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Miss Brown. Lee, Vernon, 1856–1935.
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page: 171

BOOK VI.

page: 173

CHAPTER I.

IT was raining when they arrived in London—a warmish, brown, clammy autumn day. The streets were a porridge of liquid mud, whose trail dragged along the wet asphalt; the houses were staring forth, a livid dirt‐grey, in the thin rain; and the sky, the very rain, was befouled with grime. Only drays splashed through the mud, and carriages carrying hurried‐looking people; children, still in their tattered summer cottons and battered straw hats, stared in at the shops, the broad sheen from whose brilliant windows was caught up by the wet pavement, and lingered out, in broken reflections, in the brown ooze of the thoroughfare. Along the deserted suburban streets every second house seemed to be a page: 174 gin‐palace, with shining coloured globes, and stucco pinnacles soaked with rain, and ground‐glass windows shining out like a leprosy of white. Mrs Macgregor closed her eyes in disgust. Even the maid looked depressed. But Anne stared out of the window of the carriage at all the hideous soppy sordidness, which seemed to soil and soak black into one’s mind; and she felt glad. All this was reality: it was the world in which lay her redemption, and the redemption of Hamlin.

Anne found Hamlin full of his cousin Sacha, upon whom he had already called three times, and in whom, to his surprise, he had found not a trace of the child whom he had hated; but a respectable, unworldly young mother, devoted to her children, timid, and only deserving a little sympathy.

“She is a very curious woman,” he said, “evidently excellent at bottom; but I don’t know whether I quite like her. She has something very strange about her,—handsome; and at the same time—I don’t know exactly page: 175 what it is—charming, but not quite reassuring. I am so anxious for you to see her.”

“I am so awfully glad she’s nice,” exclaimed Anne. “Do you know, she weighed upon me like a nightmare after all Aunt Claudia had said. It seemed too horrible that such a creature should exist; and I felt sure it was all prejudice against the poor little thing.”

“Don’t be in such a hurry,” laughed Hamlin; “perhaps you won’t like her after all. There is something uncanny about her, decidedly.”

“I’m sure that’s all your imagination. You’re always thinking that things are uncanny: it comes of writing too much about proud, pale, evil women, and that sort of nonsense.”

Anne felt really glad. That the terrible Cousin Sacha, the fiend‐child of Wotton Hall, should turn out a respectable, unworldly young woman, devoted to her children, seemed to her like the first breaking of the spell which hung over Hamlin. She felt no jealousy of Cousin Sacha; for, as Hamlin spoke of Madame Elaguine, it was obvious that if he was anxious to page: 176 show her to Anne, he was equally impatient to display his beautiful ward to her, who had evidently been told a great deal about her already.

The next day Madame Elaguine was to call on Anne. Mrs Macgregor took the announcement in a spirit of sombre defiance. “She may come,” she said, “but I will not see her. What o’clock is the creature coming?”

“Four,” answered Hamlin.

“Very well; then I’ll order the brougham for half‐past three, and go and make some calls. Anne may stay behind if she likes.”

Accordingly, at half‐past three, Mrs Macgregor rolled off in the brougham to Mrs Argiropoulo’s, and to various other people whom she declared she hated. At four o’clock Hamlin came up‐stairs from his studio, and Anne gave him some tea. “She will be here in a minute,” he said.

There was a noise of wheels; Anne felt her hand tremble as she poured out a second cup for Hamlin.

“There! I’ve gone and spilt it on your cuff! page: 177 Isn’t it idiotic of me to feel flurried about seeing your cousin?”

But the wheels passed on. More wheels, which also passed; rings and knocks; but no Madame Elaguine. Hamlin, at every false alarm, got up and looked at Anne—a long, admiring look at her stately figure and her strange pale face, with the overhanging masses of crimp black hair; at the splendid postures, of which only Michelangelo seemed to have ever understood the magnificent weary weightiness into which she naturally fell.

“She is evidently not coming,” he said with some irritation, as the clock struck five; “it’s too bad, keeping one in for nothing, like this!”

“I didn’t want to go out with Aunt Claudia; and I don’t see how you could have gone on painting after dark.”

“Still it is too annoying.”

“I daresay it’s not so easy to go paying visits at Hammersmith when one has children to attend to.”

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“Bother the children! she might leave them to a nurse.”

At that moment a cab stopped, and there came a knock.

“That’s she!” cried Hamlin, and he ran down‐stairs.

Madame Elaguine entered; in the dusk Anne could scarcely see her face: she was rather below the average height, but so slender that she looked tall; there was something very shy about her, and Anne could understand her shyness.

“I am so glad you have come,” she said; “we had almost given you up.”

“I fear I am very late—perhaps in your way,” said Madame Elaguine; “the fact is, I had to take my little girl to choose a doll, and she took nearly an hour about it,” and she laughed a little shy laugh. She had a beautiful voice, high and silvery, and yet warm and caressing, like a child’s, which inevitably made you think of delicate green leaves, and fields whitened with budding clover, and all sorts of young and tender things. She page: 179 was very thin, almost emaciated, and with a slight droop of the head: it was too dark for Anne to see her features distinctly, but she seemed pretty, and frail, and wasted. There was something in that childish voice which touched Anne; her strong, rebellious disbelief in the horrible Sacha of Mrs Macgregor came indignantly to her.

“It is very good of you to let me come and see you,” said Madame Elaguine, after some trifling conversation, “and very good of my cousin to propose it; because,” and her voice, in a sudden outburst of frankness, became just a little tremulous, “Walter must have a very painful recollection of me. It was a very unhappy time when we were last together, and I often think with shame of what I was then—what a wretched, badly brought up, bad‐hearted child I was.”

“If you had been a bad‐hearted child,” cried Anne, “you could not be what you are now, you could not speak as you do now. I don’t believe it.”

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Madame Elaguine sighed.

“At all events,” she said, “the question now is no longer what I was or what I am, but what my children are to be. I am played out; I only hope I may live to see them on the road to being happier and more useful creatures than I have been.”

There was something in that clear soft voice, with its just perceptible daintiness of Russian pronunciation, making the English words not less English, but more distinct and liquid, which made what from any one else might have seemed strange, quite natural and simple.

“You have come to settle in England?” asked Anne.

“Yes; at least if it is possible for me ever to settle anywhere. I have been a rolling stone so long, or rather such a feather carried hither and thither by the wind, that I can scarcely believe in settling anywhere; and then, perhaps, I may not be permitted to stay where I should be happy. But I want my boy to become an Englishman, and at the page: 181 same time I haven’t the heart to let him go away from me.”

“Why should you not settle?” asked Anne; “surely you will be much happier near your child.”

“Why may I never do what I wish?” exclaimed Madame Elaguine, with a curious wildness; “why may I not be left to live in peace like any other insignificant woman, whose life has been a failure? I am not my own mistress.”

“Bring lights,” ordered Hamlin, who had summoned the servants. He was impatient that the two women should see each other, impatient to display to his cousin the magnificent creature which belonged to him.

They had begun discussing various school‐plans for Madame Elaguine’s children when the lamps were brought in. Anne was surprised when she saw Hamlin’s cousin distinctly; she had imagined her pretty and delicate in an ordinary way, but there was nothing commonplace about this woman. She was pale, and of almost ghastly thinness, and page: 182 her features, despite her small size, were large, and perhaps a little gaunt. It struck Anne that she had seen a face like that before, and later she discovered that what Madame Elaguine made her think of was Sarah Bernhardt in one of her girlish parts, or as her face looked under the little cap of Coppée’s page‐boy. It was a charming, frank, worn, yet childish face, full of movement,—a face which seemed to vibrate like a delicate instrument—not exactly beautiful nor exactly lovable, but interesting and fascinating. It seemed to Anne that she could perfectly understand the past of this woman: a highly nervous, delicate nature, not earnest but passionate, easily turned into the very best or the very worst; and she felt more than ever indignant at the thought of the corruption in contact with which this mobile impressionable creature had come as a child,—at the thought of all the unintentional shame which this woman must look back upon in her childhood.

While they were talking, Sacha Elaguine page: 183 was equally busy looking at Anne; and Anne puzzled her.

“Either a volcano or an iceberg, or both,” said the little Russian to herself, as she looked at Anne’s solemn, unruffled, and yet tragic beauty.

At that moment a carriage stopped at the door. Hamlin went to the window. He looked rather pale and puzzled as he came back.

“Let me show you my studio, Sacha,” he said hurriedly; “we can get there quickest by a little back‐stair out of the library. Will you come?”

Anne understood. Mrs Macgregor, who had gone out expecting Madame Elaguine to come an hour earlier, had returned, and Hamlin dreaded a scene. But Madame Elaguine understood also.

“Your aunt has returned,” she said; “yes, I’m sure she has—that’s why you want to hide me away; you are afraid of a scene . . .”

Hamlin hesitated; but Madame Elaguine page: 184 seemed to pin him down with her rapid glance.

“Well, yes,” he said; “what’s the use of mincing matters? You know how unreasonable Aunt Claudia always was, and what a prejudice she had against you.”

“And has still; I can believe it. But look here,” and the little emaciated creature rapidly stopped Hamlin as he was raising the curtain into the next room—“I am not going to be hid away. Your aunt has every reason to hate me, and to be angry at finding me here. But I am not coming into her house on the sly—I won’t be hidden away. Your aunt may say what she likes to me, but she shall see me here.”

“I think Madame Elaguine is quite right,” said Anne, though she knew full well what sort of reception Mrs Macgregor was likely to give to the detested Sacha. “I quite understand her feeling.”

“But you are not coming into Aunt Claudia’s house on the sly,” insisted Hamlin. “In the page: 185 first place, this house is not Aunt Claudia’s house, but Miss Brown’s house. Aunt Claudia, like you and me, is merely Miss Brown’s guest, and you have come to see Miss Brown. In the second place, my aunt knew you were coming, and went out expressly to avoid meeting you.”

Madame Elaguine listened with a slight look of contempt.

“So much the better if I am not intruding behind her back. And it is very considerate of Mrs Macgregor to save me what she knows must be a painful scene. But besides Mrs Macgregor, I have myself to think of. I wish to see your aunt. I wish to have the satisfaction of telling her, that however much she may hate the remembrance of me, she cannot hate it more than I do.”

There was something theatrical in this which took Hamlin by surprise; but it was the theatricalness of a quixotic and passionate temper, and Anne liked Madame Elaguine for it.

“I want to see Mrs Macgregor,” repeated page: 186 the Russian; “but I don’t want to inflict it upon you, Miss Brown. Indeed I fear it is very ill‐bred and very selfish of me to come to your house merely to make a disagreeable scene: still I can’t resist the desire,” and she shook her little head with its close pale‐yellow curls and deep brown eyes, “only—don’t stay —just tell your aunt that I am here, and that I want to see her.”

“I will go and tell Aunt Claudia,” said Anne.

But as she spoke, Mrs Macgregor entered. The old lady was short‐sighted; and in that room, where the light, concentrated on a few spots, left all the more shadow all round, she did not at first notice the presence of a stranger.

“Well, is she gone?” she asked savagely.

“Madame Elaguine is here, Aunt Claudia,” answered Anne, quietly.

“Here!” exclaimed Mrs Macgregor—“ still in this house!”

“And she has remained,” went on Anne, with a weighty coldness which often put page: 187 down the old lady’s ebullitions, “because she wants to see you again.”

Hamlin was standing by the piano. How he wished his cousin at the devil for inflicting such a scene upon him!

“The insolence!” muttered Mrs Macgregor.

But Madame Elaguine had come forward and stretched out her hand.

“I could not come here without seeing you, Aunt Claudia,” she said, in her clear voice. “I want to tell you that, badly, as I behaved as a child, and cruelly unjust though you were towards me, I bear you no ill‐will, and only wish to ask for your forgiveness.”

She had sat down opposite to Mrs Macgregor. Hamlin’s aunt scanned her from head to foot; she was taken by surprise, shaken throughout her nature, and at a loss how to answer.

“So you are Sacha Polozoff,” said Mrs Macgregor at length, slowly. “I know all the fine trash which Anne talks about the woman not being the same as the child— page: 188 maybe; I hope so, for your sake. As to forgiveness, you have mine: but forgiveness is only an empty word; it does not cancel what has been done, neither from the memory of God nor of man. Here; I forgive you, and take it for what it is worth.”

And she stretched out her hand with a bitter smile.

Madame Elaguine stooped down and kissed that shaking old hand.

“Whatever your forgiveness is worth, I take it joyfully; it cannot undo the past, and it cannot put an end to injustice and hatred,—so far it is worthless. But to me it gives a new life, because I have been able at last to ask forgiveness, to admit all the mischief I have ever done, and to cast away the faults of my childhood from my own clean self,”—she spoke very low, and with tears in her voice, but with passion and pride.

“I am happy that you feel so comfortable,” replied Mrs Macgregor, “and that I have been conducive thereto. I am happy also to make page: 189 your acquaintance, Madame Elaguine, and I hope you will not deprive my nephew and niece of your society on my account.”

