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The great house


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Title:TheGreatHouse
Author:StanleyJ.Weyman
ReleaseDate:March28,2012[EBook#39294]
Language:English

***STARTOFTHISPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKTHEGREATHOUSE***

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(UniversityofMichigan)



THEGREATHOUSE

BYTHESAMEAUTHOR

THEHOUSEOFTHEWOLF
THENEWRECTOR
THESTORYOFFRANCISCLUDDE
AGENTLEMANOFFRANCE
THEMANINBLACK
UNDERTHEREDROBE
MYLADYROTHA
MEMOIRSOFAMINISTEROFFRANCE
THEREDCOCKADE
SHREWSBURY
THECASTLEINN
SOPHIA
COUNTHANNIBAL


INKINGS'BYWAYS
THELONGNIGHT
THEABBESSOFVLAYE
STARVECROWFARM
CHIPPINGE
LAIDUPINLAVENDER
THEWILDGEESE


THEGREATHOUSE

BY


STANLEYJ.WEYMAN
Authorof"TheCastleInn,""Chippinge,"
"AGentlemanofFrance,"etc.,etc.

NEWYORK



LONGMANS,GREENANDCO.
FOURTHAVENUEAND30thSTREET

1919

COPYRIGHT,1919
BY

STANLEYJ.WEYMAN


CONTENTS
CHAPTER

I.
II.
III.
IV.
V.
VI.
VII.
VIII.
IX.
X.
XI.
XII.
XIII.
XIV.
XV.
XVI.
XVII.
XVIII.
XIX.
XX.
XXI.
XXII.



THEHÔTELLAMBERT-UPSTAIRS.
THEHÔTELLAMBERT-DOWNSTAIRS.
THELAWYERABROAD.
HOMEWARDBOUND.
THELONDONPACKET.
FIELDANDFORGE.
MR.JOHNAUDLEY.
THEGATEHOUSE.
OLDTHINGS.
NEWTHINGS.
TACTANDTEMPER.
THEYEWWALK.
PETERPAUPER.
THEMANCHESTERMEN.
STRANGEBEDFELLOWS.
THEGREATHOUSEAT
BEAUDELAYS.
TOTHERESCUE.
MASKSANDFACES.
THECORNLAWCRISIS.
PETER'SRETURN.
TOFTATTHEBUTTERFLIES.
MYLORDSPEAKS.


BLOREUNDERWEAVER.
XXIV.
ANAGENTOFTHEOLDSCHOOL.
XXV.
MARYISLONELY.
XXVI.
MISSING.
XXVII. AFOOTSTEPINTHEHALL.
XXVIII. THENEWSFROMRIDDSLEY.
XXIX.
THEAUDLEYBIBLE.
XXX.
AFRIENDINNEED.
XXXI.
BENBOSHAM.
XXXII. MARYMAKESADISCOVERY.
XXXIII. THEMEETINGATTHEMAYPOLE.
XXXIV. BYTHECANAL.
XXXV.
MYLORDSPEAKSOUT.
XXXVI. THERIDDSLEYELECTION.
XXXVII. ATURNOFTHEWHEEL.
XXXVIII. TOFT'SLITTLESURPRISE.
XXXIX. THEDEEDOFRENUNCIATION.
"LETUSMAKEOTHERS
XL.
THANKFUL."
XXIII.


