause and blush which accompanied it could bear but one
interpretation to the looker-on.

“I shall not forget your kindness,” said Kyrle, conscious of the
false position in which she was placed, and angry at his inability
to right it. But, fearing to do harm and complicate matters further
by any attempt in that direction, he felt that the best thing
he could do was to go. So with a parting bow he left the room,
hearing, as he went, an angry voice saying:

“Who is that man, Aimée?--and what is the meaning of this?”



                               VII.


Aimée looked straightly and bravely into the questioner’s face.

“That,” she said, quietly, “is Mr. Kyrle. You do not know him, so
we need not discuss his visit. Tell me why you have come for me. Is
mamma ill?”

“No,” answered the young man, whose sufficiently good-looking
countenance was very much disfigured by the frown with which he
was regarding her; “she is very well, but it is necessary that
you should go home at once. And I did not come a day too soon, if
_this_ is how you are engaged.”

“What do you mean by _this_?” asked Aimée, indignantly--Mrs. Shreve
having withdrawn in search of Mrs. Berrien. “I do not know why you
should speak to me in such a manner because you find a visitor--”

“A visitor!” interrupted the other, angrily. “Do your visitors
usually leave such cards as that?”

He pointed, as he spoke, to the locket which Aimée had forgotten
that she still held in her hand. She now thrust it hastily into her
pocket; but, though her face crimsoned, she still regarded him with
dauntless eyes.

“It is no affair of yours,” she said. “I am not called upon to give
you any explanation. I am here under Aunt Alice’s care.”

“An admirable care it seems to be,” said he, sarcastically. “It is
fortunate that I have come to take you out of her hands.”

“I can not understand why any one should have thought it necessary
to send you,” said Aimée. “It is a new thing that what I do should
be considered of importance by any one.”

Then there was a moment’s silence. It was impossible for Mr. Percy
Joscelyn--which was this young gentleman’s name--to deny that it
was indeed a very new thing for Aimée’s actions to be of importance
in the opinion of her family. Her repeated assertion that it did
not matter to any one what she did was founded on most undeniable
fact, or had been a short time before. And if all was changed now,
if her actions had suddenly become of very great importance, it
was for a reason difficult to state when thus confronted with what
yesterday had been the truth.

Fortunately, a diversion occurred at this point which relieved him
from the inconvenience of answering her remark. The door opened and
Mrs. Berrien entered.

“Why, Percy, how do you do?” she said. “This is a great surprise.”

“Yes,” said young Joscelyn, as they shook hands, “I suppose so.
But I have come for Aimée.”

“Indeed!” said Mrs. Berrien, looking as much surprised as Aimée
herself. “What is the matter? Is her mother ill?”

“No, my stepmother is in very good health,” was the reply. “But it
is necessary that Aimée should go home. There has been--ahem!--a
great change in her circumstances.”

“In her circumstances!” repeated Mrs. Berrien, while Aimée’s eyes
grew wide and startled. “What has happened?”

“She has inherited a fortune,” said the young man in tones of such
solemnity as the announcement warranted.

“_Aimée_--inherited a fortune!” cried Mrs. Berrien. If he had
announced that Aimée had suddenly been transformed into a royal
princess it could hardly have seemed to her more incredible. “You
are surely mistaken.”

Percy Joscelyn smiled with an air of superior knowledge. “In such
matters there is not much room for mistake,” he said. “You have
heard, I presume, of Henry Dunstan?”

“My brother’s half-brother--my stepmother’s son by another
marriage? Of course. But he went to South America and died years
ago.”

“On the contrary, he died only last month; and, having lost his
wife and only child, he made a will just before he died leaving his
fortune to the children of his half-brother, Edward Vincent, of
whom, as you know, Aimée is the only child.”

“My dear Aimée, this is indeed a change for you!” exclaimed Mrs.
Berrien, turning and embracing the startled girl with honest
warmth. “I am as pleased as if a fortune had been left to myself.
Now I need feel no more anxiety about your future.”

“I shall never forget who was the only person who ever did feel
any,” said Aimée, clinging to her as though some danger threatened.

Mrs. Berrien smiled. She knew that it was true; that she had indeed
been the only person who had ever given a thought to the future
of the fatherless girl, and she was not sorry that Aimée should
recognize the fact. It was the reward for a good action, which she
deserved, because no such reward had seemed even remotely possible
when the action was performed.

Naturally, however, this was not very pleasant for the
representative of the Joscelyns to hear; and, being a young
man with a considerable drop of venom in his nature, Mr. Percy
Joscelyn felt impelled to reply to the implied charge by bringing a
countercharge.

“I am sorry that Aimée imagines you to be the only person who felt
any anxiety for her future,” he said, stiffly. “But if I may judge
by the position in which I found her when I arrived, it was at
least not a troublesome anxiety in the present.”

Mrs. Berrien looked at him with haughty surprise. “May I inquire
what you mean?” she asked. “You have found her in exactly the
position she would have occupied as my daughter.”

“Indeed!” said he, with what Aimée inwardly called “Percy’s
disagreeable smile.” “You are, of course, the best judge of
that. But I found her with a young man, evidently exchanging
love-tokens. If that is a liberty you would allow your daughter, I
can only say I am sure my stepmother would prefer an anxiety that
would take another form.”

Regarding him for a moment as if she thought he had taken leave of
his senses, Mrs. Berrien then turned to Aimée:

“What is the meaning of this?” she asked, “What is he talking
about? There is nothing that I can imagine more improbable than
that you were ‘with a young man exchanging love-tokens.’”

“I was not--O Aunt Alice, I was not!” cried poor Aimée, divided
between indignant wrath and the desire to burst into tears. “Percy
did find a--young man here; but he was only a--visitor.”

“But when have you taken to receiving such visitors?” said Mrs.
Berrien with amazement. “And I was not even aware that you knew
any young men--O Aimée, this is indeed a shock. I could not have
believed it. I should have said that you were one of the last girls
in the world to be guilty of such conduct.”

“I have not been guilty of any conduct to which you need
object, Aunt Alice,” said Aimée earnestly. “I would not deceive
you--indeed, I would not.”

“Then who was the visitor Percy found with you?” asked Mrs. Berrien.

Aimée looked at her piteously without speaking--for did not loyalty
to Fanny seal her lips? Had not Fanny been as anxious to keep the
knowledge of Lennox Kyrle’s visit from her mother as from Mr.
Meredith? The girl was so absorbed in this thought that she forgot
how useless it was to attempt to conceal a name which had been
revealed to Percy Joscelyn, and which he now hastened to supply.

“Aimée seems to have forgotten the name of her visitor,” he said,
“but she informed me that it was Kyrle.”

“Kyrle!” repeated Mrs. Berrien. The truth flashed on her. She gave
a searching glance at Aimée, and read the whole story in the girl’s
beseeching eyes. She remembered then that Mrs. Shreve had told
her that Mr. Meredith was in the parlor with Fanny. What could
be plainer than that Fanny had sent Aimée to ward off anything
so undesirable as the appearance of her old lover? But with this
knowledge came also the consciousness of an unpleasant dilemma. To
tell the truth for Aimée’s justification would be to put Fanny in
the power of Percy Joscelyn, who would take pleasure, Mrs. Berrien
felt sure, in injuring her by letting the truth be known. Could
she do this? Was such a sacrifice demanded of her? The woman whose
heart was set upon her daughter’s brilliant marriage, yet who was
of an upright nature and had honestly done her best for this orphan
girl, knew an instant of sharp struggle--and then Aimée spoke:

“Yes, it was Mr. Kyrle, Aunt Alice,” she said. “I hesitated to
tell you, because I know you do not like him. He was here only a
few minutes, and he is going away immediately.” She paused for an
instant, then added, “I do not expect Percy to trust me, but _you_
will, I am sure.”

“Yes, my dear,” said Mrs. Berrien, with a sense of mingled shame
and relief. “I should have to forget all that I have ever known
of you if I could not trust you. I am glad to hear that Mr. Kyrle
is going away. But Percy”--looking at that young man--“may be sure
that the visit to you had no such significance as he was quick to
imagine.”

“I have not much imagination,” said Mr. Joscelyn, “but I am quick
to trust the evidence of my eyes; and if Aimée will kindly produce
a locket which she put in her pocket a minute ago, you may change
your opinion with regard to the significance of Mr. Kyrle’s visit.”

“I can trust Aimée,” repeated Mrs. Berrien, trembling lest Aimée
should produce the demanded locket, “and I will not attempt to
force her confidence. It is not to-day for the first time that
her actions have become of importance to me,” she added with much
stateliness of manner, “and therefore I do not need to be schooled
in my duty toward her. Now we will dismiss the subject. When do you
wish to take her away?”

“The sooner the better, I think,” replied the young man with
considerable spitefulness of emphasis. “There is, of course, much
to be done.”

“But Aimée is too young to do anything with regard to business,”
said Mrs. Berrien.

“Her mother is anxious to see her,” said Mr. Joscelyn--a statement
which made Mrs. Berrien smile, and produced in Aimée a sense of
deepening amazement--“and it is necessary that she should begin at
once to prepare for the position she will occupy.”

“What will that be?” asked Mrs. Berrien, a little dryly. “Have you
learned the amount of her fortune?”

“Not precisely; but the letters received from Rio speak of it as
very large.”

“And so you are transformed into a South American heiress, my dear
little Aimée?” said Mrs. Berrien, with a smile, putting her arm
caressingly around the girl, who answered, between a laugh and a
sob:

“I do not know what to think of myself under such a
transformation.”



                               VIII.


If Aimée did not know what to think of herself under the
transformation of her changed fortunes, those around her knew very
well what to think. Never again would any act of hers be reckoned
of no importance by the world, which, whatever shrines it may
desert, is always faithful to that of the golden calf; and when
Fanny Berrien learned that it was a great heiress whom she had sent
to keep her rendezvous on the sea wall, and whose name she had, in
the minds of two people at least, linked with that of Lennox Kyrle,
she stood aghast at the realization.

“For, of course, since Aimée is to be such an important person,
I have done her a great injustice,” she confessed to her mother.
“I should never have sent her if I had not thought her too
insignificant for it to matter; and the same consideration made me
say what I did to Mr. Meredith. How could it harm Aimée, I thought!
and now--”

A dramatic gesture concluded the sentence, but did not lighten the
cloud on Mrs. Berrien’s brow. Indeed, Fanny said afterward that she
had never seen her mother so angry as on this occasion.

“If the change of fortune had not occurred, and Aimée had remained
as insignificant as you thought her, I should say that you were
guilty of shameful and inexcusable conduct,” said Mrs. Berrien.
“To send her--a child under my care--on an errand that might have
compromised her even more than it has done; and then to shield
yourself by placing her in a false position--I could not have
believed you capable of it! And the question now is, what am I to
do? I can not leave Aimée under the imputation of having been ready
to elope with Lennox Kyrle.”

“I see no particular harm in the imputation,” said Fanny,
“especially since Mr. Meredith is the only person who knows of it,
and I will see that _he_ holds his tongue.”

“You forget that Percy Joscelyn found Mr. Kyrle with Aimée.”

“And what then? He has only his suspicions of some love affair
between them--and why should not Aimée be supposed to have a love
affair? _I_ had half a dozen at her age.”

“Fanny, I am ashamed of you!” said her mother, severely. “Is this
a proper spirit in which to look at a matter in which you have
been gravely and deeply at fault? Have you no generosity, that you
are willing to let your young cousin bear the consequences of your
frivolity?”

“It is _her_ generosity that makes her willing to bear them,” said
Fanny. “But if you insist, mamma, I can set the matter straight,
so far as she is concerned, by telling Mr. Meredith the truth. Of
course, he will never speak to me again, and I don’t clearly see
how that will do any good to Aimée. But still, if you insist--”

“I suppose I ought to insist,” said Mrs. Berrien, in a low tone.
“It is a shame if I do not. And yet--you have put me as well as
Aimée in a position for which I shall never forgive you!” turning
sharply to her daughter--“you have made it almost impossible for me
to say what must be done. I should like to see you married to Mr.
Meredith, but I shall always feel that such a marriage is bought
too dearly if it can only be bought by putting your young cousin in
a position which may throw a cloud over the brilliant prospects of
her life.”

“Mamma, if you will excuse me, that is all nonsense!” said Fanny.
“How can it possibly throw a cloud over Aimée’s prospects--which I
heartily wish were mine!--that one or two or three people believe
her to have had a youthful love affair with Lennox Kyrle? Lennox is
a very nice person--though you would never believe it--and he may
be a famous man some day.”

“It is you who are talking nonsense,” said Mrs. Berrien, curtly.
“It is not necessary to discuss Mr. Kyrle. Fortunately, he is a
gentleman--there is that much to be said for him; otherwise we will
put him aside. You say that it can not injure Aimée’s prospects
to be supposed by two or three people to have had a youthful love
affair with him. In the first place, what is known to two or three
people will certainly be known to many more; and, in the second
place, it _is_ a great injury to any girl, in the opinion of
people whose opinions are worth consideration, to have had any
such affair, much less to be supposed to have been on the verge of
an elopement. As I have said, it would be bad enough if Aimée had
remained insignificant; but _now_, with her prospects, I can not
endure it!”

“Then _my_ prospects are at an end, and I might as well bury
myself at once!” cried Fanny, who began to fear that her mother
was seriously in earnest. “It is not only that I shall lose Mr.
Meredith--for of course there are as good fish in the sea as ever
came out of it--but I shall be hopelessly compromised, and I can
not even fall back upon Lennox Kyrle, for he has gone off in a
rage, swearing that he is done with me forever. So you might as
well make up your mind, mamma, that I shall be left on your hands.”

“Fanny, you distract me!” said her mother. “Do you propose that I
shall let this thing go on, and suffer Aimée, who does not know
what she is doing, to start in life with this story fastened upon
her?”

“Aimée knows perfectly well what she is doing,” said Fanny, “and
if she does not mind why should you? As for her changed position,
when people have money they can do exactly what they please, and
the world never dares to find fault. That is my experience. But
here she comes herself. Ask her what she wishes. I promise to abide
by her decision.”

It was indeed Aimée, who entered like an angel of peace. She never
looked more childlike or gentle, yet her simplicity now as ever was
the simplicity of good sense, and as she came forward she glanced
appealingly from the anxious daughter to the distracted mother.

“I was in the next room; I could not help hearing, Aunt Alice,” she
said. “I have come to thank you for thinking so much of me, and to
beg you to let things be as they are.”

“My dear child, it is generous of you to desire it,” said Mrs.
Berrien, “but I do not feel that I have a right to accept such a
sacrifice. I must think of your future.”

“Have you not always thought of me?” said the girl, coming forward
and in her earnestness kneeling down by her aunt’s chair. “_You_
know, and _I_ know, that nobody else has thought of me at all. And
will you not let me repay you in the least for your kindness and
your thought? It is such a little thing that I want you to let me
do. Fanny is right. What difference does it make whether two or
three people believe that I was going to elope with Mr. Kyrle? It
can not hurt _me_; but if it were known of _her_ it would hurt her
very much. I saw Mr. Meredith this morning, and I am certain that
he would never forgive her if he learned the truth now. It is too
late. You can make things worse, Aunt Alice, but you can not make
them any better now.”

Mrs. Berrien gave a little gasp. It was true, all that the simple,
quiet voice said. Things might easily be made worse, but it was too
late to make them better. She perceived this, and was not sorry to
perceive it, even while despising herself for being convinced. But
what could she do, with Fanny’s imploring eyes on one side, and on
the other Aimée’s resolution?

“I ought not to yield,” she said. “Whether things were made better
or worse, the truth should be told.”

“Oh, no; if the truth would do harm, instead of good, why should
you tell it _now_?” said Aimée, with guileless casuistry. “I wanted
Fanny to tell Mr. Meredith at first, but she would not, and now it
is too late. You must let things be, dear Aunt Alice. Promise me
that you will let them be.”

The insistent voice and eyes carried their point. Mrs. Berrien
hesitated a moment longer, then meekly yielded.

“I am wrong, I know I am wrong,” she said, “but I can not withstand
you both. Aimée, I shall never forgive myself if this throws any
shadow of trouble on your life. Remember, if it ever does, and you
wish the truth known, call upon me and I will tell it.”

Aimée shook her head, smiling.

“I am not afraid that the occasion will ever come,” she said. “I am
too glad to be able to do something for you, who have done so much
for me.”



                                IX.


But Mrs. Berrien was not the only person who felt concern about the
very unjust suspicion that might be cast upon Aimée. Lennox Kyrle,
as he went out, with Percy Joscelyn’s angry question ringing in his
ears, said to himself, indignantly, that it was shameful that such
a misconception should be allowed for a moment to exist, and that,
if Fanny had neither the courage nor sense of justice sufficient
to induce her to speak, it was his plain duty to do so. Only one
consideration deterred him, and this was the consideration Aimée
had so artfully brought to bear, that to reveal the truth would on
his part appear to be the revenge of a jilted man.

“My lips are sealed,” he thought, wrathfully, “and Fanny Berrien
knows it, so she allows this child, who is too young and ignorant
to understand what she is doing, to bear the consequences and the
odium of her conduct. It is infamous, and I will not submit to it!
Something must be done.”

But to declare in the warmth of righteous indignation that
something must be done, and to decide what that something should
be, were unfortunately very different things. Mr. Kyrle felt
himself impotent in the face of the double force of feminine
resolution arrayed against him, and yet he was determined that
matters should not be left as they were. The more he thought of
it, the more he was revolted by Fanny Berrien’s selfishness and
duplicity, and the more eager he became that she should be made
to bear the burden of her own misdoing. But how was this to be
accomplished? He walked away from Mrs. Shreve’s door after asking
himself the question, and finding no answer short of that method
which would be open to the suspicion of being dictated by revenge.
One thing, however, he determined--that he would not leave St.
Augustine at once, as he had declared his intention of doing. That
Fanny Berrien very much desired his departure, was in his present
mood an incentive to remain. Yes, he would stay for a day at least,
and see if circumstances might not make it possible for him to set
matters in their true light.

At the hotel where he had taken up his quarters--for this was
before the era of palatial hostelries in the quaint old Spanish
town--he saw Mr. Meredith and Percy Joscelyn, and might have been
amused by the glances, not of love, which both men cast upon him,
but for the fact that he clearly understood the misconception in
the mind of each; and to be held guilty of tempting a girl hardly
out of childhood to elopement, was as outraging to his pride as
to his sense of integrity. It is to be regretted that he did
not encounter Miss Berrien at this period, for that lively and
easy-going young lady would assuredly have heard some truths,
clothed in caustic language, which might have proved of benefit to
her. But instead of Miss Berrien, it was Aimée whom he encountered
again, in a manner most unexpected to both. One of the girl’s
greatest pleasures during her stay in St. Augustine had been to
spend much of her time in an orange grove on the outskirts of
the town, to which she had a right of entrance, as it belonged
to Mrs. Shreve’s son. Other people also went there occasionally
to walk under the picturesque trees and pluck the golden fruit
that gleamed out of the glossy foliage; but Aimée would take books
or work with her, and spend hours alone in what seemed to her an
enchanted world of soft sunshine, balmy air, and sweet odors.
It was therefore a place that she felt she could not leave St.
Augustine without seeing again--the more especially that, after
the events of the morning and the tremendous change that seemed
impending over her, she needed a little time for quiet reflection.
And quiet reflection in the house with her aunt and Fanny was an
impossible thing.

So it came to pass that, in the last hour of a perfect afternoon,
Lennox Kyrle, who had been taking a walk while chewing the cud
of unpleasant reflections, was attracted by the appearance of a
figure coming along the road on which he was tramping. His sight
was remarkably keen, and after an instant, although the person was
still distant, he had no doubt who it was.

