The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Girls of St. Wode's, by L. T. Meade

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Title: The Girls of St. Wode's

Author: L. T. Meade

Release Date: November 9, 2012 [eBook #41326]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8



E-text prepared by Roger Frank
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team





The Girls of St. Wode’s












Eileen, Marjorie, and Letitia Chetwynd were expected home from school. It was a bright day early in April, and Mrs. Chetwynd was seated in her luxurious London drawing-room conversing with her special friend, Mrs. Acheson.

Two years ago Mrs. Chetwynd, on the death of her husband, a distinguished Indian officer, had returned to England. She was a fashionable, up-to-date-looking lady now. Her widow’s dress was carefully chosen—not too depressing, but all that was correct and proper.

Mrs. Acheson, also the widow of an Indian officer, was not fashionable in the ordinary acceptance of the word. She was plainly, even shabbily, dressed. She wore long weepers to her widow’s cap, and her hair was brushed smoothly away from her broad forehead. Her face was large and somewhat sunburnt, her hands well shaped, but with a look about them which showed that they were not unacquainted with manual labor.

“Yes,” said Mrs. Chetwynd, uttering a sigh as she spoke, “this is a great day for me. The girls are educated, and are coming home.”

“For good?” said Mrs. Acheson.

“Well, yes, my dear; I suppose so. You see, they are all eighteen. It is absurd to keep girls at school after eighteen. They were eighteen the end of last year. In these days, when people grow old so terribly fast, girls ought to have their so-called education finished at eighteen.”

“My dear Belle would not agree with you,” said Mrs. Acheson.

Mrs. Chetwynd threw up her hands and slightly raised her arched brows.

“Spare me, dear Emily,” she cried. “I do not want to hear any of your dear, extraordinary, clever Belle’s theories at present. I sincerely trust—yes, my dear, I must be frank—I sincerely trust the wave of her influence will never come into my house.”

Mrs. Acheson sighed and sank back in her chair.

“On the whole,” she said, “I have much to be thankful for. I have enough to live on, and the memory of my dear husband’s brilliant career will always be a comfort to me. Belle is also in excellent health. She is, of course, one of the great admirations of my life; but I will admit it, dear, in a whisper, that she is also one of my trials. But, dear Helen, I had forgotten that you had three daughters; and how can they be all eighteen at the same time?”

“I have not three daughters, my dear; I have only two. Letitia is not my daughter. She is my niece; she is my dear husband’s younger brother’s child. She happens to have been born within a month of Eileen and Marjorie, who are twins, consequently the three are practically the same age. They will be home in about an hour and a half. They are all devoted to each other; but I confess it will be something of a handful taking three into society at the same time.”

“Oh, you surely don’t mean to introduce the whole three the same season?” said Mrs. Acheson. “How can you contemplate anything so appalling?”

“But I do contemplate it,” said Mrs. Chetwynd, “and I believe I shall manage very well. I have been, of course, in close correspondence with their invaluable teacher, Mrs. Marchland, and have had frequent photographs of the children. Eileen and Marjorie are alike in appearance and strikingly handsome; they will be foils to Letitia, who is as fair as they are dark. Letitia is pretty and fascinating, of the petit order. I should think the three would make something of a sensation. You see, my dear, I have large means, for my husband came in for the property of his elder brother, who died six months before him. I can do well by the children, and I mean to do so.”

“You contemplate matrimony as the aim and object of your ambition?” said Mrs. Acheson.

“Nothing of the kind,” replied Mrs. Chetwynd, slightly reddening. “If it comes, well and good. If a really estimable, worthy man takes a fancy to any of my girls, and his affection is returned, I shall look upon marriage as a suitable life for my children; but I do not take them into society for the sole purpose of getting husbands.”

Mrs. Acheson slowly shook her head.

“You will find it difficult to make people believe that,” she said.

“In all probability the three girls will marry,” continued Mrs. Chetwynd in her calm, even voice, which seldom rose to excitement or dropped to melancholy. “Marriage is what Providence intends for all happy women, early marriage and happy homes of their own. But I shall not hurry the matter nor put myself out about it. I mean the girls to have a good time, and will leave other matters to Providence.”

“Taking steps meanwhile to accomplish your real object,” murmured Mrs. Acheson under her breath.

“My dear Emily, do tell me about your Belle,” continued Mrs. Chetwynd. “So you have really sent her to St. Wode’s College?”

“Yes; and she is very happy there, and hopes to do well in her tripos.”

“I must frankly say that I hate girls’ colleges,” said Mrs. Chetwynd. “After all, these new-fangled ideas that women have taken hold of are most disastrous. What awful creatures one meets now and then! All womanliness extracted out of them—mere walking intellects with no hearts of any sort.”

“You really do run to the fair with the thing,” replied Mrs. Acheson. “I am sure my dear Belle——”

But Mrs. Chetwynd did not want to hear about dear Belle. Just at that moment there came a welcome interruption in the shape of tea. It was placed on a small table in front of the hostess, who poured it out, helped her friend to rich cream, and offered her hot buttered cake. Mrs. Acheson could only manage plain teas at home, and she enjoyed her friend’s meals, she was fond of saying, all the more by contrast.

“I shall long to hear of your dear girls, and also to see them,” she said, as she sipped her tea and stirred it slowly with a small Russian spoon.

“Well, come over and take a peep at them on Saturday,” said Mrs. Chetwynd. “Belle is away, is she not?”

“She comes home to-morrow night; she has had a very pleasant tour in Switzerland. May I bring her with me?”

Mrs. Chetwynd longed to say “No.” She disliked Belle Acheson, she disliked her manners and her mode of life, and she did not wish her to exercise the smallest influence over Letitia, Eileen, and Marjorie. After a moment’s reflection, however, she came to the conclusion that these young ladies could not be injured by any one so plain and unimportant. She therefore bent her head in token of willingness to receive Belle Acheson for a few hours into her house.

“Let it be Saturday, then,” she said. “Come as early as you can in the afternoon. If all goes well, I mean to have my three girls presented this season. I took this house for the purpose: it is in a fashionable locality and close to everything. Yes, after all, three young débutantes will in one sense be an advantage. The thing will be out of the common; nothing is admired so much as the uncommon. I expect I shall enjoy myself; and the girls, whatever happens, shall have a good time. If you are wise, my dear Emily, you will try to introduce Belle. If you dress her well you might do wonders with her, and——”

“Belle in society!” said Mrs. Acheson with a laugh. “Ah, I see you do not know her yet. Expect me on Saturday, and I will bring Belle if I can.”

Mrs. Chetwynd heaved a sigh as her friend left the room.


Three girls were traveling in a third-class carriage to King’s Cross. The train was not an express; it stopped at nearly every station. The carriage in which they sat was more or less crowded with country people who carried baskets, babies, feeding-bottles, and all sorts of parcels. The girls, looking bright and energetic, occupied corner seats. A woman with a fretful baby on her knee sat near one.

“How tired you must be!” said this girl. “Do let me hold your baby for a little.”

As she spoke all the other passengers turned and stared at her. She was a tall, slim, very plainly-dressed girl; her dark-blue serge dress lacked freshness, her sailor hat was decidedly the worse for wear, and her gloves had been mended in many places. The woman whom the girl addressed, glancing first at the shabby clothes, then at the kind, bright, handsome young face, decided that the girl was not very much above herself in the social scale, and agreed to let her hold her baby for a bit.

A charming color came into the girl’s face as she received the small atom of humanity on her knee. She held the baby tenderly; her young arms were strong, the little one nestled down comfortably, and the mother gave her a glance of admiration.

“Why, I do declare, my dear,” she exclaimed, “one would think you had half-a-dozen of your own, you handle the little mite that knowingly!”

“Oh, it is because I love children,” replied the girl. “It is kind of you to let me hold your little one. Look, Marjorie, do look; hasn’t it pretty little fingers; and oh, do see its tiny toes!”

Another tall girl bent forward and began to examine the baby’s feet. They were pink and very small; the girl stretched out her palm, and the other girl placed the little foot upon it.

“You are not to take the little dear from me,” said the first girl.

“Oh, my dear Eileen, I would not deprive you of the little treasure for the world,” was the quick reply. “I know by your face you are in the seventh heaven.”

“I am, I am,” replied the girl addressed as Eileen. “Oh, what a darling! It is so delicious, Marjorie, when it nestles up against you.”

The train slackened speed, drew up at a great station, and the woman, the baby, and most of the other passengers got out. The three girls now found themselves alone in the carriage. The girl at the distant window, the smallest of the three, turned and eagerly faced her companions.

“Well, Eileen,” she began—she shook her finger in the face of the bright, tall girl as she spoke—“if you begin that sort of thing just on the very day when you have left school, if you will insist on wearing those disgracefully shabby clothes, going third-class and taking us with you, when your mother sends us money to travel first, and finally adopting strange babies who happen to be traveling in the same carriage, you will certainly break Aunt Helen’s heart.”

Eileen shrugged her shoulders.

“Not at all,” she answered. “Mother may not like it at first, but she will soon learn to know once for all that Marjorie and I mean to follow our own bent. Marjorie and I do not intend to wear gay clothes, because we consider finery a sheer waste of money; but as to you, Lettie, it is the greatest pity you are not mother’s own daughter. How exquisitely neat, how smart, you look!”

“Not smart at all, only suitably dressed,” replied Letitia, bridling a little.

She was wearing a very correct traveling costume of dark gray; her bright wavy hair was arranged in the latest and most fashionable manner; little curls and bits of fluffy downy brightness would get out of their confinement and dance round her small, soft face. She was wearing the universal coat and skirt; but a light-blue cambric shirt and a white sailor hat with a broad white ribbon gave distinction to her costume. Her gloves were also white, and her little shoes had smart bows and buckles.

“My dress is only suitable,” she repeated. “Now, your dress, Eileen, is not suitable; nor is yours, Marjorie. To wear what is not suitable is the height of vulgarity.”

“Oh, do listen to her,” said Marjorie, bursting into a hearty laugh. “She is trying to scare us with those old bogy words, as if we minded. Think what it all means, Lettie, before you condemn us so severely. Mother’s money is safe in my purse instead of on my person, and the difference between third and first class means a considerable addition also to my nice, heavy little purse. Who knows in what class we are coming up to town? Who cares to know? Mother is certain not to meet us at King’s Cross, and old Fowler will not see what class we alight from.”

“I am glad Aunt Helen has secured Fowler as her coachman,” said Letitia. “But, all the same,” she added hastily, “you both do look disgracefully shabby.”

“Well, Lettie,” said Marjorie, “I don’t feel shabby, which is the main thing. What can be the matter with this serviceable dress? It is very strong and won’t tear, and is the sort which does not crumple much.”

“It is all over grease,” replied Letitia; “spots of grease here, there, and everywhere. And, oh, your gloves—there is absolutely a hole in the thumb of the one on your left hand. It is too disgraceful!”

“My gloves suit my character,” replied Marjorie.

She looked at her sister; they both sat back in their seats and indulged in hearty girlish laughter. They were very like one another; the same dark, handsome eyes beamed out of each face, the same good arched brows, the same hair, thick and straight, very dark in color, but cropped to within an inch of their respective heads. They had clear, good complexions. Plenty of color brightened each pair of healthy cheeks—their lips were beautifully formed and they had snow-white pearly teeth. And yet these two girls, partly because of their dress, were not looked at twice during that journey, whereas Letitia was the cynosure of many admiring eyes.


King’s Cross was reached without adventure, and a moment later Marjorie was eagerly talking to old Fowler the coachman.

“How are you, Fowler? I am so glad to see you again,” she cried. She held out her hand to the old coachman as she spoke.

“I am quite well, I thank you, miss,” he replied. He could not help smiling into the beaming dark eyes, and could not help thinking, notwithstanding a certain amount of chagrin, how nice it was to have Miss Marjorie back from school.

“Eileen and I have knitted some baby socks for the last addition to your family, Fowler,” continued Marjorie. “We’ll come round and see Mrs. Fowler and the bairns to-morrow. How old is the last baby? and is it dark or fair?”

“It’s six weeks old, miss, and very dark; but the wife isn’t as strong as she ought to be.”

Fowler colored all over his face as he spoke. There was a porter standing near, listening to this conversation.

“Perhaps, young ladies,” said the footman, coming to the rescue, “you wouldn’t mind getting into the carriage, for the horses are that fresh Fowler can scarcely keep ’em standing much longer.”

“But it’s quite serious about his wife not being strong,” said Eileen in a meditative voice. “Now, if she were to take extract of malt or Fellowes’ Syrup——”

“Oh, do get into the carriage,” cried Letitia. “Really, Eileen, you will be one of the most remarkable women of your day if you keep up your present fads. Can’t you see how all those porters are enjoying the scene; and as to poor wretched Fowler, if you think he enjoys talking about his latest baby and the medicines his wife is to take, at King’s Cross Station, you are vastly mistaken. For goodness’ sake, get in.”

As Letitia spoke she gave her energetic cousin a push. Eileen scrambled into the carriage almost headforemost, treading on her dress, and tearing a piece of braid as she did so. Marjorie followed suit, and Letitia entered last in a dainty and pretty manner. The footman shut the door and got on the box beside the coachman. Poor Fowler’s ears were still red from the questions which Eileen had plied him with.

“Bless her ’eart,” he exclaimed to the footman, “she don’t know that it’s rather awkward to talk about the wife and bairns at a place like King’s Cross; but she’s the best-natured young lady that ever walked. I knew her when she was a little tot.”

“All the same, you looked like a fool when she questioned you,” replied Hopkins; “and I doubt much if the missus will allow her young ladies to go a-visiting you in Fox Buildings.”

“Well, all I can say is this,” replied the coachman, “if Miss Eileen and Miss Marjorie are like what they used to be when they was young, I don’t think the missus will be able to prevent them having their own way.”

He whipped up his horses as he spoke, and a few minutes later the girls had reached home.

Mrs. Chetwynd was standing in the hall to welcome them.

“My darlings, here you are at last,” she cried. “Oh, good gracious, Eileen, take care where you are going. See that great piece of braid trailing in front of your dress; my dear child, you will be on your nose.”

“Oh, never mind, mother,” said Eileen. “I’m quite accustomed to this sort of thing.—Marjorie, have you a penknife? I’ll cut it off.”

“Cut it off!” cried Mrs. Chetwynd; “nothing of the kind! I wonder where your maid is?” Here she turned to the footman, who was standing motionless in the hall. “Go, Thomas, and desire Esther to come down immediately.—She will mend your braid, my dear Eileen. Well, Lettie, dear, and how are you?”

“Quite well, thank you, Aunt Helen,” replied Letitia in her correct, ladylike voice. “I think Marjorie and Eileen are a little overexcited at getting home, and if you will excuse——”

“Pray, mother, do nothing of the kind,” said Eileen. “We are not a bit ashamed of our dresses; we do not intend to waste money upon raiment. Having sufficient clothes to cover ourselves, that is all that is necessary. My idea is to have one warm dress for the winter, and one cool one for the summer, and no more. A felt hat for winter, and a sailor one for summer, and no more. When the dresses are completely worn out they can be given to the poor—who may or may not make something of them—and we can buy a couple of new ones. You are going to give us an allowance, aren’t you, mother?”

“We will talk of that presently, my dears. Remember, my dear children, I have not seen you for a year. I had a delightful time on the Continent, but I never forgot you, my loves. But now that you have come home for good, there will be much to talk over and arrange. Meantime, we can surely let the subject of dress drop.”

“But, dear mother, did you say we had come home for good?” cried Marjorie. “You surely don’t suppose that our education is finished? We are only just eighteen.”

“We will talk of that also by and by,” replied Mrs. Chetwynd, a frown knitting her brows, and her heart sinking a trifle.

Marjorie and Eileen had always been wayward children, difficult to manage; good-tempered and good-hearted, but with a certain stubborn element about them which caused them not to disobey, but to have their desires on almost every point gratified, simply because the trouble of opposing them was immense.

Mrs. Chetwynd remembered these traits in her two bright girls as she welcomed them to their home. She was delighted to see them of course; but it was painful to observe their greasy serge dresses and their hair cropped like boys. Then, too, their manners were eccentric; and there was nothing so distasteful as eccentricity.

Letitia, of course, looked all that was sweet and nice; but she was not Mrs. Chewynd’s own daughter, which made a great difference. Try as she would, the widow could not take the absorbing interest in Letitia that she did in Eileen and Marjorie.

“Come upstairs, my darlings,” she said. “You must see your charming little rooms. Esther has everything in perfect order for you; fires lighted and all. Come this way.”

Mrs. Chetwynd conveyed the girls upstairs. The three rooms were on the same landing, and communicated one with the other. Mrs. Chetwynd had gone to some expense in having doors broken in the walls to effect this arrangement. When completed, the effect was charming. The rooms were papered with a self-colored paper of pale blue. There was a deep frieze of hand-painted flowers and birds. The paint on the doors and round the wainscot was creamy white. The furniture was also creamy white, with brass fittings. The carpet on each floor was a square of rich Turkey. The windows of the three pretty rooms were a little open; and with the cheerful fires burning in the small grates, and the sweet air coming in from the square garden, no rooms could look more tempting.

“Delightful! Oh, Aunt Helen, how perfectly sweet of you,” said Letitia, as she danced into her own little room. “And do you mean to say we are to have one each. Oh, what a darling little bed—and a spring-mattress and all. How luxurious we shall be. Oh, and do look at those great, roomy cupboards in the wall.”

“But what do we want great, roomy cupboards for?” cried Eileen. “With one dress for summer and one dress for winter, surely we don’t want much room?”

“I tell you what it is, Eileen,” said Marjorie, “I mean to use mine as a dark-room for photography—capital, excellent. Thank you, mother, dear.”

“You mean to use your dress-cupboard as a darkroom for photography?” said Mrs. Chetwynd. “My dear child, you will have little time for photography when you are introduced to Her Majesty, and are in the full swing of a society career.”

“But, mother, I never mean to be in such a truly awful position,” cried Marjorie.

Her mother knitted her brows anxiously.

“For goodness’ sake, Marjorie, don’t worry Aunt Helen the first evening,” cried Lettie.—“Dear Aunt Helen, everything will be right—quite right. The girls have a crank, each of them; but these delightful rooms and you, dear Aunt Helen, ought to cure them in no time.—Now, girls, do get off those horrid dresses and get into respectable ones.—They have respectable dresses, I assure you, Aunt Helen. If you will leave us, we will all come down to the drawing-room in less than a quarter of an hour.”

“And here is Esther to wait on you,” said Mrs. Chetwynd. “You may as well dress for dinner now that you are about it, and I will have tea sent up to you to your rooms. We dine at half-past seven.”

She left the room as she spoke, and Esther, a nice-looking girl, came respectfully forward. She looked with consternation at the torn braid on Eileen’s dress.

“Oh, please, don’t bother about me,” said Eileen. “I wouldn’t have the services of a maid to save my life. I hate to have anyone touch my hair but myself. Besides, as you doubtless observe, my good girl, there is no arrangement necessary. It is only an inch long, and with a couple of brushes, one in each hand, I can push it into any position I like. Lettie, if you wish for Esther, please have her. Your neat little head, ‘sunning over with curls,’ requires plenty of arrangement; but not mine, thank goodness.”

“Nor mine either,” echoed Marjorie. “Oh, what a comfort it is to have short hair. I never mean to let my locks grow.”

“Which dresses will you wish to wear this evening, young ladies?” asked Esther, who had gaped in astonishment while the girls were speaking.

As she spoke she held out her hand for the keys of their trunks.

“Here are the keys,” said Marjorie; “but I don’t know what evening-dresses we have. I am sure there is nothing fit to be seen. But can’t we go downstairs as we are?”

“Perhaps you’ll mend this braid,” said Eileen, “if you prefer that to cutting it off, which is much quicker.”

“I would suggest, miss, that you let me choose your dress. I will unpack your things, and see what are most suitable,” said the maid in her prim voice.

“All right; lay them on the bed. Anything for a quiet life,” sighed Marjorie.

Esther proceeded to take the things out of Marjorie’s trunk, and Eileen walked to the window and looked out, whistling somewhat loudly and in a thoroughly boyish fashion as she did so.

The maid quickly put the contents of the small trunks into the receptacles for their convenience, laid two soiled and crumpled evening-frocks of pale cream cashmere on the beds, and then retired to expend some of her skill, which was considerable, on Letitia’s pretty person and charming wardrobe. Letitia was a young lady quite after Esther’s own heart.


Marjorie and Eileen, in soiled and much bedraggled school-party frocks, went down to dinner. Letitia, in pale-blue silk with lace ruffles, looked neat, pretty, and suitably attired; but the other two girls presented an appearance which caused poor Mrs. Chetwynd to shudder. With their really handsome faces, their wide-open intelligent eyes, their exquisitely-formed lips, and pearly rows of teeth, they were nothing but awkward, gauche, and unpresentable. Letitia was as pretty, trim, and agreeable to the eye as a young girl could be; but Eileen and Marjorie! What was to be done? Mrs. Chetwynd felt her heart sinking like lead in her breast; for there was a stubborn build about Marjorie’s chin and about the slight, very slight frown which now and then visited Eileen’s intelligent forehead. Mrs. Chetwynd perceived at a glance that if she was to mold these two girls to her ways of thinking, she would have a troublesome task before her. She was rich, and was also good-hearted, good-natured, and pleasant. It was in no way her fault if the girls took after their father, who had been not only a brave soldier, but also that strange combination, a scholar, as well, and who had died before the girls’ education was complete. He was a man of extraordinary character and determination, and had all his life been the victim of fads. Mrs. Chetwynd felt quite certain that their father was to blame for Marjorie’s and Eileen’s peculiar appearance. She was thankful that she had not asked any friends to meet the girls on their first evening home from school. She determined to make herself as pleasant as possible, and not to allude to the untidy wardrobes, the gauche appearance, and the cropped heads until the following morning.

Dinner passed quickly, for all three girls were hungry; and when they retired to the drawing-room Mrs. Chetwynd suggested a little music.

“Eileen, my darling, you sing, don’t you?” she said, turning to the younger of the twins.

“Oh, dear me, no, mother; I have not the ghost of a voice,” replied Eileen.

“But I thought that your teacher, Miss Fox, spoke highly of your musical talents?”

“She said I should play well if I practiced hard; but I did not think my very moderate gift worth cultivating,” replied Eileen, yawning slightly as she spoke. “You see, unless one has genius, there is not the least use in the present day in being musical. Only genius is tolerated; and then I don’t ever mean to be ornamental. My vogue in life is the useful. The music of the ordinary school-girl, after years of toil, is merely regarded as an accomplishment, and generally as an unpleasant one; therefore I have let my music drop.”

“Dear, dear! How extraordinary of Miss Fox not to let me know,” said Mrs. Chetwynd. “Well, Marjorie, you at least play?” said her mother.

“Yes, mother,” in a somewhat solemn style. “I can give you one of Bach’s fugues, if you like.”

“Do so, my dear. I have spent a great deal of money on your music, and should like to hear the result.”

Marjorie rose, went to the piano, sat down, and began to thunder loudly. She had scarcely any taste for music, and she played several wrong notes. Mrs. Chetwynd had a carefully trained ear, and she quite shuddered when Marjorie crashed out some of her terrible discords.

Having finished the fugue, which took a considerable time, the young girl rose from the piano amid a profound silence. Eileen had turned away and was engrossed in a book on cookery which she had picked up from a side-table. She was muttering to herself half-aloud:

“Take of flour one ounce, butter, cream, three eggs, and——”

“What are you doing, Eileen?” said the mother.

Eileen made no reply.

Marjorie seated herself on a chair near her mother.

“I hope you liked that fugue?” she said. “I took tremendous pains learning it. I got up every morning an hour earlier than the others during the whole of last term, simply because I intended to play that fugue of Bach’s to you.”

“It was a great pity, dear,” began Mrs. Chetwynd; then she sighed and stopped.

“A pity, mother? What in the world do you mean?”

“Nothing, love; we will talk of all those things to-morrow.”

“What a terrible day to-morrow promises to be,” said Marjorie, glancing towards Eileen. “I can see that mother is going to let the vials of her wrath loose. Oh yes, you dear old mammy, you are—you cannot deny it. But we are not such dreadful girls after all. All we want to do is this: we want to go our own way.”

“Your own way, Eileen—your own way?”

“Yes, mammy, our own way; and you can go yours. Then we shall get on together like a house on fire. Now, what are you winking at me for, Letitia?”

“I was not winking at you,” said Letitia. “I was wondering if Aunt Helen would like to hear me sing.”

“Certainly, my dear; but I never knew before that you had a voice.”

“I have only a little voice; but I have made the most of my opportunities. I won’t sing if you would rather not.”

“On the contrary, dear; I should like to hear you.”

“A ballad, I suppose?” said Letitia.

“Yes; I am fond of ballads. What do you know?”

“All the usual ones, I think,” replied Letitia. “I will sing ‘Robin Adair’ if that will suit you.”

“I am fond of ‘Robin Adair,’” said the widow; “but few people can render those beautiful words to satisfaction.”

Letitia volunteered to try. She sat down to the piano; her accompaniment was fresh and rippling, her voice clear, not particularly strong, but wonderfully true. It had a note of sympathy in it too, which rang through the old room.

Mrs. Chetwynd put down her knitting with a sigh of pleasure. The two girls sat with their hands lying idly in their laps, and gazed at their cousin.

When the old ballad came to an end, Mrs. Chetwynd felt tears not far from her eyes.

Oh, if only Eileen and Marjorie were like Letitia!

Marjorie suddenly jumped to her feet.

“Are you crying, mother?” she said, going up to her mother. “Oh, it’s just like that wicked Lettie. To hear her sing you would suppose that she was the most sentimental creature in the world: but don’t you believe a word of it, mammy. She has not one scrap of sentiment in her composition; she is the most worldly-wise little soul that I have ever come across.—Now, Lettie, don’t be a humbug; sing something in which your real feelings appear—a modern love-song, for instance, or something about fine dress, or nothing to wear, or anything else in your real style. It’s positively wrong of you to deceive mother in the way you are doing.”

Letitia looked gently reproachful. She said she did not know any song about nothing to wear, nor any song either about dress; but she would sing “Shadowland” if Mrs. Chetwynd wished it.

This song again brought the widow to the verge of tears. Lettie then rose and shut the piano.

“You at least, my dear, have derived benefit from your education,” she said. “How I wish your dear father and my dear husband were alive to hear you.”

“Father could always see through humbugs,” said Eileen to Marjorie.

“Yes,” replied Marjorie; “but don’t you see whatever mother is she is not a humbug?”

“Only we don’t want Lettie to twist her round her little finger, do we?” said Eileen.

“No; not that it greatly matters. Poor mother. I expect Lettie will do very much what we do; but I’m not sure. We must only wait and see.”

The girls retired to bed; but Mrs. Chetwynd sat up late, wishing much that she had Mrs. Acheson to consult with.

What was to be done if Marjorie and Eileen went on in this peculiar manner which they had done that evening? Really, when everything was considered, they were very little better than Belle, and Belle happened to be Mrs. Chetwynd’s bête noire.

“If only pretty, graceful, accomplished Letitia were my own daughter! She is a dear child, and yet I cannot quite cordially take to her,” thought the widow. “I don’t know what is the matter with her. I have no fault whatever to find. I suppose it is because she is not my own. Now Marjorie and Eileen rub me the wrong way every time they open their lips, and yet I love them with all my heart and soul. How handsome they are too! Anything could be done with them if only they would submit to the ordinary regulations of polite society. What terrible times these modern days are! Mothers have little or no influence over their own children. The children take the upper hand and—keep it. But I just vow that Marjorie and Eileen shall submit to me in my own house. Poor darlings, they are as loving as possible; but they have been under some dreadful pernicious influence. I could never guess that a school so highly recommended as Miss Marchland’s was would send back girls in the condition Marjorie and Eileen are in. No manners, disgraceful in appearance, and no accomplishments. What agony I went through while Marjorie was playing that fugue! She must never attempt to play in public. Eileen, who really had a taste for music, will not cultivate it, because, forsooth, she is not a genius. The two girls mean to be merely useful—merely useful, with eyes like those, and lips and teeth. My dear, dear, ridiculous children, society will soon knock all that nonsense out of your heads. Yes, I must present them both as soon as possible. I shall order their court dresses to-morrow. But that terrible cropped hair—straight too, not a scrap of curl in it. Oh dear, what is to be done; and they are both on such a large scale? They would make handsome boys. What a pity they are not boys. Dear me, I am an unhappy woman. If Letitia were my daughter, it would be plain sailing, but as it is I am at my wits’ end.”

By and by Mrs. Chetwynd went upstairs. She hesitated on the second landing, where her own room was. On the next floor were the girls’ rooms, luxuriously and beautifully furnished. It occurred to her to go up and look at her darlings asleep. She did so, opening the door of Marjorie’s room first. Marjorie was in bed, curled up as her fashion was, with the bedclothes tucked tightly round her. Her cheeks were slightly flushed, and the long black lashes looked particularly handsome as they lay against her rosy cheeks. But what a condition the room was in! What was the good of a maid when girls went to bed in such a state of untidiness? Clothes tossed helter-skelter everywhere; one little shoe near the fireplace, one near the wardrobe; petticoats flopped on the nearest chair; the shabby serge dress, which Mrs. Chetwynd considered only to be fit for the next bag sent from the Kilburn Society, hanging on the brass knob of the bed.

Marjorie sighed in her sleep, and Mrs. Chetwynd bent over her.

“Dear, lovely child, I surely shall be able to mold her to my wishes,” she thought; never considering that Marjorie’s chin, with its cleft in the middle, was full of obstinacy, and that her lips were as firm as they were beautiful.

Mrs. Chetwynd went on to the next room. Eileen was also sound asleep, and her room was also untidy. The girl looked lovely, with her classical features and the long straight lashes lying upon the soft rounded cheeks. Yes, they were both singularly handsome girls, and very like one another. Of course they would do splendidly yet. Perhaps the world would appreciate them all the more for their little eccentricities. They must appear as débutantes at the very first drawing-room. Yes, to-morrow at an early hour, Madame Coray should put their presentation dresses in hand.

Mrs. Chetwynd hesitated a moment before she went into Letitia’s room. It would not be very interesting to look at Letitia asleep; but still, what she did for her own girls she invariably did for her husband’s niece.

Letitia’s room was in exquisite and perfect order, everything put neatly away, and Letitia herself lying in her little white bed with her arms folded across her chest and her hair swept back from her pretty brow. Mrs. Chetwynd could not help feeling drawn to her. She bent and kissed her on her forehead. She had not dared to do this to her own girls, fearing to awaken them.

She then went back to her room, to sleep as best she could.


The girls came home on Wednesday, and on the following Saturday Mrs. Acheson and Belle were coming to tea. In the meantime Mrs. Chetwynd had gone through more than one stormy scene with Marjorie and Eileen. The girls positively declined to be presented to her gracious Majesty.

“You may get the dresses, mother,” said Eileen, “only I sincerely hope you won’t, for we cannot wear them. We don’t quite know yet what we mean to do with our lives; but fashionable society girls we will not be. Now, mammy, why should we be fashionable girls if we dislike the idea?”

Here Marjorie, notwithstanding her rude words, went on her knees, wound her strong young arms round her mother’s waist, and looked with such imploring eyes into her face that, notwithstanding her anger, Mrs. Chetwynd was touched in spite of herself.

“We should hate it all, you know, dear mammy,” said Marjorie. “I speak for Eileen as well as for myself.—You agree with me, Eileen, don’t you?”

“Of course,” replied Eileen. “Well, Marjorie, have it out with the dear mammy, for I must go at once to see Fowler’s last baby. I am taking it a rattle and some chocolates.”

“You will kill a young infant if you give it chocolate,” said Mrs. Chetwynd, “and I forbid you to go to Fox Buildings. No young ladies from my house must go near such a place.”

“Dear me, mother, why not?” said Eileen.

“Eileen, my dear, I decline to argue with you. Really, when I think of all that you two girls are doing to oppose me, and render my life miserable, I could almost wish that you were back at school.”

“Of course, mother,” said Eileen gravely, “if you positively forbid me to go I will obey you.”

She sat down on the nearest chair and stared hard at her mother.

“I do forbid you, Eileen. Young ladies of eighteen are not allowed to go about London alone.”

“But really, mother, you are mistaken,” said Marjorie; “in these days they are. All that dreadful period of bondage in which the girl of twenty years ago was kept has passed away; the English girl of the present day has her freedom. I have read all about it; I know it to be a fact. College girls, too, have told me. You cannot deny us our birthright, mammy, can you?”

“College girls? What do you know about college girls—those awful, underbred, unwomanly creatures!” said Mrs. Chetwynd.

“You say that, mother, because you do not know them.”

“Well, I do know one thing,” continued Mrs. Chetwynd, her eyes filling with tears. “I cannot imagine what I have done to deserve such girls as you two. I have taken no end of pains with you both. Of course I was obliged to stay in India during your father’s lifetime, which prevented my having as much influence over you as I should otherwise have obtained: but I little thought to come back to such a reward as this. I sent you to the best schools I could afford, and have always attended to your wardrobe, and given you plenty of pocket-money. I have done all that a mother could do, and now just when I was beginning to expect my reward, there come back to me a couple of——”

“Tomboys, mother darling,” said Marjorie. She wound her arms still tighter round her mother’s waist, and kissed her on her cheek. “Mammy, you’ll get accustomed to us after a bit,” she cried. “We are not in the ordinary groove; but there are hundreds of girls like us. There will be more girls like us year after year; all the modern training tends to it, mammy, and you cannot keep us back. We are in the van, and in the van we will stay. Mammy, we decline to go into society, we decline to turn night into day, we decline to spend unnecessary money upon clothes.”

“And what do you intend to do, Marjorie; if I may venture to ask?” said Mrs. Chetwynd, folding her hands in an attitude of despair. “Having declined so much, is there anything you agree to?”

“Oh yes, lots, mother, now you are becoming reasonable, and we can talk. First of all, what we want to know is, what allowance you will give us both?”

“Your father made an extraordinary will,” said Mrs. Chetwynd. “I cannot understand what made him do it, and I think he was wrong.”

“What was it? Do let us hear,” said Eileen.

“It was this: By his will, when you leave school and reach the age of eighteen, you are both entitled to one hundred and fifty pounds a year, and you are not to be coerced in the way you spend the money.”

“Hip! hip! hurrah!” cried Eileen. She sprang suddenly to her feet, danced a minute in front of her mother, and then clapped Marjorie on the shoulder.

“Then, of course, everything is plain,” she cried. “We won’t spend any of that money on dress. Who would waste a precious hundred and fifty pounds in stupid things like frocks?”

“Well, children, I shall give you each a proper wardrobe to start with,” said Mrs. Chetwynd. “You have not brought anything fit to be seen from school. Those dresses you have on now are simply disgusting; they are not even clean. I have ordered the carriage, my dears, and am going to take you at once to Madame Coray’s. She will make you two or three everyday dresses and some evening ones.”

“But at least not with our money,” cried Marjorie; “that we cannot permit to be spent in such willful waste. Oh, mother, please, do allow us to dress as we like; do let us order our lives in our own way—do, mammy, do.”

“I must know first of all what is your own way.”

“We want to be useful members of society, and to spend scarcely any money on clothes. We have told you that we do not intend to be presented to Her Majesty.”

“Well, I hope to get you to change your minds yet; but I will not order the presentation dresses to-day.”

“That’s a dear. I knew you would submit.—She is the best little mother in the whole world,” said Eileen, rapturously kissing her parent, and then clasping Marjorie’s hand.

“Then, you will give in all round, mammy dear?” said Marjorie.

“Suppose I say no?” answered Mrs. Chetwynd.

“Then I am afraid——” said Eileen. She glanced at Marjorie, and Marjorie nodded.

Mrs. Chetwynd suddenly rose.

“Girls,” she said, “don’t say what you are just about to say. I can guess what it is, and I am not prepared to listen. Until you are of age it is your duty to obey me. Notwithstanding your father’s will, and the improper allowance which I am forced to give you both, as long as you are under my roof you must be clothed as I wish, and you must not go to places that I disapprove of. My poor, dear, misguided children, a woman’s true aim when she reaches maturity is to marry a good husband, and to have a happy home of her own.”

“But I never intend to marry,” said Marjorie. “I have not the faintest idea of putting myself under the control of any man. I mean to keep my liberty and have a jolly good, useful time.”

“And so do I,” said Eileen. “I mean to have a very full and very busy life, mother.”

“Ditto,” cried Marjorie.

“Letitia has not yet spoken,” said Mrs. Chetwynd.—“What are your wishes, my love?”

“Well, of course, Aunt Helen, I should like a society-life very much.”

“But you’re just not going to have it, Lettie,” said Eileen. “You’ll have to do exactly what we do. We have no idea of having our own mother fagged to death; an old woman like mother taken out day and night at all hours, just to give you a jolly time.”

“But, really, my dears, I am not an old woman,” said Mrs. Chetwynd indignantly.

“Well, mother, you are not as young as you used to be. You are forty, if you are a day, and no one at forty can be called a chicken. It’s much more healthy for you to go to bed in good time. Oh, I have read a lot about society and all its trash. It just encourages one to be terribly immoral.”

“Immoral! my dear Eileen. It’s awful to hear you speak.”

“But it’s true, mother. For instance, people tell no end of fibs—lies I call them. They say they are not at home when they are; they pretend to be delighted to see a person who in reality they loathe. Oh, I am acquainted with the ghastly round; and if you think I am going to let myself in for it you are mistaken. But, dear old mammy, you shan’t be worried any longer; we will go out with you now, and we’ll be as good as gold, and you shall get us each a new dark-blue serge dress and a new sailor hat, and a pair of thick dogskin gloves. Surely that is enough.”

“And what about evening dresses, and Sunday dresses, and visiting dresses?” said Mrs. Chetwynd.

“As to Sunday dresses,” cried Marjorie, “I don’t see why neat serge dresses should not do quite well for church; and as to visiting dresses, we do not intend to visit in the ordinary sense. The friend who does not wish to see us in our serge costumes we do not intend to cultivate.”

“There are still evening dresses, my dear.”

“But, mother, you are not going to take us out to dinners?”

“You must have one or two dinner dresses,” said Mrs. Chetwynd, “and that is an end of the matter. Go upstairs and put on your hats. I am ashamed to go out with you as matters now stand.”

The two girls left the room linking their arms together. Letitia remained behind.

“May I ask, Letitia,” said Mrs. Chetwynd, “when this madness seized Marjorie and Eileen?”

“It has been coming on gradually,” said Letitia. “It is very bad, I know. I was afraid you would suffer a good deal when they explained themselves.”

“But when did it begin?”

“Well, two or three girls—Americans, I think—joined the school last term, and Marjorie and Eileen became great friends with them; and just about then they began to change. They were always careless with regard to their dress, and would not allow Miss Ross—our English teacher who had us under her special care—to spend the money which you sent on dress at all.”

“And do you mean to tell me that Miss Ross consulted them?”

“Well, Aunt Helen, they had an extraordinary way of pleading their own cause. I cannot understand it. They have saved a good deal of money, if that is any satisfaction.”

“None whatever, child. I have got more money than I know what to do with, and I choose my girls to look nice. Letitia, what a pity it is you are not my own child.”

“For some reasons I wish I were, Aunt Helen.”

“You are so very neat, dear, so very dainty—that is the only word for it. What am I to do with those other two?”

“I am dreadfully afraid you will have to give them their own way.”

“Their own way! Nonsense, my dear! impossible. Children, only eighteen.”

“But old enough, according to your own showing, Aunt Helen, to be presented to the Queen, to enter society, and to marry if suitable husbands come to the fore.”

“Of course; but they would be presented to the Queen by their mother; they would enter society under their mother’s wing; and if they married, their husbands would look after them. Now to allow those wild imps, those irresponsible girls, to have their own way is not to be heard of for a single moment.”

“Well, Aunt Helen, I am sure it will come right in the end. They are queer, obstinate, out-of-the-way girls; but they have got fine characters, and would not willingly pain you. The only thing is that they look at life from a totally different standpoint. I’ll have a right good talk with them, so try not to fret. I will put it to them that it is their bounden duty to yield to you. They often mind what I say when they won’t mind their elders. But is not that the carriage? Had not I better get ready?”


Belle Acheson was an ideal scholarly girl of the latter end of the nineteenth century. She wore spectacles, not pince-nez. Her hair was parted smoothly on her forehead and done up in a tiny knot or dab at the back of her neck. Her forehead was high, her complexion sallow, her eyes short-sighted and small. She had a long upper lip, and her mouth was thin and wide. In figure she was extremely spare, her feet and hands were large, and her shoulders angular. She was a plain girl, and she gloried in the fact. Belle Acheson lived altogether for the joys of intellect; to learn was her delight. The more abstruse, the more dry, the science, the more eagerly did Belle absorb it, and make it part of herself. She was a good classical scholar, and was also fond of modern languages. She studied Shakespeare, not for his beauty of language, but for his archaisms. She adored musty professors, and never had a good word to say for an athletic man. Her ambition was to carry off double-firsts, and some people thought that she had a fair chance of obtaining this blue ribbon.

Belle was an inmate of St. Wode’s College, Wingfield. There were four halls of residence at St. Wode’s, and Belle occupied an attic in North Hall. She had been there now for three terms, and had already made a profound impression on her tutors. She amassed knowledge with great rapidity. No nut was too hard for her to crack.

Now, if there was a girl in the entire of England that Mrs. Chetwynd loathed it was Belle Acheson. Mrs. Acheson was Mrs. Chetwynd’s old friend. Their husbands had fought side by side in the same campaigns in India. They had belonged to the same regiment. She felt that nothing would induce her to desert her old friend; but alas! that old friend’s daughter! It was fearful to think that such a girl was coming to pay a visit to Marjorie and Eileen at this important crisis in their lives.

“Can anything be done to prevent it?” said Mrs. Chetwynd on the morning of the fatal day. She was addressing Letitia, who was gradually getting herself more and more into the good woman’s confidence.

“My dear Lettie,” she said, “I would honestly pay twenty pounds to any hansom-driver to let his horse fall between here and Mrs. Acheson’s in order to give Belle a wrench of the arm or a twist of the wrist, or something which would give her sufficient pain to send her home again.”

“Then, as those are your very heathenish wishes, Aunt Helen, you may be quite certain that Belle will arrive in perfect health, without any accident, not in a hansom, but in that two-horse conveyance which is meant for the convenience of the poorer people of London.”

Mrs. Chetwynd sighed.

“I beseech of you, dear,” she said, “not to leave the children alone with that pernicious girl. Stay in the room yourself. When you perceive that the conversation is getting into dangerous channels, turn it, my dear child. Now, remember, Lettie, I trust you. Everything depends on your discretion.”

“I will do what I can, of course, Aunt Helen; but I must frankly admit that I shall have very little influence.”

“I only wish Providence had made you one of my daughters. If you and Marjorie, for instance, had been my daughters, and Eileen had been you, then things might have been quite pleasant, for you would have influenced Marjorie and brought her back again into the right ways. As it is, however——”

“As it is, we must make the best of things,” said Letitia.

There came a ring at the hall-door, and Mrs. Acheson and the redoubtable Belle were ushered in. Mrs. Acheson, in her usual somewhat diffident manner, kissed Mrs. Chetwynd, and then Belle flew up to her and gave her a little peck on her cheek.

“How do?” she cried. “Where are the girls? I am most anxious to see them at once. Pray, don’t ring; I’ll run up to them. I know the old schoolroom. I have a great deal to say. You know I go up again next week, and can think of nothing else. But I determined that whoever else was left in the cold, I must interview Marjorie and Eileen. Mother, have you got my small Virgil in your bag? I am writing a paper on that great man, and I wish to read it to the girls in order to get their opinion.”

“They know nothing whatever about the classics,” interrupted Mrs. Chetwynd. “I believe they are going out for a walk; would you like to go with them?”

“I don’t think we shall have time for that,” replied Belle. “I’ll find them; don’t you trouble.”

She nodded to Mrs. Chetwynd and to her mother in a friendly, offhand style, and left the room. Mrs. Chetwynd glanced at Letitia, of whom Belle had not taken the slightest notice, and the young girl followed the eccentric, scholarly undergraduate of St. Wode’s upstairs.

Marjorie and Eileen had an old-fashioned schoolroom at the top of the house, They had cleaned it out themselves, and put it into order according to their individual tastes. It was now neat and bare. Marjorie, still wearing her shabby serge dress, was standing near an open window. She was holding a long, yellow canary on her finger, and whistling to the bird, who pecked at her in happy confidence.

Eileen was putting some pins into a great rent in her petticoat. The door was burst open, and Belle rushed in.

“How do, dears, both?” she said in a friendly voice. “Pray don’t rush at me and devour me with kisses; we never go on in that way at North Hall. My dear Marjorie, how you have grown! Oh! I am pleased to see you in that plain serge dress; and Eileen—petticoat out of order? Never mind—here, this pin will set it finally right.”

“Do stop for a moment, Belle. Of course I am delighted to see you,” said Marjorie, “but I must put Daffodil back into his cage.”

She crossed the room, still holding the bird on her finger, opened the door of his cage, and let him fly in. She then shut the cage-door and came back to where her friend was standing.

“I didn’t know you wore spectacles, Belle,” she said.

“Yes, dear, my sight is bad. I have been to Wiesbaden to the celebrated oculist, and he has ordered these special glasses. I have astigmatism in one eye, and have therefore to wear special spectacles. By the way, Marjorie, you look as if you ought to be short-sighted.”

“Ought to be short-sighted?” said Marjorie. “I am not; I have excellent sight.”

“You ought to be,” repeated Belle; “it gives one a distinguished look. In all probability you will be very short-sighted when you come to college. Most scholarly girls—I see by the shape of your brow that you are meant to be scholarly—are obliged to wear spectacles.”

“When I come to college!” replied Marjorie, “and I am supposed to be a scholarly girl. Delightful! And yet I am not sure that I wish to be scholarly; but what a dear delicious creature you are, Belle! Sit down; do sit down.”

“Thanks,” said Belle. She squatted down on a wooden bench in an ungainly fashion, crossing one leg over the other.

Letitia now advanced; she had been standing near the door.

“Who is that young person?” said Belle, raising her very short-sighted eyes, and staring hard at Lettie.

“You know quite well who I am,” replied Letitia. “I am the cousin who has always lived with the twins. We are all three eighteen, and we are coming out in about a week or a fortnight.”

“We are not coming out,” said Eileen.

“Coming out!” cried Marjorie. “Now, Lettie, for goodness’ sake, don’t be silly. You know that unpleasant matter has been arranged. Perhaps you would like to go down to the drawing-room to mother and Mrs. Acheson. Eileen and I have a great deal to say to Belle.”

“No, I mean to stay and listen,” replied Lettie. “I may have a good deal to say to Belle on my own account.”

“Stay, if you wish to,” said Belle; “but I don’t suppose for a moment our conversation will interest you. You are fashionable; and that is quite enough.—Marjorie, what is it you have to say?”

“I want to ask you all about your life, dear,” said Marjorie. “Eileen and I have left school. We have come home, and mother wishes us to go into society—poor, dear little mother, the best of souls; but we are not going to allow her to order our lives.”

“Certainly not,” said Eileen, “we are going to take our lives into our own hands, and we wish to consult you about the matter, Belle. You are—where did you say?”

“At St. Wode’s College, Wingfield, the place in all England where women who wish to distinguish themselves ought to receive training.”

“Then, would you recommend us to come to St. Wode’s College?” asked Eileen.

“That I cannot say; but I will tell you about it if you like. By the way, I wish that young person—I beg her pardon——”

“Letitia is my name,” said Lettie.

“I wish Letitia would sit so that I need not see that fashionable arrangement of her hair—it irritates me terribly. Why should people waste time in fluffing and crimping their hair. It not only ruins the hair and ages the appearance, but, what is of much more consequence, it causes the unhappy victim to commit a sin—yes, a sin. It wastes time, and oh, time is so precious! I feel this more and more the longer I live. Each precious, valuable moment has to be accounted for. The brain is master of the body. To enlarge the brain, to cultivate the——”

“Hear! hear! This is as good as a lecture,” said Eileen. “Go on, please, Belle; you are just the same dear, odd, delightful girl you always were.”

“Whether I am delightful or not, it is very rude of you to interrupt me,” said Belle, frowning. She had no sense of humor, and could see no fun in Eileen’s remark.