THEGREATHOUSE


CHAPTERI
THEHÔTELLAMBERT--UPSTAIRS

OnaneveninginMarchinthe'fortiesoflastcenturyagirllookeddownon
the Seine from an attic window on the Ile St. Louis. The room behind her--or
besideher,forshesatonthewindow-ledge,withherbackagainstonesideofthe
opening and her feet against the other--was long, whitewashed from floor to
ceiling,lightedbyfivegauntwindows,andascoldtotheeyeascharitytothe
recipient.Alongeachsideofthechamberrantenpalletbeds.Ablackdoorbroke
thewallatoneend,andabovethedoorhungacrucifix.ApaintingofaStation
oftheCrossadornedthewallattheotherend.Beyondthispicturetheroomhad
noornament;itisalmosttruetosaythatbeyondwhathasbeennamedithadno
furniture. One bed--the bed beside the window at which the girl sat--was
screenedbyathincurtainwhichdidnotreachthefloor.Thiswasherbed.
ButinearlyspringnowindowinParislookedonascenemorecheerfulthan
this window; which as from an eyrie commanded a shining reach of the Seine
bordered by the lawns and foliage of the King's Garden, and closed by the
gracefularchesoftheBridgeofAusterlitz.Onthewaterboatsshottoandfro.
Thequaysweregaywiththeredtrousersofsoldiersandthecoquettishcapsof
soubrettes,withstudentsinstrangecloaks,andthetwinklingwheelsofyellow
cabriolets.Thefirstswallowswerehawkinghitherandthitherabovethewater,
andapleasanthumrosefromtheBoulevardBourdon.
Yetthegirlsighed.Foritwasherbirthday,shewastwentythistwenty-fifthof
March,andtherewasnotasoulintheworldtoknowthisandtowishherjoy.A
life of dependence, toned to the key of the whitewashed room and the thin
pallets, lay before her; and though she had good reason to be thankful for the
safety which dependence bought, still she was only twenty, and springtime,
viewed from prison windows, beckons to its cousin, youth. She saw family
groupswalkingthequays,andfather,mother,children,all,seenfromadistance,
were happy. She saw lovers loitering in the garden or pacing to and fro, and
romancewalkedwitheveryoneofthem;nonecamelate,orfelltowords.She


sighedmoredeeply;andonthesoundthedooropened.
"Hola!" cried a shrill voice, speaking in French, fluent, but oddly accented.
"Whoishere?ThePrincessdesiresthattheEnglishMademoisellewilldescend
thisevening."
"Very good," the girl in the window replied pleasantly. "At the same hour,
Joséphine?"
"Why not, Mademoiselle?" A trim maid, with a plain face and the faultless
figureofaPole,cameafewstepsintotheroom."Butyouarealone?"
"Thechildrenarewalking.Istayedathome."
"Tobealone?AsifIdidnotunderstandthat!Tobealone--itistheluxuryof
therich."
Thegirlnodded."NonebutaPolewouldhavethoughtofthat,"shesaid.
"Ah,thecraftyEnglishMiss!"themaidretorted."Howsheflatters!Perhaps
sheneedsatouchofthetongsto-night?Ortheloanofapairofred-heeledshoes,
worn no more than thrice by the Princess--and with the black which is
convenableforMademoiselle,oh,soneat!Oftheancienrégime,absolutely!"
The other laughed. "The ancien régime, Joséphine--and this!" she replied,
withagesturethatembracedtheroom,thepallets,herownbed."Acurledhead-andthis!Youaretrulyacabbage----"
"ButMademoiselledescends!"
"Acabbageof--foolishness!"
"Ah, well, if I descended, you would see," the maid retorted. "I am but the
Princess'ssecondmaid,andIknownothing!ButifIdescendeditwouldnotbe
to this dormitory I should return! Nor to the tartines! Nor to the daughters of
Poland!Trustmeforthat--andIknowbutmyprayers.WhileMademoiselle,she
isanartist'sdaughter."
"TherespokethePoleagain,"thegirlstruckinwithasmile.


"TheEnglishMissknowshowtoflatter,"Joséphinelaughed."Thatisonefor
thetouchofthetongs,"shecontinued,tickingthemoffonherfingers."Andone
for the red-heeled shoes. And--but no more! Let me begone before I am
bankrupt!"Sheturnedaboutwithaflirtofhershortpetticoats,butpausedand
looked back, with her hand on the door. "None the less, mark you well,
Mademoiselle,fromthewhitewashtotheceilingofLebrun,fromthedortoirof
theJeunesFillestotheGalleryofHercules,therearebuttwentystairs,andeasy,
oh, so easy to descend! If Mademoiselle instead of flattering Joséphine, the
Cracovienne, flattered some pretty gentleman--who knows? Not I! I know but
myprayers!"Andwithalightlaughthemaidclappedtothedoorandwasgone.
The girl in the window had not throughout the parley changed her pose or
moved more than her head, and this was characteristic of her. For even in her
playfulness there was gravity, and a measure of stillness. Now, left alone, she
droppedherfeettothefloor,turned,andkneltonthesillwithherbrowpressed
against the glass. The sun had set, mists were rising from the river, the quays
weregrayandcold.Hereandtherealampbegantoshinethroughthetwilight.
Butthegirl'sthoughtswerenolongeronthescenebeneathhereyes.
"There goes the third who has been good to me," she pondered. "First the
Polish lodger who lived on the floor below, and saved me from that woman.
ThenthePrincess'sdaughter.NowJoséphine.Therearestillkindpeopleinthe
world--GodgrantthatImaynotforgetit!Buthowmuchbettertogivethanto
take, to be strong than to be weak, to be the mistress and not the puppet of
fortune!Howmuchbetter--and,wereIaman,howeasy!"
But on that there came into her remembrance one to whom it had not been
easy, one who had signally failed to master fortune, or to grapple with
circumstances."Poorfather!"shewhispered.