Sacha bowed; the insult seemed to trickle off her. Anne half wondered, half admired. She could not in the least understand the kind of character which prompted such a useless and hollow ceremony as this; but as to Madame Elaguine, this solemn act of self‐humiliation seemed necessary and just; she admired her for having the courage to carry out her intention.

“Good‐bye,” said Madame Elaguine, as Anne accompanied her into the anteroom. “I must beg your forgiveness a thousand, thousand times for having made a scene in your house. You see, I am a badly brought‐up woman: I was never taught to do anything except what I liked; and I am what I am, and must say what I feel.”

Her tone was very appealing.

“Will you forgive me, Madame Elaguine,” said Anne, in her earnest, solemn way, “if I page: 190 tell you, what it is perhaps a liberty to tell you, that I have always thought my aunt very unjust towards you?”

The little thin woman looked up in Anne’s face.

“You are good,” she said. “Will you give me a kiss?”

Anne stooped down and kissed her shyly on her wan cheek. But a sort of shudder passed through her as her own lips touched that hot face, and grazed the light hair, which seemed to give out some faint Eastern perfume. This woman was so unlike anything she had ever seen—so unlike her own simple self.

“You will come and see me—and see my children—won’t you?” asked Madame Elaguine. “I think it will do me good to know you.” She was very excited, and she gasped as if her heart were beating like bursting.

“I will come with Mr Hamlin,” said Anne.

“She is a strange creature,” said Hamlin, as he followed Anne up‐stairs from the door. “Didn’t I tell you she was uncanny?”

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“I don’t see anything uncanny about her. She is very nervous and excitable—very Russian, I should say—and accustomed always to follow her impulses; but I think she is a brave little woman.”

“I can’t make her out. Did you notice her mouth? it looks as if it would bite: and she has strange eyes; one looks into them, and finds she has merely drawn out one’s soul without showing her own.”

Anne laughed. “Poor little woman! Fancy what her feelings would be if she ever knew all that! I wonder, by the way, whether you ever thought me strange, and told people that I had. a mouth which would bite, and eyes in which you get drowned?”

“I always thought,” answered Hamlin, looking at Anne, and seeing her again in that close‐fitting white bodice, with rolled‐up sleeves, bending her magnificent head over the iron‐board in the little nursery, with frescoes of blue skies, and blue seas, and ducks, and people in boats, at the Villa Arnolfini—“I always page: 192 thought that you had something strange in you, Miss Brown; some terrible thing to do or to suffer in the future; some great passion or action—I don’t know clearly what, but something heroic; and I think so now—”

Anne smiled; but she took his words to heart, for somehow that same impression which he said he had received from her face she had had vaguely in her heart.

“I hope the strangeness may consist in being a tolerably well‐behaved and useful young woman,” she said, “and—a tolerably grateful one.”

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CHAPTER II.

“I WONDER whether Anne Brown has really spoken about that Cold Fremley business to Mr Hamlin,” remarked Marjory Leigh to her sister one day, soon after their return to town. “I think she’ll never do it, after all.”

“I don’t see how she can,” answered Mary; “at least I can’t conceive doing such a thing. But I don’t think we must judge Anne by ourselves: when once she thinks something ought to be done, she is quite capable of forcing herself to do it. Anne is quite unlike any one else.”

“Fiddlestick!” cried Marjory; “you don’t know anything about women, Mary.”

But despite her sister’s superior knowledge of womankind and of everything else, Mary page: 194 Leigh was in the right; perhaps in some cases enthusiastic admiration gives a better clue to action than mere common‐sense. Anne really was made in such a way that when once she was persuaded that any course was the right one, no dislike which she might have to it, no thought of being considered queer, or improper, or quixotic, could restrain her from it. The thing became none the pleasanter to do; but it was done unflinchingly: indeed there was in Anne an almost destructive quality of will, a power of ruthlessly cutting through all obstacles, the passing consciousness of which, joined with the consciousness of the many disagreeable things which it might at any moment force her to go through, produced in her a curious kind of pessimism, which, while it recognised the evil of the world, made that very recognition an incitement to struggle for good. Anne had made up her mind that Hamlin must have the horrible condition of his Cold Fremley tenants explained to him. She fully appreciated the unseemliness, the pain‐ page: 195 fulness painfulness , of such a revelation coming from her; but as there appeared to be no one else who could satisfactorily make it to him, it must be made by her. “It is very simple,” she said to herself: and this was the most characteristic remark that Anne could ever make; for it is curious how very much simpler life does become to people who are in the habit of acting without regard for their own feelings.

But it was, though simple, difficult, not on her own account, but on Hamlin’s. In the first few days after her return from Wotton, she had several times been on the point of broaching the subject, but she had desisted on noticing the absolute want of seriousness in Hamlin’s manner, the æsthetic vagueness and fickleness of his thoughts. “He will do nothing practical in this mood,” she said to herself; and as, time after time, she watched for a propitious moment without finding it, Anne became painfully aware, as one becomes aware of some deficiency in a valued piece of property only when it is pointed out, of Ham‐ page: 196 lin’s Hamlin’s want of seriousness, of his utter want of any habit of asking himself about his responsibilities, or indeed of thinking about anything except himself and the beautiful and weird things which delighted him.

“Perhaps it is cowardice on my part,” Anne suddenly thought; “perhaps I find that he is not fit to attend to the subject because I dislike mentioning it.” So it must be done at once. Hamlin, she knew, was alone in his studio; he must have finished his afternoon’s work, or very nearly, and there was no Chough, or Lewis, or Dennistoun on the horizon. So Anne closed the piano at which she had been practising some of Chough’s favourite old music, and went down‐stairs. She had made up her mind; but, as she went slowly to the studio, she felt her heart begin to flutter and to beat, and a cold perspiration to start out in her forehead. For all her familiarity with the æsthetic world, in whose apprehension, as Thaddy O’Reilly’s Yankee friend had quietly remarked, “right or wrong don’t exist,”—for page: 197 all her habit of reading poems in which every unmentionable shamefulness was used as so much vermilion or pale‐green or mysterious grey in a picturesque and suggestive composition,—Anne had retained a constitutional loathing for touching some subjects, which was like the blind instinctive horror of certain animals for brackish water or mud. When Marjory Leigh had first taken her into her confidence, and told her of the pools of sin which stagnated among the starving, unwashed, and unlettered million, Anne had recoiled, and felt a sort of momentary horror for Marjory, a sort of resentment at this foulness thus obtruded on to her; and this feeling, which would sometimes still recur while talking with her philanthropic friend, was perhaps the thing in all her life of which Anne was the most profoundly ashamed. The æsthetes all round her would let all the world rot away in physical hideousness rather than have that physical hideousness put before their eyes; and she, was she not even worse, in her cowardly horror of seeing moral wounds page: 198 and leprosies? So Anne argued with herself; and she would now face anything; but the feeling of moral sickness was there, however bravely she might look at evil, and try and help to remedy it.

“I am a base creature,” Anne thought as she felt her heart fluttering as if it would break loose, as she stood and knocked at the studio door.

“Come in,” cried Hamlin.

He thought it was the servant, for at first he did not turn round, but continued writing at a beautiful, fantastically inlaid desk in a corner.

“It’s I,” said Anne.

He started up to meet her.

“How sweet of you to come, Madonna Anna!” he said, beaming; “I was just wanting so much to see you—I don’t know why—a sort of silly, nostalgic wish. It’s ridiculous to be nostalgic about a person who is on the first floor, when I am on the ground floor, isn’t it? and yet it is so. I was feeling quite an over‐ page: 199 powering desire to see you. And you seem to have felt it, through the ceiling, carpets and all, don’t you?”

Anne smiled faintly, but her heart sank.

“I also wanted you to see how I have been getting on with my Beatrice,” he said, and rolled an easel into the middle of the room. Anne stood for a moment before the almost Giorgionesquely magnificent picture, looking vaguely at the well‐known lady—with those strange, half‐classic, half‐Semitic, and yet a little Ethiopian, features, those wide grey eyes, that pent‐roof of crisp, lustreless, black hair, those hollowed cheeks and tragic lips which had by this time become so familiar to the artistic world of London. It never seemed to her that this could have anything to do with her, this sombre, mystic, wistful woman of unreality. But she was not thinking of that; she stood at the picture, but almost without seeing it.

Hamlin was standing a little aside, looking from her to the picture, and from the picture page: 200 to her, and humming the lines from Dante’s sonnet, which Chough had set to music— “Ch’ogni lingua divien tremando muta, Egli occhi non ardiscon di guardare.” “Certainly,” he said to himself, “Dante had not a better Beatrice than this.”

“I want to speak to you, Mr Hamlin,” said Anne, suddenly turning round.

Something in her voice took him by surprise.

“So much the better,” he said, pulling forward a heavy arm‐chair, covered with old‐fashioned green brocade.

Anne sat down. How was she to begin? She had intended to prelude with some sort of apology for entering on such a subject; but, somehow, now she could not apologise.

“Do you remember a hamlet near Wotton, close by the river, called Cold Fremley?” asked Anne, slowly.

Hamlin had just caught a look which he wanted for his picture, and he had taken up his painting things.

“Yes,” and he looked up from his palette in page: 201 Anne’s pale face, with the almost monochrome faint‐red lips and the delicately hollowed cheeks. “What about it? I remember it quite well. Oh yes, a lovely spot; and we went there one evening together.”

“Just so; well, it appears that this hamlet, or rather group of six or seven cabins, belongs to you—is part of the Wotton property.”

“Is it? I didn’t know that. Fancy my being the unsuspecting proprietor of such a lovely place! I am so glad; I want to write a poem about it one day.”

“And it appears,” went on Anne, carefully steadying her voice, but keeping her eyes on the little cypress‐trees and conventional anemones of the Persian rug under her feet—“it appears that the condition of the people who live in those houses is very, very horrible; the cabins have barely more than one room, into which the whole family is piled.”

“Loathsome!” cried Hamlin, with a shudder, “and in such a lovely spot. Do you remember the thick clotted masses of the river dragging page: 202 between the meadow‐sweet and willow‐herb?”

“It is very loathsome,” went on Anne, a coldness coming all over her. “’The people are very wretched, poor, always ill of fever, with no more sense of right and wrong than cattle.”

“Very dreadful indeed,” said Hamlin, mixing his paints. “Of course nothing can be done—nothing ever can, you know—”

“Something can and must be done!” cried Anne. “It appears that in consequence of this utter wretchedness and ignorance, and especially on account of the degrading effect of being all huddled together, men and women, boys and girls, all of them, in one room which is bedroom, kitchen, sitting‐room, everything at the same time,—it appears that these miserable creatures have gradually come to live worse than animals; they grow, and let their children in turn grow up in horrible, shameful sin.” The difficulty of saying it had vanished; Anne felt that, whether she would page: 203 or would not, it must come out. Her voice had kept steady, but died out in terrible hoarseness; and her wide‐opened eyes fixed themselves upon Hamlin.

Hamlin let his hand with the palette drop on his knee, and listened with deep attention. “How very strange!” he said; “how very strange—how tragic!”

“It is tragic,” cried Anne. “Oh, I think nothing in the wide world can be more tragic! What is the murder of the body to this? or what is any crime which one man can commit towards another, compared with men and women being pushed into wickedness by mere external circumstances, being condemned without knowing it, mere blind, indifferent creatures, to befoul their souls in this way?”

Anne had not the slightest thought of being eloquent, but she was, not only in her words, but in her face and look. Hamlin appreciated it; he was struck. Such a view of evil and of fate had never presented itself to him; he recognised how much newer and grander it page: 204 was than the usual platitude about fatal passion in which he and his school had indulged.

“Are you quite sure of this?” he asked, with some interest.

“Mrs Collett gave one of the Leighs all the details of it. If you would go to her, she would tell you all about it; she has been afraid, ashamed of mentioning it to you, so I have done it. But if only you would speak to Mrs Collett now, she would explain to you exactly that ought to be done.”

Hamlin did not seem to attend.

“It is awfully grand,” he mused—“all the grander for the utter unconsciousness, involuntariness. It would make a splendid subject for a poem. I always felt there must be something in that county which should correspond to the tragic look of everything. So much Dennistoun’s notion that there isn’t anything poetical or terrible in reality.”

A sickening fear came over Anne. But she drove it from her: she tried to say to her‐ page: 205 self herself that she had expected this; that Hamlin, being unaccustomed to any serious thought of the evil of others, and being a poet, would at first take things in this way.

“Mrs Collett says that there is hope of saving these miserable creatures by building better dwellings for them; trying to turn Cold Fremley into a village, and setting up a school. I have been thinking over it a great deal myself. Of course I’m very ignorant. But I’ve heard that the river ought to be valuable for water‐power, because there is no other one near; so I thought the simplest would be to try and induce some one—or do it yourself—to set up a factory there. That would give the people work, and give them ideas of decent living, and then a school would have to be opened.”

The word factory seemed to sear into Hamlin’s nerves.

“A factory on that river? on my property? to befoul all that pure and exquisite country with smoke and machine refuse!” he cried indignantly.