“I will tell you both about the college if you really wish to learn,” she continued; “but I must not stay here long to-day, for I have too much to do. Mother mentioned that you had come back from school, and that your mother intended to take you at once into that whirlpool of frivolity which is given the name of Society; and when I heard that, I thought it was my duty to tell you both plainly what I thought on the subject.”

“But that is unnecessary, because you see we agree with you,” said Marjorie.

“Well, well, so far so good; but you want my advice now as to what you will do. You distinctly intend to oppose your mother and that young girl with the fashionable head?”

“I really cannot see why I and my head should be dragged into this controversy,” said Letitia. “I am not speaking; I am simply sitting and listening. May I not listen to the words of wisdom which drop from your lips?”

“You talk, Lettie, as if poor Belle was Minerva,” said Eileen. “You know whatever we do you’ll have to do; because, though you are fashionable and horribly neat and particular about your outward appearance, you love us so well that you could not live without us.”

“There is some truth in that,” said Letitia, with a sigh.

“Well, now, stop wrangling, you three,” said Belle, “and let me speak. You can go on with your quarrel when I am away; but during the few moments that I can spare from my own heavy tasks, for I have a vast deal to acquire before I return to college, I surely may be allowed to say what I have come to say?”

“So good of you to come, dear Belle,” said Eileen, patting Belle’s long, large, angular hand.

Belle snatched her hand away.

“I hate being petted and fondled,” she said; “we never do that at North Hall, it is so schoolgirlish—at least not those girls who are worth anything. In every house of residence, in every college, there are drones, poor useless creatures, who follow the busy bees; but at St. Wode’s such dangerous adjuncts to the public peace are generally rooted out. Miss Lauderdale, our adored principal, sees to that. Now, girls, if you wish to hear what the busy bees do, I will tell you.”

“I wish you would begin,” said Lettie; “you do nothing but walk round the subject and never attack it.”

“I don’t suppose it will interest you,” said Belle; “but here goes.—By the way, have either of you two”—as she spoke she turned to Eileen and Marjorie—“have either of you two ever been to St. Wode’s College, Wingfield?”

“Never,” said Eileen; “but Fay Everett, a girl at our school, has a sister there, and she sometimes describes the place to us. She said the students’ rooms were so sweetly pretty, and that each girl could exercise her own individual taste.”

“Good gracious! am I sitting here to talk of the girls who are supposed to have taste?” cried Belle. “Taste, what is taste? It is nothing but a device of the Evil One for wasting time. I am here to talk to you about the students, the real students. I, for instance, have a room. Would you like to know how my room is furnished?”

Letitia gave a perceptible shudder, and walking to the window deliberately shut it.

“What are you doing that for?” said Eileen. “It is going to be a very hot day.”

“I felt a sudden chill,” said Lettie.

“Well, do let the window remain shut; what does it matter?” cried Belle. “I have placed myself high above the mere influence of the weather. Is it hot? is it cold? I can never tell; I simply don’t know. My mind is absorbed in abstruse speculations and such trivial matters as bodily discomforts cannot touch it. Oh, girls, it is grand to allow your mind to soar! Have you, for instance, ever dipped deep into the intricacies of Virgil?”

“Never,” said Eileen.

She looked at Marjorie.

“I don’t think, after all,” she continued, “we wish to be so very learned. Our idea was to be just useful, plain sort of women. Of course we should never think of marrying; but we should like to be women who help their fellow-creatures, who are ready to take their place in a sudden emergency. We want to know a little about nursing, something too about medicine. We should not object to going through a regular course of household training; but as to learning, we don’t want to be bookworms.”

“In that case, why, in the name of Heaven, have I been asked over here?” cried Belle. “Is my precious time to be wasted?” Here she jumped up suddenly and confronted the two girls. In her agitation and anger her spectacles dropped from her nose; they fell with a crash on the floor, and one glass was broken.

“Now, what am I to do?” said Belle. “Oh, the irreparable injury you two girls have done me! One of my glasses is broken, and I, who have astigmatism in one eye, cannot get it mended in a hurry. It is cracked right across. Most fortunately I took the precaution to provide myself with another pair, or I should be lost, simply lost. Oh dear! what a wasted afternoon!”

“But can’t you tell us what you were going to say, even without seeing us very plainly?” said Eileen. “Do, Belle, sit down and be comfortable; tell us everything. We are not at all settled in our own minds as to what we will do yet. You have a room, and it is not ornamental. Well, we don’t care about ornamental rooms. This room is bare, is it not?”

“Bare! Do you call this a bare room?” cried Belle. “There are six chairs, for instance. Do you ever expect to entertain six people in the room where you work? In addition to the six ordinary chairs there is an armchair. Who wants to loll in an armchair? There is also a bench on which I am now sitting. Tell me, is a bench necessary as well as six ordinary chairs and an armchair? Are four tables required? Is that carpet essential? Does it stimulate the brain to keep the feet upon a carpet? Are those thick curtains necessary—they are only traps to collect dirt. Blinds to the windows I grant are required, or people might stare in. Oh yes, I will allow blinds; they are necessary. Now I will tell you about my room. I have asked to be put in one of the attics. The house is very full, and the vice-principal of North Hall, Miss Penrose, was quite willing to oblige me. The attic was not furnished when I got it, and I begged and implored of her to allow me to furnish it in my own way. I have therefore a camp-bed in one corner, a particularly narrow one. There is a small, hard mattress on it; The counterpane is colored; it is dark-blue, and does not require to be washed often—that is one item off the mind. The mind, my dear girls—that is, the minds of those who are students at St. Wode’s College—have such deep problems to solve that they cannot be fretted by external worries. The minds of the real students must be left free to solve problems—the intricacies of Virgil, the great masterpieces of Homer, Dante in his magnificent original——”

Belle had now forgotten her auditors. She ceased staring at them, her glasses were useless, her eyes were dim; but nevertheless she herself was seeing visions.

Marjorie patted her on the arm.

“Go on, Belle, go on,” she said; “we will find out about Virgil and Homer and Dante presently. Now, what else have you in the room? You cannot live in a room that contains nothing but a camp-bed and a blind, and at present that is all you have admitted.”

“I have a desk, specially made for myself, in the window,” continued Belle; “there is a stool, a high stool, on which I sit. The stool has no back; I should scorn to lean back. I have a shelf on the wall which contains my books—my few books, twenty in all—standard works, mostly in the classics. Amongst them are to be found Polybius, Appian’s Civil War (Book 1.), Cicero’s Letters, Plato’s Republic, Bacon’s Novum Organum, Aristotle’s Politics, Locke On the Human Understanding, and——”

“Good gracious!”

Lettie was the one who made this exclamation.

“Quiet, quiet, Lettie; do let her finish,” said Eileen. She kicked out her foot and gave Lettie a poke.

Letitia drew in her own neatly shod little foot and sat with her hands folded in her lap and her eyes dancing with suppressed mirth.

“I have a chair besides the one I occupy,” continued Belle. “That chair is for a friend if a friend happens to come in. There is a small deal table upon which I never allow a cloth to be put, as it is apt to come off and spill the ink—such waste of time sopping up ink. Often, in my moments of frenzy, have I jumped up suddenly and pulled the cloth with me. You don’t know what I feel at times with the greatness of the thoughts which surge through my brain. Having spilt the ink three or four times, I have discarded the cloth. A washhand-stand is of course essential, and there is a chest of drawers where I keep my things.”

“By the way, how many dresses have you, Belle?” said Eileen suddenly. “Two—have you two?”

“I cannot tell you,” replied Belle, turning her eyes towards Eileen, and looking at her as if she did not see her. “I have not the faintest idea what dresses I have. Mother supplies them. I put a dress on in the morning—I take it off at night. Occasionally, in the excitement of my thoughts, I have been known to come down to breakfast in an evening dress. I will admit that this has attracted attention and annoyed me; so as a rule I am careful to see that it is a morning dress which I am about to wear.”

“But do you think evening dresses necessary at all?” said Eileen in an anxious voice. “We think it would be so much more useful to save our money. Marjorie and I mean to do great good in the world.”

“Then if you will take my advice,” said Belle, jumping to her feet, “you will come as soon as possible to St. Wode’s. When you are there I will talk to you again. I cannot waste any more time to-day. You will have to pass in Responsions; but doubtless that could be easily managed. Yes, when you are there I shall do my utmost to guide you. Marjorie, just let me place my finger on your brow; I shall be able to tell you in a moment whether you will be able to manage Virgil.”

Marjorie submitted to this test with exemplary patience. Lettie laughed aloud.

“You’ll do,” cried Belle. “I’ll just enter your name in my book. ‘Marjorie Chetwynd comes to St. Wode’s College as soon as possible.’ The spring term begins in a fortnight, Marjorie, so you have little time to lose.—Now, Eileen, let me look at you. Yes, you also would do well; but I think perhaps your forte will be modern languages and English literature. All lighter accomplishments you will of course eschew.”

“Oh, please don’t leave the room,” said Lettie, bounding forward, “until you have placed your fingers on my brow to see what I am worth. Really, this is most interesting. You are a kind of magician, Belle.”

“You will be one of the frivols; one of the drones of our hive,” replied Belle sternly. “Don’t, I beg of you, come to St. Wode’s.”

“I can only tell you this,” answered Lettie, running after Belle as she was flying downstairs, “if Eileen and Marjorie go I mean to accompany them.”


Belle Acheson was a young woman who never let the grass grow under her feet. Having rushed downstairs at a headlong speed, she now presented herself in the drawing-room.

“I have just examined the frontal developments of Marjorie’s and Eileen’s heads,” she said, speaking in a loud, rapid voice, and glancing in the direction where Mrs. Chetwynd and Mrs. Acheson were seated together on a sofa. “I have examined the frontal developments of the two girls, and I am glad to tell you that they both show marked intellectuality. I have recommended them to join me at St. Wode’s College, Wingfield, immediately. Will you, therefore, Mrs. Chetwynd, kindly take the necessary steps to see that this is carried out? You must write to our principal, Miss Lauderdale, asking her to give you all particulars as to the necessary steps to be taken for admission. If the girls have not already passed some public examination, they must pass Responsions. The subjects are Latin, Greek, mathematics. But if they have already passed the London Matriculation, or the Cambridge Higher Local, or the——”

“My dear, my dear!” cried Mrs. Acheson, “you are positively bewildering my dear friend. What are you driving at?”

“I am driving at nothing,” said Belle, in a voice of dignity. “I am stating facts. The girls wish to enter St. Wode’s. To do so they must have passed, or will have to pass, certain examinations; but the main thing is to write to Miss Lauderdale. Her address is Miss Lauderdale, Principal of St. Wode’s College, Wingfield. Did you speak, Mrs. Chetwynd?”

“I did not,” replied Mrs. Chetwynd, in an angry voice. “Will you take a chair, please? Can I give you a cup of tea?”

“Tea?” cried Belle. “I never take tea, thank you; but I should like a glass of water, please, for my throat is quite dry with all the talking I have been obliged to go through. Don’t you know, Mrs. Chetwynd, that tea is decidedly bad for the brain, and also for the coats of the stomach. Oh, it has a shocking effect. Our best tutors at St. Wode’s never countenance tea. Coffee, strong black coffee, one is obliged to take now and then, particularly when one has to sit up at night before an exam. for honors. Coffee and a wet towel; but tea—no, thank you. Will you permit me to ring for a glass of water? I was giving the girls a lecture upstairs; they have a great deal to learn.”

Belle did not wait for Mrs. Chetwynd’s most unwilling permission. She sounded the electric bell by the fireplace, and presently the footman appeared. Water was supplied, and the young lady took a copious draught.

“That is refreshing,” she cried as she placed her glass on the tray. “Now, then, mother, we must be off. Come, we have no more time to waste. I have promised Anne Morrison to call on her before dinner to-day; she wants me to look over some of her matriculation papers, and I must on no account fail her.”

“But, my dear Belle, Anne Morrison lives at the south side of London, and I am so tired,” said poor Mrs. Acheson.

“Dear me, mother; have not you strength enough for that much! We will take a bus at the corner and get to Norland Square in no time. Come, don’t you think you have had quite as much frivolous conversation as is good for you? Now, Mrs. Chetwynd, don’t forget to write. The address is Miss Lauderdale, Principal of St. Wode’s College, Wingfield. Come along, mother. By-by, Mrs. Chetwynd.”

Poor Mrs. Acheson cast anxious eyes of misery and commiseration at her friend, and was hurled out of the room by the emphatic Belle. A moment or two later the hall-door was shut behind the pair.

“Thank goodness, they are gone at last!” cried Mrs. Chetwynd. “My dear Lettie, is that you? Come here, child, come here. Now, tell me, what did that awful girl say to the children?”

“Here are the children coming down to answer for themselves,” said Marjorie, springing lightly into the room accompanied by Eileen.

“Oh, darling little mammy, what is the matter?” cried Marjorie. She ran up to her mother and kissed her. “Why, you look quite worried, you dear old thing. Let me smooth out those furrows on your dear brow! Ah! you look more like yourself now. Come, sit here, and I will sit near you. I will pet you, and you will soon forget all your worries. Is it not good, mammy dear, to have a grown-up daughter on whom to lean?”

“But if the grown-up daughter won’t be leant on,” cried poor Mrs. Chetwynd. “Oh, my child, everything seems to be topsy-turvy; and that appalling girl, for there is no other word for her——”

“Of course the world did turn topsy-turvy twenty years ago,” said Eileen. “For women everything is completely changed. We who were so low are now in the ascendant. It is men who are nowhere. You, dear mammy, must be guided by us for the remainder of your days. You will live here, of course, or anywhere else you fancy, and we will spend our vacations with you.”

“My dear, dear Eileen, you don’t know what you are talking about. That terrible girl has inoculated you with her democratic views. She is a fearful creature, a sort of monster; and the queer, extraordinary things she said, and the way she hurled her poor mother out of the room, I have really no words to describe. I do pity Mrs. Acheson; but if you think for a single moment, Eileen, that I am going to submit to you and Marjorie having the upper hand and managing your own lives, you are mistaken.”

Eileen uttered a deep sigh.

“It will be troublesome,” she said slowly, “and we would much rather not be troublesome; it would worry you, and we would much rather not worry you. Mammy, why don’t you give in at once? It would be so much more graceful of you, mammy; it would really.”

“Yes, mother; I wish you would,” said Marjorie.

“But what am I to give in about?” said Mrs. Chetwynd.—“Letitia, have you nothing to say? You have lived with us since you were a baby; in every respect you have been treated as a daughter of the house. Can’t you speak, can’t you show these insubordinate, wicked girls how dreadfully they are acting?”

“It is useless,” said Lettie, shrugging her shoulders; “they are determined to have their own way. I am afraid you must bear it, Aunt Helen.”

Mrs. Chetwynd burst into tears. Marjorie and Eileen looked at her with eyes full of pity.

“I wish it was not necessary,” said Eileen. “I do wish we could comfort you, dear old mammy. I do wish we could say that we would be presented to Her Majesty, and go into society six evenings out of the seven; but you see we just can’t, and it would be the maddest weakness to yield.”

“Go into society I will not,” said Marjorie. “I have made up my mind. I also think what Belle said is excellent; and after two or three years of that splendid training, I am——”

“Yes, yes, yes. I too have made up my mind,” interrupted Eileen. “Mother, dear, you will write to-night?”

“To Miss Lauderdale?” said poor Mrs. Chetwynd; “that awful girl gave me the name. What in the wide world am I to write to her about?”

“To get all the necessary particulars, as we want to go to St. Wode’s at the beginning of term.”

“Oh, my child, I cannot permit it,” said Mrs. Chetwynd.

“But, mother dear, do listen,” said Marjorie. She sat down by her mother and began to speak. Eileen took her mother’s other hand. The girls could talk well; they had plenty of intellect, and they could expound their views in a simple and yet telling manner. Now, Mrs. Chetwynd could never answer any argument which required a logical deduction. She was therefore completely worsted by her clever and modern daughters. Each of her little excuses, each of her small efforts to get the girls to remain at home with her, to go into society, to lead the ordinary life of the ordinary young woman, were quietly and politely demolished by both Eileen and Marjorie. Finally, Mrs. Chetwynd found herself saying she would think about the matter. All three girls knew well that when Mrs. Chetwynd went as far as that the thing was accomplished.

“Don’t worry the mammy any more now,” said Eileen. “Lie back in your chair, dear mammy. Lettie, run upstairs for mother’s eau de Cologne; we will put some on her forehead. Poor dear darling, she’s the sweetest mother in all the world; isn’t she, Marjorie?”

“A perfect angel,” said Marjorie.

She stooped and kissed her mother. Eileen also kissed her. There they stood in their shabby dresses, a little piece of Eileen’s petticoat peeping below her skirt, their short hair pushed up from their foreheads, their handsome faces alight with fire and excitement.

Mrs. Chetwynd glanced at them, and despair entered her soul. She had not the slightest chance against them; and she knew it.

The girls left the room, and only Letitia remained behind.

“Well, Lettie, you at least will remain with me,” said Mrs. Chetwynd. “It is terrible to feel that I have brought girls like Marjorie and Eileen into the world. My only comfort is that their poor dear father—such a kind, scholarly, soldierly man—is not here to witness their base ingratitude.”

“But really, Aunt Helen, I don’t think they are base nor ungrateful. They are just modern, you see—terribly modern, the reverse of archaic. They must keep with the times; that they have determined on. There is no use whatever in opposing them. Doubtless life will teach them its own lesson, and they will be delightful when they return from St. Wode’s.”

“How long must they stay there?” asked Mrs. Chetwynd. She took up her handkerchief as she spoke, to wipe away the tears from her eyes.

“I believe the usual course is three years,” said Lettie. “You cannot get your certificate, which is equivalent to a degree, under that time.”

“Your certificate, which is equivalent to a degree, Lettie! Oh, my child, not a man living will speak to the girls. They will never be married, Lettie; they will be old maids to the end of the chapter. It is fearful to think of it!”

“Well, they don’t actually take a degree, because it is not allowed,” said Lettie; “but they work for it, and they get the honor.”

“Worse and worse,” cried Mrs. Chetwynd. “You see how sternly the men disapprove of this fearful step on the part of modern women.”

Letitia suppressed a short sigh.

“The girls are modern, and nothing will make them anything else,” she said.

“And yet, my dear, they are the reverse of fashionable.”

“Oh, Aunt Helen, I think fashionable women are going out.”

“Going out, my dear! What can you mean?”

“I really do think so; there will be fewer and fewer as time goes on. We are so terribly earnest now, we have no time to think of mere ornamentation.”

“Thank goodness, Lettie, you at least will always dress neatly.”

“I should think so,” replied Lettie. “I honestly confess that I am quite fond of clothes, and I like to look smart.”

“Well, dear, it is a comfort that I shall have you to stay with me.”

“But, Aunt Helen, I am ever so sorry. I think you ought to let me go too.”

“You, Lettie? You go to St. Wode’s College? What do you mean?”

“I think I ought to go, if for no other reason than to watch those two poor dear girls through this eccentric phase of their existence. Think of them, Aunt Helen, alone with Belle Acheson!”

“There is something in what you say,” said Mrs. Chetwynd; “and as Mrs. Acheson intends to go on the Continent in the winter, and she wishes me to—oh, of course I pooh-poohed the idea; but I really think I shall do it now. I shall go about from one fashionable place to another and amuse myself, and try to forget that I have children. Oh, it is a cruel, a crushing disappointment.”

“You will live through it,” said Lettie. She bent and kissed Mrs. Chetwynd on her cheek.

“After all,” she continued, “there is no good in forcing Marjorie and Eileen into grooves which were never meant for them. You will write to Miss Lauderdale, will you not, to-night?”

“My dear child, have the goodness to write to her yourself, and I will sign the letter. I have not the faintest idea what I am to say to that woman.”

“I will write, then, at once,” said Lettie.

She skipped across the drawing-room to her aunt’s davenport, took out a sheet of paper, rapidly wrote a few words, and then brought her letter to Mrs. Chetwynd to sign. In less than an hour that letter was dropped into the nearest pillar-box.

Thus was the fate of the three girls quickly decided.


The Gilroys lived in a small house in West Kensington. The house was full to overflowing. There were a great many children, ranging from Leslie the eldest girl, aged nineteen, to little Dan, aged two. Mrs. Gilroy was one of the busiest women in London. She had a small income, not exceeding three hundred a year, and six children to maintain. When her husband died, a month before little Dan’s birth, the mother made up her mind not to skimp the children’s education, not to starve them on a mere pittance, but to add to her income by her own exertions. She was very clever and strong both in mind and body. All her children loved her passionately.

Mr. Gilroy, during his lifetime, had been sub-editor on a large London daily, and after his death Mrs. Gilroy got a post on the staff. She also did a good deal of other journalistic work, and occasionally wrote up-to-date articles in the magazines. Thus she added considerably to her income, and the children never wanted for anything.

The house was a model of neatness and order, although there was only one small servant; but then each child had been trained thoroughly, and each child did his or her appointed task without a murmur. The faces of all the young Gilroys were bright, all the pairs of eyes were frank and happy; but the mother had to work very hard. Often and often, when all the children were in bed, she sat up or went round from one editor’s office to another supplying the necessary items which would appear the next morning in the papers. She enjoyed her work and never complained; and Llewellyn and Leslie, the eldest boy and girl, sympathized heart and soul with her.

On the very day when Belle Acheson had visited the Chetwynds in their fashionable house in Belgravia, Mrs. Gilroy, coming in later than usual, found Llewellyn, a handsome lad of sixteen years of age, crouching over the fire in the little parlor, with his head in his hands.

“What is wrong, Lew?” said the mother.

“Nothing,” he answered. “I have only been thinking.”

“But what about, my boy?”

Mrs. Gilroy seldom petted her children, she seldom used loving words to them; but then her touch was a caress. She laid her hand now upon the lad’s shoulder; he looked up into her kindly firm face; and the shadow fell from his own.

“It’s just nothing,” he cried. “I ought to be ashamed of myself. Don’t ask me at the present moment, mother. I have a fit of the blues, that’s all.”

“Well, and I have a fit of the cheerfuls,” said Mrs. Gilroy.

“What do you mean, mother?” Llewellyn was all life and spirits in a moment. “Has anything good happened; have you got another post? Are you to be made sub-editor on one of the great dailies; that, you know, is your ambition, your great passionate ambition, little mother.”

“Nothing of the kind at present, Lew, dear. I am just where I always was. I have plenty of work, and I am paid fairly well; but I have good news all the same. I will tell you afterwards. It has to do with Leslie. It will be the finest thing in all the world for her, simply the making of her.”

Llewellyn’s face once more looked downcast. He did not want his mother to observe it, however, and he went slowly to the door.

“I had better let Kitty and Mabel know that you are in,” he said.

He went into the little hall and shouted his sisters’ names. The next moment two trim, neatly-dressed little girls, with long hair hanging down their shoulders, in dark-blue frocks and white pinafores, came tripping in.

“Mother’s come,” said Llewellyn; “she wants tea. Sound the gong when it is ready.”

He bounded up the narrow stairs three at a time to his own special den at the top of the house. There, big, handsome, overgrown boy that he was, he shed some tears. He was ashamed of his tears; they scalded right down into his heart.

“I wish I didn’t feel it so much,” he said to himself. “I just had a wild hope for a moment, when mother spoke about good news, that it had something to do with me. But it’s only Leslie. Well, dear old girl, why shouldn’t it be about her? What a brute I am to grudge it to her. She is mother’s right hand, and about the very best girl in the world. There, I shall hate myself if I give way another moment. I’ll just tell mother right out, and put an end to the thing. She’ll be a bit surprised, but I guess she’ll be only too glad to consent. It’s good-by to daydreams, that’s all; but a fellow can’t think of them when his mother is in the question.”

Meanwhile the girls downstairs were quickly preparing the tea. Kitty went to the kitchen to fetch the tray with the cups and saucers; Mabel laid the white cloth, which was made of the finest damask, on the center table. Kitty then knelt down before the fire to make an apparently unlimited supply of buttered toast; Mabel put the right amount of tea into the old teapot. There were many relics of bygone respectability, nay, of bygone wealth, in the Gilroys’ humble house. The silver teapot was one—it was real silver, not electroplate. It was very thin and of an antique shape, and the children were often heard to declare that nothing would induce them to have their tea made in anything else. The cups and saucers, too, were of rare old china and of a quaint pattern. They were neither cracked nor broken, because the girls themselves washed them and looked after them, and put them away in the little pantry.

The small maid of all work, Elfreda, was never allowed to go near the pantry. She only did the rough work under severe superintendence from Kitty; but the house was perfectly organized, and no one felt unduly fatigued.

The tea, when it was ready, consisted of fresh eggs, honey in the comb, hot cakes which Mabel had been secretly watching for the last half-hour, a pile of buttered toast, bread both brown and white, delicious country butter, tea, and even cream.

When everything was in order, Mabel sounded the gong, and Llewellyn came down.

He had scarcely taken his place at the table before there was the click of a latchkey in the hall door, and light steps, the steps of a young girl, were heard in the passage outside.

“There’s Leslie,” said Mrs. Gilroy. She was seated at the head of her table pouring out tea. She paused now, and a look of considerable expectancy filled her eyes. Llewellyn watched her; the others, engaged in their own chatter, took no special notice.

“Leslie, late as usual,” said Mabel. Just at that moment Leslie poked in her head.

“Oh, do just keep a nice hot cup of tea for me,” she called out. “I am starving. There has been such a cold wind blowing, and I had to walk half the way, as every omnibus was full. I’ll just run upstairs to tidy up. Please keep a right good tea for me; I’ll trust you, Mabel.”

“Yes, you may,” shouted out Mabel. “I am keeping back the crispest of the hot cakes, and there is buttered toast in a covered dish by the fire.”

Leslie’s steps were heard running quickly upstairs, and a minute or two later she entered the room. She was a tall girl, with quantities of golden-brown hair, large brown eyes, a complexion of cream and roses, and straight regular features. It needed but a glance to show that she was a beautiful girl, with beauty above the average; but it was not only the regularity of her features and the clearness of her complexion which made Leslie’s face so specially attractive. It was the marked and wonderful intelligence on her open brow, the speaking, thoughtful expression in her eyes, the firm, proud outline of her beautiful lips.

Mrs. Gilroy just glanced up when her eldest daughter came into the room. That one glance showed that the girl was the mother’s special idol; that she loved her with a worship which was almost idolatry, that she was a shade more proud of her and dreamt more daydreams about her than about any of the others.

Llewellyn, who could read his mother like a book, who loved her passionately, saw all these thoughts now in her eyes. He suppressed a sigh, and attacked the loaf with vigor.

“Come, Leslie,” said her mother, “here is your place by me as usual. Now, have a good tea, my darling, for we have much to talk of afterwards. I want all of you children to be present too; you must all hear my good news.”

“Good news, mother. That’s cheering,” said Leslie. “I have had such a cross day.”

“Cross—what do you mean?” said Kitty. “Do tell us, Leslie, what can have happened. Didn’t you get on with your pupils?”

“No, they were contrary; they would play and would not learn. I didn’t seem to have any control over them. Mother, dear, I am sick of teaching!”

“What rot!” cried Llewellyn. “One must go on with a thing whether one is sick or not.”

“Oh, I know, Lew, dear old boy, and I really don’t mean to grumble; only I felt cross and I am owning to it. I don’t feel cross now,” added the girl.

She helped herself to brown bread and butter. Kitty put a quantity of honey on her plate. Tea came to an end presently, and then the children in orderly file began to remove the tea-things.

In less than a quarter of an hour the little parlor—they always sat in the parlor in the evenings—was looking as snug and comfortable as a room could look. The lamp, beautifully trimmed and burning clearly, stood on the center table, the red curtains were drawn round the windows; a fire, blazing merrily, gave a final touch of cheerfulness to the pleasant room.

“Now, then, mother, get into your own special chair and tell us the news,” said Leslie.—“Llewellyn, you are not going away, are you?”

“No,” said Llewellyn.

“But before you begin, mother, do wait for us,” cried Mabel. “Kitty and I must go upstairs to turn down the beds, and then I must see Elfreda in order to get her to put the fish in soak for to-morrow’s breakfast. She does forget things so dreadfully.”

“Yes, and I have got to wash the tea-things; it’s my turn, I’m sorry to say,” remarked Hester, a somewhat heavy-looking girl, the least attractive of the family.

“Well, dears, I will wait for you three for exactly twenty minutes,” said Mrs. Gilroy. “Be as quick as possible; bustle away, get the house into perfect order, and then you shall come down to hear my good news.”

The children ran off.

When the door closed behind them Leslie looked at her mother.

“Must you go out again to-night, mother?” she asked.

“No, my darling, not to-night. To-morrow I shall not be home until very late. I have to attend two big functions, and must take my copy afterwards to the Grapho and the Daily Post.”

Llewellyn fidgeted; he stood up and then sat down again. He looked at his mother as if about to speak, and then restrained himself.

“What’s the matter, Lew? What are you worrying about?” said his sister.

“It’s only the thought of mother doing this beastly grind night after night,” he said. “It drives me half-wild sometimes.”

“My dear boy, I enjoy it,” said the mother; “and you shall take my place all in good time. There is an excitement about the life which exactly suits me. I could never be a drone even if I wished it, Lew—not even to please you, dear old fellow.”

The mother bent forward as she spoke and gave the boy one of her rare caresses, just a touch on his white forehead. He sat down near her. Another boy would have held out his hand for his mother to clasp, but Llewellyn’s long hands hung between his knees. He was bending over the fire, looking into the blaze. The daydreams which he had so often seen in those flames were receding farther and farther away. His face was pale, and the expression of his gray eyes heavy.

But Mrs. Gilroy, too much interested in Leslie at present to notice her son’s depression, continued to talk cheerfully. By and by she would see it all and speak of it, but not just now.

Quite within the appointed time the three girls returned. They took up their work, for never for a moment in this family was idleness allowed, and sat down near the lamp.

“Now then, we are ready,” said Hester; “but I do wish, before mother begins, that you would show me, Kitty, how you turn this heel. I know I am doing it wrong.”

“I should think you are, you old goose,” said Kitty. “Well, I can’t show you at present. Just take the needles out and unravel a few rows, then put the needles in again, and I’ll be ready to give you a lesson before bedtime. But, remember, I am going to charge for it. It’s a farthing a lesson, and the money to go to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Is not that a good idea, mother?” continued Kitty, looking up.

But Mrs. Gilroy was not listening. She had something important to say, and the mere idle chatter of this happy family passed over her ears unnoticed.

“Leslie,” she said laying her hand on her eldest girl’s arm, “my news has to do with you; but, as we have no secrets in our family, I will tell it before the rest of the children.”

Leslie looked eager and excited. Even Llewellyn dropped his despondent air and stood up, big and manly, five feet ten, on the hearthrug.

His mother glanced at him, noticed, without really noticing it, the marked look of power on his intellectual face, and then turned to her favorite child.

“I was in my usual place at the office of the Grapho to-day,” she began. “I was busily engaged preparing copy for to-morrow’s issue when a gentleman, an old friend of your father’s, a certain Mr. Parker, came in.”

“Mr. Parker! A friend of father’s! I never heard of him before,” said Leslie.

“He has been in Australia for the last twelve years, but has just returned home. He sent in his card and begged to see me. As soon as ever I saw him I remembered that your dear father had constantly spoken of him. Well, he wishes to do something for—for the sake of his old friend.”

Mrs. Gilroy’s voice faltered.

“He is quite a gentleman,” she continued, “though a little rough; but a capital good fellow at bottom. He spoke to me most frankly, and finally ended by making me an offer. The offer has to do with you, Leslie.”

“With me?” said Leslie.

“Yes, darling. He asked me all about our means. He was not at all prying; he was good and kind and oh! so generous at heart. I hated to tell him, and yet I felt obliged to. He was shocked; he thought your father would have left us better off.”

“He had no right to ask about our father’s means,” grumbled Llewellyn. “No one could have worked harder than our father did.”

“No one, truly,” echoed Leslie.

“And no one ever led a more upright, exemplary, splendid life,” said the widow. Her voice trembled; she paused for a moment.

Kitty and Mabel laid down their needlework.

“But, all the same,” continued the mother, “you must not blame Mr. Parker. He and your father had not met for many years, and in Australia they lead a different life. When a man is lucky there he is very lucky; and Mr. Parker has been one of the lucky ones. He took shares in some gold-mines, and explained to me that he is now a man of great wealth.”

“He must have interrupted your work a good bit,” began Llewellyn, then he checked himself. His mother glanced at him, took no notice of his speech, and continued with her story.

“The result of our interview is this,” she said, looking round at her children and laying her hand on Leslie’s arm. “Leslie is to have a chance, a right good chance in life.”

“Mother, what do you mean?” said Leslie. She opened her pretty eyes wide, and the color rushed into her face.

“Mr. Parker is a man of peculiar views,” said the mother. “He does not want to help boys, he says; they must stand or fall on their own merits. But for girls he has a peculiar feeling, an unbounded pity. The fact is, poor fellow, he had a wife of his own, and a daughter, and if the daughter were alive she would be your age, Leslie. I have not the slightest doubt that accounts for his prejudice in favor of girls. Now, my darling, he has offered to pay all your expenses either at Newnham or at that other great college, St. Wode’s, Wingfield. He wants you to give up your present employment immediately, and to go to either of these places at the beginning of term. You are to have every advantage that is possible. When you have completed your university education he will take further steps to insure your commanding an excellent living. The money is to be paid direct to me as required, and he has now given me a check for fifty pounds to buy the necessary outfit which you will require for your new life. I have taken the check and have accepted the offer. That is my news. It is a great chance for you, Leslie; it is a great chance. You go away from us, I know, my darling, and I shall miss you terribly; but it is a great chance.”

“And you have really accepted it, mother?”

“I have. I could not allow you to throw it away. Mr. Parker is such an old friend of your father’s that I am willing to put myself under this supreme obligation. He has even hinted that by and by he will do great things for Kitty and for Mabel.”

“And what about poor Hester?” said that individual, dropping her stocking and looking with piteous eyes at her mother.

“You are to be my home-bird, darling.” Then Hester rose and knelt by her mother, and put her strong young arms round her waist and kissed her.

“Yes; I for one would never leave you, mammy; and I don’t care a pin about being learned. I want just to be useful, although I am afraid I am a bit of a failure all round. There always is a failure in every family, isn’t there, mother; so it’s just as well that I should be the one.”

“We mean to have no failures in this family,” said Mrs. Gilroy. “Now, then, you young ones, it is time for bed; off you go at once. I have much to say to Leslie and to Llewellyn by themselves.”


When the younger girls had rather unwillingly left the room, Leslie took a seat near her mother. Llewellyn, going to a bookcase at the further end of the room, began to fumble with some books.

“Come here, Lew,” called out his sister; “we want you to talk to us and give us your advice; you are always so wise. Come, what are you doing at the other end of the room? Are you not delighted? Are not you as glad as I am?”

Llewellyn responded to Leslie’s invitation unwillingly. His mother looked up at him.

“What is the matter?” she asked.

“Nothing, mother. I am, on the whole, heartily pleased.”

His reply came slowly, and as though he had weighed each word.

“But I don’t at all know that I ought to accept, even though mother is so good as to give me leave,” said Leslie.

“That’s all rot, you know, Leslie,” said her brother roughly. “Mother has accepted; the thing is done. It is a chance which may never come in your way again.”

“But I don’t want it,” she cried, touched to her very heart’s core by something in his voice. “If it were only your chance, how happy I should be! Oh, Lew, with your tastes, with your wishes, what could you not achieve? You know it has been the passion of your heart since you were a little boy to go to one of the universities, and now—— Mother, dear, it is surely not too late; you could speak to Mr. Parker. You could explain to him that Llewellyn is the one in the family with genius; that Llewellyn will do him credit if he sends him to Oxford or Cambridge. Oh, leave me out! I can do without the university training. But, Lew—it would be the making of Lew! I suppose I am fairly well educated. I have passed right through the high school from the beginning, and no girl who does that can be said to be ignorant. This chance ought to be Llewellyn’s. Mother, it would be possible, surely, for you to put it to Mr. Parker in the right light?”

“No, Leslie; he wishes you to go,” said the mother quietly. “I have no choice in the matter. I have accepted for you. Look upon it, my darling, as a settled thing, and do not disturb, with the thought of any indecision, the great joy which ought to be yours.”

“There is a ring at the hall door,” cried Leslie. “I wonder who it can be?”

Mrs. Gilroy started.

“I quite forgot,” she said, coloring slightly. “Mr. Parker asked if he might come round and be introduced to you all. Doubtless that is his ring. Llewellyn, dear, will you go and open the hall door?”

Llewellyn strode across the room.

“I feel quite overcome,” said Leslie to her mother. “I never heard of Mr. Parker until half an hour ago, and now he is an immense factor in my life.”

Her words were interrupted, the door of the little parlor was thrown open, and Mr. Parker, accompanied by Llewellyn, entered.

“Here I am, here I am, as I promised!” called out the former, rubbing his hands as he spoke, and pushing up his red hair from his almost as red forehead. “Here I am, and right glad to see you again, Mrs. Gilroy. And so these are some of the youngsters? What’s your name, young sir?”

“Llewellyn,” replied the boy.

“And how old may you be?”

“Sixteen,” replied Llewellyn.

“’Pon my word, you’re a well-grown chap. We don’t have ’em better in the Bush, notwithstanding all the fine development that hard work gives. But you have fine shoulders—eh, and good stout legs. Fine young chap, Mrs. Gilroy; I congratulate you, ma’am, in possessing him. And so this is the young lady. How do you do, my dear? I am proud to make your acquaintance.”

Mr. Parker’s voice had been rough enough while he was addressing Llewellyn; but when he glanced at Leslie, who, tall, straight, and beautiful, stood before him, a spasm crossed his face and his voice faltered. It sank to a husky whisper; there was emotion in his tone.

“How do you do, my dear?” he said again; and he held out a great rough hand for the girl to shake.

She let her little hand lie in his for half a moment, and then withdrew it. She then went and stood by the fireplace.

“Sit down, please, Mr. Parker,” said Mrs. Gilroy, “Leslie, I think our friend would like a glass of wine; will you get it?”

“No wine for me, thank you, ma’am; no wine for me. I have dined, and admirably. Steak and stout, and boiled apple pudding; that’s fare after my own heart. Simple, ma’am, you can see—simple as my own tastes. Well, I am glad to see you, Mrs. Gilroy, at home; and a nice, snug little parlor you have. No show or pretension, or anything of that kind; just the sort of room I’d expect Gilroy’s widow to have; and,” added the man, glancing at the boy and girl, “just the sort of children too.”

The two children, thus alluded to, could not help sighing. Llewellyn wished himself fifty miles away. Leslie felt uncomfortable, and did not dare to meet her mother’s eyes.

Meanwhile Mr. Parker glanced around him. The ceiling of the little room was low, and the furniture, although exquisitely clean and orderly, was shabby. He sank back in the armchair which Mrs. Gilroy had invited him to take possession of, and proceeded to speak slowly and thoughtfully.

“This all reminds me of poor Gilroy,” he said; “and yet I expected him, with his talents, to live in a palace by this time. Instead of that, he has his six foot of earth—his six foot of earth, ma’am—just what we all will come to some day; and you are left a widow, and with the care of that big boy on your shoulders.”

“I won’t be on mother’s shoulders any longer,” grumbled Llewellyn.

“Ha! ha! young sir, don’t you be impatient; let me say my say out. This young lady now, she’s my charge for the future. Yes, ma’am, she’s my charge. My dear Miss Leslie, you’ll be a sort of adopted daughter to me. Now, sit down near me, and tell me what your inclinations are. I think your mother would send you to one of those new-fangled women’s colleges if you liked it; but if your inclinations are not set that way, why, I will set you up in business. I’ll give you capital, and you may do well—any line you like; you have only to name it. But your mother suggests that I should make an educated woman of you.”

“To a certain extent Leslie is that already,” interrupted the mother. She saw that the girl found it difficult to reply, that her lips were trembling, and her eyes shining through tears.

“My dear child has the best education I could give her,” continued Mrs. Gilroy. “Please, Llewellyn, take a chair.”

The boy flung himself down on the nearest seat.

“Mr. Parker, I have just been telling my children of your great kindness,” continued Mrs. Gilroy. “Leslie is, of course, delighted. There is nothing in the world she would like better than to go through one of the universities. She wishes, by and by, to earn her bread as a teacher; and, if she does that, it is essential that she should have the best education that can be procured.”

“Well, ma’am, if that’s your whim, it’s mine also,” said Mr. Parker. “I am only gratified to be able to please you in any way. This is a debt I owe, ma’am; so there’s no obligation on your part, nor on yours either, Miss Leslie.”

“A debt you owe?” said Mrs. Gilroy, in some astonishment.

“Well, you see, it was this way,” said Parker. “Gilroy and I were lads together in the same school. I don’t mean to say that we were exactly in the same set, for Gilroy belonged to gentlefolks, whereas I—well, my father kept a grocer’s shop. I always had a wonderful admiration for Gilroy; for, though he was an aristocrat, as they call them, he had no high and mighty haw-haw ideas, and he was good to me, and wouldn’t let the other fellows trample on me—not he, not he. And one day I got out of my depth before I could swim quite well, and he pulled me to shore. He made nothing of it; but, as a matter of fact, he saved my life. So, after that, there was nothing I wouldn’t do for him; and when we both left school, and Gilroy was going to one of your fine universities and I was off to the colonies, we had a supper together, and at the end of the supper we made a bargain one with the other. Gilroy said to me, ‘Parker, nobody knows what the chances of life are. It is possible that you may come back some day a rich man; if so, don’t forget that we were chums, that we were lads together, and if you can do a kindness to me or mine, do it. I am an unmarried man, and so are you. We are both young fellows on the threshold of life; but if ever I should have a wife and children, and I myself should be beneath the sod, you will look after them for me, Parker. It shall be a bargain between us, and I will do the same for your wife and children should the position be reversed.’

“Those were his words, ma’am,” said Mr. Parker, standing up as he spoke, “and I never forgot them—never. They followed me all through the years; and when I heard of his death I felt there was nothing in the world for it but to wind up my affairs, and to hurry back as fast as possible. There were Gilroy’s bonds that he had laid upon me, and I had to see to it that I obeyed the last words he ever said to me. Night after night I’d see him standing by my bedside; the light in his eyes seemed to shine into mine, and I felt again the way he gripped my hand. Well, ma’am, it has pleased the Almighty to take my wife and child away from me, and I am here at your service, and with the orders of your dead husband to do what I can for you and yours. My dear,” added Parker, suddenly turning and looking at Leslie, “you have a look of your father, the best fellow that ever breathed. You must let me, to a certain extent, be a father to you. My own wife is dead, and my—my girl, too. Aye, the girl was bonny. I’ll show you her picture some day, Miss Leslie.”

Leslie did not reply; but the tears which had been coming to her eyes now rolled down her cheeks. Mr. Parker noticed her emotion and was not ill pleased with it.

“You go to college if you wish it, young lady,” he said, “and I hold the purse-strings. When you want money you just write to me, and don’t bother that good mother of yours overmuch. So that affair is settled. Now, to turn to the others. This boy, for instance; he is Gilroy’s boy and worthy of his father. What do you mean to do, sir? Do you want a university life, too?”

“Oh, if you would only give it to him!” said Leslie. “Mother says you are rich, and if it is really as you say, and father laid his bond upon you, it does not seem too hard. Oh, if you would only do it!”

Her whole face lit up, her eyes shone, and she laid her hand on Mr. Parker’s arm.

“I’d do anything in the world for you, my dear; so if it is your wish, you have only to say the word. The boy looks intelligent, too. In Australia we would give a boy like that a bit of the bush to clear out, and a house to build, and we would teach him the rough essentials of life, and leave out the polishings; but Australia is Australia, and England is England; and as it seems to be all the development of the brain here——”

“And the body, too,” said Mrs. Gilroy. “You cannot say that we do not develop the bodies of our lads as long as we have football and cricket.”

“We have those, too, in Australia, and we manage to beat you once in a while,” said Parker, with a slight twinkle in his eyes. “But what does the lad want himself—that is the question?”

“Llewellyn wants to go either to Oxford or Cambridge,” said Leslie. “It has been the dream of his life.”

“Yes, it has been the dream of his life,” replied the mother.

She glanced at Llewellyn, whose face was now white as death.

“It is the dream of my life no longer,” he said. His voice was husky, not to say rough.

“Then, what is it you want, my boy?”

Parker went up and clapped his hand heavily on the boy’s shoulder.

“Nothing from you, sir,” was Llewellyn’s answer. “Oh, I am obliged, of course, or I try to be obliged; but I don’t want anything. What is more, sir, I wouldn’t take anything.”

“Llewellyn!” said his mother.

“I don’t wish to take anything from Mr. Parker, mother. I was about to tell you when we were alone; but I will tell you now, instead. I accepted a situation to-day at Lee & Forrest’s.”

“Lee & Forrest’s!” said the mother. “You accepted a situation at that big draper’s round the corner? Llewellyn, you must be mad!”

“I am not. I have been thinking about it for some time; this is not as sudden as it looks to you. You know young Forrest has been my friend at school, and there is a vacancy in the shop. They want a boy to train for the business, and Mr. Forrest is so pleased with me for applying that he is going to start me at once. I saw him to-day, and I accepted it, mother, subject to your leave, which, of course, you will give. Mr. Forrest said it would do him a lot of good to have a lad like me about the place; and young Forrest himself goes to one of the universities. It is a good thing for me, mother, and I have made up my mind.”

There was a dead silence in the room. Mrs. Gilroy’s face looked white; all the pleasure had left it. She glanced at Parker, whose deep-set eyes twinkled half with fun and half with sympathy. He patted Llewellyn again on the shoulder.

“The truth now,” he said; “you are too proud to take help from me?”

“I am,” said Llewellyn.

“That’s a right spirit; but I am going to tempt you. I will give you two hundred a year if you wish to go to Oxford.”

“No, thank you,” answered the boy. He shook the kindly hand off and stepped back a foot.

“But why, my lad?”

“Oh, Llewellyn, why?” said the mother.

“Oh, Llewellyn, are you mad?” cried Leslie.

“I will tell you why, if you all want to know,” said Llewellyn. “I don’t choose to be beholden to anybody, not even to Mr. Parker, who was my father’s friend. I may some day go to the university; but I don’t think there is much chance of it. Sir, I will tell you another reason: I want to help my mother; she needs help at once. She could take it from me when she could not take it from a stranger. If I went to Oxford I could not earn any money for three or four years; now I start at once with a pound a week. I can live at home, too, and half the money will go straight towards the house. In a year’s time my screw is to be raised. It is all settled, sir. I am obliged to you all the same, but I can’t take your help.”

As Llewellyn finished he turned to leave the room.

“One moment, please,” interrupted Parker. “I respect you, boy. Shake hands. If I had had a son of my own I could only wish that he had been of similar metal. You’ll do, young sir—you’ll do.”


Late that evening there came a knock at Llewellyn’s door. He called out, “Come in!” and his sister Leslie entered. She shut the door softly behind her.

“Mother is asleep,” she said; “and I think she has been crying—she sighs so heavily in her sleep; it is not like her. I would not wake her for the world; but I knew you would be up, Lew, and I felt that I must have a talk with you.”

“All right—that is, if you really wish it,” said Llewellyn, slightly stretching himself, and a frown coming between his brows. He had been bending over a volume of Plato’s “Republic,” and some sheets of manuscript, scribbled over as if in frantic haste, were scattered about the table. When Leslie approached he pushed the manuscript helter-skelter into a waste-paper basket and shut up the book.

“Why did you do that?” said Leslie; “why do you hide your real thoughts from me, Lew? Don’t you want me to know? We have always been more than ordinary brother and sister to each other. What is the matter with you?”

Still Llewellyn did not reply. He stood up and looked at his sister with as expressionless a face as he could possibly manage to assume.

“It is no use,” said Leslie. She went up to him now, raised herself on tiptoe, and kissed him on his cheek. “You have done it, and it is noble of you, it is splendid of you; but why—why?”

“How can you ask me why?” he answered. “Can’t you guess?”

“I guess partly,” replied the girl; “you want to help mother. But surely you could help her much more effectually in the long run by doing what Mr. Parker wishes. It is such a chance, and it was put in your way, Lew; you didn’t go out of your way to seek it. Perhaps God meant you to accept it.”

“No, don’t,” cried Llewellyn—“don’t say that.” A spasm of pain flitted across the boy’s face, then vanished.

