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    Ch. 3: Alicia's Diary

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    Chapter 3
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    CHAPTER I.--SHE MISSES HER SISTER

    July 7.--I wander about the house in a mood of unutterable sadness, for
    my dear sister Caroline has left home to-day with my mother, and I shall
    not see them again for several weeks. They have accepted a long-standing
    invitation to visit some old friends of ours, the Marlets, who live at
    Versailles for cheapness--my mother thinking that it will be for the good
    of Caroline to see a little of France and Paris. But I don't quite like
    her going. I fear she may lose some of that childlike simplicity and
    gentleness which so characterize her, and have been nourished by the
    seclusion of our life here. Her solicitude about her pony before
    starting was quite touching, and she made me promise to visit it daily,
    and see that it came to no harm.

    Caroline gone abroad, and I left here! It is the reverse of an ordinary
    situation, for good or ill-luck has mostly ordained that I should be the
    absent one. Mother will be quite tired out by the young enthusiasm of
    Caroline. She will demand to be taken everywhere--to Paris continually,
    of course; to all the stock shrines of history's devotees; to palaces and
    prisons; to kings' tombs and queens' tombs; to cemeteries and picture-
    galleries, and royal hunting forests. My poor mother, having gone over
    most of this ground many times before, will perhaps not find the
    perambulation so exhilarating as will Caroline herself. I wish I could
    have gone with them. I would not have minded having my legs walked off
    to please Caroline. But this regret is absurd: I could not, of course,
    leave my father with not a soul in the house to attend to the calls of
    the parishioners or to pour out his tea.

    July 15.--A letter from Caroline to-day. It is very strange that she
    tells me nothing which I expected her to tell--only trivial details. She
    seems dazzled by the brilliancy of Paris--which no doubt appears still
    more brilliant to her from the fact of her only being able to obtain
    occasional glimpses of it. She would see that Paris, too, has a seamy
    side if you live there. I was not aware that the Marlets knew so many
    people. If, as mother has said, they went to reside at Versailles for
    reasons of economy, they will not effect much in that direction while
    they make a practice of entertaining all the acquaintances who happen to
    be in their neighbourhood. They do not confine their hospitalities to
    English people, either. I wonder who this M. de la Feste is, in whom
    Caroline says my mother is so much interested.

    July 18.--Another letter from Caroline. I have learnt from this epistle,
    that M. Charles de la Feste is 'only one of the many friends of the
    Marlets'; that though a Frenchman by birth, and now again temporarily at
    Versailles, he has lived in England many many years; that he is a
    talented landscape and marine painter, and has exhibited at the Salon,
    and I think in London. His style and subjects are considered somewhat
    peculiar in Paris--rather English than Continental. I have not as yet
    learnt his age, or his condition, married or single. From the tone and
    nature of her remarks about him he sometimes seems to be a middle-aged
    family man, sometimes quite the reverse. From his nomadic habits I
    should say the latter is the most likely. He has travelled and seen a
    great deal, she tells me, and knows more about English literature than
    she knows herself.

    July 21.--Letter from Caroline. Query: Is 'a friend of ours and the
    Marlets,' of whom she now anonymously and mysteriously speaks, the same
    personage as the 'M. de la Feste' of her former letters? He must be the
    same, I think, from his pursuits. If so, whence this sudden change of
    tone? . . . I have been lost in thought for at least a quarter of an hour
    since writing the preceding sentence. Suppose my dear sister is falling
    in love with this young man--there is no longer any doubt about his age;
    what a very awkward, risky thing for her! I do hope that my mother has
    an eye on these proceedings. But, then, poor mother never sees the drift
    of anything: she is in truth less of a mother to Caroline than I am. If
    I were there, how jealously I would watch him, and ascertain his designs!

    I am of a stronger nature than Caroline. How I have supported her in the
    past through her little troubles and great griefs! Is she agitated at
    the presence of this, to her, new and strange feeling? But I am assuming
    her to be desperately in love, when I have no proof of anything of the
    kind. He may be merely a casual friend, of whom I shall hear no more.

    July 24.--Then he is a bachelor, as I suspected. 'If M. de la Feste ever
    marries he will,' etc. So she writes. They are getting into close
    quarters, obviously. Also, 'Something to keep my hair smooth, which M.
    de la Feste told me he had found useful for the tips of his moustache.'
    Very naively related this; and with how much unconsciousness of the
    intimacy between them that the remark reveals! But my mother--what can
    she be doing? Does she know of this? And if so, why does she not allude
    to it in her letters to my father? . . . I have been to look at
    Caroline's pony, in obedience to her reiterated request that I would not
    miss a day in seeing that she was well cared for. Anxious as Caroline
    was about this pony of hers before starting, she now never mentioned the
    poor animal once in her letters. The image of her pet suffers from
    displacement.

    August 3.--Caroline's forgetfulness of her pony has naturally enough
    extended to me, her sister. It is ten days since she last wrote, and but
    for a note from my mother I should not know if she were dead or alive.

    CHAPTER II.--NEWS INTERESTING AND SERIOUS

    August 5.--A cloud of letters. A letter from Caroline, another from
    mother; also one from each to my father.

    The probability to which all the intelligence from my sister has pointed
    of late turns out to be a fact. There is an engagement, or almost an
    engagement, announced between my dear Caroline and M. de la Feste--to
    Caroline's sublime happiness, and my mother's entire satisfaction; as
    well as to that of the Marlets. They and my mother seem to know all
    about the young man--which is more than I do, though a little extended
    information about him, considering that I am Caroline's elder sister,
    would not have been amiss. I half feel with my father, who is much
    surprised, and, I am sure, not altogether satisfied, that he should not
    have been consulted at all before matters reached such a definite stage,
    though he is too amiable to say so openly. I don't quite say that a good
    thing should have been hindered for the sake of our opinion, if it is a
    good thing; but the announcement comes very suddenly. It must have been
    foreseen by my mother for some time that this upshot was probable, and
    Caroline might have told me more distinctly that M. de la Feste was her
    lover, instead of alluding so mysteriously to him as only a friend of the
    Marlets, and lately dropping his name altogether. My father, without
    exactly objecting to him as a Frenchman, 'wishes he were of English or
    some other reasonable nationality for one's son-in-law,' but I tell him
    that the demarcations of races, kingdoms, and creeds, are wearing down
    every day, that patriotism is a sort of vice, and that the character of
    the individual is all we need think about in this case. I wonder if, in
    the event of their marriage, he will continue to live at Versailles, or
    if he will come to England.

    August 7.--A supplemental letter from Caroline, answering, by
    anticipation, some of the aforesaid queries. She tells me that
    'Charles,' though he makes Versailles his present home, is by no means
    bound by his profession to continue there; that he will live just where
    she wishes, provided it be not too far from some centre of thought, art,
    and civilization. My mother and herself both think that the marriage
    should not take place till next year. He exhibits landscapes and canal
    scenery every year, she says; so I suppose he is popular, and that his
    income is sufficient to keep them in comfort. If not, I do not see why
    my father could not settle something more on them than he had intended,
    and diminish by a little what he had proposed for me, whilst it was
    imagined that I should be the first to stand in need of such.

    'Of engaging manner, attractive appearance, and virtuous character,' is
    the reply I receive from her in answer to my request for a personal
    description. That is vague enough, and I would rather have had one
    definite fact of complexion, voice, deed, or opinion. But of course she
    has no eye now for material qualities; she cannot see him as he is. She
    sees him irradiated with glories such as never appertained and never will
    appertain to any man, foreign, English, or Colonial. To think that
    Caroline, two years my junior, and so childlike as to be five years my
    junior in nature, should be engaged to be married before me. But that is
    what happens in families more often than we are apt to remember.