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“One single factory need not befoul anything,” said Anne, sternly. “And all the smoke and machine refuse in the wide world could not make that neighbourhood one‐hundredth part as foul as it is made by the sin of Cold Fremley. No, not one‐thousandth part as foul as our own hearts, if we let such an evil exist under our eyes.”

Hamlin seemed moved and puzzled.

“It is very dreadful,” he mused. “I really had no notion that such things go on nowadays. One is apt to think the world much more commonplace than it is. I will go to Cold Fremley some day soon. I’ll take Lewis with me, he’ll be very much interested in it. I daresay,” he added, “that there’s a great deal of exaggeration about it. But as to the factory, I consider it would be against my conscience to permit such a thing: there is no greater pollution in England than factories; thank Heaven, there are as yet few in our county; and I would rather die than spoil that beautiful peaceful bit of ground.”

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Against this Anne felt it useless to struggle.

“Since you will not hear of the only plan which would easily improve the condition of those people,” she went on, “let us leave the factory alone; it is not necessary: a few hundred pounds will amply pay for improving, enlarging the six or seven houses of which Cold Fremley consists. As to draining, every one says that were that county drained, it would amply repay the expense by the superior quality of the crops. All that is wanted for the present,” invocated Anne in despair, “is that the people should have more room—that they should not herd like cattle—that the growing children, at least, should not be forced into contact with all that vice. And all that can be gained by merely enlarging the cottages.”

“Such a thing as you suggest would—besides being, in my opinion, perfectly useless—involve a very heavy expense,” answered Hamlin, coldly.

“Not more,” cried Anne, blazing up—“not page: 208 more than you have been at in educating me, Mr Hamlin!”

The words were scarcely out of her mouth when she repented of them.

“Perhaps,” she added sullenly, “that also has been a waste.”

Hamlin did not answer; he was taken by surprise, embarrassed.

“The cases are wholly dissimilar. The left hand may not ask the right hand what it has or has not been able to do.”

“What do you mean, Mr Hamlin? If you have been spending more than you can afford on me—oh, don’t think I’m not grateful—but please, please, spend no more. This house might be sold. You don’t live in it after all, and Aunt Claudia would be just as happy at Wotton. The house and furniture must be worth a good deal, and then there is the expense of housekeeping in London. Do think of it. I am sure you could raise money enough in that way.”

“This house is not mine, Miss Brown,” page: 209 answered Hamlin, quietly; “it was bought out of your capital; and the expenses you mention are paid out of your income, not mine.”

He had wasted all this on her, and the people on his estate lived in foul, sinful hovels! A strange gratitude, mixed with horror, overcame Anne; all the beautiful things about her,—her beautiful fantastic dress, which Hamlin always designed for her, her knowledge and good‐breeding,—all that had been paid for with that money, became loathsome to her.

“It is not mine—not mine; I am a mere beggar living off your charity,” she exclaimed—“living off what I have no right to, what ought to go to them—to those poor sinful creatures at Cold Fremley. Oh, Mr Hamlin, sell this house, sell the furniture, all, all. Enough has been done for me; I don’t want all these beautiful things in order to be happy; I could be happy anywhere, doing anything, if I knew that there was one evil the less in the world. If there did not remain enough to live upon, I could go out as a governess, or a page: 210 schoolmistress. I have learned quite enough to do that—indeed I am in earnest—I should be perfectly happy gaining my bread as I used to. Only let something be done for those people—don’t let me feel that every lovely thing I look at, every beautiful thing I hear, every word you say, every pleasure I feel, is as sinful as those sinful lives!”

Hamlin smiled; he admired and disbelieved; but what a magnificent woman she was! what passion, what fervour under that cold exterior!

“There is no need for that,” he said gently, looking at Anne with admiring and loving eyes. “I am not so poor as that, and I would starve rather than see you deprived of any single thing to which you have a right.”

“Then you will go to Cold Fremley? You will see about it?” He was good and generous at bottom—she knew it; and she could have fallen on her knees and cried like a child with her head upon his arm.

“I will go to Cold Fremley,” he answered page: 211 with alacrity. “I want to go there. I want to study the whole matter—”

“What do you want to study it for?” asked Anne, suddenly and terribly; “to improve matters, or—to write a poem?”

“I do wish to write a poem,” answered Hamlin, who felt no shame for doing so, and resented being thus reproved. “Certainly I wish to write a poem. You made such a fuss about my tearing up that ‘Ballad of the Fens’—well, I now see my way to making use of all the best parts of it, and with a real tragic and passionate motive. As to improving matters, I will look about me. But I totally disbelieve in the utility of giving these people better dwellings. Of course,” he went on gently, but with that tone of knowledge of the evil of the world which Anne so much hated—“of course you, who are pure and upright, who cannot conceive the reality of lust and the fascination of evil—you can never understand the hold which evil has in this world; you cannot understand that the passion for sin may page: 212 exist as there exists in you the passion for good; that most men receive in their father’s blood, in their mother’s milk, the haschisch of sinful desire,—that the more they grow, the more it grows in them—that it is their very life, and is perpetually seeking for aliment. Evil is; it cannot be stamped out.”

Hamlin’s eyes sparkled, and he spoke with a flush; but there was no excitement, no horror in his tone. Anne felt that he was reciting in prose what he would soon write in verse.

“In short,” she said, “you think the sinfulness of the people of Cold Fremley fits very well into the landscape? You think it, as you said, very picturesque and grand?”

Hamlin was a man who could not easily keep at high moral tension.

“Well, yes,” he answered; “of course it is very shocking, and if anything could be done, why, I should be glad. But I know nothing can be done; and although it is very much to be regretted, yet I don’t think you can deny page: 213 that there is something very grand and tragic in this sin flowering like evil grasses in that marsh.”

“I see,” said Anne, faintly—everything seemed to be turning all round her; “good‐bye.”

“You mustn’t be angry with me,” said Hamlin, following her to the studio door. “You see I, unfortunately, have much more experience of life and evil than you will ever have. I know that fatality of sin; and that makes me take things in a different way from how you take them.”

Hamlin’s voice sounded faint and distant to Anne, hollow like an echo in a whispering chamber. She went mechanically up‐stairs; she did not know how she felt, but everything seemed surrounded by thick, clammy horror; the world was going to pieces. When she had shut the door of her room behind her, she threw herself with her face on her bed, and burst into an agony of half‐audible sobs. But when at length hours passed, and the maid page: 214 came to ask whether she would come to tea, Anne felt no better; a black despair weighed upon her. On her dressing‐table stood a Japanese jar, filled with delicate autumnal roses; they had the pallor, the diaphanous purity which the frost gives to flowers, as approaching death gives it sometimes to human creatures. Anne looked at them; and then, without passion or excitement, she took them out of the vase, and threw them into the fire. She watched the petals shrivel and fall to black dust on the flame, and the leaves and stalks turn slowly, with a hissing noise, into glowing embers. Then she felt ashamed. The poor flowers were pure—they at least were clean—and she had destroyed them. And Anne buried her head in her hands, and began to sob once more.

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CHAPTER III.

THE Leigh girls never discovered which of them was in the right; and as Anne never made any further allusion to Cold Fremley, they concluded that she had not spoken to Hamlin about it. Hamlin noticed no change in her, but then he never expected to see one: Anne became gradually more silent, more indifferent, more abrupt in her answers. Some people said, “She is getting spoilt by being made too much of;” and others, like Thaddy O’Reilly, hinted that the vagaries and splendours of æsthetic society, the poems and music and improprieties of Chough and Dennistoun, the nudities and Elizabethan dramatists of Lewis, were beginning to pall upon Miss Brown. “I’ll bet anything,” said Thaddy page: 216 O’Reilly, “that as soon as they are married, the new Mrs Hamlin will abandon Mantegnesque costumes, will open a bill with Worth, and insist upon hiring a house in Belgravia for at least one season.” So said Thaddy O’Reilly; but it must be added that he said it to Mrs Spencer, to alarm and anger whose hereditary high‐art passions was the little journalist’s great delight. Anne still went out into æsthetic society, she still listened to new poems and to literary discussions, she still sat to Hamlin and to half‐a‐dozen other painters; but when people at concerts or the play used to point out Miss Brown as the queen of æstheticism, they little guessed how far removed were the thoughts of this queen from her realm and her subjects. Ever since that memorable conversation about Cold Fremley, beautiful things,—all the things—poetry, painting, music, romance—which had originally surrounded Hamlin with a sort of luminous emanation in Anne’s eyes,—had grown loathsome to her. She knew that it was unfair page: 217 and absurd, but she could not resist the feeling that all the fair forms and sound patterns and imaginary passions of poetry—nay, that the very beauty of nature, where any existed—were foul; and her soul shrank from them as from contamination. She began to take a grim pleasure in that sordid ugliness which had, on her arrival in London, given her such a shock, and to which Hamlin and his friends were always shutting their eyes. The fog, the black ooze, the melancholy monotony of griminess, the hideousness of the men and women in the streets, jarred upon her much less than the beautiful pictures of Italian scenery which Hamlin hung up at Hammersmith,—than the lovely, mysterious creatures in jewel‐coloured robes, wandering in distant countries of bliss and romance, which Hamlin painted. The poetry of pure beauty sickened her; and she could not take up even the purest poems of that school, not even the mere charming pieces of decoration of Morris, without putting them down with disgust. She began to feel a vague page: 218 nostalgic longing after her own past: faint recollections of her father’s grimy, workshop at Spezia, of the poor little room where her mother had sat doing cheap dressmaking, returned to her. The life at Florence, the sordid life with the Perrys, the tattered furniture and ill‐swept rooms, the dirty and noisy kitchen with the haunting smell of sink; the dull routine of washing and ironing and mending, of dressing and undressing the refractory children, of teaching them their letters and trying to keep them tidy; the ill‐will, the muttered anger, the jeering scraps of song of the other servants, who resented Anne’s superiority,—all these recollections which had almost been effaced during her happy new life at Coblenz and in London, returned to her, vivid as reality, and filled her with unaccountable yearning. And yet, when she asked herself what this meant, she could not but confess that she was different from what she had then been; that she had absorbed too much of the new life ever to be happy in the page: 219 old one—nay, that that very indignation with the mere selfish worship of beauty which made all things seem black in her eyes, would never have been possible had she remained a mere servant. Hamlin had redeemed her soul; he had made her a thinking and feeling being—but what for? She dared not admit to herself that it was merely in order that she should despise him.

But Anne pushed aside these thoughts. She felt that she had no right to indulge in them—that she must give her mind to other things, her heart and her energy. Without exactly knowing what she could do, or even whether she could do anything at all, she felt that she must work—work with all her might; for it seemed as if all the thoughts which the people about her refused to think, all the sympathy which they refused to feel, all the work which they refused to do, and all the sacrifices which they refused to make, must all be taken upon herself—as if she alone must bear this terrible weight of rejected responsibilities. So Anne page: 220 worked. Her cousin Dick had said that no one could do any good in ignorance; and she felt herself shamefully ignorant of all but useless things. She got together a whole heap of books and pamphlets on every possible kind of grievance and evil in the world; she made Marjory Leigh tell her all the dreadful things which she knew, show her all the dreadful things which she had seen. Of such things Marjory and her young man, the East End curate, could tell her but too many; yet Anne was not satisfied. She sought the acquaintance of Marjory’s colleagues in the work of helping the poor, and of Harry Collett’s fellow‐workers—older men and women, whose account of the evil of the world, less exaggerated and poetical than Marjory’s and Harry’s, was still more grimly tragic. They were hopeful nevertheless; but Anne, returning home from her attendance on lectures, her ghastly rounds in the slums,—home to the lovely house, with the Persian carpets, the 18th‐century hangings and furniture, the old majolica and Japanese page: 221 ware, the flowers and the books of music,—returning home to the discussions on art and literature in Hamlin’s studio and at her own dinner‐table,—Anne felt mere despair. For, it must be remembered, Anne had none of those consoling thoughts to fall back upon which religion, however conventional, affords. Her father, a Radical workman of the French school, had brought her up with a few elementary ideas of right and wrong, and the faith that all priests, like all kings, were the curse of the world. Miss Curzon, the kind‐hearted old prima donna who had taken charge of her in her earliest girlhood, had given her examples of only the most frivolous Voltairianism; from the servants and the Italians who surrounded her at the Perrys, she had learned only a contempt for the conscienceless mummeries of the lowest Catholicism; from Mrs Perry only a contempt, as great in its way, for the heartless conventionalism of mere social Protestantism; and from Hamlin himself, and Hamlin’s friends (for at Coblenz he had stip‐ page: 222 ulated stipulated that Miss Brown was not to be bored with religion), she had heard only of the religion of beauty. Of the men and women who used to come to Hammersmith and to Wotton, some, like Chough, professed Catholicism, and wrote mystical rhapsodies to the Virgin Mary; others, like Dennistoun, called the Virgin a prostitute, and God a highway murderer: some went in for imitating the näiveté of medieval Christianity; yet others filled their books with hymns to the gods, clean and foul, of paganism. There was a deal of vociferating on the subject; a deal of abusive language both of the religious and the irreligious; a deal of exhortation on the part of men like Hamlin not to have the bad taste to muddle religion with poetry; and on the whole, there was an atmosphere of absolute insincerity, in which, as in abstract politics (for certain æsthetes were extreme retrogrades, and loathed civilisation; while others would pour out by the hour revolutionary tirades of the most blood‐thirsty description), it appeared that religion page: 223 was a mere personal hobby or poetical fiction: the usual conclusion being simply that the world was too disgusting a place for a well‐constituted soul; that the century was empty, and heartless, and emasculate; and that, as the people in the ‘Decameron’ fled from the plague, and told stories and sang songs in a pleasant villa all by themselves, so also must superior men and women fly from the sordidness, the uninterestingness, the mediocrity, and incapacity for passion of reality, and entertain one another with tales of romance and wonder in a fairy land, where the sole divinity was beauty, and where alone, among the lovely and noble things left by the past, noble natures could develop uncramped, according to the ideal of the Greeks, of medieval men, or of that most elevated genius, the late Théophile Gautier.