“I want to help mother, and I will,” he said stoutly. “I don’t intend her to do all the toiling and money-making any longer. I am almost a man, Leslie; I shall be seventeen my next birthday. Oh, in one sense it is young! but it is not young with me, for I think I am older than my years. I won’t see her grinding without putting my own shoulder to the wheel. It’s just intolerable!”

“I wish you would listen to me, Llewellyn,” said Leslie; “it is not too late yet. The chance has been offered to you and the chance has been offered to me. It seems to me, on thinking things over, that only one of us can take it, for mother can’t do without both of us.”

“That’s just what I said,” interrupted Llewellyn; “you are to go and I am to stay. It is all arranged. Don’t, like a dear girl, worry over the thing any longer. It’s done, and that’s an end of it.”

“But you must let me speak,” said Leslie. “I can never go to St. Wode’s unless I make a clean breast of all that is in my mind. If one of us is to grind for the present, ought not I to be the one? I am older than you, I have had a more thorough education, I can easily get a position as junior teacher in Miss Harkaway’s school. There is a vacancy, and she has half promised it to me. That will bring me in thirty pounds a year and my food, and, after a bit, I might do even better. Thus I should be altogether off mother’s hands, and could even help her a trifle. Then, Lew, you will be really helping her at Oxford. As you are acquiring learning, and as those magnificent brains of yours are being cultivated to their full worth, you will be preparing for a learned profession, or a professorship, or something of that kind. Surely, surely, that would be a more substantial help to the sweetest mother in the world than your earning a pound a week now at Lee & Forrest’s.”

“There is something in what you say, Leslie; but there is not enough in it,” said Llewellyn quietly. “Believe me, I have thought of all this from every point of view. In the first place, professorships do not mean wealth, and, for mother’s sake, I mean to be a wealthy man some day. You must go into trade to be wealthy now. Oh, it is not that I care for money, not a bit! But I want to save the mother, to keep her from toiling when she is old, to help the younger children. I can’t stand Parker doing all the help, Leslie; the mere thought drives me half wild. Then I shall not always work at a pound a week. In a couple of years I may be earning a salary of two hundred a year, for I don’t mind telling you that young Forrest has taken no end of a fancy to me, and he and I had a long talk to-day. He took me up to see his father, and his father would do anything for a boy Jim liked. Jim goes to Oxford in the autumn. He hates the shop, and he won’t go into business, for he can’t stand it, and so his father has to start him in a profession. But he hinted very broadly—and so did the old man, too, for that matter—that if I could take his place it would put matters a bit right and smooth down the pride of old Forrest; so I shall have my chance, Leslie—a small partnership by and by; and I mean to take it, little girl, so you can go to Wingfield with a heart and a half, and win the academic honors of the family. It is a splendid chance for you, Leslie, and I’m not the fellow to stand in your way.”

“But I just wish you would!” she cried.

Llewellyn put one of his arms round her and drew her close to him.

“One can take an interest in anything one sets one’s mind to,” he continued. “I shall begin double entry and bookkeeping and all that sort of thing to-morrow, and the classics may go to Hong Kong for the present. Poor old Plato! I loved him, and I had dreams about him; but he and I must be strangers for the present. You think me silly now, dear, but you won’t when I have succeeded. By the time I have a great big shop of my own you will think me the wise one of the family. Leslie, my dear, what is wrong?”

For Leslie had squeezed his arm so tightly that the lad winced.

“I can’t bear to think of you with a shop,” she cried, “with that brain and those eyes. And oh, Lew! don’t you remember how you translated Thucydides for us? And—oh, Lew, it can’t be borne.”

“It must be borne,” he replied stoutly. “I can have lessons in the classics if I have time enough presently. Oh, a university man is not the only man in the world, Leslie. But now we will talk no more of this. Once for all, my mind is made up.”

“What would our father have said,” she cried; “our father, who was a great scholar?”

“If he were to come back, and if he could speak to me, I am quite certain he would say that I was more worthy to be his son if I helped the mother quickly than if I did anything else,” replied the boy.

“Perhaps you are right,” said Leslie, in a thoughtful voice.

Llewellyn rubbed his hand over his eyes.

“I don’t pretend, all the same, that it’s not been no end of a tussle,” he said; “but now my mind is made up.”


“Yes, quite.”

“Have you given an answer yet to Mr. Forrest?”

“Practically I have; but the mother must come round with me to see him to-morrow. The dear little mother won’t much like it; but she must do it. You don’t know how he respects her, Leslie.”

“I should think so,” said Leslie; “that goes without saying. She is quite the dearest, bravest little mother in the wide world.”

“Well, dry your tears, old girl; I’ll look after her while you are away. Be cheerful, Leslie, and get all the good you can out of this magnificent thing, for I don’t pretend that it’s not a great bit of fortune for you. It is quite possible and right for you to take help from Mr. Parker; but I could not do it. It’s not in me to take favors from anyone. Such a thing would lower me in my own eyes. Oh, it does not lower you, Leslie; but it would me, for I am differently made. We must each walk according to our own lights. And now go to bed, old girl, for I am half dead with sleep.”

“Kiss me, first,” she said. “Llewellyn, I think you are the bravest boy in all the world.”

“You would not say so if you had seen me two hours back. I was so miserable I felt fit to kill myself; but there,” he added, clenching one of his strong hands, “I did not mean to let it out to you, and I am quite right now and I don’t feel a bit miserable.”

Leslie left the room, and Llewellyn was alone.

“But, all the same, it’s a hard tug,” he muttered as he glanced round him. He dropped into a chair and buried his face in his hands. He thought of the dreams which must never be realized, of the school-fellows who would more or less despise him, of the different position he must occupy in future.

“Good-by literature,” he said to himself; “good-by the laurels which would have been so sweet to gather. Good-by dreams.”

But, by and by, as Llewellyn thought, he raised his face, and, gazing straight before him, he saw another vision, and that vision comforted and strengthened him a good bit. It was that of a home, with a woman in it who wore the sweetest face in the world, and who was not tired with overwork, who, in fact, need not work at all. He saw himself as the one who was keeping that home. With his toil, with the energy of his strong young arms, with the youth and talents which God had given him, he was supporting his mother and his younger brothers and sisters; and they all looked up to him and loved him, and his heart was happy. The thought of the picture made his heart happy even now.

He smiled, dropped on his knees, muttered a hasty prayer, and, tumbling into bed, was soon fast asleep.

Leslie in her own room also slept, and bright dreams came to her. The thought of the future was delightful, and she looked upon it as Llewellyn’s gift.

“For if Llewellyn had been selfish and had accepted Mr. Parker’s offer, I could not have gone,” thought the girl. “I could not have left mother if Llewellyn were not with her; but, as it is, and as he is sacrificing himself, oh! I will work just double time in order to make it up to him. For some day he must have time to pursue his beloved classics, and his literature, and all those things which he cares for. No girl who has a noble brother like Llewellyn ought to shrink at anything. I believe I am the happiest, and I know I am the proudest, girl in the world.”


There were several women’s colleges at Wingfield, but the largest and the best known, and the most important, was St. Wode’s. It stood in its own spacious grounds, and consisted of four large buildings, which were called respectively the North, the South, the East, and the West Halls. There was also an extensive library standing a little back from the halls of residence, a great gymnasium, and another building devoted entirely to class and lecture rooms. Endless money had been spent upon St. Wode’s College, which now ranked as one of the largest and most important colleges for women in the whole of England. It numbered from three to four hundred students: but the place was so popular, the system on which everything was worked was so admirable, that girls who wished to go to St. Wode’s, had as a rule to put down their names a couple of years in advance.

It so happened, however, that there was a vacancy for two sisters at West Hall, and owing to the breaking-down of a highly nervous student who had worked too hard for classical honors, there was also a vacancy in the North Hall.

North Hall was the house of residence where Belle Acheson carried on her vagaries, and pleased herself with the idea that she was one of the cleverest and most distinguished girls in college. She owned to a qualm of disgust, however, when she learned that Letitia was to be under the same roof as herself, having a thorough scorn for that young lady; but, as she was allowed no choice in the matter, she felt that there was nothing for it but to submit to the inevitable.

Mr. Parker had himself visited St. Wode’s College, had seen the principal, Miss Lauderdale, and had pleaded the cause of Leslie Gilroy with such passion and effect that special arrangements had been made in her favor, and she was admitted to the same hall as Marjorie and Eileen. For the first term she must share a large room with another girl; but that was a trifling matter to Leslie, who, now that things were thoroughly arranged, wished to start on her new career without a moment’s delay. As she had already passed the London Matriculation, there was no difficulty about her admission as soon as room could be found for her. This being arranged, she was able to go to St. Wode’s at the beginning of Trinity term. It so happened, therefore, that Letitia, Eileen, Marjorie, and Leslie Gilroy all found themselves on a certain afternoon in the same cab, driving to St. Wode’s from the railway station, a mile and a half distant. The girls’ luggage was to follow them; and as there happened to be a place in the cab for a fourth, and Leslie was standing, looking just a little forlorn, on the platform, Marjorie went up to her and suggested that they should all go together.

“For I know you are a St. Wode’s girl,” she said.

“How could you possibly guess that?” replied Leslie, looking with admiration at Marjorie whose plain dress could never take away from the charm of her handsome face.

“There was really no mystery about it.” said Marjorie, after a pause. “I am not a magician; but I happened to see the name of St. Wode’s on that basket-trunk a minute or two ago. Will you come with us?”

“I shall be only too delighted,” was the reply. “I was feeling quite lost and strange. It would be nice to go to college in company. Is this your first term?” she added, as she seated herself in the cab.

“Yes, yes; we are all freshers,” replied Lettie. “We shall all have a most unenviable position, that I can foretell. There is a certain Miss Acheson, who resides in North Hall, who has told us of some of the discomforts, and, for my part, if I had not promised——”

“Oh, hush, please, Lettie; don’t say any more,” said Eileen. “You need not begin by frightening Miss Gilroy. You look, Miss Gilroy, as if you intended to have a good time.”

Leslie did not reply, except with her eyes, which were smiling. She was looking her best, dressed neatly and suitably, with her white sailor hat making an effective contrast to the meshes of her bright golden hair.

“Well, I do wonder how everything will turn out,” said Eileen. “By the way, Miss Gilroy, you did not tell us which Hall you were going to?”

“I believe I am to share a room with another student at North Hall,” she answered. Then she continued, the smiles which she could not suppress now visiting her eyes, “Is not the whole scheme delightful? I do wonder what the other students will be like.”

“And what the tutors will be like,” continued Marjorie eagerly. “There are two resident tutors in each house, and also a vice-principal. Miss Lauderdale is, of course, the principal over the entire college. I expect I shall be somewhat afraid of her.”

“I don’t intend to be afraid of anyone,” said Eileen. “When one makes up one’s mind to lead a really useful life, surely small matters, such as little nervousnesses, ought not to count.”

Leslie gazed hard at Eileen, as if she would read her through.

Marjorie bent suddenly forward and laid her hand on Leslie’s knee.

“Will you tell me something?” she asked earnestly. “Are you coming to St. Wode’s to be a useful member of society, or a learned, or an ornamental one?”

“I have not thought of it in that light,” said Leslie. “I want to go in for learning, of course. As to being ornamental, I have no time to think about that; and useful—well, I hope that learned and useful will, in my case, go together. I have a great deal to do during the three years which are before me—a delightful three years I have no doubt they will prove. What special subjects do you mean to take up, Miss——”

“Chetwynd is my name,” said Eileen; “but I hope you won’t call me it. I am sure we shall be friends, more particularly as we are to start our new life in the same hall. Oh, I shall have much to tell you by and by. Lettie, why is that frown between your brows?”

“I did not know that I was frowning,” answered Letitia, “I was only thinking of the ornamental part of life, and how I could carry it out most effectively.”

Letitia was dressed with special care, not unsuitably, for she had too good taste for that; but so daintily, so exquisitely, with such a careful eye to the smallest details that Marjorie and Eileen looked rough and gauche beside her. Their serge skirts had been made by a work-girl, as nothing would induce them to waste money on a dressmaker. The work-girl had been discovered by Eileen in Fox Buildings. She had a lame knee and a sick brother, and Eileen seized upon her at once as a suitable person for the job, as she expressed it. Finally, she was given most of the girls’ outfits to undertake.

She worked neatly, but had not the slightest idea of fitting. With numberless blouses, however, and a couple of serge skirts, and sailor hats, though cheap, at least looking clean, the girls passed muster, and were totally indifferent to their own appearance.

“When once we have plunged into our new work we shall be as happy as the day is long,” said Eileen. “I wonder if Belle arrived yesterday or to-day?”

“I sincerely trust she won’t come till to-morrow,” said Letitia, with a shudder. “I do not know for what sin I am doomed to reside under the same roof with that terrible girl.”

“A terrible girl? Who can she be?” asked Leslie.

“You will know for yourself before you have been many days at St. Wode’s,” was Lettie’s enigmatical reply. “Oh, and here we are, turning in at the gates! My heart does go pit-a-pat.”

Leslie’s face also became suffused with pink as the cabman drew up at the large wooden gates, which were presently opened by a neatly dressed young woman who lived at the lodge just within.

The grounds were three-quarters of a mile in length, and the four halls, built round a quadrangle, stood in the middle. There was a wide and smoothly kept grass lawn in front of the halls, and a gravel sweep going right round them. The cab presently delivered up its four occupants, and Eileen, Marjorie, and Leslie found themselves in a small waiting room inside West Hall, where they were to remain until the housekeeper could arrive to take them to their several rooms. They had not to wait long. A cheery young woman of about seven-and-twenty presently made her appearance, asked them their names, told them that their trunks would be brought to their rooms as soon as ever they arrived, and then requested them to follow her.

She tripped up some wide stone stairs, destitute of carpets, and then down a corridor, slippery with parquetry work. The next moment she had flung open a door, and revealed a good-sized room, which was occupied by another girl at the farther end, who wore a shock of red hair rather untidily put up in a loose knot at the back of her head.

“Miss Colchester, I see you have arrived,” said Miss Payne the housekeeper. “This is your room-fellow; may I introduce you to Miss Leslie Gilroy?”

“Pray come in, Miss Gilroy; you are heartily welcome,” said Miss Colchester, jumping up, coming forward, and gazing hard at Leslie. She then extended an awkward hand.

“I am glad to see you,” she said. “I hope you don’t mind the room being in disorder. I have only just begun to unpack, and everything is helter-skelter. I was never tidy—no, never! I begin to think I like things helter-skelter.”

“Oh, I don’t mind, of course!” answered Leslie; but her heart sank. In her mother’s small house the motto impressed upon each child was the old-fashioned one: “A place for everything, and everything in its place.”

“I suppose I shall have one side of the room to myself?” she continued.

Marjorie and Eileen had been left on the landing. They overheard Leslie’s last somewhat despairing words, glanced at one another, and smiled. They were then conducted to their rooms at the farther end of the corridor.

“This is your room, Miss Eileen,” said Miss Payne. “Miss Marjorie has an exact counterpart at the other side of the corridor. Behind this screen you will keep your washhand-stand. This sofa forms your bed at night. This chest of drawers is for your linen and the bodice of your dresses. Behind this curtain you will hang your skirts. Here is your writing-table. It remains with yourself to make your room pretty and neat, or the reverse. You may buy any ornaments in the way of pictures, or anything else you fancy. When you touch this handle you turn on the electric light. Would you care for a fire? Here are coal and wood for the purpose, and I will send in a servant to light it at once, if you wish.”

“No, thank you; it is quite a warm evening,” replied Eileen. “Is Marjorie’s room just the same?”

“Precisely; but I think you have the prettier view.”

“Oh, how lovely!” exclaimed Eileen. “Do look, Marjorie; there is that great park in the distance, and the river down there. Oh, please——” She turned to speak to Miss Payne, but Miss Payne had already vanished.

“Well, we are landed at last!” she said, clasping her sister’s hand. “Does it not seem almost too delightful?”

“Splendid!” cried Marjorie. “Do you know, Eileen, I have taken a fancy to that pretty Miss Gilroy?”

“So have I,” answered Marjorie. “But I expect she will have a bad time, poor dear, with Miss Colchester. Anyone can see Miss Gilroy is of the orderly sort. Now, I don’t care a bit about having things in perfect order.”

“But, Marjorie,” said Eileen, “I have been reading up about that lately, and I think you and I ought to cultivate order very assiduously if we mean to be really useful women. Oh, by the way! our hair is beginning to grow; we must find a barber to-morrow in order to reduce our crops to the right length.”

“An inch and a half being the length permitted,” said Marjorie, with a smile. “I am curious to see poor old Belle. Lettie will have awful tales to tell of her. Well, this life is interesting, is it not, Eileen?”


Meanwhile, Miss Colchester and Leslie Gilroy, standing in the middle of their room, gazed one at the other. Miss Colchester put up her hand to ruffle her red locks. Presently she uttered a short, sharp sigh.

“I see by the build of your head and your figure that you are painfully tidy,” she said. “I had hoped that it might have been the will of Providence to allow a congenial spirit to share this room with me; but, evidently, that is not to be my lot. How much space do you require?”

“Half the room, I suppose,” said Leslie.

“Half! My dear, good creature, impossible! Don’t you see that my things are everywhere? You will notice, too, that I am absorbed in study. I am working hard for mathematical honors, and I have only this term in which to prepare.”

“Surely a long time?” said Leslie.

“No time at all, I assure you. Come here; I will show you the list of books I have to get through. Oh, I declare, here comes your trunk—two trunks. What do you want two trunks for? How perfectly fearful! Put them down, please, porter—there, near the door. Now then, we had better settle this matter at once. You must promise that you will on no account encroach on my half of the room. I take this side with the bay window; you have the back, with the little side window. I require light for my work. I give you permission to keep your part, just there in the corner, as tidy as you please. Do you understand?”

“I shall certainly keep my part of the room tidy,” said Leslie with some spirit. “And may I ask what this screen is for?”

“Oh! you can use it or not as you please. It is supposed to hide the washhand-stand: most unnecessary in my opinion. Some of the students here even go the length of turning the chest of drawers, so that the drawers may face the wall; then they put an ornamental sort of piano-sheet over the back of the drawers, and make it look like a piece of ornamental furniture, ornamental instead of useful. Ridiculous! Does not one want to bang open a drawer, stuff in one’s things, shut it again as quickly as possible, and then not give another thought to the matter? Surely there are untidy girls in the college: why was it my lot to have you sent to share my room—you who are the very pink of neatness?”

“I see you are very sorry to have me, and, of course, I am sorry, too, that you should be put out,” said Leslie, who thought it best to take the bull by the horns. “But suppose, Miss Colchester—suppose I, who may not have quite so much work to do at present as you have——”

“Of course you won’t, you silly girl; I am working for honors, I told you.”

“Well, well; do let me finish. Suppose I undertake the tidying of the whole room?”

“But, my dear, good creature, I like it untidy. I hate to have everything in its place. When things are in their right places they can never be found; that’s my opinion. Do you see my study table? I know exactly where I have put my things; but, if anybody attempts to tidy them, woe betide my comfort in the future! Well, I see you are good-natured, and I don’t want to be disagreeable. You have a nice face, too, and I dare say we shall pull together all right. If you wish to tidy just round my table, you may. For instance, if you see my stockings on the floor, you can roll them up and pop them into my drawer, any drawer, it doesn’t matter which; and, if I do forget to put my boots outside at night, you may gather them up with your own and fling them on the landing. Oh, dear, dear, it is such a worry even to speak about it! But what I was about to say,” continued Miss Colchester, “is this: You may tidy for me if you please; but there is one point on which I am resolved. This table is never to be touched. The housemaid knows it, and now I warn you. Think what it means to me—I may make a note, through my brain may be evolved an idea, which a careless housemaid may throw into the waste-paper basket. Just think what it would mean! How do you suppose I am to work in a place like this if I think of small, petty things which occupy home-girls? You are a home-girl: have you a tidy mother? Of course you have.”

“Yes,” said Leslie, “and a very hard-working and clever mother, too. She spends a great deal of her time out, but she has trained my sisters and myself——”

“I do believe you are going to quote that awful proverb about a place for everything,” said Miss Colchester. “Don’t, I beg of you.”

“I was thinking of it. I did not mean to quote it,” said Leslie.

“Well, I must not waste any more time talking. I suppose you must have your way. I am afraid your bedstead is a little uncomfortable. The spring is broken; but you don’t mind, do you?”

“I do mind,” answered Leslie. “I shall ask to have the spring mended to-morrow. There is no good in having an uncomfortable bed; but for to-night it does not matter.”

“Oh, I see you are going to be good-natured! That is your screen—you can take the best of the two, because I never open mine. You can paste any pictures you like on it if you are given that way; but I hope to goodness you are not. The screen is to put round your washhand-stand. That is your table, and that is your chest of drawers. Now, for goodness’ sake, like a dear, good creature, put your things in order, and don’t speak to me again. I must go on with my calculus of finite differences.”

“What do you mean?” asked Leslie.

“Do you wish for an explanation? If so, pray sit down opposite to me and don’t expect to stir for a week; it will take me at least as long to explain the matter. Oh, don’t say any more just now, and do move as softly as you can! Do just consider that my winning honors in mathematics is a little more important than that your drawers should be in immaculate order. Do you comprehend?”


“Well, don’t say another word.”

The red-haired maiden returned to her desk, stuffed both her hands through her fiery locks, which stuck out now like great wings on each side of her head, and began murmuring slowly to herself.

Leslie stood still for a moment with a sense of dismay stealing over her.

“What is to be done?” she thought. “Miss Colchester is a very peculiar girl. What does a calculus of finite differences mean? I almost wish dear old Lew had been mathematical, then perhaps I should have known. Well, never mind; I won’t disturb that poor, dear scholarly girl; but unpack my things I simply must.”

Thanks to her mother’s excellent training, Leslie was a proficient in the art of stowing away things in small spaces; and before the gong for dinner sounded she had put all her belongings away, had arranged the screen round her washhand-stand, and had even brought out much-loved photographs of her mother and her brother Llewellyn to ornament the top of her chest of drawers. These gave a home look to the room, and she glanced at them with satisfaction. Her bedstead, turned into a sofa by day by means of a crimson rug, was now tidy and in order, and Leslie sat down on the edge of it waiting for Annie Colchester to stir.

The second gong pealed through the house, and Annie suddenly started to her feet.

“Good gracious! Oh, I forgot all about you. What is your name?”

“Leslie Gilroy.”

“Leslie Gilroy, please tell me if that is the first or second gong?”

“The second,” replied Leslie.

“And who are you?” continued Annie Colchester, gazing in a sort of vacant way at her roomfellow.

“The girl who has come to share your room.”

“And you have put all your things away and made no noise? Excellent! Did you say that that was the second gong, Miss——”

“Leslie Gilroy is my name.”

“Is that the second gong?”

“The second gong sounded two or three minutes ago.”

“Then we must fly. Oh, never mind our hands. Ink? Yes, I have ink on my hands and on my face and on my hair; but never mind, never mind; they know me now. I am called ‘Inky Annie.’ I rather glory in the name.”

“But I should have thought that a mathematical scholar would have been the essence of order,” said Leslie. “Surely mathematics ought to conduce to order of mind and body.”

“You know nothing whatever about it,” said Annie, casting a withering glance at Leslie. “I wonder if you are clever or what you have come here for. Girls who are merely orderly have no niche at St. Wode’s. But you will learn doubtless; and if you are good-natured I will stick up for you of course. Come along now; you are a fresher, you know, this term, and will be treated accordingly.”

“But how are freshers treated, and why must I be given that unpleasant name?” asked Leslie.

“Custom, my dear—custom. We always call the new girls freshers; you’ll get used to it. No one is unkind to a fresher unless she makes herself disagreeable, which I rather guess you won’t.” Here Annie smiled brightly into Leslie’s face.

“Well, I hope we shall be good friends, and that I won’t inconvenience you,” said the other girl.

“You won’t if you are silent and keep to your side of the room. Now then, let’s join hands and fly downstairs.”

“Oh, yes, we are fearfully late, and the others have gone into the dining hall.”

“Well, come this way,” said Annie. “I’ll squeeze you into a seat by me, if you like, for this evening, Leslie Gilroy.”


Nearly one hundred girls were in the great dining hall. They were all seated at the different tables when Annie Colchester and Leslie Gilroy appeared. Annie went straight up to her own table, bowed somewhat awkwardly to Miss Frere the tutor, who was at the head, and then, seeing that the teacher’s eyes were fixed on Leslie, said in an abrupt voice:

“This is my roomfellow, Miss Leslie Gilroy, Miss Frere.”

“How do you do, Miss Gilroy?” said Miss Frere in a pleasant voice. “I think you will find a seat next to Miss Colchester. Move down a little, please, Jane,” she continued, turning to another girl with a rosy face and dark eyes. “Yes, there is plenty of room now. I will have a talk with you after dinner, if you like, Miss Gilroy.”

“Thank you, I shall be very glad,” replied Leslie. Her bright eyes and lovely face, her whole manner and pleasant expression, made many of the girls turn and glance at her; but nobody stared in at all an unpleasant manner.

The girl called Jane began to talk to Leslie, and told her some of the rules of the place. Leslie was glad to learn what she could; but her eyes anxiously glanced from table to table in the hope of once more seeing her two companions of the cab. Presently she observed Marjorie and Eileen seated at a table at the other end of the room. They were together, looking already quite at home and perfectly contented. They talked to one another; when they caught Leslie’s eyes they nodded to her in a pleasant, hail-fellow-well-met manner.

“Who are those two girls?” said Jane Heriot suddenly. “They are freshers like yourself, are they not?”

“I do not know much about them,” replied Leslie. “Yes; they have just come to St. Wode’s—their names are Marjorie and Eileen Chetwynd. They were kind enough to share a cab with me coming from the station, and seem to be very nice girls indeed.”

“I like their faces,” said Miss Heriot; “but what a funny way they do their hair. I don’t care for that short hair; do you?”

“Not personally,” replied Leslie; “but they seem nice girls and have handsome faces.”

“Yes, I am sure they are charming, and also out of the common. I only trust they won’t join the oddities. We have a few oddities here, of course. I am so glad you are not going to be one.”

As Jane spoke she glanced toward Annie Colchester, who looked back at her and nodded.

“I overheard you, Jane,” she said; “and you are perfectly welcome to speak of me as the oddity of all oddities. Miss Leslie Gilroy has found out that fact for herself already; have you not, Miss Gilroy?”

“I have found you quite willing to put up with the discomfort of having me in your room,” answered Leslie, coloring as she spoke.

“You are sure to have a room to yourself after this term,” said Jane Heriot. “This is always our most crowded term; but if Annie takes honors, which she is very likely to do, she will be leaving St. Wode’s, and then the governors will give you another room.”

The dinner proceeded. Leslie asked a few more questions of Jane, who always replied in a pleasant, intelligent manner; and, when the meal had come to an end, she asked Leslie if she would like to come with her to her own room.

“This is our debate evening,” she said. “I will bring you down to the hall presently, and introduce you to several of the girls; but now do come down to my room and have a chat. We don’t debate before half-past eight. I am sure we shall be friends.”

“But Miss Frere said something about wishing to see me after dinner,” said Leslie. “She is one of the tutors, is she not?”

“Oh, yes, such a darling; the dearest, sweetest woman on earth. But surely you don’t want to talk over books to-night?”

“Yes, I do. I should like to settle down to my work as quickly as possible.”

“Well, of course you can speak to Miss Frere; but I don’t think she can give you much of her time, for she is to open the debate. She is our classical tutor. Are you classical, Miss Gilroy?”

“No: I came here to study literature,” replied Leslie.

“In that case you won’t have anything to do with Miss Frere. Miss Maple is the tutor who will look after you and arrange your lectures. I will just speak to Miss Frere. Oh, come with me if you like; we can both speak to her.”

Jane Heriot slipped her hand through Leslie’s arm, drew her up the room to where Miss Frere was talking to a number of students, and then touched the tutor on the arm.

“Ah, my dear,” said Miss Frere, turning to Leslie, “you would like to have a little talk with me?”

“But, please, Miss Frere,” interrupted Jane, “Miss Gilroy has just told me that she is going to study literature.”

“In that case I am not the tutor who will have to look after you,” replied Miss Frere. “Shall I introduce you to Miss Maple now, or will you wait until the morning?”

“Do wait until the morning,” said Jane. “I am dying to show you my room; and afterwards you must come to hall. You won’t, of course, take part in the debate to-night, but you can look on and find out how far you are likely to enjoy yourself amongst us.”

“With so many temptations, I think I will wait to be introduced to Miss Maple until to-morrow,” said Leslie.

“I think you are acting wisely,” said Miss Frere; “and remember, if you want anything at any time, I shall be very glad to help you. I will speak to Miss Maple about you, and she will see you after prayers to-morrow.”

Leslie and Jane Heriot left the dining hall together. Annie Colchester had long since departed.

“Ought I not to go to her?” said Leslie; “she may think it rude.”

“Rude?” cried Jane with a laugh. “Annie think it rude to be left alone? She is hard at work at her studies already. Let me tell you, you will be in luck if you get into that room at all to-night, for one of her unpleasant habits is to lock the door, then she goes to bed without thinking anything more about it. Alice Hall, her last roomfellow, was once kept out of the room all night in consequence of Annie’s behavior. Poor Alice had to share my sofa-bed, and, I assure you, it was a tight fit.”

“In that case would it not be wise for me to run up immediately and remove the key?”

Jane Heriot laughed again.

“Excellent,” she said; “and Annie will never miss it. She is the most eccentric creature I ever met. Her brown-studies are too wonderful. We all laugh at her, but we all like her, for she really is a good old thing, although such an oddity. Well, I’ll come with you, for my room is in the same corridor. Let us go at once. There are two or three friends who are certain to come and see me to-night, and I should like to introduce you to them.”

Just as the two girls were about to ascend the stairs they met Eileen and Marjorie, who, arm in arm, were looking at the regulation board. As soon as they saw Leslie they turned to speak to her.

“I hope you are comfortable, Miss Gilroy?” said Marjorie. “We are—very.”

“Please introduce me, Miss Gilroy,” said Jane Heriot, touching Leslie on her sleeve.

Leslie did what was required.

“You don’t know anybody here yet, do you?” asked Jane, turning to Eileen.

“No,” replied Eileen; “one or two girls spoke to us at dinner, but——”

“In that case you had better come and join my party,” said Jane. “The girls will call on you to-morrow evening, so you must be at home; but they will not do so to-night, as it is the first night of term. Do come, both of you. Miss Gilroy is coming, and we shall make quite a cozy party.”

Eileen and Marjorie said they would be delighted to comply, and the girls went upstairs side by side. Leslie went to her own room, secured the key, slipped it into her pocket, and joined the rest on the threshold of Jane’s room.

Jane Heriot happened to have one of the prettiest and most tastefully arranged rooms in North Hall. It was a corner room, and had queer little nooks and crannies in all sorts of unexpected places. It was papered with a very artistic paper, and had a deep dado, which Jane herself had painted, with a running pattern of wild flowers and birds. Some good photogravures of pictures by Burne-Jones and Watts hung upon the walls, the curtains were of Liberty silk, the floor was covered with a self-colored drugget, the bed was turned into a tastefully arranged sofa and the chest of drawers was rendered unique and graceful by a piano cloth concealing its back. The screen which hid the washing apparatus was a Liberty one, and very pretty. A bright little fire burned in the grate, which was agreeable, as the evening was somewhat chilly. One of the windows stood slightly open, and the room was full of fresh air without draught.

“We must all go down to debate within an hour,” said Jane; “and then I hope you will return to my room, girls, for cocoa. I am giving a cocoa party to-night, you know.”

“How delightful!” said Leslie. “How pleasant everything seems to be!”

“When did you say the debate would begin?” asked Eileen.

“Within an hour.”

“Then you have time first to tell us something of your college life.”

“I can do so if you like. We have a great deal of liberty here; and, provided we don’t break the rules, we are not likely to get into hot water. The studious girls work as a rule in the morning, play games in the afternoon, and work again after dinner, until whatever hour they wish to go to bed. We are all expected to be in bed soon after midnight, and no one is allowed to be outside the gates after half-past ten, unless special leave is given. By the way, do you know any people in Wingfield, Miss Gilroy?”

“I have an introduction to one of the Dons, Mr. Matcheson,” said Leslie; “but I don’t know him yet.”

“Oh, you are in great luck if you get into the Matcheson set,” said Jane with a slight look of envy flitting across her face. “They are some of the nicest people in Wingfield, and they have such delightful Sunday evenings; they are sure to invite you to them. Do you know any people, Miss Chetwynd?”

“Not a soul,” said Marjorie, sinking down upon a corner of Jane’s sofa, “and I am not likely to,” she added; “for when once we take up our work in earnest we shall have no time for social frivolities.”

“Social frivolities!” repeated Jane; “but half the good of the place is its social life. You won’t get the benefit you ought to derive from a residence at St. Wode’s unless you take up the social as well as the learned side of the life.”

“I don’t understand you,” said Marjorie, knitting her pretty brows.

“I must try and explain. I see by Miss Gilroy’s face that she does.”

Leslie nodded and smiled.

“One of the many benefits of coming to college is to strengthen the social side of one’s character,” said Jane. “When Miss Frere or Miss Maple ask you to tea, they will discourse much on that point. A college girl ought to have wider sympathies, and to be less selfish all round, than a girl who knows only the ordinary home life. Oh, I have not a word to say against home girls, but certainly college life does strengthen one. Now, here we have heaps of opportunities; we know so many girls, we enter into their lives, we have a delightful feeling of comradeship. The wide outside world, which we get a glimpse of from our own dear little paradise, is most strengthening to our characters. You ask some of the older girls here what they think of St. Wode’s. They will tell you that it is a paradise, an oasis. We are all happy; devoid of care. And the hockey and tennis clubs, and the boating club—they are all so charming that we cannot but have a gay time. There are twenty boats belonging to St. Wode’s College; and on the long summer afternoons we go up the river a good distance, and very often do our work under the trees; so you can imagine how jolly everything is. But of course there are certain rules. No girl can belong to the boating club, for instance, unless she can swim in fifty feet of water.”

“I can stand that test,” said Marjorie eagerly, “and I should rather like to be in a boat. Eileen and I have rowed a good deal on the sea since we were quite children.”

“Can you swim, Miss Gilroy?” asked Jane.

“I am afraid I cannot,” replied Leslie; “but I don’t think I am much of a coward, and can soon learn,” she added. “You see I have spent all my life in London, and have not had a chance of learning.”

“Oh, if you are a London girl you ought to have courage for anything! Then, besides the boating club, we have our bicycle clubs, and our debating society, and our dramatic society. Oh, yes, it is a very full life, and those derive most benefit from the college who enter into it in its divers branches as much as possible.”

“All that social frivolity will not suit me,” said Marjorie, breaking the silence that followed Jane’s rapid flow of words.

“Why so?”

“Because my sister and I—I am sure I can speak for her as well as myself—have come here for a definite purpose. If we had stayed at home we should have gone in for all those other things. We know a very earnest student who belongs to this college, and she has given us quite different particulars with regard to the life. She did not speak of it as you have done, Miss Heriot.”

“May I know the name of that girl?” asked Jane.

“Certainly you may; she is a great friend of ours. I believe her room is in West Hall; her name is Belle Acheson.”

A queer, convulsed sort of look passed over Jane’s face for a quarter of a second, then vanished. She looked solemnly at Eileen.

“Are you a great friend of Miss Acheson’s?” she asked.

“Certainly. We have known her since we were children. But why do you inquire?”

“I am sorry—that is all,” said Jane.

“Sorry? What can you mean? Do you know her?”

“We all know her more or less. I have nothing to say against her personally except that she does not take the best the college affords. I hope you will not—— But forgive me. I am a stranger to you; I ought not to interfere.”

“It would certainly be better for you to say nothing more,” said Marjorie in her gentle voice. “Belle is a friend of ours. Yes,” she continued, “we have come here to learn, and we don’t wish to be narrow-minded; but we are quite determined that we will not waste our time nor our money in dress or ornaments.”

Here she glanced disapprovingly round the exquisitely furnished little room.

“We mean to work hard; we shall have no time for amusement.”

Jane muttered something under her breath; then she said cheerfully:

“I am not the one to lecture you. Come, what shall I show you? It will soon be time to go down to hall to the debate. Now, how can I amuse you?”

“We don’t want amusing,” said Eileen; “that’s just the very point we wish you to clearly understand. If you can tell us anything about the poor in Wingfield, or what philanthropic societies are started, or if there are classes for the teaching of cookery and domestic economy, we shall be greatly obliged to you.”

“But why did you come here?” said Jane, opening her eyes wide. “This is a place for the acquiring of academic learning, not for——”

“It is the place where Belle Acheson is acquiring her profound knowledge of life,” said Marjorie in a slow voice.

Jane looked at her with a puzzled expression.

Just then there came a tap at the door, and two girls named Alice and Florrie Smart, put in an appearance. They were fashionably dressed, and rushed up to Jane and kissed her.

“Dear old Janie, how are you?” said Alice.

“Oh, we have had such a jolly time,” interrupted Florrie. “We were out with the Davidsons all the afternoon, and thought we should be late. We wouldn’t miss the debate to-night for a thousand worlds. Freshers? Do I see freshers here? Pray introduce me, Janie.”

Jane performed her duties in a somewhat perfunctory manner. She was puzzled by Eileen and Marjorie, could not understand them, and was scarcely prepared to like them; but Leslie had already stolen into her heart.


“Are the graces forgotten by the modern woman?” was the subject of the debate that evening. The opener’s speech was made by Miss Frere, who boldly threw down the gauntlet, reminded the girls assembled before her of some of the perils which lay across their paths, and assured them that the old graces of politeness, of gentleness, of loving service, of all that made woman noble and graceful ought to be part of the new life which was opening its doors wider and wider each day for the happy modern girl.

“If in grasping the new we let go of the old, we make a vast mistake,” she continued, her eyes flashing with suppressed fire. “We leave out what has made woman noble and great in the past. We shut away deliberately a vast influence which would otherwise help to pervade the world, for a woman can be graceful, pleasant to look at, agreeable, and not silly. She may be sympathetic without being sentimental. She may be, in the best sense, womanly without sinking into a nonentity.”

Miss Frere’s words were full of feeling, and Leslie listened to her with an ever-growing admiration. In such tones, with almost similar words, had her own mother often spoken to her. From that moment she believed in Miss Frere, and determined to do her utmost to secure the friendship of one who looked so noble and spoke so well.

Marjorie and Eileen, however, fidgeted, rumpled up their short locks, and glanced impatiently one at the other.

The opener’s speech lasted about twenty minutes; then came the speech from the opposition. Marjorie could not help starting as she heard Belle Acheson’s well-known voice. Her words were forcible and full of power, put together with much grammatical fluency, and absolutely to the point. She did her utmost to crush Miss Frere, declaring that if woman, the modern woman, who had such a vast work before her, was to spend her life devoting herself to the pleasures of the toilet, to society, to mere ornamentation, to the thought of what others would think of her, she would be frittering away her birthright, and would be a despicable creature.

“There are no two sides,” cried Belle. “Woman has got to choose. If she means to take up her whole mission, she must drop that which has hindered her in the past; she must cast away her crutch and stand alone.”

“Hear! hear!” burst from some of the students whose ideas coincided with Belle’s.

“For shame!” muttered others.

“Yes,” continued Belle, raising her short-sighted eyes and glancing down the hall to right and left of her. “I repeat once again that there are no two sides. I disagree with Miss Frere in toto. Away with shams! Away with shams!”

As Belle said the last words she brought down her hand upon the table with a great clap which caused the glass and bottle of water standing upon it to rattle ominously.

There was a stamping of feet when she sat down. Marjorie and Eileen looked no longer displeased; their eyes were bright and their cheeks flushed.

“Dear old Belle,” whispered one of the girls to the other; “it is quite refreshing to hear her and to see her again.”

“How true to her colours she is,” said Eileen. “I respect her more than words can say.”

After the speeches from the opener and the opposition, the debate proceeded with enthusiasm. Girls argued for Miss Frere and against Miss Frere; but finally, when the summing-up was over, Miss Frere was able to declare that she had a small victory on her side. She then thanked the girls for their polite attention, hoped that those who differed from her would by and by see matters in another light, and broke up the debate.

It was now past ten o’clock; and Jane, turning to Leslie, reminded her that she had promised to join the cocoa party in her room.

“And I shall be delighted if your friends will come too,” she said. “Oh, I see they have joined Belle Acheson; I cannot help being sorry for them.”

“Is that girl Belle Acheson?” cried Leslie in some astonishment. “I only met the Chetwynds to-day, and they were speaking of her.”

“Belle is a perfect horror,” said Jane. “She leads the extreme party in the college; but I do not think anyone really likes her. Now, do come to my room.”

Four other girls were already assembled in Miss Heriot’s room. They had provided themselves with seats, and were lounging about in a very free-and-easy manner. Jane proceeded to make cocoa, chatting as she did so. All the talk was intelligent and bright. The girls drew Leslie into their midst, holding out affectionate hands of comradeship. They asked her eagerly about her former life, and what she had done in the way of study. When they heard that she had passed her London Matriculation, they congratulated her, and said that she would be sure to do well at St. Wode’s.

“And you will be popular too,” said Florrie Smart. “I can see that at a glance. Oh, I don’t mean to flatter; but you are not the sort who will go over to the Belle Acheson side.”

“I don’t think I shall,” replied Leslie gently. “I did not approve of what she said. My mother agrees entirely with Miss Frere.”

“And therefore you agree with Miss Frere; is not that so?” said Alice Smart.

“I love my mother more than words can say,” replied Leslie. The tears started to her eyes as she spoke. Florrie Smart held out her hand and gave Leslie an affectionate pressure on her arm.

“I quite understand,” she said. “Alice and I also have a mother—such a darling.”

“But I do wish you had a room to yourself, you poor old thing,” said Alice Smart. “Miss Colchester is a well-meaning creature; but to live with her—oh, it would be a real trial!”

“And I wonder what Miss Gilroy will do when the other girls call on her,” said Jane. “Annie will be so cross; she won’t make herself the least bit agreeable. She is learning-mad; that is the only word I can say for her.”

“I must make the best of it, however matters turn out,” said Leslie. “I am only sorry that Miss Colchester is not a little more tidy; but I dare say I shall get on with her very well.”

“And you know you can make your own part of the room as pretty as you please,” said Florrie, speaking again. “You ought to go to Hunt’s, in the Broad, to-morrow; he is the decorator of all our rooms. Some of us spend a good deal over our rooms; others again are more economical. But Hunt will do the thing in any way you wish, and he won’t send in the account until the end of term. That latter fact is of importance to some of us, I can tell you.”

As Florrie said the last words she rose.

“I am too sleepy to stay up another moment,” she said, “fascinating as your cocoa-parties always are, Janie; but I was out so long this afternoon that I am half-dead with sleep.”

“And I, too, am very sleepy,” said Alice, rising. “Janie, that cocoa was excellent. Ta-ta; sleep well.”

The girls nodded to Leslie, then to Jane Heriot, and the next moment Leslie was also bidding Miss Heriot good-night. She ran down the corridor to her own room. As she approached the door, a furious sound of someone pacing up and down fell on her ears. She felt glad that she had secured the key. She opened the door quickly, and then saw Annie, with her red hair flying wildly about her face and shoulders, pacing up and down the room. Annie was talking aloud with great force.

“What can be the matter?” said Leslie as she entered.

“Oh, is that you, my new roomfellow? Pray don’t disturb me. I have just reached the bottom of a problem; but my brain nearly went in the effort. I see it at last; it is magnificent. I do wish you were mathematical; you could rejoice with me.”

Leslie glanced at her with a smile.

“I don’t know anything whatever about mathematics,” she said; “but, at least, I won’t disturb you.”

She moved softly to her own end, sat down on a corner of her sofa-bed, and taking up her Bible read a verse or two before she went to bed. The familiar words quieted her overexcited heart. She thought of her mother at home, of Llewellyn, and of the younger children; and for the first time a rush of real loneliness visited her.

“But I won’t give way to it,” she said to herself. “Strange as it all is at the present moment, I am certain I shall find it delightful by and by. I intend to make the very best of everything. Poor Annie Colchester—has she a chance to sleep with that terrible mental excitement? I only trust I shan’t go mad over literature in the way she does over mathematics.”

Annie, having worn off some of her surplus excitement, had again sunk down by her desk; her face was buried in her hands, and she was sighing in a feeble sort of fashion. Leslie went up and touched her on her shoulder.

“You ought to go to bed,” she said; “you are absolutely weary from all that work.”

“To bed?” said Annie. “Just feel my brow.” She caught hold of Leslie’s slim hand and held it to her forehead.

“It does burn awfully,” said Leslie. “You really ought not to work too hard.”

“But I must; you can never guess what depends on my work. There, I ought not to confide in a new girl and on the first night.”

“Tell me anything that will comfort you,” said Leslie in a voice full of sympathy. “I quite understand home life, if it is that you allude to.”

“I don’t. I never knew home life, and I cannot possibly tell you to-night, nor, perhaps, ever; but I am willing to say this much: There is a great, a terrible reason why I must succeed. If I take honors in mathematics all will be well, if not—— Don’t ask me any more, Miss Gilroy.”

“Well, at least, let me help you to go to bed,” said Leslie.

“To bed, with this head of mine! It is almost on fire, and my feet are like ice. I could not possibly sleep. I often lie awake until morning. When matters are very bad, I rise and pace the floor. You won’t mind, will you, if you hear me pacing between two and four, because I do so most nights?”

“I am sorry,” said Leslie, trying to smother her own feelings of annoyance. “I mean I am sorry on your account; but you must go to bed now. I cannot share your room and not feel a certain amount of responsibility with regard to you. I will rub your feet and make them warm if you will let me, and if I put a handkerchief, wrung out of water, to your head the heat will soon leave it. Llewellyn was like that once or twice, and I always got him to sleep in that fashion. He fell asleep while I was rubbing. Oh, it is so soothing! Do let me try it.”

“You are a kind-hearted creature; but who in the world is Llewellyn?”

“My brother, and the darling of my heart.”

“Your brother, the darling of your heart,” echoed Annie. A queer expression filled her eyes; they flashed with sudden fire. She started to her feet.

“I am glad you are my roomfellow,” she said impulsively. “I feel that by and by we shall be friends. Do give me your hand; put it on my forehead. It is true that you have a soothing touch.”

“The thing to remember just now,” said Leslie, speaking as brightly as she could, “is that it is almost twelve o’clock. It is very wrong indeed of you to be up so late; and when did you eat anything last? I happened to notice that you scarcely touched your dinner.”

“When did I eat? I can never eat when my brain is on fire.”

“Have you nothing in the room now—biscuits, or anything of that sort?”

“I have a dim sort of idea that a tin of very stale biscuits stands behind that rubbish on the top of the chest of drawers.”

“Stale as they are, they will be better than nothing. You must eat one. I shall get something better for you to-morrow. I am sure that I have been sent to this room to help you a little. Now, do take off your things, and get into bed. Try to remember that if you become seriously ill you won’t be able to help the person you mean to help; you won’t get your honors after all.”

“Are you certain? How seriously you speak!”

“Yes, I am quite certain. A sick brain never gets anything really worth having. My mother has told me that.”

“Your mother; but she must be a middle-aged woman.”

“I do not see what that has to do with it; and at any rate she is only a little over forty.”

“Oh, she is more than middle-aged. She belongs to the dead and gone woman, who never did anything worth speaking of in her life.”

“You are vastly mistaken,” said Leslie, with spirit. “You would not say that if you knew her. My mother is a journalist, and makes a very good income with her work. I don’t think anyone could write a better leader than she, and as to her pars., they are quite the best the Grapho ever receives.”

“Does your mother write for the Grapho?”

“Yes, and for several other leading papers. She is on the staff of the Daily Post.”

“You astound me. She must be a well-informed woman.”

“She does know a few things,” said Leslie, trying to suppress a smile. “Now, please get into bed; for, if you are not tired, I am.”

“Well, just to please you, and as it is your first night. You are a nice creature. I saw that the moment you entered the room, and I am truly sorry I am your roomfellow, for I know I shall worry you terribly. I may as well tell you frankly that annoy you I shall, for I cannot possibly help myself. If I get mathematics on the brain I always go the whole length, and that means pacing the floor and mumbling problems to myself, sometimes for hours. As to tidiness, I have known myself to fling a book from one end of the room to the other in a fit of excitement. I only trust none of my books may hit you by mistake.”

“I echo that wish,” said Leslie; “but, as I have got a screen, I shall put it round my bed now that you have warned me. Please get into your own bed now, for I do not mean to sleep until I see you comfortable, and I am dead tired.”