“It is that little girl!” he said to himself. “I call this good
luck, for really the only thing I can do, as far as I perceive, is
to make another appeal to her to tell the truth. Yet to go back to
that house to see her was impossible. So it is surely a fortunate
chance that brings her here--and alone, too!”

The next moment he feared that he had congratulated himself too
soon. The figure paused an instant and then disappeared. Had she
also recognized him, and desired to avoid meeting him? He thought
it likely, but determined grimly that she should not succeed. Since
to reach Fanny and scorch her with reproaches was impossible,
his next best chance was to work upon Aimée, and this he vowed
to himself that he would not be prevented from doing. If she had
gone into some house, he would remain on the road until nightfall
in order to waylay her on her return home; but if she had perhaps
taken another road--The suspicion of this made him quicken his
steps, so that a few minutes after Aimée’s disappearance he reached
the spot where he had seen her last. No house was in sight, but it
was evident that she had entered a gate which led into an orange
grove, the beautiful alleys of which he had admired as he passed
it on his way out an hour before. Indeed, as he gazed eagerly and
quickly down the green vistas filled with sunset light he perceived
what he sought--the graceful form pacing slowly along one of the
overarched ways.

To decide and to act was more a synonymous thing with Lennox Kyrle
than with most men. He did not give a thought to any question of
intrusion or trespass. He opened the gate and went in, striding
quickly down the path in which he perceived the slender, girlish
figure. He was not conscious at the moment of bestowing much
attention upon the scene around him, but its aspect came back to
him so vividly afterward, that the sensitive plate which we call
memory must have retained it with unusual fidelity. Long afterward
he could see distinctly the floods of level sunlight slanting
through the tree-trunks and turning the very air to amber, the
wealth of glistening evergreen foliage, the boughs laden with what
seemed the golden apples of classic fable, the indefinable charm
of the Southern atmosphere, and above all the delicate, childlike
presence like a vision of youth flitting down the sunlit vista.

But if there was a satisfaction to him in thus finding an
opportunity to deliver the thoughts which had turned so hotly
within him all day, there was not the least satisfaction for poor
Aimée, when, hearing a quick tread advancing behind her, she turned
to confront the last person in the world whom she had the least
desire to see. She stood still, clasping her hands instinctively
together as she uttered a low cry of dismay.

“O Mr. Kyrle!” she gasped. “I hoped--I thought you had gone away.”

Little as Kyrle was in a mood for smiling, he could not but smile
at this ingenuous address. “I am sorry to disappoint you,” he said,
“and to break my word--for I promised to go, didn’t I? But there
are reasons that seemed to make it imperative for me to remain a
little longer. And, as it chanced just now, while I was taking a
walk, I saw you enter this place, and I hoped you would pardon me
if I followed you.”

“But why?” inquired Aimée, far too disturbed to be polite. “Why
should you want to see me, and why--oh, _why_ haven’t you gone
away? Fanny would be dreadfully worried if she knew you were still
here.”

“What Miss Berrien might think does not trouble me in the least,”
he replied, quietly; “but I am sorry to annoy you. I really did not
think, however, that merely seeing me would annoy you so much. Why
should it? I have no intention of harming any one.”

“Without intention you may do great harm,” she replied, quickly.
“And I can not understand why you should stay, when you promised--”

“I will tell you why,” he said as she paused. “But is there no
place where we can sit down for a few minutes? I will not detain
you long.”

She pointed to a bench not far off, a favorite seat of her own, and
one to which she had been on her way when he overtook her. “We can
sit down there,” she said, with manifest reluctance, “but I do not
see the necessity--”

“Never mind seeing it,” he said. “Simply oblige me--if I must put
the matter on that basis. I am sure you will admit that I have been
badly enough treated to merit a little consideration.”

“You have certainly been _very_ badly treated,” said Aimée, her
eyes softening with sympathy at the memory of his wrongs. “I hope
you don’t think I forget it, or that I can ever cease to blame
Fanny; but--but making things worse can not make them better. And
it seems to me that you can only make them worse by staying here.”

“As far as Miss Berrien is concerned,” he said, as they walked
toward the bench and seated themselves, “I assure you that I have
not the least desire to make them either worse or better. It seems
strange--does it not?”--he broke off abruptly, “that this time
yesterday I was looking at the setting sun filled with thoughts
of her, and longings for the moment that would bring us together,
and that now there is not a woman whom I know in the world that I
would not sooner entertain the thought of marrying. It is a great
change to be wrought in twenty-four hours. And do you know what
has chiefly wrought it?”

“Her conduct, I suppose,” answered Aimée. “It was bad enough to
have wrought anything; and yet,” she added, reflectively, “I don’t
really believe that Fanny herself thinks it was very bad. She
is--light, you know.”

“Yes,” assented Kyrle, dryly, “very light. However, what she thinks
is a matter of no importance. And it is not her conduct to me that
has chiefly wrought the change of which I speak, but her conduct to
_you_.”

“To me?” said Aimée, looking up at him with a startled expression.
“Oh, pray, don’t think of that. You don’t understand--Fanny never
meant to do me any harm. I was perfectly willing to go last night,
and it was not her fault that Mr. Meredith, instead of going home,
as he should have done, stayed on the sea wall and saw me.”

“Pardon me,” said Kyrle, “but I think it was distinctly her fault.
To have sent you on such an errand was in itself absolutely
inexcusable; but afterward to let it be supposed that you went of
your own accord--that you were the person about to elope--there is
no language strong enough to characterize such cowardly duplicity.
You wonder why I am still here? It is because I determined to see
you, and say to you that if you do not tell the truth, I will. This
shameful deception, this trading on the generosity of a child,
shall not continue.”

Aimée looked up at him. When had she seen any one so moved with
indignation and generous wrath? She thought again that this man was
far from the ductile wax Fanny Berrien imagined him to be; but,
righteous as his resentment and anger were, it would not do to
allow him to act upon them. Yet how could she hope to influence or
bend the fiery resolution that breathed in his look and words?

“It is too late,” she said at last. “I have promised, and I have
made others promise, that things shall be left as they are, and
nothing would induce me to speak. Fanny is selfish and thoughtless,
but she never intended deception. It all--came about because Mr.
Meredith frightened her, and she was afraid to tell the truth.
Fanny is a little of a coward, you know. She is very sorry--really
sorry, I assure you; but if she told Mr. Meredith now, he would
never forgive her.”

“And so you advise her to continue to deceive a man whose affection
for her should entitle him at least to fair dealing?” said Kyrle,
bitterly. “Is a man, then, never certain of truth from a woman?
In Fanny Berrien I am not surprised. But your eyes look as if you
ought to know what honor and honesty are.”

The eyes of which he spoke filled with tears. No other reproach
could have cut Aimée so deeply. Twenty-four hours earlier she would
have said that honor and honesty were the forces that would always
rule her life; and now--she could not deny that from this high
standard she had ignominiously fallen. And how was it possible to
explain what compelling impulse of gratitude had made it seem a
duty to violate the strongest instincts implanted in her nature?
She looked at Kyrle with the overbrimming crystal drops almost
ready to fall, and he, meeting the pained humility of that look,
felt as if he had struck a helpless child.

“I suppose it was wrong to have helped Fanny when it came to a
question of deception,” she said, “but you do not know how unkind
and ungrateful it would have seemed of me to refuse. It looked
such a little thing--just to say that it was I whom Mr. Meredith
saw last night. And _that_ was true. Oh, yes” (quickly), “I know
that it is as bad to imply a falsehood as to tell it. But--but what
could I do? I owe so much to my aunt!”

“I have no right to hold you to account,” said Kyrle. “Only let me
ask if you think it possible to owe any debt of gratitude great
enough to demand a sacrifice of integrity in payment?”

“I don’t know,” she answered, simply. “I am sorry if I have done
anything very wrong, but I will tell you why I felt compelled to
make almost any sacrifice to shield Fanny.” She hesitated a moment.
It seemed a difficult subject to approach, and Kyrle was about to
beg her not to distress herself in order to give him an explanation
to which he had no claim, when she went on hastily: “You see, I
am only partly an orphan. My father is dead, but my mother is
living and has married again. She is very much under the influence
of Major Joscelyn--that is my stepfather--and I have always felt,
though perhaps I was wrong, that she does not care much about me.
The Joscelyns have never liked me; so I was very unhappy at home,
when Aunt Alice came and took me away. I can not tell you how
different life was to me when I went to live with her and Fanny.
They have both been so kind and affectionate, they have done so
much for me, of whom no one else ever thought at all, that there is
not anything--not _anything_,” repeated the passionate young voice,
“that I would not do for them. And I can not regret what I have
done, though I am sorry it seems to you so wrong.”

“It is chiefly wrong to yourself,” said Kyrle. “I wish I could make
you see this as I do. It is not less than a crime against your
future to allow people to suppose--for what one person knows, many
people are pretty certain to know--that you were not only engaged
in a love affair, but on the point of eloping with me last night.”

A deep blush, beautiful in its tint but painful in its intensity,
spread over her face. She looked away from him and her lip
trembled. He saw that some instinct which had been dormant before
was waking in her, and making her understand the outrage which such
a misconception would do her childlike youth, and he pressed his
advantage remorselessly.

“You can not possibly comprehend what injury the story might do
your life at some of its most critical moments,” he said; “but your
aunt, Mrs. Berrien, will comprehend, and to her I shall go. I am
deeply enough concerned in the matter to have a right to demand
that the truth shall be told.”

“If you go to my aunt,” said Aimée, turning upon him quickly, “you
can distress her very much, but you can not tell her anything which
she does not know. All that you have said about possible injury to
me _she_ has said and I had much trouble in persuading her to let
things be as they are. You must not think any wrong of her. She
knew nothing until Percy Joscelyn, my stepbrother--who came in, you
remember, this morning--charged her with not having taken proper
care of me, because he found you in Mrs. Shreve’s sitting-room with
me. It was like his effrontery to dare to speak so to her!” the
girl interpolated, with flashing eyes. “Yesterday no Joscelyn of
them all would have cared what became of me; only Aunt Alice cared.
But to-day, because it seems they have learned that I am rich,
Percy ventures to insult her!”

Nothing could have surprised Kyrle more than this sudden flash
of indignant anger in one who had seemed to him gentle to a
fault. But he was a man of quick perceptions, and all the intense
affectionateness, the passionate gratitude and loyalty of the
girl’s nature, were revealed to him in that moment of emotion.
He was deeply touched and interested, for in this instant he
understood that it was no vulgar love of intrigue, no lack of
rectitude, no obtuseness toward the finest things of life, that had
made Aimée play her part in Fanny Berrien’s commonplace comedy of
flirtation. Instead of comedy it had become tragedy to the girl,
with her keen sense of honor, her high standard of loyalty, and her
delicate instinct of the claim which love and trust given create
in a generous mind. But there were motives, deep-rooted in her
nature, strong enough to make her do violence to all these things
and stand firm as Fanny’s shield. Kyrle almost forgot the point he
was himself intent upon in his interest in the springs of feeling
and action thus laid bare before him.

“And so,” Aimée went on, “when Aunt Alice heard that you had been
there she knew, of course, what it meant, and she insisted on
hearing everything. Then she said the truth must be told; that
Mr. Meredith must know why I went out last night; that now I am
rich--why are things so much more important when people happen
to be rich?--it would not do for any one to imagine that I had
been going to elope. But Fanny said that Mr. Meredith would never
forgive her if he heard the truth now, and I begged Aunt Alice on
my knees to let me do this little thing in return for all she has
done for me. So at last she yielded, and I was very glad, and--and
it can not be that you will go to her and make more trouble. Why
should you concern yourself about me?” she demanded, turning to
him with another but somewhat lesser flash in her eyes. “What is it
to you if I do this?”

“Well, for one thing,” replied Kyrle, “I am myself somewhat
concerned in it, for I assure you that I am not the kind of man to
endeavor to persuade a girl of your age to elope, and naturally the
imputation of having done so is not very agreeable to me.”

“Oh!” said Aimée, with a look of contrition, “I never thought
of that. I forgot that it could not be pleasant for you to be
suspected of such a thing. You must forgive me for being so
selfish; and yet”--she paused an instant and gazed at him with a
passion of entreaty in her eyes, which at that moment he thought
were at once the most expressive and the most beautiful he had ever
seen--“and yet,” she went on in a low, thrilling tone, “if you
could only be generous and kind enough to allow it to be believed
of you by the only person who knows anything about it, I, for one,
should be grateful to you as long as I live!”

But for the gravity of her appeal Kyrle could have laughed at the
absurdity of the situation; and yet her simplicity, her utter lack
of thought for herself, touched him again beyond measure. “My dear
child,” he said--for in truth he did not recall her name--“I feel
as if I might do almost anything, simply because you wished it;
but you do not know what you ask in this matter. You tell me that
you have become rich, which means important in the world, and yet
you desire to darken the fair promise of your youth with such a
story as this would speedily become in the mouth of gossip. It is
impossible--it would be a shame! I can not consent to it.”

“But what can you do?” she asked, dropping appeal and regarding him
now with nothing less than defiance in her dark eyes. “Is it not
true that a gentleman is bound never to betray a woman’s secret?
How, then, can you betray Fanny’s? As for me, I will never speak.”

There was no doubt of that. A hundred oaths could not have
expressed resolution more firmly, more immovably, than those simple
words. And what could Kyrle reply? He knew well that he could not
betray Miss Berrien’s secret, and it was the consciousness of this
that had made him so determined to influence Aimée. But now he was
forced to own himself completely baffled. Aimée’s strength of will
was greater than any force he could bring to bear against it, and
there was nothing left but to accept the situation created for him
as best he might.

“You are right,” he said at last. “A gentleman is bound in honor
to keep a woman’s secret; so Miss Berrien is safe from me. If she
chooses to shelter herself behind you, and you choose to allow her
to do so, I have no power to prevent it. But I am sorry that I have
failed completely to make you understand what a great mistake you
are committing. To save an unprincipled flirt from the consequences
of her double-dealing, you are laying a cloud on your own life at
its beginning.”

“I care nothing about that,” said the girl, with honest
indifference. “I am only sorry that Mr. Meredith should be
deceived, and that you have to bear (though only in his opinion)
that imputation of which you spoke a few minutes ago. But I am
going away to-morrow; and since it seems I am of some importance
now” (a sigh), “I suppose the Joscelyns will keep me always; so he
and everybody else will soon forget all about this.”

“I assure you that I shall never forget it,” said Kyrle. “It is
an episode calculated to remain in a man’s memory. The heartless,
selfish woman who has made a fool of me, I shall indeed have no
trouble in forgetting; but the part you have played, mistaken as
it is, I shall long remember. I only wish you had displayed such
qualities as you have proved yourself to possess, in a better
cause. Given a good cause, you would be a heroine. And now”--he
rose as he spoke--“this time it is good-by. Since I have failed
completely in the end for which I remained here, I shall return at
once to the yacht. Will you shake hands with me and tell me your
name? One should surely know as much as that of a young lady with
whom he is supposed to have nearly eloped.”

But Aimée could not jest on such a subject. She gravely told
him her name and put out her hand. For long he carried with him
a picture of the slender presence, the delicate face looking
wistfully into his, as if to make sure that this time he could be
relied upon to depart, and the golden sunset glory seen through the
orange boughs behind her.

“Good-by,” he said, gently. “I am sorry I have not moved you. Some
day you will see that I am right, and I only hope you will not then
too much regret that you did not follow my advice.”

He pressed her hand warmly, released it, and walked away, down the
green vista of the grove.



                             PART II.



                                I.


It is an April day, and Venice is lying under a brilliant sun,
which brings out all the beryl sheen of its translucent waterways,
the gleam of its marvelous domes, the Byzantine color that still
clings to the front of its palaces, and all the life of its
picturesque and varied humanity. It is the last which specially
appeals to the interest of a man who has strolled from the Piazza
San Marco into the Piazzetta, and watches the animated movement
along the Riva de’ Schiavoni, that meeting-place of Italy and
the Orient, with eyes that take in every variety of the types
passing before him. And when they grow tired of water-carriers
and gondoliers, of soldiers and sailors, of Italians, Greeks,
Austrians, and Orientals, they have but to look beyond on the
fairest scene in the world--the wide, green plain of shining
water, as the Grand Canal opens into the lagoon, the isle of San
Giorgio with its cluster of picturesque buildings, and far to
seaward the Armenian Convent of San Lazare.

But the picture grows too dazzling after a while, and the observer,
turning, walks toward the palace of the Doges, entered under the
Saracenic arches into its great court, and ascending the Giant’s
Stairway passed into those gorgeous saloons where the sumptuous
life of old Venice still glows on the walls in that Venetian art
which in glory of coloring excels every other school. The usual
number of tourists, with open guide-books, were scattered through
the apartments, filling even the dread chamber of the Council
of Ten with their light chatter; but the newcomer avoided them,
lingered only in comparatively empty rooms, and presently wandered
into the Hall of the Great Council, whence he passed out of an
empty window to a balcony, where he found himself on a level with
the top of the column which bears the winged lion, and overlooking
from this higher elevation the same wide, beautiful picture of sea
and sky, of glittering domes and sun-tinted campanili, which he
had lately seen from below.

On a seat conveniently placed in a corner of the balcony he sat
down, and with his back against the stone wall of the Ducal Palace,
with the famous lion smiling familiarly upon him, and with the
scene of all the past glory and triumphs of Venice before his eyes,
he fell easily into that waking dream which Venice above all places
has power to produce. For where else is the setting of the past
so perfectly preserved? From the gorgeous frescoes of Tintoretto
and Paul Veronese, one steps forth to look on the unchanged
scene--palaces, columns, quays, luminous sea, and dazzling sky--of
the great events they represent, and to ask one’s self if the
stately pageants will not soon come forth to meet the victorious
galleys laden with the spoils of the East, or to accompany the Doge
when he goes forth in state to wed the Adriatic?

Into some such dream this man had fallen, when his pleasant
solitude suffered an interruption. Through the open window a figure
suddenly stepped, and advancing to the balustrade stood before
him outlined against the horizon of sea and sky. For a moment he
was inclined to regard with impatience this new object, obtruded
into the foreground of the picture he had been contemplating
with so much satisfaction; then it dawned upon him that, so far
from marring, it rather added a new and charming element to this
picture. For it was the figure of a young girl, tall and graceful,
with an indescribable beauty in the carriage of the small, shapely
head and the lines of the neck and shoulders. Her attitude, too,
was full of unconscious grace, as she stood gazing seaward; and
since her back was turned toward him, he could admire this grace at
his leisure, together with the picturesque drapery of her dress,
which was made of some fabric as soft and clinging in quality as it
was harmonious in color.

But presently she turned her face toward the great lion of St.
Mark, and presented to his view what he instantly decided to be the
loveliest profile he had ever seen--a profile as clearly cut as
that of a head on an antique cameo, but with a peculiarly delicate
grace of its own, and with coloring as exquisite as the tints of
a flower. She was smiling as she looked at the lion--who stonily
regarded her from his pedestal--and she made such a delightful
picture in her youth and beauty, that the man behind her held
his breath, fearing lest some chance movement should betray his
presence and cause her to disappear.

But, instead of this, she was presently joined by another figure,
that of a young man, who stepped through the window and walked up
to her side with an air of easy familiarity.

“By Jove!” said the newcomer, “I don’t wonder that you come out
here for relief from those miles of pictures! Their effect is
positively stupefying.”

“To _you_, perhaps, it may be,” said the young lady, in a very
sweet voice, with a slightly mocking accent. “But it was not
because _I_ felt stupefied that I came out, but because the greater
picture tempted me. When one has Venice before one’s eyes, one
hardly cares to look at paintings.”