    August 16.--Interesting news to-day. Charles, she says, has pleaded that
    their marriage may just as well be this year as next; and he seems to
    have nearly converted my mother to the same way of thinking. I do not
    myself see any reason for delay, beyond the standing one of my father
    having as yet had no opportunity of forming an opinion upon the man, the
    time, or anything. However, he takes his lot very quietly, and they are
    coming home to talk the question over with us; Caroline having decided
    not to make any positive arrangements for this change of state till she
    has seen me. Subject to my own and my father's approval, she says, they
    are inclined to settle the date of the wedding for November, three months
    from the present time, that it shall take place here in the village, that
    I, of course, shall be bridesmaid, and many other particulars. She draws
    an artless picture of the probable effect upon the minds of the villagers
    of this romantic performance in the chancel of our old church, in which
    she is to be chief actor--the foreign gentleman dropping down like a god
    from the skies, picking her up, and triumphantly carrying her off. Her
    only grief will be separation from me, but this is to be assuaged by my
    going and staying with her for long months at a time. This simple
    prattle is very sweet to me, my dear sister, but I cannot help feeling
    sad at the occasion of it. In the nature of things it is obvious that I
    shall never be to you again what I hitherto have been: your guide,
    counsellor, and most familiar friend.

    M. de la Feste does certainly seem to be all that one could desire as
    protector to a sensitive fragile child like Caroline, and for that I am
    thankful. Still, I must remember that I see him as yet only through her
    eyes. For her sake I am intensely anxious to meet him, and scrutinise
    him through and through, and learn what the man is really made of who is
    to have such a treasure in his keeping. The engagement has certainly
    been formed a little precipitately; I quite agree with my father in that:
    still, good and happy marriages have been made in a hurry before now, and
    mother seems well satisfied.

    August 20.--A terrible announcement came this morning; and we are in deep
    trouble. I have been quite unable to steady my thoughts on anything to-
    day till now--half-past eleven at night--and I only attempt writing these
    notes because I am too restless to remain idle, and there is nothing but
    waiting and waiting left for me to do. Mother has been taken dangerously
    ill at Versailles: they were within a day or two of starting; but all
    thought of leaving must now be postponed, for she cannot possibly be
    moved in her present state. I don't like the sound of haemorrhage at all
    in a woman of her full habit, and Caroline and the Marlets have not
    exaggerated their accounts I am certain. On the receipt of the letter my
    father instantly decided to go to her, and I have been occupied all day
    in getting him off, for as he calculates on being absent several days,
    there have been many matters for him to arrange before setting out--the
    chief being to find some one who will do duty for him next Sunday--a
    quest of no small difficulty at such short notice; but at last poor old
    feeble Mr. Dugdale has agreed to attempt it, with Mr. Highman, the
    Scripture reader, to assist him in the lessons.

    I fain would have gone with my father to escape the irksome anxiety of
    awaiting her; but somebody had to stay, and I could best be spared.
    George has driven him to the station to meet the last train by which he
    will catch the midnight boat, and reach Havre some time in the morning.
    He hates the sea, and a night passage in particular. I hope he will get
    there without mishap of any kind; but I feel anxious for him, stay-at-
    home as he is, and unable to cope with any difficulty. Such an errand,
    too; the journey will be sad enough at best. I almost think I ought to
    have been the one to go to her.

    August 21.--I nearly fell asleep of heaviness of spirit last night over
    my writing. My father must have reached Paris by this time; and now here
    comes a letter . . .

    Later.--The letter was to express an earnest hope that my father had set
    out. My poor mother is sinking, they fear. What will become of
    Caroline? O, how I wish I could see mother; why could not both have
    gone?

    Later.--I get up from my chair, and walk from window to window, and then
    come and write a line. I cannot even divine how poor Caroline's marriage
    is to be carried out if mother dies. I pray that father may have got
    there in time to talk to her and receive some directions from her about
    Caroline and M. de la Feste--a man whom neither my father nor I have
    seen. I, who might be useful in this emergency, am doomed to stay here,
    waiting in suspense.

    August 23.--A letter from my father containing the sad news that my
    mother's spirit has flown. Poor little Caroline is heart-broken--she was
    always more my mother's pet than I was. It is some comfort to know that
    my father arrived in time to hear from her own lips her strongly
    expressed wish that Caroline's marriage should be solemnized as soon as
    possible. M. de la Feste seems to have been a great favourite of my dear
    mother's; and I suppose it now becomes almost a sacred duty of my father
    to accept him as a son-in-law without criticism.

    CHAPTER III.--HER GLOOM LIGHTENS A LITTLE

    September 10.--I have inserted nothing in my diary for more than a
    fortnight. Events have been altogether too sad for me to have the spirit
    to put them on paper. And yet there comes a time when the act of
    recording one's trouble is recognized as a welcome method of dwelling
    upon it . . .

    My dear mother has been brought home and buried here in the parish. It
    was not so much her own wish that this should be done as my father's, who
    particularly desired that she should lie in the family vault beside his
    first wife. I saw them side by side before the vault was closed--two
    women beloved by one man. As I stood, and Caroline by my side, I fell
    into a sort of dream, and had an odd fancy that Caroline and I might be
    also beloved of one, and lie like these together--an impossibility, of
    course, being sisters. When I awoke from my reverie Caroline took my
    hand and said it was time to leave.

    September 14.--The wedding is indefinitely postponed. Caroline is like a
    girl awakening in the middle of a somnambulistic experience, and does not
    realize where she is, or how she stands. She walks about silently, and I
    cannot tell her thoughts, as I used to do. It was her own doing to write
    to M. de la Feste and tell him that the wedding could not possibly take
    place this autumn as originally planned. There is something depressing
    in this long postponement if she is to marry him at all; and yet I do not
    see how it could be avoided.

    October 20.--I have had so much to occupy me in consoling Caroline that I
    have been continually overlooking my diary. Her life was much nearer to
    my mother's than mine was. She has never, as I, lived away from home
    long enough to become self-dependent, and hence in her first loss, and
    all that it involved, she drooped like a rain-beaten lily. But she is of
    a nature whose wounds soon heal, even though they may be deep, and the
    supreme poignancy of her sorrow has already passed.

    My father is of opinion that the wedding should not be delayed too long.
    While at Versailles he made the acquaintance of M. de la Feste, and
    though they had but a short and hurried communion with each other, he was
    much impressed by M. de la Feste's disposition and conduct, and is
    strongly in favour of his suit. It is odd that Caroline's betrothed
    should influence in his favour all who come near him. His portrait,
    which dear Caroline has shown me, exhibits him to be of a physique that
    partly accounts for this: but there must be something more than mere
    appearance, and it is probably some sort of glamour or fascinating
    power--the quality which prevented Caroline from describing him to me
    with any accuracy of detail. At the same time, I see from the photograph
    that his face and head are remarkably well formed; and though the
    contours of his mouth are hidden by his moustache, his arched brows show
    well the romantic disposition of a true lover and painter of Nature. I
    think that the owner of such a face as this must be tender and
    sympathetic and true.

    October 30.--As my sister's grief for her mother becomes more and more
    calmed, her love for M. de la Feste begins to reassume its former
    absorbing command of her. She thinks of him incessantly, and writes
    whole treatises to him by way of letters. Her blank disappointment at
    his announcement of his inability to pay us a visit quite so soon as he
    had promised, was quite tragic. I, too, am disappointed, for I wanted to
    see and estimate him. But having arranged to go to Holland to seize some
    aerial effects for his pictures, which are only to be obtained at this
    time of the autumn, he is obliged to postpone his journey this way, which
    is now to be made early in the new year. I think myself that he ought to
    have come at all sacrifices, considering Caroline's recent loss, the sad
    postponement of what she was looking forward to, and her single-minded
    affection for him. Still, who knows; his professional success is
    important. Moreover, she is cheerful, and hopeful, and the delay will
    soon be overpast.

