Polesheaton Post Office. "A WONDERFUL little town Polesheaton used to be," the locals say, shaking their heads with a sigh for Polesheaton's bygone glory. "As many as three coaches a day went through the place then, and what with changing horses and lunching at the Tatlocks' Arms, and something always wanting to be done at the smithy, and the guard bringing the landlord last week's London papers, Polesheaton were always in a bustle in them good old times."
|Silverbeach Manor by Margaret S. Haycraft|
Another elderly Polesheatonite takes up the lament. "The Tatlocks lived at The Grange in them days, and every afternoon some of them would be ordering something at the shops. Trades folks could live in them days, bless you. Them new-fangled stores up in London town weren't so much as thought of. Ah, Polesheaton has gone down since good King George were on the throne." Some think railways have been the root of Polesheaton's decay, others attribute the change to the telegraph wires now crossing the fields and roads, while the landlord of the Tatlocks' Arms puts the blame on the Good Templars temperance society. Be the cause what it may, Polesheaton prosperity is on the wane, and nobody knows that better than the trades people in the High Street -- once busy with coaches and carriages, for water in the old well in The Grange garden was then popularly esteemed medicinal. The small town is now chiefly the promenade of bullocks, sheep, and their attendant keepers. A few miles off, on the railway line, the town of Firlands has sprung into existence -- new, lively, attractive. Elegant houses are dotted here and there among the trees, while the shops in the Parade show more than one well-known London name. There is a luxurious reading room, in front of which the local board has erected a bandstand. How can little Polesheaton hold its own against its magnificent neighbour? "What a funny little place!" say the visitors from Firlands, who now and then drive through. "What a quaint, old-fashioned, forsaken little town! Good gracious, is that the post office?" Yes, it is, and the little post office is large enough for Polesheaton requirements. Government transactions are carried on in a corner of the little general shop, where Miss Temperance Piper sells sealing wax, spelling books, acid drops, notepaper, candles, and anything likely to yield a modest profit. Miss Piper is postmistress, Sunday school teacher, and a good friend to the poor. Nobody in Polesheaton is more respected than the spinster whose father and grandfather before her presided in the dingy little shop, with the gabled roof, and the swallows flying in and out above the door. Today Miss Piper is not often seen in the shop. The little thirteen-year-old maid-of-all-work, Deborah, is hemming an apron behind the counter and selling the occasional stamp, a packet of pins, and even a sheet of notepaper at rare intervals, wondering now and then why Miss Piper should be walking about in her bedroom upstairs with such agitated steps. Deborah decides her mistress must have toothache, and wishes Miss Pansy would come in so that something could be got from the chemist's. "But Miss Pansy gets dreaming in the woods," remembers Deborah, "and she ain't likely to get home afore her tea. 'Tis dull indoors for a beautiful young lady like Miss Pansy who seems quite grown up now she is sixteen years old." Meanwhile, Temperance Piper continued her walking upstairs, her concerns for the future very much on her mind. When christened Temperance by fond parents, Mr. and Mrs. Piper of revered memory doubtless had visions of their daughter growing up as the embodiment of all that is calm, peaceful, self-contained, prudent, and unruffled. By right of her name, Miss Piper should have a mind at ease and a snug little investment in the savings bank. But rates and taxes and the necessity of paying the wholesaler that supplies her shop, and the problem of keeping her own head and Pansy's above water for a succession of poorly paid years, have conspired to wrinkle the calm of the spinster's brow, and have put some grey hairs among the brown locks beneath her neat little cap. This morning the last straw seemed to have fallen in the shape of the lodger's notice to leave. An old bachelor brother of Parmer Sotham's has for some time occupied the two best rooms, but he objects to Pansy's violin, and after long murmurings he has packed his belongings for departure. "And to think anyone should have the heart to discourage Pansy, when even the organist at the church says her touch is wonderful," Miss Piper thinks indignantly. And then comes back the problem, "How can I add to my income?" Pansy has music pupils, but only the children of the villagers, and they can pay very little. Pansy needs the small amount of pocket money earned in this way for her clothes and books and music. "Pansy is a lady," Miss Piper thinks proudly, "and she looks as fine as Miss Adelaide Tatlock herself -- the one that married Sir Patrick Moreton -- when she goes out in her dove-coloured dress, with the pretty gold chain that was her mother's. Pansy mustn't be allowed to worry about old Mr. Sotham's going. She would cry her eyes out if she knew how hard it is to get along. I am sure nobody could eat less than I