CHAPTERII
THEHÔTELLAMBERT--DOWNSTAIRS

WhenladieswereathometotheirintimatesintheParisofthe'forties,they
seated their guests about large round tables with a view to that common
exchange of wit and fancy which is the French ideal. The mode crossed to
England,andinmanyhousestheseroundtables,fallentotheusesofthediningroom or the nursery, may still be seen. But when the Princess Czartoriski
entertainedintheHôtelLambert,undertheceilingpaintedbyLebrun,whichhad
looked down on the arm-chair of Madame de Châtelet and the tabouret of
Voltaire, she was, as became a Pole, a law to herself. In that beautiful room,
softly lit by wax candles, her guests were free to follow their bent, to fall into
groups, or to admire at their ease the Watteaus and Bouchers which the
Princess'sfather-in-law,oldPrinceAdam,hadrestoredtotheirnativepanels.
Thanks to his taste and under her rule the gallery of Hercules presented on
this evening a scene not unworthy of its past. The silks and satins of the old
régime wereindeedreplaced by thehigh-shoulderedcoats,thestocks,thepins
and velvet vests of the dandies; and Thiers beaming through his glasses, or
Lamartine, though beauty, melted by the woes of Poland, hung upon his lips,
mighthavebeenthoughtbysomeunequaltothedead.Buttheywerenowwhat
thosehadbeen;andthewomenpeacockeditasofold.Atanyratetheeffectwas
good, and a guest who came late, and paused a moment on the threshold to
observethescene,thoughtthathehadneverbeforedonetheroomfulljustice.
PresentlythePrincesssawhimandhewentforward.Themanwhowastalking
to her made his bow, and she pointed with her fan to the vacant place.
"Felicitations,mylord,"shesaid.Sheheldoutherglovedhand.
"Athousandsthanks,"hesaid,ashebentoverit."Butonwhat,Princess?"
"Onthesuccessofafriend.OnwhatwehaveallseenintheJournal.Isitnot
truethatyouhavewonyoursuit?"


"Iwon,yes."Heshruggedhisshoulders."Butwhat,Madame?Abaretitle,an
emptyrent-roll."
"Forshame!"sheanswered."ButIsupposethatthisisyourEnglishphlegm.
Isitnotathingtobeproudof--anoldtitle?Thatwhichmoneycannotbuyand
thewisestwouldfainwear?M.Guizot,whatwouldhenotgivetobeChiende
Race?YourPeel,also?"
"And your Thiers?" he returned, with a sly glance at the little man in the
shiningglasses.
"He, too! But he has the passion of humanity, which is a title in itself.
Whereas youEnglish, turning inyourunendingcircle, oneout,one in, onein,
one out, are but playing a game--marking time! You have not a desire to go
forward!"
"Surely,Princess,youforgetourReformBill,scarcetenyearsold."
"Which bought off your cotton lords and your fat bourgeois, and left the
people without leaders and more helpless than before. No, my lord, if your
Russell--LordJohn,doyoucallhim?--hadonejotofM.Thiers'enthusiasm!Or
yourPeel--butIlookfornothingthere!"
He shrugged his shoulders. "I admit," he said, "that M. Thiers has an
enthusiasmbeyondtheordinary."
"Youdo?Wonderful!"
"But,"withasmile,"itis,Ifancy,anenthusiasmofwhichtheobjectis--M.
Thiers!"
"Ah!" she cried, fanning herself more quickly. "Now there spoke not Mr.
Audley, the attaché--he had not been so imprudent! But--how do you call
yourselfnow?"
"Ondaysofceremony,"hereplied,"LordAudleyofBeaudelays."
"Therespokemylord,unattached!Oh,youEnglish,youhavenoenthusiasm.
Youhaveonlytraditions.PoorwerePolandifherfatehungonyou!"