    CHAPTER IV.--SHE BEHOLDS THE ATTRACTIVE STRANGER

    February 16.--We have had such a dull life here all the winter that I
    have found nothing important enough to set down, and broke off my journal
    accordingly. I resume it now to make an entry on the subject of dear
    Caroline's future. It seems that she was too grieved, immediately after
    the loss of our mother, to answer definitely the question of M. de la
    Feste how long the postponement was to be; then, afterwards, it was
    agreed that the matter should be discussed on his autumn visit; but as he
    did not come, it has remained in abeyance till this week, when Caroline,
    with the greatest simplicity and confidence, has written to him without
    any further pressure on his part, and told him that she is quite ready to
    fix the time, and will do so as soon as he arrives to see her. She is a
    little frightened now, lest it should seem forward in her to have revived
    the subject of her own accord; but she may assume that his question has
    been waiting on for an answer ever since, and that she has, therefore,
    acted only within her promise. In truth, the secret at the bottom of it
    all is that she is somewhat saddened because he has not latterly reminded
    her of the pause in their affairs--that, in short, his original
    impatience to possess her is not now found to animate him so obviously. I
    suppose that he loves her as much as ever; indeed, I am sure he must do
    so, seeing how lovable she is. It is mostly thus with all men when women
    are out of their sight; they grow negligent. Caroline must have
    patience, and remember that a man of his genius has many and important
    calls upon his time. In justice to her I must add that she does remember
    it fairly well, and has as much patience as any girl ever had in the
    circumstances. He hopes to come at the beginning of April at latest.
    Well, when he comes we shall see him.

    April 5.--I think that what M. de la Feste writes is reasonable enough,
    though Caroline looks heart-sick about it. It is hardly worth while for
    him to cross all the way to England and back just now, while the sea is
    so turbulent, seeing that he will be obliged, in any event, to come in
    May, when he has to be in London for professional purposes, at which time
    he can take us easily on his way both coming and going. When Caroline
    becomes his wife she will be more practical, no doubt; but she is such a
    child as yet that there is no contenting her with reasons. However, the
    time will pass quickly, there being so much to do in preparing a
    trousseau for her, which must now be put in hand in order that we may
    have plenty of leisure to get it ready. On no account must Caroline be
    married in half-mourning; I am sure that mother, could she know, would
    not wish it, and it is odd that Caroline should be so intractably
    persistent on this point, when she is usually so yielding.

    April 30.--This month has flown on swallow's wings. We are in a great
    state of excitement--I as much as she--I cannot quite tell why. He is
    really coming in ten days, he says.

    May 9. Four p.m.--I am so agitated I can scarcely write, and yet am
    particularly impelled to do so before leaving my room. It is the
    unexpected shape of an expected event which has caused my absurd
    excitement, which proves me almost as much a school-girl as Caroline.

    M. de la Feste was not, as we understood, to have come till to-morrow;
    but he is here--just arrived. All household directions have devolved
    upon me, for my father, not thinking M. de la Feste would appear before
    us for another four-and-twenty hours, left home before post time to
    attend a distant consecration; and hence Caroline and I were in no small
    excitement when Charles's letter was opened, and we read that he had been
    unexpectedly favoured in the dispatch of his studio work, and would
    follow his letter in a few hours. We sent the covered carriage to meet
    the train indicated, and waited like two newly strung harps for the first
    sound of the returning wheels. At last we heard them on the gravel; and
    the question arose who was to receive him. It was, strictly speaking, my
    duty; but I felt timid; I could not help shirking it, and insisted that
    Caroline should go down. She did not, however, go near the door as she
    usually does when anybody is expected, but waited palpitating in the
    drawing-room. He little thought when he saw the silent hall, and the
    apparently deserted house, how that house was at the very same moment
    alive and throbbing with interest under the surface. I stood at the back
    of the upper landing, where nobody could see me from downstairs, and
    heard him walk across the hall--a lighter step than my father's--and
    heard him then go into the drawing-room, and the servant shut the door
    behind him and go away.

    What a pretty lover's meeting they must have had in there all to
    themselves! Caroline's sweet face looking up from her black gown--how it
    must have touched him. I know she wept very much, for I heard her; and
    her eyes will be red afterwards, and no wonder, poor dear, though she is
    no doubt happy. I can imagine what she is telling him while I write
    this--her fears lest anything should have happened to prevent his coming
    after all--gentle, smiling reproaches for his long delay; and things of
    that sort. His two portmanteaus are at this moment crossing the landing
    on the way to his room. I wonder if I ought to go down.

    A little later.--I have seen him! It was not at all in the way that I
    intended to encounter him, and I am vexed. Just after his portmanteaus
    were brought up I went out from my room to descend, when, at the moment
    of stepping towards the first stair, my eyes were caught by an object in
    the hall below, and I paused for an instant, till I saw that it was a
    bundle of canvas and sticks, composing a sketching tent and easel. At
    the same nick of time the drawing-room door opened and the affianced pair
    came out. They were saying they would go into the garden; and he waited
    a moment while she put on her hat. My idea was to let them pass on
    without seeing me, since they seemed not to want my company, but I had
    got too far on the landing to retreat; he looked up, and stood staring at
    me--engrossed to a dream-like fixity. Thereupon I, too, instead of
    advancing as I ought to have done, stood moonstruck and awkward, and
    before I could gather my weak senses sufficiently to descend, she had
    called him, and they went out by the garden door together. I then
    thought of following them, but have changed my mind, and come here to jot
    down these few lines. It is all I am fit for . . .

    He is even more handsome than I expected. I was right in feeling he must
    have an attraction beyond that of form: it appeared even in that
    momentary glance. How happy Caroline ought to be. But I must, of
    course, go down to be ready with tea in the drawing-room by the time they
    come indoors.

    11 p.m.--I have made the acquaintance of M. de la Feste; and I seem to be
    another woman from the effect of it. I cannot describe why this should
    be so, but conversation with him seems to expand the view, and open the
    heart, and raise one as upon stilts to wider prospects. He has a good
    intellectual forehead, perfect eyebrows, dark hair and eyes, an animated
    manner, and a persuasive voice. His voice is soft in quality--too soft
    for a man, perhaps; and yet on second thoughts I would not have it less
    so. We have been talking of his art: I had no notion that art demanded
    such sacrifices or such tender devotion; or that there were two roads for
    choice within its precincts, the road of vulgar money-making, and the
    road of high aims and consequent inappreciation for many long years by
    the public. That he has adopted the latter need not be said to those who
    understand him. It is a blessing for Caroline that she has been chosen
    by such a man, and she ought not to lament at postponements and delays,
    since they have arisen unavoidably. Whether he finds hers a sufficiently
    rich nature, intellectually and emotionally, for his own, I know not, but
    he seems occasionally to be disappointed at her simple views of things.
    Does he really feel such love for her at this moment as he no doubt
    believes himself to be feeling, and as he no doubt hopes to feel for the
    remainder of his life towards her?

    It was a curious thing he told me when we were left for a few minutes
    alone; that Caroline had alluded so slightly to me in her conversation
    and letters that he had not realized my presence in the house here at
    all. But, of course, it was only natural that she should write and talk
    most about herself. I suppose it was on account of the fact of his being
    taken in some measure unawares, that I caught him on two or three
    occasions regarding me fixedly in a way that disquieted me somewhat,
    having been lately in so little society; till my glance aroused him from
    his reverie, and he looked elsewhere in some confusion. It was fortunate
    that he did so, and thus failed to notice my own. It shows that he, too,
    is not particularly a society person.

    May 10.--Have had another interesting conversation with M. de la Feste on
    schools of landscape painting in the drawing-room after dinner this
    evening--my father having fallen asleep, and left nobody but Caroline and
    myself for Charles to talk to. I did not mean to say so much to him, and
    had taken a volume of Modern Painters from the bookcase to occupy myself
    with, while leaving the two lovers to themselves; but he would include me
    in his audience, and I was obliged to lay the book aside. However, I
    insisted on keeping Caroline in the conversation, though her views on
    pictorial art were only too charmingly crude and primitive.