do. "Give me my tea and toast, and I'm satisfied. And Deborah isn't one of the wasteful sort either. I've never regretted taking that child from the Union workhouse, but somehow we can't keep our heads above water. Suppose I do try Mr. Lade's advice? Ever so many do in Firlands; and they say there's a good profit. After all, somebody else will if I don't." Miss Piper sinks upon the worn patchwork quilt that was her grandmother's, and wrings her hands in perplexity. Her cap falls a little to one side, and the side-combs loose in the prim, brown curls; but there is One who sees and knows that in that there is going on a conflict between conscience and expediency -- a battle between duty and temptation that will make the hour memorable through all her life. It seems but a little matter after all. A travelling book agent wants her to open her window for novelettes --halfpenny and penny dreadfuls -- for which he tells her there is a great and increasing demand, and on which he guarantees her a satisfactory profit. The villagers around Polesheaton would be sure to come for the next number if they once began the exciting adventures of Pedro van Mazeppo, the heroic boy brigand, or the romantic history of the lovely dairymaid who marries the baron. Temperance Piper has had some of these numbers to look over, but she likes neither the pictures nor the contents. More than once she has declined the agent's advice to thus increasing her income. She has a fair sale already for pure and innocent stories -- papers cheery at the fireside but harmless to the soul, and she has always set her face against over-sensational literature. Yet her poor, thin purse seems week by week to contain less and less, and Pansy has grown older now, with ever-increasing needs. She is even more painfully conscious than Pansy herself that the girl's boots need to be soled and heeled. Her last winter's jacket is patched at the elbows, and the straw of her dark-brown hat is frayed. Temperance thinks it is a shame for Pansy to have to go about so shabbily clad when all Polesheaton calls her so pretty. "Those novelettes might bring people into the shop," she thinks, doubtfully, "and then they might get their groceries here, instead of going on to Mr. Greggs' down town. I should not wonder if Mr. Greggs takes to selling novelettes presently as an attraction. Mr. Lade says Mrs. Price sells all the most exciting stories over at Fir Heath, and her husband is a churchwarden -- they are most respectable people. Surely there can be no harm in doing what Mrs. Price does." Then comes to Aunt Temperance the memory of her class of young girls in the Sunday school, guided by her influence, looking to her for helpful counsel and a Christian example. She thinks of the boys in the school Sunday after Sunday, with hearts impressionable for good or for evil. Shall she fill the minds of those growing girls with the notion that to be courted by the aristocracy is womanhood's noblest ambition? Shall she be the means of leading those boys to believe that highway robbery or piracy represents true courage and heroism and intrepidity? "It is very difficult to know what to do for the best," she sighs. "We are so miserably poor, and things look so bad in Polesheaton. There is old Mr. Sotham giving up the rooms today, and the agent calling with the novelettes this afternoon. I think I will sell them for a month or so, not as a regular thing, but just to bring custom into the shop. Then, when I can do a little better with the grocery and stationery, then I will make a clean sweep of such papers out of my place." So the window is filled that afternoon with sensational covers that fascinate a throng of young people hanging round Miss Piper's window, and the shop does a brisk trade in cheap "dreadfuls" day after day. Pansy becomes absorbed in the fortunes of a girl in circumstances as humble as her own, who is wooed under most romantic circumstances by "a noble-looking stranger with liquid dark eyes." Somehow Aunt Temperance does not find as much opportunity for private prayer as before -- does not "steal away to Jesus," as was her wont from the little dark shop and the counter sometimes. *** Months have rolled by, and it is the bright autumn weather when the trees around Polesheaton are a mass of vivid colouring, from the bright gold of the chestnut to wondrous shades of pink, and crimson that burns like fire. The Grange garden, full of magnificent old trees, is a marvel to behold. Part of the garden runs along the High Street, and only a high wall divides it from Miss Temperance Piper's humble little plot where she grows her marigolds and lavender and sweet herbs. Close to this wall is a friendly tree, and all her life long Pansy has loved, by using its branches, to seat herself on the dividing wall and gaze upon the magic grounds which seem to her like Fairyland. Wonderful people have come and gone from The Grange. It belongs to Sir Patrick Moreton now, and he is a foreign ambassador, so the old Grange is occasionally let furnished to those recommended country rest, though everyone gets tired of it and wonders how the residents of Polesheaton manage to exist at all. Pansy is inclined to ask the same impatient question this bright autumn day as she sits on the wall