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said Mr. Wendover. He spoke slowly, but he rose to his feet with a nervous movement that was not lost upon his companion; she noted it indeed with a certain inward sense of triumph. She was very deep, but she had never been so deep as when she made up her mind to mention the scandal of the house of Berrington to her visitor and intimated to him that Laura Wing regarded herself as near enough to it to receive from it a personal stain. "I'm extremely sorry to hear of Mrs. Berrington's misconduct," he continued, gravely, standing before her. "And I am no less obliged to you for your interest."

"Don't mention it," she said, getting up too and smiling. "I mean my interest. As for the other matter, it will all come out. Lionel will haul her up."

"Dear me, how dreadful!"

"Yes, dreadful enough. But don't betray me."

"Betray you?" he repeated, as if his thoughts had gone astray a moment.

"I mean to the girl. Think of her shame!"

"Her shame?" Mr. Wendover said, in the same way.

"It seemed to her, with what was becoming so clear to her, that an honest man might save her from it, might give her his name and his faith and help her to traverse the bad place. She exaggerates the badness of it, the stigma of her relationship. Good heavens, at that rate where would some of us be? But those are her ideas, they are absolutely sincere, and they had possession of her at the opera. She had a sense of being lost and was in a kind of agony to be rescued. She saw before her a kind gentleman who had seemed-who had certainly seemed- And Lady Davenant, with her fine old face lighted by her bright sagacity and her eyes on Mr. Wendover's, paused, lingering on this word. "Of course she must have been in a state of nerves."

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"I am very sorry for her," said Mr. Wendover, with his gravity that committed him to nothing.

"So am I! And of course if you were not in love with her you weren't, were you?"

"I must bid you good-bye, I am leav

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ing London." That was the only answer Lady Davenant got to her inquiry. Good-bye then. She is the nicest girl I know. But once more, mind you don't let her suspect!"

"How can I let her suspect anything when I shall never see her again?”

"Oh, don't say that," said Lady Davenant, very gently.

"She drove me away from her with a kind of ferocity."

"Oh, gammon !" cried the old woman. "I'm going home," he said, looking at her with his hand on the door.

"Well, it's the best place for you. And for her too!" she added as he went out. She was not sure that the last words reached him.

XIII.

LAURA WING was sharply ill for three days, but on the fourth she made up her mind she was better, though this was not the opinion of Lady Davenant, who would not hear of her getting up. The remedy she urged was lying still and yet lying still; but this specific the girl found wellnigh intolerable-it was a form of relief that only ministered to fever. She assured her friend that it killed her to do nothing to which her friend replied by asking her what she had a fancy to do. Laura had her idea and held it tight, but there was no use in producing it before Lady Davenant, who would have covered it with derision. On the afternoon of the first day Lionel Berrington came, and though his intention was honest he brought no healing. Hearing she was ill he wanted to look after her he wanted to take her back to Grosvenor Place and make her comfortable; he spoke as if he had every convenience for producing that condition, though he confessed there was a little bar to it in his own case. This impediment was the " cheeky" aspect of Miss Steet, who went sniffing about as if she knew a lot, if she should only condescend to tell it. He saw more of the children now; "I'm going to have 'em in every day, poor little devils," he said; and he spoke as if the discipline of suffering had already begun for him and a kind of holy change had taken place in

his life. Nothing had been said yet in the house, of course, as Laura knew, about Selina's disappearance, in the way of treating it as irregular; but the servants pretended so hard not to be aware of anything in particular that they were like pickpockets looking with unnatural interest the other way after they have crabbed a fellow's watch. To a certainty, in a day or two, the governess would give him warning; she would come and tell him she couldn't stay in such a place, and he would tell her, in return, that she was a little ass for not knowing that the place was much more respectable now than it had ever been.