“That is exactly my opinion,” said the young man, “so let us go
down and get into a gondola and float about. That is the principal
thing to do, besides lounging in the piazza.”

“Then suppose you go and lounge in the piazza,” said the young
lady. “I am very well satisfied where I am,” and as she spoke she
turned again toward the railing, with the air of one who did not
mean to stir.

“Oh, I am very well satisfied to stay here--with you,” said her
companion, leaning beside her.

At this point it occurred to the unobserved listener behind that
the time had come for him to retire. Solitude was charming, and
charming also was the contemplation of a single graceful figure in
the foreground of a noble picture; but a conventional pair of young
people engaged in a conventional flirtation was more than he could
endure. With a sense of disgust and vexation he rose, and entered
again the Hall of Council.

Over this magnificent apartment various groups were scattered, some
studying the frescoes of battles and triumphs, others following
the frieze of Doges’ portraits, and pausing before the vacant panel
across which is thrown a black curtain and on which is painted the
name of Marino Faliero, and the short sentence, “_Decapitati pro
criminibus_,” while others were occupied with Tintoretto’s vast
_Paradiso_. Among the latter was a pretty, fashionably dressed
young woman, who, seated on a chair before the immense picture,
had transferred her attention from it to the costumes of a pair
of English girls, whose dresses were as ill-fitting as their
complexions were blooming, and who appeared to be studying the
great composition in detail, unconscious of the critical glances of
the animated fashion-plate behind them.

This little scene attracted the notice of the idler from the
balcony, and as he advanced, drawn rather by amusement than by any
special interest on his own part in the _Paradiso_, the lady of the
chair turned her eyeglass upon him. A moment later she had dropped
it and risen to her feet, exclaiming:

“What, Lennox--Mr. Kyrle!”

Lennox Kyrle--for it was he--started and looked at her for an
instant; then he held out his hand, saying, quietly:

“This is a very unexpected pleasure, Mrs. Meredith.”

Fanny Meredith turned from white to red, and red to white again.
His composure seemed to rebuke her agitation and that slip of the
tongue--“Lennox.” Moreover, she could not forget that this was the
first time they had met since parting as lovers. But she recovered
herself quickly, and, glancing up as she gave him her hand, said, a
little reproachfully:

“I knew you at once, though you have changed, but you were not sure
of me.”

“Yet you have _not_ changed,” said he, smiling and wondering--so
quick is thought!--as he looked into her upturned face, where he
had found the charm which once enslaved him. She had not changed,
he was quite right about that; but where was there inspiration for
any of the rapture and agony of passion in this blooming, piquant,
commonplace countenance? As he held the hand which he had once so
eagerly coveted, he thanked Heaven for that old disappointment,
while he said, “But I could not expect to meet you here.”

“As easily as I could expect to meet you,” she answered, “though it
is true I heard that you had gone to Egypt as a war correspondent.
But the war has been over for some time.”

“For something like half a year,” he replied; “but I have been up
the Nile, and, had it not been for a sudden summons calling me
home, I might be emulating Stanley in equatorial Africa now.”

“I should think you would rather be here,” said Mrs. Meredith, with
a little shudder. “We have lately come, and I am delighted with
Venice.”

“Most people are,” said Lennox; “and by ‘we’ you mean, I presume,
Mr. Meredith and yourself?”

“And the Joscelyns. We joined them in Paris. You know the
Joscelyns? No? Well, at least”--with a sudden laugh and blush--“you
remember Aimée?”

“Aimée!” he repeated, in a puzzled tone. Then suddenly there
flashed upon him the memory of the old sea wall of St. Augustine,
of the tide murmuring at his feet, of the stars shining overhead,
and of a sweet, frightened voice saying, “I am sent to tell you
that Fanny can not come.” The name, which he had forgotten, brought
the scene back like a picture, and with it also another scene--an
orange grove at sunset, its alleys filled with golden light, its
glistening foliage meeting like an arcade above, and a pair of dark
eyes gazing half-beseechingly, half-defiantly into his, while the
same sweet voice said, “As for me, I will never speak!” Remember
her! How could he ever forget the delicate, childlike creature,
with her unbending loyalty? His eyes, which time had not rendered
less brilliant and keen, gave a flash of recollection as he turned
them on Mrs. Meredith, saying, “You mean the young cousin whom you
sent--”

“Yes,” she interrupted, looking around with a quick glance. “Pray,
be more cautious. If it were suspected, there would be trouble even
yet. It is a great bore to have a jealous husband! And you know
you are supposed to have been Aimée’s lover.”

Mr. Kyrle drew his brows together, and lifted a head which was not
without natural haughtiness a little higher. He thought that the
bad taste of this speech was only equaled by its impertinence.

“I am aware,” he said, stiffly, “of the deception which you induced
your cousin to assist you in practicing at the time of which you
speak; but I hardly thought it possible that even you could have
allowed such an impression to remain until now.”

“You are as flattering as ever, I perceive,” said Fanny, coolly.
“‘Even you’--that means, I suppose, that you consider me bad enough
for anything, and yet are a little surprised that I have been bad
enough for this! But, you see, if it was a matter of necessity at
the time, it has been equally a matter of necessity ever since.
And it did Aimée no harm; whereas to have told the truth, then or
later, would have done _me_ great harm.”

“I remember that she described herself as of no importance,” said
Kyrle, “and it seems that you fully shared the opinion.”

“Yes,” answered Fanny, calmly, “that was what we both thought,
she and I, when I sent her on that unlucky errand. I shall never
forgive Mr. Meredith for not going home and to bed like a Christian
that night! But, as it turned out, she was really a person of much
importance. She inherited a great South American fortune, and she
is now an heiress and beauty of the first rank.”

“And yet,” cried Kyrle, with the old indignation rushing over him,
“you have suffered her to rest under--”

“The aspersion of having been on the point of eloping with you,”
said Fanny, with a subdued, wicked laugh. “Yes, it was a necessity
of the situation, and I will say for Aimée that she is the most
generous creature I ever knew. I really can not see why you should
look so indignant. Pray, do you think it such a horrible thing to
have been on the point of eloping with you?”

“I think,” he answered, haughtily, “that it is a shameful injustice
to allow a young girl to rest under the imputation of having been
about to elope with any one when she is altogether innocent of it.”

“We went over all that and settled it at the time,” said Mrs.
Meredith, impatiently, “and it is much too late to unsettle it now.
It is ancient history--dead, buried, forgotten. Besides, no one
knows anything about it except Mr. Meredith; and there is surely
not much to harm Aimée in one person’s knowledge. Percy Joscelyn
suspects something--you may remember that he found you with Aimée
on that awfully unlucky day--but he does not _know_ anything. He
will, however, look upon you as having been her lover, and the
whole Joscelyn clan will be thrown into consternation by your
appearance. They watch the poor child, and every man who approaches
her, like so many dragons. How amusing”--with another irrepressible
laugh--“it is that you should have turned up just now!”

“At the cost of depriving you of some amusement,” he said,
coldly, “I shall not renew my acquaintance with your cousin--if
acquaintance it could be called. The last thing I am capable of
is of annoying one who has already been the victim of such an
injustice.”

“But why should you annoy her?” inquired Fanny--whom time had
evidently not robbed of any of her volatile qualities--opening
her eyes. “And you don’t know, really, what you will lose. She is
charming! Every one admires her immensely.”

“I shall not have the opportunity of doing so,” replied Kyrle,
more stiffly than ever, for he said to himself that this woman was
insufferable. “I am leaving Venice almost immediately, and since I
may not have the pleasure of seeing you again, I shall therefore
bid you adieu--”

“Not just yet,” said Fanny, with a note of malicious triumph in her
voice. “Here is an old friend to whom you must speak first.--Aimée,
my dear, let me recall Mr. Kyrle to your recollection.”


                                II.

Kyrle turned, full of anger, which changed in a moment by some
miraculous process into satisfaction, for who should stand before
him, with wondering eyes and faintly flushing cheeks, but the
lovely lady of the balcony!

And she was lovelier even than he had imagined, with a face in
which all fine issues of thought and feeling seemed to meet. She
looked surprised, yet the gentle, curving lips smiled as it were
irresistibly, while she said, with the composure of a woman of the
world, “I recollect Mr. Kyrle perfectly, though I should not have
known him.”

“Nor I you,” Lennox answered, bowing deeply. “But I have never
forgotten you.”

It did not occur to him until after the words were spoken what
a lover-like sound they might have to any one under that false
impression which he had just resented. But when he lifted his head
it was to meet a pair of eyes which at once enlightened him with
regard to the interpretation of which they were susceptible. These
eyes belonged to the young man whom he had already seen on the
balcony, and whom Mrs. Meredith now introduced as Mr. Joscelyn.

Percy Joscelyn had not forgotten the man whom he found with Aimée
on the momentous occasion when he went to announce the great change
in her fortunes, and he instantly identified this bronzed stranger
as that man, even before hearing the name which he had taken care
to remember. It was therefore natural enough that his eyes should
express suspicion and dislike when Lennox met them.

But this immediate proof of Fanny’s assertion, that he would be
regarded as “Aimée’s former lover,” did not irritate Kyrle as might
have been expected. On the contrary, he was conscious of a sense
of amusement which he would not have believed possible a moment
earlier. It was the appearance of Joscelyn which wrought this
change. A few minutes before he had, unconsciously to himself,
envied this man; now _he_ was transformed into an object if not of
envy, at least of apprehension to the latter. It was impossible not
to feel that the situation had its elements of interest. He looked
at the beautiful girl standing before him, a smile still on her
lips, but her gentle, high-bred composure otherwise unchanged, and
felt that, after all, the suspicion of having been her lover was
one which he could cheerfully support.

Aimée, on her part, regarding him with the deep, soft eyes he
remembered well, was thinking of the sea wall, the star-lighted
tide, and the young lover who had taken his disappointment with
such fiery disdain. There rose before her, too, a memory of the
orange grove at sunset, and the generous anger which had burned
there for her rather than for himself. She knew well that most men
in his place would have given scant thought at such a time to any
one so insignificant as she had been, and therefore, remembering
his deep concern for the false position in which she was placed,
she had held Lennox Kyrle in grateful remembrance during all the
years since their one day of brief acquaintance.

Yet it was characteristic of the woman, as it had been
characteristic of the girl, to forget herself for others; and
so at this moment she was thinking less of herself and her own
singular connection with that past story, than of the two before
her, who had been lovers once and now were strangers. She was
wondering how they felt on meeting again face to face, and how much
or how little the memory of the past thrilled them. Fanny she knew
too well to expect any depth of feeling from her; but how was it
with Lennox Kyrle?

Meanwhile, amid all these memories, it was necessary that some one
should sustain conversation with the usual commonplaces; and of
this Mrs. Meredith was fortunately fully capable.

“I was never more surprised than when I looked up and saw Mr. Kyrle
a few minutes ago,” she said to Aimée. “And yet there was really no
reason to be surprised at all.”

“Not in these days, when everybody goes everywhere,” said Lennox,
“and the acquaintance one parted with in Europe yesterday, one
meets to-morrow in China. Especially a wanderer like myself may be
met anywhere.”

“You are a wanderer, then?” said Aimée.

“Yes,” he answered. “I am a person with whom you are intimately
acquainted--‘our special correspondent,’ and therefore my duties
take me to many places.”

“They have brought you to a very delightful place now,” said she.

“My own inclination has brought me here,” he replied, and as he
uttered the words he saw a quick flash of suspicion in Percy
Joscelyn’s eyes again.

“Have you been here long?” asked Fanny. “_We_ came about a week
ago; and we are doing our sight-seeing so leisurely that we have
hardly as yet seen anything at all, except what can be perceived
from a gondola.”

“I arrived only a day or two ago from Alexandria,” answered Kyrle,
“but I am inclined to think that, for a time, what one perceives
from a gondola--that is, Venice herself--may be best of all.”

“It is,” said Aimée. Upon which the young man beside her, speaking
for the first time, observed:

“It might be, if Venice were better preserved; but one grows tired
of looking at so much decay. In fact, in my opinion, we have been
here quite long enough.”

“Then, my dear Percy,” said Mrs. Meredith, coolly, “I advise you to
take your departure for any place that you like better, for we, who
have come to Venice for a month, mean to stay.”

It was not a very amiable glance which Mr. Joscelyn bestowed upon
the speaker, but he did not answer save by this glance. He turned
instead to Aimée, and said:

“We seem to have lost the rest of our party. Shall we not go and
look for them?”

Before Aimée could reply to this proposal, the entrance of a party
of four made reply unnecessary, for it was at once apparent that
these were the missing persons whom it was proposed to seek. Yet
they had the appearance themselves of seeking, rather than of
needing to be sought, for as they entered they all looked around,
and perceiving the group before the _Paradiso_, eagerly advanced
toward it.

The foremost of these newcomers was a tall, elaborately dressed
young lady--young, at least by courtesy--whose commonplace
prettiness was spoiled by an exceedingly artificial appearance and
manner. With her were a faded, languid, elderly woman, possessing
much natural elegance and traces of great beauty; a man of about
sixty, carefully got up with padding and hair-dye to look not more
than forty; and a rotund, florid, genial man of thirty-five or
thereabouts. As these advanced the young lady spoke:

“I thought we should never find you! Where have you been hiding
yourselves?”

“We have been hiding ourselves where you see us,” replied Mrs.
Meredith. “When I lose people, I always make a rule of quietly
sitting down and letting them find _me_, instead of running about
trying to find _them_. So I have been sitting here for half an hour
in a conspicuous position; and, as a reward, I have been found--not
only by you, but by an old acquaintance who has most unexpectedly
appeared.--Mrs. Joscelyn, let me present Mr. Kyrle.”

Mr. Kyrle bowed to the elderly lady, who at once put up her
eyeglass to examine him, with an alacrity which indicated that
his name was not unknown to her. He was then presented to Major
Joscelyn, to Miss Joscelyn and to Mr. Meredith; and he was aware of
being regarded with more or less active suspicion by all of them
except Miss Joscelyn, who smiled as graciously as women of her
order generally do upon an apparently eligible man.

“I--ah--hum--have heard of Mr. Kyrle,” observed Major Joscelyn, in
a tone which intimated that he had heard no good of Mr. Kyrle. Then
he fixed a pair of prominent eyes upon the young man and inquired
if he had been long in Venice.

“Only a few days,” Lennox answered, carelessly.

“Ah--a few days! And you are leaving soon?”

“That depends altogether upon circumstances,” replied Kyrle, who
in fact intended to leave in a day or two, but had no desire to
gratify Major Joscelyn by telling him so; for already he felt an
_animus_ of dislike against these people, not only because of
their attitude toward himself (for that, being the result of
misconception, only amused him), but from their appearance and
manner. “They are self-seeking and insincere,” was his judgment, as
his glance passed rapidly from face to face; and then, turning to
the lovely, candid countenance of Aimée, he thought, “She is like a
dove among hawks.”

Major Joscelyn giving no other reply to his last remark than a
disapproving “Hem!” Miss Joscelyn took up the conversation, and
remarked that Mr. Kyrle probably found Venice attractive.

“Very attractive--especially within the last half hour,” he
replied, with deliberate malice.

The Joscelyns looked at each other, while Mr. Meredith glanced at
his wife, and the latter said, quickly:

“Of course, it has become more attractive within the last half
hour. What is pleasanter than meeting old friends unexpectedly? Mr.
Kyrle is on his way to America from Egypt,” she added in general
explanation, “and it is the merest chance that we should have met
him.”

No one remarked that it was a fortunate chance. On the contrary,
silence appeared to indicate an altogether different opinion. After
a moment, Major Joscelyn observed that they had probably seen
enough of the Palace of the Doges for one morning, and that it was
time to think of returning to the hotel.

There was a general movement, and it is likely that Lennox would
have taken a final farewell of the party there and then, had not
Aimée turned to him with a smile sweet enough to atone for any
degree of incivility on the part of the others, saying, “And have
you, too, had enough of the Ducal Palace?”

“For the present,” he answered; and availing himself of what seemed
a tacit permission, he walked by her side as the party passed from
the great hall, along corridors and down staircases to the court
below.

Those few minutes completed the impression which she had already
made upon him; and an impression in which her beauty played a
small part in comparison with the gracious simplicity of her
manner and the charm of her voice and glance. There was much in
this voice and glance to remind him of the girl who had carried
Fanny Berrien’s message to him, who had so timidly offered him her
sympathy and compassion, and who had sat by his side under the
orange boughs. Yet, save in the dark sweetness of the eyes and the
gentle cadence of the tones, there was surely little in common
between that frightened child and this stately young lady.

If he had only known it, however, there was the great thing in
common that she was offering him now, the same sympathy that she
had offered then. She was too young, and of too limited experience,
to have learned the power of change which lies in time, and it
seemed to her that he must inevitably be deeply moved by such
an unexpected meeting with the woman he had once loved; and her
gentle kindness was the involuntary form in which she expressed
this feeling. But naturally no one could be aware of this--not even
Kyrle himself. He thought that she simply meant to atone for the
incivility of her friends; the latter cast alarmed glances upon one
another; and Fanny Meredith was no nearer the truth than any one
else, in saying to herself: “Aimée is certainly the best creature
in the world! She is throwing herself into the breach to prevent
Tom from being jealous.”

When they reached the Piazza there was a slight pause of the party,
and Kyrle felt that he was expected to take leave. “Since I have
been so fortunate this morning, I hope to be fortunate again,” he
said to Aimée in clearly audible tones. “I shall trust to have the
pleasure of meeting you again.”

“Oh, no doubt,” answered she, readily. “People who know each other
can not possibly fail to meet in Venice. But will you not come to
see us? We are at the Grand Hotel.--Fanny, surely you mean to ask
Mr. Kyrle to come to see you?”

“Mr. Kyrle knows that I shall be delighted to see him,” replied
Mrs. Meredith, “but really we are at home so seldom that it hardly
seems worth while to ask him to come. As you have just observed,
people _must_ meet when they are in Venice; and their best chance
to meet is away from home, rather than at home. Nevertheless, I
hope you will take the chance of finding us in,” said she, to
Kyrle.

“I shall prefer to take the chance of finding you elsewhere, since
you are more likely to be abroad,” replied he.

“And elsewhere is so much pleasanter than at home,” interposed Miss
Joscelyn. “The Belle Arti, now--have you been to the Belle Arti,
Mr. Kyrle?”

Mr. Kyrle replied that he had not. “I have not been sight-seeing
since my arrival,” he said, “but only lounging.”

“Oh, but you must certainly see the Belle Arti,” said the young
lady with animation. “You can have no idea of the Venetian school
of art until you have studied it there.”

“I have no doubt Mr. Kyrle is aware of that, Lydia,” said Fanny
Meredith, dryly; “but since we have exhaustively done the Belle
Arti--at least I hope we are done with it--he is not likely to meet
us there, and it was of meeting us that he was speaking.”

“It was certainly of meeting you that I was thinking,” said Lennox.

“Hum--ah!” said the major, addressing his party, “shall we move on?”

Kyrle watched them with a smile as they moved away across the
sunshiny square. He was saying to himself that it would go hard
with him if he did not see again the beautiful eyes he had been
looking into, and hear the sweet voice which had just bidden him
such a kindly adieu.



                               III.