and peruses the last number of The History of the Gipsy of Grosvenor Square. "I am so sick and tired of being poor!" she cries restlessly. "One might as well be buried alive as live in Polesheaton, and sew and dust and teach music to stupid children, and do just the same dull things over and over again every day. Oh, I do wish something would happen. I wish some of my mother's friends would die and leave me ever so much money. I would be able to make Aunt Temperance rich and happy all her life, and Deb could be my maid, and I would pension old Mr. Wells because he taught me music, and Mrs. Wells because she taught me French. Then Auntie and Deb and I would turn our backs on Polesheaton for ever, and we would live in London all our lives. I would go to the theatre every night, and wear sapphires and diamonds, and ride in the Row, and marry a marquis, an earl, or a duke. Why, one never sees anybody titled in stupid old Polesheaton!" Suddenly Pansy starts, and bends her head down over her novelette with a blush. She can usually get off the wall without detection, but today she is too late. She has not heard the rubber tyred wheels of a Bath chair, and she opens her dark eyes in confusion, wonder, and admiration as she sees in the chestnut-walk a footman propelling a lady with a quantity of light coloured, dense hair, with a handsome fur cloak around her shoulders. Mrs. Adair is a worshipper of beauty, and is quite struck by the picture before her. Pansy looks so pretty among the leaves in her old crimson dress, her auburn waves of hair rippling around her brow. "Do not move!" Mrs. Adair exclaims, rousing a little from her lethargy. "Let me sketch you just as you are. Robson, pass me my sketchbook, and leave me here for half an hour." Pansy sees and hears as in a dream. She watches the movements of the lady's pencil, but can scarcely realize that the new tenant of Polesheaton Grange actually cares about taking her likeness. What would the Sotham girls say -- Martha Sotham, who never knows how to put on a hat properly; and Ellen, who actually brought her new jacket at that grand shop in Firlands? But no real lady has ever asked to take their portraits. "Quite out of the ordinary," murmurs Mrs. Adair. "The idea of meeting such a refined expression among these benighted rustics! I suppose the child is lodging at the post office. Very well, she will amuse my solitude in these wilds. What is your name, my child?" "Pansy," says the girl timidly, because the surname Piper has always been to her an affliction grievous to be borne. "Pansy. What a charming name! You look like a little flower yourself. I have made an excellent sketch." "Pansy was my mother's name. She was an officer's daughter," says the girl, anxious to show she is not of the race of the Sothams and the other Polesheaton families. Mrs. Adair is a trifle deaf, but she keeps her infirmities in the background. "You are so far away up there," she says. "I want a chat with you, Pansy. I wish you could come over this side and keep me company." "The little door that leads from the garden into the High Street was open just now -- I looked in at the dahlias," says Pansy, with an excited face. "Shall I come in that way, your ladyship?" Mrs. Adair smiles and nods, and Pansy rushes back to her room and hastily puts on her best dress: a blue alpaca with violet quilting made in Polesheaton style by the village dressmaker. "Why, Miss Pansy, whatever have you gone and put your best frock on for?" cries Deborah, as Pansy hurries through the shop. But the girl makes no reply. She feels that she stands on the threshold of a fairy-like, enchanting, heart-satisfying world, for has not a lady of position, with a splendid fur cloak, recognized her superiority to Polesheatonites in general, and invited her across the threshold of that wonderful garden sacred to all the traditions of the Tatlocks and their noble friends? Chapter 2 Fashionable Society. WHATEVER have you done to yourself?" Mrs. Adair asks, putting up her eyeglass in languid disapproval of Pansy's Sunday dress. "Where is the pretty red frock that made such a gipsy of you among the leaves?" "It was old," stammers Pansy. "The sleeves were torn. I had it four years ago. This dress was new only last month." But she understands the lady's smile, and hates and despises this dress from that time forward. "The style is a little out of date, but it is good enough for the country," says Mrs. Adair, indulgently. "Most of the people round here look as if Mrs. Noah had designed their garments. I should like to see you in a really well-made dress. It would be quite a new sensation for you, if you really belong to these wilds. I have a crimson and gold tea gown that would suit you delightfully, and make you quite a treasure for an artist." Pansy thinks wistfully that her life is condemned to a place where tea gowns are unknown and unappreciated, and where, year after year, she will be doomed to blush unseen, knowing the brilliancy and glory of the fashionable world only by the pictures and stories in the novelettes Aunt Temperance sells. Her large expressive eyes look at Mrs. Adair. "Are you an artist, my lady?" she asks, timidly. "My tastes lie that way, child, but I have such poor health that I paint but little