    To-morrow, if fine, we are all three going to Wherryborne Wood, where
    Charles will give us practical illustrations of the principles of
    coloring that he has enumerated to-night. I am determined not to occupy
    his attention to the exclusion of Caroline, and my plan is that when we
    are in the dense part of the wood I will lag behind, and slip away, and
    leave them to return by themselves. I suppose the reason of his
    attentiveness to me lies in his simply wishing to win the good opinion of
    one who is so closely united to Caroline, and so likely to influence her
    good opinion of him.

    May 11. Late.--I cannot sleep, and in desperation have lit my candle and
    taken up my pen. My restlessness is occasioned by what has occurred to-
    day, which at first I did not mean to write down, or trust to any heart
    but my own. We went to Wherryborne Wood--Caroline, Charles and I, as we
    had intended--and walked all three along the green track through the
    midst, Charles in the middle between Caroline and myself. Presently I
    found that, as usual, he and I were the only talkers, Caroline amusing
    herself by observing birds and squirrels as she walked docilely alongside
    her betrothed. Having noticed this I dropped behind at the first
    opportunity and slipped among the trees, in a direction in which I knew I
    should find another path that would take me home. Upon this track I by
    and by emerged, and walked along it in silent thought till, at a bend, I
    suddenly encountered M. de la Feste standing stock still and smiling
    thoughtfully at me.

    'Where is Caroline?' said I.

    'Only a little way off,' says he. 'When we missed you from behind us we
    thought you might have mistaken the direction we had followed, so she has
    gone one way to find you and I have come this way.'

    We then went back to find Caroline, but could not discover her anywhere,
    and the upshot was that he and I were wandering about the woods alone for
    more than an hour. On reaching home we found she had given us up after
    searching a little while, and arrived there some time before. I should
    not be so disturbed by the incident if I had not perceived that, during
    her absence from us, he did not make any earnest effort to rediscover
    her; and in answer to my repeated expressions of wonder as to whither she
    could have wandered he only said, 'Oh, she's quite safe; she told me she
    knew the way home from any part of this wood. Let us go on with our
    talk. I assure you I value this privilege of being with one I so much
    admire more than you imagine;' and other things of that kind. I was so
    foolish as to show a little perturbation--I cannot tell why I did not
    control myself; and I think he noticed that I was not cool. Caroline
    has, with her simple good faith, thought nothing of the occurrence; yet
    altogether I am not satisfied.

    CHAPTER V.--HER SITUATION IS A TRYING ONE

    May 15.--The more I think of it day after day, the more convinced I am
    that my suspicions are true. He is too interested in me--well, in plain
    words, loves me; or, not to degrade that phrase, has a wild passion for
    me; and his affection for Caroline is that towards a sister only. That
    is the distressing truth; how it has come about I cannot tell, and it
    wears upon me.

    A hundred little circumstances have revealed this to me, and the longer I
    dwell upon it the more agitating does the consideration become. Heaven
    only can help me out of the terrible difficulty in which this places me.
    I have done nothing to encourage him to be faithless to her. I have
    studiously kept out of his way; have persistently refused to be a third
    in their interviews. Yet all to no purpose. Some fatality has seemed to
    rule, ever since he came to the house, that this disastrous inversion of
    things should arise. If I had only foreseen the possibility of it before
    he arrived, how gladly would I have departed on some visit or other to
    the meanest friend to hinder such an apparent treachery. But I blindly
    welcomed him--indeed, made myself particularly agreeable to him for her
    sake.

    There is no possibility of my suspicions being wrong; not until they have
    reached absolute certainty have I dared even to admit the truth to
    myself. His conduct to-day would have proved them true had I entertained
    no previous apprehensions. Some photographs of myself came for me by
    post, and they were handed round at the breakfast table and criticised. I
    put them temporarily on a side table, and did not remember them until an
    hour afterwards when I was in my own room. On going to fetch them I
    discovered him standing at the table with his back towards the door
    bending over the photographs, one of which he raised to his lips.

    The witnessing this act so frightened me that I crept away to escape
    observation. It was the climax to a series of slight and significant
    actions all tending to the same conclusion. The question for me now is,
    what am I to do? To go away is what first occurs to me, but what reason
    can I give Caroline and my father for such a step; besides, it might
    precipitate some sort of catastrophe by driving Charles to desperation.
    For the present, therefore, I have decided that I can only wait, though
    his contiguity is strangely disturbing to me now, and I hardly retain
    strength of mind to encounter him. How will the distressing complication
    end?

    May 19.--And so it has come! My mere avoidance of him has precipitated
    the worst issue--a declaration. I had occasion to go into the kitchen
    garden to gather some of the double ragged-robins which grew in a corner
    there. Almost as soon as I had entered I heard footsteps without. The
    door opened and shut, and I turned to behold him just inside it. As the
    garden is closed by four walls and the gardener was absent, the spot
    ensured absolute privacy. He came along the path by the asparagus-bed,
    and overtook me.

    'You know why I come, Alicia?' said he, in a tremulous voice.

    I said nothing, and hung my head, for by his tone I did know.

    'Yes,' he went on, 'it is you I love; my sentiment towards your sister is
    one of affection too, but protective, tutelary affection--no more. Say
    what you will I cannot help it. I mistook my feeling for her, and I know
    how much I am to blame for my want of self-knowledge. I have fought
    against this discovery night and day; but it cannot be concealed. Why
    did I ever see you, since I could not see you till I had committed
    myself? At the moment my eyes beheld you on that day of my arrival, I
    said, "This is the woman for whom my manhood has waited." Ever since an
    unaccountable fascination has riveted my heart to you. Answer one word!'

    'O, M. de la Feste!' I burst out. What I said more I cannot remember,
    but I suppose that the misery I was in showed pretty plainly, for he
    said, 'Something must be done to let her know; perhaps I have mistaken
    her affection, too; but all depends upon what you feel.'

    'I cannot tell what I feel,' said I, 'except that this seems terrible
    treachery; and every moment that I stay with you here makes it worse! . .
    . Try to keep faith with her--her young heart is tender; believe me
    there is no mistake in the quality of her love for you. Would there
    were! This would kill her if she knew it!'

    He sighed heavily. 'She ought never to be my wife,' he said. 'Leaving
    my own happiness out of the question, it would be a cruelty to her to
    unite her to me.'

    I said I could not hear such words from him, and begged him in tears to
    go away; he obeyed, and I heard the garden door shut behind him. What is
    to be the end of the announcement, and the fate of Caroline?

    May 20.--I put a good deal on paper yesterday, and yet not all. I was,
    in truth, hoping against hope, against conviction, against too conscious
    self-judgment. I scarcely dare own the truth now, yet it relieves my
    aching heart to set it down. Yes, I love him--that is the dreadful fact,
    and I can no longer parry, evade, or deny it to myself though to the rest
    of the world it can never be owned. I love Caroline's betrothed, and he
    loves me. It is no yesterday's passion, cultivated by our converse; it
    came at first sight, independently of my will; and my talk with him
    yesterday made rather against it than for it, but, alas, did not quench
    it. God forgive us both for this terrible treachery.

    May 25.--All is vague; our courses shapeless. He comes and goes, being
    occupied, ostensibly at least, with sketching in his tent in the wood.
    Whether he and she see each other privately I cannot tell, but I rather
    think they do not; that she sadly awaits him, and he does not appear. Not
    a sign from him that my repulse has done him any good, or that he will
    endeavour to keep faith with her. O, if I only had the compulsion of a
    god, and the self-sacrifice of a martyr!