"There are still bright spots," he said slyly. And his glance returned to the
littlestatesmaninspectaclesonwhomthePrincessrestedthehopesofPoland.
"No!"shecriedvividly."Don'tsayitagainorIshallbedispleased.Turnyour
eyeselsewhere.ThereisonehereaboutwhomIwishtoconsultyou.Doyousee
thetallgirlinblackwhoisengagedwiththeminiatures?"
"Isawhersometimeago."
"Isupposeso.Youareaman.Idaresayyouwouldcallherhandsome?"
"Ithinkitpossible,wereshenotinthiscompany.Whatofher,Princess?"
"Doyounoticeanythingbeyondherlooks?"
"Thepictureisplain--fortheframeinwhichIseeher.Issheoneofthestaff
ofyourschool?"
"Yes,butwithanair----"
"Certainly--anair!"Henodded.
"Well, she is a countrywoman of yours and has a history. Her father, a
journalist,artist,nomatterwhat,cametoliveinParisyearsago.Hewentdown,
down,alwaysdown;sixmonthsagohedied.Therewasenoughtoburyhim,no
more.Shesays,Idon'tknow"--thePrincessindicateddoubtwithamovementof
herfan--"thatshewrotetofriendsinEngland.Perhapsshedidnotwrite;howdo
I know? She was at the last sou, the street before her, a hag of a concierge
behind,andwithal--asyouseeher."
"Notwearingthatdress,Ipresume?"hesaidwithafaintsmile.
"No.ShehadpassedeverythingtotheMontdePiété;shehadwhatshestood
up in--yet herself! Then a Polish family on the floor below, to whom my
daughtercarriedalms,toldCécileofher.Theypitiedher,spokewellofher,she
had done--no matter what for them--perhaps nothing. Probably nothing. But
Cécile ascended, saw her, became enamoured, enragée! You know Cécile--for
herallthatwearsfeathersisoftheangels!Nothingwoulddobutshemustbring
herhereandsethertoteachEnglishtothedaughtersduringherownabsence."


"ThePrincessisaway?"
"Forfourweeks.Butinthreedaysshereturns,andyouseewhereIam.How
doIknowwhothisis?Shemaybethis,orthat.IfshewereFrench,ifshewere
Polish,Ishouldknow!ButsheisEnglishandofacalm,areticence--ah!"
"Andofapridetoo,"herepliedthoughtfully,"ifImistakenot.Yetitisagood
face,Princess."
Sheflutteredherfan."Itisahandsomeone.Foramanthatisthesame."
"Withallthisyoupermithertoappear?"
"Tobeofuse.AndalittlethatshemaybeseenbysomeEnglishfriend,who
maytellme."
"ShallItalktoher?"
"Ifyouwillbesogood.Learn,ifyouplease,whatsheis."
"Yourwishesarelaw,"herejoined."Willyoupresentme?"
"It is not necessary," the Princess answered. She beckoned to a stout
gentlemanwhoworewhiskerstrimmedàlamodeduRoi,andhadlaurelleaves
onhiscoatcollar."Athousandthanks."
He lingered a moment to take part in the Princess's reception of the
Academician.ThenhejoinedagroupaboutoldPrinceAdamCzartoriski,who
wasdescribingarecentvisittoCracow,thatlastmorseloffreePoland,soonto
passintothemawofAustria.Alittleapart,thegirlinblackbentoverthecaseof
miniatures, comparing some with a list, and polishing others with a square of
silk.Presentlyhefoundhimselfbesideher.Theireyesmet.
"Iamtold,"hesaid,bowing,"thatyouaremycountrywoman.ThePrincess
thoughtthatImightbeofusetoyou."
The girl had read his errand before he spoke and a shade flitted across her
face. She knew, only too well, that her hold on this rock of safety to which
chancehadliftedher--outofagulfofperilandmiseryofwhichshetrembledto
think--wasoftheslightest.Early,almostfromthefirst,shehaddiscoveredthat