To meet the terrible realities which were now being revealed to her, to answer her own painful craving after usefulness, Anne had therefore only a vain negative belief—the pessimism which page: 224 is at the bottom of all æstheticism, the belief in the fatal supremacy of evil and ugliness. But in Anne this purely negative creed speedily became positive; pessimism produced not a desire to abandon the odious reality and take refuge in mere imaginary happiness, but a frightful moral tension, a constant battle of her aspirations with her belief, of her conscience with her reason, a strain of rebellion against the inevitable. So, to the weight of the knowledge of evil, to the weight of the consciousness of the deadness of soul which surrounded her, was added in Anne the terrible sense of the injustice and callousness of nature and of fate, of the groundlessness of those instincts of good which left her no peace.

But all this no one ever guessed. She despised indulging her own wretchedness. She went on, behaving as usual, goading herself to practical concerns silently, letting no one know of her misery, letting no thought of it waste a moment of her time. Her longing was to break the hateful solidarity between page: 225 herself and the school of æsthetic indifferentism; her instinct was, since she (dependent as she felt herself on a man’s charity) could not practically help others, at least to understand and feel about all these subjects which Hamlin and his friends tabooed. And with this haunting desire, she turned not merely to Marjory Lee and Harry Collett, but instinctively also to her cousin Dick.

“I have read the books you lent me to take into the country,” she said, giving him back the various primers and pamphlets on economical subjects. “Thank you so much for them, Dick.”

They were sitting alone in the drawing‐room at Hammersmith. Richard Brown had called only once before, ceremoniously and briefly, and he would not have come this time either, if Anne had not written expressly to beg him to fetch back the books. He looked at her in his incredulous, contemptuous way.

“Really,” he said, “my shabby old books are very much flattered by having been per‐ page: 226 mitted permitted to sojourn so long among such an assemblage of lovely things;” and he looked round the room at the pieces of embroidery and the Eastern carpets, the pictures and drawings, the quantities of Japanese porcelain and lacquer all round. “How much out of place they do look, and how queer they must have felt among their companions! Let me see: two volumes on artistic furniture—‘Ballads of Old France’—‘Rossetti’—‘Contes de Gautier.’ I see—”

“Those are Mr Hamlin’s books,” said Anne, quickly; “he must have taken them out of the library, or brought them up from the studio. I am not reading any of them.”

“You are reading nothing but sociology and political economy; I understand,” went on Brown, with his placid sneer, which seemed, in this frightfully masculine man, to condemn in Anne her mind, her person, her manner, her character, and even her sex. “Ah, well, I can understand that; it must be refreshing. Who is it—Mr Pater, or some such great gun of yours—who says that the object of the wise page: 227 man is to make his life consist in as many moments of thrilling impressions as possible; that the very wise people get them out of art and song, and the less wise out of vice or out of philanthropy? You must know the passage better than I. Well, I suppose you have got as many impressions out of art and song as possible, and (being far too delicate in taste to try vice) you are seeing what can be got out of philanthropy. Is that it?”

Anne frowned.

“Of course,” she said, “you think it very clever to snub me, Dick, and very manly; just to treat me as if I could not possibly have either heart or brains. Maybe; but it is a very cheap sort of sarcasm, and to make which a man like you is not at all required.”

Richard Brown bit his black beard, and looked at Anne from beneath his beetle brows; he threw himself a little back on his chair, and with his head on one side, he said, with affected indifference—

“You don’t mean to tell me that you page: 228 have read those books except as you would read—what shall I say?—the ‘History of Furniture,’ or the ‘Contes de Gautier,’ Anne?”

“Were you ever ignorant about important vital subjects, Richard—ever conscious that it was your duty as a rational creature to know something about them, and then snubbed by a man who knew all about them, and to whom you had applied to help you?”

Brown was silent for a moment.

“I was a poor lad, working in a factory, and refusing myself food and coals in order to buy books and papers”—he said crushingly—“and I never had an opportunity of asking any one’s assistance.”

“I don’t see why there should be salvation only for people who have gone through hardships, nor why only you and those who have acted like you should be treated sincerely and seriously. Do you think that because I am a woman who has been brought up among Persian rugs and Japanese pots and Burne Jones’s pictures,—because I have gone to dinner‐par‐ page: 229 ties dinner‐parties three times a‐week, and read Pater and Rossetti and Gautier,—that I may not therefore be as honestly anxious to know about the serious things of the world as you were when you worked in a factory, and went without dinner and without coals?” and she fixed her eyes on her cousin’s ugly and powerful face, in which, for all its ugliness, one might have fancied one saw something not wholly unlike that magnificent sibyl‐like face which pre‐Raphaelite artists had immortalised and caricatured. “Seriously, and in your heart,” she went on, as Brown made no reply, “are you unable to understand that perhaps it may require more real determination to try and learn such things when one is brought up in luxury in an æsthetic house, than when one has to buy books at the price of food and fire?”

Richard Brown did not answer. He was a frank man, and he frankly faced Anne’s look, and in return looked long and searchingly at her; and as the habitual look of bantering contempt had given way to a serious scrutiny, page: 230 so now he gradually grew more gentle and earnest.

“Forgive me, Anne,” he said, after a moment; “I think I may have been doing you injustice, and that I may, to some degree, have been disgracing myself. But, you see, I am a plain self‐made man, and it is difficult for me to understand how . . .”

Brown rarely hesitated for the end of his sentence, but this time he did.

“To understand how there can be any conscience or seriousness in a woman who has been willing to owe everything to the generosity of an æsthete like Mr Hamlin”—Anne finished his sentence bitterly. She went on—“Well, I know you could not believe that an æsthete could be generous and noble and chivalrous; and now you cannot understand how a woman who has accepted his generosity can be anything better than—than a piece artistic embroidery, or a Japanese cup, or a green tree,” and Anne pulled the long pliable leaves of a palm passionately through her fingers.

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Brown’s suspiciousness had tried to return; but it was routed by Anne’s firm look, by Anne’s frank words.

“It is terrible to think how prejudiced, how inaccessible to truth, one allows one’s self to become,” answered Brown, “even though, Heaven knows, one tries to be fair. What you say is true. I couldn’t understand your not being a mere frivolous girl, Anne; and I can’t well understand it yet. But what you tell me I will believe.”

“Thank you, Dick,” said Anne, stretching out her hand. “I don’t think we are made to like each other much: you are too prejudiced, and haughty, and contemptuous; and I am too proud and too stiff‐necked. But we are both honest, so we might as well deal honestly and openly with each other, and try and understand each other’s good points.”

“I am not accustomed to deal with semi‐professional beauties, to do the Petrarch to æsthetic Madonna mias,” said Brown—that sneer of conscious masculinity and conscious page: 232 self‐madeness coming over him again; “you must excuse my manner, Anne.” But he met Anne’s glance, and his tone changed once more.

“I will bring you some more books when I return,” he said. “By the way, have you ever read any psychology?”

“What is psychology? Is it metaphysics? I have read Hegel—” Anne stopped short, and then boldly added—

“ But it was only Hegel’s æsthetics, you know.”

Brown smiled. “Hegel’s æsthetics are not—well—not Posthlethwaite’s æsthetics,” he said; “this is not much more difficult. It is Spencer’s sociology. I will bring it you. Good‐bye.”

After that visit, Anne began to see more of her cousin. He came sometimes to Hammersmith, and he met her frequently at the Leighs. Anne did not feel that she completely liked him. He was pure‐minded, certainly, and generous, a man devoted to progress even in page: 233 its humblest forms; he had a powerful intellect and a more powerful will. But, somehow, there was in him an indefinable coarseness of fibre, a want of appreciation, of sympathy with other people’s ideals, a tendency to despise all those around him, and to see meanness in all those who were not in the same position, or who had not the same views and aims as himself; above all, an unconscious desire to domineer—a brutal, almost animal wish for supremacy, which his knowledge of his own purity and rectitude and self‐sacrificing power made him accept and cherish as if it were a kind of holy spirit dwelling within himself, and not merely the product of a brutal temperament, which a noble intellect and a generous heart had severed from all brutish interests, but which remained brutal none the less. Anne’s pride, her consciousness of finer fibre than her cousin’s, made her shrink from seeking in Richard Brown for assistance in her arduous task of freeing her spirit from the slough of æsthetic selfishness; his suspiciousness of her motives, his sarcasms, page: 234 his blindness to her purity of impulse, all this galled her; but she submitted to be galled. She wished her soul at least to be free, though her body might remain, as it were, in bondage, and Richard stood at the door of that world of nobler endeavour which she longed to enter; moreover, her stern spirit made her take a sort of pleasure in the very bitterness which she had to taste. If Richard had been sympathising, if he had met her half‐way and tried to help her on, she would have felt that she was bound to him, that she was battering her liberty once more; and vaguely Anne knew that she must never be bound to any one save Hamlin—that little as he could understand her, she was obliged, for ever, to try and understand him. And sometimes even, though the sense of Hamlin’s baseness, of his selfish æstheticism and his untruthful morbidness, weighed more upon her day by day, Anne would elaborately go over all that he had been to her—nay, all that, to the best of his power, he still was: she would sit for hours reading page: 235 and re‐reading those treasured‐up letters whose arrival had made her so strangely happy at Coblenz; (how long, long ago it seemed, and how little that schoolgirl seemed to share of her identity!) and Anne, reading over those letters, carefully collecting together all the stances of Hamlin’s generosity and delicacy and gentleness which she could remember—nay, mere looks and tones which had brought home formerly her love for him—made up out of them a simulacrum of Hamlin, and persuaded herself that she loved it, and that it was Hamlin’s real reality, the reality which had become spoilt by the horrible moral atmosphere, distorted, warped, but a reality nevertheless. Nay, sometimes the sense of Hamlin’s weakness would come home to her, and with a pang make her feel how much she was bound to suffer, how much she was bound to do for him.

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CHAPTER IV.

HAMLIN had forgotten all about the business of Cold Fremley, except that he had stopped the printing of his book, and set to work remodelling the “Ballad of the Fens,” to the immense admiration of Chough and Dennistoun, who were quite reconciled to realism now that it was allied with horrid sin. But that Anne was at all alienated from him, never once entered his mind. He noticed, indeed, that Anne had grown much more serious of late, that she seemed less happy than some months before; but for that he had his explanation. He believed that her character was suddenly maturing (for he never guessed that Anne’s nature was one of those which mature rapidly, and whose maturity means page: 237 responsibility), and that there was brewing beneath that sombre exterior a storm of passion of which he was the object. That such a storm would come had been his persuasion from the very beginning of his acquaintance with Anne; he had guessed in her some strange latent force, and to see it develop had been his wish. That long courtship, that purely Platonic familiarity, giving scope to so much poetic devotion, poetic gratitude, was always to end, in Hamlin’s expectation, with a sudden burst of passion, which should envelop him, give his cold nature the exquisite sensation of being fired, carried off by a more powerful temperament than his own. Hamlin had had many love‐affairs in his day, more or less pure or base; he had, once or twice, been mastered by the stronger nature of a woman, but that had been mere brute passion, and what he desired was to rouse a passion terrifically overwhelming, but pure, intellectual, and with all the fearful violence of merely intellectual passions: a passion like page: 238 that, which he always admired more than any other in literature, of Heathcliff for Catharine in ‘Wuthering Heights,’—a passion such as some men have felt for a dead woman. This he had always hoped from Anne, and in the expectation of this he had been confirmed by every new revelation of her character. Sometimes, when Anne sat listless in the midst of their guests, her mind for away, her tragic face more sombre for the blackness that was in the world around her and in her own soul, Hamlin would watch her, and feel, with a pang of satisfaction, that he had not been mistaken in her.

“She is not a woman, she is a mere splendid statue!” Lewis had once exclaimed angrily, as he felt how utterly all that kind of occult sensual fascination, which his pale mysterious face, his vermilion lips, his cat‐like green eyes, his low droning voice, his sultan‐like freedom of manner, his sense of omniscience and omnipotence, his own nature, strangely compounded of the beast and of page: 239 the dreamer, indubitably exercised over many women, how utterly it trickled off Anne—

“She is not a woman, Hamlin,—she has an intellect and a will, but she has no soul; and one day you will discover it.”