now. My nerves are out of tone, and the artistic flame consumes my constitution -- so the physicians tell me. But I used to paint once." Mrs. Adair sighs a little, perhaps in memory of long-past struggling days, when she knew all the rapture and anxieties of an art career before she chose the luxury offered by a loveless marriage with an elderly, wealthy man who lifted her beyond the reach of want, and clad her in "purple and fine linen." Somehow, from that time her artistic power began to wane. Mrs. Adair is a widow now, with far more money than she can spend on her own ease and enjoyment, but from the hour she turned her back on Truth, and promised her love to one who had not in the remotest degree reached her heart, she lost the capacity of an artist in its highest, best, and most glorious degree. Still, as she says, her "tastes lie that way," and her beautiful riverside mansion, Silverbeach Manor, far away from here in the County of Surrey is the resort of artists, both amateur and professional. Pansy tells the story of the elopement of her mother, an officer's daughter, with her father, who was her music teacher. "Of course it was a marriage considered by many to be much beneath my mother's family," she says. "Grandfather cast her off, being related himself to the nobility." After the death of Pansy's parents, Aunt Temperance Piper had wholly provided for Pansy, planning for her, trying ineffectually to save money for her, dreaming of her, adoring her, counting the pretty, clever child as the apple of her eye. Polesheaton people could relate considerably more than Pansy now tells Mrs. Adair, who forms the opinion that it is rather a pity for such an attractive-looking girl to be hidden away in a remote country post office. She is amused to see Pansy's cheeks flush and her eyes brighten to hear of London and London gaieties. Mrs. Adair is entrancing the girl by an account of the occasion when she was presented at Court, and in imagination Pansy is sailing up to her Majesty Queen Victoria in a low-necked dress and feathers, and a brocaded train (a full account of which would, of course, appear in The Polesheaton Herald, to the dismay and envy of the Sotham girls from the farm), when a face peers through the open garden door, catches sight of a glimpse of Pansy's dress amid the trees, and Deb rushes excitedly into the garden. "There, Miss Pansy, if the girl at the baker's didn't say she saw you come in here! But I couldn't never believe it!" "Go away, Deborah!" says Pansy with forced dignity, adding in a low voice, "Please excuse her, your ladyship. She is only a common girl we took out of the workhouse -- a girl who does not belong to anybody. Who gave you permission to come into the lady's garden, Deborah? " "Nobody didn't, Miss Pansy, but mistress is out, and there's a party came after Spanish onions, and mistress didn't tell me nothing about them. What is Spanish onions a pound, please, Miss Pansy? " Deb takes no notice of the fair, frizzled hair, the dainty bonnet, or the magnificent cloak. Her whole soul is engrossed in the necessity of obtaining the price of the onions for her mistress. "I know nothing about it -- go away directly," says Pansy, haughtily. "Anyways, I can book them onions," cries Deb, a happy thought suddenly striking her, as she runs off to debit the customer with the purchase. "What a little barbarian!" says Mrs. Adair. "A workhouse child must be hopeless material as regards uplifting. But here comes Robson to take me in. You will lunch with me, of course? Pray do, for I am all alone today, and shall be miserably dull." Pansy detects no selfishness in the invitation. It is market day, and Miss Piper will not be home for some time. As a rule, Pansy would dine off mince and suet pudding in company with Deb. Her heart thrills within her as she follows the Bath chair to the thick, dark yew hedge near the old entrance hall, and passes beneath the portals whence bygone Tatlocks issued to marriage, ball, and rout -- ay, and to more than these; but Pansy's excited thoughts can couple with wealth and fashion nothing but the festive and the glad. At table she is much overawed by the size of the dining room, hung with ancestral paintings, and oak panelled up to the ceiling. She pictures the lovely Lady Berengaria from her story banqueting here by the side of the young baron who wears her glove at joust and tournament, but she is roused from these legendary glories by uncertainty as to the right way of eating her fish, and perplexity as to the nature of the dish Mrs. Adair recommends, the name of which is in some foreign language. It seems to Pansy that the noiseless footman keeps his eye upon her awkwardness, and notices her every difficulty. She is dreadfully afraid of him, and little dreams at this moment that the time will come when it will be as natural to her for fawning attendants to anticipate her every want, as for her to sit down to French dishes every day of her life. Pansy becomes far more at her ease when, in the music room, she finds an old, sweet-toned violin, and surprises and delights Mrs. Adair by notes that seem the outpouring of a restless human heart. "Why, child," exclaims her hostess, reclining on the couch, "your touch is superb. Wherever have you learned