the Princess's benevolence found vent rather in schemes for the good of many
than in tenderness for one. But hitherto she had relied on the daughter's
affection, and a little on her own usefulness. Then, too, she was young and
hopeful, and the depths from which she had escaped were such that she could
notbelievethatProvidencewouldreturnhertothem.
But she was quick-witted, and his opening frightened her. She guessed at
oncethatshewasnottobeallowedtoawaitCécile'sreturn,thatherfatehungon
whatthisEnglishman,sobigandblandandforceful,reportedofher.
She braced herself to meet the danger. "I am obliged to the Princess," she
said."ButmytieswithEnglandareslight.IcametoFrancewithmyfatherwhen
Iwastenyearsold."
"I think you lost him recently?" He found his task less easy than it should
havebeen.
"Hediedsixmonthsago,"shereplied,regardinghimgravely."Hisillnessleft
mewithoutmeans.Iwaspenniless,whentheyoungPrincessbefriendedmeand
gavemearespitehere.Iamnopartofthis,"withaglanceatthesalonandthe
groupsaboutthem."Iteachupstairs.Iamthankfulfortheprivilegeofdoingso."
"The Princess told me as much," he said frankly. "She thought that, being
English,Imightadviseyoubetterthanshecould;thatpossiblyImightputyou
intouchwithyourrelations?"
Sheshookherhead.
"Oryourfriends?Youmusthavefriends?"
"Doubtlessmyfatherhad--once,"shesaidinalowvoice."Butashismeans
diminished,hesawlessandlessofthosewhohadknownhim.Forthelasttwo
yearsIdonotthinkthathesawanEnglishmanathome.BeforethattimeIwas
inaconventschool,andIdonotknow."
"YouareaRomanCatholic,then?"
"No.Andforthatreason--andforanother,thatmyaccountwasnotpaid"--her
color rose painfully to her face--"I could not apply to the Sisters. I am very
frank,"sheadded,herliptrembling.


"And I encroach," he answered, bowing. "Forgive me! Your father was an
artist,Ibelieve?"
"HedrewforanAtelierdePorcelaine--forthejournalswhenhecould.Buthe
was not very successful," she continued reluctantly. "The china factory which
hademployedhimsincehecametoParis,failed.WhenIreturnedfromschool
hewasaloneandpoor,livinginthelittlestreetintheQuartier,wherehedied."
"Butforgiveme,youmusthavesomerelationsinEngland?"
"OnlyoneofwhomIknow,"shereplied."Myfather'sbrother.Myfatherhad
quarrelledwithhim--bitterly,Ifear;butwhenhewasdyinghebademewriteto
myuncleandtellhimhowwewereplaced.Ididso.Noanswercame.Thenafter
my father's death I wrote again. I told my uncle that I was alone, that I was
withoutmoney,thatinashorttimeIshouldbehomeless,thatifIcouldreturnto
EnglandIcouldlivebyteachingFrench.Hedidnotreply.Icoulddonomore."
"That was outrageous," he answered, flushing darkly. Though well under
thirty he was a tall man and portly, with one of those large faces that easily
becomeinjected."Doyouknow--isyourunclealsoinnarrowcircumstances?"
"I know no more than his name," she said. "My father never spoke of him.
Theyhadquarrelled.Indeed,myfatherspokelittleofhispast."
"Butwhenyoudidnothearfromyouruncle,didyounottellyourfather?"
"Itcoulddonogood,"shesaid."Andhewasdying."
He was not sentimental, this big man, whose entrance into a room carried
withitasenseofpower.Norwasheonetobelightlymoved,buthersimplicity
and the picture her words drew for him of the daughter and the dying man
touchedhim.AlreadyhismindwasmadeupthattheCzartoriskishouldnotturn
heradriftforlackofaword.Aloud,"ThePrincessdidnottellmeyourname,"
hesaid."MayIknowit?"
"Audley,"shesaid."MaryAudley."
Hestaredather.Shesupposedthathehadnotcaughtthename.Sherepeated
it.