“She is not a woman in the sense in which you conceive a woman,” answered Hamlin, contemptuously; “and she is as incapable of what you and most of us call passion, as is a statue. She has not one fibre of what you could call womanhood in her—not one shred of the beast which lies at the bottom of all our natures has entered into hers; she is a woman of mere stone and ice and snow for men like you. But just for that reason has she got a capacity for passion—for a passion which you can never understand—such as no other woman ever had. What are all those precious women—Cleopatras and Mary Stuarts—call them whatever you like, whom we think so poetical? Mere common harlots, decked out in poetical gewgaws, at bottom nothing better than a Madame Bovary, not so much as a Manon Les‐ page: 240 caut Lescaut . Mere filthy clay shaped into something comely. What is it to be loved by one of them? You might as well be loved by a barmaid.”

Edmund Lewis’s lip curled.

“Certainly Miss Brown suits you in your present mood, Walter; I don’t say not. But you will find out later what it is to be in love with a woman who is stone and ice and snow for men like me. Madonna Laura and Beatrice are all very fine; but your ideal lady, I repeat it, is no woman at all, but a mere sexless creature, something like Victor Hugo’s handsome Enjolras in petticoats. Passion for humanity, for fame, for abstract excellence‐oh, as much of that as you like; but passion for so humble a thing as a living man! Never!”

“Please leave the subject alone, Lewis,” said Hamlin. “I don’t care to have slugs creeping, even only in imagination, over my lilies. Talk about your women, other men’s women, as much as you choose, but spare me your remarks about Miss Brown.”

Chough had been listening. The excitable page: 241 little poet of womanhood detested Lewis, whose arrogance grated upon him, and whose impurity of nature unconsciously offended the real innocence which underlay all his grandiloquently improper verses. And Chough adored Anne; she was, he often said, a quite new revelation of womanhood; and he believed that, as passion was the one noble thing in the world, and as Miss Brown was the noblest woman that had ever lived, that there must be a deal of passion in Anne.

“There is passion of all sorts,” said Chough, pulling his long black whiskers; “the passion of the pure animal, the passion of the mere human creature, and the passion of divine essences: the first is like a lush tropical country; the second is like the manifold sea; the third is like the high Alps, the highest strata of air, the purest light. The passion of divine essences is more terrible than any other, exactly because of its external nature: it is tragic. Miss Brown has that sort of passion—”

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“Idiot,” muttered Hamlin ; and yet he felt pleased at Chough’s mystical corroboration of his ideas.

Meanwhile there was one subject upon which Anne sympathised warmly with Hamlin, and that was his cousin Sacha. For all her evident theatricalness, Anne warmed towards Madame Elaguine. She saw in her something frank and fearless which appealed to her, and a pathetic helpless desire, as of a child which has been naughty but wants to learn how to be good, to retrieve her own wasted life, to save her children from what she had undergone herself; above all, a wish to be in earnest without well knowing how to, a strain to be a serious woman in the midst of the habits of a spoilt child and of a flirt. For a spoilt child, unaccustomed to self‐control, impatient of small sacrifices, avid of excitement and novelty, avid of constant attention and admiration, Madame Elaguine certainly was; and a flirt as certainly also. She flirted with every one, with Hamlin, with as many of his page: 243 friends—Chough, Lewis, and Dennistoun—as he took to her; with Anne, with the Leigh girls, with the solemn schoolmasters and schoolmistresses, whom she interviewed for the benefit of her children; she flirted—you saw it by her smile and her little childish laugh of recognition—with the very housemaid who opened the door; she flirted with every man, woman, and child, with every dog or cat that she came across.

“What a flirt that woman is, to be sure!” cried Hamlin, as he saw every one of his and Anne’s friends subjugated in an hour’s visit by Madame Elaguine. And to be a flirt was no recommendation to Hamlin; he wanted to absorb all admiration, he wanted to inspire love; flirts were his particular aversion.

“What harm does her flirting do?” answered Anne; “it merely makes her and those about her a little happier.”

“I thought you cared only for serious, for intense people, Miss Brown—you who are so serious and intense yourself.”

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“Perhaps I am too serious”—and poor Anne felt at the moment that she certainly was too serious to be very happy; “but, however that may be, that is no reason why your cousin should not be a flirt. As long as a person can feel strongly and seriously on serious subjects, why quarrel with him or her for being childish about childish matters?”

For experience had taught Anne the bitter truth that people could be serious—heaven knows how serious!—like the odious Lewis and like Hamlin himself, and yet have no fibre of sympathy or indignation; and her experience of flippant little Chough, with his tenderly cared for wife—of flirtatious Marjory Leigh and her humanitarian labours—had made her hope most from the very people whose light nature she, so earnest and tragic, could understand least. And to this category she added Madame Elaguine.

“Your cousin has strong sides to her nature, I am quite persuaded,” she said.

Hamlin shrugged his shoulders; but never‐ page: 245 theless nevertheless , though he highly resented Madame Elaguine’s all‐round flirtatiousness, he was forced to admit to himself that the little woman had, when you were in her presence, a sort of magnetic fascination.

What moved Anne was Madame Elaguine’s vehement passion for her children, the long schemes which, to Hamlin’s ennui, she would enthusiastically dilate upon for their future; and somehow, from words which she used to drop, it would seem that she had been in danger of losing those children—that she was still exposed to having them taken from her, or to being in some way separated from them. Anne did not absolutely formulate to herself a hope of helping Madame Elaguine; but she felt vaguely that perhaps she, with her seriousness and determination, might help the excitable and decidedly vague‐minded little woman to persist in and carry out her ideas; that here she had at last a chance of being useful. The first thing, Anne felt, was to bridge over the gulf of past animosity which still separated page: 246 Hamlin from his cousin—to take away from Sacha Elaguine the demoralising sense of being an only half‐forgiven intruder. The great difficulty was Mrs Macgregor. The old lady could not abate one tittle of her hatred for the Sacha of former days.

“I tell you she is a bad woman, and you will find it out some day to your cost,” she would answer Anne. “The woman is contained in the child: or rather the woman is only the child altered and trimmed up to pass muster—dressirt, as my friend Schopenhauer says.”

“But, Auntie Claudia,” persisted Anne, “if a person can alter sufficiently to pass muster, why should that person not alter also in obedience to her awakened reason and conscience? Why should one not be able to shed the bad qualities of one’s childhood, for quite new and good ones?”

“Because one cannot, Anne; because the fox remains a fox, and the cat remains a cat, and the swine remains a swine.” And Mrs Macgregor looked with cynical compassion at Anne.

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“I might have remained a mere soulless servant, had every one gone on your theory,” answered Anne. “No, I cannot agree with you, Aunt Claudia. I think it is terrible to condemn a woman because she was a good‐for‐nothing child; I think it is terrible to shut her out from sympathy which might be a comfort and an encouragement to her if she be still in need of any.”

“Ah, well, that is how you young people of to‐day always talk. You would object to sending criminals to the docks, because it is shutting them out of improving society.”

“I don’t see that the cases are parallel. I merely ask that a person be not condemned where she could not be responsible. If I thought that any one were really and hopelessly vicious, a mere source of evil, I think I should do my best to crush them out, to trample upon them.”

“That is how you are, Anne, willing to be a moral sick‐nurse or a moral executioner. In a world where every one has some horrid page: 248 moral disease or is some horrid moral nuisance, you will soon find that such a line as that leaves no time to live. However, as to Sacha Polozoff—Madame Elaguine, I suppose I ought to call her—do whatever you please. You are your own mistress, and free to choose your own friends. See as much of the woman as you please, as long as you don’t expect me to sympathise with you in your admiration, love, and awe of her.”

“I don’t feel any admiration or love or awe for Madame Elaguine. But I think that she is a comparatively young woman, very impulsive and rather injudicious, all alone here in London; and I think she ought not to be shut out from the only house which she has, as Mr Hamlin’s cousin, a sort of right to enter.”

“As you choose, Anne. Invite her, give up the house to her; do what you please. But remember, when you have burnt your fingers, that I told you you were playing with fire.”

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So Anne had her way. And Madame Elaguine came often to Hammersmith. Hamlin and Anne did their best to prevent her meeting Mrs Macgregor; Madame Elaguine was received mainly in the studio, where, little by little, and at first seemingly casually, Hamlin’s friends would drop in to meet her. She was a curiously fascinating little woman. Education, in any regular sense, she seemed never to have had; she was grotesquely ignorant about a great many things, and laughed at it herself.

“I am teaching myself arithmetic in order to teach my boy a little before he goes to school,” she would say—or spelling, or grammar, or something similar. On the other hand, she had a lot of superficial accomplishments, like most Russians: she spoke four or five languages with tolerable correctness and extraordinary fluency; she had, in some mysterious manner, acquired Greek. She read little, and that little mainly novels and poetry; but, with her Russian rapidity to adapt herself to a new position, page: 250 she had scarcely realised that she had been accidentally drafted into æsthetical society, before she had got æsthetic literature, æsthetic gossip, and æsthetic modes of feeling at her finger‐ends. She immediately understood the relative positions of Hamlin, of Chough, of Dennistoun, of Lewis, and of all the others; and was able to talk to each as he best liked to be talked to. She began with a passion for Alfred de Musset, for Gautier, for Catulle Mendès, and she rapidly became an enthusiast for Swinburne, for Rossetti, for Chough, and, above all, “for that genius, Monsieur mon cousin.” She let herself be talked to about æsthetic dresses, gravely listening (with only a little side‐look of amusement at Hamlin or Anne) to Mrs Spencer’s strictures on modern costumes, on stays, and heels, and tight waists and full skirts; and she immediately set to work untrimming her frocks and making them up into wondrous garments, not at all like what any æsthetic woman had ever worn in her life, but queer, fantastic, delightful, neither page: 251 Greek nor medieval, but individual and quaint and fascinating.

“Dressmaking, as long as only pins are required, is my one talent, my one accomplishment,” she would say, when any one admired the capricious garments, in which she looked sometimes like a schoolgirl, and sometimes like a page in woman’s clothes, and sometimes almost like a little nun. But this was not the case. Without ever having learned, she sang with wonderful charm: a small, childish, high voice, which trilled out Russian and Spanish and French folk‐songs, and which had a strange, hot, passionate power of singing those German songs which poor Anne, for all her fine voice (which Chough used distressingly to compare with that of various equivocal singers of former days) and her conscientious learning, could never succeed in rendering. But the fact was that Madame Elaguine’s personality was surrounded by a vague halo and shimmer of talents: she had never learned to do anything, yet she could somehow do everything; she page: 252 could write fearfully misspelt but fascinating letters and bits of verse and prose; she could mimic and act.

“She is a first‐rate actress,” was one of the first things which Edmund Lewis, who seemed at once singularly attracted and puzzled by her, found to say about Madame Elaguine.

“You think that because she sometimes looks a little like Sarah Bernhardt,” answered Hamlin, who never cared much to hear his cousin praised, since everything which was praised in her seemed to point to a deficiency in Anne.

“I think she is an actress because I see it,” answered Lewis, in his positive way. “For my part, I don’t think any of you half appreciate all that there is in Madame Elaguine.”

“A nice little kittenish, intelligent flirt; just the same as a hundred Russian women one has known,” said Hamlin.

Lewis shook his head.

“That woman is not a mere ordinary flirt. She has an almost unique temperament: she is a first‐rate medium; I feel it.”

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“You have felt so many people to be first‐rate mediums, Mr Lewis,” said Anne, scornfully. “Do you remember, you thought once that I was one.”

“So I did. But this time I’m not mistaken;” and he gave Anne one of those looks of fierce aversion which, loathing him as she did, she rather liked from the little painter.

However, Lewis proved right this time. Madame Elaguine had scarcely ever heard about spiritualism, but she threw herself into it with all her Russian ardour, and in a very short time, under Lewis’s guidance, became a great adept. Lewis declared that he had never met so gifted a medium in his life; and, indeed, Madame Elaguine showed a perfectly marvellous power of going off into trances, reading thoughts, and otherwise communicating with spirit‐land.

A young doctor, one of Marjory Leigh’s hygienic demigods, whom she brought to call on Anne, once met Madame Elaguine at Hammersmith. Anne noticed the way in which he page: 254 watched her face and manner; she seemed somehow to interest him as a problem.

“Why were you staring so at Mr Hamlin’s cousin?” asked Marjory Leigh when the Russian had left.

“Staring at her?” answered the Professor, vaguely.

“She is a very pretty woman, and very charming,” said Anne; “I think that is sufficient explanation.”

“Well,” said the young doctor, a rough, brusque creature, “that wasn’t exactly the reason. I was thinking how very—well, to put it plainly—how very hysterical a subject that lady looks.”

“What do you mean by hysterical?” said Anne, quickly. “She is very nervous, but she doesn’t seem to me to be at all subject to any kind of fits.”

“That’s not what we mean by hysteria,” exclaimed the doctor. “Hysteria isn’t a fit of hysterics; it is a condition of morbid nervous excitability, usually accompanied by a certain page: 255 loss of will‐power. Hysterical subjects are a kind of milder mad men and women; their characters undergo curious modifications; they haven’t the same responsibilities as others. I wonder whether that lady is not a spiritualist,—she looks like it.”