    May 31.--It has all ended--or rather this act of the sad drama has
    ended--in nothing. He has left us. No day for the fulfilment of the
    engagement with Caroline is named, my father not being the man to press
    any one on such a matter, or, indeed, to interfere in any way. We two
    girls are, in fact, quite defenceless in a case of this kind; lovers may
    come when they choose, and desert when they choose; poor father is too
    urbane to utter a word of remonstrance or inquiry. Moreover, as the
    approved of my dead mother, M. de la Feste has a sort of autocratic power
    with my father, who holds it unkind to her memory to have an opinion
    about him. I, feeling it my duty, asked M. de la Feste at the last
    moment about the engagement, in a voice I could not keep firm.

    'Since the death of your mother all has been indefinite--all!' he said
    gloomily. That was the whole. Possibly, Wherryborne Rectory may see him
    no more.

    June 7 .--M. de la Feste has written--one letter to her, one to me. Hers
    could not have been very warm, for she did not brighten on reading it.
    Mine was an ordinary note of friendship, filling an ordinary sheet of
    paper, which I handed over to Caroline when I had finished looking it
    through. But there was a scrap of paper in the bottom of the envelope,
    which I dared not show any one. This scrap is his real letter: I scanned
    it alone in my room, trembling, hot and cold by turns. He tells me he is
    very wretched; that he deplores what has happened, but was helpless. Why
    did I let him see me, if only to make him faithless. Alas, alas!

    June 21 .--My dear Caroline has lost appetite, spirits, health. Hope
    deferred maketh the heart sick. His letters to her grow colder--if
    indeed he has written more than one. He has refrained from writing again
    to me--he knows it is no use. Altogether the situation that he and she
    and I are in is melancholy in the extreme. Why are human hearts so
    perverse?

    CHAPTER VI.--HER INGENUITY INSTIGATES HER

    September 19.--Three months of anxious care--till at length I have taken
    the extreme step of writing to him. Our chief distress has been caused
    by the state of poor Caroline, who, after sinking by degrees into such
    extreme weakness as to make it doubtful if she can ever recover full
    vigour, has to-day been taken much worse. Her position is very critical.
    The doctor says plainly that she is dying of a broken heart--and that
    even the removal of the cause may not now restore her. Ought I to have
    written to Charles sooner? But how could I when she forbade me? It was
    her pride only which instigated her, and I should not have obeyed.

    Sept. 26.--Charles has arrived and has seen her. He is shocked,
    conscience-stricken, remorseful. I have told him that he can do no good
    beyond cheering her by his presence. I do not know what he thinks of
    proposing to her if she gets better, but he says little to her at
    present: indeed he dares not: his words agitate her dangerously.

    Sept. 28.--After a struggle between duty and selfishness, such as I pray
    to Heaven I may never have to undergo again, I have asked him for pity's
    sake to make her his wife, here and now, as she lies. I said to him that
    the poor child would not trouble him long; and such a solemnization would
    soothe her last hours as nothing else could do. He said that he would
    willingly do so, and had thought of it himself; but for one forbidding
    reason: in the event of her death as his wife he can never marry me, her
    sister, according to our laws. I started at his words. He went on: 'On
    the other hand, if I were sure that immediate marriage with me would save
    her life, I would not refuse, for possibly I might after a while, and out
    of sight of you, make myself fairly content with one of so sweet a
    disposition as hers; but if, as is probable, neither my marrying her nor
    any other act can avail to save her life, by so doing I lose both her and
    you.' I could not answer him.

    Sept. 29.--He continued firm in his reasons for refusal till this
    morning, and then I became possessed with an idea, which I at once
    propounded to him. It was that he should at least consent to a form of
    marriage with Caroline, in consideration of her love; a form which need
    not be a legal union, but one which would satisfy her sick and enfeebled
    soul. Such things have been done, and the sentiment of feeling herself
    his would inexpressibly comfort her mind, I am sure. Then, if she is
    taken from us, I should not have lost the power of becoming his lawful
    wife at some future day, if it indeed should be deemed expedient; if, on
    the other hand, she lives, he can on her recovery inform her of the
    incompleteness of their marriage contract, the ceremony can be repeated,
    and I can, and I am sure willingly would, avoid troubling them with my
    presence till grey hairs and wrinkles make his unfortunate passion for me
    a thing of the past. I put all this before him; but he demurred.

    Sept. 30.--I have urged him again. He says he will consider. It is no
    time to mince matters, and as a further inducement I have offered to
    enter into a solemn engagement to marry him myself a year after her
    death.

    Sept. 30. Later.--An agitating interview. He says he will agree to
    whatever I propose, the three possibilities and our contingent acts being
    recorded as follows: First, in the event of dear Caroline being taken
    from us, I marry him on the expiration of a year: Second, in the forlorn
    chance of her recovery I take upon myself the responsibility of
    explaining to Caroline the true nature of the ceremony he has gone
    through with her, that it was done at my suggestion to make her happy at
    once, before a special licence could be obtained, and that a public
    ceremony at church is awaiting her: Third, in the unlikely event of her
    cooling, and refusing to repeat the ceremony with him, I leave England,
    join him abroad, and there wed him, agreeing not to live in England again
    till Caroline has either married another or regards her attachment to
    Charles as a bygone matter. I have thought over these conditions, and
    have agreed to them all as they stand.

    11 p.m.--I do not much like this scheme, after all. For one thing, I
    have just sounded my father on it before parting with him for the night,
    my impression having been that he would see no objection. But he says he
    could on no account countenance any such unreal proceeding; however good
    our intentions, and even though the poor girl were dying, it would not be
    right. So I sadly seek my pillow.

    October 1.--I am sure my father is wrong in his view. Why is it not
    right, if it would be balm to Caroline's wounded soul, and if a real
    ceremony is absolutely refused by Charles--moreover is hardly practicable
    in the difficulty of getting a special licence, if he were agreed? My
    father does not know, or will not believe, that Caroline's attachment has
    been the cause of her hopeless condition. But that it is so, and that
    the form of words would give her inexpressible happiness, I know well;
    for I whispered tentatively in her ear on such marriages, and the effect
    was great. Henceforth my father cannot be taken into confidence on the
    subject of Caroline. He does not understand her.

    12 o'clock noon.--I have taken advantage of my father's absence to-day to
    confide my secret notion to a thoughtful young man, who called here this
    morning to speak to my father. He is the Mr. Theophilus Higham, of whom
    I have already had occasion to speak--a Scripture reader in the next
    town, and is soon going to be ordained. I told him the pitiable case,
    and my remedy. He says ardently that he will assist me--would do
    anything for me (he is, in truth, an admirer of mine); he sees no wrong
    in such an act of charity. He is coming again to the house this
    afternoon before my father returns, to carry out the idea. I have spoken
    to Charles, who promises to be ready. I must now break the news to
    Caroline.

    11 o'clock p.m.--I have been in too much excitement till now to set down
    the result. We have accomplished our plan; and though I feel like a
    guilty sinner, I am glad. My father, of course, is not to be informed as
    yet. Caroline has had a seraphic expression upon her wasted, transparent
    face ever since. I should hardly be surprised if it really saved her
    life even now, and rendered a legitimate union necessary between them. In
    that case my father can be informed of the whole proceeding, and in the
    face of such wonderful success cannot disapprove. Meanwhile poor Charles
    has not lost the possibility of taking unworthy me to fill her place
    should she--. But I cannot contemplate that alternative unmoved, and
    will not write it. Charles left for the South of Europe immediately
    after the ceremony. He was in a high-strung, throbbing, almost wild
    state of mind at first, but grew calmer under my exhortations. I had to
    pay the penalty of receiving a farewell kiss from him, which I much
    regret, considering its meaning; but he took me so unexpectedly, and in a
    moment was gone.

    Oct. 6.--She certainly is better, and even when she found that Charles
    had been suddenly obliged to leave, she received the news quite
    cheerfully. The doctor says that her apparent improvement may be
    delusive; but I think our impressing upon her the necessity of keeping
    what has occurred a secret from papa, and everybody, helps to give her a
    zest for life.