"Audley?Doyoureallymeanthat?"
"Whynot?"sheasked,surprisedinherturn."Isitsouncommonaname?"
"No,"herepliedslowly."No,butitisacoincidence.ThePrincessdidnottell
methatyournamewasAudley."
Thegirlshookherhead."Idoubtifsheknows,"shesaid."ToherIamonly
'theEnglishgirl.'"
"Andyourfatherwasanartist,residentinParis?Andhisname?"
"PeterAudley."
He nodded. "Peter Audley," he repeated. His eyes looked through her at
something far away. His lips were more firmly set. His face was grave. "Peter
Audley,"herepeatedsoftly."AnartistresidentinParis!"
"Butdidyouknowhim?"shecried.
Hebroughthisthoughtsandhiseyesbacktoher."No,Ididnotknowhim,"
hesaid."ButIhaveheardofhim."Andagainitwasplainthathisthoughtstook
wing."JohnAudley'sbrother,theartist!"hemuttered.
In her impatience she could have taken him by the sleeve and shaken him.
"ThenyoudoknowJohnAudley?"shesaid."Myuncle?"
Againhebroughthimselfbackwithaneffort."Athousandpardons!"hesaid.
"YouseethePrincessdidnottellmethatyouwereanAudley.Yes,IknowJohn
Audley--oftheGatehouse.Isupposeitwastohimyouwrote?"
"Yes."
"Andhedidnotreply?"
Shenodded.
Helaughed,asatsomethingwhimsical.Itwasnotakindlylaugh,itjarreda
littleonhislistener.Butthenextmomenthisfacesoftened,hesmiledather,and
thesmileofsuchamanhaditsimportance,forinreposehiseyeswerehard.It


wascleartoherthathewasamanofposition,thathebelongedofrighttothis
keen polished world at which she was stealing a glance. His air was
distinguished,andhisdress,thoughquiet,struckthelastnoteoffashion.
"ButIamkeepingyouinsuspense,"hesaid."Imusttellyou,MissAudley,
whyitsurprisedmetolearnyourname.BecauseI,too,amanAudley."
"You!"shecried.
"Yes,I,"hereplied."Whatismore,Iamakintoyou.Thekinshipisremote,
but it happens that your father's name, in its place in a pedigree, has been
familiartomeoflate,andIcouldsetdowntheprecisedegreeofcousinshipin
whichyoustandtome.Ithinkyourfatherwasmyfourthcousin."
Shecoloredcharmingly."Isitpossible?"sheexclaimed.
"Itisafact,provedindeed,recently,inacourtoflaw,"heansweredlightly.
"PerhapsitisaswellthatwehavethatwarrantforaconversationwhichIcan
seethatthePrincessthinkslong.Afterthisshewillexpecttohearthewholeof
yourhistory."
"Ifearthatshemaybedispleased,"thegirlsaid,wincingalittle."Youhave
beenverykind----"
"Whoshouldbekind,"hereplied,"ifnottheheadofyourfamily?Buthave
no fear, I will deal with the Princess. I shall be able to satisfy her, I have no
doubt."
"And you"--she looked at him with appeal in her eyes--"will you be good
enoughtotellmewhoyouare?"
"IamLordAudley.Todistinguishmefromanotherofthesamename,Iam
calledAudleyofBeaudelays."
"Of Beaudelays?" she repeated. He thought her face, her whole bearing,
singularlycomposedinviewofhisannouncement."Beaudelays?"sherepeated
thoughtfully."Ihaveheardthenamemorethanonce.Perhapsfrommyfather."
"Itwereoddifyouhadnot,"hesaid."Itisthenameofmyhouse,andyour
uncle,JohnAudley,liveswithinamileofit."