Annie opened her red-brown eyes very slowly, and fixed them on Leslie’s face.

“To oblige you, I’ll do what you wish,” she said.

She tumbled into bed, did not attempt to say her prayers, flung her head on the pillow, and closed her eyes.

“How my temples do beat,” she said with a sort of a sob, “and my legs are icy up to my knees, and——”

“Drink this cold water to begin with,” said Leslie. “You are under my care now, and must submit to my directions.”

She brought a glass of ice-cold water, and held it to Annie’s lips.

“Oh, thank you; I was so terribly thirsty!” Annie drained the glass off and returned it to her companion.

“You are good,” she repeated. She flung her head down again on her pillow.

Leslie got out one of her own handkerchiefs, wrung it out of cold water, and laid it upon Annie’s brow. Then kneeling down, she softly unfastened the bedclothes, and began to rub the girl’s feet. She did this softly and rhythmically, as she had done often and often for Llewellyn when he was in his fits of literary despair. By slow degrees her efforts took effect; Annie’s groans grew less, her eyes closed, and in half an hour she was asleep.

“Poor thing!” thought Leslie. “I shall see to her having a nice meal to-morrow evening. I shall make her give me some of her money to get the needful things with. We will have our own spirit-stove and a saucepan, and I will buy milk and cocoa. When she has taken something hot, which will be much better than cold water, and goes to bed really warm, she will sleep. I only trust she won’t wake between two and four o’clock, for I am dead tired.”

Remembering Annie’s warning, Leslie put the screen round her bed, next tumbled in; thought that the bed with the broken spring was anything but comfortable, but then reflected that she was too tired to care. She was at St. Wode’s; the dream of her life was fulfilled, and even Annie Colchester could not keep her awake.


Eileen and Marjory had found their way to Belle’s hall. They were standing in the attic which she had described to them so graphically.

“I cannot imagine how you managed to furnish it in this extraordinary way,” began Eileen. “I have heard from one or two of the girls here that the furniture is put in by the heads of the college. Now, our rooms, for instance, are quite decently furnished.”

“Too much furniture,” interrupted Belle. She uttered a groan as she spoke.

“The rooms certainly possess the necessary comforts of civilized life,” pursued Eileen, “and for my part I cannot say that I am sorry. We have no luxuries; but the furniture in the room is good and neat. We have a chest of drawers each, and proper washhand-stands of course, and snug little sofa-beds, and carpets, and curtains to the windows, and——”

“Need you quote any further from that tiresome list?” said Belle again. She was standing by her small attic window with her back to the view.

“One thing is delightful in this room,” said Eileen, running up to the window as she spoke. “You have a splendid view—much better than ours. Do step aside, Belle, and let me look out.”

“If you wish to,” said Belle drearily.

“Wish to! I always love scenery. Surely, Belle, you cannot think it wrong to look out at this lovely view?”

“No, not wrong exactly,” said Belle; “not wrong; but I have little heart to admire anything to-day. I am disappointed, and I must own it.”

“Now, what have we done to annoy you?” said Marjorie.

“Much,” replied Belle. She looked fixedly from one sister to the other. “I had hoped a great deal before you arrived; but already the keenest sense of disillusionment is mine. You are neither of you beginning your college life as I could have hoped. There are two attics on the same floor with this, which you might have got had you given me the management of your affairs. I should have gone to Miss Lauderdale and represented the case to her. I believe she would have been very glad to let them to you. The college is overfull at present, and yet no girls wish to use the attics. These attics are at present unfurnished, and the college would, doubtless, when the matter was properly represented, allow you to have them as bare as you pleased. They did so in my case. I represented that it would be a saving. I managed the thing somehow, and here I am. It is true that I dread the governors visiting my room and ordering some of those useless articles which the other girls weaken their characters by using. But you did not put the matter into my hands, your old friend; and now you are accommodated with some of the nicest rooms in college.”

“Oh, never mind; don’t worry any more about the furniture,” said Eileen. “It seems to me that one can waste time in trying to lead the existence of the anchorite as well as in endeavoring to surround one’s self with luxuries.”

“One thing, at least, we will promise you, Belle—we are not going in for any extras—no pictures nor knick-knacks for us.”

“Thank Heaven!” said Belle, with a deep sigh. “Had you done so, I must have cut you.”

“Don’t you think that would have been rather narrow of you?” said Marjorie.

“Narrow or not, I should have felt it my duty to do it. I have my eccentricities—I own to the fact—and I will cling to them through thick and thin. What you said just now was quite right, Eileen; we will drop the subject of furniture. After all, what does it matter whether one has a chest of drawers or not, whether one has a suitable washhand-stand or not? Are these the things we live at St. Wode’s for? What about the intellect, what about the development of the brain? Your brows are capable of expansion, your eyes are capable of acquiring depth, your——”

“Hear! hear!” said Eileen.

“Do not interrupt me with that senseless remark. I speak to you from my soul. You come here to study, to forget yourselves in the great riches of the past. You are like two miners come to dig out the gold. You have heard of that awful place, Klondike, where people go mad over earthly gold. Yours is the intellectual, the spiritual, the gold which is treasured in the great storehouses of the past.”

As Belle spoke she paced up and down the room. Her dress was very untidy, and there was a great rent behind. While she was speaking there came a soft tap at the door. She did not hear it. Eileen went and opened it. Lettie stood without.

“Dear me, Lettie, do come in,” said Eileen. “We have not seen you for quite a long time—nearly twenty-four hours.”

She kissed her cousin as she spoke.

“How are you getting on?”

“Capitally,” said Lettie. “I went to your rooms in North Hall and heard that you were here. You did not visit me, so I thought Belle might be engrossing your society. How are you, Belle?”

“Well, thank you,” replied Belle, in an absent voice. “By the way, are you?—oh, yes! I remember now; you are—the girl who ought never to have come to St. Wode’s.”

“You are quite mistaken,” replied Letitia with spirit. “I am a girl who will be very much benefited by the pleasant life which I see opening before me. By the way, Eileen and Marjory, I am going to the Broad now. There are a lot of things I require for my room. I thought perhaps you would like to come too. You will want shelves for your books and a few knick-knacks and——”

“If you go with that young person——” said Belle, making a step forward. She approached Eileen and almost glared into her face.

Eileen laughed.

“Dear Belle, do finish your sentence,” she said. “What is to happen to me if I dare to go to the Broad with poor Lettie?”

“You make my soul sink in despair,” said Belle. “I scarcely know what I feel; my heart is wrung. Oh! how you disappoint me!”

“Whether you buy things or not, Eileen, do come with me,” said Lettie. “I don’t know my way to the Broad at present, and would rather be with you than alone. Whatever you may do in the future, please remember that I am your first cousin, almost your sister, and we have lived together all our lives.”

“Of course, dear Lettie, we will both come,” said Eileen. “Belle, we will visit you another day; we are only interrupting your work now.”

“I was resting when you arrived,” said Belle. She threw herself tragically back against one of the hard-bottomed chairs. “Go—yes go; I don’t expect to see much of any of you. It is the fate of those who would explore, who would delve in the mines of the past, to bring up diamonds alone; we are solitary in our labor. I had a hope, it is true, when I saw you in London; but never mind. Go, all of you; there is the door—go!”

“I wish you’d let me mend your dress first,” said Lettie, whipping a neat little housewife out of her pocket and preparing to thread a needle.

“Mend my dress?” said Belle. “What do you mean?”

“If you will just stand with your back to the light, you can go on thinking and talking; I won’t be a minute sewing up that awful rent. You are not respectable as you are. Now, do let me.”

“Yes, do, Belle; don’t be a goose,” said Marjorie.

Belle’s eyes flashed. Lettie was already attacking her with needle and thread. The rent was presently sewn up.

“I tell you what it is,” said Lettie good-humoredly, “I’m not half such a bad soul as you make me out. Now that I happen to be in the same hall——”

Belle shivered.

“I’ll run up to this desolate attic, now and then, and look after your wardrobe.”

“You won’t; for I shan’t admit you,” said Belle.

“Yes, I will. I shall take opportunities of coming in when you are absent. You are a friend of Marjorie and Eileen; and, for the sake of their respectability, you must not go about in absolute rags. Now, come, girls, and leave her in peace.”

Belle approached her attic window. She stood now with her back to the girls and her face to the view; but it is to be doubted if she saw it. Her dress, a dirty serge, trailed along the floor, one wisp of her thin hair had escaped from the little knot at the back of her head, and was lying on her shoulder.

“Poor Belle,” said Eileen, with a sigh.

“I tell you what it is, girls,” said Lettie, as she went downstairs. “Belle is such an oddity that, if something is not done to save her, she will soon lose her senses. I mean to hunt her up. I was wondering last night what my mission in this place could be. I little thought that I was to be inflicted with Belle Acheson.”

“She certainly doesn’t wish for you, Lettie, so you needn’t take her up unless you like,” said Eileen.

“Oh, I must do something,” said Lettie; “that fact has been well borne in upon me—it is to be Belle Acheson or nothing. No trial could well be greater. I hope I shall benefit by it. But come now; I want to order my things.”

“Must you order them to-day?”

“Of course I must. My room is disgracefully bare; and as I have plenty of money I mean to make it as pretty and cheerful as possible, and as like a dream.”

“Have your lectures been decided for you yet?” said Eileen, in a would-be stern voice.

“Yes; I saw Miss Browning after breakfast. I am going to work a little bit at literature.”

“A little bit at literature! Lettie, you are perfectly awful.”

“Well, I’m not going to kill myself, darling, if that’s what you mean. Of course I shall work for so many hours a day; but I don’t think I shall take honors. If I get through my pass exam., I shall consider that I am doing admirably. Now do come, girls; hurry up. You must have tea with me to-morrow in my room. I expect I shall know all the nicest girls in the place; they are going to call on me most likely this evening. Oh, I shall make my room perfectly sweet. You will all love to come to me; and if I can wheedle that poor old Belle out of her den, I shall feel that I have achieved a triumph. But tell me now, girls, how you are both getting on?”

“Very well, indeed,” said Eileen.

“And you are not going to buy pretty things for your rooms?”


“At least let me recommend you to provide yourselves with a tea-service each; because if other girls invite you to tea you must return the compliment. Then they give endless cocoa parties here, and you will be expected to take your share.”

“I don’t see that at all,” replied Eileen. “If we are bound to entertain a great deal at St. Wode’s, we may just as well stay with mother in London. I mean to ask Miss Frere about the poor; surely we can visit them if we like?”

“I don’t know anything about that,” said Letitia. “To quote your own words, you have come here to study. Surely you can visit the poor when you college life is over?”

“We can at least make clothes for them; that is a good idea,” said Marjorie.

“Much better than visiting them,” cried Letitia. “You can buy yards of holland and any other stiff, disagreeable, pricky material you like, and work away in your leisure hours when the rest of us are having fun. By the way, have you seen Miss Gilroy this morning?”

“Two or three times. Poor girl, I rather pity her. She is in a room with a dreadful creature of the name of Annie Colchester.”

“How pretty Miss Gilroy is,” said Lettie. “Might we not call and ask her to come to the Broad with us? She is sure to want things for her room.”

“Just as you please,” said Eileen. “I’ll run up to Miss Colchester’s room and find out if she is in.”

Lettie and Marjorie remained on the sweep of gravel outside the hall. Eileen ran into the house. In a few minutes she returned, accompanied by Leslie.

“This is really kind of you,” said Leslie. “I was wondering how I could get to the Broad, for I don’t know many girls yet; but I am told that some of the students will call on me to-night.”

“They are to call on us, too,” said Eileen. “It is rather formidable, is it not?”

“But, Miss Gilroy, don’t you want to buy things for your room?”

“A few things I must have,” said Leslie, “but I rather despair of making a room shared with Miss Colchester pretty; all the same, I will do my best.”

The girls visited Hunt’s well-known shop in the Broad and gave their orders. Lettie’s were extensive. She must have pictures. Burne-Jones’ “Love among the Ruins,” “The Happy Warrior” by Watts, “St. Cecilia and a Choir of Angels” by Van Eyck, and other treasures were secured. Knick-knacks also were bought by the young lady, who had a keen eye to effect. She bought big jars of dark-blue china, a few cups and saucers, two or three plates, a fan or two, a couple of screens, a few æsthetic-looking tablecloths, and a piano-cloth to cover the back of her chest of drawers. A pretty little tea-service, a brass kettle, and a tea-table which could fold up and be put out of the way when not needed for use, were also secured. Finally she treated herself to a great bunch of flowers and some flowering plants.

Her purchases took time, and in spite of themselves Eileen and Marjorie were interested. After a great deal of persuasion they were induced to buy a table and some very plain cups and saucers.

“We will not get any more; it is downright sinful waste,” said Marjorie, frowning as she spoke.

“All right,” said Lettie. “I am not going to influence you. You are at present under the awful eye of Belle Acheson. By and by you will see for yourselves that it is the height of nonsense not to live in comfort when you can. Now, look at Miss Gilroy; she has more sense than to make herself miserable when she need not.”

“I certainly do not intend to make myself miserable,” said Leslie. “There are several useful purchases that I must make. I have the misfortune,” she continued, glancing from one girl to the other, “to sleep in the room with a genius, and must provide accordingly.”

“It is such a pity you cannot have a room to yourself,” said Eileen. “I trust the annoyance won’t last long.”

“I hope not,” said Leslie. “Yes, I must have one of those pretty art table-cloths, and then I want to go to a grocer’s where I can buy cocoa and biscuits and tinned milk.”

After a good deal of time spent in making their various purchases, the girls returned to the college well laden. They met several of their companions, who nodded to them kindly.

“I consider that we are now settled in college and that our real life begins to-morrow,” said Leslie. “I have arranged about my work, and mean to study hard after dinner to-night.”

“You won’t have much chance of that,” said a merry voice, and Jane Heriot came up.

“Why so?” asked Leslie.

“How do you do?” said Jane, nodding to the two Chetwynd girls. She then turned to Leslie.

“I will tell you why you won’t have any chance, Miss Gilroy. A whole party are coming to visit you in your rooms this evening; it is the custom, and you must submit. You will see half of us to-night and half of us to-morrow; but after that you will be left in peace. If you like our society you can have it; if you don’t—why, you can keep as lonely as you like. But this evening and to-morrow you must put up with us; it is the fate of all freshers.”


In less than a week’s time the four freshers were completely settled into the life at St. Wode’s. They had their work marked out for them, the lectures they were to attend were definitely arranged, the books they were to read were selected, some from the library, some from Green’s in the Broad. They joined the tennis, racquets, and boating clubs; Eileen and Marjorie, having submitted to the necessary test, were made full-blown members of the latter club immediately. Leslie had to take a few swimming lessons before she could do so.

Annie Colchester had begun to make friends with Leslie. She submitted to her roomfellow’s ministrations at night, gulping down the cup of hot cocoa which Leslie, evening after evening, presented to her, drinking it, it is true, as one in a dream, her red-brown eyes looking far ahead of her, her heavy brows contracted in an anxious frown. Nevertheless she got into bed in reasonable time, and Leslie saw that her feet were no longer cold nor her forehead burning.

Leslie determined to try for honors in English language and literature. Her tastes all lay in this direction, her idea being by and by to follow her mother’s profession of journalism, for which she already showed considerable aptitude. As she intended to aim at a first, or, at least, second class, her range of study was very wide; and German, French, and Italian literature had to be more or less understood in order to give her a thorough and complete grip of her subject. But Leslie was a healthy girl; she had been well trained, she had plenty of self-possession, and an abundance of strong common-sense. She had no idea of allowing herself to break down. In order to avoid such a catastrophe, she divided her hours carefully, allowing a certain amount for recreation and a certain amount also for the guiding of her wayward companion, to whom, as the days went on, she became really attached.

As to Annie herself, this was the first time she had ever permitted the advances of any student. This large room at St. Wode’s had been more or less of a worry to the governors, and it was finally settled, when Annie’s time to leave the college arrived, that it should be divided by a partition and let in future to two students. Up to the present no girl had ever stayed more than one term with Annie. Remembering this, Annie, one day toward the middle of the term, raised her eyes from her books and fixed them on Leslie.

“You will be glad when the term is over, won’t you?” she said abruptly.

“What do you mean?” replied Leslie.

“Why, you will be parting from me, you know. I won’t be the constant worry and plague of your life. If I take honors I shall be leaving St. Wode’s. In any case, you are quite certain to wish for another room, and to get it also next term. If I do remain, therefore, I shall be plagued with some terrible student of the Florrie Smart or Jane Heriot style. I nearly went mad over the last one; you can scarcely guess what a relief you are, by way of contrast.”

“Thank you very much indeed for saying anything so nice,” replied Leslie; “and perhaps now you will allow me in my turn to make a remark. It is this: If by any chance you don’t leave St. Wode’s, Annie, I hope you will allow me to be your roomfellow again next term.”

“Do you mean it?” said Annie, a flash of light coming into her eyes, and then leaving them. “But,” she added abruptly, “you speak of something which must not take place. I must pass in honors; if I don’t I shall die.”

“And you are certain to succeed,” said Leslie in a tone of sympathy. “I wish I could feel as sure of taking honors by and by in literature. I find these modern languages so very stiff.”

“What are you studying now?” asked Annie.

“I have to take German literature from 1500 to the death of Goethe,” said Leslie. “The course is enormous, and I am sometimes almost in despair.”

“But you have only just come; you can easily manage, and in any case, even if you fail——”

“I do not mean to fail any more than you do,” replied Leslie.

Annie did not smile. Her queer red-brown eyes with their distended pupils gazed straight before her.

“It can never mean the same to you,” she said at last in a solemn voice, and then she looked down again at her book, pushed her hands through her red locks, and resumed her contemplation of the problem which lay before her.

A few moments later there came a tap at the door. Annie did not hear it. Leslie opened the door.

Jane Heriot stood without.

“These letters have just come for you and Annie Colchester,” she said: “and, as I was coming upstairs, I thought I would leave them with you.”

Leslie thanked her and eagerly grasped the little parcel. There were two letters for herself—one from her mother and one from Llewellyn. Her eyes shone with pleasure at the anticipation of the delightful time she would have reveling in the home news; the other letter was directed to Annie Colchester.

Now Leslie had not failed to remark that Annie seldom or never got letters, that she had made no real friends in the college, and that, as far as she could tell, she seemed to have no special friend anywhere.

“Here is a letter for you, Annie,” cried Leslie. “I am so glad that you have got one at last——”

She took the letter as she spoke over to Annie, who started up, dropped her pen, and stood with both hands outstretched.

“It has come,” she cried: “at last I have news.”

Her face grew suddenly white as death.

“What is it, dear?” said Leslie with sympathy.

“At last I have news,” repeated Annie. “I have been starving, or, rather, I have been thirsting. You cannot tell what a thirst like mine means; and this, this is a cup of cold water.”

“Well, read it in peace,” said Leslie. “I won’t disturb you. I am truly glad it has come.”

Leslie seated herself with her back to her companion and opened her own letters. After a time she looked round. Annie was standing just where she was when she received the letter; both her hands were clutching it tightly, her eyes were fixed upon the written words, and her face was white.

“Have you had bad news?” said Leslie.

“Don’t notice me,” replied Annie. She crushed the letter up tight, thrust it into her pocket, and said abruptly, “What is the hour?”

“It is quite late—between ten and eleven.”

“I don’t care. I must go into the grounds; the air is stifling.”

“But they are just shutting up.”

“I shall go—I know a way. Don’t say a word. I’ll be back presently.”

She seized a small cloth cap which she was fond of wearing, and ran out of the room.

Leslie stood and thought about her for a moment or two; but then her own correspondence absorbed her, and she did not notice when eleven and even twelve struck.

Just after midnight she rose with a sigh to prepare for bed. She looked round the room. There was no sign of Annie Colchester.

“How stupid of me to have forgotten about her,” she thought with compunction. “She ought to have been in bed and to have taken her cocoa an hour ago. Oh! now I remember; she got a letter which upset her very much and went out. Dear, dear! where can she be?”

Leslie went to the window and flung it open; she put her head out, and tried to peer into the darkness; but the moon had already set, and she could not see more than a couple of yards in front of her. She ventured to call Annie’s name softly; there was no reply. She shut the window.

“There is nothing for it but for me to go and look for her,” she said to herself. “She is a very queer, erratic creature; and that letter—there was bad news in that letter. Poor girl, she spoke of it as cold water to the thirsty; she looked when I saw her last as if it had half killed her. What can she be doing out by herself? Yes, I must find her without delay.”

Leslie left the room; but she had scarcely gone a dozen paces down the corridor before she met Annie returning. Annie’s eyes were very bright, her cheeks were no longer pale, and there was a brilliant color in them. She did not take the least notice of Leslie; but, going into the room, shut the door. Leslie opened it and followed her.

“Dear me, Annie!” she said, “I was quite frightened about you.”

“Don’t begin,” said Annie.

“Don’t begin! What do you mean?”

“I mean that I don’t want you to begin to ask questions. I am going to get into bed, and to remain perfectly quiet, and you are not to ask me one question about anything. I want to sleep. I walked up and down as fast as ever I could outside in order to make myself sleepy. Don’t talk to me, Leslie; don’t say a single word. I shall go off to sleep—that is all I care for.”

“But your letter, dear?”

“Don’t,” said Annie. “I am not going to confide in you; so don’t think it. I only want to get into bed and to sleep.”

Leslie did not venture to say any more. She lit the little spirit-lamp, put on the milk to boil, and prepared the cocoa as usual. When Annie’s cup was ready, brimful and frothy, and looking as tempting as it could, she brought it to her with a biscuit.

“Now, drink this at once,” she said in a voice of authority, “if you really wish to sleep.”

Annie stared vacantly at the cocoa, then she uttered a laugh.

“Drink that?” she said. “Do you want to kill me? Don’t talk any more. I am sleepy; I shall sleep.”

She got into bed as she spoke, and wrapped the clothes tightly round her.

“Oh, do turn off the electric light,” she said again. “Can’t you manage with a candle, just for once?”

“Certainly,” said Leslie.

She turned off the light, and lit a candle, which she put behind her screen, then prepared to get into bed.

Annie’s manner was very mysterious. There was no doubt that she had got a shock; but of what nature Leslie could not in the least make out. There was no help for it, however. Annie did not mean to confide in anyone that night, and the kindest thing was to leave her alone.

“By and by I must get her to tell me,” thought Leslie; “but there is no use in worrying her now.”

Tired out, Leslie herself dropped asleep. She was awakened in the middle of the night. What was the matter? She heard the sound of someone running swiftly. There was a sort of wind in the room. She sat up in bed.

“Annie, is that you?” she called out.

There was no reply, but the sound of hurrying steps came quicker and quicker—now and then they were interrupted by a groan.

Leslie lit her candle and peered into the darkness. She now saw that Annie was running backwards and forwards in her part of the room.

“Annie!” she said again.

There was no reply, the steps went a little faster, and the groans came oftener, then the following words fell upon Leslie’s ears:

“Oh, this will kill me; my heart will break. This will kill me!”

“What is the matter, Annie, dear?” said Leslie again. She hastily put on her dressing-gown, and with candle in hand advanced to where the other girl was pacing. Annie’s eyes were open; one glance showed Leslie that she was walking in her sleep.


Leslie knew that she must on no account awaken her. Approaching her softly, she took her hand. Annie immediately stopped in her wild pacings; she did not withdraw her hand from Leslie’s. Leslie led her toward the bed, taking care not to speak. Using a little force, she got Annie to sit down on the edge of the bed; then raising her feet gently she covered her with the bedclothes, and stood by her, still retaining her hand. After a time, Annie seemed to feel the comfort of that warm pressure; she ceased to moan, her eyes closed, the frown vanished from her brows, and she fell into a heavy sleep.

Leslie now knelt down and gazed into the face of the sleeper.

“What can be the matter with her?” she thought. “Can I find out? Is there any way in which I can comfort her? I wish mother were here. There is no doubt she is carrying a terrible heavy burden, and she won’t let anyone help her. What did that letter mean?”

The sleeper moaned heavily.

“This will kill me,” she muttered; “I can’t stand it.”

“God will give you strength, dear,” said Leslie aloud. She stooped and kissed Annie on her brow, then she went back to her own bed.

During the rest of the night Leslie hardly slept, but Annie never stirred. In the morning Annie got up, looking much as usual, but having not the slightest remembrance of the little scene through which both she and her roomfellow had lived during the night.

The day’s work began and continued. Annie was if possible even more assiduous in her studies. She had only one lecture to attend that morning, and, the moment it was over, returned to her desk by the open window, and worked away without intermission at her mathematics.

Leslie had three lectures to go to, and was thankful for this, as she did not care to be alone in the room with Annie.

“She won’t let me comfort her, and it is dreadful to see that dull look of agony and suffering in her eyes,” thought Leslie.

Immediately after luncheon that day, just as the girls were preparing to leave the dining-hall, Miss Penrose, the principal of South Hall, who always sat at a little table with a few favored pupils, stood up and sounded a silver gong. The girls immediately stopped, turned, and faced her.

“I wish to mention,” she said, “that Miss Lauderdale expects you all to come to East Hall at half-past eight this evening; the entire college is to meet there on a special and important matter. Miss Lauderdale is sorry that the notice is so brief. She begs, however, that the students, without exception, will attend to it. Those, therefore, who contemplated going out must send word to their friends that they will have to postpone their visits.”

Miss Penrose then immediately left the hall, and the girls went into the central hall and stood about discussing the sudden summons.

Leslie was eagerly pounced upon by the Chetwynds, who asked her what she thought Miss Lauderdale could want with them all. Just then Annie Colchester darted past the little group, and ran quickly upstairs.

“Annie!” called out Leslie to her, “you will be sure to be ready to go with me to East Hall this evening?”

Annie made no reply.

“She heard what Miss Penrose said,” remarked Eileen. “I noticed that she was standing by the door when the principal sounded the gong.”

“All the same, she does not always hear what is said,” replied Leslie. “She lives in a wonderful and strange world of her own. I often doubt if she notices what goes on around her.”

“Well, then, you had better remind her. By the way, do you object to us also coming with you to East Hall this evening?”

“I shall be very glad,” replied Leslie. “I have not seen much of Miss Lauderdale yet, and am most anxious to hear her speak to-night. I wonder what she can want with us all?”

“Well, there is no good in guessing,” said Eileen; “and besides it only wastes time. What do you mean to do this afternoon, Miss Gilroy?”

“I have not made any special plans.”

“Well then, won’t you come out on the water with us. You have passed your swimming test, so it is all right. Belle Acheson will be with us; we should like you to know her.”

Leslie promised to come, and the next moment ran up to her own room. Annie was already seated at her desk, and bending over her endless problems.

“We ought to be ready to start for East Hall at 8.25,” said Leslie as she came in. “You will be quite ready then, won’t you, Annie dear? I’ll put out your dress, and leave everything quite nice and neat for you.”

Annie gazed full up into Leslie’s face. When Leslie paused, she said abruptly:

“I do wish, Leslie Gilroy, you would not worry me.”

Leslie started back, looking hurt and dismayed.

“I don’t mean to worry you,” she said in a low voice. “Of course if you really feel that I worry you, I had better leave you alone.”

“You do annoy me dreadfully. I liked you very much yesterday, but I feel now that you are watching me all the time, and I can’t stand it. Do let me alone. Aren’t you going out? I know it is not necessary for you to spend all your time in study; but I am different. Do go and leave me. I don’t wish to be ungrateful; but I wish you would let me have the room to myself for a little.”

“I shall go by and by,” said Leslie coldly. She was more hurt than she cared to own. She left Annie’s window, and, going to her own side of the room, took up a novel and tried to bury herself in its contents. The other girls had promised to sing out to her, from the gravel sweep below, when they were ready. Until then, she would remain in her own side of the room, notwithstanding Annie’s objection to her doing so.

Annie went on muttering to herself, rustling her papers, and turning the leaves of her books; once or twice she dropped her pen; once a moan as bitter and laden with sorrow as those she uttered in the night burst from her lips. Leslie heard the moan, and found it impossible to forget her. She felt restless and unlike herself. After a time she got up, put her book back in its place, and walked to the door.

“Ah! thank goodness you are going,” said Annie.

“Don’t you think, Annie, you are a little unkind to me?” replied Leslie.

“Oh, what does a little unkindness matter?” said Annie. “Do you mind, as you are leaving the room, shutting that window. I have been enduring the tortures of a draught for the last hour, and have lately been suffering from neuralgia.”

“Oh, you poor thing,” said Leslie, penitent at once, “why did you not tell me so, or,” she added, “why did you not shut your own window?”

“Because I require fresh air,” said Annie, with that utter selfishness which had characterized her before Leslie came, and which had been growing a little better lately.

Leslie went to her window and shut it, sighed as she thought how close her part of the room would be when she returned later on; and then, putting on her hat and gloves, she ran downstairs.

She was met in the hall by Lettie. Lettie was extremely popular in her own hall of residence, and had made several friends already in North Hall. She now ran eagerly up to Leslie.

“The Chetwynds say you are coming boating with us?”

“Yes,” replied Leslie.

“And Belle Acheson is to be one of the party,” continued Lettie. “I think it well to tell you; you must be prepared for a very peculiar person. But you look worried, Miss Gilroy; is anything wrong?”

“Oh, nothing,” answered Leslie. “I am a little anxious about Annie Colchester.”

“That queer, red-haired girl? I saw her in chapel on Sunday.”

“There are many fine points about her,” said Leslie; “but I don’t think she is quite well, and I wish she would not work so hard. However, I won’t think of her now. I cannot do anything to help her just at present, and I mean to enjoy myself.”

“Then had not you better come down to the quay. I told the other girls I would bring you. The boat we are to have this afternoon is the Merry Alice. Did you pass your swimming test well?”

“I passed it last week, and was crowned with honors,” said Leslie with a merry smile. All her usual good spirits returned when she was out in the open air. The other girls came up, and Belle was duly presented to Leslie Gilroy. Belle was in a dark-brown zephyr dress, made in the simplest fashion, and a leather belt encircled her waist. On her head was a brown hat, mushroom-shaped, trimmed with a plain band of ribbon of the same color. She was drawing brown cotton gloves on her hands when the introduction to Leslie was made.

“This is our great friend, Miss Gilroy,” said Eileen in an affectionate tone.

Belle adjusted her spectacles, and looked full at Leslie out of her short-sighted eyes.

“How do you do?” she said abruptly. She then turned and spoke to Marjorie.

“Come on in front, please; I have something I specially wish to say to you on the subject of a life of absolute devotion. Those great truths which ought to agitate the souls of each man and woman worthy of the name have been specially borne in upon me during the last few hours. I have just been reading a passage which I should be glad to repeat to you.”

Marjorie went on a little unwillingly. Eileen stayed behind. Lettie looked at Leslie, and her eyes filled with laughter.

“There’s a slap in the face,” she said; “and to you, too, Miss Gilroy. Did I not tell you she was an oddity.”

“Now, Lettie,” said Eileen, in an imploring voice, “don’t laugh at poor Belle; don’t prejudice Miss Gilroy against her. If everybody else was quite as earnest and sincere, what a different world it would be!”

“What an appalling world it would be!” exclaimed Lettie; “it would not be endurable.”

They reached the boats. Eileen and Marjorie, who both rowed well, took the oars. Lettie sat in the stern and held the rudder ropes. Leslie and Belle thus found themselves facing each other. Lettie instantly guided their little craft into midstream.

“Yes,” began Belle, “I have submitted for one hour, under protest.”

As she spoke she looked full at Leslie.

“I don’t quite understand you,” said Leslie in some astonishment.

“I dare say you don’t, but my time is all marked out—I keep a time-table, and adhere to it rigidly. If you have not yet commenced such a valuable help to the spending of your time, let me recommend you to do so without delay. Now that I look at you more closely, I observe in your eyes a really serious light. Believe me, I am never mistaken in my judgment of anyone. Long, long ago I saw that those two dear girls behind us, who are using their muscular strength in propelling us downstream, had real intelligence, that fine brains filled their craniums. I regret to say that Miss Lettie Chetwynd, the young person who is steering us, is of different metal. I do not say that she has not her use in the world; but with her and hers I have nothing to do. Now you—what did you say your name was?”

“Leslie Gilroy.”

“You, Leslie Gilroy (what a very booky name!), have a meditative face; there is thought expressed in the firm curves of your lips. You may go far, you may fail; but, on the other hand, to you may be given a great success. Think what an awful responsibility is placed in your hands. You may use life in its fullness, or you may fritter your gifts and be a drone. May I ask you which life you mean to choose—the full or the empty?”

“I shall certainly aim for the full life,” replied Leslie in some astonishment. “Whether I succeed or not remains to be proved.”

“Your success depends on yourself—the single eye, remember, the untarnished soul——”

Belle’s words were interrupted by a burst of laughter from Lettie.

“I beg your pardon,” she said; “but really, Belle Acheson, you are too absurd for anything.”

Belle closed her eyes and slightly turned her back upon Lettie. She made no other reply of any sort.

“I know you mean kindly, Miss Acheson,” said Leslie, who could never bear to distress anyone; “but how can you know, as you have never seen me before, whether mine is an earnest character or not?”

“Ah, you little guess my capacity,” said Belle in a patronizing voice. “It is my habit to pass each girl, when I see her first, in mental review. Most, I must tell you frankly, require the merest glance to tell me what failures they are certain to be. By a flash of my eyes I can discern how petty and small are the qualities of their souls; but you, Miss Gilroy, have a well-developed soul. Up to the present you have never let it die. Think how awful it is to carry within your breast a dead soul!”

“Yes; it would be very bad,” said Leslie.

“Bad? Awful is the word to use. Strong language is required for such a terrible possession; but it is a fact that many people do. I may almost say that most do. A dead soul. Let us ponder the words; let the thought sink deep. You observe the fact of its existence in the dull and frivolous expression which looks out of so many eyes, in the poor aims which animate so many people, in the ignoble lives they lead. Ah! how great might man be if he could only soar!”

Here Belle raised her eyes to the sky.

“What a mercy she is not steering,” thought Leslie to herself. “We should all be in that bindweed at the other side of the river by now.”

“Belle, dear,” said Eileen, pushing out her foot and giving her friend a kick, “do, please, come down from the clouds. We were so anxious to introduce you to Miss Gilroy, and I am afraid you are frightening her. Don’t be quite so—so outré during your first interview.”

“Do I frighten you?” said Belle. “Am I outré?”

She almost glared into Leslie’s face.

“Miss Gilroy, whatever happens, I cannot but be myself.” As she spoke she started forward, and laid one of her very thin large angular hands on Leslie’s arm. The hand clutched the slight round arm so firmly that it was with difficulty poor Leslie could suppress a scream.

“Yes,” continued Belle; “I can stand things as they are no longer. Even my own familiar friends turn from me. Do you think I want to deceive you? Do you think for one single instant I want you to suppose that I am other than what I am—a girl, nay, a woman, whose aim in life is to dig deep into the vast mines of the mighty past, those great mines which have been left to us by the dead and gone. I want to acquire—why, do you suppose? In order to help my fellow-creatures, in order to impress upon them the greatness of eternity and the frivolity of time, in order, when I really pass away, that I may leave footprints behind me on the sands of time.”

“Hear, hear!” said Marjorie.

“Let us quote from Longfellow now; it would be most appropriate,” said Lettie from the stern.

“Marjorie,” said Belle, “I am sorry that you have interrupted me with that very silly remark. As to the young person in the stern, I refuse to acknowledge her existence; but you, Marjorie, are laughing at me.”

“Indeed, I am not,” said Marjorie.

“Nor do I laugh at you,” said Leslie. “I am sure you mean very well, indeed, and in some ways I agree with you. I also want to lead the earnest life.”

“Do you? Is that a fact? Tell me how you furnish your room?”

“But I cannot imagine what that has to do with it,” said Leslie.

“A vast deal, for it shows the real inclination of the soul. Is the soul going to steep itself in luxury, or is it going to cast away all hindrances, and run its race in fullness, in power? Is it to be clogged and hindered? Speak; don’t keep me in suspense. How have you furnished your room?”

“My half-room—I only possess half a room—was furnished for me by the governors of the college,” said Leslie. “It is true that I have added a few things, for I like pretty rooms. I like to look nice myself. My mother has always taught me to pay a great deal of attention to personal appearance.”

Belle heaved a deep sigh, and became instantly silent.

“Have you nothing more to say, Belle?” cried Marjorie.

“Nothing,” replied Belle. Her eyes were now shut. “I am disappointed.” She sat back in her seat, and did not trouble herself to glance at Leslie for some time.

“What a blessing for you,” whispered Lettie, bending forward from her place in the stern.

“But I am really sorry for her,” was Leslie’s gentle response. “She is full of earnestness; but she goes too far.”

“For goodness’ sake, don’t let her hear you. Her eyes are closed for the present, and she is only muttering to herself. What a comfort if she remains in that state for the rest of our row!”

“Belle,” said Marjorie, “what are you doing now? You are saying something; what is it?”

“When my nerves are ruffled, I always find that recitation is the greatest help to me,” said Belle. “I am reciting at the present moment a poem from one of our great writers. The frivolous fact that I am out on the water, being rowed by you and Eileen, that I am wasting some of the precious hours of a golden day, must be counteracted as far as possible. But stay; would you two girls,” here she glanced at Marjorie and Eileen, purposely avoiding both Leslie and Lettie, “would you two like me to recite aloud the poem in question?”

“Oh, for goodness’ sake, no!” cried Lettie; “that would be quite the last straw.”

“I don’t think,” said Belle glancing in Lettie’s direction, “that the remark of the young person who holds the tiller-ropes ought to be considered. What do you two say?”

“Of course Eileen and I would like it very much,” said Marjorie; “but Leslie is our guest, and we must consult her.”

“She would not appreciate,” said Belle; “but perhaps, as you say, she is your guest. Well, I submit. My disappointment has been deep with regard to Miss Gilroy.”

“Whether you are disappointed in me or not, please try to enlighten me by your recitation,” said Leslie, “for I should enjoy it of all things.”

“I don’t suppose for a single instant you will care for it; but I will do my duty. A word may sink in, a tone may have an effect; there is never any saying. A suitable stanza occurs to me. I am about to quote from the great work of Samuel Daniel, who was born at Taunton, in Somersetshire, in 1562, and died in 1619. His ‘History of the Civil Wars between York and Lancaster,’ in eight books, was first published in 1595. The highest quality of his verse is a quiet, pensive reflection. Now, pray, listen. The poem, a stanza of which I will recite, is called ‘Musophilus.’ It is addressed to ‘Philocoslus,’ a lover of the world. Musophilus is a lover of the Muse. It commences thus——”

“We had better stop rowing,” said Eileen. The girls shipped their oars and bent forward. Belle, with a theatrical gesture, and a flinging up of her right hand, commenced:

“‘Either Truth, Goodness, Virtue are not still
The self-same which they are, and always one,
But alter to the project of our will;
Or we our actions make them wait upon,
Putting them in the livery of our skill,
And cast them off again when we have done.’”

Here Belle raised herself in the boat.

“For goodness’ sake, sit still, or we’ll be upset,” said Lettie. “In addition to poetry of the Middle Ages, a ducking is more than I am prepared for.”

Belle reseated herself, made an impatient gesture, pushed back her mushroom hat, and resumed:

“‘And for the few that only lend their ear,
That few is all the world; which with a few
Do ever live, and move, and work, and stir.
This is the heart doth feel, and only know;
The rest of all that only bodies bear,
Roll up and down, and fill up but the row.’”

“Very fine, indeed,” said Lettie; “and I quite see the allusion to myself. I am one of those who but a body bear, roll up and down, and fill up but the row.”

To this remark Belle did not deign any reply. She now turned again to Leslie.

“Notwithstanding the disappointment you gave me with regard to your room,” she said, “I have not the slightest doubt that you understand what Musophilus alludes to?”

“To a certain extent, yes,” replied Leslie.

Belle stretched out her hand.

“I believe I shall win you,” she cried. “Come to my room to-morrow; I shall see you alone. Don’t fail to be with me between half-past two and three.”

Leslie promised.

“Oh, how could you?” whispered Lettie. “I pity you from my soul; you have done for yourself now.”

“I don’t pity myself,” answered Leslie. “I am certain Miss Acheson has some fine ideas; and that I shall derive benefit from a conversation with her.”


Immediately after dinner that evening, Leslie ran up to her room to make preparations for her visit to East Hall.

“Come, Annie,” she said to Miss Colchester, who was standing with her face to the window and her back to Leslie, “had you not better wrap a shawl about you; it is time to be off.”

“I’m not coming,” said Annie.

“Not coming? But you must. You know it is not only a request; it is an order from Miss Lauderdale. Every student is to be in East Hall at half-past eight.”

“It doesn’t matter,” replied Annie, “whether it is an order or not; I’m not coming. Say nothing about me, please. I shall stay at home to-night.”

“But why? You will only get yourself into trouble, and there is surely no use in that. Oh, Annie, I know you are dreadfully unhappy about something, and I wish I could comfort you. Do—do let me.”

Annie Colchester now turned slowly round; she looked fixedly at Leslie. There was a strained expression in her eyes, as if she did not quite know what she was looking at. Leslie approached her, and touched her hand. It burned as if with fever.

“You are ill,” said Leslie. “I ought not to leave you. You ought to lie down and see a doctor. Do let me go and tell Miss Frere. I know your being ill will make all the difference.”

Leslie had scarcely finished her sentence before Annie pushed her away.

“How dare you interfere?” she said, her eyes flashing. “You are to go, and say nothing about me. Because you happen to be my roomfellow, are you to control my actions? I am longing for you to leave the room. You don’t know what a trial it is for me to have you here. Why will you keep on prying, and fussing, and interfering. I want to be alone—go!”

“I know you don’t quite mean what you say,” said Leslie; “but of course if you really wish me——”

“Before you came I had liberty,” interrupted Annie. “You fret me beyond endurance. Since you came I feel myself tied and bound. Yes; you annoy me more than words can tell.”

Leslie walked to her own side of the room. She had taken a deep interest in Annie; and Annie’s words cut her to the heart.

“I am quite sure it is because she is so unhappy,” she thought. “She does not know what she is saying. I ought not to mind her—I mean I ought not to be really hurt; but there is nothing for it but to leave her for the present.”

Wrapping a pretty blue shawl round her head and shoulders, she turned to Annie. “Good-by,” she said; “is there not any message you would like me to take, Annie?”

“None; only go!”

Annie stamped with her foot.

Leslie was just closing the door behind her, when Annie called after her.

“By the way,” she said; “there is no key in this lock; do you know where it is?”

“I took it out,” said Leslie.

“Took it out! And why, may I ask? Have the goodness to find it and put it back.”

“But don’t lock me out, please, Annie. You know on occasions you are absent-minded, and one-half of this room is mine when all’s said and done. I pay for it, and I have a right to it.”

The unexpected words of spirit caused Annie to become a little less rude.

“Oh, I won’t lock you out,” she said; “but I must have the key. Please find it before you go.”

Jane Heriot’s voice was heard in the passage.

“If you two are ready,” she called out, “we may as well start.”

“Coming in a moment, Jane,” answered Leslie. She found the key, which she had put in the top drawer of her wardrobe, and gave it to Annie. As she walked down the corridor she heard it being turned in the lock.

“What can this mean?” she said to herself.

Jane came up.

“What is it, Leslie?” she said; “you look as if something was worrying you.”

“Something is,” replied Leslie, “but I don’t know that I ought to tell tales out of school.”

“Oh, I won’t press you,” replied Jane.

“After all, perhaps you ought to know, Jane. I am unhappy about Annie Colchester.”

“Oh, my dear,” said Jane, “if you begin to fret about the oddities of the college you will never know a moment’s peace. I am told that that extraordinary and most unpleasant girl, Belle Acheson, has begun to take to you. Now don’t, I beg of you, get into her set.”

“Oh, I shall never do that,” replied Leslie. “I don’t want,” she added, “to get into any set: but I do wish to be kind to Belle, for I think she has good points in her. You see, all the girls except Eileen and Marjorie laugh at her, and that seems to me to make her worse.”

“I don’t quite go the length of laughing at her,” said Jane in a thoughtful voice. “But there, you are one of the ‘unco good,’ I am afraid.”

“Please don’t call me that,” said Leslie, tears now visiting her pretty eyes.

“Oh, I would not say a word to hurt you,” replied Jane, penitent on the spot. “You are quite the sweetest girl in the college, and so we all say. Now, listen; I am going to make a confession. There are times when I am a little jealous of you, for, you know, you are so wonderfully pretty, and you are so kind to everyone. They say too that you are exceedingly clever, and yet you have no jealousies and no smallnesses in you. You are a universal favorite; I envy you your popularity.”

“I don’t know that I am at all what you say; but any girl ought to be popular and good who was brought up by a mother like mine,” said Leslie with enthusiasm. “Some day, Jane, you must see her. If you are in London during the summer, you must come and pay us a visit, will you?”

“I shall be only too delighted,” cried Jane. “But now, Leslie, what is the trouble? that is, if you care to confide in me.”

“I believe poor Annie is dreadfully unhappy.”

“Poor dear, perhaps she is; but she ought to be on her way to East Hall by now. Miss Lauderdale will be very angry with anyone who does not attend.”

“That’s just it, Jane; that is what frightens me. She refuses to come.”

Jane stood still and faced Leslie.

“Refuses to come?” she cried. “She will get into an awful scrape.”

“I believe she is ill, and does not quite know what she is saying,” continued Leslie. “She was very queer when I left her just now; that was why I was a little late. I felt her hand too, and it was very hot. I am sure she is ill. She works too hard, and she—— But there, I don’t know that I ought to say any more.”

“Don’t say any more,” cried Jane. “I’ll go back and speak to her. It is my duty to save her from getting into hopeless disgrace.”

“I’ll wait for you here,” said Leslie. “I have had the misfortune to irritate her a good deal during the last day or two, and you probably would have better success than I.”

“I won’t keep you a moment,” answered Jane. She turned back, ran down the corridor, and knocked at Annie’s door.

“Let me come in, Annie,” she called out. “I am Jane Heriot; I want to speak to you at once. Let me in.”

There was no reply.

Jane rattled the handle impatiently. It wanted but two minutes to the half-hour; already she and Leslie would be late.

“Aren’t you coming, Annie?” she called out; “aren’t you coming to East Hall in response to Miss Lauderdale’s orders? You will get into a most awful scrape if you don’t. Do come, Annie; don’t be such a goose. Why, they may rusticate you. Do come, Annie, do!”

Still there was no response. Jane stooped, and applied her eye to the keyhole, but she could see nothing within. In despair she came back and joined Leslie.

“She seems to have turned both deaf and dumb, and I can do nothing with her,” she answered. “It is just possible that she may have gone down the back-stairs, and be already in the hall.”

“Scarcely likely,” replied Leslie; “she told me she was determined not to come to the meeting. By the way, we ought to meet Marjorie and Eileen in the center hall.”

But Marjorie and Eileen had already departed, and Leslie and Jane found themselves among the last students to arrive at the great East Hall.

Miss Lauderdale was standing with the other tutors and principals of the different halls on a raised platform. One by one the many students filed in and took their places. Then a roll-call was gone through by one of the tutors; the only absentee was Annie Colchester. No notice was taken of this at the time, and the proceedings of the evening were immediately begun. Miss Lauderdale stepped forward, and began to address the students. She said that the object of this gathering was to propose the beginning of a new departure in their lives and work. They were all, she was glad to know, acquiring knowledge; they were also becoming strong in body.

“The physical part of your training, and also the mental part, are abundantly supplied in this great house of learning,” she continued; “but the spiritual part, it seems to me, ought now to be strengthened. I want your whole threefold nature to get the best possible training while you are under my care, and I think that you girls of St. Wode’s ought to take steps to keep the souls which God has given you, the undying souls, strong and in health.”

“Hear, hear! and once again, hear!” suddenly said the sharp voice of Belle Acheson. She uttered her strange remark standing up. Marjorie and Eileen were close to her.

“Hear, hear!” she repeated, continuing rapidly: “it was but to-day, Miss Lauderdale, I was speaking of the miserable dead souls which most of the students of St. Wode’s carry within their breasts.”