“She has let Mr Lewis, who has gone in a good deal for that sort of thing, mesmerise her once or twice,” answered Anne. “I don’t believe in that rubbish myself.”

“Nor do I. But there is this much of truth in it, that some sorts of temperaments are naturally inclined to it, and that it reacts upon them. And I should think it would be the case with that lady.”

“But surely,” hesitated Anne, “people who are in good health—who have never had any kind of nervous illness or shock—don’t get into that state.”

“Oh yes, they do. It is often hereditary; one or two, or even sometimes only one, depraved ancestor will do it for you.”

The recollection of all she had heard of page: 256 Sacha’s horrible profligate old Russian father, of her violent and weak and constantly ailing mother, flashed across Anne. And then came also the remembrance of those portraits at Wotton Hall—of those generations of weak and depraved planters, who had been the grandfathers and granduncles of Sacha as well as of Hamlin.

And any remaining ill‐will which Mrs Macgregor’s stories had left was swept away. Anne did not like Madame Elaguine, in the same way that she liked the Leighs or even Mrs Spencer; but she felt a sudden strong compassion for her. Perhaps, she thought, there is more goodness in the world than I guessed. And it seemed to her that this giddy little woman, with her passionate desire for the welfare of her children, this woman who had struggled through the disadvantages of hereditary weakness and corrupt training, was a sort of a hero.

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CHAPTER V.

AUTUMN turned to winter, and at last Hamlin’s long‐expected, much‐talked‐of book of new poems made its appearance. In her gradual estrangement from Hamlin, in the gradual replacing of the ideal creature whom she had so fervently loved by a reality by which she was beginning to be repelled, Anne had hung some of her last hopes to Hamlin’s poetry. She would often say to herself that, after all, Hamlin made no pretence to being anything more than an artistic nature; that he was a great artist, born to give the world a certain amount of pleasure, and that she had no right to ask of him to be anything else. What could she, willing as she was to sympathise and to work,—what could a page: 258 man like Richard Brown, with all his self‐sacrificing energy and ability, do for mankind that might compare with what had been done by Leonardo, by Mozart, by Keats—men as solely artistic as Hamlin? and Hamlin was a great poet, and would become a greater one—of that Anne felt persuaded, for his work was steadily improving, and there were things in this book which she recognised as having the highest merit. So she clung to Hamlin’s poetry as to an anchor for his nobility and for her affection. At length the volume was published. Hamlin arrived at Hammersmith one morning and placed a copy of it by the side of Anne’s plate at breakfast.

“It is the first copy,” he said, “and as such, belongs to you.”

“Thank you,” said Anne, flushing with pleasure; for, opening the book, she found on the fly‐leaf a little poem, imitated from the love‐songs of the Tuscan peasants, in which Hamlin dedicated the volume to her; it was beautiful and simple and almost solemn—the page: 259 very flower of that distant and poetic love which he professed towards her.

“You have put in the ‘Ballad of the Fens’ after all! Oh, thank you so much, Mr Hamlin! You know I always thought it the best thing you have ever done,” she exclaimed.

Hamlin did not answer; perhaps because he was aware that this “Ballad of the Fens,” rewritten under the influence of Dennistoun, was not the same as the one which he had torn up three months before. Anne soon discovered it: reading through the still uncut sheets, she found that instead of the story of married love, which had called down the wrath of the whole school, Hamlin had set in his beautiful descriptions a ghastly tale which she scarcely required more than to glance at. So this was all that had come of her having mentioned Cold Fremley to him!

“I think I have made the story more tragic and more in harmony with the surrounding nature. I always felt that I needed some more powerful and terrible situation. Like this, page: 260 I think the effect is sufficiently worked out, don’t you think?”

“Yes,” said Anne, icily. There was the description of the sunset on the fens, of the broad slow river flowing between low green banks, its clotted masses reflecting the red sunset embers; the description of the whole scene as they had witnessed it; and then a description of the people of Cold Fremley, of their lives and sins, in which she could almost recognise her own words in which she had vainly pleaded for them that memorable afternoon in his studio. A cold terror prevented Anne from turning at once to the sonnets. But after all, had he not, as it were, promised to abide by her choice? had he not submitted, however reluctantly, to the condemnation of those twelve sonnets? Anne felt ashamed of her own suspicions and fears; she boldly turned to the end of the book, peeped between the leaves—

“Desire—XII. Sonnets.”

Anne did not know what was the feeling page: 261 which filled her. She had never felt it before. It was too cold to be indignation, too self‐possessed to be horror: she seemed surrounded by an icy atmosphere, through which she saw Hamlin as through a mist. He had broken his word, and for what? To attribute to himself vicious thoughts and feelings which he had never had. Anne said not a word; the man who was capable of acting thus could not understand if he were chidden for it.

Breakfast passed gloomily, talking little, or of indifferent things. Hamlin was evidently ruffled by this reception of his book.

“Are you going to sit to me this morning, Miss Brown?” he asked with some irritation, as he rose from table.

“I will, if you wish me to.”

Anne’s voice smote him as if he had opened the window to a snowstorm.

“Have you anything else to do?”

“I always have plenty to do, you know. If you don’t want me, I shall go out with Marjory Leigh.”

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“So much the better. I don’t feel as if I could work successfully this morning, and I should be sorry to detain you for nothing at all. I will go and ask my cousin whether she would care to see Lewis’s studio. This weather is very depressing.”

“Very,” answered Anne.

Anne went out with Marjory Leigh, who was on a round of visiting poor people at Lainbeth. They were joined by Harry Collett. He stood in great awe of his future bride’s superior wisdom and dogmatic manner; but it was touching to see how completely these two creatures—the shy and mystical curate, and the masterful and rationalistic young woman, who was wont to tell him that some day he should be persuaded that only secular work was really useful, and the Church ought to be disestablished—understood each other, and sympathised in their best endeavours.

“Hamlin has brought out a new book,” said Collett to Anne. “How proud you must be, Miss Brown! he has been quite another man, page: 263 twice as cheerful and devoted to his art, since he has known you. For a poet like him, so sensitive and easily depressed, it must be a great thing to have a noble woman to encourage him.”

Anne did not answer. She felt alone—alone as in a desert, without an ear to hear her, or a hand to touch hers.

Often did that sensation recur to her now; a sensation as of dragging wearily and alone along an ice‐bound road, under a grey wintry sky, weary and solitary, but with the knowledge that the more solitary and weary she felt, the more was she bound to plod on. Things that happened seemed spectral. Here in London she saw less of Hamlin than in the country; he was going about with his friends, he was at his cousin’s. She did not know or care where. People talked a great deal about the new book; and only Anne was silent.

“You don’t like Hamlin’s new book,” said Richard Brown to her one evening, fixing his eyes upon her in his ruthless way. He came often now; he had apparently got to believe in page: 264 her, and he even held out a possibility to her, if she continued to work steadily, reading and attending lectures, that she might by the summer‐time be able to offer herself to teach the elements of political economy at the Working Women’s Club.

“You don’t like Hamlin’s new book.”

It I was not a question, but an assertion, and Anne felt it as a taunt.

“I like some things in it extremely,” she answered boldly; “but I dislike and disapprove of some others.”

Brown made a characteristic upward movement with one of his big black eyebrows.

“I thought that you æsthetic folk never disapproved of anything—that it was against the canons of art to disapprove.”

“I am not an æsthete, Richard. If I were, I should not be trying to learn the things in which you take interest.”

“True. And does Hamlin know that you dislike and disapprove of some of his poems?”

For a moment Anne did not answer. page: 265 Brown’s question was like an insolent attempt to see into her heart. Yet what right had she to hide anything?

“He knows exactly what I think about all his poems; but he does not, naturally, agree with me in all my views.”

She was determined to keep her cousin at a distance. He had hated her ever becoming connected with æsthetic society, and he tried to force her to admit that she regretted it.

But Brown had an inveterate hatred which he could not put aside.

“Have you seen the review in the ‘Saturday Gazette’?” he asked.

The review was one of the few bad ones which Hamlin’s book had had, among a chorus of good ones. But it was written by a rabid enemy of pre‐Raphaelite poetry; and who had taken the occasion of this book to show up what he considered the pestilent moral condition of the whole school.

“Yes; I have. It is a very unjust and violent attack, and quite indiscriminating.”

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“So I thought. Still, what it quoted from the sonnets called Desire seemed, so far, to bear out its statements. What do you think?”

“I think,” answered Anne slowly, and choking her pride and emotion, “that all he says about those sonnets is quite correct. I think it is most regrettable that they should have been published. But I think that in writing them Mr Hamlin was merely following the vicious traditions of his school; and I know that he is, in reality, a perfectly pure‐minded man. And,” she added, as if to put an end to the conversation, “he is the man to whom I owe more gratitude than any woman ever owed to any man.”

Brown did not press the conversation. He understood. He had of late been getting to comprehend Anne’s character; he recognised her serious unselfishness, her indomitable desire for good; he saw in her a strange straining dissatisfaction—a something which was as the beating of a bird’s wings against its cage. And now he understood whence it came.

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“She has made her choice and must abide by it,” he said sternly to himself, remembering that scene when he had tried vainly to dissuade her from accepting Hamlin’s offer, and she had answered, “I love him!” “She has sold her soul into bondage, and must accept the isolation and silence and uselessness of a slave.” But then, as he said good night and looked at that noble face, whose tragic intensity of rectitude was now revealed to him, Richard Brown could not help feeling a pang. “Poor child!” he said to himself; and wished he had proved less of a prophet than he believed himself to have done.

He began, in consequence, to feel a little ashamed of himself, and came oftener to see Anne. He was a brilliant man when you got him on his own subjects, warm‐hearted, self‐sacrificing, ambitious, eloquent; and he had always a number of practical schemes at heart. Originally a hand at a foundry, he had for some time, like Anne’s father, been smitten with communistic theories; but instead of page: 268 being tempted into becoming a socialistic demagogue, he had, when he was about twenty‐five, given up the little workman’s newspaper, of which he was editor and chief author, and deliberately set to work studying economical and social questions in the intervals of his work, carefully suspending his judgment during the while. To a man as impetuous and ambitious as Brown, to whom the easy and tempting path of party leader lay open, such a course must have meant a terrible and long‐sustained effort of self‐control. But his indomitable conscience and will had carried him through it; and now he was reaping the unexpected reward of his forbearance. While slowly working his way in business and studying the subjects which were dearest to him, he had managed also to cultivate a mechanical genius, which seemed in some way hereditary in the family of Anne’s father, who, in happier circumstances, might perhaps have been a brilliant inventor instead of a starving expatriated workman. He had made valuable im‐ page: 269 provements improvements in the foundry of which he had become the foreman, and had now, for the last two years, been the chief partner and virtual director of the business, with a fair livelihood in the present, and a large fortune and great influence in the immediate future. But money and influence were nothing to Richard Brown; or rather, influence to him meant merely the triumph of his own philanthropical schemes. Selfish he undoubtedly was, but his selfishness, his vanity, his pride, his ambition, were drafted off into the service of others. Anne listened with enthusiasm, but not unmixed with sadness, to her cousin’s projects for educating the lower classes, for bringing home to the upper classes their own responsibilities; they had the charm of dreams, but of the dreams of a man who seemed able to make what he desired into reality. Even in this æsthetic society, which had looked upon him with suspicion and loathing, Richard Brown got a certain importance. He would spend hours with old Saunders the painter, and page: 270 his daughter, the enthusiastic Mrs Spencer, discussing the way of introducing more beautiful patterns into trade, and of getting up schools of design and loan exhibitions for the poorer classes.

“He is a man of the middle ages!” Mrs Spencer would enthusiastically exclaim; “if only we had a few more like him, we should soon build cathedrals and town‐halls like those of the fourteenth century.”

“He is a canny Radical,” answered her father, “but a gude sort of man. For my part, I don’t much believe in educating the lower classes up to art, but there’s no harm in trying, and, at least, we shall get better‐made chairs and tables for our money.”

Chough was equally enthusiastic. Richard Brown was anxious to get up some concerts at a kind of workman’s union at which he presided; and Chough—yes, the great Chough himself, who hinted mysteriously that his father (who was an apothecary at Limerick) was a duke, but that he would rather die page: 271 than succeed to the title—was prevailed upon to take the musical direction upon himself. While these schemes were going on, Madame Elaguine met Richard Brown.

There was something in this big, burly, rather brutal man, which immediately fascinated the nervous little Russian woman: she sat at Brown’s feet, she listened with rapture to his theories, she threw herself headlong into the plan of the concerts; she offered to perform, to teach, to do whatever Brown might wish.

Hamlin was thoroughly disgusted with his cousin Sacha, who had hitherto known no divinity save him and pure beauty, when he saw her devoting herself to humanitarianism, personified in what he called “that shoddy philanthropical black brute.” He became vehemently devoted to Anne. He seemed to repent of his book. He declared himself sick of London and of æsthetic society.