    Oct. 8.--She is still mending. I am glad to have saved her--my only
    sister--if I have done so; though I shall now never become Charles's
    wife.

    CHAPTER VII.--A SURPRISE AWAITS HER

    Feb. 5.--Writing has been absolutely impossible for a long while; but I
    now reach a stage at which it seems possible to jot down a line.
    Caroline's recovery, extending over four months, has been very
    engrossing; at first slow, latterly rapid. But a fearful complication of
    affairs attends it!

    O what a tangled web we weave
    When first we practise to deceive!

    Charles has written reproachfully to me from Venice, where he is. He
    says how can he fulfil in the real what he has enacted in the
    counterfeit, while he still loves me? Yet how, on the other hand, can he
    leave it unfulfilled? All this time I have not told her, and up to this
    minute she believes that he has indeed taken her for better, for worse,
    till death them do part. It is a harassing position for me, and all
    three. In the awful approach of death, one's judgment loses its balance,
    and we do anything to meet the exigencies of the moment, with a single
    eye to the one who excites our sympathy, and from whom we seem on the
    brink of being separated for ever.

    Had he really married her at that time all would be settled now. But he
    took too much thought; she might have died, and then he had his reason.
    If indeed it had turned out so, I should now be perhaps a sad woman; but
    not a tempest-tossed one . . . The possibility of his claiming me after
    all is what lies at the root of my agitation. Everything hangs by a
    thread. Suppose I tell her the marriage was a mockery; suppose she is
    indignant with me and with him for the deception--and then? Otherwise,
    suppose she is not indignant but forgives all; he is bound to marry her;
    and honour constrains me to urge him thereto, in spite of what he
    protests, and to smooth the way to this issue by my method of informing
    her. I have meant to tell her the last month--ever since she has been
    strong enough to bear such tidings; but I have been without the power--the
    moral force. Surely I must write, and get him to come and assist me.

    March 14.--She continually wonders why he does not come, the five months
    of his enforced absence having expired; and still more she wonders why he
    does not write oftener. His last letter was cold, she says, and she
    fears he regrets his marriage, which he may only have celebrated with her
    for pity's sake, thinking she was sure to die. It makes one's heart
    bleed to hear her hovering thus so near the truth, and yet never
    discerning its actual shape.

    A minor trouble besets me, too, in the person of the young Scripture
    reader, whose conscience pricks him for the part he played. Surely I am
    punished, if ever woman were, for a too ingenious perversion of her
    better judgment!

    April 2.--She is practically well. The faint pink revives in her cheek,
    though it is not quite so full as heretofore. But she still wonders what
    she can have done to offend 'her dear husband,' and I have been obliged
    to tell the smallest part of the truth--an unimportant fragment of the
    whole, in fact, I said that I feared for the moment he might regret the
    precipitancy of the act, which her illness caused, his affairs not having
    been quite sufficiently advanced for marriage just then, though he will
    doubtless come to her as soon as he has a home ready. Meanwhile I have
    written to him, peremptorily, to come and relieve me in this awful
    dilemma. He will find no note of love in that.

    April 10.--To my alarm the letter I lately addressed to him at Venice,
    where he is staying, as well as the last one she sent him, have received
    no reply. She thinks he is ill. I do not quite think that, but I wish
    we could hear from him. Perhaps the peremptoriness of my words had
    offended him; it grieves me to think it possible. I offend him! But too
    much of this. I must tell her the truth, or she may in her ignorance
    commit herself to some course or other that may be ruinously
    compromising. She said plaintively just now that if he could see her,
    and know how occupied with him and him alone is her every waking hour,
    she is sure he would forgive her the wicked presumption of becoming his
    wife. Very sweet all that, and touching. I could not conceal my tears.

    April 15.--The house is in confusion; my father is angry and distressed,
    and I am distracted. Caroline has disappeared--gone away secretly. I
    cannot help thinking that I know where she is gone to. How guilty I
    seem, and how innocent she! O that I had told her before now!

    1 o'clock.--No trace of her as yet. We find also that the little waiting-
    maid we have here in training has disappeared with Caroline, and there is
    not much doubt that Caroline, fearing to travel alone, has induced this
    girl to go with her as companion. I am almost sure she has started in
    desperation to find him, and that Venice is her goal. Why should she run
    away, if not to join her husband, as she thinks him? Now that I
    consider, there have been indications of this wish in her for days, as in
    birds of passage there lurk signs of their incipient intention; and yet I
    did not think she would have taken such an extreme step, unaided, and
    without consulting me. I can only jot down the bare facts--I have no
    time for reflections. But fancy Caroline travelling across the continent
    of Europe with a chit of a girl, who will be more of a charge than an
    assistance! They will be a mark for every marauder who encounters them.

    Evening: 8 o'clock.--Yes, it is as I surmised. She has gone to join him.
    A note posted by her in Budmouth Regis at daybreak has reached me this
    afternoon--thanks to the fortunate chance of one of the servants calling
    for letters in town to-day, or I should not have got it until to-morrow.
    She merely asserts her determination of going to him, and has started
    privately, that nothing may hinder her; stating nothing about her route.
    That such a gentle thing should suddenly become so calmly resolute quite
    surprises me. Alas, he may have left Venice--she may not find him for
    weeks--may not at all.

    My father, on learning the facts, bade me at once have everything ready
    by nine this evening, in time to drive to the train that meets the night
    steam-boat. This I have done, and there being an hour to spare before we
    start, I relieve the suspense of waiting by taking up my pen. He says
    overtake her we must, and calls Charles the hardest of names. He
    believes, of course, that she is merely an infatuated girl rushing off to
    meet her lover; and how can the wretched I tell him that she is more, and
    in a sense better than that--yet not sufficiently more and better to make
    this flight to Charles anything but a still greater danger to her than a
    mere lover's impulse. We shall go by way of Paris, and we think we may
    overtake her there. I hear my father walking restlessly up and down the
    hall, and can write no more.

    CHAPTER VIII.--SHE TRAVELS IN PURSUIT

    April 16. Evening, Paris, Hotel ---.--There is no overtaking her at this
    place; but she has been here, as I thought, no other hotel in Paris being
    known to her. We go on to-morrow morning.

    April 18. Venice.--A morning of adventures and emotions which leave me
    sick and weary, and yet unable to sleep, though I have lain down on the
    sofa of my room for more than an hour in the attempt. I therefore make
    up my diary to date in a hurried fashion, for the sake of the riddance it
    affords to ideas which otherwise remain suspended hotly in the brain.

    We arrived here this morning in broad sunlight, which lit up the sea-girt
    buildings as we approached so that they seemed like a city of cork
    floating raft-like on the smooth, blue deep. But I only glanced from the
    carriage window at the lovely scene, and we were soon across the
    intervening water and inside the railway station. When we got to the
    front steps the row of black gondolas and the shouts of the gondoliers so
    bewildered my father that he was understood to require two gondolas
    instead of one with two oars, and so I found him in one and myself in
    another. We got this righted after a while, and were rowed at once to
    the hotel on the Riva degli Schiavoni where M. de la Feste had been
    staying when we last heard from him, the way being down the Grand Canal
    for some distance, under the Rialto, and then by narrow canals which
    eventually brought us under the Bridge of Sighs--harmonious to our
    moods!--and out again into open water. The scene was purity itself as to
    colour, but it was cruel that I should behold it for the first time under
    such circumstances.

    As soon as I entered the hotel, which is an old-fashioned place, like
    most places here, where people are taken en pension as well as the
    ordinary way, I rushed to the framed list of visitors hanging in the
    hall, and in a moment I saw Charles's name upon it among the rest. But
    she was our chief thought. I turned to the hall porter, and--knowing
    that she would have travelled as 'Madame de la Feste'--I asked for her
    under that name, without my father hearing. (He, poor soul, was making
    confused inquiries outside the door about 'an English lady,' as if there
    were not a score of English ladies at hand.)