“Hush! no more speaking in hall,” said the voice of the indignant chairwoman. Miss Lauderdale, after a pause, during which her kind eyes were fixed on Belle’s excited face, spoke:

“I will talk with you, Belle Acheson, presently,” she said. “Now, please, don’t interrupt again while I continue my short address.—I propose that the girls of St. Wode’s—that is, those who choose to do so—should take up an extensive district of the poor in this large town of Wingfield. I have spoken to our rector on the subject, and he thinks that they could carry on a thorough work of supervision and of interest in the poor without endangering their own health in the very least. All those who choose to become members of our new league, which is to be called the Guild of St. Elizabeth, can do so. The names of proposed members are to be submitted to me before this day week. I will then more fully declare my plans, and show the girls who wish to join our league a programme which I hope they will approve of.”

Miss Lauderdale said a great deal more. All her words were uttered with great eloquence and much feeling. She explained to the girls that God held each of them, with their vast opportunities, their great means of culture, their abundance of money (for most of them were wealthy), responsible for their brothers and sisters.

“‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ you ask,” she continued. “God answers to each of you, ‘You are.’ The world says, ‘No, I am not,’ but God says, ‘Yes, you are.’ All men are your brothers. For all who sin, all who suffer, you are to a certain extent responsible. To each of you, in your strength, is given by God a weak brother to look after, one who has not got your opportunities, who has not got your wealth, who has not got your comforts and luxuries in life. You are responsible for him, and some day you will be asked what you have done with your responsibility. If you leave the world without having fulfilled that terrible and yet grand obligation, you will through all eternity feel the loss of what you might have gained.”

Finally the principal sat down amid loud cheering. Most of the girls were enthusiastic over the new scheme; and Marjorie and Eileen in particular felt their hearts glowing and their eyes sparkling.

After the address the girls themselves were encouraged to speak, and a very animated discussion followed. When it was over, folding-doors were thrown back, and all the students were invited into the large saloon which Miss Lauderdale reserved for very rare and special occasions. Here they were supplied with light refreshments, and presently Miss Lauderdale herself went to the organ at the end of the room, and played some splendid music. She was a musician of rare power, and Leslie listened with her heart in her eyes.

It was past ten o’clock when she left the hall. Just as she was doing so Miss Frere came up.

“Annie Colchester is your roomfellow, is she not?” she said. “Can you give me any idea why she has been absent to-night?”

“I don’t think she is quite well,” replied Leslie.

“I see by your face, Miss Gilroy, that you are distressed about something. Are you keeping anything back?”

“I am afraid I am,” replied Leslie, distress now in her tone.

“Unless Miss Colchester’s illness is really very serious and needs a doctor, she will be very severely reprimanded for this willful disobedience to the command of her principal,” continued Miss Frere. “I must see her myself early in the morning, and I am quite sure that nothing will satisfy Miss Lauderdale except a very ample apology and a full explanation of the reason why she absented herself. She has committed a very grave act of disobedience. You know, of course, that the few rules that are imposed upon the students are expected to be kept most rigorously. Excuses make no difference. The girl who breaks the rules has to be punished. Annie Colchester’s only chance is to apologize to Miss Lauderdale.”

“I will tell her. I will do my very best,” said Leslie. “I am glad you have spoken to me. I will go back now, and see her without delay.”


Leslie reached her own door; she eagerly turned the handle. The door was locked. She called Annie’s name; there was no answer of any sort. She then knelt down and endeavored to peer through the keyhole. The room was in darkness. Had Annie gone to bed and really forgotten her? For a moment Leslie felt quite alarmed. Her own special friends had already retired to their rooms. She could not well stay in the corridor all night; but she was not really thinking of herself nor her own inconvenience. She was terribly anxious about Annie. Suppose she had gone out! Suppose she was not in her room at all! Again Leslie rattled the handle of the door. There was no reply. At that moment the door of the room next to the one at which she was knocking was opened, and Susan Merriman looked out.

“Oh, is that you, Miss Gilroy?” she exclaimed. “Can I do anything for you?”

“No, thank you,” replied Leslie; “this door is locked, and I am afraid Miss Colchester has gone to bed and forgotten all about me. If so, I will ask Jane Heriot to take me in until the morning.”

“I am sure Annie Colchester has not gone to bed,” replied Susan. “I saw you leave your room on the way to East Hall this evening, and a moment afterwards she came out and ran down the back-stairs. I thought, of course, she had gone across to the hall. Was she not there?”

“No,” replied Leslie; “she did not come to the meeting; did you not observe when the roll was gone through that her name was missing?”

“I did not notice it,” answered Susan; “but what a scrape she will get into! How silly of her!”

“Well, please don’t tell anyone that I found the door locked when I returned,” said Leslie.

“Certainly not. Why should I? Can I do anything for you? Would you like to wait in my room until she comes back?”

“No, thank you. I must go and look for her; I am a little anxious about her.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t fret if I were you,” said Susan. “I shall be up for the next hour, and if you wish to take refuge in my room you are heartily welcome.”

Leslie thanked her and ran down the corridor. Trusting that no one would see her, she went downstairs. The house was already locked up, and the lower part in darkness, but she knew a side-door by which she could get out. She went to it, found it still on the latch, opened it, and the next moment found herself in the quadrangle. She stood there, with the soft night-breeze blowing upon her hot face; her heart was beating quickly: she felt full of the strangest apprehension. Where was she to go? What was she to do? Without doubt, Annie was in serious trouble. If Miss Merriman’s account was true, she must have been out for hours. She would be sure presently to return to this side-door. Leslie thought she would wait there in order to meet her. She paced up and down, her restlessness and the queer dread which assailed her increasing each moment. When the great clock over East Hall sounded the hour of eleven, she felt that she could not stay inactive any longer. If Annie did not soon return, the little side-door would be locked, and it would then be impossible to get back to the college for the night. Should she go and confide her fears to Miss Frere? When this thought came to her she put it away at once. No; whatever happened, it would never do to tell about Annie. Annie had got into a scrape already in not attending the meeting at East Hall; she would get into a worse scrape, in all probability be rusticated, if this latter offense were known.

Scarcely realizing what she was doing, Leslie now walked down a side-path which led to the river. Presently she stood on the little quay just outside the boat-house. Here she herself was in complete shadow, but the moon riding high in the heavens made a silver band of light across the river. In the middle of this light, seated in a boat, was a girl; a man was with her; he was bending forward and talking in an eager voice. Presently the words uttered by the girl reached Leslie’s ears.

“Is it not possible for you to do with less than sixty pounds?”

“No, not a penny less,” came the quick reply. “I shall be ruined if I don’t get it.”

“But won’t you consider me at all? I am working hard, terribly hard. If I pass with honors in my June exam., I shall get a good situation and——”

“What do I care about your passing your exam., or not, Annie? Don’t you know that all that kind of thing is humbug,” said the man’s voice. “I have no intention of your killing yourself for me. I want sixty pounds; if I don’t get that sum I shall be ruined. Can’t you understand what I mean?”

“Yes, yes; and I’ll do my best for you,” was the reply. “You must leave me now, Rupert. As it is, I shall in all probability be locked out of the college.”

“You are always thinking of yourself and your own miserable safety,” replied the man.

He took up a pair of light sculls, and rowed swiftly in the direction of the boat-house.

Leslie, who had heard each word of this conversation, shrank up against the house; she was in complete shadow, and trusted no one would see her. The boat touched the boards of the little quay, and Annie sprang lightly on shore.

“You must help me put the boat back into the house,” she said.

The man did so without uttering a word. The key was then turned in the lock, and Annie slipped it into her pocket. She stood at the edge of the quay, the man standing near her.

“Good-by,” she said, raising her face to his.

“Good-by, old girl. You mean the best, but it is all humbug about your getting that scholarship, and my——” He broke off suddenly.

“Annie,” he continued, “I could not do it; you may as well know now for certain that I have made up my mind to cut the old life. With that sixty pounds, or without, I leave England in a day or two. You will be better off without me than with me, but you know what it means if I go without the money.”

“What?” said Annie in a low, terrified voice.

“That I am followed and arrested. Think of that! Think what the disgrace will mean to you!”

“Oh, Rupert, Rupert, it would kill me!” moaned the poor girl.

“Well, then, get me the sixty pounds, and you have nothing to fear.”

“I will do my best; but this terrible, awful blow has nearly killed me.”

“Humbug. I say—humbug! Girls don’t die as quickly as all that. Listen, I must have that sixty pounds by hook or by crook; you must get it for me. This is Tuesday evening. I will be here about ten o’clock on Thursday; if you don’t have the money then, well, you know what will happen.”

“Good-by, Rupert, good-by. I will do my best, my very best.”

The man walked away, and Annie, standing for a moment where he had left her, with her hands hanging helplessly to her sides, turned slowly in the direction of the college.

Leslie waited behind until her companion was well out of sight, then she followed her; the side-door was not yet latched, and Annie let herself in. In trembling and sick fear Leslie followed, dreading each moment to hear the key turned in the lock, and yet anxious to give Annie time to escape to her room before she entered the house.

In a moment or two she approached the little door, found that it was still on the latch, entered, and uttered a long sigh of relief. When she reached her room the door was unlocked, the electric light was on, and Annie was standing near her window. Leslie came in and softly shut the door behind her. Annie turned and looked at her.

“What a long time you have been,” she said.

Leslie made no reply. She seated herself on the edge of her bed, her head ached, she felt a new sense of fear. Should she tell Annie that she had listened to her, that she had overheard her conversation, that she knew a part at least of the terrible secret which was weighing her down?

Before she could make up her mind whether to speak or not, Annie herself came forward, drew a chair opposite to Leslie, and sat down.

“What did they say about my being absent at the meeting to-night?” she began.

“Miss Lauderdale was very much displeased,” replied Leslie in a monotonous sort of voice, “and so was Miss Frere. Miss Frere intends to speak to you in the morning. I did what I could for you. I said you were ill, and——”

“Humbug!” interrupted Annie. “I wasn’t ill.” Then she laughed in a queer, strained way. “After all, that may be as good an excuse as anything else; but I don’t mind your knowing that I wasn’t really ill. I was obliged to go out. Leslie, I am in a great, a terrible strait, and it has occurred to me that perhaps you can help me.”

“In what way?” asked Leslie.

“Leslie Gilroy, let me ask you a question. Did you ever want money so badly, so dreadfully badly, that you would even commit a crime to get it?”

“Never,” answered Leslie.

“Then you are one of the rich and lucky ones: I am one of the poor and unlucky. What a wide, wide gulf lies between us!”

“You are quite mistaken when you say that I am one of the rich ones,” said Leslie; “we are none of us rich. On the contrary, we are poor. My mother has to work very hard to support us; and I should not be here at this moment were it not for the great kindness of a friend of my dear father’s, a Mr. Parker.”

“Parker?” said Annie, starting; “did you say Parker?” She roused herself and looked attentively at Leslie.

“I did,” replied Leslie. “Mr. Parker—he was my father’s great friend. Do you happen to know anyone of the name?”

“My brother has been in the office of a man of that name, and I happen to know him slightly myself. He is a very rich city merchant. I wonder if it could possibly be the same.”

“Very likely,” answered Leslie. “Our friend’s name is Charles Parker, and he lived for a great many years in Sydney.”

“The same; it must be the same,” said Annie. She clasped her hands and looked excited. “And you know this Mr. Charles Parker well?” she said, turning to Leslie. “He is good to you?”

“I do not know him well,” replied Leslie; “but he is very good to me—more than good. The fact is, it is he who has sent me here. He is paying all my fees. He was a great friend of my dear father’s, and mother could not help accepting his generous offer. You see by that fact, Annie, that I am not a rich girl, and that I know about poverty. Now, what is troubling you? Do tell me.”

“I cannot,” replied Annie abruptly. “I have changed my mind. It is much better for you not to know.”

She moved away, looking sulky and wretched.

“Don’t you want to go to bed?” she said presently.

“Yes, I am tired,” answered Leslie; “but I don’t mind how long I wait up if I can really help you.”

“You cannot help me. I have quite changed my mind. It is better for you to know nothing whatever about me.”

Annie moved to the other end of the room and began to take off her things. She tossed her hat on the nearest chair; her jacket had already tumbled on to the floor, but she had not observed it. She then began to unfasten her dress, and, taking down her untidy red hair, twisted it up into a knot at the back of her head.

“I wonder if it is quite certain,” she said presently, “if the Mr. Charles Parker you know is the one in whose office my brother has been?”

“It is impossible for me to tell you that,” replied Leslie. “I only know that our friend’s name is Charles Parker, that he made his fortune in Sydney, and that he is now in the city.”

Annie heaved a great sigh of mingled relief and perplexity.

“It must be the same,” she said. “Leslie, you are a very good girl, and I am sorry I was rude to you to-day.”

“It does not matter about that in the least,” replied Leslie. “I wish you would think more of how you are to get out of your scrape. Miss Lauderdale was considerably annoyed at your not attending the meeting. Are you prepared to apologize to-morrow?”

“Of course I am. Oh, by the way, what did you say about me?”

“The truth. I said you were ill.”

“If they ask you again, you will tell them again that I was really ill?”

“Of course I shall; you were very ill. You were not putting it on, were you, Annie?”

“Of course not,” answered Annie. “Now, do go to bed, and don’t ask any more questions. I was ill, and I am ill still, but my illness is not of the body. All the same, I have got such a headache that I can scarcely stand up.”

“Well, I am glad you are not going to do any more work to-night.”

“Work!” said Annie. “The mere thought makes me feel sick. Good-night, Leslie. Don’t let us talk any more until the morning.”

Annie lay down on her bed, taking the clothes and wrapping them tightly round her.

“Don’t speak to me again,” she muttered; and Leslie, kneeling by her little bed, tried to pray. But all her thoughts were in a whirl. She hated herself for not telling Annie that she had overheard her conversation. Finally, she made up her mind to do so in the morning.

Being dead tired, she soon dropped asleep; but she was awakened just when the dawn was breaking by a noise in the room. She opened her eyes. To her astonishment, she saw that Annie Colchester was up; that she was standing by her desk turning over her (Leslie’s) papers just as if she were looking for something.

“What is it, Annie?” called Leslie, raising herself on her elbow, and staring in astonishment at her room-fellow.

Annie started and flushed guiltily.

“I was looking for a paper of mine,” she said, “which I thought might have got amongst yours. I cannot think where I put it; but I see it is not here, and I must only do it over again. It is too bad.”

She sighed heavily as she spoke, dragged herself across the room, and once more got into bed.

Leslie lay down without making any remark.

“Another time I will lock my desk,” she thought. “I hate to have my papers and letters looked over. Somehow, I don’t believe what she said about her own paper having got mixed up with mine. She knows that if she is untidy I am absolutely the reverse.”

Soon afterwards she fell asleep again, and when she did awake saw to her astonishment that the sun was pouring into the room, and that Annie Colchester was already up and neatly dressed; her hair was put up tidily, her cheeks were flushed, and her eyes wore a bright and yet curious expression.

“How early you are!” said Leslie. “You don’t look well,” she continued, “and yet in some ways I have never seen you look better.”

“I have a headache, but that does not matter in the least,” replied Annie. “I am off now to see Miss Lauderdale, and to apologize for my rudeness in not coming to the meeting last night. I shall tell her that I had such a terrible headache I could not hold my head up; but be sure, Leslie, you don’t mention that I was out part of the time.”

“I shall not volunteer the information,” answered Leslie; “but if I am asked, of course I must mention it. I don’t suppose I shall be.”

“If you are asked!” said Annie, frowning. “You don’t mean to say that you will betray me?”

“I am not likely to be asked,” said Annie. “I said last night that you were very ill. Will you never understand, Annie, that I really wish to help you?”

“You can help me by holding your tongue,” said Annie. She went up to Leslie, half-bent forward as if she meant to kiss her, then changed her mind, and a moment afterwards left the room.

“What can be up?” said Leslie to herself. “How is she going to get that money? Poor girl, I wish she would confide in me; not that I know any way of really helping her. But stay—I wonder if Mr. Parker—— No, no, I could not—I could not ask him.”

Leslie dressed hastily, put her part of the room in order, opened her window wide, and then ran down to breakfast.

There were a couple of letters on her plate. These occupied her attention during the meal, and she scarcely spoke to anyone. Immediately after prayers she had to attend a lecture in Wingfield. As she was returning to the college she was met by Marjorie and Eileen, who stopped her, to speak eagerly about Miss Lauderdale’s scheme of the night before.

“It is exactly what we want,” said Eileen; “for the first time we both feel really in touch with St. Wode’s. You, Leslie, will be sure to take part in this noble work?”

“If I have time I certainly will,” replied Leslie; “but I have come here to study. I am working hard for a very definite object, and nothing must stand in the way of my work.”

“By the way, you are going to see Belle Acheson this afternoon?”

“Yes; I promised to do so,” replied Leslie.

“I am heartily glad you like her,” said Eileen; “she is a dear old thing. I cannot bear the way Lettie goes on about her. Lettie is my own cousin; but she disappoints me terribly in her attitude towards Belle. But I can prophesy that you and Belle Acheson will be firm friends.”

“I respect all people who are really earnest,” said Leslie in a grave voice.

“By the way, do you know why Annie Colchester has gone up to town?” said Eileen suddenly.

“Annie Colchester gone to London?” said Leslie, starting and turning slightly pale.

“Yes: didn’t you know? We met her two hours ago on her way to the station. She will return by the last train this evening. She told us that Miss Lauderdale had given her leave. Miss Lauderdale was very good to her, and she has gone off in the highest spirits. She asked if we had any messages.”

Leslie said nothing more; but she slowly entered North Hall, went up to her own room, and sat down by the open window. Some of the fear of the night before visited her. What was Annie’s motive in going up to town? Was she really only looking for one of her own papers in Leslie’s desk in the middle of the night? A queer sense of coming danger and calamity oppressed her. Her head ached, and she scarcely knew her own sensations.


At the appointed hour, Leslie Gilroy went across to Belle Acheson’s room. That young lady was in and received her with a fair amount of graciousness.

“Sit down, pray,” she said. “You will like that chair which faces the view. I prefer the one with my back to it. That view upsets me when I am very busy over my studies. But enough about Ego for the present. Let me look at you steadily.”

Leslie seated herself on the very stiff and uncomfortable chair pointed out by her companion, and Belle eyed her from head to foot.

“Yours is a very great temptation,” she said at last slowly. “I pity you from the bottom of my heart.”

“Mine is a very great temptation!” repeated Leslie. She colored, and for a moment felt slightly alarmed. Was it possible that Belle knew about her anxiety with regard to Annie? But her companion’s next remark dispelled this illusion.

“I refer to your good looks,” she said. “Those like you who are condemned to the trial of regular features, bright eyes, and masses of hair, have a struggle to fulfil their part worthily in life’s battle. But there, I will add no more.”

“I totally and completely disagree with you,” cried Leslie. “If you and I are to be friends, you must allow me to speak out quite frankly. Miss Acheson, I heartily respect you. I know that you are earnest and clever, and——”

“Don’t flatter; a flatterer is indeed a false friend.”

“But I am not flattering you. I do think what I have just said to you most truly and sincerely; but now I must speak on my own account. I have been taught by a very wise and good mother to regard a pleasant and pretty face as a blessing, as a talent sent from God. I have to use it aright in influencing for good my fellowmen. Beauty is a power which can be used for good. If one thinks of it in that way one need never be vain.”

“And you have the audacity to tell me that you think yourself good-looking?”

“I do,” answered Leslie calmly. “I know I have a very pretty face; it would be the height of affectation for me to say anything else. But do not let us talk any more about personal appearance. Surely you did not want me to visit you to discuss my looks?”

“By no means. From Eileen or Marjorie the words you have just uttered would disgust me so completely that I should ask the one who had so spoken to leave the room; but you have something queer about you, something earnest and out of the common; you are not an ordinary girl, and cannot be judged by ordinary standards. I am convinced that you will never take life frivolously.”

“I hope I never shall, Belle.”

“Belle! You call me Belle, and you only met me for the first time yesterday!”

“I hope you do not think me presuming,” said Leslie—she held out her hand to Belle as she spoke—“but I feel somehow that we are going to be friends.”

Belle’s thin hand was immediately outstretched, and for an instant she clasped Leslie’s—she then let it drop with a sigh.

“Why had I not a sister like you?” she said. “It is hard to go through life without sympathy, and I get little.”

“If you will allow me, I will give you plenty in the future.”

“If I will allow you! But there, perhaps this is a temptation. Are we really to be friends? If so, you will promise not to tempt me.”

“In what way? How can I?”

“You will not insert the thin end of the wedge; you will not cause me to allow luxuries to creep into my life? Oh, I have set myself so strenuously against all that sort of thing. I live so fixedly by rule. Now, a carpet to the floor, an easy-chair to lounge in, curtains to the windows to keep out the racking heat of the midday sun—all these things would be sins in a person like me. You will not insist, too, upon my spending money—money, that precious gift—on dress. Oh, I assure you the simplest covering does. You know how short our lives are; and our bodies, are they not just clothes for the soul? Why need we pamper the body. It is the soul that lives forever; it alone requires careful attention.”

“Why, Belle, you ought to have been in a nunnery.”

“There, now, you are laughing at me.”

“I am not, indeed; but I do feel that the soul is more comfortable, and more likely to thrive, if it is lodged in a nicely cared for body. Why should it not have a nice, pretty house to live in? And as to dress, I do hope you will allow me to say one thing: that a dress, however simple, ought to be whole and decent-looking and clean.”

“Oh, of course, I admit that; but is anything the matter with mine?”

“Have you a clothes brush, dear: I should so like to brush off the mud from the tail of your skirt.”

“Thank you, thank you; but I cannot permit it. You are now verging into the commonplace. You resemble that terrible young person, Letitia Chetwynd. She is really, I assure you, one of the trials of my life. She is a butterfly, impossible to be suppressed. She visits me in my room and insists upon talking her frivolous nonsense until my head aches. I repeat the words of the great masters of literature, under my breath, when she is present. She sees me muttering, and yet she will not go. There she sits with needle and thread repairing my garments, and I—I permit it.”

“I think she is awfully kind to you,” said Leslie. “You ought to be grateful.”

“I’m not—I can’t be. She and I are abhorrent each to the other. As the poles are we asunder. But do not let us waste these precious moments talking of her. I want so much to hear about yourself—your ambitions, your hopes, your desires. What, for instance, are your aims with regard to literature? You will take honors, of course?”

“I don’t know,” replied Leslie. “It requires a great deal of talent to take honors in work like mine; but I will admit that I am struggling very hard with that object in view.”

“Then, let me help you. Let us talk over our mutual studies. Here, sit close to me, draw up your chair near mine. It is sometimes permitted for those whose souls are akin to clasp their earthly hands together. Now then, let us speak. Ah! when you are almost intoxicated with those great and stimulating thoughts, does not your soul burn, does not you brain seem to expand until it almost bursts?”

“Never,” said Leslie: “if it did I should feel very much alarmed about myself.”

Belle uttered a sigh.

“We are differently affected by these things, I see,” she remarked. “I cannot explain to you the intense, the passionate pleasure I feel when I am engaged over hard mental work. There is no stimulant like it. You are not laughing at me?”

“Indeed I am not,” said Leslie. “I said before that I respected you as I respect anyone else who is wholly in earnest.”

“In earnest,” said Belle; “yes, indeed, I am that. I am ever thinking of Kingsley’s passionate words, ‘Be earnest, earnest, earnest; mad if thou wilt.’ Oh, Miss Gilroy, do think of the frivolity of the greater number of our sex. Even in this house of learning frivolity creeps in.”

Leslie smiled and endeavored to draw her companion into more reasonable conversation.

“Do you know what my aim in life is?” said Belle at last. “I will whisper it to you; but not even to Marjorie or Eileen have I yet confided it.”

“I will respect your secret, and I am very glad you are going to tell me,” replied Leslie, for she thought to herself that nothing would do this queer girl more good than to have a confidante.

“Well,” continued Belle, “my mother is fairly well off—of course not nearly so rich as the Chetwynds; but as I am her only child, she gives me plenty of money for my own personal use. Quite apart from the fees and general expenses of the college, I receive twenty-five pounds a term. Now, I have managed since I came here to spend something under five pounds a term, therefore I have already a nice little sum put by. In that humble little desk there lies in notes and gold over eighty pounds. I will show you my little bank.”

She jumped up hastily, unlocked her desk, and taking out a canvas bag, poured the contents into her lap.

“My savings,” she cried; “what I have secured in place of flowers, in place of cocoa-parties, in place of luxurious furniture, in place of the fal-lals and prettinesses which take the tone out of life. Do you know what this money is the nest-egg for?”

“Some good purpose, I am sure,” replied Leslie.

“An excellent purpose. I mean by and by to found a nunnery on a new line. A college after Tennyson’s idea will be realized by me, where those girls who wish to devote themselves wholly and completely to study shall live their lives. I shall begin my house of learning in a humble cottage. I shall take in my girl residents on the cheapest terms. The house will be small, the furniture of the plainest, the food just what is sufficient to sustain life. I could keep a niche for you if you signified your wish at an early date.”

“Thank you,” answered Leslie, rising as she spoke, “but I could not accept it. My work will be in the midst of the busy world—not in any hermitage. Belle, you have a great deal in you; but you are mistaken on many points. You need some lessons in life——”

“Oh, don’t, don’t,” said Belle, putting her fingers to her ears. “This visit has been so refreshing, and I like you so much: but don’t spoil it by an inopportune and ineffectual lecture. Go away, take your beautiful face out of my sight; don’t haunt me with it a moment longer. It is possible that I may see it to-night instead of the pure, pale lineament of Spenser’s Faerie Queene—instead of Dante’s Beatrice—instead of the divine Althea in Richard Lovelace’s matchless verses. Good-by, good-by.”

Leslie went to the door, and Belle saw her off.

In some wonder, and feeling almost dazed by her recent conversation, she returned to her own room in North Hall.

Just half an hour before dinner Annie walked in. She entered the room briskly, greeted Leslie with a hard and yet excited laugh, and, tossing off her hat, seated herself on the side of her sofa-bed.

“I had a good day in town,” she exclaimed. “What are you staring at me for?”

“I am sorry. I did not know I was staring at you,” answered Leslie. “I am glad you are back again; but why did you not tell me this morning that you were going to town?”

“And why should I tell you? I never knew that I was obliged to make confidences to you. Well, I don’t want to say anything offensive now; and I am in good spirits, very good indeed. I had to go to town on urgent business. It was necessary to get Miss Lauderdale’s leave. She was kind enough to forgive me for my apparent rudeness of last night, and also to give me the necessary permission to spend to-day in London.”

“I am rather surprised,” answered Leslie; “but of course, as you say, it is not my affair.”

“It certainly is not, and I trust you won’t interfere further in the matter. Keep your own counsel, that is all I ask of you.”

As Annie spoke she started up, removing her jacket, and, going to her toilet table, began to arrange her fuzzy locks. With brush in hand she turned round and looked at Leslie.

“I am sorry I have been rude to you of late,” she said: “but the fact is, I was so worried I scarcely knew what I was doing. I don’t pretend for a moment that you have not been good to me, very good; now it is my turn to be good to you. I shall make myself as cheerful and pleasant as I can in the future. I shan’t slave so hard over books either. I have found out for myself that much study is a weariness to the flesh. But there, I am much better this evening, much better.”

Leslie did not make any reply. A moment or two later the girls went down to dinner together. At dinner, Annie, contrary to her wont, talked not only with Leslie but with the other girls who sat near. She laughed a good deal, described some of her adventures in town in a spirited manner, and was to all appearance in the best of spirits. Leslie, as she watched her, could not help wondering if she had got the money she wanted so badly. She hated to follow Annie with her eyes, and yet the thought of her and her trouble was never really absent from her mind.

Leslie was engaged to attend a cocoa-party at West Hall that evening; but even there she could not get Annie out of her head. When between ten and eleven that night she returned to her own room, Annie had already gone to bed and was fast asleep. Leslie gave a sigh of relief as she watched her in this peaceful slumber.

The next day, immediately after lunch, as Annie and Leslie were both engaged over their respective tasks, a servant came up and knocked at the door. She brought in a card on a salver.

“A gentleman is downstairs, Miss Gilroy,” she said. “He wants to know if he can see you?”

Leslie took up the card and read the name: “Mr. Charles Parker.” She uttered an exclamation of astonishment. Annie, who was buried, not in her studies but in a novel, did not even look up; and Leslie, saying she would see the gentleman immediately, left the room.

She ran quickly downstairs to the common room, where her visitor was waiting for her.

“This is very kind of you, Mr. Parker,” she said, holding out her hand to him; “but I trust nothing is wrong at home?”

“Nothing whatever, young lady, and I am delighted to see you,” replied that individual, rubbing his hands and looking affectionately and yet with anxiety at Leslie.

“It was good of you to come to see me,” said Leslie, “and of course I am ever so pleased. When did you see mother last?”

“Three or four days ago. All the young ’uns are doing well, and your mother looks, if I may use the word, blooming. She is not working quite so hard. By the way, Miss Leslie, I have a great respect for that fine young brother of yours, Llewellyn; he has the right stuff in him. I am only biding my time to give him a leg up.”

“But I don’t think Llewellyn means to take a leg up, as you call it, from anyone; he is very independent, Mr. Parker.”

“Aye, aye; but there are ways and means of helping an honest lad, and I am not the one to shirk my duty. But now, Miss Leslie, I have come down here because I am a little alarmed with regard to you.”

“A little alarmed with regard to me! What can you mean?” said Leslie.

“Let us go out somewhere,” said Mr. Parker. “Somehow it seems to me that these walls may have ears, and there are such a lot of girls coming and going. So this is what you call a college, is it?”

“This is one of the houses of residence at St. Wode’s College,” replied Leslie. “The college and lecture-rooms themselves are in a separate building; but of course we attend a great many lectures at the men’s halls.”

“Very improper, indeed, young lady; but if it’s the fashion, why, I can’t say a word. In my time such an opportunity for indiscriminate flirtation——”

“Oh, we none of us dream of flirting,” said Leslie with a laugh; “and then we are properly chaperoned, you know. I assure you the thing is most correct and proper.”

“Well, I’ll take your word for it, though I don’t quite believe it all the same. When pretty girls are about, and young men to the fore, we always know what that sort of thing means.”

“You ought to come here for a time, Mr. Parker; seeing is believing.”

“Not I, not I, young lady. Do you think I’d mix myself up in a mare’s nest of this sort? No, no; but I am bound to believe the words of a pretty girl like yourself.”

“Would you really care to go for a walk, Mr. Parker?”

“Yes, Miss Leslie. I have got something to say, something not too pleasant either, but which of course you must be in a manner prepared for.” Here Mr. Parker tried to fix Leslie with his eyes. She gazed up at him in astonishment. He sighed and felt himself coloring.

“You remind me of my own girl,” he said. “You don’t know what a keen pleasure it is to me to do anything for you on that account; but there, time presses, and I must go back by the five-o’clock train.”

“Well, I will just get my hat. I am most anxious to know how you can possibly have heard bad news of me.”

“She does not look a bit like it,” muttered the merchant to himself as Leslie ran out of the room.


Mr. Parker and Leslie went in the direction of the river. They walked slowly down the towing-path. Several of the college girls were out in their different boats. Leslie began to remark about them. The merchant held up his hand to stop her.

“We will discuss the beauties of nature and the beauty of those fair companions of yours later on,” he remarked. “But first of all I want to talk over the very important matter which has brought me here to-day. Miss Leslie, I want you to confide in me. What is up, my dear—what is up?”

“What is up!” cried Leslie. “I do not understand you. Oh, I know,” she added, her face turning pale, “that you are hiding something dreadful from me. Mother is ill, or Llewellyn, or one of the girls; but I have heard nothing, I assure you. Oh, please, tell me the truth at once.”

“It is for you to tell me,” replied Mr. Parker somewhat tartly. “Let me assure you once for all that your family are in the best of health; but, Miss Leslie, I did think that you—well, I will say it, I felt hurt at what occurred yesterday.”

“But what can you mean? You felt hurt at what occurred yesterday! What did occur? I assure you I am absolutely in the dark.”

“Oh, no, you are not, young lady. You are putting it on, and that does not suit a man of my caliber at all. Instead of coming to me yourself, or even writing to me—instead of giving me your full confidence, and feeling sure that I, as your father’s old friend, would not be too hard on you—you had not the courage to do that—you sent a stranger to me.”

“I cannot understand,” said poor Leslie. Her heart beat fast. She felt quite certain now that some trouble was going to be revealed to her; she knew that the moment had come when she must exercise self-control. Happen what might, she must not give herself away. Another, a stranger had approached Mr. Parker on her behalf. A queer sense of heartsickness came over her; she seemed partly to guess already what was coming. Making a violent effort not to show the alarm which was paling her cheeks, and almost causing her heart to stop beating, she said quickly: “Please speak.”

Mr. Parker had observed her agitation and he now whispered to himself.

“She has done it; I am mistaken in her. I thought she was like my Jenny. She had the same voice, and something the same ways, and very much the same expression; but I am mistaken. There never could have been two Jennies in this wicked old world. I was mistaken. The child was like her in the external features only.”

“Please speak,” repeated Leslie.

“I am going to speak,” said the merchant. “I am disappointed. No, I am not going to be angry. I suppose girls, all but one, and her I won’t mention in this discussion, are alike all the world over. If they suddenly want a little money and remember that their father’s old friend can be befooled, being an old man himself, and tender-hearted, they yielded to temptation. You are like the rest, Miss Leslie; just like the rest. Your mother shall never know, nor that brave brother of yours. I won’t say another word when I have had my say out today; but, my dear, let me ask you just once, why did you do it?”

“Oh, you are driving me mad,” said poor Leslie. “You are talking about something I did; but I don’t know yet what I did. Do speak.”

“You don’t know about that sixty pounds. Come, now, that’s putting it on too fine. You went into debt for sixty pounds, and were afraid, and sent that other girl, Annie Colchester, whose shoes you are not fit to black, for the money. I gave it to her, of course, for your letter was so pitiable; but I did not tell her that I was coming down the next day to inquire into this matter myself.”

There was a seat close by; it faced the river. Leslie sat down on it just as if somebody had shot her. She did not speak for some time. Had she done so, she must have burst out with the truth. In her immense effort for self-control, for repression of her feelings, she even thought that she was going to faint.

“You ran in debt, child; the temptations here were too much for you. You ran in debt for fal-lals and gew-gaws, and all the other sort of things which please pretty girls; you thought, of course, the old man would pay up. Well, the old man has paid up. I am sorry. You might have asked me for the money in the first place, and not gone into debt for it; but that is the way with modern girls. We will say no more about it. I see you did not want to pain me.”

Mr. Parker patted her on the arm. Leslie shrank away from him.

“Don’t,” she said. “I cannot bear you to touch me just now.”

“You cannot bear me to touch you! Well, that’s nice hearing when I’m spending my money on you and thinking such a lot of you, and remembering the straight honorable sort of man your father was.”

“But do you, knowing my father as you did, feeling for him as you still do—do you really believe this of me?” said Leslie.

“Believe it of you? How can I help it, child? But if there is any way out of, any way to lessen the kind of shock I got yesterday, I will bless you, Leslie Gilroy, to the longest day I live.”

Leslie again felt as if she had got a dash of cold water. She could clear herself, but at what a cost!

“Tell me exactly what occurred before I say anything more,” she said in a low, tremulous voice.

“Oh, that’s all easy enough,” said Mr. Parker. “It was Annie Colchester who came to me. I have known her brother for a year or two. Rupert is about as bad a lot as I have ever met. The girl is different; clever, with a lot of enthusiasm and blind worship for that good-for-nothing brother of hers. I helped Rupert, took him into my own office; but afterwards I had to give him the sack. I could not keep that sort about me, you understand.”

“Please, go on,” said Leslie.

“Well, I dismissed him a month ago for improper conduct. I expect that chap will go to the dogs as fast as he can. I am the last man, Leslie, to uphold young rascals of that sort. He is a scoundrel, and the least said about him the better. The girl is different. I had letters from her now and then, and she always spoke of you with great affection. She never mentioned you by name, and I never guessed until yesterday, when she called to see me, that you were the girl, her roomfellow, she said, whom she liked better than anybody else at St. Wode’s—that you were the same girl whom I cared for more than aught else in the world.”

“Oh, you don’t,” said Leslie. There was a break in her voice.

“I do, child. You always seemed to me to be Jenny come back again; but there, once for all, I will not drag Jenny into this. Annie Colchester called at my office yesterday; she brought me a note from you. By the way, here it is.”

“Don’t show it to me,” said Leslie suddenly.

“Don’t show you your own letter? Why not?”

“Because—oh, don’t ask me.” She felt cold and sick. If Mr. Parker really showed her that letter, written by Annie but signed in her name, she knew that she could not trust herself, she knew that she must say something which would betray her miserable friend. The one rope she had to cling to was a blind sense of honor. She would give Annie a chance, she would not betray her, she would get Annie herself to make her own confession.

“What train must you go back by?” she said suddenly.

“You look quite ill, child. I see you cannot put the thing straight, as I had hoped just for a moment: but, after I have asked you one or two questions, we will never allude to the matter again. Was it an ordinary debt you wanted the money for?”

Leslie bent her head in apparent acquiescence.

“Then, that is a relief. I did think that you were above all the petty wants and caprices of your sex; but if you do want to look pretty and charming, why, my dear, I have more money than I know what to do with. Here”—he fumbled in his pocket—“would you like another twenty pounds, for I have got some bank-notes? I could let you have three or four. You are pretty enough to look charming in the simplest dress; but if you think otherwise, why——”

“Oh, don’t, Mr. Parker,” cried Leslie. “I cannot touch your money; put it away, please.” She pushed it from her. The strain was becoming intolerable.

“Did you say,” she continued, “that Annie took you that note herself?”

“Yes, my dear. You told me in it that you particularly wished to get the money in notes and gold; so I sent notes and gold. Now, Leslie, don’t be tempted in that way again. If you want money come to me straight. Say to me, ‘Mr. Parker, for the sake of my father, let me have five pounds,’ or ten, or fifteen, or whatever supply you want. Don’t ask me in Jenny’s name, for Jenny would not have done that sort of thing; but, for Gilroy’s sake, I—I’ll never refuse you, child. Don’t go into debt for it, that’s all.”

“I never will,” said poor Leslie. “Oh, I cannot explain things now, and I know you must think dreadfully of me.”

“I see you are concealing something,” said Parker, knitting his brows and giving her another fixed look. “Tell me the whole truth, little girl.”

“I can’t; not at present.”

Mr. Parker’s voice changed again. He looked hard at Leslie, then he looked away. He pursed up his lips and uttered a long whistle.

“If you cannot tell me, well, there’s no more to be said,” he remarked. “I am cut up a bit, that’s all. But understand this, Leslie, I’ll have no more fooling. There is a limit even to my endurance, and, when roused, I can be hard and very just. I will never tell your mother. I wouldn’t vex her nor give her another care for all the money I possess. You did wrong in spending that money before you got it; you did very wrong to go into debt. If you go in debt again, why, there, I won’t help you. But if you ask me for money, and say you want it, and give me a good reason—even if it is to buy a smart frock or pretty hat—you shall have it, child; and there’s my last word. Good-by, my dear. Don’t fret too much. Whatever you may have done wrong, you stand in Jenny’s place to me now. Cheer up, cheer up.”

But Leslie could not utter a word, she did not even raise her head; she was only conscious that Mr. Parker had pulled out his watch, uttered a hasty exclamation, looked to right and left, then, going up to her, stooped and kissed her lightly on her forehead.

“For your father’s sake, and for the sake of old times,” he said.

She heard his retreating footsteps as he went along the towing-path to Wingfield.

For nearly an hour Leslie Gilroy sat on that seat alone. None of her companions came by. She was glad of this, if she could be said to be glad of anything at that moment. She felt stunned; all her life up to the present had been bright. She found herself all of a sudden, through no fault of her own, in the position of one who is degraded, dishonored; she, who had always been upright, respectable, and respected. With her and open sin there was nothing whatever in common. To sin gravely, to commit a really great sin, was impossible to a nature like Leslie’s. Direct temptation would shrink away from one so pure, so innocent, so generous, so loving; and now she was stained just as if she had really committed the sin which she loathed. How could she live under this terrible imputation? How could she take the sin of another and bear it bravely on her young shoulders? The man to whom she was indebted for so much believed her guilty. How could she stand it? Was it right for her to stand it?

Leslie considered this with bent head and knitted brows.

Suppose she wrote to Mr. Parker, and told him the truth, what would happen then? She could guess, and the thought of what would happen caused her to tremble. He liked her; he was kind to her for her dead father’s sake and because he imagined that she bore a likeness to the child he had lost; but he had spoken with a certain harshness of the Colchesters. He would certainly not stand the knowledge that he had been befooled by a girl twice as clever as himself. He would come down to Wingfield, he would see Annie, he would speak to the authorities about her, she would be rusticated, sent down, expelled. Her career in life would be practically ruined. No. Leslie felt she could not betray her.

“Not yet, anyhow,” she said to herself. “If she will confess, I think Mr. Parker will forgive her, but I cannot be the one to ruin her whole life.”

Leslie struggled hard to regain her ordinary calmness; but, try as she would, she could not get it back. Annie had hurt her too deeply. To take a letter purporting to be written in her hand to Mr. Parker, to borrow money in her name, to get Mr. Parker to think so badly of her. Oh, the sin was too dark; it cut too sore; it lay too deep.

Leslie shivered as she returned slowly to the house. Eileen Chetwynd met her in the quadrangle and ran up eagerly.

“We were looking for you, Leslie,” she cried. “We wanted you to come on the water with us this lovely afternoon. Have you a headache? You don’t look well.”

“Perhaps I have a headache; but I don’t quite know,” replied Leslie.

“You don’t quite know? You look queer.”

“I will go upstairs and lie down.” Leslie ran past Eileen, who stared after her in some wonder.

When Leslie entered her room, Annie, still buried in her novel, was crouched up on the window-sill. Her books, papers, and problems were pushed aside; her hair was rumpled, her cheeks slightly flushed; nevertheless, there was an expression of rest about her face that Leslie had never before seen there. She turned away from her, feeling that she could scarcely bear to inhabit the same room. For the first time in her gentle life hatred of another was visiting her. Her religious principles did not come to her aid in this crisis; she felt a sense of being crushed, she felt sure that because of this thing she must go halt and maimed for the remainder of her days.

Annie looked up as she came in.

“Had a good time?” she asked in a light, careless sort of voice.

“I was down by the river,” replied Leslie coldly.

“Has your visitor gone?” asked Annie, not noticing the tone.

“Yes. He returned to London by the 5.30.”

Leslie wondered that Annie did not take alarm when she heard that her visitor had come from London; but the possibility of Mr. Parker’s appearing at Wingfield had evidently never entered her brain. She turned another page of her novel, and read on contentedly.

“How good it is to have a whole afternoon’s real rest,” she said; “and this book is splendid. By the way, have you read it—‘The Caxtons,’ by Bulwer Lytton?”

“Yes; I have read it,” replied Leslie in a low voice.

“Don’t you want to make any tea this afternoon?” said Annie. “I am so thirsty.”

“I don’t care about tea to-night,” replied Leslie.

“We shall be going down to dinner in less than an hour.”

Annie stifled a sigh, and once more resumed her book. Leslie went and sat with her back to her. She took up a book, but she could not read. As a rule, it was Leslie’s task and privilege to get tea for them both. Annie missed her companion’s gentle attentions. After a minute or two she tumbled down from her seat on the window-sill, and began in a perfunctory manner to get ready for dinner.

Leslie also rose, shook out her dress, put on a fresh tie and collar, and smoothed her hair.

“You are not making much of a toilet this evening,” said Annie.

“Oh, I shall do very well,” replied Leslie.

“Do! I should think you will,” said Annie in a tone almost of affection. “If I had as pretty a face as yours, I should not much mind how I dressed; or, yes, perhaps I should. Perhaps I should give up my whole life to my beautiful face, and spend all my time devising means to make it still more attractive.”

“Don’t,” said Leslie in a sharp voice. The thought that Mr. Parker also supposed that she was vain enough and despicable enough to go into debt for fine clothes returned to her memory with Annie’s words.

“You look sweet,” said Annie. “Come along, take my arm. I am in a mighty good humor, I can tell you, and as hungry as a hawk. I missed the tea which you, you kind little roomfellow, have generally got for me.”

“Go on; don’t wait for me,” said Leslie. “I have forgotten a handkerchief.”

She ran back just when they reached the door. Annie, in some wonder, went downstairs alone. Leslie waited until she had gone.

“Oh, God help me to bear it!” she said, raising a piteous cry to the One who alone could help her. Then, feeling a little better, she went downstairs, and took her place at table.

When dinner was over, one or two girls came up to invite both Annie and Leslie to join them at a cocoa-party.

Leslie looked at Annie with a sort of suppressed eagerness.

“She will be going out presently,” thought the girl. “She will be going to meet that bad fellow, to give him the money—the money which has ruined my life. I shall watch her. I hate being with her, and yet I cannot keep away from her.”

She waited for Annie to speak again.

“Do you want to go?” she said.

“No; I cannot go this evening,” said Annie; “but it will be all right for you, Leslie. You will go, will you not?”

“I shall stay with you.” said Leslie in a dogged sort of voice.

The girls who had invited them looked somewhat surprised and disappointed. They said nothing more, however; and Leslie and Annie went upstairs once more to their own room. Annie went and stood by the open window.

“What can be the matter with you?” she said, turning to her companion. “You do look very queer. You have not been a bit like yourself for the last hour or two.”

Leslie made no reply.

Annie glanced at her again.

“It is so hot to-night,” she said. “I am going out for a stroll. I may not be in until half-past ten, or even later. Why, Leslie Gilroy, you are quite glaring at me; your eyes have got the queerest expression.”

“Never mind about my eyes,” replied Leslie. “I have something to say.” Her quiet was over; she knew that the time for action had come.

“Annie Colchester,” she said, “I know where you are going. You have got a chance, one chance; will you take it?”

“You know where I am going, and I have got a chance—what do you mean? How very queer you look!”

“I will tell you in a few words exactly what I mean. I know everything. There is time yet. Annie, Annie, you cannot mean really to ruin me. I have always been kind to you—that is, I have tried to be kind. You cannot mean quite to ruin me, Annie.”

“To ruin you—to ruin you, Leslie? No; I don’t mean to ruin you.”

It was now Annie’s turn to look pale; her eyes, startled and alarmed, glanced from Leslie to the ground.

“At any rate, don’t keep me now,” she said, a shiver passing through her frame. “When I come back I will talk with you as long as you like; but I am in a great hurry. We can talk over—over what you mean (I am sure I cannot imagine what it can be) when I come back.”

“We must talk now,” cried Leslie; “it will be too late when you come back. Annie, I have something to confess to you; and you—God knows you have something terrible to confess to me; but my confession comes first. I followed you the night before last. After the meeting at East Hall I came back to our room and found you absent. I was restless and miserable about you, and I went out to look for you. I was standing near the boat-house when you landed with—with——”

“You saw us?” cried Annie. “Then you are a sneak—a spy. You saw us, and you——”

“Yes, I saw you. I stood in the shadow, and I heard what you said. The man who was with you——”

“Don’t dare to say a word against him!” cried Annie.

“Yes, I will. He is a rascal; a scoundrel.”

“Oh, he is my brother!” cried Annie; “the only one I love in all the world; and you dare not abuse him. What right have you?”

“I have every right, Annie; I know the truth. He wanted money; I heard him say so. He spoke cruelly to you; and you—you promised to help him. You were in great trouble, and I pitied you from my very soul. I did not know; I could not guess that you would make use of me; the crudest, the most terrible use. You forged a letter in my name, and you took it to my friend, Mr. Parker.”

“How—how can you know?” said Annie. Her voice had sunk to the lowest whisper. Leslie had to strain her ears to catch the words.

“I know in the best possible way, and from the best authority,” replied Leslie. “Mr. Parker came to see me to-day, and he told me everything.”

“And you betrayed me?”

Annie flung herself suddenly on her knees; she covered her face with her shaking hands.

“Oh! and I thought myself safe,” she continued. “I have lived through such awful agony—misery beyond words was mine; and just when I thought myself safe. Oh, I was resting to-day, I was so tired; but all my security was false, and I am done for—ruined. Why was I ever born?”

She uttered a piercing cry, and fell forward on her face and hands.

“Get up, Annie; don’t kneel like that. I did not betray you.”

“You did not betray me? Do you mean what you are saying?” Annie started up now, came close to Leslie, and tried to take her hand. “Mr. Parker came here today, and told you what I did yesterday, and you did not tell him the truth? Oh, you angel! Oh, you darling! All my life, as long as I live, I will live for you, and devote myself to you. Oh, you darling; you brave darling!”