“I must turn over a new leaf,” he said. “I feel I must, or sink into being no better than Chough or Dennistoun. But I am too weak page: 272 to turn it over alone. Will you help me, Miss Brown?”—and he looked at her with his slow, beautiful glance of Platonic love.

Anne smiled sadly. “No one can help any one, I am beginning to fear; and I least of all.” She had got so accustomed to these sudden returns of Hamlin’s, to these false starts, these longings after a healthier moral and intellectual atmosphere, which came to nothing. She saw so plainly the hopeless weakness and thinness of his nature; and yet in such moments she could not help feeling some of that old love for this beautiful, delicate, idealistic, chivalrous creature whom she knew to be mere selfishness and vanity. If only he would remain thus at least.

“Perhaps you are right,” answered Hamlin, leaning over the piano at which she was seated; “but I feel myself sick of this life, this poetry. All is false, false, hollow, and empty. My verses are untrue, my pictures are mere Christmas cards; even with you as a model, I feel I am always repeating the same page: 273 wearisome insipid trick of eyes, and mouth, and neck. Oh, I don’t know what to do!”

It was but too true. That school of mere beautiful suggestion, which scorned reality and mechanical skill as a bird scorns the ground, was fast sinking into nullity. Anne had often remarked it in comparing the works of various masters; she had noticed the stray sentences, not meant for her, dropped by painters of other schools.

“Go to Paris and study for a year or so under Bastien‐Lepage, or Henner, or Duran,” she said, with a smile at the vanity of her own words.

Hamlin could not even conceive that she was in earnest, that any one could dream of seeing anything in modern French painting, that any one could be so mad as to think of his studying.

“Yes,” he cried, “that is the only art that can live in our day! Ours is a mere phantom; our poetry is a phantom; they come round us imploring us to give them life, like page: 274 the ghosts round Odysseus’s trench. But who shall give them life? Where shall we get the life‐blood of passion whereon to feed and revivify them?”

And he suddenly turned round and looked at her with great yearning eyes. Hamlin was genuinely unhappy, though he did not guess that his unhappiness was due to vacuity, to slighted vanity, to the sudden infatuation of Madame Elaguine for a shoddy philanthropist. He longed for passion as, in hot climates, after months of faint sultriness, one longs for rain and wind; and he looked at Anne as one might watch the dark clouds hanging on the hills, the dark clouds which hold the storm for which one is thirsting. Oh for a strong passion!—it would revive him, revive his art. Hamlin did not say it to himself in so many words, but he felt it.

He talked long and vehemently about the necessity of going outside one’s self, of transmuting one’s consciousness into that of another, of having something beyond one’s self to page: 275 live for. He told Anne, always with those yearning eyes fixed upon her, that what was wanted to revive the world and art (and by the world he meant himself) was passion; but not the mere sultry passion which his school had sung about, which merely enervated and sent to sleep, but the clear cold air, the whirlwinds and thunderstorms of ideal love—of love such as Dante had felt for Beatrice, and Heathcliff for Cathey. It was very eloquent and beautiful what he said about this love, which was something vague and quite unselfish and outside one’s self,—a sort of act of adoration and purification and renunciation,—a meeting of two souls which vibrated in unison in their desire for the good and the noble. While he spoke, Anne almost believed that he was sincere; sincere, indeed, he was, but according to his nature, not hers. She felt the tears coming into her eyes, and a vague wish to throw herself into his arms and implore him to cast aside his selfish habits, to live for the life of other men and page: 276 for her love, came to her heart. But when, suddenly, their conversation was interrupted by the entry of Edmund Lewis and Madame Elaguine, it all ebbed back, till her whole nature seemed to burst. She felt that he did not know what he was saying, what he did not comprehend what he was wanting; she felt the uselessness of saying to this man that the world and herself were waiting for him to love them, that her whole nature was sickening for want of one with which to vibrate in harmony of desire for the good and the noble. Cold Fremley, the sonnets, a hundred little words and looks which had made the chasm between them, returned to her. She felt once more alone, terribly and hopelessly alone.

And still, when she met her cousin Dick, and realised how different he was, how genuine and strong and passionate for good, she could not help experiencing a sort of repulsion from him, and a melancholy, hopeless throwing of herself back on to the unreal Hamlin. page: 277 She felt that Richard Brown, with all his nobility and energy of nature, would never have done for her what Hamlin had done, would never have been for her what Hamlin had been; that he would never have singled her out, her a mere servant, and guessed that in her there was a soul which could love and could aspire. But after all, why had Hamlin singled her out? and what had he guessed in her, what had he hoped from her? That line of Rossetti’s, which Hamlin admired more than any other, which he so often quoted— “Beauty like hers is genius,”— returned to her with a chill; and she felt that Hamlin wanted, expected from her that sort of passion which he had spoken of to revive him and his art. It seemed to her as if she had been sold in the slave‐market, and were being told “now love.”

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CHAPTER VI.

RICHARD BROWN did not let Madame Elaguine sit at his feet very long. After about a fortnight of extremely assiduous visits at the Russian lady’s house at Kensington, during which he poured out to the enthusiastic little woman all his philanthropical schemes, Richard suddenly gave up calling, and even avoided meeting Madame Elaguine at other houses.

“Why have you deserted Madame Elaguine so suddenly?” asked Anne of her cousin. To confess the truth, Anne was rather malicious in her question. She had speedily recognised the vanity, or rather the self‐sufficiency, the belief in his own irresistible uniqueness, which was the leaven of Cousin Dick’s virtues, and she had been amused from the first at seeing page: 279 how this earnest philanthropist had let himself be caught by Madame Elaguine’s conscious or unconscious instinct of flirtation; and now, she thought, Dick has suddenly awaked from his dream of having fascinated and converted her. Anne smiled as she asked the question, but there was sadness as well as amusement in her smile. In his way—his blind, self‐satisfied, unselfish way—Dick was as vain as Hamlin: wherever she looked vanity and hollowness met her, and she herself could not even conceive what vanity was.

“Why have you deserted Madame Elaguine?” repeated Anne.

Brown suddenly raised his big, rough, black head from the review which he had been mechanically looking at, and answered, looking straight in front of him—

“Don’t speak to me about Madame Elaguine; she is an odious woman.”

There was something brief and silencing in his tone which surprised Anne and precluded further questions.

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“In fact,” added Richard Brown, “if it were not that a woman like you will never even understand what Madame Elaguine is made of, I should peremptorily say that she is not a person for you to know.”

Anne was indignant, and yet, at the same time, a little shocked.

“Why, what has Madame Elaguine done?”

“Done!” answered Brown, half waiving the subject, and half insisting upon it, as self‐important men frequently do. “Why, she has done nothing. But that makes no difference; she’s an odious woman.”

Anne laughed bitterly. The whole world seemed so awry, every one seeing everything through the crooked spectacles of his own vanity. Now here was Dick insinuating evil against a woman because he had been such a big baby as to fancy her in love with him.

“Men are very unjust!” cried Anne; “they always trump up some mysterious sin to justify their unreasonable aversions.”

Brown reddened, and was on the point of page: 281 saying something. But he checked himself, and merely remarked—

“Oh, of course women always fancy that they understand each other better than a man can.”

“So they can! A woman can always understand another woman better than a man can, who attributes all sorts of nasty masculine faults to women, or suspects imaginary feminine ones, when he doesn’t see clear. Oh yes, I know: every woman is weak, vain, a creature of impulse and passion, something half‐way only between the man and the child, as I read in a French paper, with a kind of sham character, like the backbones of cartilage or jelly of some lower creatures!”

Brown shook his head.

“Most women are like that, but not all; not you, Anne, for instance.”

“Thank you,” answered Anne, scornfully.

“But all women, at least all noble women, are unable to judge of other women. How should they judge? It is only a man, or a page: 282 base woman, who knows of the mud out of which many women, like many men, are moulded.”

“One does not need to be base to know that,” said Anne, half to herself; and she thought of the mud which she had discovered in her own silver idol.

“I don’t think we are alluding to the same thing,” said Cousin Dick, turning off the conversation.

“Mere vanity, and the injustice of vanity,” said Anne to herself, and her pessimism became more confirmed. But later, although she continued to believe quite equally in Richard Brown’s vanity, she began to suspect that there had been in this coarse‐looking man a movement of modesty, an unwillingness to let her eyes rest upon some nasty thing which he had seen. But of this, at present, she had no idea, and Madame Elaguine, although she did not find much in common with her, became for Anne another victim of the vanity and injustice of the world.

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They saw a good deal of the little woman now. Anne thought she understood her thoroughly, and owned to herself that she had not understood her at first. She recognised that the little woman had much more character than she had at first imagined; and the impression of frailness, childishness, and helplessness which something in Madame Elaguine’s appearance, manner, and voice had at first given her, wore away so completely that she could scarcely believe it had ever existed. Eccentric and irresponsible she still seemed, always rushing from one enthusiasm to another, always thirsting for excitement; but Anne found that instead of a childish girl who could lean upon her, she had to deal with a woman, undisciplined and capricious indeed, but still, in many respects, more of a woman than herself. She was flighty and giddy like her own little girl in many respects, and fully as ignorant of many things; but she had a knowledge of sides of life which Anne instinctively guessed, and from which she re‐ page: 284 coiled recoiled . With an extraordinary love of the beautiful, the fantastic, and the ideal, which, as it made her dress herself in queer ingénue little costumes, also made her mould her conduct, ideas, and words rather theatrically in obedience to a conception of something striking and pretty,—Madame Elaguine had, at the same time, a vein—no, Anne thought it must be a mere exterior dab, not due to her inner nature, but to her Russian and Continental education—of coarseness, which surprised and pained Miss Brown. Once or twice, in Anne’s presence, she alluded to things in a manner which gave Anne a shock; and Anne, who, half Italian as she was, and wholly fearless and unprudish, would ask herself what right she had had to feel like that; she would analyse Madame Elaguine’s words, and find them, when measured by a Continental standard, very harmless; yet somehow, though she told herself that she was stupid and unjust, something of the painful impression would remain. Also, she could not conceive page: 285 how a woman could like to sit for hours, as Madame Elaguine did, on the score of spiritual séances, with a man like Edmund Lewis. She never heard him talk on anything objectionable to the Russian; and yet there was something to her inconceivable in the endurance of this man by a young woman. Anne came to the conclusion that she must be growing horribly prejudiced and unjust; and the less she could sympathise with some of Madame Elaguine’s tastes (though there was nothing really objectionable in them) the more did she force herself to try and understand, and make allowance for, and help the little woman. And one day Anne’s sympathies were really enlisted for her.

It was about Christmas, and Anne had prevailed upon Hamlin to accompany her and Madame Elaguine to a pantomime, to which the Russian was taking her little girl, and Anne the two Chough children. Anne amused herself heartily, as she always did, at every sort of theatrical performance, with the love page: 286 of shows and acting in her Italian blood; she was so happy laughing with the children, while Hamlin talked with his cousin and Chough in the back of the box, that that evening long remained a sort of oasis in the dreariness of her inner life. There was a tremendous crush in the lobbies and on the stairs;. and while Chough shoved on his two children, and Hamlin tried to make way through the crowd for his frail little cousin, who looked as if she would be knocked over and trampled like a feather, Anne, towering through the throng (and people turned to look at that magnificent pale face, set in crisp black hair, and said to each other, “Look there; that’s Miss Brown, the famous pre‐Raphaelite beauty”), held Sacha Elaguine’s little girl close in front of her, calmly making the crowd divide as a ship divides the water. They were fairly out of the theatre, on the steps looking out into the street, with the gas burning dim in the fog, and the long splashes of yellow light on pavement and wet cab‐tops, page: 287 waiting in the damp cold, while Chough called their carriage, and Madame Elaguine, leaning on Hamlin’s arm, the two little Choughs by her side, had heaved a sigh of relief, and exclaimed—

“Oh, how delicious it is to be in the cold, and fog, and dark, after that theatre!—”

When little Hélène Elaguine, who was holding Anne’s hand, and see‐sawing from one leg to another—while staring at the men in opera hats and comforters, and the ladies and children huddled in furs, and the policemen and cabmen who passed in front—suddenly gave a piercing shriek, and threw herself into Anne’s arms, clinging to her and burying her head in her pelisse.

“Good heavens! what’s the matter, child?” cried Anne, mechanically clasping the little girl round the waist.

“What’s the matter?” cried Hamlin, who had not seen this action.

But Madame Elaguine had let go his arm and darted forward, white as ashes, and seized page: 288 her child from Anne, and cried—“Let us go! let us go!” in an agonised voice.

The carriage came up, and she jumped into it, scarcely giving Hamlin and Anne time to follow, and leaving Chough and his children amazed before the theatre door.

The carriage stopped at her door in Kensington.

“I cannot pass this night alone with only Helen and the servants! I cannot, I cannot!”

And Madame Elaguine burst into tears, strangely intermingled with hysterical laughs.

“They want to take my child away; they are trying it again!”

“What is to be done?” asked Hamlin.