    'She has just come,' said the porter. 'Madame came by the very early
    train this morning, when Monsieur was asleep, and she requested us not to
    disturb him. She is now in her room.'

    Whether Caroline had seen us from the window, or overheard me, I do not
    know, but at that moment I heard footsteps on the bare marble stairs, and
    she appeared in person descending.

    'Caroline!' I exclaimed, 'why have you done this?' and rushed up to her.

    She did not answer; but looked down to hide her emotion, which she
    conquered after the lapse of a few seconds, putting on a practical tone
    that belied her.

    'I am just going to my husband,' she said. 'I have not yet seen him. I
    have not been here long.' She condescended to give no further reason for
    her movements, and made as if to move on. I implored her to come into a
    private room where I could speak to her in confidence, but she objected.
    However, the dining-room, close at hand, was quite empty at this hour,
    and I got her inside and closed the door. I do not know how I began my
    explanation, or how I ended it, but I told her briefly and brokenly
    enough that the marriage was not real.

    'Not real?' she said vacantly.

    'It is not,' said I. 'You will find that it is all as I say.'

    She could not believe my meaning even then. 'Not his wife?' she cried.
    'It is impossible. What am I, then?'

    I added more details, and reiterated the reason for my conduct as well as
    I could; but Heaven knows how very difficult I found it to feel a jot
    more justification for it in my own mind than she did in hers.

    The revulsion of feeling, as soon as she really comprehended all, was
    most distressing. After her grief had in some measure spent itself she
    turned against both him and me.

    'Why should have I been deceived like this?' she demanded, with a bitter
    haughtiness of which I had not deemed such a tractable creature capable.
    'Do you suppose that anything could justify such an imposition? What, O
    what a snare you have spread for me!'

    I murmured, 'Your life seemed to require it,' but she did not hear me.
    She sank down in a chair, covered her face, and then my father came in.
    'O, here you are!' he said. 'I could not find you. And Caroline!'

    'And were you, papa, a party to this strange deed of kindness?'

    'To what?' said he.

    Then out it all came, and for the first time he was made acquainted with
    the fact that the scheme for soothing her illness, which I had sounded
    him upon, had been really carried out. In a moment he sided with
    Caroline. My repeated assurance that my motive was good availed less
    than nothing. In a minute or two Caroline arose and went abruptly out of
    the room, and my father followed her, leaving me alone to my reflections.

    I was so bent upon finding Charles immediately that I did not notice
    whither they went. The servants told me that M. de la Feste was just
    outside smoking, and one of them went to look for him, I following; but
    before we had gone many steps he came out of the hotel behind me. I
    expected him to be amazed; but he showed no surprise at seeing me, though
    he showed another kind of feeling to an extent which dismayed me. I may
    have revealed something similar; but I struggled hard against all
    emotion, and as soon as I could I told him she had come. He simply said
    'Yes' in a low voice.

    'You know it, Charles?' said I.

    'I have just learnt it,' he said.

    'O, Charles,' I went on, 'having delayed completing your marriage with
    her till now, I fear--it has become a serious position for us. Why did
    you not reply to our letters?'

    'I was purposing to reply in person: I did not know how to address her on
    the point--how to address you. But what has become of her?'

    'She has gone off with my father,' said I; 'indignant with you, and
    scorning me.'

    He was silent: and I suggested that we should follow them, pointing out
    the direction which I fancied their gondola had taken. As the one we got
    into was doubly manned we soon came in view of their two figures ahead of
    us, while they were not likely to observe us, our boat having the 'felze'
    on, while theirs was uncovered. They shot into a narrow canal just
    beyond the Giardino Reale, and by the time we were floating up between
    its slimy walls we saw them getting out of their gondola at the steps
    which lead up near the end of the Via 22 Marzo. When we reached the same
    spot they were walking up and down the Via in consultation. Getting out
    he stood on the lower steps watching them. I watched him. He seemed to
    fall into a reverie.

    'Will you not go and speak to her?' said I at length.

    He assented, and went forward. Still he did not hasten to join them,
    but, screened by a projecting window, observed their musing converse. At
    last he looked back at me; whereupon I pointed forward, and he in
    obedience stepped out, and met them face to face. Caroline flushed hot,
    bowed haughtily to him, turned away, and taking my father's arm
    violently, led him off before he had had time to use his own judgment.
    They disappeared into a narrow calle, or alley, leading to the back of
    the buildings on the Grand Canal.

    M. de la Feste came slowly back; as he stepped in beside me I realized my
    position so vividly that my heart might almost have been heard to beat.
    The third condition had arisen--the least expected by either of us. She
    had refused him; he was free to claim me.

    We returned in the boat together. He seemed quite absorbed till we had
    turned the angle into the Grand Canal, when he broke the silence. 'She
    spoke very bitterly to you in the salle-a-manger,' he said. 'I do not
    think she was quite warranted in speaking so to you, who had nursed her
    so tenderly.'

    'O, but I think she was,' I answered. 'It was there I told her what had
    been done; she did not know till then.'

    'She was very dignified--very striking,' he murmured. 'You were more.'

    'But how do you know what passed between us,' said I. He then told me
    that he had seen and heard all. The dining-room was divided by folding-
    doors from an inner portion, and he had been sitting in the latter part
    when we entered the outer, so that our words were distinctly audible.

    'But, dear Alicia,' he went on, 'I was more impressed by the affection of
    your apology to her than by anything else. And do you know that now the
    conditions have arisen which give me liberty to consider you my
    affianced?' I had been expecting this, but yet was not prepared. I
    stammered out that we would not discuss it then.

    'Why not?' said he. 'Do you know that we may marry here and now? She
    has cast off both you and me.'

    'It cannot be,' said I, firmly. 'She has not been fairly asked to be
    your wife in fact--to repeat the service lawfully; and until that has
    been done it would be grievous sin in me to accept you.'

    I had not noticed where the gondoliers were rowing us. I suppose he had
    given them some direction unheard by me, for as I resigned myself in
    despairing indolence to the motion of the gondola, I perceived that it
    was taking us up the Canal, and, turning into a side opening near the
    Palazzo Grimani, drew up at some steps near the end of a large church.

    'Where are we?' said I.

    'It is the Church of the Frari,' he replied. 'We might be married there.
    At any rate, let us go inside, and grow calm, and decide what to do.'

    When we had entered I found that whether a place to marry in or not, it
    was one to depress. The word which Venice speaks most
    constantly--decay--was in a sense accentuated here. The whole large
    fabric itself seemed sinking into an earth which was not solid enough to
    bear it. Cobwebbed cracks zigzagged the walls, and similar webs clouded
    the window-panes. A sickly-sweet smell pervaded the aisles. After
    walking about with him a little while in embarrassing silences, divided
    only by his cursory explanations of the monuments and other objects, and
    almost fearing he might produce a marriage licence, I went to a door in
    the south transept which opened into the sacristy.

    I glanced through it, towards the small altar at the upper end. The
    place was empty save of one figure; and she was kneeling here in front of
    the beautiful altarpiece by Bellini. Beautiful though it was she seemed
    not to see it. She was weeping and praying as though her heart was
    broken. She was my sister Caroline. I beckoned to Charles, and he came
    to my side, and looked through the door with me.

    'Speak to her,' said I. 'She will forgive you.'

    I gently pushed him through the doorway, and went back into the transept,
    down the nave, and onward to the west door. There I saw my father, to
    whom I spoke. He answered severely that, having first obtained
    comfortable quarters in a pension on the Grand Canal, he had gone back to
    the hotel on the Riva degli Schiavoni to find me; but that I was not
    there. He was now waiting for Caroline, to accompany her back to the
    pension, at which she had requested to be left to herself as much as
    possible till she could regain some composure.