This information Selina's husband imparted to Lady Davenant, to whom he discoursed with infinite candor and humor, taking a highly philosophical view of his position and declaring that it suited him down to the ground. His wife couldn't have pleased him better if she had done it on purpose; he knew where she had been every hour since she quitted Laura at the opera-he knew where she was at that moment, and he was expecting to find another telegram on his return to Grosvenor Place. So if it suited her it was all right, wasn't it? and the whole thing would go as straight as a shot. Lady Davenant took him up to see Laura, though she viewed their meeting with extreme disfavor, the girl being in no state for talking. In general Laura had little enough mind for it, but she insisted on seeing Lionel; she declared that if this were not allowed her she would go after him, ill as she was-she would dress herself and drive to his house. She dressed herself now, after a fashion; she got upon a sofa to receive him. Lady Davenant left him alone with her for twenty minutes, at the end of which she returned to take him away. This interview was not fortifying to the girl, whose idea-the idea of which I have said that she was tenacious-was to go after her sister, to take possession of her, cling to her and bring her back. Lionel, of course, wouldn't hear of taking her back, nor would Selina presumably hear of coming; but this made no difference in Laura's heroic plan. She would work it, she would compass it, she would go down on her knees, she would find the elo

quence of angels, she would achieve miracles. At any rate it made her frantic not to try, especially as in even fruitless action she should escape from herself-an object of which her horror was not yet extinguished.

As she lay there through hours of no sleep the picture of that hideous moment in the box alternated with the vision of her sister's guilty flight. She wanted to fly, herself to go off and keep going forever. Lionel was fussily kind to her and he didn't abuse Selina-he didn't tell her again how that lady's behavior suited his book. He simply resisted, with a little exasperating, dogged grin, her pitiful appeal for knowledge of her sister's whereabouts. He knew what she wanted it for, and he wouldn't help her in any such game. If she would promise, solemnly, to be quiet, he would tell her when she got better, but he wouldn't lend her a hand to make a fool of herself. Her work was cut out for her-she was to stay and mind the children; if she was so keen to do her duty she needn't go farther than that for it. He talked a great deal about the children and figured himself as pressing the little deserted darlings to his bosom. He was not a comedian, and she could see that he really believed he was going to be better now. Laura said she was sure Selina would make an attempt to get them-or at least one of them; and he replied, grimly, "Yes, my dear, she had better try! The girl was so angry with him, in her hot, tossing weakness, for refusing to tell her even whether the desperate pair had crossed the channel, that she was guilty of the immorality of regretting that the difference in badness between husband and wife was so distinct (for it was distinct, she could see that) as he made his dry little remark about Selina's trying. He told her he had already seen his solicitor, and she said she didn't care.

On the fourth day of her absence from Grosvenor Place she got up, at an hour when she was alone (in the afternoon, rather late), and prepared herself to go out. Lady Davenant had admitted, in the morning, that she was better, and fortunately she had not the complication of being subject to a medical opinion, having absolutely refused to see a

If

doctor. Her old friend had been obliged to go out-she had scarcely quitted her before-and Laura had requested the hovering, rustling lady's-maid to leave her alone: she assured her she was doing beautifully. Laura had no plan except to leave London that night; she had a moral certainty that Selina had gone to the continent. She had always done so whenever she had a chance, and what chance had ever been larger than the present? The continent was fearfully vague, but she would deal sharply with Lionel-she would show him she had a right to knowledge. He would certainly be in town; he would be in a complacent bustle with his lawyers. She had told him that she didn't believe he had yet gone to them, but in her heart she believed it perfectly. he didn't satisfy her she would go to Lady Ringrose, odious as it would be to her to ask a favor of this depraved creature; unless indeed Lady Ringrose had joined the little party to France, as on the occasion of Selina's last journey thither. On her way down-stairs she met one of the footmen, of whom she made the request that he would call her a cab as quickly as possible-she was obliged to go out for half an hour. He expressed the respectful hope that she was better and she replied that she was perfectly well-he would please tell her ladyship when she came in. To this the footman rejoined that her ladyship had come in-she had returned five minutes before and had gone to her room. "Miss Frothingham told her you were asleep, Miss," said the man, "and her ladyship said it was a blessing and you were not to be disturbed."

"Very good, I will see her," Laura remarked, with dissimulation; "only please let me have my cab."