to play like that?" "People say I inherit father's touch," says Pansy, the colour coming and going in her face as the sweet harmonies seem still echoing around. "The organist at the church has taught me all I know. I have Father's violin, but it is nothing like this.' "A country organist! My dear child, such a touch as yours deserves the highest cultivation. Your aunt should secure for you the first professors of the day." "There is no music in Aunt Temperance," says Pansy, discontentedly. "She used to sing me to sleep when I was little, and she likes the Sunday school hymns, and things like those, but of real music she knows nothing at all." "It is a thousand pities," says Mrs. Adair, "that you cannot receive the training your talent deserves. You are a born violinist. Now play me something light and pretty." Pansy breaks into a joyous gavotte, like the dancing of a fairy throng across the flowers, and then Mrs. Adair takes her upstairs and brings out the crimson and gold tea gown, and bids her array herself for once in a dress that was made in Paris. "And there comes a visitor," she exclaims, as a ring resounds through the house. "Come down just as you are, Pansy. I expect it is Cyril Langdale, the portrait-painter. He will be enraptured." Pansy steals a glance at the mirror, and scarcely recognizes herself. She looks so tall and womanly, so different from her everyday self in the graceful, clinging folds of the silk-lined cashmere, trimmed with lace of the colour of old gold. Is she dreaming? Will she wake and find herself in the bed in the attic, with the worn curtains at the window, the broken jug and basin, and the china dog with the chipped nose upon the mantelpiece? Cyril Langdale, a tall, extremely handsome man in a black velvet coat, with long, curling black hair, a silky moustache, and an exotic flower in his buttonhole, becomes to her the picture of the most noble, manly, and exquisite man in her beloved romances. Surely the noble youth who tore sweet Genevieve from her tyrant father in last week's Charmer must have looked exactly like this aristocratic gentleman. Or perhaps Sir Humphrey de Lovelocks, who so gallantly assisted Lady Phyllis to escape from the parental roof by means of the creeper beneath her lattice window. It occurs to Pansy that in her romances parents are always tyrants, and daughters are oppressed. Langdale is quite unprepared for the charming vision that brightens the music room where tea is served. He is an old acquaintance of Mrs. Adair's, a very accomplished portrait painter and a society pet. Just now he is staying at the new town of Firlands, and has driven over to while away an hour with his friend, Mrs. Adair. The lady now sees that her protÃ©gÃ©e has made a great impression on the artist, and while Pansy plays again by her request, she tells him in a low voice how she has discovered this charming little damsel among the savages of Polesheaton. "I have been recommended to engage a young, lively companion by my physicians," she says. "I may probably take this girl to London with me. Her face is like a picture." "I should like to paint her as the 'Gipsy Countess'," says Langdale. "The colouring of the face is perfect -- like the blush of a peach." So they discuss her, as though, indeed, she were a painting, while on Pansy's senses the glow of the fire that is lighted every gloaming, the gleam of the silver tea service, the delicious tea and cream and dainty cakes, the scent of the flowers in the vases, combine to produce a rapturous impression. Happy the people who live day by day in an atmosphere like this -- the people to whom sorrow and depression and discontent must be utterly unknown! Cyril Langdale pays her a few sweet compliments in his low, confidential voice, as concerns her playing, and then sits down in the dusk at the piano, and sings in a rich baritone voice an Italian love song. Pansy does not understand a word, but she is entranced by his voice and the tenderness of the melody, and she is startled as from a vision when Mrs. Adair tells her the "dressing-bell" is ringing, and she had better run home now, but she can come in and take tea with her again tomorrow afternoon. Cyril Langdale opens the door for her, and she runs upstairs alone to remove the gorgeous tea gown and don once more her dreadful dress of violet and blue that she now sees to be altogether too short, too baggy, and deficient in taste and style. Yet this sort of thing is to be her fate in wretched old humdrum Polesheaton. The angry tears rise to Pansy's eyes as she drags her ill-fitting bodice together. Her aunt and Deb are taking tea in the kitchen by the light of a solitary candle. To Deb, set in the midst of a home after ten years of workhouse life, there is quite a lavish grandeur about this evening meal, by the side of a cosy fire, a round of toast in front of her, and old Tab the cat blinking and winking close by. To Pansy, however, fresh from the silver service and eggshell china, the frosted cakes and luscious cream, the noiseless carpet and long-haired Persian chinchilla kitten on the Eastern rug, the whole scene seems common in the extreme, and she sits down in the elbow-chair that was her grandfather's, feeling wretched. "Oh, Miss Pansy, to think of your getting