“Don’t,” said Leslie. “You would not speak those words to me if you knew what I felt in my heart. Do you think I love you now? No; I am scarcely sorry for you. I simply feel that I cannot betray you.”

“Then, all is well,” said Annie. “I don’t mind in the least at the present moment whether you hate me or not. I declare now, and I shall always maintain it, that you are the noblest girl in the world.”

“But, Annie, do you quite understand? You cannot mean to go on with this. Now that you know what it is to me, you must—you must make restitution. You cannot allow Mr. Parker to go on thinking day after day, month after month, and year after year, that I was really guilty of the terrible sin and meanness of going into debt for sixty pounds, and then sending you to him to ask him to pay my debt. You cannot mean this, Annie?”

“Yes, I do mean it; and so would you if you had a brother like Rupert, and you felt that all his future depended on your helping him. What are you compared to Rupert? He is the only one in the world I passionately love. Oh, there, the clock has struck ten, and he will be waiting for me. If he does not get that sixty pounds to-night he will be desperate. The police are after him, I know; he will be locked up. Oh! what is your grief compared to his misery? Leslie, I am going out; you did not betray me to-day, and you won’t betray me now. Let me go, let me go.”

“Not without me,” said Leslie with sudden firmness. “If you go, I shall go; but if you refuse, I will speak to——”

“Oh, don’t! don’t! come if you wish; anything, so that we get to him at once. He will be put in prison, sent to penal servitude; and I shall go mad, raving mad. Come; be quick, be quick!”

Annie dragged Leslie by her arm, not allowing her time to utter another word. The girls flew downstairs together, and a moment later were out, with the stars looking down at them, and the moon shining on the beautiful river.


Annie dragged her companion in the direction of the boat-house. A man was standing in the deepest shadow. When the girls came up he took a step forward, then, seeing two, he started back.

“It is all right, Rupert,” cried Annie. “I—I have got the money.”

Leslie, who was watching him attentively, saw him change color. He had a bronzed cheek and a keen, dark eye. The bronze left his cheek now, and his eyes flashed fire.

“Is it true?” he said.

Annie held out both her hands to him. He clasped them so tight that it was with difficulty she could repress a cry; but as he did so he looked beyond her at Leslie. There was alarm and incredulity in his glance.

“It is all right; I brought her here, or, rather, she would come. It is through her I got it. All my life I must thank her for what she has done for you.”

“This is more than I can bear,” cried Leslie. “I have come here, it is true, Mr. Colchester; but not for the purpose you think. I have come here to tell you what I think of you. I do not know what trouble you have got into, nor do I wish to know; but I do know what your sister has done. I blame her—yes, I blame her most bitterly; but I blame you more.”

“Don’t tell, don’t tell!” cried Annie. She came up to Leslie, and tried to put her hand across her mouth.

“I will tell him; but no one else,” said Leslie. “He must know; he drove you to it, and he must know. Listen,” she added. She came up close to Rupert Colchester, and stared him full in the face.

“Your sister wrote a letter in my name to my best friend. She wrote it to the man who is kinder to me than anyone else in the world. She signed the letter with my signature, and he thought that it came from me. Having written the letter, she made an excuse to go to London yesterday, and took it to him. It contained a request to give me, because I had gone into debt, sixty pounds. The money was to be given in notes and gold. She brought the money back, and now she, not I, is giving it to you.”

“Indeed!” said the man. He started back. He looked from Annie to Leslie.

“I didn’t know you were clever enough for that,” he said; “it seems to run in our blood—I mean the capacity for thieving. I did not know you could do it. You are clever enough, Annie, and you have cheek enough; but to do that, to commit a forgery, and to drag another girl in!”

“It was done for you, and you of all people ought not to blame her,” said Leslie.

“You had cheek,” repeated Colchester. He laid his hand lightly on his sister’s shoulder. “I thank you from my heart, of course, and you, too, Miss—Miss—I don’t know your name.”

“You had better not know it; I don’t want you to. Yes, she did it, and Mr. Parker thinks that I am guilty. Do you quite realize, both of you, what Annie Colchester has done?”

“I realize it fast enough,” said Colchester; “but you are a merciful girl. I see it in your eyes.”

“Nevertheless, I will state the position quite plainly. Your sister, by writing such a letter, committed forgery.”

Annie uttered a deep groan, and covered her face. After a moment she raised her eyes, and glanced at Rupert. He was not looking at her; he was staring at Leslie.

“Try and keep quiet, Annie, and allow me to speak,” continued Leslie. “I do not intend to betray her. But I want you to know, Mr. Colchester, what it has cost me; it has nearly driven me mad. Think what it must mean to me. Mr. Parker imagines that I am the sort of girl who will go into debt, and then come to him to clear me. Do you know that because of this he came to Wingfield to-day? He sought me out; he spoke to me; he was in the deepest distress.”

“And you—you confided in him?” said Rupert Colchester. “Few girls would be noble enough——”

“Oh, you do her injustice!” interrupted Annie. “She has not told; she has not betrayed us. Is it not brave of her?”

“I have not told,” said Leslie; “but I have had an awful struggle. If I told what Annie has really done it might get her into such fearful trouble that she would be ruined. She would have to leave St. Wode’s; her career would be practically over. Even if the law did not punish her, she would never do any good in this country again. I have saved her from that; but it was a great effort. I have come here to-night, Mr. Colchester, to tell you that you are the one most to blame. I am going to keep this thing to myself; but only on a condition. This is the most bitter moment of my life; this thing that Annie has done on account of you has turned both my present and my future into gall and bitterness. I was the happiest of girls yesterday; now I am the most miserable. My best friend thinks badly of me, and I can never set myself right with him. But I promise here willingly, before God, that I will not tell what Annie has done, if you, on your part, will make me a promise.”

“What is it?” said Colchester. “’Pon my word! you’re a brave sort of girl, and I don’t mind—that is, short of ruining myself.”

“It will not ruin you; it will save you. I want you to promise me to leave Annie alone in the future.”

Annie uttered a sharp cry.

“But I don’t wish to be left alone,” she said. “I cannot live without Rupert.”

“That you will leave Annie alone in the future,” continued Leslie; “that you will never again take money from her. That sixty pounds is my present to you. I exonerate Annie from all blame in the matter. She shall never get into trouble on my account if you, on your part, will keep your word.”

“You are plucky,” said Colchester. He was impressed by Leslie’s manner and by her remarkable beauty. The moon was shining full upon her face, which looked clear and pale and unearthly.

“You are a very plucky girl,” he repeated; “and Annie is in luck to have made you her friend. Yes, I am all right now. This little girl, or, rather, you, Miss”—he paused, but Leslie did not supply the name—“have made it all right for me.”

“Very well; I promise not to tell what Annie has done if you make me a promise not to blackmail her again.”

“Blackmail! that is an ugly word,” said Colchester; “after all, she is my sister.”

“The more shame on you to get your sister into trouble. I have a brother. Do you think he—but there, I cannot speak of him in the same breath with you. If you attempt to blackmail Annie any more I will tell Mr. Parker all about this matter. I will consider that the promise I have made to-day is no longer binding. Now, it rests with yourself. Bid your sister good-by, and go.”

“Oh, I cannot, cannot part with you, Rupert!” cried Annie.

She burst into a bitter flood of tears, flung her arms round her brother’s neck, and laid her head on his shoulder.

“There is nothing—nothing I would not do for you,” she sobbed.

Leslie moved away to a little distance. She had spoken with emphasis and spirit, but never in the whole course of her life had she felt so cold, so bitter. Although she had promised before God not to betray her miserable companion, yet she knew no sense of happiness. It seemed to her that she was setting the seal to her degradation. Never again could she be happy. Always now there would be one person who would think of her as a girl capable of any meanness, any smallness, any deceit. The mere knowledge that someone would so regard her troubled her so much that she wondered if, in the future, she could lead an upright life. And why was she doing it? For Annie did not appreciate her sacrifice, except in as far as it saved Rupert; and as to Rupert himself, it needed only to look into his face to see how weak and worthless he was.

Wrapped in the misery of these thoughts, Leslie did not notice Annie until she came back and touched her on the arm.

“He cannot praise you enough. You do not know what he has been saying of you. He wants to bid you good-by now. He is going to Australia; he has made up his mind. I shall never see him more.”

There was a note of such utter misery in Annie’s voice that Leslie, wretched as she was, started up and shook herself.

“Let him go,” she said. “I do not want to speak to him again.”

“But I so earnestly wish you would. He is terribly touched by what you have done. This may be the turning-point. Do come and shake hands with him.”

“I cannot.”

“You cannot? Leslie, do you think him as bad as all that?”

“He is very bad, Annie, and he is making you bad—and, oh, indirectly he is making me bad too. I cannot go; I can never touch his hand.”

“You are too hard,” said Annie. “I could have loved you for what you have done; but when you speak against him I cannot bear you.”

“Feel just as you please about me,” said Leslie; “but I cannot bid your brother good-by, nor shake hands with him. Come back to me when he has gone, and be quick. We ought to be in the house now. There is no use in our getting into fresh trouble.”

Annie turned slowly away. In about ten minutes she came back to Leslie.

“He has gone,” she said. “He will take his passage for Australia to-morrow. I shall never see him any more.”

Her tone was cold, calm, and low.

“Then let us return to the house,” said Leslie.

They went slowly across the quadrangle, entered by the side door, and went up to their room.

“I wish I was not your roomfellow, Annie,” said Leslie. “I never knew I could feel so bitter towards anyone.”

“You will get over it, dear, and, after all, as Rupert says——”

“Oh, please don’t mention his name!”

Annie looked at her, a frown coming between her brows.

“I cannot understand you,” she said, after a pause. “You are so noble, and yet you are so hard. Are good, very good, people often like you?”

“I am not good. I don’t think I shall ever be good again,” said poor Leslie. She sat down on the nearest seat, and covered her face with her trembling hands.

Annie switched on the electric light.

“At least there need be no more study,” she said, after a pause.

Leslie did not take the slightest notice.

Annie sat down on a sofa, took up the novel she had been reading that afternoon, and turned a page or two listlessly. Presently she flung it down and uttered a heartrending sigh. That sigh reached Leslie. She looked up, and tried to speak in a cheerful tone.

“Are not you going to get out your books? You know you have so much to do before the honor examination?”

“I do not mean to study any more. Did not you hear me say so?”

“But why? I cannot understand.”

“The motive for study has gone. I shall take my pass exam., and let that suffice. I shall leave Wingfield at the end of term.”

“But why should you give up everything?”

“Why?” said Annie, “why?” She went over and stood by the window. The night wind came in and lifted a tress of her hair and played with it.

Leslie, seated on her own sofa at the farther end of the room, seemed always, in her moments of bitterest grief in the future, to see that tress of hair tossed up and down by the wind. The electric light in the room played on it, and brought out some of its red fire. Annie’s face was ghastly pale; but her eyes were large and too brilliant for health.

“Why should you give up everything?” repeated Leslie, after another pause.

“Why? Can’t you understand? Did you ever have a watch with a broken spring?”

“I think so; yes.”

“It was useless, was it not?”

“Of course; until it was mended.”

“Well, I am like that watch. The spring that guided my life is broken, and, unlike the watch, it can never be mended.”

“You forget that there is such a thing as a watchmaker; even for the human watch,” said Leslie, her tone softening.

“Granted; but I shall not put myself into His hands. Good-night, I am dead tired. I feel numb all over. I am going to bed. I want, beyond everything else on earth, to sleep.”

She threw herself down on her bed without an attempt at undressing.

Leslie started up to remonstrate. If Annie lay like that she would have a terrible cold in the morning. She advanced a step or two across the room, and then paused.

“After all, it does not matter,” she said to herself. “I should not have got into this awful scrape if I had not been good to her. I will leave her alone now. I have ruined myself absolutely and for ever; but I cannot—cannot be friends with her.”

“Rupert has gone, Rupert has gone,” moaned Annie, “and my sun has set.”

Leslie heard the words, but even they did not soften her.

“What has come to me?” she thought. “Has this trouble turned me into a stone?”


The Gilroy children were all in the wildest state of excitement. It was a lovely day in July, and they were going off for a picnic on the river. Leslie was standing by the center table in the dining room, busily packing a basket. Kitty was buttering bread and making sandwiches, Mabel was cutting cake into thick slices, Hester was darning a rent in the back of her dress, and Llewellyn was here, there, and everywhere.

“We must start soon,” he said. “When will the baskets be ready? I wonder mother has not come in.”

“Is not she in?” asked Leslie, standing up to her full height, and pressing her hand to her forehead.

“Have you got one of your headaches back again, Leslie?” asked Llewellyn.

“Oh, just a little, very little; but the air will do me good. It will be lovely to-day on the river.”

“Yes, splendid,” said Llewellyn. “We will have tea at Twickenham, and go home in the cool of the evening. You cannot think how nice old Forrest has been about this. He gave me a holiday at once when I asked him this morning. He said that he only wished he kept a provision shop instead of a drapery shop, so that he might send us pies and things for our picnic.”

“But even though he does keep a linen-draper’s shop,” said Hester, “he could still help us. I, for instance, should not at all object to materials for a new gown. This old serge is so thick and hot.”

“But if you put on a white shirt, dear, you will look as neat and nice as possible,” said Leslie; “and won’t be at all too warm.”

“Oh, I can’t be bothered,” said Hester, shrugging her shoulders. “I forgot to send my shirts to the wash on Monday, and I have not one fit to be seen.”

“Then it serves you right if you are hot and uncomfortable,” cried Kitty.

Kitty herself was always the pink of neatness. Hester was evidently the troublesome one of the family.

Leslie went on packing her basket. She wedged in the hard-boiled eggs, raised pies, roast chickens, sandwiches, and the sweets. At last the big basket was quite full.

“Doesn’t it look tempting?” said Mabel, smacking her lips. “How frightfully hungry I’ll be. Oh, don’t forget, whatever happens, the other basket with the ginger beer and lemonade. I only trust we have got enough.”

“And the cold tea for mother,” said Llewellyn; “be sure you put that in.”

The boys and girls chatted eagerly one to the other.

“I say,” cried Kitty, “isn’t it nice to have old Leslie back again? We’ll hate it when you have to return to your grand college in the autumn, Leslie; but I wish,” she added, “you would talk more about it. I thought you’d have no end of rattling good stories to tell us; but you are as mum and quiet as if you had not had a good time at all, whereas, of course, you have had the very best time a girl could have. I suppose it is the weight of all the learning that bothers you. And what about those Chetwynds? You wrote to mother about them, and about that extraordinary girl, Belle Acheson; but since you have come back, you have hardly said a word about any of your fellow-students.”

“I am sorry,” said Leslie. “I will try to tell you something amusing to-day, Kitty. I don’t want to make myself mum and disagreeable.”

“Oh, you are never that, you dear old darling; only, we were hoping for so much—weren’t we, Hetty?”

“Yes,” said Hester, who was still darning the rent in her dress. “I do wish this cotton wouldn’t break so.”

“Give it to me,” said Leslie; “I’ll have it darned in a trice. Ah! there’s mother’s step at last. Dear old mammy, I hope she is not too tired.”

“There is someone coming back with her,” said Kitty. “Don’t you hear two footsteps? Who can it possibly be?”

The next moment the room-door was opened, and Mrs. Gilroy, accompanied by Mr. Parker, came in.

Leslie had not seen Mr. Parker since her interview with him at Wingfield. She now felt herself turning pale; her pallor was suddenly succeeded by a quick flush of color. She hoped no one noticed her agitation; but, raising her eyes, she met those of Llewellyn. His wore a perturbed expression.

Mr. Parker, after greeting the other children, came up to her and offered his hand.

“Glad to see you back again, Miss Leslie,” he said. There was an indescribable, restrained note in his voice.

“Well, children, what do you say to my joining you to-day?” He turned and faced Kitty and Hester. “Your mother was good enough to invite me, and I am as up to a bit of frolic as if I were as young as you. Where is little Dan? He must be my special charge to-day.”

“Kitty, give me those sandwiches. I can finish packing them,” said Leslie in a low voice which she hardly recognized as her own.

After Mr. Parker’s one hand-clasp, which was firm and cordial enough, he had turned his back on her. He still did so, and kept on talking to Llewellyn and the younger children.

Mrs. Gilroy sat down on the sofa.

“It is very hot,” she said.

“And you are very tired,” said Mr. Parker. “Now listen; I am going to have my own way, and nobody shall interfere. What is the good of money if you cannot spend it now and then? You want to go to Richmond?” turning to Mrs. Gilroy, “Go to Richmond you shall, but you are not going by train. No, we will have a carriage, and I will drive you down. A carriage will hold you and myself and a couple of the children. Not another word, my dear friend. What is the good of money if you cannot have a treat?”

“But you do far too much for us, Mr. Parker,” replied Mrs. Gilroy.

“Far too much!” he answered; “tut, tut! not a bit of it. I am a lonely man, madam. My one interest in life is you and your family.”

Here he glanced at Leslie, but the next moment looked away. There was disapproval in his face.

Leslie started up impulsively. All the provisions were packed.

“Yes, mother,” she cried, “do let Mr. Parker drive you; it will do you no end of good.”

“All right, darling. I have not the least objection if you will come with us. I need not ask you, Mr. Parker, if you will object to Leslie being one of the party in the carriage?”

“Dan shall sit on my knee,” said Mr. Parker, “and two of the children can be crowded in. Just as Miss Leslie likes, of course.”

But Leslie had left the room. She called Llewellyn to follow her.

He hurried out.

“What is the matter with you. Leslie?” he said.

“My head is very bad. I cannot go to the picnic.”

“Leslie! you will upset us all, and as to mother——”

“Listen, Lew, I cannot give you any reason; but neither can I go, and I want you to help me.”

“But I fail to understand. You were full of going a moment ago.”

“I know, but with a headache like mine there is nothing for it but rest and quiet. Do help me, please. I am most anxious that mother should have this one delightful, happy day. Let Kitty and Mabel go in the carriage, and Dan too, if there is room, and will you take Hester by train? Let mother think that I am coming with you. Then, when you meet by the river, you must just tell her that I had a bad headache, and was obliged to stay at home. I cannot go, Lew; there is no use in coaxing me; and I do not wish mother to know until she gets to Richmond.”

“Well, of course, I’ll manage it if it must be managed,” said Llewellyn; “but I cannot imagine what is up. I am certain it is more than a mere headache; but of course, Leslie, I have no intention of forcing your confidence.”

“Don’t, like a darling,” said Leslie. She touched him on the arm, and looked into his face.

“Then, you are in trouble, dear old girl?”

Tears rose to her eyes.

“Yes; but you cannot help me to bear it. It is something which I must not tell to anyone. I must just bear my burden alone. Do not ask me any more.”

“I won’t, and I’ll manage things for you. Run upstairs now, and keep quiet. I’ll tell mother when we get to Richmond that you were a bit seedy; but that a few hours of rest will put you right.”

He hurried off, and a few moments later Leslie from her window saw the carriage party get under way. Soon afterwards, Llewellyn and Hester started off for the railway station. Leslie found herself alone. She sat down by her window, and tried to face the position. It had not been the first time she had made a gallant effort to do so.

“What am I to do?” she said now to herself. But the answer came quickly.

“Live it down,” was the reply of her heart. “Be true to your sense of honor. Save your friend if you can. Bear the terrible and cruel position in which you are placed. Trust to God putting things right.”

“But the dreadful part of it is,” thought poor Leslie, “that He is making me so hard. I almost hate Annie Colchester. I did not know it was in me to feel so bad about anything. There is one thing certain: I shall never be able to endure Mr. Parker’s eyes. I shall have to leave the room or the house when he comes to see us. There, I must not sit still any longer. Poor darling Lew; he little knows what I am really suffering.”

Early in the afternoon there came a ring at the front door, and who should be seen standing on the threshold but the well-known figure of Belle Acheson!

Leslie ran to let her in.

“How lucky that I was in,” she said. “Please come into the dining room, Belle.”

“So this is your domicile,” said Belle. She raised her eyes, and looked up at the windows; then glancing round the walls, finally settled them on the much-worn carpet at her feet.

“Neat, but not gaudy,” she said; “not much to complain of when all is said and done. How do you do?”

She held out her hand to her friend. Leslie grasped it.

“I am delighted to see you,” said Leslie. “I am all alone, for mother and all the children are on the river.”

“And you, you dear, faithful soul, have stayed at home to go on with your literary studies?” exclaimed Belle, her eyes gleaming.

“Not a bit of it, Belle; you must not think me better than I deserve. I stayed at home to mope.”

“To mope? Surely you are not regretting? Having put your hand to the plow, you are not looking back? Leslie, I could never have thought it of you!”

“I am not looking back, Belle. I am still as fond as ever of my studies; but at the present moment I am not thinking of literature nor of college life at all. Sit down; how hot you look! The day is such a sultry one.”

“Hot,” said Belle, “is it? Perhaps I am hot; I don’t know. Does heat matter? that is the question.”

She flung off her hat, and let it tumble on the floor. Her brow was wet with perspiration.

“No physical discomforts seem to matter as far as you are concerned,” said Leslie with a smile.

“I do not feel physical suffering,” said Belle: “that is the truth. My mind is wrapped in meditation and thoughts of the future. I long for this tiresome holiday to be at an end. I have one comfort, however; my money is continuing to heap up. When I finish my collegiate career, I shall have quite enough to open my hostel. I shall call it a hostel for the lovers of pure literature. I am sure it will do well; it will supply a long-felt need.”

But Leslie was not in the humor to talk about the hostel just then.

“I have a great deal to worry me just now,” continued Belle. “Mother has so little sympathy; I have no consolation but one or two books—the best of friends. By the way, Leslie, you don’t look too bright yourself; your brow has quite a haggard look. I am certain, although you will not acknowledge it, that you are missing St. Wode’s.”

“In many ways I am, dear.”

“Oh, this is delicious,” said Belle. She hopped up from her seat, and drew a chair close to Leslie.

“Does your mother object to your studies?” she said. “Does she——”

“No, Belle; you don’t understand my mother. I only wish you could meet her. My trouble has nothing to do with my studies. I have a care that I cannot confide to anyone.”

“Pray, don’t; at least never confide in me. It is the last thing I wish to be—the recipient of another person’s secrets. I either forget what I am told, or I blurt it out to the next person I come across. You had better let your worry go; that’s my advice.”

“Let it go? I wish I could.”

“You can if you will do what I ask. Absorb yourself in work; cease to fret about mere externals. What do they matter? Heat, cold, worry, pain even, nothing matters if one can but grasp the riches of the past.”

“But what about the riches of the future, Belle? You are so fond of looking back: do you never look forward?”

“Forward,” said Belle; “yes, I sometimes do. I look forward to the time when frivols will be exterminated forever, when the drones in the ordinary course of things must die out. Leslie, dear, would you feel inclined to hear me recite some verses of my own this morning? I have been in the poetic mood for the last few days, and last night the poet’s frenzy really seized me. My lines begin with ‘Delve, delve, deeply delve.’”

“I don’t think I quite follow,” said Leslie.

“Quite follow! but it is so simple. The metaphor refers to a miner, the gold is beneath. He delves, he obtains, his joy is unutterable.”

“But I am not in the humor for poetry to-day. The fact is, I am not in the humor to be anything but disobliging.”

“Now, that I do not believe; but I will keep my verses until they are quite finished, each stanza correct, the swing, the meter perfect. By the way, have you seen the Chetwynds since they came down?”


“I hear that Eileen has taken some dreadful disease exploring in back slums. Her mother is in a terrible state.”

“But is Eileen really ill?” asked Leslie, starting up.

“So I have heard; they say she is rather bad. Oh, my dear, it is only the body; pray don’t worry!”

“But, Belle, this is intolerable. We cannot do without our bodies while we live. Poor Eileen ill! What did you say? Fever?”

“I do not know that I did; but it is fever—typhoid or typhus, or something of that sort. I didn’t quite catch the name. It may be smallpox, but I don’t think so.”

“Belle, you are intolerable; you have no sympathy.”

“Intolerable?” said Belle. “Now, my dear Leslie, for goodness’ sake, don’t get commonplace. You may be quite certain that Eileen has the best doctors and the best nurses which London can afford. Does it help her that you should have that flush on your cheeks and that frown between your brows? Does it help her that you should abuse me? All this emotion is waste—waste of sympathy.”

“I am sorry, but I must give it,” said Leslie. “Dear Marjorie, how she will feel it. I must go and inquire after Eileen immediately.”

“I thought you were not well yourself.”

“I have a headache, but what does that matter? I must go to see Marjorie immediately, and to hear about Eileen.”

“If you want to make your inquiries properly,” said Belle, “go by the underground. It is so hot that you will feel yourself a real martyr. Put on your thickest coat and your heaviest hat, and then you will really enjoy yourself. Good-by: I am going away, as I see it is your wish. I will come another day when you feel more like the Leslie Gilroy whom I used to admire at St. Wode’s.”

“I will never be the Leslie that you admired if you wish me not to give sympathy to those in trouble,” replied Leslie.

She ran upstairs, put on her hat, took up her gloves, and went out.


Leslie arrived at the Chetwynds’ house to see the street outside covered with straw. The knocker to the door was muffled. She rang the bell. The footman replied to her summons, said that Miss Eileen was very ill indeed, and that he did not believe the young lady could be admitted, but if she particularly wished it, he would go and inquire.

He was just stepping on tiptoe across the hall when a face was pushed outside a sitting-room door, and the next moment Lettie rushed up to Leslie.

“Oh, do come in, Leslie,” she cried. “I am so lonely and miserable, and it would be an immense comfort to see anyone. Yes, Eileen is very ill, very ill indeed. The doctor says that the typhoid is running a most severe course, and there are complications, a chance of pneumonia, if you know what that means. Come in, do. I know Aunt Helen won’t mind my asking you in, and as to Marjorie——”

“Oh! it is poor Marjorie I am so terribly anxious about,” said Leslie. “How is she bearing up? They are so devoted to each other.”

“Well, really, Leslie, to be plain with you, Marjorie is in a very extraordinary state. She simply won’t be reasonable. None of us can make her out, and the doctors are terribly annoyed with her. She cannot be got to leave Eileen’s room; we cannot drag her away. Poor Aunt Helen is in a perfectly terrible state about her. Her face is completely changed; she won’t eat anything, and only drops off to sleep when she is too tired to stay awake for a moment. Leslie, if anything happens to Eileen, Marjorie will die.”

“But surely, Lettie, Eileen cannot be so bad as all that?”

“She is very bad indeed, I can tell you; I don’t think she can be much worse. There were two doctors here this morning, and there are two nurses, a day and a night nurse, on duty; and now Dr. Ericson wants to call in a third. Eileen took that horrible fever in the buildings where the coachman lives, not a doubt of it.”

“But I didn’t know that typhoid fever was really infectious,” said Leslie.

“In the ordinary sense it is not; but a whole family were down with it in A Block, and Eileen would go to the house, and she was very hot and thirsty, and they gave her some water to drink, and now it seems that all that water was terribly contaminated. It had some of those queer little things they call bacilli in it, and Dr. Ericson said they were the bacilli of typhoid fever. How puzzling these modern scientific names are!”

Lettie sank into an easy chair, and invited Leslie to one by her side.

“The fever is not infectious to us, you know,” she continued, “and that in a kind of way is a comfort. Eileen began to be poorly and not herself a week ago. Now she is very ill and quite unconscious, and yet the very worst stage of the fever is yet to come. You cannot imagine the state poor Aunt Helen is in.”

“I earnestly wish I could help,” said Leslie.

“Well, you are helping when you come to see me, for I do want cheering up dreadfully. Belle Acheson was here for a moment or two this morning. What a terrible girl she is!”

“I like her,” replied Leslie. “I think she has a great deal in her. She at least is thoroughly out of the common.”

“I grant you that,” answered Lettie; “but preserve me from such uncommon people. Give me the everyday sort of character. Not,” she added, “that I feel unkindly towards her, and I really did try to take compassion on her unfortunate wardrobe; but that, perhaps, was because I did not like the respectability of our dear old hall to be damaged by her thoroughly disreputable appearance. Dear, dear!” added Lettie, sighing gently, “how far away all that time seems now. We looked forward so much to the long vacation; and see what has happened—Eileen so terribly ill.”

Just at that moment the room door was opened, and Mrs. Chetwynd entered. She had never seen Leslie before, and rather resented her intrusion on the scene.

“My dear Lettie,” she said, “I wish you would go up to Marjorie, for I cannot quiet her. She has left the sick-room for a wonder, and gone into her own, and there she has broken down in the most extraordinary manner. I tremble lest her cries and groans should reach Eileen’s ears. Perhaps this young lady—I did not catch her name—oh, Miss Gilroy—perhaps Miss Gilroy, under the circumstances, you will excuse us.”

“Yes, Aunt Helen, I will go up,” said Lettie; “but I don’t think I shall be of the least use. I seem to have lost all power of soothing or helping either of the girls. When I was with them at school they rather deferred to my opinion on certain matters, but now all things are changed.”

“Don’t stand talking there, dear; do go,” said Mrs. Chetwynd.

“I will go, of course, but I warn you I shan’t be the least scrap of use. Good-by, Leslie; it was kind of you to call. Miss Gilroy is one of our special chums at college, Aunt Helen, and a great friend both of Eileen’s and Marjorie’s.”

“In that case, sit down for a minute or two, Miss Gilroy. Now run, Lettie; please don’t wait another moment.”

Lettie left the room, and Mrs. Chetwynd stared at Leslie. Leslie returned her gaze with one frank and sympathetic.

“I am so truly sorry for you,” she said in her soft voice. Her brown eyes gazed full into Mrs. Chetwynd’s agitated face. “And I know what illness means,” continued Leslie very softly, “for Llewellyn—I beg your pardon, I mean my dear brother—he was terribly ill once, almost at death’s door. Oh, yes, I know what my mother suffered, and what we all felt; but he got quite well again, as strong as ever. We had a bad time, but it was over soon. It will be just the same with Eileen, I feel convinced.”

“Oh, my dear child, if I could but believe it. I never felt in such a terrible state in my life, and I know the doctors are most anxious. I must go back; I cannot add another word. Good-by; thank you for coming. Your name is——”

“Gilroy,” said Leslie.

“Thank you, Miss Gilroy, for coming. Lettie will let you know how Eileen gets on.”

“I will call again to-morrow morning to inquire, if you will allow me,” said Leslie.

“Certainly, if you wish.”

The widow spoke in an indifferent tone. She opened the door, and Leslie was just going into the hall when Lettie rushed downstairs.

“Marjorie wants you, Leslie; you are to go straight up to her this minute.”

“Marjorie wishes to see Miss Gilroy?” interrupted Mrs. Chetwynd.

“Yes, Aunt Helen; and a very good thing too. I just happened to mention that Leslie had called, and Marjorie said at once she must see her, that no one in all the world could do her so much good. Go up to her, Leslie; don’t waste time talking.”

“May I?” said Leslie, looking anxiously at Mrs. Chetwynd.

“Oh, certainly, dear, if she wishes it; but I must own——”

“Come, come, Leslie, there is not a minute to lose,” said Lettie.

They flew upstairs together, and a moment later had entered Marjorie’s room.

Marjorie had flung herself face downwards on the bed. She was wearing an untidy serge skirt, and a loose, ill-fitting washing blouse. Her tangled short hair was waved like a mop over her head. She did not look up when she heard the two girls enter the room; and when Leslie’s soft voice said, “I am very sorry for you, Marjorie.” her only reply was to clutch the pillow, round which she had clasped her arms, more convulsively than ever, and to say in a choking voice, “I wish Lettie would go away. I know she is in the room too. I want to be alone with you, Leslie.”

Lettie raised her brows, made a pantomimic sign to Leslie to show how badly she was appreciated, and stole on tiptoe out of the room.

“Has she gone?” asked Marjorie, still keeping her face hidden.


“Well, shut the door, won’t you?”

Leslie did so.

“Turn the key in the lock, please.”

“Oh, Marjorie! is that right to your mother?”

“I won’t see mother, and I won’t see Lettie. Lock the door, will you, at once?”

Leslie instantly turned the well-oiled key in the lock. When she had done so, Marjorie sat up, pushed the hair from her forehead, and looked at Leslie from between her swollen eyelids.

“I feel so dazed,” she said.

Her face was red and inflamed in parts, and deadly white in other parts, her eyes had sunk into her head, and their color was almost washed away with violent weeping.

“Oh, come close, Leslie,” she said, suddenly stretching out her arms; “let me lean against you.”

Leslie went up to her; she clasped her own strong arms round her, laid the tired, flushed face against her breast, pushed back the hair with one of her hands, and began gently to stroke the hot cheek.

“There, darling, there,” said Leslie. She did not say anything more, not even “I am sorry for you,” but she kept on repeating the “there, darling, there,” until Marjorie, like a tired baby, closed her eyes, and actually dropped off to sleep.

Leslie sat motionless, bearing the weight of the tired girl’s head on her shoulder. Marjorie slept for about ten minutes, then with a violent start she looked up, saw Leslie, and clutched hold of her with a fierce strain.

“Oh, I have had such an awful dream,” she said. “I thought you were here, but that you would not stay, and that Eileen was lying on the bed dead, and that you would not let me touch her. Oh, I am glad it was a dream, and that you are here. You will stay now, won’t you? I can just bear to be away from Eileen when you are here, for you are not like others; you seem to understand. Will you go and find mother, and ask her to let you stay with me?”

“Could we not ring the bell and tell the servant, and perhaps your mother would come here?”

“But I won’t have her in the room; she does worry me so dreadfully.”

“She is in great trouble, too,” said Leslie. “You ought to be kind to her, Marjorie.”

“Oh, don’t begin to lecture me; I can’t stand it. You must let me have my own way now, whatever happens in the future. You have come here of your own will, and go you shan’t.”

“I will stay with you if it will really comfort you,” said Leslie. “What you want more than anything else is a long, quiet sleep, and you must have it. Lie down; I will go and find your mother.”

Marjorie flopped down again on the bed, seized the pillow, clasped it in her arms, and buried her head in it.

Leslie unlocked the door and went out. On the landing a faint smell of carbolic and eau-de-Cologne greeted her. She stood for a moment hesitating. As she did so, a nurse came out of the sick-room.

“I saw you standing there, and thought perhaps you wanted something,” she said.

“Yes, I want to find Mrs. Chetwynd,” replied Leslie, in a low voice.

“She is in her room, and, I hope, asleep. Perhaps I can do something for you?”

“I wished to see her. I have a message from Marjorie.”

“Poor child, I trust she is becoming more reasonable. What does she want, may I ask?”

“She wishes me very much indeed to stay with her. She thinks she can bear to be away from Eileen if I am here.”

“Then, for Heaven’s sake, do grant her request. It is quite unnecessary to awaken poor Mrs. Chetwynd to tell her this. In the interest of my patient, I take upon myself the responsibility of giving you permission to stay. Do you need any clothes? We can send a messenger presently.”

“I must write to my mother, who will send me what I require,” replied Leslie. “Very well, I will go back to Marjorie now. You are quite certain that Mrs. Chetwynd won’t mind?”

“Mind! She will bless you.”

“Please, please, nurse, tell me before I go, how Eileen really is?”

The nurse shook her head.

“She is very ill indeed,” she answered.

“Do you mean,” said Leslie, turning pale, “that there is danger?”

“Don’t ask me,” said the nurse. “We are doing what we can for her; but in God’s hand alone are the issues of life.”

She stole back to the sick-room, and Leslie returned to Marjorie.

Marjorie was now sitting up on the bed. Her chin rested on her hands; her eyes, with a startled, strained look in them, turned slowly to Leslie when she entered the room.

“I heard you talking to nurse,” she said. “Did she—did she—tell you—anything?”

“Nothing special, dear, except that she was sure I might stay here. I could not find your mother, and nurse took the responsibility of giving me leave.”

“Oh, of course you may stay. It is not that I mean; but did she tell you anything—anything about Eileen?”

“I asked her if Eileen were in danger,” said Leslie, “and she said, ‘We are doing all we can for her; but in God’s hands are the issues of life.’”

“Oh, then it is hopeless,” said Marjorie. “I—I always thought it was.” She got off the bed as she spoke. She was trembling so excessively that she nearly fell. Leslie went up and tried to put her arm round her waist.

“Don’t touch me,” said Marjorie. “I can’t bear anyone to touch me now. It is all too true. They have been trying to keep the truth from me. Did I not read it in their faces? Even the doctors have deceived me. Leslie, oh Leslie, if you saw her now you would not know her.”

Marjorie came up close to Leslie as she spoke.

“Her face is so sunken, and, oh, so white, and her eyes so very big. You know what lovely eyes Eileen always had—so soft in expression, so full of the soul which animated all she ever did, or thought, or said; but now, Leslie, now if you could see them—they have a sort of spirit-look. She was always unearthly, and now she is going away. She is going to the better and the spiritual world; and I, oh Leslie, I can’t bear it.”

Marjorie turned away, walked to the window, rested her elbow on the sill, and looked out.

“I cannot, cannot bear it,” she repeated at intervals.

Leslie remained motionless for a few minutes; she was thinking hard.

“Of course,” she said, after a long pause, “there is only one thing to be done.”

“Only one thing—yes, I know what you mean. I am to quiet myself, to crush back my misery, my despair. Yes, I’ll do it. I’ll wash my face and hands, and make my hair tidy and go back to her again. She never loved anyone in all the world as she loved me. I am her twin, you know, and twins are so close to each other, fifty times closer than the ordinary brother and sister. I’ll go back to her, and I’ll stay so quiet that even the nurses won’t have anything to complain of. You need not remain in this house after all, Leslie, for I cannot be with you. I must return to my darling.”

“And by so doing be dreadfully selfish and injure her,” said Leslie.

“Selfish, and injure her!” repeated Marjorie.

“Yes, injure her, and take away the faint chance there may be of her life.”

“But you cannot mean that, Leslie. What possible harm can I do her? How perfectly ridiculous you are! I injure my own Eileen? Why do you speak in that way? It is impossible that I could injure her.”

“I know you will injure her if you go back. You don’t look natural, Marjorie. You must try to subdue your emotion. You are much too flushed, your eyes are too full of anxiety. The very tone of your voice is all strain. Now, Eileen ought to have no anxious person in her room. So much depends on all that sort of thing being kept out of the sickroom; and, dear,”—Leslie’s voice shook,—“I don’t know that I ought to say it, and yet I will—there is one thing to be done.”

“Speak. How mysterious you are!”

“Let us pray for her, Marjorie; let us ask God to save her. It is all in His hands. Let us ask Him to spare her life.”

Marjorie stared at Leslie, then she clutched hold of her hand, squeezed it, and said eagerly:

“Do you—do you think He will?”

“I cannot say; but we might try. He will, if it is right.”

“Then let us go straight off to a church and ask Him. I always feel as if I could pray better in a church.”

“Yes; we will go at once,” said Leslie.


In her shabby serge dress, the marks of tears still round her eyes, her cheeks flushed, her short hair tossed, Marjorie Chetwynd ran downstairs, accompanied by Leslie. Mrs. Chetwynd was still lying in her room trying to have a little rest; Lettie was writing letters to anxious friends. The girls had just opened the door when they saw Belle Acheson coming up the steps.

“How is she now?” said Belle. “Why, dear me, Leslie, how very quickly you got here, and you look as if you were quite at home. How is Eileen, Marjorie? By the way, you look rather bad yourself.”

“Please don’t speak about me; it doesn’t matter whether I am ill or well,” replied Marjorie. “Don’t keep me now, Belle. Eileen is as ill as she can be, and I am going to pray for her. Leslie says that is the only thing to do, and we are both going to church. Will you come with us? Surely the more who pray to God the better.”

“I will certainly come,” replied Belle quietly.

She turned at once, and the girls walked down the street side by side. There was a church at the farther end of the square, a church which was open all day to those who needed it.

The three girls entered. It was hot outside, but here it was still and cool. They walked up the aisle, and turned into one of the pews and knelt down. Marjorie knelt in the middle; her head was pressed upon her hands.

Leslie had always found prayer easy; in her short life she had prayed a good deal, finding prayer the greatest support in each hour of trial; but of late, since her own great trouble had come, she had almost forgotten to pray, and now it seemed difficult. It was not until she ceased to remember herself, and thought only of her friend, that her words went up to God, at first in broken utterances, then more earnestly and more full of faith. A low sob came from Marjorie’s lips. This sob was echoed by Leslie. Belle had taken up a prayer-book, had opened it, and was reading in a semi-whisper some of the prayers for the sick. After a very few moments Marjorie rose to her feet.

“I have prayed,” she said; “I have told God exactly what I want. He will hear. He must. It would be wrong, cruel, monstrous for Eileen, beautiful Eileen, to die. Come home now, Leslie,” she continued.

The three left the church as silently as they had entered. It was not until they reached Marjorie’s door that Belle spoke.

“Good-by, Marjorie,” she said, holding out her hand; “good-by. I will call again. But before I go, tell me—do tell me—if you seriously believe in all this?”

“I——” said Marjorie—she hesitated; the look of peace which had dawned upon her worn and anxious face left it. Before she could reply, Leslie answered with flashing eyes:

“Marjorie believes, or she could not have prayed as she did; and of course I believe,” she continued. “I believe in a God, and that He answers prayer.”

“I wonder if he will,” said Belle, with a queer, new sort of expression on her face. “It will be very strange. I shall be most curious to know. Good-by, Marjorie—good-by, Leslie.”

She turned and walked down the street. When she had gone a couple of hundred yards she turned back, and called out to the other girls, who were still standing on the steps of the house:

“I will come to-morrow to find out. It will be very curious if it is true. It will make an immense difference to me.”

Then she walked on, swaying slightly from side to side.

Marjorie put her hand quickly to her forehead.

“I never felt less in sympathy with Belle than I do at this moment,” she said. “Now, you, Leslie, really soothe me; it was nice to feel you kneeling by my side. It seemed to me that some of your faith came to me. I do not feel nearly so unhappy now; not so restless, nor so uncertain.”

Leslie kissed her.

“I can understand that,” she said; “you have put the matter into God’s hands—you are resting on God; that is the reason why you do not feel so miserable.”

The girls entered the little boudoir which Mrs. Chetwynd had so carefully prepared for her darlings. Lettie was seated by the window.

“Where have you both been?” she cried. “I have been looking for you everywhere. Aunt Helen is in a painful state of excitement.”

“What about?”

“Well, nurse did not much like Eileen’s state, and Dr. Ericson came in a hurry, and he says he wishes another doctor to be called in, one of the very great specialists. The doctor is coming almost immediately. Aunt Helen says we are none of us to go upstairs. There is to be the most absolute quiet, and fresh straw has been ordered to be put down in the street. Leslie, are you really going to stay here?”

“She certainly is,” said Marjorie. “I wouldn’t part with her on any account.”

“I will write a line to mother if you will allow me,” said Leslie. “Of course, if I can be of the least use to Marjorie, I shall be glad to stay.”

“Here is paper, if you want it,” said Lettie. “I am very glad you are staying, for my part.”

Leslie wrote a short note. When it was finished, Lettie took it from the room.

“I cannot sympathize with Lettie either,” said Marjorie when Lettie had gone. Then she sat down by the window, and did not speak any more. Sometimes she closed her eyes, and sometimes Leslie, who had taken up a book, and was trying to read, fancied she saw her lips moving. Was she once again praying to God? Was faith, the first real faith she had ever known, truly visiting her heart, and helping her through this dark hour of tribulation?

Mrs. Chetwynd did not come downstairs again; and presently the footman appeared, and told the girls that dinner was ready.

“I cannot eat,” said Marjorie. “Eat, when all that makes life valuable hangs in the balance?”

“But you must eat, dear,” said Leslie; “you will feel much worse if you do not. Come with me.”

“Do, Marjorie, try not to be such a humbug,” said Lettie in an almost cross voice. “You don’t know how you add to the trouble of everybody when you go on in that silly way. First of all, Leslie, she absolutely immured herself in Eileen’s room, refused to leave it day or night, and distracted poor Aunt Helen and the nurse, and now that she has come out of the room, she is doing her utmost to make herself ill.”

“Don’t say any more!” cried Marjorie. “I will come downstairs.” Her face was white as death.

The three girls entered the dining room. Leslie’s persuasions, joined, perhaps, to some of Lettie’s tarter remarks, induced Marjorie to take a little food; but the oppression and solemnity of the scene seemed to have got into the air.

Presently the sound of wheels, muffled as they drove over the straw, was distinctly heard, and then two doctors’ broughams drew up at the door. Dr. Ericson got out of his and an elderly, benevolent-looking man out of the other. They both entered the house.

“What shall I do?” cried Marjorie. “I cannot stand this.”

“Oh, I feel somehow it will be all right; and remember we have prayed about it,” said Leslie.

She went up to Marjorie.

“Come back to the boudoir,” she said. “You are nearer to her there.”

“Well, I shall stay here,” said Lettie. “I don’t know what there is about you, Leslie, and about Marjorie; but the pair of you make me feel quite nervous. We are doing all we can—that is, Aunt Helen is; and really I do think that one ought to try to retain a little strength of mind. If the very worst of all had happened, you could not be going on more terribly than you are at present, Marjorie.”

“I cannot help feeling, if that is what you mean,” said Marjorie. She went upstairs, and Leslie followed her. The noise of people walking overhead was heard.

“They are in her room now,” said Marjorie. She clutched hold of Leslie still tighter.

“Oh, Leslie, what should I do if you were not with me? You know she is my twin; no one was ever quite so near to me. We think the same, we do everything the same. All our pursuits, all our desires, are the same. I cannot live without her. If she dies I shall die.”

“But she shall not die, dear!”

“Oh, I know, but she is in such terrible danger now. You said, Leslie, that if it were good for her, God would spare her.”

“And He will, Marjorie; cannot you try to understand? If it is best for her to go to God, He will not leave her in the world just because you selfishly wish it. But it may be best for her to stay here; she may have much to do yet in her life on earth.”

“If she is spared I shall become religious at once,” said Marjorie.

Leslie could not help smiling.

“Were you not religious before?” she asked.

“Oh, after a fashion, but never the real thing. Eileen and I both professed a little, and Eileen, the darling, was, I believe, in earnest; but I don’t think I ever was. I wanted, of course, to lead a useful life, and I thought myself very much better than mother or Mrs. Acheson. I believe now that I was selfish about mother; perhaps we both were, even darling Eileen; but, you know, she always did what I did. I was the first to suggest a thing, and then Eileen followed suit. If we were selfish she was not to blame. Leslie, Leslie, the doctors are coming downstairs. I wonder if they will tell us anything? I know mother won’t for a long, long time.”

“I’ll go and ask, then,” said Leslie, jumping up. She went to the door, opened it, and stepped on to the landing.

The two doctors came downstairs.

“And what young lady is this?” said Dr. Howard, pausing for a moment and looking at her. He was a tall and very benevolent-looking man, with white hair and dark eyes.

“I want to know,” said Leslie—she paused. Marjorie had not dared to come out of the boudoir. “I want to know the truth—if there is—any hope?”

“Are you the sister of the young lady?” asked the medical man.

“No, only a great friend; but her sister, her twin sister, is in the other room, and she wants to know, and cannot find out.”

“I understand; too upset to ask, poor girl,” said the doctor. “Ericson, if you will permit me, I’ll go in and see that young lady.”

“Oh, how kind of you!” said Leslie. She opened the door, and both doctors went in.

Marjorie had flung herself down in a chair, and covered her face with her hands.

“Now, my dear girl, what is this?” said Dr. Howard. “We shall be having two patients instead of one if this sort of thing goes on. Give me your hand. I assure you, Ericson, this young lady’s pulse is bounding at such a rate that we shall have her in a fever if we don’t look out. This will never do. As to your sister, Miss Chetwynd——”

“Oh, what about her?” cried Marjorie. She flung down her hands, and looked up at the doctor with eyes full of agony.

“Good gracious! what a likeness between the two,” said Dr. Howard. “Well, my dear, I will tell you the simple truth. I know you will be a brave girl. Your sister is in danger—a bad case of typhoid fever always means that, you understand; but I have hope, and so has my friend Ericson, that we shall pull her through. There is no cause for immediate anxiety; but much depends on the next twenty-four hours. Ericson is going to stay up to-night with your sister; and as for you, Miss Marjorie, you must go to bed and have a rest.”

“I am sorry to tell you, Dr. Howard,” said Dr. Ericson, “that Miss Marjorie has been behaving in a very natural but also a very reprehensible manner. She has insisted on living in her sister’s room, has done herself no good, and——”

“Oh, well, as you say, that is natural,” said Dr. Howard, who could read character like a book. “Poor child, she feels this terribly. Give her a sleeping draught, Ericson, won’t you? And now, my dear, go to bed as soon as possible, and leave your sister’s case in our hands, and,” he added, dropping his voice to a whisper, “in the hands of a better Physician.”