The footman went down-stairs, and she stood there listening; presently she heard the house-door close-he had gone out on his errand. Then she descended very softly she prayed he might not be long. The door of the drawing-room stood open as she passed it, and she paused before it, thinking she heard sounds in the lower hall. They appeared to subside, and then she found herself faint she was terribly impatient for her cab. Partly to sit down till it

came (there was a seat on the landing, but another servant might come up or down and see her), and partly to look, at the front window, whether it were not coming, she went for a moment into the drawing-room. She stood at the window, but the footman was slow; then she sunk upon a chair-she felt very weak. Just after she had done so she became aware of steps on the stairs, and she got up quickly, supposing that her messenger had returned, though she had not heard wheels. What she saw was not the footman she had sent out, but the expansive person of the butler, followed apparently by a visitor. This functionary ushered the visitor in with the remark that he would call her ladyship, and before she knew it she was face to face with Mr. Wendover. At the same moment she heard a cab drive up, while Mr. Wendover instantly closed the door.

"Don't turn me away; do see me-do see me!" he said. "I asked for Lady Davenant-they told me she was at home. But it was you I wanted, and I wanted her to help me. I was going away-but I couldn't. You look very ill -do listen to me! You don't understand-I will explain everything. Ah, how ill you look !" the young man cried, as the climax of this sudden, soft, distressed appeal. Laura, for all answer, tried to push past him, but the result of this movement was that she found herself in his arms. He stopped her, but she disengaged herself, she got her hand upon the door. He was leaning against it, so she couldn't open it, and as she stood there panting she shut her eyes, so as not to see him. "If you would let me tell you what I think I would do anything in the world for you!" he went on.

"Let me go-you persecute me!” the girl cried, pulling at the handle.

"You don't do me justice-you are too cruel!" Mr. Wendover persisted.

"Let me go-let me go!" she only repeated, with her high, quavering, distracted note; and as he moved a little she got the door open. But he followed her out: would she see him that night ? Where was she going? might he not go with her? would she see him to-morrow?

“Never, never, never!" she flung at him as she hurried away. The butler was on the stairs, descending from above; so he checked himself, letting her go. Laura passed out of the house and flew into her cab with extraordinary speed, for Mr. Wendover heard the wheels bear her away while the servant was saying to him that her ladyship would come down immediately.

Lionel was at home, in Grosvenor Place; she burst into the library and found him playing papa. Geordie and Ferdy were sporting around him, the presence of Miss Steet had been dispensed with, and he was holding his younger son by the stomach, horizontally, between his legs, while the child made little sprawling movements which were apparently intended to represent the act of swimming. Geordie stood impatient on the brink of the imaginary stream, protesting that it was his turn now, and as soon as he saw his aunt he rushed at her with the request that she would take him up in the same fashion. She was struck with the superficiality of their childhood; they appeared to have no sense that she had been away and no care that she had been ill. But Lionel made up for this; he greeted her with affectionate jollity, said it was a good job she had come back, and remarked to the children that they would have great larks now that auntie was home again. Ferdy asked if she had been with mummy but didn't wait for an answer, and she observed that they put no question about their mother and made no further allusion to her while they remained in the room. She wondered whether their father had enjoined upon them not to mention her, and reflected that even if he had such a command would not have been efficacious. It added to the ugliness of Selina's flight that even her children didn't miss her, and to the dreariness, somehow, to Laura's sense, of the whole situation that one could neither spend tears on the mother and wife, because she was not worth it, nor sentimentalize about the little boys, because they didn't inspire it. "Well, you do look seedy I'm bound to say that!" Lionel exclaimed; and he recommended strongly a glass of port, while Ferdy, not seizing

this reference, suggested that daddy should take her by the waistband and teach her to "strike out." He represented himself in the act of drowning, but Laura interrupted this entertainment, when the servant answered the bell (Lionel having rung for the port) by requesting that the children should be conveyed to Miss Steet. "Tell her she must never go away again," Lionel said to Geordie, as the butler took him by the hand; but the only touching consequence of this injunction was that the child piped back to his father, over his shoulder, " Well, you mustn't either, you know!"