your dinner with the quality!" cries Deb, excitedly. "Do tell us what they gave you, miss. I've heard tell it's a gentleman cook just now at The Grange." "I will thank you not to be so free, Deborah," says Pansy, with dignity. "There is nothing at all strange in my being invited to The Grange. I think you forget I am a lady myself -- a lady by birth." "I didn't know, miss," says Deborah, meekly: "I begs pardon. Will I make you some toast, Miss Pansy?" "No, indeed. I have had my tea with Mrs. Adair, and she has asked me to spend tomorrow afternoon with her as well." "Oh, but, my dearie, that is the afternoon we make out the bills together! My poor head would be lost without yours now, Pansy," says Aunt Temperance. "I have to bake in the morning, otherwise we could do the bills then." "Oh, the bills must wait!" says Pansy, impatiently. "I am not going to miss a visit to The Grange for a lot of stupid bills." "Can't I do them, mistress?" asks Deb, anxiously. "I keeps my own accounts of the shilling a week you gives me. I'll be ever so careful, if only you'll try me, mistress. I does want to help you all I can." "So do I, of course," says Pansy, now in tears. "You need not praise yourself at my expense, Deborah -- putting me down before my own face like that! I'll do your bills if they are so particular, Aunt Temperance -- never mind about my losing the visit." "Nay, my dearie, you get but little pleasure. The bills must just wait," says Aunt Temperance, gazing fondly at the weeping girl. "You are overtired, Pansy, and you must go early to bed and dream of your treat tomorrow. The lady must be very kind to take such notice of my Pansy." But in her secret heart Miss Piper is just the least bit jealous of this grand, strange lady who has fascinated her Pansy. Chapter 3 Pansy's Choice. PANSY wears the red dress with a bit of old lace that was her mother's around her neck, and goes to afternoon tea at The Grange as arranged. The next day she lunches there, and the following day Mrs. Adair drives her over to Firlands, and they have table d'hÃ´te lunch at the Royal Hotel. Quite a new world of refinement, fashion, and rapture seems revealed to Pansy's eyes. Aunt Temperance and Deborah are extremely proud to think of Pansy riding in Mrs. Adair's landau, and Deborah reduces the second Miss Sotham to the depths of curiosity and envy by a recital of Pansy's grandeur and festivity, while selling the farmer's daughter a stamp. Events are rare now-a-days in Polesheaton, and the exciting news soon spreads across the district that "Pansy Piper and her ladyship at The Grange be as thick as two peas." Scarcely a day goes by without a visit from Pansy Piper to Mrs. Adair. There is plenty of old music about the music room once used by the Tatlocks, and Pansy comes across sweet, dreamy melodies for the violin which she loves to try over in that beautiful retreat, with the scent of flowers all around, and Mrs. Adair's elegant dress sweeping the couch, and as often as not Cyril Langdale close by to pour honeyed words into the young girl's ear, and vouchsafe his charming smile in response to her shy, faltering speech. "Such a dear, unsophisticated little thing!" mentally soliloquizes Mrs. Adair. "Quite a child of Nature. I am wearied of those animated fashion-plates one sees every day of one's life. It would be a new enjoyment to introduce this lovely child to society and witness the sensation caused by her beauty and her genius. I should take fresh interest in going into society as chaperone of little Pansy, my adopted daughter, but of course she would take my name -- Pansy Piper is too dreadful." "Think well before you burden yourself with a charge like this," says a lady friend of Mrs. Adair's, staying at the Firlands Hydropathic. "A young person removed from her proper station and introduced into society cannot be got rid of like a bird, a poodle, or a picture of which one has grown tired. If you take this young villager to Silverbeach with you, let it be as a paid companion. Give her an annual salary, and agree as to a term of notice if unsatisfactory." But in her secret heart Mrs. Adair feels she wants somebody to belong to herself entirely, somebody who will have no ideas and plans apart from her own. She is growing fond of Pansy and thinks she will be proud of her when society vindicates her approval. A scheme gradually possesses her to place this talented, affectionate girl in the position of a daughter or young sister of her own. One afternoon she is teaching Pansy how to elaborate a heron in needlework, and the girl is contrasting the graceful sewing with the mending and darning to which fate has condemned her so long, when Mrs. Adair says, caressingly, "Will you miss me very much, petite, when I go back to town?" Pansy looks up in blank dismay. "I thought you were going to stay all the winter," she falters. "I have taken The Grange till February," says Mrs. Adair, "but even the fine air would never induce me to winter at Polesheaton. I shall spend Christmas in the South of France, and then settle down again at my own place in Surrey, Silverbeach Manor -- the most comfortable house in England. Mr. Adair was always adding hot water pipes, or corridor-lounges, or a lift, or something to make Silverbeach Manor