It was no later than the evening of the same day before he met
the party again. He was idly sauntering around the arcades of the
Piazza, brilliant with lights and filled with the sound of many
tongues, when he heard a voice say, “Oh, there is Mr. Kyrle!” and
turning, he encountered Fanny Meredith’s bright glance. She was
sitting at one of the tables near the door of a _café_, with Aimée,
Mr. Meredith, and young Joscelyn, taking coffee and ices, and as
Lennox paused she went on, gayly:

“Come and join us. You look lonely, and we are stupid. We know
each other so well that each knows exactly what the other will
say; so, like _Punch’s_ married lovers during the honeymoon, we
are ready to welcome a friend, or even an enemy, so he prove
entertaining.”

“But how if one should not prove entertaining?” asked Kyrle, who
needed no second bidding to take a vacant chair by her side.

“Then you must have made very poor use of your opportunities,” said
she, “and changed very much besides--must he not, Aimée?”

This was audacious, Kyrle thought; but glancing at Aimée, he was
reassured by her smile.

“When I knew Mr. Kyrle, I was not very well able to judge of his
powers of entertainment,” she said, “though I have no doubt they
were great.”

“On the contrary, they have always been of a very limited order,”
said Kyrle. “I am immensely flattered, however, by Mrs. Meredith’s
kind recollection, and only regret my inability to justify it.”

“You have at least improved in modesty,” said Mrs. Meredith.

“A man who has been in the desert six months should be modest when
he returns to civilization,” he answered. “Perhaps it is because I
have been in the desert,” he added, looking around, “that it seems
to me one hardly needs better entertainment than this scene.”

“It is very bright and interesting for a while,” said Mr. Meredith;
“but fancy coming here every evening of your life, as these
Venetians do! One would think that it would grow monotonous in
time.”

“To a stranger it would certainly grow monotonous in a short time,”
said Kyrle; “but those who have all their interests, social or
otherwise, here, and who have a strong attachment to this which has
been the frame of their life from its beginning, and the frame of
the life of Venice through all her history, are not likely to grow
weary of it.”

“I think,” said Aimée, “that even a stranger might require some
time to grow weary of it--such a picture in such a frame!”

“That would depend entirely upon the stranger,” said Lennox,
regarding her with a smile.

And indeed she was herself a picture worth regarding as she sat in
the light of the brilliant lamps; her fair, delicate face shadowed
by a large hat covered with curling plumes, and her liquid eyes
full of pleasure as she looked over the gay life of the Piazza, or
turned to the solemn front of the great cathedral lifting its domes
and minarets against a sky of hyacinth blue.

“It is a very pretty scene,” said Percy Joscelyn, superciliously,
“but I think it quite possible to grow tired of it. There is so
much sameness. Now, the boulevards--”

“Percy is a very good American; his idea of heaven is a Paris
boulevard,” said Fanny Meredith. “I am fond of the boulevards
myself, but, for a change, I call this delightful.”

Lennox agreed with her. He did not ask himself why it was
so delightful, but he felt a sense of thorough and complete
satisfaction, as he sat, joining in the light, idle conversation,
commenting on the motley throng which ebbed and flowed around them,
and drinking a cup of black coffee as if it were nectar.

Presently Mr. Meredith suggested a return to their hotel, but this
was at once negatived by his lively wife. “The moon is well up
by this time,” she said. “Let us go out in a gondola. It will be
charming to float about for an hour or so.”

“Good Heaven!” said the husband, “have you not been floating about
enough during the course of the day? It seems to me that we hardly
exist out of a gondola, unless we are in a church or a picture
gallery.”

“Well, then, you need not come,” said she, laughing; “but I know
Aimée would like to go--would you not, Aimée?”

“I am always ready for a gondola,” was the smiling reply.

“Percy will go. He is always ready for a gondola too,” pursued
Fanny. Then she turned to Kyrle. “Will you join us?” she asked.

“I shall be delighted,” he replied, trying not to make the
commonplace words too eager.

“Then we are a nice _partie carrée_, and we will go at once,” said
she, rising and taking a shawl from the back of her chair.

No one inquired how far Mr. Meredith approved of the arrangement.
He was left smoking a cigar in front of the _café_, while the
_partie carrée_ proceeded to the Riva in search of a gondola.

As was to be expected, Percy took possession of Aimée, while Lennox
found himself walking by the side of his old love. Neither of them
spoke for a minute or two; then Fanny turned and glanced at him
with a mischievous smile.

“Time has its recompenses as well as its revenges occasionally,”
she said. “Are you meditating on that?”

He looked at her and was forced to return her smile. “You are as
full of _diablerie_ as ever,” he said, “but if you have no sense of
compassion, have you not any compunction?”

“Compassion!--compunction! What fine, large words! But why should I
have either?” she asked. “You do not need compassion, I am sure;
and as for compunction--you could not expect me to be sorry _now_?”

“Certainly not,” he answered, with alacrity. “Regret for what has
resulted so well would be entirely out of place--for you, that is.
For me, however--”

“Are you trying to insinuate that you have any regret?” said she,
with a laugh. “Ah, that pretense is shallow! I have had such long
experience that I can tell, the moment that I look into a man’s
eyes, whether he feels the smallest bit of sentiment; and you--as
far as I am concerned--you have not enough to put on the point of
a pin! Do you think it strange of me to talk in this way?”--He did
think so, and his face no doubt betrayed as much. “But I have a
reason. I want you to understand that I am not under any foolish
delusion about you, as some women would be. I am anxious that you
should trust me, and let me be your friend.”

“Pray believe that I trust you entirely,” said Lennox--who did not
trust her at all.

“But a friend--I am much honored; yet I do not know that I have
special need of a friend at present.”

“You will never have greater need,” said she, emphatically, “for
you have fallen in love with Aimée, and, unless I am your friend,
the Joscelyns will not suffer you even to speak to her.”

“I can well believe that,” said he, involuntarily. Then he paused
and laughed. “But have I fallen in love with the young lady whose
name is so suggestive of that emotion?” he asked.

“You are the person to answer the question,” replied Fanny; “but I
should say there was no doubt of it. I have been watching you for
the last hour, and the entire scheme has matured beautifully in my
mind.”

He looked at her again--curious, interested, uncertain what to
make of her. The pretty, piquant face he had once known so well,
was full of animation and amusement as she turned it toward him,
meeting his puzzled glance.

“You are ungrateful,” she said; “you do not trust me; and yet I am
anxious to do you a great service.”

“Granting that I need a service,” said he, “forgive me if I
ask--why should _you_ wish to do it?”

“Now, that is more than ungrateful,” said she. “It is giving me
credit for no fine feeling at all. Though I jest, do you think I do
not remember how badly I treated you once? It is all over now--and
no doubt you are grateful enough that it is so. But still the fact
remains. I did treat you badly, and I should like to be able to
feel that I had made some amend for it. So much for you. Now for
Aimée”--her voice changed slightly. “Well, I owe a great deal to
Aimée, and I would do a great deal for her. When it was a question
of serving me, she did not think of herself at all; and, though I
may be frivolous and shallow, I do not forget this.”

“She certainly did not think of herself at all,” Kyrle
agreed--looking at the graceful figure moving in front of them, and
remembering the sea wall of St. Augustine.

“I always said I would repay her if I could,” Fanny went on, “and
I do not think I can repay her better than by rescuing her from the
hands that have possession of her now, and saving her from marrying
Percy Joscelyn.”

The last shot struck home. Kyrle was himself astonished at the
sense of consternation with which he started. “Is that thought of?”
he asked.

“_They_ think of it,” Fanny replied. “They are ready to move heaven
and earth to accomplish it; but”--the tone of gleeful malice which
he had heard before came into her voice--“I think we may defeat
them, you and I, if you will say the word.”

“What word is it that you wish me to say?” he asked.

She looked up into his face again with bright eyes. “What word can
it be,” she replied, “except the simple assertion that you wish to
marry Aimée?”

Fortunately for Kyrle, he had no opportunity to answer at the
moment. They had by this time reached the Riva, and Joscelyn,
turning, said, “Here is a gondola.”

A few minutes later they were afloat on the broad expanse of
moonlight-flooded water, with Venice--marvelous, mystical,
beautiful--lying around them. The cabin had been removed from the
gondola, and the ladies took the two cushioned seats, while the
young men threw themselves down at their feet. And so they glided
out into the silver night.

Surely it was an hour worth living for! The brilliant lights from
the quays streamed over the water and were reflected in the still
depths below, like an enchanted city; but this illumination paled
before the splendor of the moonlight that reigned supreme, making
all things visible, yet veiling every defect of time, for other
defects in Venice there are none. Under this magic light the
“glorious city of the sea” has all her ancient glory still; one
sees no longer the decay which has fallen over her palaces, but
only the loveliness which made her the wonder of the world. Past
islands, palaces, and domed churches they glided with that smooth,
noiseless movement which is half the charm of a gondola, and were
soon on the broad lagoon, where the booming of the Adriatic surf
upon the Lido came to their ears like distant thunder--the only
sound which broke the silence around them.

The others talked, but Aimée said little. She leaned back on the
broad, easy seat, and the white radiance falling over her seemed to
intensify all that was spiritual in her beauty, until she looked
rather like a fair dream of a woman than a creature of flesh and
blood. Lennox pulled his hat low over his eyes in order that he
might watch her unobserved. His blood was still bounding from that
suggestion of Fanny Meredith’s before they entered the boat. It had
taken away his breath, yet he felt as if in some intangible way it
had drawn him nearer to this exquisite creature. It seemed to make
that a possibility of which he had not ventured to dream; and as
he watched the lovely face he was ready to utter with emphasis the
word desired. Here on the shining water, with the moon beloved of
lovers in all ages looking down, he felt his youth reawakening with
a sense of power and resolve. He did not think of difficulties or
doubts; he only yielded himself to the strange, sweet enchantment
which had so unexpectedly overwhelmed him.

Presently Fanny looked at him curiously, “Why have you grown
so silent?” she asked. “You and Aimée are not the most lively
companions one might choose.”

“Lively!” repeated Lennox. “If you wanted liveliness, you should
have remained on the Piazza. This is not the place for it.”

“It seems to me that all places are the better for it,” said she;
“but perhaps that is because I am a Philistine. However, since
you don’t think this a place for liveliness, suppose you sing
something. It is certainly a place for music, and we have left all
the musicians behind.”

They had indeed left those gondolas full of singers, which haunt
the Grand Canal and hover around the hotels of Venice, far behind,
and were floating in the silence of the lustrous night near San
Lazare. Lennox hesitated and looked at Aimée, who turned her glance
on him.

“Do you sing?” she asked.

“Sing?” repeated Fanny. “He used to sing divinely! I suppose he
has not forgotten that in the desert.”

“Oh, no,” said Lennox, with a laugh. “I have floated on the Nile
and sung to myself many a night.”

“Sing to us now, then, will you not?” said Aimée.

There was no insistence in her tone, only a courteous request; but
he complied immediately, as he would no doubt have complied had
she asked him to take a plunge into the sea. Nor did he require
more than an instant to decide what he would sing. As he watched
her uplifted face with the moonbeams falling on it, he had been
thinking of a song of Heine’s, and the music--Schumann’s music--was
in his throat, as it were; so he began at once:

               “The lotus flower feareth
                  The splendor of the sun;
                Bowing her head and dreaming,
                  She waits till the day is done.

               “The moon he is her lover;
                  He wakes her with silvery light;
                To him unveils she, smiling,
                 Her flower-face pure and white.

               “She gazeth on high in silence,
                  Doth bloom and gleam and glow,
                Exhaling and weeping and trembling
                  For love and love’s deep woe.”

He sang “divinely,” as Fanny had said, for Nature had given
him a voice of the finest order--a pure, melodious tenor--and,
though it had never received much training, there was something
in it to-night which took the place of training and made it
unnecessary--a thrill of emotion, a depth of expression, which
art can never teach. When the full, soft notes sank over the last
cadence, Fanny cried out with admiration, and even Mr. Joscelyn
condescended to say, “Bravo!”

But Aimée did not speak at once, and it was only when Lennox looked
into her “flower-face pure and white,” that she said, “You have a
great gift, Mr. Kyrle, and a great power to bestow pleasure.”

The words were kind, but what was there in the voice that seemed
to Kyrle’s ear like a touch of frost? The exaltation of his mood
sank under it, and he suddenly seemed in his own eyes to wear very
much the aspect of a fool. What had he been doing? Singing out his
heart to unsympathetic ears, led away by the magic of the night
and the fairness of a face which, after all, was the face of a
stranger, or, worse yet, of one who knew him only as the lover of
Fanny Meredith. What had possessed him to take leave of his senses
in this manner? Was this what was likely to happen to a man when he
came out of the desert and found himself in unaccustomed contact
with civilization again? Did the first lovely face on which he
looked lead his senses astray?

But even as he scornfully asked the question he knew that it was
not so; that the spell of this face had its root deep in the past,
in that golden evening when he sat under the orange trees and tried
in vain to shake the grateful loyalty of a child. He knew now that
he had never forgotten that child, and the deep impression which
her absolute unselfishness had made on him, an impression deeper
because it had been contrasted with such utter selfishness on the
part of another. He had seemed to come very near to that little
maiden of the past in the hour when her nature and her heart
had been, as it were, laid bare before him; and so it was to no
stranger that he had so quickly surrendered his own heart, which
had long been swept and garnished and empty of any occupant.

Meanwhile Mrs. Meredith was clamoring for another song. “You are
surely not going to stop with one!” she cried. “We want another,
and yet another--don’t we, Aimée?”

“Just as many as Mr. Kyrle will give us,” responded Aimée, smiling.

It was easier to sing than to talk; so Kyrle again lifted his
voice, this time in a Spanish serenade as full of the spirit of
passionate romance as a Spanish night. But something had gone from
the singer’s voice, and, charming as was the song, no one was moved
and thrilled as by the first.



                                IV.


Fanny Meredith was right in saying that the Joscelyns watched
Aimée and every man who approached her like dragons. And from
their point of view, this was natural enough. Had not Aimée’s
fortune lifted them out of poverty and the embarrassments resulting
therefrom, to a condition of affluence where all things became
easy and agreeable? And could they be expected to surrender the
advantages of this fortune without a struggle? It was true that
they had enjoyed these advantages for five or six years, in which
time Major Joscelyn, through whose hands the income passed, had
made not a few excellent investments on his own account; and
that Aimée, as soon as she attained her majority, had settled an
independence on her mother. Yet these things did not make them one
whit more inclined to surrender any part of the heritage which
they had grown to consider their own. Since it was, however,
undeniable that Aimée, although the most gentle and yielding of
human beings, had certain rights in her own property which the law
would secure to her, and which a husband, should she marry, might
be brutal enough to claim in her behalf, it became necessary that
she should marry some one who could be trusted to consider the
Joscelyn interest of primary importance; and this could only be
one of the Joscelyns themselves. It was therefore early decreed
in the family councils that Percy Joscelyn should in time marry
the young heiress. There had been considerable consternation when
he returned with her from St. Augustine and reported a mysterious
lover already on the horizon; especially since inquiries drew no
information concerning this person from Aimée. “He was a gentleman
whom I knew,” she said, and not even her mother could obtain from
her anything more.

Then Major Joscelyn solemnly announced that any such thing as a
probable or possible love affair must be promptly nipped in the
bud, and that the quickest and most complete way to accomplish this
was to take the girl abroad. Her education, which up to this time
had been of the most desultory order, furnished a good plea, and
the entire Joscelyn family conveyed themselves at once to foreign
fields. They had never returned to America. Nothing would have been
easier than to place Aimée in a French or German school, where she
would not have required the attention of her entire family; but
that would not have given an excuse for a residence in Paris, which
they all found very agreeable. So a handsome establishment was
mounted, and after its expenses were paid, besides the investments
on the major’s account already mentioned, there was not a great
deal to spare for Aimée’s education. Expensive masters, therefore,
she never had; but very good though not fashionable teachers can be
obtained in Paris for low prices, and it was not in Aimée’s nature
to make any demands for herself. She took eager advantage of the
scant opportunities allowed her, and accomplished an education for
which she had little to thank her guardians.

There was some uneasiness in the family mind when the time of her
majority approached; but it passed quietly, and, whether through
indifference, or ignorance of the full extent of her power, she
made no attempt to take the control of her income from Major
Joscelyn’s hands. So things had gone on as usual, and the family
were hoping that before very long Percy might come into possession
of the much-coveted fortune, when who should appear on the scene
but Fanny Meredith! At once the Joscelyns felt that the time had
come when they would have to fight for Aimée. They no longer had
legal control of her movements; and although she still yielded
submission to the wishes of her mother (which meant the wishes of
Major Joscelyn), they instinctively felt that it would not do to
try this submissiveness too far. So, when Mrs. Meredith proposed
that Aimée should join her husband and herself in a tour through
Italy, the Joscelyns held a council of war, and decided that, while
it was impossible to allow her to go, it was equally unadvisable
to strain obedience too far. The brilliant mind of Major Joscelyn
again found the remedy. “We will _all_ go,” he said. “It is
not--ahem!--what one would desire, to wander about Italian cities
for several months; but Aimée can not be trusted with this flighty
woman, who would not only introduce all manner of--hum--dangerous
acquaintances to her, but who would delight to undermine our
influence. Neither will it do to positively refuse to let her go;
so we must sacrifice ourselves and accompany her.”

The sacrifice, therefore, to Fanny Meredith’s great disgust,
was made. The family picked themselves up, and in solid phalanx
accompanied their heiress to Italy, keeping vigilant watch and
ward over her and over every possible dangerous acquaintance whom
she made. But they were little prepared for the unkind stroke
of Fate which brought Lennox Kyrle across their path. That his
appearance in Venice was an accident they did not believe for an
instant. They strongly suspected that Fanny Meredith had, together
with him, planned this appearance to take place when Aimée should
have been removed from her family environment. They congratulated
themselves that so much, at least, had been frustrated by their
foreseeing vigilance, but they had not the least doubt that Kyrle
had come with the determination to secure her hand and fortune, if
that desirable end could be attained by unholy arts and incredible
audacity. What was to be done to frustrate and check this
audacity? Such was the question the family met in solemn conclave
to consider on the day after the undesirable intruder had appeared.

“He is not to be shaken off easily,” said Percy Joscelyn, “for
Mrs. Meredith encourages him in every way. Last night she not
only invited him to join us as we sat outside Florian’s, but she
proposed going out in a gondola, took him along, and made him sing.
He sings uncommonly well--confound him!--and almost made love to
Aimée before my eyes.”

“The fellow’s impudence seems to be equal to anything!” said the
major. “And how did Aimée receive his--ah--advances?”

“You can never tell much about Aimée,” his son answered. “She
is quiet, and she’s deep. She didn’t seem responsive, but that
signifies nothing. Under ordinary circumstances I might think
that he had made no impression on her; but these are not ordinary
circumstances, and the trouble is that we don’t know what the
extent of their first acquaintance was. Although Mrs. Berrien
denied it, I shall always believe that there had been some
love-making going on between them in St. Augustine.”

“And yet Aimée was certainly not very attractive at that time,”
observed Miss Joscelyn.

“There’s no accounting for tastes,” said her brother, curtly, “and
facts are facts. I _saw_ him give her a locket--something which,
you know, she always declined to explain.”

“Yes,” said Mrs. Joscelyn, with a sigh, “she was very obstinate and
as close as wax. But I have always had an idea that he was not a
lover, because, in the first place, she said so--and Aimée always
told the truth--and, in the second place, because she never seemed
to have any fancy for lovers, like other girls.--You know, Lydia,
how often you have remarked that Aimée was so old-fashioned in this
respect.”

“Yes,” assented Lydia, “but, as Percy says, Aimée is deep, and
I don’t really feel that I know very much about her. As for the
matter of the locket, though,” added the speaker with a sudden
gleam of intuition, “that was as likely as not one of Fanny
Meredith’s tricks. She was an outrageous flirt!”