I

"You must tell me or I'll kill myself, give you my word!" Laura said to her brother-in-law, with unnecessary violence, as soon as they had left the room.

"I say, I say," he rejoined, "you are a wilful one! What do you want to threaten me for? Don't you know me well enough to know that ain't the way? That's the tone Selina used to take. Surely you don't want to begin and imitate her!" She only sat there, looking at him, while he leaned against the chimney-piece, smoking a short cigar. There was a silence, during which she felt the heat of a certain irrational anger at the thought that a little ignorant, red-faced jockey should have the luck to be in the right as against her flesh and blood. She considered him helplessly, with something in her eyes that had never been there before-something that, apparently, after a moment, made an impression on him. Afterward, however, she saw very well that it was not her threat that had moved him, and even at the moment she had a sense, from the way he looked back at her, that this was in no manner the first time a baffled woman had told him that she would kill herself. He had always been a good fellow to her, but even in her deep trouble it was part of her consciousness that he now lumped her with a mixed group of female figures, a little wavering and dim, who were associated in his thick-fingered memory with "scenes," with importunities and bothers. It is apt to be the disadvantage of women, on occasions of measuring their strength with men, that they

may perceive that the man has a larger experience and that they themselves are a part of it. It is doubtless as a provision against such emergencies that nature has opened to them operations of the mind that are independent of experience. Laura felt the dishonor of her race the more that her brother-inlaw seemed so gay and bright about it; he had an air of positive prosperity, as if his misfortune had turned into that. It came to her that he really liked the idea of the public éclaircissement-the fresh occupation, the bustle and importance and celebrity of it. That was sufficiently incredible, but as she was on the wrong side it was also humiliating. Besides, higher spirits always suggest finer wisdom, and such an attribute on Lionel's part was most humiliating of all. "I haven't the least objection at present to telling you what you want to know. I shall have made my little arrangements very soon, and you will be subpoenaed." Subpoenaed?" the girl repeated, mechanically.

"You will be called as a witness on my side."

""

On your side?"

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'Of course you're on my side, ain't

you?"

"Can they force me to come?" asked Laura, in answer to this. "No, they can't force the country."

you, if you leave

"That's exactly what I want to do." "That will be idiotic," said Lionel, "and very bad for your sister. If you don't help me you ought at least to help her."

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"Well, I've been kind to you, my dear," he continued, smoking, with his chin in the air.

"Certainly you have been kind to me." "If you want to defend her you had better keep away from her," said Lionel. "Besides for yourself, it won't be the best thing in the world-to be known to have been in it."

"I don't care about myself," the girl returned, musingly.

"Don't you care about the children, that you are so ready to throw them over? For you would, my dear, you know. If you go to Brussels you never come back here-you never touch them again!"

Laura appeared to listen to this last declaration, but she made no reply to it; she only exclaimed, after a moment, with a certain impatience, "Oh, the children will do anyway!' Then she added, passionately, "You won't, Lionel; in mercy's name tell me that you won't!"

"I won't what?"

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'Do the awful thing you say."

"Divorce her? The devil I won't! "Then why do you speak of the children-if you have no pity for them?"

Lionel stared an instant. "I thought you said yourself that they would do anyway!"

Laura bent her head, resting it on the back of her hand, on the leathern arm of the sofa. So she remained, while Lionel stood smoking; but at last, to leave the room, she got up with an effort that was a physical pain. He came to her, to detain her, with a little good intention that had no felicity for her, trying to take her hand persuasively. "Dear old girl, don't try and behave just as she did! If you'll stay quietly here I won't call you, I give you my honor I won't; there! You want to see the doctor-that's the

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fellow you want to see. And what good will it do you, even if you bring her home in pink paper? Do you candidly suppose I'll ever look at her-except across the court-room?"

"I must, I must, I must!" Laura cried, jerking herself away from him and reaching the door.

"Well then, good-bye," he said, in the sternest tone she had ever heard him use. She made no answer, she only escaped.

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