"Oh,"shesaid.Thenameoftheunclewhohadignoredherappealsfellonher
likeacolddouche.
"Iwillnotsaymorenow,"LordAudleycontinued."Butyoushallhearfrom
me. To--morrow I quit Paris for three or four days, but when I return have no
fear. You may leave the matter in my hands in full confidence that I shall not
fail--mycousin."
He held out his hand and she laid hers in it. She looked him frankly in the
face."Thankyou,"shesaid."IlittlethoughtwhenIdescendedthiseveningthatI
shouldmeetakinsman."
"And a friend," he answered, holding her hand a little longer than was
needful.
"And a friend," she repeated. "But there--I must go now. I should have
disappeared ten minutes ago. This is my way." She inclined her head, and
turningfromhimshepushedopenasmalldoormaskedbyapicture.Shepassed
atonceintoadarkcorridor,andthreadingitswindingsgainedthegreatstaircase.
As she flitted upwards from floor to floor, skirting a long procession of
shadowy forms, and now ogled by a Leda whose only veil was the dusk, now
threatenedbythetusksofthegreatboaratbay,shewasnotconsciousofthought
orsurprise.Itwasnotuntilshehadlightedhertaperoutsidethedormitorydoor,
and, passing between the rows of sleeping children, had gained her screened
corner, that she found it possible to think. Then she set the light in her tiny
washing-basin--such was the rule--and seated herself on her bed. For some
minutes she stared before her, motionless and unwinking, her hands clasped
aboutherknees,hermindatwork.
Wasittrue,oradream?Hadthisreallyhappenedtohersinceshehadviewed
herselfintheblurredmirror,hadsetacurlrightand,satisfied,hadturnedtogo
down?Thedangerandthedeliveryfromit,thefearandthefriendinneed?Or
was it a Cinderella's treat, which no fairy godmother would recall to her, with
whichnolostslipperwouldconnecther?Shecouldalmostbelievethis.Forno
Cinderella,intheashesofthehearth,couldhaveseemedmoreremotefromthe
gayball-roomthanshecrouchingonherthinmattress,withthebreathingofthe
childreninherears,fromtheluxuryofthefamoussalon.
Or,ifitwastrue,ifithadhappened,wouldanythingcomeofit?WouldLord


Audleyrememberher?Orwouldhethinknomoreofher,ignoringto-morrow
thepoorrelationwhomithadbeenthewhimofthemomenttoown?Thatwould
becruel!Thatwouldbebase!ButifMaryhadfalleninwithsomegoodpeople
sinceherfather'sdeath,shehadalsometmanycallous,andafewcruelpeople.
Hemightbeone.Andthen,howstrangeitwasthatherfatherhadnevernamed
thisgreatkinsman,neverreferredtohim,nevereven,whendying,disclosedhis
name!
The light wavered in the draught that stole through the bald, undraped
window. A child whimpered in its sleep, awoke, began to sob. It was the
youngestofthedaughtersofPoland.Thegirlrose,andgoingontip-toetothe
child, bent over it, kissed it, warmed it in her bosom, soothed it. Presently the
littlewaifsleptagain,andMaryAudleybegantomakereadyforbed.
But so much turned for her on what had happened, so much hung in the
balance,thatitwasnotunnaturalthatassheletdownherhairandplaiteditin
twolongtailsforthenight,sheshouldseehernewkinsman'sfaceinthemirror.
Norstrangethatasshelaysleeplessandthought-riddeninherbedthesameface
shouldpresentitselfanewrelievedagainstthebackgroundofdarkness.


CHAPTERIII
THELAWYERABROAD

Half an hour later Lord Audley paused in the hall at Meurice's, and having
givenhiscloakandhattoaservantwentthoughtfullyupthewidestaircase.He
openedthedoorofaroomonthefirstfloor.Astoutmanwithabaldhead,who
had been for some time yawning over the dying fire, rose to his feet and
remainedstanding.
Audleynodded."Hallo,Stubbs!"hesaidcarelessly,"notinbedyet?"
"No,mylord,"theotheranswered."Iwaitedtolearnifyourlordshiphadany
ordersforEngland."
"Well,sitdownnow.I'vesomethingtotellyou."Mylordstoopedashespoke
andwarmedhishandsattheembers;thenrising,hestoodwithhisbacktothe
hearth. The stout man sat forward on his chair with an air of deference. His
doublechinrestedontheamplefoldsofasoftwhitestocksecuredbyagoldpin
intheshapeofawheat-sheaf.Heworeblackknee-breechesandstockings,and
hisdress,thoughplain,borethestampofneatnessandprosperity.
For a minute or two Audley continued to look thoughtfully before him. At
length, "May I take it that this claim is really at an end now?" he said. "Is the
decisionfinal,Imean?"
"Unless new evidence crops up," Stubbs answered--he was a lawyer--"the
decisioniscertainlyfinal.Withyourlordship'ssignaturetothepapersIbrought
over----"
"Buttheclaimantmighttryagain?"
"Mr.JohnAudleymightdoanything,"Stubbsreturned."Ibelievehimtobe
maduponthepoint,andthereforecapableofmuch.Buthecouldonlymoveon
new evidence of the most cogent nature. I do not believe that such evidence