“If I thought so!” exclaimed Percy Joscelyn, with a start. His eyes
flashed as he spoke. Many a score had he to pay Fanny Meredith,
who in truth took a malicious pleasure in frustrating his attempts
to establish a claim upon Aimée; and if it were possible to bring
anything out of the past against her, how delighted he would be to
use it remorselessly! “But there is not the least proof of such a
thing,” he said, almost resentfully, to his sister.

“No; it was only an idea that occurred to me,” she replied; “but
I know what Fanny Berrien was, and I believe that, if you could
induce Aimée to speak, you would find that it was so.”

“Then, in that case,” said the major, “you don’t believe the man
was Aimée’s lover at all?”

“It does not matter what she believes,” Percy somewhat rudely
interposed. “Opinions, without any ground of proof, amount to
nothing. I know what I saw, and I know that the fellow has eyes
only for Aimée now; and that Mrs. Meredith, as I have already
said, encourages him by every means in her power.”

“Then,” said the major, sharply, “one thing is certain: Aimée can
not be allowed to go out with the Merediths.”

“How will you prevent it?” Percy asked. “The last thing advisable
is to force her to declare her independence of us, and any
ill-judged attempt at control would do this. Nothing would please
Mrs. Meredith better than to prompt her to such a course. No;
watchfulness is our only resource--watchfulness, and perhaps
stratagem. If it were possible to leave Venice now--”

“That would be the best thing,” said the major, “only--ah--what is
to prevent this objectionable person from following us?”

“If that were all,” said Percy, “I should leave at once, and trust
to luck or the shortness of his purse to prevent his following. But
the real objection is that we could not be certain that Aimée would
consent to go; and we could neither force her to do so nor leave
her with the Merediths. So, departure is not to be thought of. We
must fight the thing out by watchfulness and stratagem, as I have
said.”

“Watchfulness--yes,” said his father, “that is plain, and of course
necessary; but what stratagem do you propose?”

“I propose, for one thing, that some person shall always take
charge of Mr. Kyrle, and prevent him from devoting himself to
Aimée.”

“But how is any one to take charge of Mr. Kyrle--without his
consent?” asked Mrs. Joscelyn, feebly.

“A man’s consent is always taken for granted where a lady is
concerned,” young Joscelyn answered. “Lydia, here, might be equal
to the delicate task, I think. All that is required is that she
shall quietly take possession of Mr. Kyrle on all occasions, and
make it impossible for him to attach himself to Aimée.--It is a
task after your own heart,” he went on, addressing his sister with
more than the suspicion of a brotherly sneer in his tone “I have
seen you on many occasions monopolize men very much against their
will. Do you think you can manage the same thing with Kyrle?”

A flush rose to her cheek and was visible through the powder that
covered it. “You are as insulting as usual,” she said.

“On the contrary, I am most flattering,” he returned, suavely--for
he felt that Lydia’s assistance was essential at this juncture of
affairs. “Only a woman of rare powers can do these things. A stupid
woman or a clumsy woman can never succeed in them. It requires a
peculiar tact to take possession of a man and keep him fastened to
your side whether he likes or not.”

“I understand perfectly all that you mean to imply,” she said,
coldly; “and if I do this thing it is not out of regard for you or
your plans, but because I have an object of my own in it.”

“Whatever your object,” her brother replied, “only _do_ the thing,
and I shall be satisfied, and never doubt your powers again.”



                                V.


But while the family council was thus laying plans for keeping
Aimée and her old acquaintance apart, Fortune, which sometimes
takes up weapons and fights for those who have neither heart nor
power to fight for themselves, had most unexpectedly brought them
together.

It was quite early in the morning, soon after he had taken that
light collation which on the Continent is called the first
breakfast, that Kyrle, sauntering on the Piazza and asking himself
whether he should fulfill his engagement of calling on Mrs.
Meredith, or whether he should, more sensibly, leave Venice, these
old entanglements, and new perils, behind him, suddenly perceived
a lady, accompanied by her maid, just entering the great portal of
the cathedral. He had not sat behind that figure the day before and
studied it in vain. He recognized at once the elegant outlines, the
graceful carriage, and without a moment’s hesitation he followed
her into the church, as he had long ago followed her into the
Florida orange grove.

Who does not know by sight or by fame that wonderful interior
in whose darkness lies hid the spoils of the Orient, and whose
ancient pavement in its undulations seems to imitate the waves of
the sea that cradles it? Kyrle knew it well; but just now he was
not thinking of gorgeous mosaics, or marvelous carving, of columns
of verd-antique, jasper, or porphyry; his eyes were searching the
gloom of the vast edifice for the figure which had entered a few
minutes before, and some time elapsed before he discovered what
he sought, in a chapel where a priest was saying mass and a small
congregation were assembled.

As he drew near the chapel, struck by the infinitely picturesque
scene--the rich, jewel-incrusted altar, the priest in his golden
vestments, the contrasts of rank and costume in the forms kneeling
on the pavement--he suddenly saw Aimée, her maid on one side, on
the other a Venetian girl with a black lace shawl thrown over such
red-gold hair as Titian painted, while a shaft of sunlight from
some high, remote window brought out the delicate fairness of her
face from the shadowy obscurity around. Satisfied with having
found the object of his search, Kyrle paused, and, leaning against
a pillar, waited until the service was over and those who had
assisted thereat were dispersing. Then he stepped from the shadow
of the pillar and presented himself to Aimée. She looked a little
surprised, but greeted him quietly, and together they walked toward
the entrance.

“I was about to remark that I am fortunate to meet you,” Kyrle said
presently, “but one should pay a sacred edifice the compliment of
being strictly truthful while within its walls, shouldn’t one? And
the truth in this case is that I saw you come in and followed you.
I am thinking of leaving Venice to-day.”

If he had intended to surprise her by the announcement, he must
have been disappointed by the calmness with which she replied: “You
are leaving Venice to-day? Is not that sooner than you anticipated?”

“I had made no plans,” he answered. “When I paused here, I did
not intend to linger more than a few days. And now, though I am
strongly tempted to remain, I--Well, I think I had better go.”

Almost every one has had occasion to learn more than once in life
the extreme difficulty of keeping all trace of strong feeling out
of the voice. Kyrle was conscious of being somewhat exasperated
with himself and Fate, as he uttered the last words, and naturally
the inflection of his tone betrayed the feeling. Aimée glanced at
him quickly--involuntarily, it appeared--and in the light of that
glance there suddenly flashed upon him an understanding of what
interpretation she might give to his words. Her eyes seemed to
say, “Ah, is _that_ it!” But before he could collect his thoughts
sufficiently to know how to explain himself, she had looked away
again and was saying in her clear, low voice: “If you think it
best, of course you are right to go. And one should not attempt to
change your resolution.”

“No one is likely to attempt to change it,” he replied, with a
slight laugh. “But I think you misunderstand me a little,” he
added, after a pause, with a sudden impulse of candor. “We were
once thrown together very singularly; I am sure you do not forget
this any more than I do. Therefore, since we are not strangers,
will you let me speak to you frankly?”

“Surely, if you wish to do so,” she answered; but he saw that she
looked a little startled.

“Do not be afraid,” he said, quietly. “I have no intention of
saying anything that you need hesitate to hear. But may I ask you
to sit down for a moment?”

They were now in the _atrium_, or inner porch of the church. Aimée
hesitated for an instant, then, turning to her maid, said in French:

“Go to the Merceria and make the purchases of which you spoke. I
will wait for you here.”

“Oui, mademoiselle,” replied the girl, without the change of a
feature, and forthwith departed.

Kyrle could hardly believe his good fortune, but as Aimée sat down
on one of the stone benches fixed against the wall, he said,
gratefully:

“You are very kind--as kind as I remember you of old. And I have no
more forgotten how kind you were then, than I have ceased to thank
Heaven for the message you so bravely brought me.”

She looked up at him and he saw in her face that she was astonished.

“But--” she began, and then paused.

“But you thought that I meant something else a minute ago,” he
said. “You thought I meant that I found it best to go because I
felt the old attraction reviving. Is it not so?”

She dropped her eyes. “Was it not natural that I should think so?”
she asked.

“Perhaps it was natural,” he answered, “but you were mistaken. My
only sentiment with regard to that past folly is one of sincerest
thankfulness for my escape. The last time we sat like this
together--have you forgotten the evening in the orange grove?--I
told you that my fancy for Fanny Berrien was dead, killed by her
duplicity to me and her selfishness toward you. I may have been
a little melodramatic, but I meant exactly what I said. From
that day to this her memory has not cost me a pang. As for Mrs.
Meredith, she is a very pretty and amusing person, who acted
altogether according to her kind, and to whom for her conduct
toward myself I bear no malice whatever. On the contrary, my
sentiment toward her is one of lively gratitude--although I have
never forgiven her for her conduct toward you.”

Aimée had lifted her eyes now, and was looking at him again very
steadily. It was as if she were deciding in her own mind the
question of his sincerity. Then she said, with her old simplicity
and directness:

“But why do you wish to tell this to me?”

“Because,” he answered, “whether I go or whether I stay, I do not
wish you to regard me as the victim of a hopeless passion for the
wife of Mr. Meredith.”

“I should scarcely have thought that,” she answered; “but it was
surely natural to fancy that you might remember--with pain--”

“Oh, no; it is no matter for pain,” he said, as she
hesitated--“only for a light-comedy smile and sigh. Fancies of
that sort come and go like dreams. One must know many of them
before one learns what love really is.”

She turned her dark, meditative eyes away from him. On one side was
the interior of the marvelous old church, gleaming with marbles
and precious stones; on the other the sunshiny Piazza, with its
graceful arcades and flocks of sheeny pigeons. She looked toward
the last as she said:

“I do not think I like such an idea.”

“You?” he said, quickly. “No; how could _you_ like it? It is not
meant to apply to natures like yours.”

“Is it not?” she asked, with a smile. “But how can you tell that,
when you know nothing of my nature?”

“Do you think I know nothing of your nature?” he asked, smiling
also. “If I had time, and you did not consider me too presumptuous,
I might prove the contrary, for you forget all that you showed me
once--all the courage, the unselfishness, the humility. But I do
not forget. And has no one ever told you that you carry your soul
on your lips and your heart in your eyes?”

“No,” she replied, “I do not remember that any one ever told me
so before--at least not exactly. But perhaps Fanny means the same
thing when she tells me that my face is ‘ridiculously transparent.’”

“It is only a different way of stating the same thing,” said Kyrle,
and then they both laughed.

“But seriously,” said he, after a moment, conscious of a very
pleasant sense of _camaraderie_ with this beautiful companion,
“have you no idea how you revealed yourself to me at that last
meeting of ours under the orange trees? How I can see you this
moment, as you were then--such a delicate, childlike creature, but
with a strength of resolution against which I arrayed all _my_
strength in vain! And then, when you opened your heart and told me
the sad story of your life, and how it was gratitude which made you
so resolute--do you think I could ever forget anything so touching?
Many a time, in the years which have passed since then, I have
thought of that scene, and said to myself, ‘God bless that child
wherever she may be, for she has a heart as tender as it is brave!’”

Something in his voice told her that he was speaking genuinely,
without the least insincerity or thought of effect, and she could
not but give him a grateful glance from the same dark eyes which
had impressed him with their wonderful power of expression on the
occasion of which he spoke. “You are very kind,” she said, trying
to speak lightly, “to have remembered an obstinate child so long!”

“You were certainly very obstinate,” he said; “but how brave you
were! To think of your having had the courage to go alone to the
sea wall that night, and to think of the selfishness and cowardice
that sent you! Pardon me for asking the question, but has no
opportunity ever occurred for you to set yourself right in that
matter?”

She shook her head. “How could it?” she asked. “Fanny has never had
the courage to tell her husband the truth. But nothing disagreeable
has arisen from it--to me, I mean,” she added, a little hurriedly.
“You know you were afraid of that.”

“Yes,” he said. “I am very glad that you have never been annoyed;
still, it is a shame that such a belief should be in the mind of
any one with regard to you.”

He spoke out, quickly and hotly, the indignation that on this
subject was always within him and ready to find expression; but
he was sorry the next moment for the words when he saw a swift
blush rise into her face, as with the sudden realization of what
the belief was to which he alluded. Angry with himself, he went on
hastily:

“This being so--I mean, the burden of Mrs. Meredith’s conduct
being still borne by you--I feel that I am bound to abstain on
my part from anything which might cause you the least annoyance;
and so I have determined to go away. There shall not be the least
misapprehension about you, arising from any act of mine.”

So much was truth; but, like many other people, Kyrle did not find
it advisable to tell all the truth. He could not say, “Also, I am
going, because if I stay I shall fall in love with you, and that
will never do, for I am a poor man, and you are a rich woman.” But
this was in his mind, even while the temptation was growing greater
every instant to forget both of these stubborn facts. Aimée was
silent for a moment, and then--for the old courage, as well as the
old simplicity, was still strong in her--she looked at him with her
brave, direct glance, and said:

“If this is your reason for leaving Venice, I hope that you will
not think of going. Your presence does not cause me the least
annoyance; and I should be more sorry than I can tell you if mine
were such an annoyance to you that we could not even remain in the
same city. For, do you think I forget that if you are in a false
position, it was my obstinacy that placed, or at least kept you
there? How earnestly you appealed to me, and I could not yield!
And are you now to be the sufferer by being driven away from this
heavenly place? No, Mr. Kyrle, there is no justice in that. I will
not allow it!”

He could have smiled at the energy with which she spoke, partly
because he read in it the old generous spirit, taking no heed or
thought of herself, and partly because, in urging him to remain,
she proved that she so little suspected the chief reason why
departure seemed to him necessary. What he would have answered it
is hard to say, for at that moment the maid, bearing some packages,
made her appearance, and Aimée, rousing to the consciousness
that there was something very unconventional in this prolonged
conversation, rose rather hastily, bade him good-morning, and
walked away.

       *       *       *       *       *

“Going to leave Venice?” said Fanny Meredith. “What an absurd idea!
What do you mean by it?”

The time was two hours later than when, standing in the shadow
of the cathedral porch, Kyrle had watched Aimée cross the
sunshine-flooded Piazza; and the place was the privacy of Mrs.
Meredith’s sitting-room in the Grand Hotel. The two people who
occupied it were alone together for the first time since they had
parted as lovers; but it is safe to say that this thought was not
in the mind of either of them. Kyrle, leaning back in a deep chair,
was gazing absently out of the window at the beautiful proportions
of Santa Maria della Salute just across the Grand Canal, while Mrs.
Meredith, with her pretty brows knitted, was gazing at _him_.

“I mean,” he said slowly, in reply to her last words, “that I think
it is the only wise course open to me.”

She threw herself back with an impatient gesture. “You are as
incomprehensible as ever!” she exclaimed. “Now, what on earth do
you mean by the only wise course open to you?”

“Briefly, then,” said Kyrle, “you were shrewd enough to observe
last night that I am in danger of falling in love with Miss
Vincent--”

“Oh, no,” said Fanny, shaking her head, “I observed that the thing
was already accomplished.”

“There you are mistaken,” said he; “it is not already accomplished.
Or if it were,” he added, lamely, “there is the more reason for
my going away, since I only expose myself to useless pain by
remaining.”

“But why useless pain?” asked she. “Have you so faint a heart that
you are afraid of Percy Joscelyn as a rival?”

“Not at all,” answered he, calmly. “But it is quite impossible for
me to become his rival. Have you not told me that Miss Vincent is a
great heiress?”

“Yes; she has a large fortune in her own right, and without any
restrictions--happy girl!”

“I hope it may prove for her happiness,” said Kyrle, rather
gloomily, “but it is an effectual bar to any hope on my part. A
newspaper correspondent would hardly be a fit _parti_ for such an
heiress.”

“And whose fault is it that you are a newspaper correspondent?”
asked Mrs. Meredith, with a malice born of past recollections.
“But, in my opinion, that is all nonsense,” she went on, briskly.
“Birth and social position are the things to be considered, rather
than a mere accident of money.”

“The accident of money is what the world considers,” said he, “and
I must consider it also. For myself, I have perhaps thought of it
too little. If so, I am punished by finding it now an insuperable
barrier between myself and the woman I might love.”

Fanny opened her lips to speak, but apparently thought better of it
before any words escaped. She closed them again and sat silent for
a moment, evidently reflecting. Then she looked at Kyrle with an
expression of resigned regret.

“I remember how ob--that is, determined you are,” she said; “so I
suppose there is nothing to be gained by arguing the matter. But
since your mind is so fully made up, why should you run away? I
thought that was the resource of weakness and indecision.”

“No doubt it is,” said he, falling into the artful trap, “and I
felt very weak last night, I assure you. But, after all, there is
no reason why I should go at once--” looking out at the enchanting
sea and sky, and remembering Aimée’s last words. “A day or two can
not matter, and it is nobody’s affair but my own if I choose to
pay for present pleasure by future pain.”

“Oh, dear, no--not anybody’s affair at all,” said Fanny. “And then,
you can so easily take another trip to Egypt and forget all about
it. I really wish you would stay,” she added, persuasively. “We
might have such a pleasant time wandering about Venice! And a man
need not abjure the society of a woman because he thinks her too
rich to marry.”

“No, certainly not,” said Lennox, though he knew in his heart
that this was sophistry. “Well, at least I will not go to-day. I
will stay as long as I first intended--that is, two or three days
longer.”

“How nice of you!” said Fanny, with a gleam of triumph in her eyes.
“And you will also stay to breakfast?”

“You are very kind, but not to-day. If you are going anywhere this
afternoon, however, and will allow me to join you--”

“We are going out to the Lido. Meet us there, and we can all
return together. And one word--don’t mind the incivility of the
Joscelyns. They are uncivil because they are afraid of you.”

“I am very well aware of that,” said he, with a smile. Then his
heart sank, and his voice also, as he added, “But if they only knew
it, they have no cause for fear.”

“They are wiser than to believe that. And so am I,” thought Fanny;
but she took very good care not to utter her thought aloud.



                                VI.


Somewhat to Mrs. Meredith’s and also to Kyrle’s own surprise, he
had no incivility to encounter from any of the Joscelyns when he
joined their party on the Lido that afternoon. The heads of the
family received him courteously, if stiffly, and Miss Joscelyn
greeted him like an old friend. Indeed, by what means he could
not for the life of him tell, she soon managed to monopolize his
attention, calling upon him for the little services which no
gentleman can refuse to render to a woman, and presently drawing
him aside from the rest of the party to walk with her on the
beach, while she discoursed to him of many things in heaven and
earth which did not interest him in the least. His judgment upon
her, meanwhile, was uncompromising.

“A mass of silliness and affectation,” he said to himself, but in
this he did her some injustice. She was not only less silly than
he imagined--possessing, in fact, a good deal of shrewdness--but
at the present time she had an object in view in her discursive
conversation which his irritated and distracted mind was far from
perceiving.

For it is to be feared that, had pearls of wit and wisdom dropped
from her lips, they would have fallen on equally inattentive ears.
Kyrle had said sternly to himself, while on his way to the Lido,
that he would be very careful not to devote himself to Aimée;
that, because she had asked him to remain in Venice, he was the
more bound not to cause her the faintest shadow of annoyance by
attentions that might be misconstrued; and that he would only
allow himself the pleasure of seeing and of talking to her, as
any other chance acquaintance might. But to renounce voluntarily
some happiness for which Nature longs is one thing, and to have it
forcibly placed beyond reach by outside agency is another. Even if
the happiness in question is no more than looking into a pair of
soft, dark eyes, and listening to ordinary sentences uttered in a
sweet voice, one may be supported in voluntary renunciation by a
sense of virtue which is altogether lacking in feeling that the
matter is taken out of one’s own power. So Kyrle chafed inwardly
against the quiet but resolute hold of Miss Joscelyn upon his
attention, even while he said to himself that it was in a degree
what he had intended, and that he was glad of an opportunity to
prove to these people what an absurd fiction it was that he had
ever been Aimée’s lover.