perfect. It is a home of luxury, but I get tired of it every now and then. It is bearable in the spring and summer, though, and I always like the South of Europe in the winter. Polesheaton is altogether too humdrum for me, my dear child. You people do not live here, you vegetate, and how you exist in Polesheaton I cannot imagine. I think of starting this day week." Pansy makes no reply, but Mrs. Adair sees that the dark eyes are full of tears and the pretty face is wistful and miserable. To Pansy, Mrs. Adair's departure means the return to the monotony that the reading of romances hour by hour has made all too distasteful -- serving in the shop, writing Aunt Temperance Piper's bills, mending old dresses, teaching dull music pupils their notes, dreaming in vain of lords and ladies and silk attire and marble halls. "Pansy," says Mrs. Adair, conscious of the generous magnificence of the proposal, "I have become attached to you, and my physicians advise for me to mix in young society. I thought of advertising for a companion, but I prefer to mould one for myself, and then I shall be sure to get just what I wish. I am thinking of adopting you, Pansy, as my companion, and if you give me satisfaction, probably as my heiress. What do you say to the notion? Will you leave Polesheaton behind for ever, and enter society under my care?" "Oh, Mrs. Adair!" The colour comes and goes in Pansy's face, and the dimples shine joyously about the rosy lips as she takes in the meaning of these momentous words. Leave Polesheaton behind, and enter a world of Paris-made dresses and exquisite music and cushioned carriages and hothouse flowers! Well, such a destiny is hers by right, for was not her mother of aristocratic descent? Who would have thought, three weeks ago, that the magic gates of Fashion would ever have opened to her vainly longing life? She is to be a society heroine like the Duchess Montresor, or the lovely Lady Alexia Seeton of last week's halfpenny novelette. Who will be the hero of her life-romance? The rose flush deepens as before her eyes there comes the exquisite vision of Cyril Langdale. "It would be useless for you to buy things here," says Mrs. Adair. "Polesheaton drapery must have some out of the ark, but I will get you a travelling costume at a Firlands shop, and an afternoon shopping for clothes for a lady will set you up respectably. For a year or two I think you will not need a maid, but when you really enter society it will be different," Pansy agrees, not having the slightest idea what a maid could do for her. She is so excited and bewildered that she gives the heron a gold leg instead of a crimson one, and spoils Mrs. Adair's pattern for a while; but her hostess is graciously forgiving, and talks to her about foreign music masters and dancing lessons, and a teacher of languages, and a governess to read with her a couple of hours a day. Pansy begins to feel quite accomplished already, and her heart sinks within her when the dressing-bell rings, which is the signal for her departure. "I must go up at once," says Mrs. Adair, consigning the heron to a quilted satin work bag. "I am expecting friends to dinner. In a few days you will have suitable dresses of your own, and dine with me every evening." "Mrs. Adair," falters Pansy, "I quite forgot Aunt Temperance. Am I to tell her what is going to happen?" "No, I think not. I would rather speak to her myself, and enter at once on a proper understanding. I am sure she is a most worthy, respectable person, and will see things in a commonsense light. Tell her I will call to see her tomorrow afternoon." *** "I'm sorry Mrs. Adair chose tomorrow, for it's washing-day. But she means to do the polite thing, and seeing she has given you so much pleasure, Pansy, I'll be honoured to make the lady's acquaintance," says Miss Piper, cutting for her niece a slice of the homemade cake at tea. "We'll make the washing a day later, and Deb will sweep out the parlour. And you had better fill the vases, Pansy. There's a lot of pretty leaves about even now." "You haven't told Miss Pansy the news, mistress," says Deb, venturing gently to nudge her employer. "No more I have. There's real good news for us, Pansy. Now, just guess what has happened today." Pansy looks with dazed eyes from one to the other. Can it be that some rumour of the glory nearing her own changed existence has reached these two, eating their humble meal with such congratulatory looks? "The lodgings is let," cries Deb triumphantly, taking a complacent bite as she nods her little red head with the tiny cap. "Old Mrs. Mullins is a-going to retire from the butter shop, her son out in Australy a-settling of some money on her, and she's to be a permanent at ten shillings a week, ain't it, mistress?" "And coal and lights extra," says Miss Piper. "It's more than Mr. Sotham paid, Pansy, but we've always been friendly with Mrs. Mullins, and she wants to be with someone she knows now she's getting infirm. The rooms have been empty a long, long time, but it's a providential mercy, my dear, we're letting them so well at last." "And Mrs. Mullins is deaf," says Deb, "so she won't mind your violin practising, Miss Pansy." Pansy smiles a little, thinking how unimportant is this news which so excites her aunt and Deb. Fancy