He left the room. When he had done so, Marjorie burst into tears.

“Oh, now I can breathe, now I can sleep,” she said. “The hard and terrible strain has left my heart. Yes, Leslie, I shall sleep to-night; I am dead tired.”


The next day Marjorie awoke from her long sleep with a stunned feeling at her heart, but no longer quite such a keen sense of despair. She clung to Leslie, and would scarcely let her out of her sight. The doctors were rather anxious about her. She was scarcely likely to take the fever; but, if she exhausted herself in the way she was doing, she might be laid up with a severe nervous attack. Accordingly, Mrs. Chetwynd implored Leslie to remain with them; and Leslie, having received a note from her mother to say that she was only too glad she was making herself useful, agreed to do so.

On the afternoon of that same day Marjorie went to lie down. There was absolute stillness in the house, for Lettie had gone out to spend the afternoon with a friend. The sick girl was fighting death in the room overhead, and Leslie found herself alone in the pretty boudoir. It was a charming room, furnished with every taste and luxury; but Leslie, as she lay back in a deep chair, had a strange feeling of inertia and lassitude all over her. She was glad to be with Marjorie; but the depression which had so often visited her of late was on this afternoon worse than ever. Mr. Parker’s attitude to her yesterday kept recurring again and again to her memory. The cold, almost disdainful look he had given her, the effort to appear as usual before her mother and brother and sisters, the signal failure of that effort, kept coming back to her. He had done much for her; she had taken an enormous favor from his hands. Now what a terrible position she found herself in. Oh, Llewellyn was right after all! He would not take a money-favor from anyone. How she wished she had been equally determined.

In the midst of these meditations she heard a ring at the front door. The next moment the footman came up, opened the door of the boudoir, and ushered in a visitor. Leslie started to her feet, a vexed exclamation came to her lips, and with difficulty remained unspoken, for Annie Colchester stood before her.

“I followed you here, Leslie,” said Annie. “Can I see you at once, and by yourself?”

“Certainly,” said Leslie. Her tone was cold. “Sit down, Annie.”

Annie did not sit; she came quickly across the room, and looked full at Leslie.

“You know, of course,” she said abruptly, “that I have come down from St. Wode’s?”

“Yes; and how did you pass your final?”

“I took an ordinary—no more; and now I want some work to do.”

“Of course.”

“How cold you look, Leslie; so different from what you were when first I met you at St. Wode’s.”

“Never mind about me,” answered Leslie. “Do you want me to help you? Have you come on that account?”

“Yes. I have come to you on that account, for you can help me. I went to your house this morning and heard you were out. It was of the most vital importance that I should see you, so I got your address from your mother. She was unwilling to give it to me at first, for she said you were staying in a house of illness; but I begged so hard that at last she gave way, and here I am.”

“Well. What is it?” asked Leslie. Her tone was still icy-cold, and the want of sympathy in her eyes caused Annie’s dark red-brown ones to flash angrily.

“Oh, you are one of those dreadfully Puritan, goody-goody people,” she said, “who always hate an unfortunate sinner. I would not like you to be my judge at the Great Assize.”

“You must not talk to me in that tone,” said Leslie, stung in her turn. “You know what you have done. You have changed all my life.”

“You don’t mean to say you are still fretting over that matter. What can it signify to you whether Mr. Parker thinks badly of you or not. Just consider for a moment what would have happened if you had betrayed me that time.”

“It might have been the better for me and for you too if I had spoken the truth,” said Leslie. “I am sometimes inclined to believe that I did wrong to shield you.”

“Wrong to shield me! Why, I should have been expelled, ruined; absolutely ruined for life.”

“But I should not be feeling as bitter as I now do.”

“You would have been so miserable you would not have cared to live,” said Annie, with conviction. “But, now, don’t let us hark back on that affair. I want you to do something for me, and at once. Can you possibly come out with me? I want you to come with me to Mr. Parker.”

“To Mr. Parker, and with you? No, Annie; that I cannot do.”

“But you must. Listen to me, Leslie.”

Annie suddenly fell on her knees and took one of Leslie’s hands in hers.

“How luxurious this room is,” she said. She looked around it as she spoke, glancing at the curtained windows, the pictured walls, the comfortable chair in which Leslie was seated.

“Your friends are rich,” she continued. “And although your home is plain enough, yet you have never wanted. I wonder, Leslie, if you were ever hungry, hungry to the point of starvation.”

“What do you mean?” asked Leslie.

“Oh, you’d know very well if you had suffered. Now, I have. Let me show you the money I have in my pocket.”

She slipped her hand into her pocket, took out her purse, and tumbled its contents into Leslie’s lap.

“I don’t want to see,” said Leslie.

“But you must look. See, here is a ten-shilling piece, and here are four shillings. Ten and four make fourteen. That is all I possess, absolutely all, and I have not a friend in the world. My brother——”

“Your brother is in Australia?”

“Never mind where he is. If he keeps his promise to you I must never see him again; he must never come back to England. But listen; this has nothing to do with my brother—it has to do with me. I could scarcely live on less than two shillings a day, which means that I have exactly a week in which to spend my money. At the end of that time where am I?”

She stood up and held out her empty palms.

“Now listen, Leslie. I know Mr. Parker does not like me, and he never liked Rupert. It is true he was kind to me, for he helped to pay for my education at St. Wode’s. If I had taken a first-class at my final I could have got a good situation as a teacher, although I hate teaching, for I am too impatient and too dreamy; but as I have only barely taken an ordinary, all that sort of thing is hopeless. Besides, even if it were not hopeless, there is nothing vacant. I must live while I am waiting for a situation. Now, Mr. Parker wants a secretary. He wants a girl to come to his office every day to write his letters and to attend generally to his correspondence, and I intend to secure that post. I am told that he offers his secretary two guineas a week. I mean to be that secretary: I mean to earn that money. He won’t give me the post, though, because he does not like me well enough; but if you come with me and plead for me, just because he likes you, because he loves you, he will give the post to me. Can you come now, at once? I was at his office this morning. I did not say who I was; and, do you know, there were twenty girls waiting to see him for this one situation. They all looked capable and clever, the sort who would write his letters and attend to his correspondence, and keep things going for him. But every one of those twenty girls are to be disappointed, for I am to be the successful one. I shall be, if you will speak a good word for me. Come, Leslie, will you do this for me?”

“But do you quite realize what you are asking?” said Leslie; “to demand a favor of Mr. Parker? Annie, you cannot know what this means. I will speak to you frankly. My heart has been cold as a stone to you. You have made my life all gall and bitterness.”

“Oh, folly!” said Annie. “Remember, I shall starve. Only fourteen shillings between me and the world!”

“But Mr. Parker will not give you the situation if I ask him,” continued Leslie. “He scarcely speaks to me now if we meet. How can I ask him to do me a favor? Annie, you expect too much.”

Annie stared very hard at Leslie; then she rose to her feet. There was a look of despair in her eyes; her cheeks were ghastly white.

“Fourteen shillings,” she said in a whisper.

She returned her purse to her pocket, and looked again at Leslie.

“Are you sure you won’t yield?” she said. “Remember, whatever you do must be done to-day; he is going to decide to-day.”

Leslie struggled with herself.

Just at that moment the door was quickly opened, and Marjorie rushed in. There was a queer look on Marjorie’s face, traces of recent tears in her eyes, and a softness about her mouth. She went up to Leslie and kissed her. She did not see Annie at all.

“Eileen is better,” she cried; “she has had a long, quiet sleep, and the nurse says she is certainly better. The doctors have just gone, too, and they believe that she is on the mend. They think that the worst is over. Leslie, God did hear our prayers. I shall believe in God now as long as ever I live. I wish Belle Acheson would come, in order that I might tell her how God heard our prayers. Yes. I shall believe in Him as long as I live. It was your thought, Leslie; your splendid thought, and it has succeeded. Oh, I am so happy!”

She kissed Leslie again, and ran out of the room as quickly as she had entered. She did not even notice Annie Colchester, who stood near the window.

When Marjorie closed the door behind her. Leslie looked full at Annie.

“What can it all mean?” said Annie. “How queer Marjorie Chetwynd looked!”

“No wonder,” said Leslie. “Her sister Eileen was at death’s door; but she is a little better to-day.”

“Only Marjorie talked some humbug about prayer. Did she imagine that you—you prayed? I thought you were too hard.”

“No, no,” said Leslie, with a catch in her voice, and a suppressed sob. “I am a miserable girl; but I—it does not matter. Annie, I will do what you wish.”

“Then you are an angel after all. I thought you one once, and so did Rupert; but you yourself choked us off. Well, come with me now. You are an angel after all.”

The words were scarcely out of Annie’s lips, her hand, hot and trembling with excitement, had scarcely touched Leslie’s sleeve, before the door was thrown open and Belle Acheson was announced.

Belle came in with a queer, eager look on her face, a kind of hungry, half-starved look. She went straight up to Leslie.

“I did not ask the man at the door,” she said. “I didn’t wish to; I felt I would rather get the news, good or bad, from you. Do you know what a queer thing happened? I was so impressed by what you told me yesterday that I, actually I, Belle Acheson, began to pray in real earnest. All night long I kept asking God to spare Eileen; and now the question is, has He done so? Leslie, how is Eileen? Is she better?”

“She is, Belle; oh, she is,” cried Leslie. “It is too wonderful; but it is true. God has heard all our prayers. It is only a moment back that dear Marjorie ran into the room and told me that Eileen was better.”

“Thank you,” replied Belle; “you need not say any more.” She turned her back on Leslie, and walked to the window. She stood there, behind the shelter of the curtains, and looked out. No one knew what she saw or what she felt. After a time she looked round.

“Then it is all right,” she said. “There is a God who answers prayers; Eileen will get well again. It is a great thing for a girl to discover the truth of that; it makes a great difference in her life. It is quite too interesting, and too—too wonderful. It makes everything worth while, somehow. Oh, there! I cannot speak about it.”

She stopped abruptly. Leslie did not reply; but Annie now ran up to Belle.

“Don’t you know me?” she said. “Or are you too absorbed with this—this wonderful discovery, to notice that I am one of the St. Wode’s girls.”

“Of course I know you; you are Annie Colchester, the queer, extraordinary girl who was almost as enthusiastic as I am to win distinction, to solve problems, to acquire the great, the glorious possession of knowledge.”

“I am the same,” answered Annie; “although in some ways my views have changed.”

“Don’t tell me so. If you are one of those who put their hand to the plough and then look back I will have nothing to do with you. By the way, you have passed your exam before now; how have you succeeded?”

“I have not succeeded at all—that is, I have only just taken an ordinary.”

“And you meant to take a first-class in honors?”


“Then you have done poorly.”

“I know I have,” replied Annie, hanging her head.

“Let me look at you,” said Belle. She went straight up to her, put her hand under Annie’s chin, and lifted up the blushing face.

“And yet you have a fine, well-developed brow,” she said; “plenty of brains there, and your eyes are clear and dancing with intelligence. Stay though, let me feel your pulse.”

She caught Annie’s wrist between her finger and thumb. Belle herself was all eagerness now; her attitude was that of one who stood at attention.

“Come,” she said. “H’m! I’m not a doctor, but I don’t like that pulse. One moment it seems to be running away, the next it stops dead—then it is wabbly, quite uncertain. Annie Colchester, do you eat enough?”

“Don’t question me,” answered Annie.

Belle’s gray eyes traveled to Leslie’s face. Leslie’s lips formed a voiceless “No.” Belle understood her.

“By the way, where are you staying?” she asked, turning again to Annie; “have you any friends in town?”

“I have no special friends. I am in lodgings.”

“What address?”

“I cannot give you an address, because I am leaving to-day.”

“Then that is delightful; you shall come home with me.”

“With you? Do you mean it?”

“Of course I mean it. I am not in the habit of saying things I don’t mean. I should consider such conduct a breach of truth. Do you imagine for a moment that I am a liar; I, who wish to cultivate all the sacred virtues, to stoop to a lie. When I ask you to come home with me, I wish to have you. I want a friend to keep me company, an intelligent friend. You shall stay with me for a week at least. I don’t believe in that failure of yours. If you did not take honors, you ought to have taken them. That brow and those eyes were not given you for nothing. By the way, did I ever mention to you—no, I don’t think I did—that I am starting a little hostel of my own, that I am saving money for it. I do not know the exact sum that I have saved, but it is not very far from a hundred pounds. You are one of the girls I should like to live with me there. You are just the sort to fling aside every weight, and devote yourself heart and soul to the acquiring of glorious knowledge.”

“I have felt like that now and then,” said Annie; “but somehow the motive has gone. It is unfair, absolutely unfair, for me to come to you on false pretenses.”

“Oh, whether you are clever or not, you look as if you wanted a week’s rest. I am very happy to-day—what occurred has given me—I cannot exactly tell you what, but a wonderful feeling. I am in the humor to do a good deed, and you are the person who wants it done to. You want rest and good nourishment and peace. You have been tossed about in a sore battle. I do not know where, and I do not know how; but the proof lies in the queer, desolate expression of your face. My home is comfortable, and mother always does exactly what I like; so come at once.”

“I thank you from my heart, and I will come,” said Annie. “It is a great boon to me; but I must first go out with Leslie Gilroy.”

“Off with you then at once. I don’t want to pry into any secrets; but, Leslie, when you have done with her, bring her or send her back to me. You know the old address in Maida Vale. Good-by for the present.”


“This is a wonderful thing for me,” said Annie as she stood up. Leslie turned and looked at her without replying. “I mean that my fourteen shillings can now last me nearly another week. By that time, if I get this situation, I shall have saved money and be quite independent. Leslie, you cannot imagine what a load will be lifted from my mind, and you will have done it. I shall thank you to the longest day I live.”

“But I don’t want to do it,” said Leslie; “you don’t know how dreadful I feel. Pray, don’t say any more to me. I am not good now, not at all. I want to be away by myself, to fight this thing out to the bitter end. But here we are. I’ll do my best for you, Annie, only for Heaven’s sake don’t thank me.”

The girls found themselves now in Queen Victoria Street. They reached the house where Mr. Parker’s offices were, went upstairs to the second floor, and presently entered a room where several clerks were busy.

“You must take the initiative now,” said Annie, touching Leslie on the arm. “They know me, for I have been here often; but they do not know you. Go up to one of the clerks and say that you wish to see Mr. Parker.”

Again Leslie found herself hesitating, but then she quickly made up her mind. She must go on with what she meant to do at any cost.

She crossed the room, therefore, quickly, and stood before a desk where an elderly man with gray hair was writing.

“I have come to see Mr. Parker,” said Leslie; “is he in?”

“Mr. Parker is in, miss,” was the reply; “but he is specially engaged.”

“Is he likely to be disengaged soon?” asked Leslie.

“Within half an hour perhaps. He is interviewing some young ladies for a——”

“Oh, I know,” said Annie, who had followed Leslie across the room. “Be quick, Leslie, quick.”

“I want to see Mr. Parker on that very subject,” replied Leslie.

“What, miss,” said the clerk, “are you one of the candidates?”

“No, not exactly; but, all the same, I have come on that very business. If you will give me a sheet of paper I will write a note.”

The man handed her one, and she scribbled a few words:

“Leslie Gilroy wants to see you at once. Please don’t engage a secretary finally until you have heard what I want to say.”

She folded up the paper and handed it to the clerk.

“Will you take that to Mr. Parker now?” she said. “He will look at it even while he is talking with another person.”

“Oh, how good you are!” whispered Annie in her ear.

Another clerk motioned to the girls to seat themselves on a bench not far from the door. The elderly clerk with the gray hair went into a room at the opposite side. He was absent for a couple of minutes. When he returned he went straight up to Leslie.

“Mr. Parker will see you in five minutes,” he said. “Will you come this way?”

“May I come too?” asked Annie.

Leslie looked at the clerk.

“Certainly, miss, bring your friend.” He spoke in a respectful tone, and ushered the girls into a small and comfortably furnished apartment. Having supplied them with a newspaper each, he left them.

“This suspense is almost intolerable,” said Annie. “You promise, Leslie, that you will plead very, very hard.”

“I will do my best,” answered Leslie.

“But I know you are hating it,” said poor Annie. “I see it in your face.”

“Don’t talk to me about that, Annie. I have made up my mind; but I cannot, cannot talk it over with you.”

Just then the door was opened, and Mr. Parker himself came in. He glanced at Annie in some annoyance and surprise, and gave Leslie that cold, level glance which had almost broken her heart on the day of the picnic.

“I understand that you want to speak to me?” he said.

Leslie rose.

“I do,” she said. “Can I see you by yourself?”

“You can, if you have come on a very urgent matter; but, as a rule, I never see anyone here except on business.”

“This is truly a matter of business.”

“Has Miss Colchester anything to do with it?”


“Then I had better see you alone. Come this way.”

He took no further notice of Annie, but ushered Leslie into the next room. Closing the door, he asked her to seat herself.

“Now, what is it?” he said.

“I can scarcely tell you how painful it is to me to come to you to-day,” began Leslie.

“Then why do you do it?” said Mr. Parker.

“Because I want to ask you for a favor.”

“Ah, to lend you another sixty pounds?”

Leslie’s face turned very white.

“Do you know that you, my father’s old friend, are cruel,” she said.

“I don’t think so. On the contrary, I consider that I am most forbearing. A girl who can go into debt once, and conceal it from her friends, and send another girl——”

“Mr. Parker, you break my heart.”

“Again I repeat I am sorry, but I must have my say. I cannot grant your request, whatever it is, except in my own fashion. Now, speak up, and be quick. Being Leslie Gilroy, of course I cannot refuse you anything in reason.”

“You are doing much for me. I know it is for my mother’s sake and my father’s sake.”

“That’s about it.”

“And never, never more for my sake?”

“My feelings have changed toward you. The more I think over that black business the less I like it. I cannot pretend to be other than I am.”

“Well, I have not come here to plead for myself to-day,” replied Leslie. “I want to help Annie Colchester. She is very poor, nearly starving; she has heard that you want a secretary.”

Mr. Parker raised his brows, and an ominous exclamation dropped from his lips.

“You must hear me out,” continued Leslie. “She knows also that you do not like her brother.”

“Scoundrel!” muttered the merchant between his teeth.

“But she is not to be held accountable for her brother’s sins.”

“Did I ever say she was?”

“No; but you act somehow as if you did. Oh, I am not going to be afraid of you, Mr. Parker. I will speak out. A brother may be wicked and a sister good and virtuous——”

“You think her good and virtuous?” interrupted the merchant.

Leslie hastily proceeded, as if she had not heard this remark.

“I want you to make Annie your secretary,” she said. “She feels sure that you would refuse her own request, and she has asked me to plead with you. I do plead most earnestly. I plead because I am my father’s daughter, and because once you were fond of me and good to me. Annie is a very clever girl; she knows many foreign languages, she has a great deal of shrewdness in her character, and would do your work admirably. I want you to let her do it.”

“And you intend to be responsible for her character?”

“Her character? Oh!” said Leslie. She trembled and colored.

Mr. Parker fixed her with his keen twinkling eyes. He seemed to be dragging the truth out of her soul. If he knew even for one moment how Annie had got that money, if he knew about the forged letter, would he give her the post?

“And you are, personally, very desirous about this?” said Mr. Parker.

“I am indeed. Under the circumstances, it is bitterly hard for me to have to plead with you; for my whole heart aches, yes—whether you will believe it or not—at the cruel change in our positions. You, to whom I owe so much, think badly of me. But I have risen to this great effort on Annie’s behalf. Don’t let me have to humble myself in vain.”

“Would there have been anything so humiliating in your asking a favor of your father’s greatest friend?” said Mr. Parker, a kinder note coming into his voice.

“It would not have been humiliating at all; but, under the changed circumstances, it is.”

“Aye; they have changed, truly. But because of your father and our old friendship, I will do what you wish, Leslie Gilroy; but on a condition.”

“Oh, I will promise anything, I am so grateful to you.”

“Stop a moment, young lady; wait until you have heard what my condition is. I will do what you wish—I will give your friend that post—if you will tell me the truth with regard to that sixty pounds.”

Leslie turned from white to red.

“I thought——” she began.

“No, young lady; no,” said Mr. Parker. “I can read character well enough, and you have never told me the truth with regard to that money. There is something concealed at the back of it. The more I think the more assured I am, and your face tells me so plainly at the present moment. When I know the simple truth, Leslie Gilroy, I will restore you into my full favor again, and your friend shall be my private secretary.”

“Then there is nothing more to be said,” replied poor Leslie, trembling from head to foot. “I cannot tell you more than you know already.”

“What I know already is not the truth. Go, child; tell your friend that you have failed, and that the fault is yours.”

Leslie walked across the room. Mr. Parker preceded her and flung open the door. He followed Leslie into Annie’s presence. He stood and faced Annie Colchester.

“I understand,” he said, bringing out his words coldly, “that you have asked Leslie Gilroy to come here and plead for you. You want to be my secretary?”

“I could do the work well,” said Annie, standing up and speaking with glistening eyes.

“Your brother also assured me that he could do my work well. He had brains enough, but nothing else, the scoundrel!”

Annie bit her lips until the blood nearly came. She made a valiant effort not to speak; but to hear Rupert abused was like dragging her through fire.

“Now, listen to me.” said Parker. “I have spoken to Leslie Gilroy; I have told her that I will grant her request when she tells me the whole truth about that sixty pounds which you took from me to her. It is true I have her letter; but it was not only her letter, it was your pleading which induced me to give it. Since that hour I have felt certain that something is hidden. When Leslie tells me the exact truth, you, Annie Colchester shall have the place. You had better go away, both of you girls, and consult—there is something at the back of this. I will keep the post open for forty-eight hours, but no longer. Now go; you have my decision.”


When the girls found themselves once more in the open air neither of them spoke. Then Annie said in a gasping sort of voice:

“I see quite well, Leslie, that it is all useless. I give up the hope which seemed so bright a short time ago. You have done your very best, and I thank you from my heart. I will go to Belle Acheson now. Perhaps something will turn up at the end of a week. At any rate, I have that week to turn round in.”

“We will go to the Bank,” said Leslie; “omnibuses go from there in all directions. As to what Mr. Parker said, you know, Annie, that it remains with yourself.”

“And do you think,” said Annie, coloring and shivering, “that if I could bring myself to tell the real truth I should get the post?”

“I think so; for Mr. Parker is a man who never goes back on his word. He promised to give it to you if the truth were known. He made no condition.”

“And you—you will be restored to his favor?”

“I have nothing to say,” replied Leslie somewhat proudly. “I will not plead for myself. You won’t get the post you covet unless the truth is known.”

“I cannot do it,” said Annie. “It would be betraying not only myself, but Rupert. Can you find your way back to the Chetwynds’?”

“Certainly I can; and that is your omnibus with Maida Vale marked on it.” Leslie held up her parasol and the driver stopped. Annie got in; Leslie nodded to her and turned away.

Annie shrank back in her corner. She shut her eyes: her head was aching violently. Her one desire—the only desire that she had at that moment—was not to tell but to hide the truth. The secretaryship would have saved her—it would have enabled her to live respectably and in comfort; but it was not to be hers. Between it and her lay a sin—a sin which she committed for the one she loved best in the world. Now she had to think how she was to manage. Where could she get work? What work could she best undertake? How long would Belle keep her as a guest? Belle was known to be erratic and uncertain. Well, at least for a week she was safe. During that time she would treasure her shillings as if they were gold.

The drive was a long one, but presently she reached her destination. The omnibus drew up, she alighted and turned forlornly into the square where Belle lived with her mother. Belle’s house was No. 30; it was at the left-hand side of the square. Annie had nearly reached it when she felt a hand laid lightly on her shoulder. She turned round in an access of terror, then a cry of mingled astonishment, fear, and delight burst from her, and the next instant she had clasped her arms round her brother’s neck.

“Oh, Rupert!” she cried, “where did you come from? I thought you were at the other side of the world.”

“I will tell you all,” replied Rupert in a cheerful voice. “There’s no manner of use in your giving way, and don’t, for goodness’ sake! hug me in public, Annie. Of course I’m not in Australia—I never went there; I’m not such a fool. Do you think it’s likely I would leave this place when I had sixty pounds in my pocket?”

“But you owed that money; it was given you to pay a debt.”

“Well, I paid part of it—not all. The fellows were only too glad to get twenty pounds from me; so you see, my dear little sister, I had forty pounds left to go on the spree with. But now my creditors are clamoring for the second instalment. Annie, my dear, I want your help again; and what is more, I must have it. You little guessed, when you were shrinking up in that corner of the omnibus, that I was enjoying a cigar on the roof. I hurried down when you alighted, and have followed you. That precious, goody-goody Miss Gilroy little knew how close I was to her vicinity when she bade you good-by at the Bank.”

“Oh, Rupert, I am so terribly frightened; and yet—and yet it is a real joy to see you.”

“Poor old girl,” said Rupert, patting Annie on her shoulder; “you always were affectionate. You’ve got me out of more than one scrape, and you’ll get me out of this one; won’t you, kiddy? Now, where can we go for a real good talk?”

“I don’t know this part of London,” replied Annie.

“Well, it is like any other part, I suppose. We must talk in the streets; but it’s abominably hard. What is your address, Annie? Where are you staying?”

“I am just going to spend a week with Mrs. Acheson. She lives in No. 30 in this square—Newbolt Square it is called.”

“No. 30 Newbolt Square; then here we are. I’ll come and see you; nothing more natural.”

“But, Rupert, you must not—it would be most dangerous.”

“Why should it be dangerous? Why should not a bona-fide brother go to see his only sister? You are my sister, Annie.”

“And I glory in the fact,” said Annie. “Whatever you do, I shall always feel glad that I belong to you. You will always be the darling of my heart; but oh, Rupert, if Leslie finds out that you have broken your word, it is in her to be very hard. She is hard already. I never knew anyone so changed. I live in constant terror of her. Do you know what happened only to-day?”

“No, Annie; and what is more, I don’t want to know. I am too full of my own affairs to be bothered by your minor troubles.”

“That is so like you, Rupert. I am afraid you are growing terribly selfish.”

“Now, don’t begin to preach, old girl. There, if it will make you any happier you shall tell me your little adventure, whatever it was; only be quick about it.”

They walked round the square many times. Miserable as Annie felt, there was a strange glow at her heart, the color had flamed into her pale cheeks, and light into her red-brown eyes. She looked wonderfully handsome, and more than one person turned to gaze at her. She briefly told Rupert what had occurred at Mr. Parker’s.

“The old wretch!” cried Rupert. “If there is a man in the world whom I fairly loathe, it is Parker. And so he spoke of me as a scoundrel, did he? Perhaps I’ll have my little revenge yet.”

“But you would not really do anything wrong, Rupert?”

“Oh, dear me, no!” said Rupert in a sarcastic voice; “all I want at present is twenty pounds. Do let us drop Parker out of this conversation. If I could bleed him to that extent I would, right heartily; but as I do not see my way to doing so a second time, we must get it in some other fashion; and that remains for you to discover, Annie mine.”

“But, dear Rupert, there are no means open to me; and I would not, if I could, help you in that dreadful way again.”

“But you might think out another dodge. I laugh now when I think of how you managed before—forging a letter in another girl’s name and taking it to Parker of all people, and Parker giving the money and blaming that bread-and-butter Miss Gilroy, and you and I getting off scot-free. It was about the cheekiest, boldest, cleverest deed that any girl ever did, and you did it for your brother’s sake. Annie, my dear, you will be as clever, as cheeky, as bold again for your poor brother’s sake.”

“Rupert, I cannot.”

“Then you know, of course, what the consequence will be.”

Rupert Colchester now completely changed his manner. He had an expressive face, capable of almost any emotion. He had been sad, he had been jocular, in Annie’s presence during this short interview. Now he looked as if despair had seized him. His face changed color, it lengthened, and seemed to grow thinner and more haggard each moment.

“Then I cannot help it,” he said. “I suppose there is nothing further to say. You did your best, and you can do no more. I’ll be locked up; I have got into a scrape which I cannot explain to you. There is a fellow to whom I owe twenty pounds, and if I don’t get it I’ll be locked up. Think what you will feel when you have to go to the police court to give evidence against your brother.”

“But, oh, Rupert! Rupert! how can you go in for such bad ways? Oh, if only mother were alive!”

“Look here, Annie, none of that,” said Colchester, his voice becoming so stern that poor Annie nearly shook. “There,” he added, instantly changing his tone when he saw that she shivered and shrank from him. “I know you will help me if you can. You’ll just think it over, and let me know when next we meet. Where did you say you were going to stay—at No. 30? Who lives at No. 30 Newbolt Square?”

“People of the name of Acheson.”

“But who are they?”

“I don’t know, Rupert.”

“They live in a respectable house, and must be well off,” said Rupert. “I tell you what you’ll do, Annie. You get Mrs. Acheson to lend you twenty pounds. Now, see you do it, and be quick about it. She’ll lend it fast enough if you pull a long face, and make up a pitiable story, and I’ll meet you somehow or other to-morrow. Oh, yes, I’ll manage; I need not enter into particulars just now. You will tell me what you can do when we meet. That is all I require for the present. If you get me that twenty pounds I’ll let you alone—I promise I will—for a month or two.”

“But, Rupert, I don’t know anything whatever about Mrs. Acheson. I have never even seen her. Belle, her daughter, is a very odd, clever creature; but I am quite certain the Achesons are not rich.”

“Is this Belle one of the St. Wode’s undergraduates?”


“Then, of course, they must be rich, or she could not go to a place like Wingfield. And that reminds me, Annie, what a goose you were not to take honors in your exam. You barely qualified—no more. If you had taken a first, I know a fellow who would have lent me twenty pounds on the strength of your getting a good post; but now all that is knocked on the head, and by your laziness. Positively it’s enough to sicken a fellow. Well, Annie, you know what you have before you. You must get twenty pounds for your brother within the next two or three days, or there is a prison ahead of him.”

“Oh, Rupert! Rupert! you do make me so perfectly wretched,” said poor Annie. “I must frankly confess that I have no hope at all of being able to help you.”

“Where there’s a will there’s a way,” said Rupert, whistling gaily. “Now I’m not going to bother you any more. My words will sink deep, I know, my pretty little Annie. Think of the old times. Do you remember that spring when we went out together and picked primroses, and that time when you had the measles, and I was so awfully good to you? Don’t you remember when you were so tired of being left by yourself I used to come in, and risk taking the beastly thing a second time, to amuse you? Oh, you’ll help me; you won’t leave your brother Rupert in a lurch. Well, go off now to your precious Achesons and your comfortable home. Think, when you are lapped in luxury, of your poor, starving brother.”

“Oh, Rupert, you surely are not starving?”

“Well, I have not had a decent meal for a week. Last time I ate was yesterday evening, so you can imagine I’m pretty peckish. By the way, you don’t happen to have a sovereign about you?”

“No, indeed, I don’t possess so much in the world. I’ve only got fourteen shillings, not a penny more.”

Rupert gave vent to a prolonged whistle.

“Are things really as bad as that?” he cried. “Well, at any rate, you won’t want money while you are at the Achesons’. You might let me have those few shillings; you can have them back when you want them.”

“But, Rupert, they are all I possess, all I have between me and the workhouse.”

“Bother the workhouse! Much chance a pretty girl like you has of going there. Let me have ten shillings at least. You surely do not mean to refuse your starving brother?”

“Of course I cannot refuse you,” said Annie. She took up her purse, opened it, and gave Rupert half a sovereign.

“Ta-ta,” he replied; “this will do until we meet to-morrow. You do look a bit dragged, Annie, now I come to examine you carefully; but better days will dawn.”

He shrugged his shoulders, and walked down the street. Poor as he professed himself to be, he was by no means shabbily dressed. He had a fine figure, square shoulders, and a swagger in his walk.

Annie gazed long after his retreating form.

“Why is he about the most wicked person in the world, and why do I love him so much?” she thought. “There, I have only four shillings now. How I am to get that twenty pounds Heaven only knows. Oh, I am a miserable, most miserable girl!”


Mrs. Acheson, although a most kind-hearted woman and affectionate mother, would, if she had spoken her innermost thoughts, have confessed that Belle was not at all to her mind. Being her daughter she thought it her duty to be as good as she could possibly be to Belle, but she would infinitely have preferred a girl in the style of Lettie Chetwynd, a sociable, agreeable, pleasant girl, who would have done credit to pretty dresses, have won a desirable lover, and married comfortably. She would indeed have considered her cup of happiness complete had such a girl as Leslie Gilroy been hers; but Belle being the child allotted to her by Providence, she was wise enough to make the best of her, not to attempt to turn her into any other groove, and to endeavor to counteract her eccentricities as far as possible.

When Belle mentioned to her mother that she had invited a St. Wode’s girl to stay with her, Mrs. Acheson was pleased. She went happily upstairs to see that Annie’s room was neat and comfortable, the bed well aired, and all the necessary accessories of a bedroom as they ought to be.

When her young guest arrived, she hurried downstairs to welcome her; and seeing that the girl looked forlorn and tired, with a droop about her lips and an expression in her eyes which quite went to the good woman’s heart, she kissed her affectionately, bade her welcome, and took her into the drawing room.

“You don’t look well, dear,” she said. “I am very pleased that Belle has asked you to stay with us. May I ask if you and my daughter are great friends?”

“No,” replied Annie; “in fact we scarcely know each other. We did not live in the same house at St. Wode’s, but we have met often. I happened to be at the Chetwynds’ this morning, where Leslie Gilroy was staying, when Miss Acheson arrived, and most kindly invited me here for a week. I was only too glad to accept the invitation,” continued Annie, raising her pathetic, half-starved eyes to Mrs. Acheson’s face, “for I have no home at present.”

“Dear, dear, my poor child; that is truly sad,” said the good lady. “But you must tell me all your story later on. I am deeply interested in young girls, and any friend of my Belle’s has my kindest sympathy. Now, let me take you to your room.”

Mrs. Acheson took Annie upstairs. She saw that the girl had hot water, said that Belle would be glad to lend her anything until her own trunk arrived, and left her.

“But I don’t like the look on her face, all the same,” thought the good woman as she trotted downstairs. Belle was standing in the hall.

“My dear,” said Mrs. Acheson eagerly, “Miss Colchester has arrived.”

Belle did not immediately reply. She was hanging her jacket on the hat-stand; she seldom troubled to take it upstairs.

“Yes, mother,” she answered, putting her hand to her forehead and arranging her short locks into position; “but what about it? I thought naturally she would arrive.”

“She does not look very well, Belle. She seems so tired, and—I scarcely like to say the word—so hungry.”

“Oh, I dare say she is!” replied Belle in a careless tone. “She was always a good bit of an oddity, and in the pursuit of knowledge doubtless neglected her food; but as to her being ill, I think she is all right. She has worked rather hard, that is all.”

“Then we will give her a right good time; won’t we, dear?” said Mrs. Acheson.

Belle stared at her mother through her glasses, and again did not reply. She went into the drawing room in her dusty boots.

“As we have a guest to-night, Belle, dear; and——”

“What in the world is it, mother? What are you fidgeting so dreadfully about?”

“Nothing, my love; only would you greatly mind going upstairs to wash your hands, tidy your hair, and take off your dusty boots before dinner?”

“Oh, dear,” replied Belle in an impatient voice. “If I had thought Annie Colchester’s being here would mean all this sort of thing I would have thought twice before I invited her.”

It was now Mrs. Acheson’s turn to make no reply. She knew Belle quite well enough to be certain that it was worse than useless to argue with her. If she left that eccentric young person to herself, things as a rule turned out according to Mrs. Acheson’s wish.

Belle hummed and hawed, and looked very cross, but finally did leave the room.

When dinner was announced, the two girls entered the dining-room together. Annie was only able to make a very scanty and imperfect toilet; for her clothes, which she had telegraphed to her late landlady to forward, had not yet arrived.

They went down to dinner. The meal was a good one, and nicely served. Annie ate heartily, and felt considerably refreshed afterwards. She was tired too; there was a sort of stunned feeling over her. If Mrs. Acheson only knew the truth, if she could guess even for a single moment that between Annie and starvation were only four shillings, would she not immediately think that she, Annie, had come into her house on false pretenses. People as a rule, do not ask starving girls to partake of the comforts of their luxurious homes. There is the workhouse for such as them. Annie shivered. The idea of confiding in Mrs. Acheson never occurred to her.

Meanwhile, that good and excellent woman had taken a fancy to the forlorn girl. She determined to give her a right good time, and to get at that secret which knitted her dark brows, and made her beautiful red-brown eyes so full of indescribable melancholy. Annie could not help cheering up after a little, in the sunshine of this rare kindness. The little week which lay before her was an oasis in the desert; she would enjoy it while she could. She might gather some strength during these few days for the solitary and miserable time which lay before her. But, after all, her poverty was scarcely her worst trouble now. It was the thought of Rupert, the terrible and awful thought that he had once more been guilty, that he had broken his solemn word, that the police even now were at his heels.

“What is to be done?” thought the wretched girl. “How am I to help him?”

Presently Mrs. Acheson suggested that they should go to bed.

“You can scarcely keep your eyes open,” she said, looking at Annie. “Do go up to your room at once, dear, and have a long, good sleep.”

“Not quite yet, mother,” said Belle, looking up from her book. “I want Annie Colchester to help me with this translation. I know she has gone right through the sixth book of Herodotus, and I have not. I want her to help me with the translation of the story which gave rise to the saying ‘What does Hippocleides care?’”

Mrs. Acheson sighed, and made no answer: a moment later she left the room.

“You are not dead tired? You are willing to help me?” said Belle, looking at Annie when they found themselves alone.

“I will help you of course, Belle, if I can. I have read Herodotus, and thought it splendid; but I do not know the story to which you allude.”

“Well, you can help me, anyhow. Dear, dear, it does seem a pity that mother should have taken to you in this extraordinary manner. I know mother’s ways so well. She will begin to fuss over you, and then you will imagine all sorts of things; but now, if you will take my advice, you won’t consider yourself an ill-used martyr simply because mother has taken a fancy to you.”

“Oh, I have never thought myself a martyr,” said Annie.

“Then, for goodness’ sake, don’t wear that pensive air. I wish, too, you would not open your eyes so wide. It gives you a sort of starved look.”

“Starved? Really, Belle—I mean Miss Acheson.”

“You can call me Belle while you are here; it is shorter and more convenient. I could not possibly ‘Miss Colchester’ you; the name is a great deal too long for everyday use. You shall be Anne, or Ann, while you are here. And now, pray, Ann, take this chair and let us get through our work.”

They did so. Annie soon became interested. She had considerable intellectual power, and between them the girls worked out the problem with regard to Hippocleides. Belle, the first to recognize genius when she saw it, clapped her hands with pleasure.

“This is quite splendid,” she said. “I never could get at the bottom of that stiff rendering before. I am delighted you are here. We can become the very closest friends. Some day, Annie, you shall come and live with me in my hostel. Mother does not yet know of my darling scheme. Poor mother herself must be excluded, and she will feel it, poor thing; but I shall have quite money enough of my own to pay the rent of the house for a couple of years after I leave college. Let me see; if you don’t mind, I’ll get the money-box now, and count my savings. I declare I am getting quite miserly over this matter.”

Belle went to the other end of the drawing room, and from a desk, where her own special treasures were kept, took a square deal box. From her pocket she extracted a little key, fitted it into the box, and opened it.

“Is it safe to leave so much money about in that careless way?” said Annie, who thought of her own four shillings, and quite shivered as Belle lifted out three canvas bags.

“Safe. Of course it’s safe,” answered Belle. “Do you think our servants would touch my money? Besides, they do not know it is here; even mother does not know what this box contains. She likes to dust the drawing room herself, and, a few days ago, she lifted the box and said: ‘Whatever is in here, Belle? It is so heavy?’ I made no reply; and she said, ‘I suppose, love, you are collecting coins.’ I said, ‘Yes, mother; I am collecting coins.’ It was perfectly true, wasn’t it. Clever of me—eh?”

“Very clever,” answered Annie, with the ghost of a smile.

“Well, now, let us count. You shall help me by and by with my dear hostel. How happy we shall be! The world quite out of sight, we delving in the riches of the past. Oh, happy, happy maidens! We will eschew marriage; we will be nuns in the true sense of the word. How silent you are; are you not glad?”

“I cannot quite realize it,” said Annie.

“You will when you come to live with me. We won’t need much furniture, will we, dear? Just the plainest rooms. Any spare cash we have will go for books—first editions, original manuscripts. Oh, lovely, lovely, bewitching, intoxicating! I see myself as I shall be during all the coming years on to the decline of life, absorbing more and more knowledge, living above the world; in it, but not of it.”

“But you won’t be in it when you are in your hostel,” said Annie, with a gleam of humor in her sad eyes; “you will be apart from it, and that is not according to Leslie Gilroy’s ideas.”

“Dear, pretty Leslie!” said Belle with sudden enthusiasm. “But the cares of the world have her in their grip. I admire her more than any worldly girl I have ever come across; but the world has her in its grip. Some day she will see her folly. I hope to convert her to my views in the long run.”

“That you never will,” said Annie.

“Think so? Well, I don’t agree with you. Now, let us count.”

The canvas bags were opened, and they did count, or rather, Belle did. The money in the bags amounted to nearly ninety pounds.

“How glad I am I did not buy that new summer dress,” said Belle; “my old serge does capitally.” She held out the dusty, fusty garment as she spoke. “That economy added three pounds ten shillings to my hoard. See, I will write down the exact amount.”

She took a sheet of paper, scribbled the sum in rough writing, and thrust it into the box.

“Eighty-nine pounds, seven shillings, and tenpence,” she said. “Even the pence are not to be despised. I shall be at St. Wode’s until next June. During that time I hope to save, by the strictest economy, quite fifty pounds more. We can then start our hostel almost immediately.”

“But what about food and furniture and all the rest of the things?”

“Well, each girl, of course, must bring her own share. Wherever we are we must live.”

“Must we?” said Annie in a very pathetic voice.

“Why, of course; it is absolutely essential that each human being should have his or her modicum of food. Now, don’t let us talk of anything so very elemental. Let us consider the charming picture which lies before us. A charming little cottage in the country—we shall get it for twenty pounds a year; the rest of the money will buy the furniture. There, Annie, you need not stay up any longer; you look as if you wished to sleep. Do sleep—enjoy it—look like an ordinary mortal to-morrow; for, if you don’t, mother will begin to take to you more than ever, and that will not suit my plans at all.”

Annie went to her room. She was so weary that she could not even think any longer. The box which held her few possessions had arrived. She took out her nightdress and, soon afterward, got into bed. She slept heavily all night, but toward morning she began to have confused and troubled dreams with regard to Belle’s wooden box. She wished she had not been with Belle when she counted her money. The thought of that money became an oppression and a dreadful nightmare to her.

At seven o’clock the servant appeared with a daintily prepared tray containing tea.

“Mrs. Acheson hopes you are quite rested, miss. She says if you are at all tired she would like you to stay in bed for breakfast.”

“Oh, no, I am quite refreshed. Tell her I thank her very much,” said poor Annie.

The girl bustled about the room preparing Annie’s bath. She then left her to enjoy her tea.

Annie sat up and stirred the cream into the fragrant cup.

“How queer and dreamlike and wonderful all this is,” she said to herself. “I enjoying tea at this hour in bed, and drinking it out of such delicate china; and, oh, what a sweet little silver spoon! How pretty the room is and everything belonging to it; and yet I possess only four shillings in the world. Mrs. Acheson is quite the sweetest woman I ever met. Oh, if my own mother had only lived. I should not be the miserable, hopeless creature I am to-day!”

At breakfast Belle was in the best of spirits. She also had dreamed about her hostel, and the thought of the money she had saved was reflected in her face. After breakfast she proposed to Annie that they should spend the morning at the British Museum.

“I can easily get you a day’s ticket for the reading room,” she said. “You shall sit near me, and we can have a good time.”

“But perhaps Annie would rather not go to the Museum to-day,” said Mrs. Acheson. “She looks very tired, as if she had been overdoing it.”

“I assure you, mother,” said Belle, “that most of the St. Wode’s students have that sort of look; there is nothing whatever in it. The rosy cheek, the bright eye which sparkles with no soul beneath, the pouting lips full of rude health, do not belong to the earnest student. Don’t be alarmed about either of us, pray; we like our life, and we mean to cling to it.”

“Oh, I am not at all anxious about you, dear,” said Mrs. Acheson. “You are always somewhat sallow, but you look well. Now, this poor child—how very thin she is!”

Belle prepared to leave the room.

“You will excuse me,” she said, turning to Annie. “I have to get back to my work. Do you mean to come with me or not?”

“I should like to come,” said Annie.

“Well, that is all right,” said Belle, slightly mollified; “you meet me in the hall in half-an-hour.”

She dashed away, and Mrs. Acheson began to ask Annie some impossible questions with regard to her health.

“If I could but tell her the truth,” thought the poor girl. “If I could say: ‘Will you tell me how long four shillings—that means forty-eight pence—will keep any girl in food and raiment, I should be greatly obliged to you. If you can solve that problem you would indeed be my greatest friend on earth.’ But no, no,” thought Annie, “I cannot confide in her; that would be quite the worst of all.”

Presently Belle appeared, and the girls set off for the Museum. On their way home Belle went for a moment into a stationer’s.

“You need not come in,” she said to Annie; “just walk slowly on and I’ll soon overtake you.”

Annie had not gone a dozen yards before Rupert came up to her.

“I just thought I would meet you on the road home,” he said. “I have made up my mind; I shall call on you at Mrs. Acheson’s this evening.”

“Oh, Rupert, surely you wouldn’t dare?”

“Dare?” said Rupert; “why shouldn’t I dare? You are to introduce me to the Achesons as your brother. As to that girl you are staying with, anyone can take her in. I shall be at 30 Newbolt Square between eight and nine to-night. Look out for me, and don’t fail.”

He nodded and walked away. The next instant Belle came up.

“I saw you talking to a man,” said Belle. “Who was he? Do you know many men? Are you deceiving me, Annie Colchester?”

“Deceiving you? What do you mean?” said Annie.

“If you contemplate marriage you had better tell me so at once.”

Notwithstanding all her misery, Annie could not help laughing.

“The man I was speaking to is my brother,” she said.

“Your brother? I thought you were an orphan and alone.”

“I have one brother; his name is Rupert.”

“And that was he? Why in the world didn’t you ask him to come home with us; I am sure mother would be delighted to see him.”

“He is coming to see me this evening,” said Annie, her heart in her mouth. “Do you suppose that your mother will think that it is——”

“Think what?”

“That he is taking a liberty?”

“Of course not. It is quite natural that a sister should like to talk to a brother: and mother will be full of sympathy. Yes, he is welcome, provided he does not come more than once. Give him to understand, please, Annie, that we have no time to waste in idle conversation with him. Yes, I will say it frankly, if there is a creature in the wide world I thoroughly despise, it is man in his first adolescence.”

At lunch Belle mentioned to her mother that Annie Colchester had a brother, and that he proposed to call that evening.

“I shall give him a hearty welcome for your sake, my dear,” said Mrs. Acheson. “What a pity I did not know, and I would have asked him to share our dinner.”

“It is very kind of you to see him at all,” said Annie, who felt more wretched each moment. If Mrs. Acheson really knew the sort of man she was receiving into her house would she ever forgive Annie?


At seven the Achesons dined. Soon after eight o’clock there came a ring to the front door, and Rupert Colchester was announced. He came in looking brisk, smart, and handsome. He had managed, Annie could not imagine how, to get himself up well. He wore a frock-coat of the newest cut, his tie was immaculate, so were his collar and cuffs. He had a hemstitched handkerchief in his pocket with a slight scent about it. His hair had been cut, his face was clean-shaven; he was so good-looking that poor, foolish Annie felt a glow at her heart when she saw him enter the room.

Mrs. Acheson was kind to Annie’s brother, and Annie’s brother managed to make himself extremely agreeable. He talked to Mrs. Acheson, but he looked at Belle.

Now Belle, although she declared that there was no one in the world she despised like a man in his first adolescence, was disturbed by these glances from Rupert’s dark eyes. She pretended not to remark them, nevertheless she found her own short-sighted orbs meeting his again and again. After the fourth or fifth meeting of the two pairs of eyes Rupert got up, left his seat by Mrs. Acheson, and came over to where Belle sat.