Yet all the time he was conscious of an insistent desire, the
hunger of the heart which comes with love, to renew the charm
of that half hour in the _atrium_ of St. Mark’s, to take up the
thread of conversation where they had dropped it, and feel again
that sense of sympathy and comradeship, of understanding and being
understood, which had quickened all his being into new life. And,
instead of this, he was pacing the beach with Lydia Joscelyn, and
lending half an ear to what he called in his own mind empty twaddle.

Twaddle it might be, but empty--that is, devoid of meaning--it was
not. Lydia, with an art which did her credit, approached slowly but
surely to the point she had distinctly in view; and presently she
touched it.

“Percy tells me that you sing beautifully, Mr. Kyrle,” she said.
“He declares that he never heard anything finer than your singing
in the gondola last night. You must come out with us to-night and
let me hear you. I adore fine singing. I wonder that Aimée never
mentioned that you had such a fine voice.”

Kyrle, roused from partial abstraction by the sound of Aimée’s
name, fell unconsciously into the trap. “I do not think that Miss
Vincent knew anything about my voice,” he replied, “so it would
have been difficult for her to say anything about it.”

“No!” said his companion, opening her eyes. “I thought I had
understood that you were _quite_ old friends.”

This roused him thoroughly, for the tone implied much more than
the words. The indignation which was ever ready to be excited on
this point rose within him, as it had risen before that day. He
determined that nothing should induce him to lend his aid to Fanny
Berrien’s deception, and allow these people to fancy injurious
things of Aimée. Miss Joscelyn was a little startled by the
haughtiness of his glance as he turned it on her.

“I could esteem nothing more of an honor,” he said, stiffly, “than
to have been either an old or a new friend of Miss Vincent. But,
in point of fact, our acquaintance in the past was very slight, as
your knowledge that she was quite a child at the time might inform
you.”

“Oh!” said Miss Joscelyn. Even her self-possession had need to
recover itself after this _douche_ of cold water. But, while she
exclaimed mentally that he was a perfect churl, her resentment was
accompanied by a sense of triumph. “There _is_ a mystery,” she
thought, “and I am sure that Fanny Meredith is at the bottom of
it!” With a laudable desire of probing further, therefore, she went
on:

“We have all misunderstood a little, then,” she said, with some
significance. “There has been an impression created--not so much
by Aimée as by Mrs. Meredith--that you were friends in a very
particular sense. I think,” she added, with an air of carefully
weighing her words, “that it is a pity such an impression should be
allowed to remain, if it does Aimée an injustice.”

“If such an impression exists,” said Kyrle, with emphasis, “it
certainly does Miss Vincent the greatest injustice, and should not
be permitted to remain. I repeat that my acquaintance with her was
very slight, and that I thought of her only as a child, though I
was struck by some qualities very remarkable in a child, which she
displayed.”

“It is singular, since your acquaintance with her was so slight,
that you should have been able to discover these qualities,”
observed Miss Joscelyn, innocently, “for Aimée is _very_ reserved,
very secretive, one may say, in her nature.”

“There were circumstances which called out the qualities,” said
Kyrle, briefly; for he began to understand that he was being
subjected to a process vulgarly known as pumping, and he had no
idea of either gratifying Miss Joscelyn’s curiosity or betraying
Fanny Meredith’s secret, unless defense of Aimée should make the
last absolutely necessary.

“It is rather difficult to imagine what circumstances calculated
to draw out remarkable qualities could have thrown together a
shy child like Aimée and a young man like yourself,” said Miss
Joscelyn, musingly. She glanced at him, and since the expression
of his face said plainly that he declined to be communicative
regarding these circumstances, she proved her talent for
cross-examination by a swift and unexpected diversion:

“What a very attractive girl Fanny Berrien was at that time!
Speaking of your acquaintance with Aimée reminds me that it was
during that winter in Florida she became engaged to Mr. Meredith.
It was said that she jilted another man shamefully--some one to
whom she had been engaged a long time--in order to marry him.”

“Very likely,” responded Kyrle, feeling bound to make some
comment. “I should imagine that Mrs. Meredith was never inclined to
limit herself in strings to her bow.”

“She was always a dreadful flirt!” said Lydia, shaking her head
with an air of virtuous reprobation. “I fancy Mr. Meredith does not
know a quarter of her escapades.”

“Are we not always informed that, where ignorance is bliss, only
folly would desire to be wise?” replied Kyrle, impatiently. “But
shall we not return to your party? I think I see some one waving to
us.”

Some one was indeed waving energetically and when they reached the
group they found them in readiness to embark on the return voyage.
In fact, the Merediths, Aimée, and Percy Joscelyn already filled
one gondola. Fanny met Kyrle’s crestfallen look with a mocking
gleam in her eye.

“All things do _not_ come to him who waits too long,” she said,
oracularly. “Had you been a little earlier, I might have offered
you a place with us; but now you will have to return as you came,
alone, unless Lydia allows you to recline at her feet.”

“We shall be very happy if Mr. Kyrle will come with us,” said the
major, blandly.

But Mr. Kyrle declined, more emphatically than was necessary. His
own gondola was waiting, he said, and (this the merest and vaguest
politeness), since he was alone, could he not offer a seat to any
one?

Miss Joscelyn and her brother exchanged glances, and then the young
lady sweetly spoke: “Since you are so kind, Mr. Kyrle--it really
_is_ too bad for you to have to return alone--and as there are only
two comfortable seats in a gondola, I will give mine to papa and
come with you.”

She held out her hand to be assisted into the boat, and Kyrle,
mentally anathematizing his own politeness, muttered that he was
“delighted,” Fanny Meredith laughed rather irrelevantly, and they
all pushed off.

What a picture it was when they were floating on the wide lagoon,
with Venice rising before them out of the shining waters, its
domes and towers enveloped in the golden haze of sunset, like some
dream of fancy, too magically fair for reality! In such an hour
and scene, who does not long for sympathetic companionship? Poor
Kyrle at least did, as instinctively he glanced toward the gondola
that held Aimée, and thought how different all this glory of earth
and sky, all the enchanted loveliness of the most poetical spot
on earth, would have appeared to him had he been able to see it
reflected in her eyes.

       *       *       *       *       *

“Upon my word, Lydia, you astonished me this afternoon!” Mr. Percy
Joscelyn condescended to say to his sister that evening. “I really
had no idea of your ability before. You managed the situation
perfectly. I never saw anything better done than the way you took
possession of Kyrle.” He laughed softly. “The fellow’s face, when
he stepped into his gondola, was a study!”

Lydia flushed at the laugh. She was pleased to be commended--to
have proved conclusively that she had power to do what she had
undertaken; but her vanity suffered under the imputation that she
had forced herself upon an unwilling man. No woman likes to feel
this. Even if it be a fact, she conceals it as far as possible
from herself, and never forgives the person who thrusts it brutally
before her.

“I did not find it at all difficult to monopolize Mr. Kyrle, as you
call it,” she said, with a tone of offense in her voice. “He did
not seem to object to being monopolized. And about Aimée--I have
found out just what I expected--he never was her lover at all.”

“How do you know?” asked her brother, eagerly.

“Because he told me so. Oh, you need not laugh! I was not foolish
enough to ask the question as a question; I made him tell me what I
wanted to know without his hardly being aware that he was telling
it. I think I remember all the conversation. It was like this--”

She proceeded to give a fairly accurate report of it, to which
Percy listened with the keenest attention, and, when she finished,
admitted that her conclusions were probably right.

“I agree with you that it was most likely some tricky game of
Fanny Berrien’s, in which she used Aimée as a blind,” he said.
“And, late in the day as it is, there is nothing I should like so
much as to get on the track of it and expose her. But we have no
proof--none whatever--for you say this fellow will not speak, and
we know that Aimée will not.”

“He may speak--that is, he may give me information without
intending to do so, as he did this afternoon,” Lydia calmly
replied. “I don’t despair of finding out the whole thing; but,
after all, it has no great bearing on the present state of affairs.”

“More than you imagine,” her brother said. “A hold on Mrs. Meredith
would be the most useful thing possible to me just now. If, as I
don’t doubt, this man was an old lover of hers, she has not only
deceived her husband with regard to him, but she is now bringing
him forward as a suitor for Aimée. Give me one iota of proof of
the story we both believe, and I will go to her and say: ‘You have
probably still sufficient influence over Mr. Kyrle to send him
away.’ If not, I shall have the pleasure of telling Mr. Meredith
the story of your love affair with him in the past. Get me the
proof, Lydia--give me the power to say this--and there is nothing
you can ask me that I will not do for you.”

“I will do my best,” said Lydia, “but absolute proof is difficult
to get, you know. One may be perfectly certain, and yet not have
that.”

“I know,” Percy answered. “But anything that would give me a hold
over that woman--” He broke off in his speech, but the intensity
of his tone boded little good to Fanny Meredith should that hold
over her be obtained. “One thing, at least, is certain,” he resumed
after a moment--“the man explicitly denied to you that he had ever
been Aimée’s lover.”

“Explicitly and emphatically.”

“Then that point is number one secured. This is a good beginning.
Continue the work, Lydia, and let us see how long Mr. Kyrle will
allow himself to be monopolized.”



                               VII.


Mr. Kyrle allowed himself to be monopolized almost unresistingly
for several days. Not indeed as completely as at the Lido, but to
a degree sufficient to prevent any satisfactory intercourse with
Aimée. A sudden passion for excursions seemed to have seized the
Joscelyns, who had hitherto seen as little as possible of the
different places in which they had unwillingly sojourned, and
who had seemed quite insensible to any claims of art or history
upon their attention. Now, however, they discovered that the
neighborhood of Venice abounded in places of interest; and Lydia
arranged one excursion after another to the adjacent islands,
excursions which Kyrle was invited to join, and during which he was
carefully kept as much as possible apart from Aimée.

The tactics by which this was managed were beautifully simple.
He found himself sitting by Miss Joscelyn’s side in a gondola,
carrying her shawl, offering her his arm whenever the need for
an arm arose, without in the least understanding how it all came
about. But one of the lookers-on understood perfectly, and laughed
to herself with an amusement not untinctured by malice. “He
declined my aid,” Mrs. Meredith thought, “so I shall leave him to
Lydia’s mercy. A man, poor creature, is so helpless in such a case!”

This man was certainly very helpless. There was not in him any
of the tincture of brutality which exists in men who can release
themselves from such a position by the simplest and most direct
methods. He could not be deaf when a woman asked for assistance;
he could not refuse to hold a parasol over her when she requested
him to do so, nor leave her alone when, falling behind the others,
she pleaded fatigue and begged to “rest a little.” They were all
threadbare artifices, but still strong enough to hold one who
to the instincts of a gentleman in such matters added a certain
hopelessness with regard to his own affairs. For, after all, he
said to himself, he had made up his mind not to compromise Aimée by
attentions of a loverlike character, and it was well that Lydia
Joscelyn should help him to keep this somewhat difficult resolution.

But it was a resolution which every day became more difficult, as
every day the charm that breathed from her presence laid deeper
hold upon him. Despite the vigilance of the Joscelyns, they
had occasional opportunities for conversation, and every such
opportunity seemed to him to strengthen that impression of a rare
individuality which she had from their first acquaintance made upon
him. Now and then there were glimpses of thoughts and feelings that
lay usually hidden under the gentle composure with which she met
the world; and these glimpses, he had a fancy, were given only to
him. One of these rare occasions occurred on an excursion to one of
the islands, where they encountered another group of tourists, who,
proving to be acquaintances, distracted for a time the attention of
the rest of the party and so made it possible for him to find Aimée
alone. She was sitting, when he discovered her, under the shadow
of the cloisters belonging to the ancient and partially deserted
monastic building they were supposed to be examining, gazing
seaward; and as he approached unobserved, he was struck by the
wistful, almost sad expression of her face. The expression vanished
as she became conscious of his presence; only a slight shadow still
lingered in her eyes as she turned them on him. But she spoke, with
a smile:

“Does a scene like this,” she said, indicating the wide, beautiful
marine picture spread before them, “ever rouse in you the
expectation of seeing a sail rise up from ‘the underworld’ bringing
some wonderful good fortune to you? I am always expecting it. I
never look at an ocean horizon without saying to myself, ‘When will
my sail come?’”

“I thought,” he said, as he sat down beside her, “that your sail
had come, bearing what most people consider the best of good
fortune.”

“You mean money?” she asked. “Yes, that came to me, and I am not
so ungrateful as to underrate its value, though I can not say it
has done much for me; but I am not thinking of anything so prosaic,
in looking for my fairy sail. That will bring--ah, I know not
what, but something that will give a different meaning to life. All
things seem possible there”--she waved her hand toward the distant
meeting-place of sea and sky; “one feels as if everything for which
one longs might come out of that mysterious distance.”

“But if the magic fortune delays, why not go in search of it?”
Kyrle asked, smiling at the fancifulness of the talk. “Shall we
embark? Behind that dim line we may find all that we have lacked in
life awaiting us.”

She shook her head. “No,” she answered; “I have no heart to search
the unknown. I am one of those who can only sit on the shore and
wait the coming of the sail, however much it may delay.”

Something in her tone, an unconscious echo of the sadness still
lurking in her eyes, made Kyrle realize more fully than he had ever
done before that her life was certainly not happy. How, indeed,
could happiness in any positive degree exist in such an environment
as hers? Physical well-being, the comfort and luxury of wealth
were hers; but what besides, what love for the tender heart, what
sympathy for the aspiring mind? No wonder that the dark, wistful
eyes sought the horizon for the magic sail that should bring
some meaning into her colorless days. A rush of pity made speech
impossible to him for several minutes, and with pity came a longing
like a passion to seize and bear her away from the odious people
who surrounded and preyed upon her, into the sunshine of such a
full and generous existence as her nature craved. It was the force
of repression which he had to exert upon himself which made his
voice sound almost stern, as he said:

“The most of us can do little more than sit on the shore and wait
for sails that long delay in their coming. But I fear that what we
chiefly look for them to bring is that prosaic fortune which you
despise.”

“Oh, no,” she answered, quickly, “I am not so foolish nor, as I
have said, so ungrateful as to despise wealth. But if I do not rate
its power as high as most people seem to do, that is natural. My
fortune has really brought me very little personal good. I have
often thought that I should have been happier without it. Yet that
seems ungrateful; and my family would think it sheer profanity,”
she added, with a smile.

“I wish,” said Kyrle, with an energy that was fairly startling,
“I wish to Heaven that I were a rich man! Shall I tell you what I
would do? It is understood that we are in fairyland, you know. I
would have a yacht--a very sea-gull for swiftness and beauty--at my
bidding, and I would take you--”

“Oh, here she is!” said a voice at a little distance--the far from
welcome voice of Percy Joscelyn. “Aimée, we are waiting for you.”

       *       *       *       *       *

It chanced that Kyrle was thinking of this conversation and all
that it had suggested the next day as, having left the party in a
church engaged in inspecting, with blank amazement, some frescoes
of Carpaccio which Mr. Ruskin has held up to the admiration of
the world, he went out on the little piazza before the church and
sat down on the steps which led down to the canal, to wait for
them. As he sat there in the soft Venetian sunlight he was of two
moods--one to go quickly, at once, out of a temptation which had
become overmastering; the other, to cast all scruples to the winds,
and show these people--who fancied, forsooth, that their stratagems
and devices had any power to restrain him--how little such barriers
of straw would stand in his way did he once resolve to take that
way. Some one, who came quietly out of the church and sat down
beside him, thought that at this moment he looked more like the
old, masterful Lennox Kyrle than he had looked since she had seen
him under these new conditions.

“I wonder,” said Fanny Meredith, “if you are by this time aware
that you are a very foolish man?”

He turned and looked at her. “I have been aware of it for a long
time,” he answered, quietly.

“And is not the knowledge of folly the beginning of wisdom? Are you
not sorry now that you refused my good offices?”

“Did I refuse them? I am not sure of it. But, if so, the reason
holds good now as then, which made it impossible for me to accept
them. You urged me to come forward as a suitor to your cousin,
and I told you that I was too poor a man to think of doing so. My
position has not changed since then.”

“But if you don’t see the folly of _that_, you are not at the
beginning of wisdom,” said she, impatiently. “Why, according to
your fancy, only rich people should ever marry rich people; when,
on the contrary, it should really be the other way! The proper
equalizing of wealth demands that rich persons should marry poor
ones.”

He was not in a mirthful mood, but to refrain from laughing at
this was impossible. “It is a new thing for you to appear in the
character of a political economist,” he said. “Your theory is well
enough, and I find no fault with those who practice it. But I must
decline to be one of the poor persons who aid in the equalization
of wealth by such means.”

“Well, _I_ am one of them,” said Fanny, quite unabashed, turning
a diamond ring round on her finger so that its flashing splendor
lent emphasis to the assertion, “and I can assure you that it is
a very good means. Pride is the matter with you,” she went on,
remorselessly, “and I call it a very selfish thing--much worse
than the mercenary spirit, which I presume you feel very virtuous
in despising! You don’t deny that you are in love with Aimée; you
dare not say that she is not worth a thousand times more than her
fortune; and yet you are prepared to let _her_ go, for the sake
of the money you profess to hold in such scorn, and because the
Joscelyns might call you a fortune-hunter.”

This was certainly very plain speech, and contained a kernel of
truth which struck Kyrle sharply. “If I have held money in scorn,”
he said, “it has only been with regard to myself. I know well what
its value is in the eyes of others. And it is true that I think too
much of my own pride, perhaps; but this is a point on which I have
always been peculiarly sensitive--”

“As if I did not know that!” she interposed, with a note of that
curious old resentment against his culpable indifference to
mercenary considerations in her voice. “You were so afraid of
being suspected of paying court to your uncle, that you behaved
outrageously to him. Oh, it was a very fine thing to show your
spirit, your independence, your scorn of groveling souls that cared
for money! So you lost a fortune which a little compliance with an
old man’s whims would have secured to you; and now you are enjoying
the fine results thereof, and preparing to be guilty of the same
folly, only in an aggravated form, over again!”

Some people, leaning in the windows of one of the tall, old houses
across the canal, and watching the little scene curiously, remarked
among themselves that the pretty foreign lady seemed to be a
terrible scold, and that the poor man--her husband, probably--had
little to say under her rating. “He has deserved it, no doubt,”
remarked one woman, enlightened by her own experience. “It is a
case of jealousy, most likely.”

“What a vindictive creature you are!” Kyrle was meanwhile saying,
with a smile. “Why can not my old follies--for which, as you justly
observe, I am now suffering--be allowed to rest? I grant you that
I was foolish, impracticable, full of pride--”

“As you are yet,” she interpolated.

“Granted again. But a fortune-hunter--to be suspected of seeking a
woman for her wealth--that is something I should feel very deeply.
Yet Miss Vincent is indeed worth so much more than her fortune,
that to speak of it in connection with her seems an insult. If she
were only rid of it--”

“But she is not,” said practical Fanny; “and you can hardly expect
her to give it or throw it away in order to oblige you.”

“I expect nothing,” he answered impatiently. “And I do not
understand why you should talk as if I had only to put out my hand
and grasp a prize which I am sure would, under any circumstances,
be far beyond my reach.”