exists."
Hisemployerweighedthisforsometime.Atlength,"Thenifyouwereinmy
place,"hesaid,"youwouldnotbetemptedtohedge?"
"Tohedge?"thelawyerexclaimed,asifhehadneverheardthewordbefore.
"IamafraidIdon'tunderstand."
"Iwillexplain.Butfirst,tellmethis.IfanythinghappenstomebeforeIhave
achild,JohnAudleysucceedstothepeerage?Thatisclear?"
"Certainly!Mr.JohnAudley,theclaimant,isalsoyourheir-at-law."
"Totitleandestates--suchastheyare?"
"Toboth,mylord."
"Thenfollowmeanotherstep,Stubbs.FailingJohnAudley,whoisthenext
heir?"
"Mr. Peter Audley," Stubbs replied, "his only brother, would succeed, if he
werealive.Butitiscommongroundthatheisdead.IknewMr.Peter,and,ifI
maysayitofanAudley,mylord,amoreshiftless,weak,improvidentgentleman
never lived. And obstinate as the devil! He married into trade, and Mr. John
neverforgaveit--neverforgaveit,mylord.Neverspokeofhisbrotherortohis
brotherfromthattime.ItwasbeforetheReformBill,"thelawyercontinuedwith
asigh."Therewerenorailwaysthenandthingsweredifferent.Dear,dear,how
theworldchanges!Mr.Petermusthavegoneabroadtenyearsago,butuntilhe
wasmentionedinthesuitIdon'tthinkthatIhadheardhisnametentimesinas
manyyears.AndheanAudley!"
"Hehadachild?"
"Onlyone,adaughter."
"WouldshecomeinafterMr.John?"
"Yes,mylord,shewould--ifliving."
"I'vebeentalkingtoherthisevening."


"Ah!"Thelawyerwasnotsosimpleasheseemed,andforaminuteortwohe
hadforeseenthedénouement."Ah!"herepeated,thoughtfullyrubbinghisplump
calf."Isee,mylord.Mr.PeterAudley'sdaughter?Really!AndifImayventure
toask,whatisshelike?"
Audley paused before he answered. Then, "If you have painted the father
aright,Stubbs,Ishouldsaythatshewashisoppositeinallbuthisobstinacy.A
calmandself-reliantyoungwoman,ifIamanyjudge."
"Andhandsome?"
"Yes, with a look of breeding. At the same time she is penniless and
dependent, teaching English in a kind of charity school, cheek by jowl with a
princess!"
"Godblessmysoul!"criedthelawyer,astonishedatlast."Aprincess!"
"Whoisagoodcreatureaswomengo,butaslikelyasnottosendheradrift
to-morrow."
"Tut-tut-tut!"mutteredtheother.
"However,I'lltellyouthestory,"Audleyconcluded.Andhedidso.
Whenhehaddone,"Well,"Stubbsexclaimed,"foracoincidence----"
"Ah, there," the young man broke in, "I fancy, all's not said. I take it the
Princessnotedthename,butwastoopolitetoquestionme.Anyway,thegirlis
there.Sheisdependent,friendless;attractive,andwell-bred.Foramomentitdid
occurtome--sheisJohnAudley'sheiress--thatImightmakeallsafeby----"His
voicedropped.Hislastwordswereinaudible.
"Thechanceissoveryremote,"saidthelawyer,awarethathewasondelicate
ground, and that the other was rather following out his own thoughts than
consultinghim.
"Itis.Theideacrossedmymindonlyforamoment--ofcourseit'sabsurdfor
amanaspoorasIam.ThereishardlyapoorerpeeroutofIreland--youknow
that. Fourteenth baron without a roof to my house or a pane of glass in my
windows!Andarent-rollwhenallistoldof----"


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