“I will stay to‐night with Madame Elaguine,” said Anne, with decision; “if you will go to Hammersmith and tell Aunt Claudia’s maid that your cousin was feeling ill, and I am staying with her till to‐morrow. Help Madame Elaguine out, will you?”

Hamlin lifted his cousin out of the carriage, while Anne took charge of the child, page: 289 whom its nurse carried up in a condition of lethargic sleep.

When they were in Madame Elaguine’s drawing‐room, the Russian took the child in her arms, and flinging herself on a sofa, burst out crying, her sobs interrupted by moaning complaints that some one wanted to take her child away.

“I will go to Hammersmith now, and leave you with her,” whispered Hamlin to Anne, who had knelt down by the side of the sofa.

“I will come to‐morrow morning for news; good night.”

“Good night,” answered Anne, under her breath.

But Madame Elaguine heard. She started up, and looking wildly about—

“Oh, don’t leave me alone yet!” she cried.

“Miss Brown will remain, Sacha,” said Hamlin.

“Oh, don’t leave me yet, Walter!” repeated page: 290 Madame Elaguine. “I am afraid—I am afraid of Miss Brown.”

“I think you had better remain, Mr Hamlin,” whispered Anne; “she will probably be quiet in a minute or two.”

Hamlin took a chair near the table, and looked on in surprise. Madame Elaguine was stretched on the sofa, her sleeping child pressed close to her; her little head, with its short pale curls, thrown back; her eyes half closed, moaning and gasping and sobbing; and Anne, kneeling by her side, looking anxiously into that curious, convulsed face.

“Do you think she is going to faint?” asked Hamlin of his cousin’s Swiss maid, who stood by, the picture of self‐satisfied composure.

“Oh no—Monsieur need be under no apprehension. Madame often had de ces crises; Madame was often frightened like that. It was the first time since Madame was in England, but it was quite common. Madame,” added the servant quietly, “has probably seen her black man—”

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“What black man?” asked Hamlin.

Sacha Elaguine had suddenly raised herself on her elbow,—as if she had heard the maid’s words.

“Take Mademoiselle Hélène to bed, Sophie,” she said quietly.

“Shan’t I take her?” asked Anne.

“Sophie knows how to manage her,” answered Madame Elaguine; and sitting up, she drew the half‐wakened child close to her and kissed her with convulsive passion. Yet she let the maid carry off the little one, and merely let herself slip down on the couch with a moan, putting aside her heavy fur and passing her hands through her pale blond hair, and moaning.

“Don’t you think you had better go?” said Anne to Hamlin. “I will look after your cousin.” She would loathe to have Hamlin sitting there, looking at her, if she were in Madame Elaguine’s condition.

Hamlin rose.

“Stop a minute,” said his cousin faintly, page: 292 turning round and fixing her vague northern blue eyes on him; “stop a minute, Walter.”

Hamlin remained standing, his eyes involuntarily fixed upon the curious spectacle of this prostrate little figure, panting and gasping as if going to die, and half unconscious of any one’s presence—her cloak thrown back on the sofa, her hair tangled, her bare arms and neck (for it was one of her caprices always to go the play, even to the pantomime, full dress) half covered by the fur of her pelisse and the lace of her dress.

“Stay a minute; I want to explain,” repeated the Russian, in a faint voice. “Anne—dear Anne—where are you?”

“Here I am,” answered Anne, in her cheerful strong voice; “do you want anything, dear Madame Elaguine?”

“I want you,” and Sacha flung her arms round Anne’s neck, and drew her dark head close to her own little pale yellow one. Anne felt her arms tighten passionately round her, her little hand tighten convulsively round her page: 293 neck, as if the half‐fainting woman would throttle her,—but she felt no fear, only a vague, undefinable repulsion. Madame Elaguine sighed a long sigh of relief, and loosened her hold; but she kept Anne’s face near hers, and kissed her with hot lips on the forehead.

“Dear Anne,” she said, “forgive me.”

“There is nothing to forgive,” said Anne, trying to get loose and to rise to her feet. But Madame Elaguine kept her down in her kneeling posture, her arm always round Anne’s shoulder.

“I must explain it all to you,” she said, in a slow, vague tone, fixing her eyes upon Hamlin. “Don’t think me very foolish or mad; but I thought they were again trying to carry off my little Helen,—they have tried before,—and they keep writing to me, telling me that they will carry off Helen or kill me. I don’t care about that,—but Helen!” and Madame Elaguine hid her face in Anne’s iron‐black hair.

Hamlin looked on as in a dream. It was a page: 294 curious sight, these two women, so different, and yet both so young and beautiful, the one clinging so to the other; and of the two, Madame Elaguine, whom he had never thought regularly handsome, with her thin, strange face, and red lips, and wild eyes, seemed to him at this moment the stranger and more beautiful of the two.

“I want to explain it all,” said Madame Elaguine. “Walter, give me that box—the little Indian inlaid one on the writing‐table—there, next to the palm‐tree.”

Hamlin brought the box; and Madame Elaguine, without letting go her hold of Anne, pressed a spring and opened it. It was full to the brim of letters—some large and folded in their envelopes, others mere scraps of paper. She took some out, and spread them on her knees.

“Look,” she said, letting Anne go, so that she could, while still kneeling, see the papers.

Anne raised herself, and Hamlin approached.

“Look at these,” said the Russian, carefully page: 295 handling the soiled and crumpled pieces of paper; “these are to me what love‐letters are to other women,—they are my life—my past, and my future.” And she fixed her eyes wildly on Hamlin. “As other women have lived on knowing that they were loved and would always be loved, so I have lived, ever since I was twenty, knowing that I was surrounded by invisible enemies, who would either put a sudden end to my life or protract it with their tortures. Ah! I know you think me giddy, and fickle, and childish; but you don’t know that I try to lose my wits in order that I may gain some peace!” her voice burst out hot and passionate.

Anne and Hamlin were shyly fingering the papers; they were all in the same hand—a curious, crabbed, left‐handed character—some in French, some in English, some in Russian, but all brief and to the same purpose: initials of which neither Anne nor Hamlin understood the meaning at the head, and below a threat of something terrible, sometimes left vague, page: 296 sometimes outspoken, as death, to what was styled the traitress. Many of them said that what could not be visited on the mother should be visited on the children, and all concluded with saying that wherever the traitress went she would be followed by invisible eyes and footsteps.

“It was all my fault in the beginning,” began Madame Elaguine, covering her eyes with her hands; “but I was very young, ignorant, and lonely; and after all, what harm did I do? I had been married when I was only seventeen to a man whom I thought of as a father; and little by little, when I found what sort of man he was—how base, and coarse, and cunning—I began to feel very lonely and empty‐hearted. I was too young to care for my children, who were babies, and I was a baby myself. But it was all so lonely, and the world so mean about me. I longed to be of some use, and able to sacrifice myself for something. And a man was sent across my path, twice as old as myself, whom I looked page: 297 upon as a father, and who treated me as a child; and this man used to talk to me, when my husband left me all alone to run after low women, and tell me all about the miserable condition of Russia, and how all the good was being stamped out, and only selfishness, and injustice, and corruption triumphed. He was a Nihilist himself, and one of their chief men—a wonderful man, who seemed so cold, and just, and honest. So, little by little, he converted me to his ideas, and I got to know other Nihilists, men and women, and heard a great deal about all sorts of terrible doings. I felt so happy and heroic—I was a fool, you see. Then I suddenly discovered that my hero was quite different from what I thought—that he had gained all this power over me only in hopes of making shameful use of it, and had cornpromised me with his party merely to make me his mistress. When I understood it, I drove him away, and threatened to tell all to my husband; and then he swore to get the better of me, and to use all the power of his society to page: 298 bring me, as he called it, to reason. For two years, while my husband was alive, I struggled with him, and he kept on threatening and hoping to frighten me. But when my husband died, I sold all the Russian property, and was preparing to leave the country, and then that man who hated me, just because in his way he had loved me, denounced me to his society as a traitor to the Nihilist cause, and as a person to be hunted down. And so, ever since, I have been persecuted with all the might of the Nihilists wielded by this man; and although I have been hundreds of times on the point of denouncing him and his associates to the Government, I have never done so, because I am still a Nihilist at heart, and hate the Russian Government as much as I hate him; and he, who knows it, knows I cannot defend myself, and employs his power in tormenting me.”

A convulsion passed across Madame Elaguine’s face; it dropped, like that of a dying person. But she started up suddenly, and went on with her story. For ten years nearly she had been page: 299 persecuted in this mysterious way; threatening letters had come to her by all manner of conveyances,—brought by the post, found on her table, dropped by invisible hands at her feet. Attempts had been made to poison her, stopped just in time to let her know of them—for the object seemed rather to make her life unbearable than to take it away; burning spirits of wine had been poured under her door; twice she had been shot at. But the most terrible part of the persecution had come when they had discovered her passionate love for her little girl (the boy, now at school, they had somehow let alone). Several times, in various places (for she was always on the move, flying her enemies), attempts had been made to carry off the child; once, at Cannes, she had gone to the window just in time to see a man snatch up the child, who was playing in the garden, and to fire off a revolver at him.

“If I had killed my child,” said Madame Elaguine, savagely, “it would have been better than to see her carried away from me.”

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The individual who had made these attempts she described as being very dark, as if his complexion had been altered by overdoses of nitrate of silver. And this man would every now and then, at unexpected moments, reappear, and his reappearance meant some fresh outrage. Poor little Helen had suddenly seen him, or thought she had seen him, among the crowd coming out of the theatre; and this had produced the child’s sudden fit.

“Ever since I have come to London,” said Madame Elaguine, “I have been comparatively quiet. I was almost forgetting all about my misfortunes, or thinking I was forgotten—and here it begins afresh;” and she burst into tears.

“Oh why, why cannot I be permitted to be happy for a little while—only a little while?” she cried.

Anne had listened awe‐stricken. She had always thought there was something mysterious about this giddy little woman. This frightful undeserved calamity struck down her page: 301 imagination; what right had she ever to feel unhappy in the presence of such misery as this?

“Perhaps,” she suggested timidly—“perhaps it may have been Helen’s fancy. As she is used to the idea of this black man, she may have imagined, being tired and overexcited from the play, that she saw him among the crowd.”

“Oh no, no, it was he, really he,” moaned Madame Elaguine, turning over on the sofa and burying her face in its cushions.

“You must go now,” whispered Anne to Hamlin; “there is no earthly use in your staying. I will sit up with her till she be quiet. Good night.”

“Good night;” and Hamlin, as he noiselessly opened the door, cast a last glance at that singular group in the rose‐coloured light of his cousin’s lamp,—Sacha, with her fur and lace all in disarray, gasping on the couch, her bare throat heaving, and one of her thin white arms hanging loosely by her side; and Anne page: 302 Brown, in her long plain white dress of high art simplicity of cut, stooping over her. For some time Anne sat by Sacha’s side, holding the Russian’s hot hand.

“Is Walter gone?” suddenly asked Madame Elaguine, turning her head.

“Mr Hamlin went some minutes ago.”

Madame Elaguine raised herself and sat up on the sofa, and passed her little hands through her disorderly yellow hair.

“Give me a kiss, Annie,” she said.

Anne stooped down and kissed her.

“Perhaps I had better go to bed now,” said Madame Elaguine.

“Shall I help you to undress?” asked Anne, who feared that Hamlin’s cousin might have another fit of hysterics.

“Oh no; call Sophie—she will undress me.”

On Anne’s call, the Swiss maid emerged from the next room.

“Put me to bed,” ordered Sacha, rising and leaning on the arm of the sofa.

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“May I really not help you?” asked Anne, for the maid looked so indifferent, nay, so sulky, and she seemed to handle her mistress so roughly, that Miss Brown wondered how Madame Elaguine, in her state of nerves, could endure to be helped by her.

Anne waited till Madame Elaguine was in bed.

“I have made up the bed for Mademoiselle in the spare room,” said the maid, looking at Anne with a curious insolence; and she led her up‐stairs. Anne did not put out the lamp, and she did not undress. She could not sleep; and she felt miserable at the notion of Madame Elaguine being left all alone on the first floor. What if the little woman should wake up with a panic, if she were to fancy that some of her mysterious persecutors were hiding in her room? Anne took the lamp, and silently descended into the drawing‐room. All was quiet. She sat down in an arm‐chair, and made up the dying fire. She felt very restless and unable to sleep. The whole scene page: 304 of this night and Sacha’s revelations had shaken her nerves and gone to her imagination. In her half‐drowsy, dreamy condition, everything seemed to her strange and eerie in this room, which was so unlike her own at Hammersmith. It was full of pretty things, but in great confusion; Sacha’s piano was still open, with a book of Rubinstein’s songs on it. There was a heap of dog’s‐eared French novels and recent volumes of poetry on the table, and the whole room was heavy with the scent of some Eastern drug and of Madame Elaguine’s Turkish cigarettes. On the table by Anne’s side were some books: she took up one, and opened it at random; it was Hamlin’s new volume. At the head of the page was the title, “Desire—XII. Sonnets,” and all along the margin was a faint line in pencil, and the words, in a childish hand, “How beautiful! and how TRUE!”

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