“Your humility does you credit,” she said. “But in my opinion
there is no reason why you should not grasp the prize if you would
only resolve to make the effort. It is not on your own account
that I urge you in this manner,” she added, quickly, “but because
I want to rescue Aimée. You do not understand, and _she_ hardly
understands, in what a bondage she is held. If those people can
prevent it, she will never marry anybody, unless it be Percy
Joscelyn. By every possible means they keep suitors away from her;
and if I had not been here, you would never have been allowed to
approach her near enough to bow to her. Through me you have a
chance that no other man has had before. But if you are so blind,
if you throw it away for a mere scruple, if you think more of your
own pride than of saving her--then you may go! I have nothing more
to say to you.”

She rose as she uttered the last words, and Kyrle, who had listened
to the latter part of her speech with amazement, could scarcely
believe that it was Fanny Meredith who was leaving him with such an
air of dignity. He rose too, and made a step after her. There was
a sensible quickening of interest among the heads at the windows
opposite, as the scene promised to become more dramatic. “It must
be a lover’s quarrel,” some one suggested. “If he were her husband
he would not follow her.”

“Stop a minute,” Kyrle said. “If you have nothing more to say to
me, at least let me say something to you. I have never looked at
the matter in exactly the light in which you have put it. But
if you will have patience, if you will give me a little time to
consider, I will tell you my final decision before to-day is ended.”

“In your place, I would tell mine in five minutes,” said Fanny,
scornfully.

“Very likely,” said he, humbly, “but you must make allowances for
the slowness of the masculine mind. Can I see you--will you be at
home this afternoon?”

“No,” she replied, after a moment’s consideration, “for Mr.
Meredith would likely be at home also, and we could not speak
freely. But you may meet me at the top of the Campanile about
sunset.”

She had hardly said this, and Kyrle had no more than time to
assent, when Miss Joscelyn emerged from the church and came toward
them with an air of surprise.

“I have been wondering what had become of Mr. Kyrle,” she said.
“You really should not have kept him from studying those
extraordinary frescoes of Carpaccio.”

“They are certainly extraordinary,” said Fanny, dryly, “but I have
not kept Mr. Kyrle from them. I found him here when I came out for
a little relief of sunshine. I hope that we are done with Carpaccio
now, and that we are going home. It is time for lunch, and I am
hungry.”

This seemed to be the general sentiment of the party, which, with a
somewhat stupefied appearance--as of having taken art in rather too
large a dose--now emerged from the church. The major was shaking
his head. “Mr. Ruskin is, no doubt, a fine judge of painting,” he
was saying, “but, really--ah--hum--to send one to see such pictures
as these!”

Aimée, who was walking behind with Percy, looked tired and pale,
and when Kyrle met her eyes he was about to step to her side, but a
hand was suddenly laid on his arm.

“Do be kind enough to raise this parasol for me,” said Miss
Joscelyn. “The sun is positively blinding.”

Kyrle raised the parasol, and, accepting his fate, assisted her
into the waiting gondola. But then, instead of following, he
stepped back, and, lifting his hat quietly, bade the party adieu
“until to-morrow.”

“You will not join us this afternoon?” inquired Lydia, with some
surprise and evident concern.

“I am sorry that I can not have that pleasure,” he answered. “I
have a budget of correspondence to read, and another budget to
dispatch.”

“Then we will defer the excursion to Murano till to-morrow,” said
she, positively.

Kyrle did not answer, but watched the gondola, as it moved away,
with a very grave face. The moment of temptation had come now in
earnest. Ought he to think of himself and his own pride, when it
was a question of rescuing the fair and gentle creature who had won
his heart from such a bondage as that which Fanny described? If it
were true that by a singular chance he had been enabled to approach
her more nearly than any other man had ever approached her, or was
likely in the future to do, did it not seem as if Fate pointed
him out as her rescuer? Yet, for him, by comparison a poor man, to
woo so rich a woman, to meet the insults of her friends, and bear
the brand of a fortune-hunter in the eyes of the world--that was a
bitter necessity to face; and, revolving it in his mind, he went
slowly home.

He had been strictly within the limit of the truth when he told
Miss Joscelyn that he had a budget of correspondence to read,
for the accumulation of several weeks had reached him only that
morning, and he had not taken time to wade through it before going
out. After a light _déjeuner_, he set himself to the task, partly
because it was a necessity, and partly to distract his mind from
the question which he was constantly asking and altogether unable
to answer.

So, after going through several letters with a very distracted
attention, he took up and opened one which was addressed in a
strange handwriting and bore the stamp of a legal firm. “How can
I--I, who have nothing!” was the refrain echoing through his brain
as he broke the seal. But a minute later he uttered a great
exclamation, and sat staring incredulously at the paper before him.

Instead of having nothing, this letter informed him that he
possessed a fortune of not less than a million and a half dollars.



                               VIII.


The sun had set, but there was a radiant sunset sky, as well as a
view of great extent to be seen from the Campanile as two ladies
stood there, and, leaning over the parapet of the great tower,
looked down on Venice, with the Grand Canal winding through its
midst like a silver serpent; at the coast of Istria and the blue
summits of the Alps afar; and at the Adriatic spreading to meet the
sky. One fastened her dark eyes on that distant line of blending
sea and sky, but the other bestowed her regard chiefly on the
Piazza at her feet, where people seemed to be crawling about like
ants. Presently one of these ants crossed the square more quickly
than the rest and entered the loggia at the foot of the Campanile.
Mrs. Meredith looked round at her companion.

“I think I see Mr. Kyrle coming up,” she remarked.

Aimée turned with a slight start from the contemplation of the
Adriatic. “How do you know that it is Mr. Kyrle?” she asked. “It
may be any one.”

“I know because I told him that we were to be here,” returned the
other, carelessly. “I thought the poor fellow needed a little
relief from the society of Lydia. He really begins to look worn and
pale under the ordeal.”

“I can not see why you should draw such a conclusion,” said Aimée.
“If he did not like Lydia’s society, he need not endure it. A man
can do what he likes in such matters.”

“Simpleton! is that all you know about it?” said Fanny. “Why,
unless he absolutely runs away, a man is helpless in the hands of
a woman who knows how to play such a game as Lydia is playing. And
this man does not want to run away, because he adores _you_.”

“Fanny!”

“It is quite true. He adores you, and yet he is so afraid of your
fortune that he dare not approach you. He does not believe that a
poor man has any right to try to marry a rich woman.”

A flush that seemed borrowed from the sunset was now on Aimée’s
face. She cast a glance of reproach at her cousin.

“If it is true,” she said, hurriedly, “why have you chosen such a
time to speak of it?”

“Because I thought it only a matter of justice to let you know
that he does not endure Lydia’s attentions because he likes them,”
replied Fanny, coolly.

They were silent then, for steps were now heard inside the tower,
ascending that inclined plane up which tradition tells that
Napoleon rode his horse; and a little later Kyrle stepped on the
platform.

The moment he appeared, Fanny Meredith saw that there was a change
in him--a glow in his sunburned cheek, a light in his eye, and
the air of a man who had burst some bond. She looked at him with
surprise, and as he walked up to her--not seeing Aimée, who had
retreated to the other side of the tower--she said, involuntarily:

“What is the matter? You look--unlike yourself.”

“Do I?” he said, with a thrill of excitement in his voice. “Well,
that is not strange. I am _not_ myself--that is, I am not the
man you parted with this morning, but quite another. Allow me to
introduce myself to you as a millionaire.”

She gave a cry, and clasped her hands. “Your uncle is dead, and
has left you his money, after all!” she exclaimed. “O Lennox, I am
so glad!” Then she turned swiftly and ran across the platform. “O
Aimée!” she cried, “you must congratulate Mr. Kyrle. He has just
come into a large fortune.”

When Aimée turned, she and Lennox were both pale--he, because he
had not entertained the least expectation of finding her there; and
she, on account of this unexpected sequel to those last words of
Fanny’s, which were still ringing in her ears.

“I hope Mr. Kyrle will accept my congratulations,” she said,
“although”--and she smiled a faint, tremulous smile--“I am not
sure that to inherit a great deal of money is always such good
fortune as the world believes.”

“Ah,” said Fanny, “such skepticism may do for people who have
inherited it. But I do not think Mr. Kyrle will quarrel with his
good fortune.”

“No,” said Lennox, quietly, “I would be very far from quarreling
with it--if it were really mine.”

“If it were really yours!” repeated Mrs. Meredith, recoiling a step
in her amazement and disappointment. “What do you mean?”

Lennox looked at Aimée. “I will tell you,” he replied, “what I
mean. When I said, a moment ago, that I am a millionaire, I said
what is exactly true; and ever since I read the letter announcing
the news to me I have been playing with the sensation, with the
idea, of being rich and free, and altogether living in a fool’s
paradise. For”--his voice changed--“it is true that the fortune is
mine, but it is also true that I can not retain it.”

“Good Heaven! why not?” cried Mrs. Meredith; while Aimée said
nothing, but looked at him with all her soul in her eyes; and he,
gazing into those eyes, answered:

“Because it is by an accident, not by the intention of my uncle,
that I inherit this fortune. It has long been his intention, of
which I was well aware, to found with his wealth some great charity
to perpetuate his name, and his will to that effect was drawn up
many years ago. Lately he wished to alter it in some particulars,
and directed his lawyer to draw up a new will according to his
directions. Before this will could be signed he died suddenly of
apoplexy, and the older will having been destroyed, I inherit the
property as nearest of kin.”

“Now, I call that providential!” said Fanny, in a tone of devout
thanksgiving. “I do not know when I have heard anything that gives
me so much pleasure! To think of that old--ahem--gentleman being so
outwitted at last, and so thwarted in his desire to cheat you! For
I call it absolute cheating, when a man leaves his property away
from his nearest relative and natural heir.”

“Opinions differ on that point,” said Lennox. “I hold that a man’s
property is his own, to do with what he will; provided, of course,
that he does not neglect his duty to his children. But that duty
does not extend to a nephew, especially one who declined all that
he offered, and chose another path in life. No, it seems to me
that my plain duty is to regard that unsigned will as a valid
instrument, and to execute it.”

There was a minute’s silence after he finished, for both of his
hearers were completely taken by surprise. Fanny Meredith fairly
gasped with amazement before she cried:

“Why, it is worse than quixotism--it is absolute madness! I have
never heard of such a thing in my life! What you threw away before,
when you went against your uncle’s wishes, was bad enough; but
this--!” Words failed her: tears absolutely came into her eyes. “O
Lennox,” she said, imploringly, “you surely will not do it!--Aimée,
for Heaven’s sake, speak to him! He will listen to you!”

Aimée flushed, but Lennox turned to her quickly. His face was set
in resolute lines, but there was something in his eyes--a wistful,
pathetic expression, as of one asking help--which touched her
deeply.

“Tell me,” he said, simply, “am I not right?”

It was a subject on which few people would have cared to offer
advice, unless, like Fanny Meredith, they offered it on the side of
worldly common-sense; but Aimée did not hesitate. She answered as
simply and directly as he had asked:

“Yes--as far as I can judge, I think that you are right.”

Fanny Meredith threw up her hands, as if appealing to earth and
heaven against such folly.

“I think you are both mad,” she said, “and I really feel
constrained to seek some saner society.”

With this, before either could utter a word or make the least
effort to detain her, she had turned and fled. For an instant they
stood confounded, listening to the sound of her flying feet down
that incline which is a veritable “_facilis descensus_.” Then
murmuring something quickly, Aimée made a motion to follow; but the
consciousness of being a millionaire, were it only for an hour,
gave Lennox courage and resolution.

“Pray do not go,” he said, earnestly; “she will be back presently,
or--we can follow her. But first I must speak to you; I wish to ask
your advice.”

“I scarcely think that I am fitted to advise you,” she said,
pausing at his request, but looking away from him.

“You are eminently fitted,” he replied, “because your opinion is
of infinite value to me, and your approval worth more to me than
that of any one else in the world. Indeed, if _you_ approve, I care
not who else disapproves.” He stopped for an instant, then quickly
went on: “I thank God that the temptation to keep this money has
not overpowered me, for it has been great. Do you know why? Because
it seemed to put within my reach a prize which before had seemed
as far from me as heaven; at least, it made effort possible, it
gave me leave _to try_. Before, how could I, how dared I, think
of saying to one dowered like a princess, ‘I love you’? But if,
with this fortune in my hand, I said it, no one could doubt my
sincerity, no one could think that I sought her for anything save
herself--herself, so far above all that a man could offer or give,
that if he brought the wealth of the world he would still be
unworthy of her!”

He paused, overpowered by his own emotion, and hardly expecting an
answer from Aimée. He could not see her face, for she had turned
away from him, but he saw that she was trembling, and he was amazed
by the clear steadiness of the voice in which she spoke after a
moment.

“What a man could say with a fortune in his hand, he might
surely--unless he thought more of money than of his own
manhood--say without it.”

“May I?” he cried, almost incredulously. “You will let me
say it--I, who had nothing yesterday, and will have nothing
to-morrow!--you will let me tell you that I love you with all my
heart?”

Another pause, and then--“If that be true,” said the sweet voice,
“why should it matter that you had nothing yesterday or that you
will have nothing to-morrow?”

“It matters,” he answered, “in the opinion of the world, which is
quick to say of such a man--”

“But, a moment ago, I thought that it was my opinion alone which
mattered,” she interposed.

“It _is_ yours--yours alone,” he replied. “And if you tell me that
I may hope, the scorn of the whole world can not hold me back from
striving to win you.”

She turned a beautiful, smiling face toward him. “It seems to me,”
she said, “that a man who possesses or who has refused a fortune of
a million or two can hardly fear that his disinterestedness could
be questioned. But I”--her voice sank a little--“I do not think I
should have needed the test.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Meredith, sitting quietly below in the loggia of Sansovino,
grew rather tired of waiting before the two from above came down
to seek her. She rose, and looked at them with a smile.

“Well,” she said, innocently, “have you settled the matter? Is the
fortune to be given up, or retained?”

“The fortune!” said Kyrle. “I had forgotten it; but, of course, it
is to be given up.”

“Ah!” said Mrs. Meredith. She looked at him curiously, this man
who was capable of such wild quixotism, and said to herself that
certainly things were better as they were. There was no danger that
Mr. Meredith would ever be troubled by any scruples which would
cause him to resign _his_ fortune. Then she shrugged her shoulders
gently. “I suppose it is quite useless to argue with you,” she
said, “but, at least, the fortune has done you a good turn, and
I advise you to say nothing to any one else of your intention of
resigning it. _Do_ the thing, if you like, when you return to
America, but don’t talk of it now. It is yours until you choose to
give it away, so pray take the great advantage it will give you.”

She did not say in what way, but Kyrle knew to what she alluded; he
knew that this wealth would render it difficult for the Joscelyns
to object to him. He looked doubtfully at Aimée.

“That,” he said, “would seem like sailing under false colors;
or, at least, like winning what I most desire by a false
representation.”

“Now, Heaven grant me patience!” said Mrs. Meredith, impatiently.
“But is not the fortune yours?”

“For the present, yes,” he answered.

“Then, why on earth should you take people who are not your friends
into your confidence with regard to what you mean to do with it?”

“Simply,” he replied, “because those people have a right to know
what is my true position in life, and an accident like my uncle’s
unsigned will does not affect that position. Am I not right?” said
he, turning to Aimée.

“I think that you are,” she answered, quietly.

“Very well,” said Mrs. Meredith, “go your own way. I wash my hands
of you both; but I am very sure that before you are done with this
affair you will wish that you had followed my advice.”



                                IX.


The event more than justified this prediction. The storm which
burst when Kyrle proposed himself to Major and Mrs. Joscelyn as a
suitor for Aimée was such as the latter, with all her experience,
had never known before. They would not have received the proposal
of a prince had it been possible to refuse it, for they were
resolutely determined to retain control of the heiress and her
fortune. But a man who by his own acknowledgment had nothing, yet
was capable of throwing away a million or more dollars--words were
too weak to express their opinion of him! They rejected his suit
with scorn, and the major grew fairly inarticulate when trying to
express himself with regard to such unparalleled audacity.

A penny-a-liner, a scribbler for newspapers, possessing not
a dollar in property, yet so insane as to refuse a fortune
for an absurd scruple! By Jove, a raving maniac would be as
suitable a match! Never should Aimée throw herself away in such a
manner--never! If it were necessary, they would constrain her for
her own good. She should not wreck her life and her fortune by
marrying a madman.

But the time had come when they were to learn what was in Aimée.
She had so submissively yielded to their demands hitherto that they
expected her to yield now; but it was characteristic of her that
the strength which her nature possessed only manifested itself on
rare and supreme occasions, so that she now and then took even
those who knew her best by surprise. She certainly took her tyrants
by surprise on this occasion. Quietly, but steadily, she faced them
like a rock.

“I shall marry Mr. Kyrle,” she said. “I am sorry if my choice
does not meet with my mother’s approval; but it is a matter which
concerns myself alone, and I can not suffer dictation with regard
to it.”

The major stormed, Mrs. Joscelyn tried tears and entreaties,
culminating in hysterics, but Aimée remained unmoved. She calmly
repeated her ultimatum, and left them.

Then, in view of the gravity of the situation, another family
council was held. Percy came, pale and venomous with the shock
of hearing that his worst fears had been realized, and Lydia
with a suspicious redness around her eyes. She not only shrank
in anticipation from the bitterness of her brother’s taunts and
reproaches upon the failure of her effort to attract Kyrle, but
there was a sting in the failure itself, for her fancy was of
the order that went out to any man who approached her, and her
eagerness to detain the young correspondent at her side had not
been dictated only by regard for the family interest.

Percy condescended to throw her but one stinging word. “I was a
fool to trust to such poor arts as yours,” he said. “Of course, the
man was only amusing himself with your vanity and laughing in his
sleeve at all of us. You have failed totally in keeping him from
Aimée; have you succeeded better in discovering anything about his
past relations with Mrs. Meredith?”

She shook her head. “No,” she answered, in a crestfallen tone.
“I have never been able to draw anything from him, though I have
tried. But I am sure that I am right--that there was something
between them in the past!”

“So am I,” he retorted, “but what good is there in being sure
when one has no proof? You might have got that out of him if you
had done no more! But, even without proof, I have made up my mind
to see what can be accomplished by threatening Mrs. Meredith
with exposure. _Toujours l’audace!_ She may believe that I know
everything. Heavens! if I only did--”

He glared at poor Lydia as if it were her fault that he did not,
then turned abruptly to his father. “If I fail in what I am going
to try,” he said, “we must adopt a policy of stratagem. Drop
all appearance of opposition, but insist upon returning at once
to Paris. The first and essential thing is to separate Aimée
from the Merediths. Separating her afterward from Kyrle will be
comparatively easy.”

“She is--ah--um--very determined,” said the major.

“So is every girl who fancies herself in love; what does that
matter? She will learn that her determination must bend before
ours. For myself, I will hesitate at _no_ means to accomplish this.
Are you not ready to say the same?”

Under the challenge of that domineering and unscrupulous glance the
major fidgeted, cleared his throat nervously, but finally spoke.
“Yes,” he said, “I think that any means would be--ah--justifiable,
to prevent a thing so mad as what she declares her intention of
doing.”

“Then everything is settled,” said Percy, with sharp decision.
“Make preparations for leaving Venice immediately. Whether I
succeed or fail with Mrs. Meredith, that must be done. Give Aimée
no excuse for refusing to go. Promise anything now. Once away, she
will be in our hands, and the rest is easy.”

Even Lydia shuddered a little at the last words. To be in Percy’s
hands, at Percy’s mercy, was surely a fate not to be desired, and
that, she knew, was what it meant; for he ruled them all, and his
father and stepmother would consent to whatever he proposed. With
the last words he rose.