“Do you know,” he said, dropping into a chair by her side, “that you interest me immensely?”

“Indeed,” answered Belle, “I am rather surprised to hear you say so. I never yet knew the man who wanted to look at me a second time. I know I am extremely plain, and the fact is I glory in being so.”

“It is my turn now to be surprised,” said Rupert very gently; “good looks are a great gift. You are quite mistaken in considering yourself plain. However, it is not your coloring, nor the size of your mouth, nor the shape of your face which specially strikes me; it is the remarkable development of your forehead. I spent several of my early years in America, and I remember when there meeting a man with a forehead like yours. He was the greatest classical scholar at Harvard College, near Boston.”

Belle could not help blushing with intense gratification.

“Ah,” she said, “I also have the same tastes. I passionately love the classics.”

Rupert dropped his voice. He began to talk to Belle at once about Cicero, Socrates, Homer, and her other favorite writers of antiquity. Soon they were in the full flow of a most animated conversation. Belle spoke eagerly and well; she unfolded the riches of her really great knowledge, and Rupert cleverly led her on. He had a smattering of Greek and Latin at his fingers’ ends, but no more. He managed, however, to use his very little knowledge to the best advantage; and Belle was so flattered by his covert glances, by his skillfully veiled compliments, by his pretended comprehension of her and her moods, that she never guessed how shallow were his acquirements, and opened out herself more and more.

If Annie was nice, her brother was even nicer. He was the exception that proves the rule. After all, there always was an exception—always, always.

A faint color came into her thin cheeks. Coffee was brought in, very fragrant, strong coffee. A servant approached Belle with a tray, but she waved it aside.

“Not now,” she said. Then she turned to Rupert. “Why will mother always insist upon spoiling a great intellectual treat with those tiresome attentions to creature comforts. Who wants coffee at a moment like this?”

Now Rupert, who had not been able to indulge in a good dinner, would have liked a cup of fragrant coffee immensely; but he instantly took his cue from Belle, and declined it with a wave of the hand.

“None for me,” he said. “Yes, Miss Acheson, I agree with you; at a moment like the present one cannot think of sublunary matters.”

“Do go on,” said Belle; “So you really studied——” And then once more the conversation assumed its classical complexion.

Annie, looking on from afar, felt more and more dreadful each moment. Rupert was undoubtedly trying to be agreeable to Belle for a purpose. Annie knew her brother quite sufficiently well to be certain that Belle’s manners, her attachment to the classics, her whole style, would be the very last that Rupert, in easier moments of his career, would have deigned to notice.

At last, soon after ten o’clock, he took his leave. In the meantime he had learned, not only all that Belle could tell him of her own college life, but also the darling hope of the future. The little wooden box which contained the eighty-nine pounds odd was pointed out to Rupert.

He nodded to Annie as he left the room. She followed him into the hall.

“Well, how did I get on?” he inquired.

“I don’t understand you,” answered Annie; “you frighten me dreadfully.”

“What a little goose you are. Well, I’m coming again. I shall come to-morrow or next day. Be sure you follow up the impression I have made with the fair Belle.” Then he made a grimace, kissed Annie lightly on her forehead, and left the house.

She went to bed feeling intensely uncomfortable. By the first post in the morning she received a letter. It was from Rupert, and ran as follows:

“My Dear Annie:

“For the desperate, only desperate devices. I am desperate. I have made up my mind. The fair and delightful Miss Belle shall be my deliverer. I want you and she to meet me in the Broad Walk in Regent’s Park between four and five this afternoon. I mean boldly to secure forty pounds out of her wooden box. She herself shall give it to me. While I am talking to her you must be engaged in another way. Excellent! Get the good mamma to come too. You and the mamma can walk behind, the fascinating Belle and I in front. I foretell that I can twist my fair Belle round my little finger. Help me now, Annie, as you value your brother’s future. You perceive how nobly I take the matter out of your hands. Miss Belle Acheson has her sphere in life, but it is not what she thinks. It is not to open a hostel for idiotic women who think themselves learned, but to help Rupert Colchester in his hour of need.

“Your Affectionate Brother.”

Annie read this letter twice. At each perusal her sense of dismay grew greater. The worst of it was, too, that Rupert had given no address. She could not write in reply, or send him a telegram, or do anything to stop him. He would walk in the Broad Walk in Regent’s Park that afternoon, and if Annie and Belle did not appear would go boldly to the house in Newbolt Square. Annie felt that she herself was a guest in that house more or less on false pretenses; but that Rupert should take advantage of Mrs. Acheson’s hospitality was more than the poor girl could stand.

“I must have it out with him,” she said to herself; “but Belle shall not come with me. I must go and brave him alone. Oh, I know what he will say, and what torture I shall have to endure; for, great sins as he has committed, I still love him. No. I will be brave now. I won’t sin again for him. But God help me, I do not know how to bear all this awful burden.”

The poor girl looked so miserable at breakfast that Mrs. Acheson remarked it.

“My dear child,” she said, “do you know that your appearance quite concerns me? I am certain you are not well; I am also sure that you are troubled about something. Have you no relations, dear, except that extremely nice-looking brother of yours?”

“I have no relations at all,” replied Annie, “except Rupert. My father and mother lived in America, where they died. I was quite a child when I came to England. Since then Rupert and I have been practically alone. We were brought up during the early years of our life by a guardian, who has since died.”

“Well, at any rate, I congratulate you on your brother, Annie,” said Belle from the far end of the room, where she was reading Socrates. “He has what I call a pure taste for the classics. I shall be very pleased indeed to see him here again. Mother, don’t you agree with me that Mr. Rupert Colchester is a scholarly and gentlemanly man?”

“Yes, dear Belle, I do,” said Mrs. Acheson. “Now, I tell you what it is,” she said, turning in a confidential way to Annie, “you and your brother shall see as much of each other as possible while you are with me. If you will just give me his address I will send him a line asking him to dine with us this evening. He feels leaving you so much.”

“Leaving me?” said Annie. “Did he say anything about that?”

“Yes, my dear, when he goes to India, he says, you will feel the parting terribly. He has secured an excellent post in the Civil Service, and has to start in about a fortnight. Why, what is the matter, dear Annie?” for Annie’s eyes had dropped on to her plate and her face looked like death.

“I did not know that Rupert was going to India,” she said at last, raising them desperately and fixing them on Mrs. Acheson.

“Perhaps he did not like to tell you, my love. From the way he spoke I rather judged that he had only just got his appointment. Of course you must know in the end. He feels so very full of sympathy for you, Annie.”

Annie got up. She made an excuse to leave the room; she felt that she could not contain herself another moment.

“Give me his address, dear, before you go,” said Mrs. Acheson. “I think it might be best for me to send him a telegram. Where is he staying?”

Annie turned, stood bolt upright, and uttered as if she was charging the words out of a cannon:

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know where your brother is staying? That does seem strange. But has he no permanent address?”

“Dear me, mother,” said Belle from the other end of the room, “does that matter? A man with Mr. Colchester’s extensive tastes doubtless cares little where he lays his head at night. He is, I presume, at one of the hotels. There are many hotels in London; have you not discovered that yet?”

“I never thought of the hotels,” said Mrs. Acheson in an apologetic voice. “He did not happen to tell you which one he was staying at, my love?”

“No,” said Annie, “he did not.”

“That is a pity.”

“But,” continued the young girl, “I can give him your invitation. It is very kind of you to ask him. I had a letter from him this morning asking me to meet him in Regent’s Park.”

“Dear, dear!” said Mrs. Acheson; “of course he wants to tell you this news about India. Certainly, my love, you shall go; it will be quite convenient. And now, what do you say to having a nice drive? I think a little fresh air would do you good. Belle, suppose you go for a drive with Annie? I will send round to Marchand’s for a landau. You might take her to Richmond.”

“Really, mother,” answered Belle in a tart and injured voice, “do you suppose I have time for such frivolity, for a drive with no object whatever except to inhale the air? Do you not understand that all my life is mapped out, that each moment is lived by rule? This morning I intend to make a careful study of my Greek grammar, as it is my intention to write an exhaustive essay on the characteristics of the Æolic dialect, with illustrations from literature.”

Mrs. Acheson sighed, and rose hastily.

“You must do as you please, Belle, of course,” she said.

“Certainly, dear mother, I intend to. If Annie likes, she can stay and help me, for she has quite a good taste in Greek, and a nice accent; but if, on the other hand, she prefers the utter inanity of a drive, why, surely you can go with her?”

“So I will,” said Mrs. Acheson; “and I believe that Annie and I will enjoy the ‘inanity,’ as you call it, immensely. Annie, we will go to Richmond.”

“So be it,” said Belle. “I do not expect to see either of you until this evening. I am off at once to my study. The Greek dialects, classified as Ionian and non-Ionian, are full of the deepest interest.”

She fled from the room in a sort of whirlwind, slamming the door after her.

Mrs. Acheson looked at Annie.

“Belle is a dear, good creature,” she said in a half-hesitating way; “but still it seems a pity.”

“What?” asked Annie.

“That she should be quite so devoted to the dead languages. Surely things of living moment are much more important?”

“Well, I happen to be very fond of the classics myself,” answered Annie, “so I ought not to blame Belle; but she does go to the fair with the thing, does she not?”

“It seems so to me, dear; but then I am, comparatively speaking, an ignorant woman. We women of the last generation had not the advantages which you young creatures now receive. What Belle means by the Ionian and non-Ionian dialects I am absolutely ignorant about.”

“It does not matter,” said Annie gently.

“I agree with you; my love, it scarcely matters much; but your pale cheeks and that anxious expression in your eyes matter a great deal. If I can be of any use to you, Annie, understand that I shall be only too pleased.”

“Do you mean it?” said Annie. She went up to Mrs. Acheson. The widow held out her hand, which Annie clasped.

“Do you really mean it?” continued Annie.

“I do, my dear child. I wish you would tell me what really troubles you.”

“I long to confide everything to you,” replied Annie, “but I dare not; please don’t ask me. Let me be happy while I am here, and don’t be—oh, don’t be too kind!”

“What does the poor child mean?” thought Mrs. Acheson. She now laid her hand on Annie’s shoulder, drew her to her side, and kissed her tenderly on her forehead.

“I am drawn to you because you are a motherless girl,” she said; “and whenever you feel that you can give me your confidence I shall be only too happy to receive it, and also, Annie, my dear, to respect it. I am an old woman, and have seen much of life; perhaps I could counsel you if you are in any difficulty.”

“No, no; it may not be,” said Annie in a whisper which nearly choked her.

“Very well; we will say no more at present. I am going now to give directions about the carriage.”

At eleven o’clock an open landau was at the door, and Mrs. Acheson and Annie went for their drive. It was a lovely summer’s day, and Regent’s Park looked its best. Long years afterward Annie Colchester remembered that drive. The delightful motion of the easy carriage in which she was seated, the soft breezes on her cheeks, Mrs. Acheson’s kind and intelligent conversation returned to her memory again and again. Oh, why was life so different for her to what it was for other girls! Oh, that she could confide in Mrs. Acheson! But then the knowledge that this good woman pitied her because she imagined that she was suffering from a girlish depression, or some other equally unimportant contretemps, caused her heart to rise with wild rebellion in her breast.

“If I could tell her the truth—the truth—would not her ears tingle and her heart beat,” thought Annie to herself. “Good as she is, she is not the person to help me in a great calamity of this sort. In her quiet, sheltered, prosperous life, what can she know of sorrows like mine? Oh, Rupert, why were you and I left alone in the world, and why—why did you turn out bad, and why do I love you so much?”

The drive was over, and the time arrived when Annie was to set off to meet Rupert in Regent’s Park. She arrived at the rendezvous a minute or two late, and he was already waiting for her. He still wore the immaculate frock-coat, and looked quite the handsome, smart young man of the world; but when he saw Annie coming to meet him alone a heavy frown completely altered his expression, his lips took a sarcastic and even malignant curve. He went up to his sister and shook her by the shoulder.

“Now, what is the meaning of this?” he said.

But Rupert’s very insolence made Annie brave.

“It means,” she replied, “that I do not intend to do what you ask.”

“You don’t? You’re a nice girl to help a fellow.”

“I have made up my mind,” continued Annie. “I won’t ever do anything wrong to help you again.”

“Oh, you won’t, won’t you? Then listen—heartless girl. Don’t you know that I have you completely in my power? If I were to tell what you did at Wingfield you could be arrested on a charge of forgery. There is an ugly punishment accorded by the law to such proceedings.”

“You cannot frighten me, Rupert,” said Annie, much to the astonishment of that gentleman, “for I have thought the whole thing carefully over. It would be quite impossible for me to be punished and for you to go scot-free; so, for your own safety, you will keep what you know in the dark. Now, the thing for you to consider is that I do not intend to help you to get any money from my friends, the Achesons.”

Rupert was so much astonished at Annie’s tone that for a moment he did not reply. Then, all of a sudden, he changed his tactics. He ceased to be furious, and became, in the poor girl’s opinion, far more dangerous. He drew her hand through his arm and invited her to walk with him. He then proceeded to sketch a most vivid and graphic picture of his own sufferings, the extreme danger in which he stood, and the awful disgrace which would fall upon Annie’s devoted head when the law of the land took its course upon him.

But Annie, for some reason which she did not quite understand herself, felt strangely strong that afternoon. Perhaps it was Mrs. Acheson’s kindness; perhaps it was the thought of Leslie, and what Leslie endured through Annie’s former ill-doing. Even Belle, with all her eccentricities, had a perceptible influence upon Annie now.

“For all these good, these dear people look upon crime as an impossibility,” thought the girl. “Now, Rupert seems to take it as the ordinary course of existence. There is no saying; I may get to look at things from his standpoint if I don’t take care. I dare not; I will never yield to his entreaties.”

So, though he begged of her, and implored of her, and bullied her, and flattered her, though he used all his eloquence, Annie remained firm.

It was the first time in all Rupert’s experience that he found her so, and it was the first time he thoroughly respected his sister. At the end of that interview he saw that if he was to get anything out of the Achesons he must do it in his own way.

“You have astonished and pained me,” he said at last. “I never thought you would desert me. Even in my darkest hour I have always thought ‘Well, at least there is Annie.’ Now my hour of gloom has truly arrived, my black hour come, and I am only able to say ‘Annie has deserted me.’”

“No,” answered Annie, “I have not really deserted you; but I will not consent to drag either you or myself any lower. I dragged you low enough when I gave you that last money; I have lowered myself. I shall never be the same again. I have also injured one of the best girls in the world. I bitterly repent of the sin which I committed. I am truly sorry for poor Leslie. Now, Rupert, you know my decision.”

“Yes, it is true what I have just said: you have utterly forsaken me.”

“No; for I still love you.”

“Oh, don’t talk humbug, Annie!” said Rupert with an angry interjection. “When you utter the word ‘love’ at such a moment like the present you make me actually sick.”

“I will not utter it again,” said Annie; “but I can still feel it. Rupert, I will not do wrong for you. On that point I am firm. Now I must leave you. Oh, by the way, Mrs. Acheson gave me a message for you. She wished to know if you would dine with them this evening. Of course you will not come. Under the circumstances it would be quite impossible; but you may as well send back a polite message.”

“Say, with my compliments, that I shall be heartily pleased to accept the invitation,” answered Rupert.

“How can you dare?”

“Will you give the message? May I not accept my own invitation, or am I to be beholden to you?”

“Well, come if you like,” said poor Annie. “I cannot quarrel with you nor argue with you any longer. Come if you wish to do so; but plainly understand that, if you attempt to ask Belle Acheson to lend you any money, I shall immediately tell the entire truth to Mrs. Acheson.”

“I believe you; you are turning into a perfect little fiend. Well, at any rate expect me at dinner time.”


After Annie and Leslie had left him, Mr. Parker returned to his office. There were two or three candidates still waiting for the vacant post of secretary. One of his clerks came to inquire what was to be done with them.

“I cannot see them,” was the reply. “You may as well say that the matter is practically settled, and that there is no use in any of them waiting.”

The clerk withdrew, and Mr. Parker began to pace up and down the length of his room.

“Well, bless my soul!” he said; “I cannot make out what all this means. There is a mystery somewhere. Why won’t Leslie Gilroy confess the truth? Well, if I don’t get to the bottom of this thing my name’s not Charles Parker. I believe—yes, I cannot help believing—that somehow the girl is innocent; but appearances are much against her.”

He opened a certain drawer in a cabinet which stood behind his desk, took from it a letter, and began to read. The letter ran as follows:

“Dear Mr. Parker:

“I am in great trouble and perplexity. I have got into a terrible scrape here, and only you can get me out again. I dare not confide in mother; you alone can help me. Will you give my friend, Annie Colchester, sixty pounds for me, and will you give it in notes and gold? I will never do what I have done again if only you will trust and forgive me this time. I cannot imagine how I have been led into these terrible debts; but I can only say I will never incur another. Please give the money to Annie at once, for the matter is most urgent.

“Your affectionate friend,
“Leslie Gilroy.”

“There,” said the good merchant to himself, “there is her own letter—her own statement in black and white. She got into a scrape, went in debt, and wanted me to give her money. Well, if it were only debt—the ordinary girlish wish to possess herself of fal-lals and finery—why, I could forgive the child. There’s a look on her face which makes it hard for any man to withstand her; but the thing is this: she has not made a full statement; she did not want money for ordinary debts; she had another reason, and she would not divulge it. Why did she write to me as she did? What can be up? ’Pon my word! I feel quite frightened. There’s that mother of hers, the best of good women, and that noble young fellow her brother, and the rest of ’em; plenty of character, plenty of go, plenty of spirit, nothing mean or underhand about one of them; and there’s Leslie, whom all the rest look up to as the straightest of the straight and the best of the best, and who has about the most open face I ever looked into; and yet, if this letter is true, she is a sly, cunning little rogue, as sly and cunning as can be. I pity the mother, that I do: but there, is the girl guilty? Isn’t there some explanation of this extraordinary mystery?”

Mr. Parker looked again at the letter, then he folded it up and was about to put it back into his cabinet when he saw the paper on which Leslie had scribbled her request to him that day, lying on the floor. He stooped and picked it up, and the next moment his red face had turned pale, for Leslie’s scribble, carelessly written as it was, seemed to him to be written in a decidedly different hand from that of the letter. A moment later, all eagerness, quite trembling with excitement, the shrewd man of business was comparing both writings. There was a strong resemblance; most of the capitals were formed in the same way, but there was also a distinct difference.

With pursed-up lips and a wise shake of his head, Mr. Parker slipped the letter and the scrap of paper into his pocket, and left the office. On his way out he spoke to his head clerk:

“Hudson, don’t expect me back to-day. I shall return at my usual hour to-morrow.”

“Something has happened to annoy the chief very considerably,” thought the clerk to himself as Mr. Parker’s back disappeared through the doorway.

A moment later the great tea-merchant found himself in the street, the next he had hailed a hansom, and given the address of Mrs. Gilroy’s house in West Kensington.

“I could go by train, but a hansom will take me quicker,” he muttered to himself. “I hope to goodness she won’t be in; it’s Llewellyn I wish to have a chat with. Yes, I must investigate this matter, and I don’t want the mother to know anything about it until I can feel my bearings. There’s a way out of this somehow, and I believe the poor girl is nothing but a dupe. Can it be possible that she is shielding someone; but no, that can’t be the case, for when I went down to Wingfield she knew all about the story and never denied for a moment that she had written the letter. She looked sorry enough, but not surprised—no, not surprised. Bless me! if I know what the whole thing means. These girls, with their modern education, know a thing too much when they’re a match for a shrewd old fellow like myself. But I’ll see Llewellyn. I’ll sound him, whatever happens.”

When Mr. Parker got to the Gilroys’ house it so happened that Llewellyn himself was going up the steps. He was just about to put his latchkey into the door when the merchant’s hearty voice arrested him.

Llewellyn turned round, and a smile broke over his face.

“But mother’s out, I am afraid, Mr. Parker. You’ll come in all the same though, won’t you?”

“Yes, Llewellyn, my man, I just will. I want to have a word with you, my boy.”

“Certainly, sir. Is there anything I can do?”

“Take me where we can be alone for a minute or two. Your sister isn’t in—eh?”

“Do you mean Leslie?”

“Yes, your eldest sister, Leslie.”

“No, Mr. Parker; she is with her friends, the Chetwynds. One of the girls is very ill, and the other won’t do without Leslie.”

“I’m not specially surprised at that,” said the merchant. “She seems the sort of girl one would rely on a good bit; but that is not what I have come about. See here, Llewellyn, have you got a letter of your sister’s handy?”

“A letter! What do you mean?” said Llewellyn,

“Just what I say. I want to see one of your sister’s letters.”

“But I don’t understand,” said Llewellyn.

“And I don’t want you to understand, my boy. I want you just to exercise a little bit of faith in your father’s old friend, and not to say a single word to your mother about this. Now, go and find some letters of your sister’s. When you have found them, I want you to put a couple of them into my care. If they contain any secrets you may trust me not to blab; but this is a serious matter, and there is more in it than meets the eye. There, my boy, just do what you are told.”

“Of course I have got several of Leslie’s letters,” answered Llewellyn. “I think there are a few which do not contain anything of a private nature. I will give you one or two, sir, with pleasure.”

Llewellyn left the room, returning presently with a packet of letters kept together with an elastic band.

“There,” he said, “you can have them all, sir. I have not even looked at them. Leslie is as open as the day, and there is nothing in her letters that you may not see.”

“As open as the day—eh? You really think so. She’s not a bit secretive, now?”

“Secretive! My sister?” said Llewellyn, drawing himself up and flushing angrily.

“There, don’t get peppery. I’m very much obliged to you. You shall have these letters back again in a day or two at the farthest.”

“But are you going, Mr. Parker?”

“Yes; I must hurry back to town as fast as ever I can. Now, good-by to you; but hark, Llewellyn, not a word of this to your mother.”

“Certainly not, if you do not wish it, sir; but I fail to understand.”

“You must have faith, my boy. You will know all sooner or later.”

With the letters in his pocket, Mr. Parker went straight off to Scotland Yard. There he had an interview with Chief-Inspector Jones, got the address of a special expert of handwriting, and drove off to the man’s house.

Mr. Essex was in, and Mr. Parker had a short, emphatic interview with him.

“Well, sir.” he said finally, “you quite understand. You will examine the letters, and let me know the result to-morrow morning.”

Mr. Essex promised, and the merchant went away.

“Now,” he said to himself, “if this is a little game which some good people are trying to hide from Charles Parker they will quickly find themselves in the wrong box.”


Punctual to the hour, and in a suitable evening dress, Rupert Colchester appeared at the Achesons’ house. Mrs. Acheson received him with her usual kindness. She was alone in the room when the young man happened to put in an appearance.

“Do you know,” she said, “that I am quite glad to have an opportunity of seeing you by yourself. I am not at all happy about your sister.”

“Indeed,” replied Rupert, putting on a sympathetic and very interested air. “Be sure of this, that anything you may happen to say to me about Annie will have my most tender consideration and my deepest interest. Annie and I are practically alone in the world. What is wrong with the dear girl?”

“She is very far from well; that I can see,” replied Mrs. Acheson. “She is also very much depressed, unnaturally so; and do you know, Mr. Colchester, that she did not know anything about your appointment in the Civil Service. She was amazed when I told her you were going to India.”

“Ah!” said Rupert, thoughtfully tapping the back of his heel against the brass rail of the fireplace, “I felt sure she would feel it dreadfully. The fact is, up to the present I have not dared to break the news to her, she is so intensely affectionate. Of course I intended to do so to-night. Now that you have done so, it is a great relief to me. She will not feel it so dreadfully after a little; and I know I can buoy her up with hope, for my intention is that she shall join me in a year or two. She shall be my housekeeper until she enters a good home of her own. I could not think of marrying until my dear Annie had a home of her own.”

“I felt certain that you had a good motive in keeping the important news back from her,” replied innocent Mrs. Acheson; “and I respect you all the more for your consideration.”

Just at that instant Belle and Annie entered the room. Belle wore her best dress. It was not much to look at; but something very great and uncommon must have induced her to put it on. It was made of soft black silk, and had ruffles of lace round the neck and wrists. She wore also a very narrow gold chain round her neck. When Rupert spoke to her, Belle found herself blushing.

Dinner was announced. Mrs. Acheson asked him to take her daughter down, and she herself conducted Annie to the dining-room. Annie had made no attempt to improve her appearance; she sat, feeling shy and uncomfortable, scarcely opening her lips, while Rupert carried the conversation his own way. He was a clever man, and he contrived on the present occasion to make himself quite brilliant. He talked about India, spoke of the liner in which he was going out; turned aside to Annie to say, “I will explain everything to you, my dear, presently”; told good stories about his early life in America, and then about his education in London; and managed to delight both Mrs. Acheson and Belle by the peep he gave them into a world which they had never entered. His manners to Belle were all that could be desired. He was extremely courteous and deferential and managed to convey a touch of admiration which was never unduly obtrusive. Such a strong effect did he have upon her that she forgot her beloved classics as she listened to him.

The meal came to an end, and when the ladies rose Rupert accompanied them to the drawing-room.

“No wine for me, thanks,” he said. “I am practically a teetotaler.” He then drew a chair near Belle’s side, and contrived to draw her into a literary conversation of deep interest.

Annie felt on thorns as she watched the two. More firmly each moment was she making up her mind. If Rupert dared to ask Belle to lend him any of the money in the wooden box she would confess all. She felt herself a hypocrite, and could scarcely stand Mrs. Acheson’s kind and affectionate remarks.

At last the slow evening came to an end. By this time Rupert had perambulated almost every foot of the drawing-room. He had stood close to the box—once his hand had touched it. It was when he was looking at Belle’s precious Greek Testament which lay on top of it. Rupert quoted a few sentences out of the Testament in his melodious voice to Belle, who nodded and praised his accent. He then went and stood in the deep embrasure of the window, looked out at the moon, which threw its radiance over the garden outside, and all of a sudden, without the least warning, began to talk of burglars.

“This is a very nice house,” he said; “but with that garden at the back it is not too safe; and you have no men on the premises, have you?”

“No,” said Belle; “but I don’t understand what you mean.”

“Well, I have the greatest dread of burglars breaking into a house inhabited only by women.”

“Oh, we are not at all afraid,” replied Belle. “Who would burgle here? We have no special valuables; a very little silver, no more. Besides, the windows are all thoroughly secured.”

She showed the device of the latch to Rupert, who said it was clever, very ingenious indeed. A moment or two afterwards he took his leave. As he did so, he nodded to Annie.

“See you to-morrow, little sis,” he said. “Cheer up about India, old girl; you shall come and join me by and by.—Good-by, Mrs. Acheson; I cannot tell you how I have enjoyed my evening.”

To Belle he did not say a word about his special enjoyment; but he gave her a look full of eloquence. She found herself blushing, and her heart beat a trifle quicker than its wont.

When the hall-door closed behind him, both ladies were eloquent in his praise.

“A charming fellow, and what a nice expression!” said Mrs. Acheson.

“He is a clever, which is better than being a charming, man,” said Belle; “he has a great and sincere respect for all learning. In his way he is an enthusiast. I do not care for conversation with men as a rule; but I must own that I respect Mr. Colchester, and enjoy talking to him. He is so sincere and so straightforward.”

“May I go to bed?” said Annie suddenly. “I have a bad headache, and should like to lie down.”

“Oh, poor child,” said Mrs. Acheson, “I do hope you are not sickening for anything, dear. You have looked so ill since you have been with us. Will you have some sal-volatile or eau-de-Cologne? What do you take when you have bad headaches?”

“Nothing,” answered Annie. “I lie down and try to sleep.”

She hurried from the room, scarcely waiting to bid either lady good-night. Mrs. Acheson and Belle sat up a little longer, then they also retired for the night.

Annie had lain down on her bed without undressing. It is true she pulled the counterpane over her in case Mrs. Acheson or Belle should come into the room; but sleep was far from her wakeful eyes.

By and by the house grew quiet. She heard the servants going up to their attics overhead; she heard Mrs. Acheson shut herself into her own room, and Belle shut herself into hers. Belle slept with her door locked, and Annie heard the key being turned. A few moments later profound silence fell upon the house; the lights were all out. One by one the inhabitants slept, all but Annie, who lay with every nerve tingling and her sense of waiting preternaturally acute.

While Rupert had been in the house she had followed all his movements with a terrible knowledge of him and his ways which gave her the clew to much that he was doing. When he laid his hand on the wooden box, Annie felt as if a burning-red hand had touched her own heart. When he stood by the window she could scarcely contain her uneasiness. When he spoke about burglars it seemed to her that the whole of what was immediately to follow was laid bare to her. Rupert was in desperate straits; he would stop at nothing to achieve his object. Was it possible that he, the man whom Annie loved, whose father had been good and respectable, whose mother had been one of the gentlest and sweetest of women, would stoop as low as this? Alas! Annie feared it. Now was her time for action. She slipped softly out of bed, unfastened her door without making any noise, and glided down through the silent house. Mrs. and Miss Acheson were both sound sleepers; the servants were far away. She reached the ground floor, turned the handle of the drawing-room door, found the door locked from the outside. Taking great care, she unlocked it, still without making any sound. Then, in her stockinged feet she crossed the room and took her place in shadow close to the window where Rupert had stood that evening.

The moon was still up, and its light fell across the room. The drawing-room had three large windows with Venetian blinds. It looked on to a fair-sized garden; the windows were not more than three feet from the ground. Annie now observed with increased apprehension that the blind to this window was up. She instantly remembered that it had got out of order that morning, and heard Mrs. Acheson say that she must send for a man to repair it. Rupert must have also noticed that fact as he stood with Belle close to the window.

Annie got still deeper into the shadow of the thick curtains, and waited. All too soon she heard just what she expected to hear—steps in the garden outside; the steps approached the window. The bright flood of moonlight was broken by a huge shadow; a man was standing on the window-sill. Annie did not stir. She heard the grating noise of a small diamond against the glass; a square was quickly cut out, a hand and arm intruded themselves, and the hasp, the construction of which had been explained to Rupert by Belle, was quickly unfastened. The next instant the window was lifted, and Rupert Colchester stepped into the room. He went at once to the table where the wooden box stood, laid his hand on it, and was about to turn back when Annie, making a sudden movement, confronted him, standing in the white light caused by the moon.

“You must put that box back, Rupert,” said Annie; “if you don’t I shall call out.”

Her sudden and unlooked-for appearance and her brave words staggered the man. He was holding the box in his hand. He dropped it now in his agitation. Before he could stoop to pick it up, Annie had snatched at it, flown across the room, and put it out into the hall. She then locked the drawing-room door, and slipped the key into her pocket.

“Now, Rupert,” she said, coming back to him, “the window is open, and you can go. I know you won’t injure me, for, after all, however wicked you are, I am your own sister, and the only person in all the world who loves you. You can go, Rupert; you can escape; the way is clear. But steal that box you don’t; I would rather die than let you.”

By this time the astonished and discomfited man had found his voice.

“I have not come here to be betrayed by you,” he said. “I am desperate, so you had best leave me alone. Give me the key of the door this minute; if you don’t I shall take it by force.”

“Rupert, I hear someone stirring overhead: Mrs. Acheson has heard you already. Oh, go, for Heaven’s sake.”

“A nice position you’ll be in,” he said with a sneer.

The noise in the room above was more audible than ever. Someone was heard walking across it.

“You’ve done for me,” he cried. “A nice sister you are! Yes, I suppose I had best hook it.”

Steps were now heard coming downstairs. Rupert, scowling at Annie, made a rush to the window, put his foot over the ledge and disappeared. He had scarcely done so before Mrs. Acheson’s voice was heard calling at the other side of the locked door.

“Is anybody in this room?” she cried. “Who has taken the key? What is wrong?”

Annie thought for a moment; she then walked straight to the door and flung it open.

“How you frightened me,” said Mrs. Acheson, coming in. “My dear child, what is the matter? How terrible you look! What is wrong?”

“I have had a fright,” replied Annie; “there has been an attempt at burglary.” She shook all over. “Don’t question me now, for I cannot bear it,” she said. “It is safe—he has not taken it. Do you see the square cut out of that pane of glass? He came in that way; he was just about to take the box when I showed myself.”

“The box, child? What box?”

“Belle’s wooden box.”

“What! that wooden box that Belle keeps full of coins?”

“Yes, the same. I saved it; it is in the hall. I—I feel a little faint.”

“Poor child, no wonder! What a terrible scare you have had! Who would have supposed that burglars would come to us? Well, dear, if the box had been stolen, how disappointed they would have been to find only ordinary coins. But come upstairs, Annie; I must get you some sal-volatile at once.”

Mrs. Acheson dragged Annie upstairs, then went to the servants, awoke them, and sent two of them off immediately to the nearest police-station. She questioned Annie still further with regard to the burglary; but could get little or nothing out of her, and concluded that she was stunned by the sudden shock. It was not until the widow had gone back to her room that she remembered how very strange it was that Annie should have locked the drawing-room door, how still stranger it was for Annie to be in the drawing-room at all. She was not naturally suspicious: but these circumstances did cause her a little serious thought.

When the morning dawned she went to her daughter’s bedroom.

Belle had heard nothing of the adventures of the previous night, and was considerably annoyed when her mother rattled the handle of the locked door, and asked for admission. Belle opened the door, and then stood somewhat crossly waiting for Mrs. Acheson to speak.

“What is the matter?” she asked.

The widow related what had occurred; said that she had found Annie in the drawing-room with the door locked, and Belle’s wooden box of coins at the other side.

“My coins! my treasures!” said Belle, color and animation rushing into her face. “How brave of dear Annie: how splendid of her! I know why she did it; it is unnecessary to explain the matter to you just at present, mother. I can only say that the box was full of valuables, and dear, brave little Annie has rescued them. Oh, she and I must indeed be one after this, all during the remainder of our lives. How queer, mother; it was only last night Mr. Colchester said something about burglars. He seemed to think we were in danger with the drawing-room window so close to the ground and looking into the garden; but I explained to him the ingenious way in which the windows were fastened, and then he seemed to think we were absolutely safe. I must go at once now to dear Annie, and thank her.”

“I wish you would, Belle; she was very sad last night, poor child. But, my dear, I never knew there were valuables in the box. You only spoke of coins.”

“Coins of the realm,” said Belle with a laugh; “very nearly one hundred pounds, money I have saved from my college expenses for a noble purpose. Don’t question me now, mother; I will tell you by and by.”

Belle put on her dressing-gown and ran across the landing to Annie’s door. She knocked; there was no answer. She turned the handle and entered, Annie’s bed was empty—Annie herself had disappeared.


Yes, Annie Colchester had made up her mind. There was only one thing to be done; she must see Mr. Parker without a moment’s delay, make full confession, and fling herself upon his mercy.

“Even prison would be better than this present agony,” thought the poor girl. “Whatever happens, I cannot face the Achesons again without their knowing the truth.”

With the first dawn she rose and dressed, and then wrote a little note to Mrs. Acheson.

“You will think badly of me, and no wonder,” wrote Annie. “The man who tried to steal the wooden box last night was my brother Rupert. Yes, he was my brother. He cut the square of glass out of the window, and entered your house as a common burglar. Pray, don’t do anything until you hear from me again. I am going to Mr. Parker.”

Belle found this note, read its contents, flushed slowly all over, rubbed her forehead in a distracted way, and then, hiding the note in the pocket of her dressing-gown, returned to her own room.

“Poor Annie has gone out of her mind,” she said to herself. “Mr. Colchester, that charming, scholarly, delightful man enter the house in order to take my box of money—impossible! I should not believe it if a thousand Annie Colchesters swore to it. This note is my property, and I refuse to divulge its contents for the present.”

Meanwhile Annie wandered about the streets until it was time for Mr. Parker to appear at his office. He had been called unexpectedly out of town on the previous day, or events would have come to an issue before now. On his arrival this morning he looked eagerly through his correspondence, and had just taken up the letter from the expert and was reading its contents when his clerk entered, said that Miss Colchester had called, that she looked in serious trouble, and wished to see Mr. Parker without delay.

“Ask Miss Colchester into my waiting-room, and say I will send for her presently,” was the reply.

The clerk withdrew. Mr. Parker continued to read the expert’s letter.

“I thought so,” he said to himself; “he says the writings are not identical, that they have not been written by the same person. Miss Annie little knows what a trap she has got into. She is just here in the nick of time. Yes, I will see her; I will get the whole naked truth out of her. Guilty! of course she is guilty. After she has made her confession she shall come with me to the Gilroys. What an old, blind fool I have been. How could I ever doubt a girl with a face like Leslie’s?”

He stood up as he spoke. The expert’s letter had pleased him; but he could not but own that he felt nearly as puzzled as ever.

“Bless me if I know what it means even now,” he said anxiously to himself.

The puzzled man was standing on his hearth. His hair was wildly rubbed over his head, and his eyes looked fiercer than Annie had ever seen them when she entered the room.

“Well, Miss Colchester,” he said, “may I ask what is the meaning of this visit? It so happens that I am anxious to see you, and should have called upon you if you had not come to me. But, as a rule, I do not see people on private business in my office.”

“I have come to speak to you about Leslie Gilroy,” said Annie. “You are fond of Leslie?”

“It does not matter to you whether I care for her or not. What have you got to say about her?”

“Only that she is quite innocent,” said Annie. “She never wrote that letter.”

Mr. Parker’s face wore an ugly sneer.

“I wonder now,” he said, coming a step or two forward, “if you have been following me about on the sly for the last day or two? Do you happen to know that I had taken that letter and also the writing Leslie Gilroy left here the other day to Essex the expert? You are sharp enough to know most things. Did you find out about that?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“My meaning is plain enough. It is better to make confession before open detection, is it not?”

“I don’t know anything,” continued Annie; “I have never heard of Mr. Essex before. I am the most wretched, miserable girl in the world. I came to you to confess, not knowing that you were able to expose me. It does not matter now in the very least whether you expose me or not, for I am going to expose myself. I did write that letter. I knew at the time that it was forgery; but I was desperate. Rupert wanted sixty pounds. He said that if he did not get the money he would be locked up; the police were already after him. He owed the money for a debt of such a nature that if he did not pay it he would be locked up.”

“Well, all this is coming to the point with a vengeance,” said Mr. Parker.

Annie clutched hold of the nearest chair to steady herself.

“I am miserable, and I know that I deserve imprisonment, or anything you like to give me,” she said.

“We will leave out the question about your deservings for the present,” said the merchant. “What I want is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

“Well, I did it,” said Annie; “I did commit forgery. I was nearly mad. I have always loved Rupert better than I ought. He was my only brother, and I—I could never turn from him. It was idolatry, and I am punished.”

“Go on with your story,” said Mr. Parker.

“I am doing so; only you must give me time. Rupert wanted the money, and I was distracted. Leslie and I were roomfellows; she was always good to me.”

“A nice return you have made for her kindness.”

“I know that well; but you cannot understand the temptation. There, I don’t mean to excuse myself. On the very evening when I saw Rupert, and found out all about his trouble, Leslie talked about you. I was so startled to find that she also knew you. She told me what you were doing for her, how liberal you were with your money, how very kind. She said that her father had been your greatest friend, and that you had made a sort of promise to help his children. As she spoke, a desperate idea came into my head. I was always very clever at imitating handwriting, and there was plenty of Leslie’s about. The idea of making her appear to write to you for money came into my brain, and would not go away again. I thought of it all night, and the scheme seemed almost impossible to be detected, and was my last and only resource. I rose very early, got hold of some of Leslie’s handwriting, copied it carefully, wrote the letter which I brought to you, got permission to go to London from Miss Lauderdale, and saw you that afternoon. You gave me the money. I took it back. I gave it to Rupert.”

“But even now I do not understand,” said Mr. Parker. “I came down to Wingfield the next day. I was very much disturbed, I can tell you. That letter, which seemed to be Leslie’s, shook my faith. I always considered her the finest, sweetest girl I had ever come across, like, very like, one whom I have lost; but no matter, you are unworthy to hear that name. I came to Wingfield, and I saw Leslie, and she knew all about it; she did not deny anything.”

“That is because she was noble. I was obliged to tell her the truth, and she resolved to screen me and take the consequences.”

“’Pon my word! I never heard anything like this in the whole course of my life,” said Mr. Parker. “Noble! I should think she was; but what were you made of? You allowed her! Think what she suffered. I distrusted her, and you allowed her to screen you.”

“I did, for Rupert’s sake. I know I was bad, but I was not wholly bad. She knew that if it were discovered I should be expelled from St. Wode’s, and my chance in life would be over, so she agreed to screen me. I didn’t guess at the time how much she would suffer, and what it would mean to her. Leslie saw Rupert and told him that if he would leave the country, and never return, she would keep his secret and mine. Rupert promised to go away. He went, and I thought I should never see him again. Then I lost my interest in my work. I found I could not study; and when I passed my exam. I only took an ordinary, and my prospects were more or less ruined. I was terribly poor, for the little money that I had saved I had already given to my brother. When my own money was nearly gone I went to Leslie; that was a few days ago. I heard that you wanted a secretary, and I begged and implored of her to ask you to give me the post. Leslie did not like asking you. She said you were terribly changed to her; but at last she consented. She came here with me. You told her that if she told the real truth about the money you would give me the post. How could she tell you the truth without ruining me? We both knew it was all up then, although she implored me at the eleventh hour to make confession; but I could not—how could I without ruining Rupert?”

“You conscience has become very tender since then,” said Mr. Parker. “How is it you are here this morning?”

“I will tell you. Because Rupert himself has opened my eyes. Oh, I love him still; yes, I love him still; but my heart is broken. I don’t care what happens to me. Friends of mine of the name of Acheson asked me to stay with them for a week. I had only fourteen shillings in the world, and I thought I would go. Mrs. Acheson was very kind—she was like a mother to me; but on the very day I went, on the day I saw you last, I met my brother. He had never gone away; he had broken his word to Leslie; he had got into fresh, awful trouble. He wanted more and more money; and, oh, Mr. Parker, last night he broke into the very house where I was staying, in order to steal some money which was in the drawing-room. What am I to do? Oh, if I might only die!”

The miserable girl fell on her knees, burying her face in a chair near by; her faint sobs sounded through the room.

Mr. Parker stood still for a moment, the color in his face was coming and going. What was he to do? He hated Annie Colchester, and yet from the bottom of his soul he pitied her. Before he could decide anything, there came a knock at the door.

“Particularly engaged just now,” he called out.

“It’s Miss Gilroy, sir. She wants to see you as soon as possible.”

“Miss Gilroy! Bless my soul! what can she have come about?”

“Oh, do let her in. I know she will plead for me. She will ask you not to be too bitterly hard,” said poor Annie.

Mr. Parker opened the door.

“Come right in, Leslie,” he said. His manner had changed; there was a tremble in his deep voice.

Leslie came eagerly forward.

“I have come to ask you if you know anything about Annie Colchester,” she began. “We are in dreadful trouble about her; she has disappeared, and—— Why, what is it? You seem to know something. What is wrong?”

“Only that I have learned the truth at last, Leslie. Annie Colchester is here; she has confessed everything. Stand up, Annie, and speak this moment.”

But Annie was past this, her head was buried in her hands, and sobs shook her frame. Leslie gave one glance from Mr. Parker to Annie, and then sprang forward.

She fell on her knees by Annie’s side, and put her arms round her.

“Oh, poor, poor Annie; have you really confessed?” said Leslie. “It was brave of you, dear; it was brave.” She put her arms round Annie’s neck and began to kiss her.

“Oh, you don’t know how she has been tried and tempted,” she continued, turning to the merchant. “You cannot be angry with her any longer. Even the worst sinner ought to be forgiven when he confesses; and Annie is sorry, so sorry.”

Leslie’s kisses fell on Annie’s hot cheeks like rain. After a time Annie slightly moved her position, and stole one arm softly round Leslie’s neck.

Mr. Parker looked at the two.

“Bless my soul! this will upset me,” he muttered to himself. “Never met a girl like Leslie; it makes one believe in Christianity; that it does.”

He suddenly left the room. An hour later he came back.

Annie was now quite collected and calm. She had told Leslie everything. Leslie went straight up to Mr. Parker, and took his hand.

“You have got to do something for me,” she said.

“I’ll do anything for you, Leslie; I feel fit to die when I think how I mistrusted you.”

“You had good reasons to mistrust me, and I am not the least surprised. You need not reproach yourself in the very least. Now, if you will do something, if you will grant me a great, great favor, I shall be the happiest of girls; I shall gladly rejoice in the thought of my past suffering if it can help Annie now.”

“You want a favor for her?”

“I do; and I know you will grant it.”

“It would be difficult for me to refuse you anything; but what is it?”

“I want you to do this. I don’t wish Rupert Colchester, bad as he is, to be locked up. I want him to leave the country; I want you to see that he goes. He must be seen off, for Annie is not to be persecuted by him any longer. When he is away I want Annie to become your secretary. I will be responsible for her conduct, for her probity and honesty; she shall come and live at my mother’s, and she shall work for you. Annie must be saved. Oh, I love her, Mr. Parker; I love her, notwithstanding her sin. She was terribly tempted. You and I do not know anything of such temptation; but now we will save her, won’t we? Will you do this for my sake?”

“I declare I’d do anything in the world for you; but it’s rather a big order. I shan’t mind helping that poor girl; but the brother! is he to go off scot-free?”

“For Annie’s sake, yes. It would hurt her too terribly if he were punished. Give him one last chance, Mr. Parker; he may be saved even at the eleventh hour. Oh, you are the best man I know; prove it now.”

“And this would make you quite happy, my dear?”

“It would make me so happy I should scarcely know how to contain myself. Oh say ‘Yes,’ here and now.”

“Then here is my hand on it; I say it here and now.”

Mr. Parker was as good as his word. He was not a man to do things by half-measures, and he did not lose an hour in taking means to discover Rupert Colchester’s whereabouts. He found that young man hiding from the police, gave him such a talking to that even he felt a little ashamed; and finally, securing a berth for him on board a vessel which was bound for Australia, saw him off himself on the following day. The curtain drops forever on Rupert as far as this story is concerned.

Annie is happy at last, notwithstanding her great trials. She is very busy, and has little time to think. She makes an excellent secretary; is painstaking, persevering, clever, and affectionate. Mr. Parker does not like to own it; but he is really getting very fond of her, and actually asks her advice on several matters in the most unwarrantable and unbusinesslike manner. Annie lives with Mrs. Gilroy, who is as kind as kind can be to the motherless girl.

As to the other girls, whose opening lives have been so briefly sketched in these pages, they are some of them still undergraduates at St. Wode’s, and some are starting in the real battle of life; but they are all without exception doing well.

Lettie has given up her collegiate training, has entered society, making Mrs. Chetwynd very happy by so doing, and is much liked for her cheerful and taking manners and her pretty face.

Eileen has quite recovered her health and strength. She and Marjorie are still at St. Wode’s, and Marjorie never forgets that time when God answered her prayer and spared Eileen’s life.

Leslie is more beautiful and more beloved than ever by all those who know her. Mr. Parker openly talks of her as his adopted daughter, and her love for the old man is the sunshine of his declining years.

Belle hopes to open her hostel within a year at the latest. There is a change for the better in Belle, and she is less arrogant than formerly, although she still firmly believes that the true aim of a woman’s life is to delve in the rich soil of past literature and not to trouble herself much about the future.

One and all in their different ways are going forward to a goal. Each has an ideal which will never be quite realized on earth; but each with strength and courage has learned to take her part bravely in life’s battle. To each has been accorded a strength higher than her own, which enables her to refuse the evil and choose the good.


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“Frank Norris has written in ‘Blix’ just what such a woman’s name would imply—a story of a frank, fearless girl comrade to all men who are true and honest because she is true and honest. How she saved the man she fishes and picnics with in a spirit of outdoor platonic friendship, makes a pleasant story, and a perfect contrast to the author’s ‘McTeague.’ A splendid and successful story.”—Washington Times.

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There is romance of love, mystery, plot, and fighting, and a breathless dash and go about the telling which makes one quite forget about the improbabilities of the story; and it all ends in the old-fashioned healthy American way. Shirley is a sweet, courageous heroine whose shining eyes lure from page to page.

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A “traction deal” in a Western city is the pivot about which the action of this clever story revolves. But it in the character-drawing of the principals that the author’s strength lies. Exciting incidents develop their inherent strength and weakness, and if virtue wins in the end, it is quite in keeping with its carefully-planned antecedents. The N. Y. Sun says: “We commend it for its workmanship—for its smoothness, its sensible fancies, and for its general charm.”

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GROSSET & DUNLAP, Publishers, New York




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