    I told him that it was useless to dwell on what was past, that I no doubt
    had erred, that the remedy lay in the future and their marriage. In this
    he quite agreed with me, and on my informing him that M. de la Feste was
    at that moment with Caroline in the sacristy, he assented to my proposal
    that we should leave them to themselves, and return together to await
    them at the pension, where he had also engaged a room for me. This we
    did, and going up to the chamber he had chosen for me, which overlooked
    the Canal, I leant from the window to watch for the gondola that should
    contain Charles and my sister.

    They were not long in coming. I recognized them by the colour of her
    sunshade as soon as they turned the bend on my right hand. They were
    side by side of necessity, but there was no conversation between them,
    and I thought that she looked flushed and he pale. When they were rowed
    in to the steps of our house he handed her up. I fancied she might have
    refused his assistance, but she did not. Soon I heard her pass my door,
    and wishing to know the result of their interview I went downstairs,
    seeing that the gondola had not put off with him. He was turning from
    the door, but not towards the water, intending apparently to walk home by
    way of the calle which led into the Via 22 Marzo.

    'Has she forgiven you?' said I.

    'I have not asked her,' he said.

    'But you are bound to do so,' I told him.

    He paused, and then said, 'Alicia, let us understand each other. Do you
    mean to tell me, once for all, that if your sister is willing to become
    my wife you absolutely make way for her, and will not entertain any
    thought of what I suggested to you any more?'

    'I do tell you so,' said I with dry lips. 'You belong to her--how can I
    do otherwise?'

    'Yes; it is so; it is purely a question of honour,' he returned. 'Very
    well then, honour shall be my word, and not my love. I will put the
    question to her frankly; if she says yes, the marriage shall be. But not
    here. It shall be at your own house in England.'

    'When?' said I.

    'I will accompany her there,' he replied, 'and it shall be within a week
    of her return. I have nothing to gain by delay. But I will not answer
    for the consequences.'

    'What do you mean?' said I. He made no reply, went away, and I came back
    to my room.

    CHAPTER IX.--SHE WITNESSES THE END

    April 20. Milan, 10.30 p.m.--We are thus far on our way homeward. I,
    being decidedly de trop, travel apart from the rest as much as I can.
    Having dined at the hotel here, I went out by myself; regardless of the
    proprieties, for I could not stay in. I walked at a leisurely pace along
    the Via Allesandro Manzoni till my eye was caught by the grand Galleria
    Vittorio Emanuele, and I entered under the high glass arcades till I
    reached the central octagon, where I sat down on one of a group of chairs
    placed there. Becoming accustomed to the stream of promenaders, I soon
    observed, seated on the chairs opposite, Caroline and Charles. This was
    the first occasion on which I had seen them en tete-a-tete since my
    conversation with him. She soon caught sight of me; averted her eyes;
    then, apparently abandoning herself to an impulse, she jumped up from her
    seat and came across to me. We had not spoken to each other since the
    meeting in Venice.

    'Alicia,' she said, sitting down by my side, 'Charles asks me to forgive
    you, and I do forgive you.'

    I pressed her hand, with tears in my eyes, and said, 'And do you forgive
    him?'

    'Yes,' said she, shyly.

    'And what's the result?' said I.

    'We are to be married directly we reach home.'

    This was almost the whole of our conversation; she walked home with me,
    Charles following a little way behind, though she kept turning her head,
    as if anxious that he should overtake us. 'Honour and not love' seemed
    to ring in my ears. So matters stand. Caroline is again happy.

    April 25.--We have reached home, Charles with us. Events are now moving
    in silent speed, almost with velocity, indeed; and I sometimes feel
    oppressed by the strange and preternatural ease which seems to accompany
    their flow. Charles is staying at the neighbouring town; he is only
    waiting for the marriage licence; when obtained he is to come here, be
    quietly married to her, and carry her off. It is rather resignation than
    content which sits on his face; but he has not spoken a word more to me
    on the burning subject, or deviated one hair's breadth from the course he
    laid down. They may be happy in time to come: I hope so. But I cannot
    shake off depression.

    May 6.--Eve of the wedding. Caroline is serenely happy, though not
    blithe. But there is nothing to excite anxiety about her. I wish I
    could say the same of him. He comes and goes like a ghost, and yet
    nobody seems to observe this strangeness in his mien.

    I could not help being here for the ceremony; but my absence would have
    resulted in less disquiet on his part, I believe. However, I may be
    wrong in attributing causes: my father simply says that Charles and
    Caroline have as good a chance of being happy as other people. Well, to-
    morrow settles all.

    May 7.--They are married: we have just returned from church. Charles
    looked so pale this morning that my father asked him if he was ill. He
    said, 'No: only a slight headache;' and we started for the church.

    There was no hitch or hindrance; and the thing is done.

    4 p.m.--They ought to have set out on their journey by this time; but
    there is an unaccountable delay. Charles went out half-an-hour ago, and
    has not yet returned. Caroline is waiting in the hall; but I am
    dreadfully afraid they will miss the train. I suppose the trifling
    hindrance is of no account; and yet I am full of misgivings . . .

    Sept. 14.--Four months have passed; only four months! It seems like
    years. Can it be that only seventeen weeks ago I set on this paper the
    fact of their marriage? I am now an aged woman by comparison!

    On that never to be forgotten day we waited and waited, and Charles did
    not return. At six o'clock, when poor little Caroline had gone back to
    her room in a state of suspense impossible to describe, a man who worked
    in the water-meadows came to the house and asked for my father. He had
    an interview with him in the study. My father then rang his bell, and
    sent for me. I went down; and I then learnt the fatal news. Charles was
    no more. The waterman had been going to shut down the hatches of a weir
    in the meads when he saw a hat on the edge of the pool below, floating
    round and round in the eddy, and looking into the pool saw something
    strange at the bottom. He knew what it meant, and lowering the hatches
    so that the water was still, could distinctly see the body. It is
    needless to write particulars that were in the newspapers at the time.
    Charles was brought to the house, but he was dead.

    We all feared for Caroline; and she suffered much; but strange to say,
    her suffering was purely of the nature of deep grief which found relief
    in sobbing and tears. It came out at the inquest that Charles had been
    accustomed to cross the meads to give an occasional half-crown to an old
    man who lived on the opposite hill, who had once been a landscape painter
    in an humble way till he lost his eyesight; and it was assumed that he
    had gone thither for the same purpose to-day, and to bid him farewell. On
    this information the coroner's jury found that his death had been caused
    by misadventure; and everybody believes to this hour that he was drowned
    while crossing the weir to relieve the old man. Except one: she believes
    in no accident. After the stunning effect of the first news, I thought
    it strange that he should have chosen to go on such an errand at the last
    moment, and to go personally, when there was so little time to spare,
    since any gift could have been so easily sent by another hand. Further
    reflection has convinced me that this step out of life was as much a part
    of the day's plan as was the wedding in the church hard by. They were
    the two halves of his complete intention when he gave me on the Grand
    Canal that assurance which I shall never forget: 'Very well, then; honour
    shall be my word, not love. If she says "Yes," the marriage shall be.'

    I do not know why I should have made this entry at this particular time;
    but it has occurred to me to do it--to complete, in a measure, that part
    of my desultory chronicle which relates to the love-story of my sister
    and Charles. She lives on meekly in her grief; and will probably outlive
    it; while I--but never mind me.

    CHAPTER X.--SHE ADDS A NOTE LONG AFTER

    Five-years later.--I have lighted upon this old diary, which it has
    interested me to look over, containing, as it does, records of the time
    when life shone more warmly in my eye than it does now. I am impelled to
    add one sentence to round off its record of the past. About a year ago
    my sister Caroline, after a persistent wooing, accepted the hand and
    heart of Theophilus Higham, once the blushing young Scripture reader who
    assisted at the substitute for a marriage I planned, and now the fully-
    ordained curate of the next parish. His penitence for the part he played
    ended in love. We have all now made atonement for our sins against her:
    may she be deceived no more.

    (1887.)
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