“Now,” he said, “I am going to try intimidation with Mrs. Meredith.
If I succeed, our work will be easier; if I fail, nothing will be
lost. In any event, we go.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Fanny Meredith was walking restlessly about her sitting-room,
waiting for the news from Aimée, which Aimée had not yet come to
give. Lennox had looked in after his interview with Major and Mrs.
Joscelyn, made his report, received the sarcastic congratulations
of his ally on having brought about exactly the result she had
predicted, and which she supposed he had desired, and then taken
his departure--for he felt as if solitude was at that moment the
only thing he craved--solitude to dwell upon the look and the tone
of Aimée when she put her hand in his as he was going, and said:
“Do not let any of this trouble you. I shall not change.” Change!
He could have laughed at their folly in fancying they could change
her. How well he knew that light in the brave, dark eyes, and the
unflinching resolution which it indicated!

After his departure, Fanny looked for Aimée to appear shortly; but
as time went on and she did not come, Mrs. Meredith grew restless
and impatient. What was the matter? Even her courage shrank from
bearding the lion in his den--that is, the enraged family in their
own apartments; but she decided that if Aimée did not come soon,
she would go and learn what detained her. It was just after this
resolution had been formed that a knock at the door was followed by
the appearance of Percy Joscelyn.

He was perfectly calm in outward bearing, but his quietness of
manner did not deceive Fanny for a moment. She knew in the first
glance of his eye that he had come for war, and she felt at once
scornfully ready to meet it. What could Percy Joscelyn say that
would matter to her? She threw back her head and met him with the
weapon that always came to her most readily, that of mockery.

“Why, Percy,” she said, “this is a very unexpected pleasure. It
is not often you are good enough to come to see me alone. But I
suppose you want to talk over such an interesting event as Aimée’s
engagement.”

“Not exactly,” replied Percy, blandly, though his glance became
more venomous than ever. “I do not consider that Aimée’s engagement
can take place without the consent of her parents and guardians;
but I wish to congratulate you on your success in getting rid of an
old lover who might tell awkward stories, by the simple expedient
of stopping his mouth with an heiress.”

There was a moment’s pause. The gauntlet had been flung down, and
he stood with his hand on the back of a chair, waiting to see how
she would take it up. As for Fanny, astonishment rather than lack
of courage held her silent for the short space of time in which
they regarded each other. Then she said, with more dignity than any
one could have imagined her capable of displaying:

“So you have come simply to insult me. That, at least, makes
matters clear. I understand and can allow much for your
disappointment with regard to Aimée; but I do not intend to listen
to such insinuations as you have just uttered. Be good enough to
leave my room.”

She lifted her hand and pointed to the door, but Joscelyn did
not stir. On the contrary, he held his position with an air of
determination, as he held her glance by the steadiness of his own.

“It will not be well,” he said, “for you to insist upon my leaving
before I have finished what I have come to say. I know that Kyrle
was your lover before you were married, and that you jilted him for
a richer man. In order to deceive that man, you have represented
him as having been the lover of Aimée. This is a pretense which
might blind Mr. Meredith, but nobody else; and I hardly think it
would blind _him_ very long if one took the trouble to tell him the
truth. Now, I do not propose that Aimée shall be bargained away to
save your secrets, so I plainly give you your choice: send this
fellow away, as I have no doubt you have the power to do, or Mr.
Meredith shall know the whole truth about him and you!”

“My dear,” said Fanny Meredith afterward, in describing the
scene to Aimée, “I was astonished at myself. You know I always
was a coward, and I had no doubt that the horrid wretch did know
everything, as he said, and would tell it to Tom. But, for the life
of me, I _could not_ quail before him! I felt such contempt for
him, and such a sense of outrage that he should dare to threaten me
in that manner, that I suppose it was anger that made me as brave
as a lion.”

Whatever was the force supplying courage, whether anger or
disdain, she did not exaggerate in saying that she showed no sign
of quailing before Percy Joscelyn’s threats. She drew her brows
together, and her eyes blazed as they looked at him. In that
instant he felt that he had made a mistake--that to intimidate this
woman was not possible.

“What a contemptible creature you are,” she said, in a clear,
vibrating tone, “and what a fool besides, to think that you could
accomplish anything with _me_ by such a method as this! I will not
condescend to answer your insolent assertions and insinuations. If
you can induce my husband to listen to you, you can tell him what
you please. But understand once for all that every effort in my
power shall be devoted to helping Lennox Kyrle to rescue Aimée from
any further association with such a person as yourself. Now will
you go--or shall I be forced to ring for the servants to put you
out of my apartment?”

Brave as a lion she surely was, or she would have shrunk from
the impotent and vindictive rage that almost convulsed Percy’s
countenance as he looked at her. There was little in his power to
give which he would not have given at this moment to be able to
crush her by some revelation such as he had hinted at, but which he
now began to think had no existence in reality; for it seemed to
him impossible that any one whose conscience convicted her of the
falsity charged, could have been so daring and defiant. No, he had
made a mistake, and yet--

What was this? Why did Fanny’s expression change so suddenly
and greatly? Why did something like fear--yes, he could not be
mistaken, it _was_ fear--come into her eyes, as she looked past
him at the door to which she had again haughtily directed him? He
turned quickly and faced Mr. Meredith, who paused astonished at the
angry scene before him.

“Fanny!” he said, involuntarily addressing his wife.

Fanny felt as if her last hour had come, but to betray this to
Percy Joscelyn was impossible! The spirit that was in her still
kept her head erect and her manner dauntless, although it had not
been able to keep from her eyes that sudden expression of fear
which had leaped into them. She now addressed her husband with
admirable composure, notwithstanding that there was a perceptible
quiver of excitement in her voice.

“I have just requested Mr. Joscelyn to leave the room,” she said.
“He has so forgotten himself, under the disappointment of Aimée’s
engagement, that he has ventured to come here and threaten me--”

“Threaten you!” repeated Mr. Meredith, as she paused. He made a
stride forward that brought him close to Percy Joscelyn, and then
he stopped, controlling himself by an effort, but with all its
usual genial expression gone from his face, and, instead, fierce
indignation in every line. “What is the meaning of this?” he asked,
sternly. “Explain yourself!”

A bitter sneer curled the other’s lip. He could not, indeed,
explain himself as he should have liked to do; he could not
explicitly charge Fanny with duplicity which he only suspected, but
he could at least throw a firebrand, and make, he fondly hoped,
trouble between herself and her husband. So it was that the sneer
came as he looked at that gentleman.

“Mrs. Meredith seems to have regarded it as a threat,” he said,
“that I requested her to use her influence over her old lover to
induce him to relinquish his fortune-hunting scheme with regard to
Aimée, or else I should have the pleasure of enlightening you with
regard to some episodes of her past connected with that gentleman.”

It was a desperate venture, this speech, for if he had been asked
for the episodes----But he fancied that he knew Tom Meredith too
well to fear that, and the event proved him right. Mr. Meredith did
not glance at his wife at all, but looked at Joscelyn himself with
lowering brows and gleaming eyes.

“You are a cowardly cur!” he said, distinctly. “My wife told you to
leave the room. I now repeat the advice; and if you do not follow
it instantly, I shall be obliged to kick you out!”

       *       *       *       *       *

“O Tom, Tom,” cried Fanny, hysterically, “how good you were not
even to gratify the wretch by listening to him!”

“Is it possible that you could have imagined that I would?” her
husband asked. “Then I can only say that you don’t know me very
well yet. Even if I had believed what he implied, do you think I
would have let _him_ know it? But how did such an idea enter his
mind?” he inquired after a moment, as he sat down. “Is he not aware
that Mr. Kyrle was Aimée’s lover long ago?”

Fanny stood silent, motionless, incapable, it seemed to her, of
movement or speech. Never had that old falsehood, told so lightly
and heedlessly in the past, appeared to her so odious, so black, so
dishonorable as now! Oh, what a vile return for her husband’s trust
and goodness to let him still be deceived, still believe a thing
which was not so, still be less wise (so she fancied) than Percy
Joscelyn, still think her better than she was! No, if it lost her
his love forever, if he never, never forgave her the long deceit,
she would tell him the truth _now_, while she had the saving grace
and courage to speak. Perhaps Mr. Meredith had never in his life
been more surprised than when she suddenly rushed forward, sank on
her knees by his chair, and burst into tears.

“O Tom,” she said, “I don’t know that you will ever forgive me for
having deceived you so long, but I _must_ tell the truth! Lennox
Kyrle was never Aimée’s lover at all. He was mine.”



                                X.


“And he took it like an angel, my dear,” Mrs. Meredith said to
Aimée a few hours later. “I never have credited Tom with any
angelic qualities before, but I see now that it was because I did
not do him justice. No one could have been kinder. He seemed really
touched that I confided in him at last, only, he said, it was a
mistake not to have told the truth at the time; and he was very
severe about the false position in which you were placed. But I
cried--Heavens, how I cried!--so he could not scold very much; and
then he said he appreciated my telling the truth because it was
entirely a voluntary act, since he was sure I did him the justice
to believe he would never have listened to Percy Joscelyn. I _did_
believe it, and that was the reason I was forced to speak. When he
trusted me so, I was ashamed to feel how I had deceived him!”

“I have often wondered,” said Aimée, “that you did not feel it
before.”

“No doubt I ought to have done so,” replied Fanny, penitently,
“and perhaps I suffered more than you would believe; for I feel
now as light--oh, as light as a feather, to think that there is no
more need for concealment. Lennox will be glad. He was always so
desperately indignant about you. I really believe that he fell in
love with you at that time.”

Aimée smiled a little. Probably Lennox had already told her so.

“And what a pleasant thing it is,” Mrs. Meredith went on, “to
reflect that this is the only result of Percy’s attempt to make
mischief--the viper! Aimée, do you know that there are dreadful
possibilities of malice in that man? I shudder when I remember
the expression of his face as he stood there”--she pointed to the
spot--“looking at me. And what makes me shudder, is the thought of
his having any power over you.”

“He has none at all,” said Aimée, a little haughtily. “What is
Percy Joscelyn to me?”

“To _you_?--nothing. But he directs every act of your mother and
stepfather, and therefore he has a dangerous power over your life.
I tell you frankly that I shall never feel that you are safe until
you are married and out of their clutches.”

“Safe from what?” asked Aimée, quietly.

“Well,” answered Fanny, reluctantly, “I don’t want to be
melodramatic, or I should say safe from danger. I believe Percy
to be capable of any wickedness. I did not think so until to-day.
Hitherto I have thought him more mean than wicked, but it was as if
I looked down into his soul when he stood there gazing at me with
hatred in his eyes, and what I saw there was as black as--as the
bottomless pit!”

“Fanny!” said Aimée, astonished and startled, for this flight of
imagination was singularly unlike Fanny, who generally took things
on the surface, and was not at all addicted to descending in fancy
to the region of which she spoke.

“I mean exactly what I say, my dear,” replied her cousin, with
energy. “I assure you that I wish I could see you married
to-morrow.”

“It would have to be an elopement, then,” said Aimée, with
something between a smile and a sob, “for I have just been informed
that we are to return to Paris to-morrow.”

“Aimée!” It was fairly a scream that Mrs. Meredith gave. “You will
not _dream_ of consenting to go?”

“What reason have I for refusing?” the girl asked, wistfully. “I
can not, without some reason, positively decline to accompany my
mother. I have told them that I shall certainly marry Mr. Kyrle;
but that has nothing to do with returning to Paris.”

“It has everything to do with it!” said Fanny, in great excitement.
“Why else should they think of taking you away in this manner? I
tell you that they will hesitate at nothing when they have you
alone with them. Aimée, _you must not go_.”

“What would you have me do, then?” asked Aimée.

“I would have you come with us.” (It had long been settled that
the Merediths were to go from Venice to Vienna, while the question
whether or not the Joscelyns should accompany them had been left
open.)

“They would never consent,” said Aimée, “and I can not endure the
thought of a struggle. When the time comes to part from them I
should like it to be in outward peace at least.”

“That can never be,” said Fanny, resolutely. “Do not hope for it.
They will never let you and your fortune go without a struggle. The
only thing to do is to get this struggle over at once. Come with
us and marry Lennox Kyrle in Vienna. Don’t tell me that you are
not brave enough for it! I am sure that you are brave enough for
anything.”

“Brave enough to face danger--yes,” said Aimée, simply, “but not
brave enough to face struggle, pain, bitterness--”

“But you must face all those things if you remain with them, unless
you buy peace by giving up Lennox Kyrle. For--do not deceive
yourself--they will never consent to your marrying him; and if
you are resolved to do it, you must at last leave them in a more
unpleasant manner than this which I propose. Now, there is not the
slightest difficulty about it, but if you were alone with them
would it be easy? I fear that it might be impossible, and I should
not be there to help you.”

“It is true,” said Aimée, who was pale and greatly shaken. “It
might be necessary hereafter--under worse circumstances.”

“It _would_ be necessary, and might be impossible,” said Fanny. “Do
you not see? This is the golden opportunity. Ah!”--she rose quickly
and ran to the window--“I see some one who will help me.”

She waved her hand to Kyrle, whose gondola was just drawing to
the steps of the hotel. A moment later he was in the apartment
and ready to second her proposal with all the eloquence that love
could inspire. But even his eloquence might not have moved Aimée
if she had not felt that he was right; that she was merely on the
threshold of a struggle in which she might be worsted, since her
opponents would be absolutely unscrupulous in the use of means. But
Fanny and Lennox appreciated this, and both were earnest in urging
her to take _now_ a step which must be taken sooner or later.

But she was still undecided, when an unexpected ally to the
attacking force appeared on the scene. Mr. Meredith came in, and
when he heard of the plan of the Joscelyns his honest wrath was
stirred. “What! they propose to leave to-morrow, and carry you away
with them?” he said. “Then there is one simple thing to be done:
I shall go at once and engage your passage with us on the Trieste
boat which leaves to-night.”

Aimée rose and went up to him. The opinions of the others had not
moved her as much as might have been expected. Fanny, she knew,
was always inimical to the Joscelyns, and for Fanny’s judgment she
had not great respect, while Lennox labored under the disadvantage
of being a lover who appealed to her heart. In yielding to him she
felt that she would be yielding to those dangerous guides, the
feelings. But if this practical, unsentimental man thought she
ought to go, that was a different matter. She laid her hand on his
arm, and looked at him with her dark, appealing eyes.

“Tell me,” she said, “do you think I ought to go?”

The appeal of her tone was as great as the appeal of her glance;
and the simplicity of her words touched the man whom she addressed
more than anything impassioned could have done.

“My dear,” he said, kindly, “I think that, if you are determined
to marry this gentleman, the wisest thing you can do is to leave
your family at once, for it will come to that at last; and there
is not only no good in deferring an evil day, but at another time
you might not be able to command the protection which I am happy to
offer you now.”

“Just what I have told her,” cried Fanny.--“Now, Aimée, will you
consent to go?”

Aimée’s glance passed wistfully from one to the other, and rested
on Lennox. “Yes,” she said at length, “I will go.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Out into the night and the sea the steamer was moving, leaving the
wonderful lights of Venice--a vision of an enchanted city--behind,
while among the passengers on her decks one group of four persons
watched rather silently the lessening radiance. They were all
somewhat subdued in feeling by the fierce storm of opposition
through which they had passed--a storm that had shaken Aimée to
the very center, yet had showed her the absolute necessity of this
step. She stood now leaning on Kyrle’s arm, her gentle soul filled
with sadness at the thought of the bitterness and anger she had
left behind, although beneath the sadness was a consciousness of
freedom of release from bondage such as she had never felt before.
Presently her spirit would spread its wings like a bird in the
sunshine, exulting in this new atmosphere; but now she was silent,
and Kyrle, divining what she was thinking, as well as her physical
exhaustion after such stress of emotion, uttered himself no word,
only pressed close against his heart the little hand resting on his
arm. It was Fanny Meredith who said at last, with a sigh of relief:

“Well, thank Heaven, it is over, and we are safe; but I feel as if
we had _all_ eloped.--Don’t you, Tom?”

“I can’t say that I do,” her husband answered, with a laugh. “But,
by Jove, they were desperate! The major swore he would lock her
up, and I swore that if he did I would break down the door. I
should have done it, too, without a moment’s hesitation,” the
speaker ended.

“Wouldn’t it have been simpler and less sensational to call in the
police?” Fanny asked.

“The police!” Mr. Meredith scornfully blew out a cloud of
cigar-smoke. “What the deuce could Italian police do in such a
case? They would probably have arrested everybody, and kept us
in Venice until proof could have been given of Aimée’s age, and
a lot of other nonsense. Do you suppose the Joscelyns would have
hesitated to declare that she was still an infant? No; the simple
and direct thing to do was what we did--carry her off by armed
force.”

“What was it you said to Percy Joscelyn when he followed us to the
gondola?” Fanny inquired of Kyrle.

“I told him that if he came a step farther I should pitch him into
the canal,” that gentleman answered. “Probably he was aware that
it would give me sincere pleasure to do it, for he drew back.”

“And yet people think that a fortune is a blessing!” said Aimée,
with a long, quivering breath. “How gladly they would have let me
go--as they did once--if it were not for my money! I felt like
casting it to them, and bidding them take the only thing they cared
for!”

“I am very glad you did not,” said Fanny, practically. “They would
have certainly taken it, and you have already cast them far too
much. Don’t abuse your fortune, my dear, because the Joscelyns are
despicable. Money is a good, a very good thing to have. I only wish
you could make Lennox believe it!”

Kyrle laughed. The strain of emotion was sufficiently relaxed now
for laughter to become easy. “I promise,” he said, “to do exactly
what she wishes with regard to my fortune.”

“Ah,” replied Fanny, pettishly, “you only say that because you know
she is as absurdly quixotic as yourself. It may be a very fine
thing to be able to throw fortunes away,” the speaker pursued, “but
I am glad Tom has no temptations of the kind.--Come,” she said,
taking that gentleman’s arm, “I begin to feel the swell a little.
Let us walk.”

They passed down the deck, and the two left alone together stood
silent for a moment, still watching the lessening lights of the
fairy-like city. Then Kyrle turned his face seaward, to meet the
fresh breeze that came from the wide sweep of the Adriatic, and his
heart leaped within him, as if in answer to that boundless freedom
of the sea.

“This is not exactly the sea-gull yacht in which I longed to carry
you away,” he said to his companion, “but, although less poetical,
it is still bearing us toward the region of our dreams--that
mysterious distance out of which it seemed possible that all things
might come.”

“_You_ came out of it,” said Aimée, with a sound as of a smile in
her voice. “How well I remember the night on the sea wall of St.
Augustine, when I waited for the sound of your oars, and presently
you came from the sea, as now--”

“Now I am going back to it--with you,” he said, as she paused.
“There has been a long interval between the beginning and the end
of the romance; but it is fitting that the sea, which had a part
in its beginning, should also have a part in the end. And I may be
presumptuous,” he added after a moment, “but I have no fear that we
shall not find all our dreams awaiting us beyond that dim horizon
of the future at which we gazed the other day.”


                             THE END.

       *       *       *       *       *

                       Transcriber’s Notes:

  Inconsistencies in hyphenation have been maintained, i.e.:
  lover-like/loverlike, downstairs/down-stairs, etc.

  Page 40 “I dont want any wine,” changed to “I don’t want any
  wine,”.
  Page 141 “The Jocelyns” changed to “The Joscelyns”.
  Page 159 Removed extra double quote.
  Page 200 “lovelness of the most poetical” changed to “loveliness
  of the most poetical”.
  Page 202 Added single quote after “Kyrle to send him away”.
  Page 227 Period added after “children”.
  Page 250 Double quote added after “And what a pleasant thing it
  is,”.





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we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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