caring about a new lodger -- a common old woman from the dairy shop -- when very soon the lodgings and this little kitchen, and the oil lamp, and the brown teapot and the homemade bread will have vanished into the past, and the reality will be a mansion as grand as The Grange, with liveried servants, late dinners, and all the enchanting experiences of Lady Alexia and the Duchess from her stories! The commencement of Pansy's grandeur is marked by a night of sleeplessness, which leaves her with a headache and a rather cross feeling. It irritates her to see Aunt Temperance display for Mrs. Adair's benefit the wax flowers and the bits of coral, the pink vases and the rosy-cheeked shepherdess, which only make their appearance from the parlour cupboard on high days and holidays and state occasions. As if Mrs. Adair would give two glances at the waxen leaves and apples, or find any beauty in the speckled green table-cover out of which Aunt Piper is smoothing the wrinkles! And then she recognizes it is for her sake and in gratitude for kindness shown to her that all this trouble is taken, and better feelings take the place of the impatience. "Dear old Aunt Temperance!" she thinks. "What a careworn, anxious life hers has been. Her days of cutting and contriving are over now, thank Heaven. Mrs. Adair is so rich that, of course, adopted by her, I shall have plenty of money to spare for dear old auntie. She must give up the shop and take one of those little villas at Firlands, and lead a calm, happy, cloudless existence for the rest of her life. I am so glad I shall be able to repay Aunt Temperance for her love and goodness to me, in some measure at last." About three o'clock Mrs. Adair sails into the shop, and Temperance Piper, curtseying, conducts her to the parlour and pulls forward for her the easy chair with the crochet antimacassar, representative of the Queen in her coronation robes. "I am sure, ma'am," she says, "I am more indebted to you than I can say for the notice you have taken of our Pansy. She has never enjoyed herself so much in her life before. I hear you're not staying much longer in Polesheaton, ma'am, but I hope you'll do me the honour to take away some of my blackberry preserve. It's a recipe I had from my grandmother, and she used to be housekeeper at Tatlock Grange." "Indeed, a most respectable person, I am sure," says Mrs. Adair, elevating her eyeglass, and turning a little wearily towards Temperance Piper, "but I never eat preserve. What becomes of all that is made at Silverbeach I am sure I do not know. I suppose the servants must give it away. Well, Miss Piper, I cannot stay long, for unfortunately I have to visit the dentist at Firlands; but I have called to arrange, once and for all, about Pansy. You will be surprised to hear that the best and greatest advantages are offered to Pansy. I have made up my mind to adopt her. Ah, here she is. I am just telling your worthy aunt, my dear, that you will accompany me next week to town." Miss Temperance Piper gazes from one to the other in dazed bewildered silence. She looks so white that Pansy is a little frightened and clasps her in her arms. "Auntie, if you refuse your consent I will never, never leave you. But I am so tired of this humdrum life, and I should so like to see the world a little, and above all become a great and famous violinist. If you will let me go, dear, darling Aunt Temperance, I will write to you constantly, and come every now and then to see you, and I will take care that you are rich and happy -- your cares will be over for ever." "I beg pardon, Mrs. Adair," says Miss Piper, tremblingly, "my head is all confused. I don't think I understand." "I offer," says Mrs. Adair, "to adopt your niece, to treat her in all respects as belonging to me, and to care for her future. She will receive educational and social advantages that would be impossible here, and that will prove costly and expensive. It may be that she will even be my heiress if our attachment deepens with coming years. All I require in return is that she shall belong to me absolutely and entirely. She is to take my surname of Adair. She is to give up all connection with Polesheaton, and entirely sever herself from relations in a sphere quite removed from that which will be her own." "Do you understand, Pansy?" says Miss Piper, in tones a little sharper than her usual gentle accents. "This lady offers to adopt you, and make you rich and clever and a grand lady, but you are to have nothing more to do with Polesheaton. You are to give up your old home and your Aunt Temperance for ever." "Yes, that is my meaning," says Mrs. Adair, decisively. "It never answers for young people to belong to two different conditions of life. If you wish to enter society, Pansy, you must turn your back completely on your past. At the same time, to render Miss Piper's circumstances more comfortable, I intend to present her, on your departure, with a cheque for fifty pounds." "Begging your pardon, ma'am, I will take not so much as a farthing from you," says the little spinster lady, her breath coming and going rapidly. "I see your offer is for my Pansy's good, but I beg you will not offer money to make up for my child. I have loved her like my own, and will not stand in her way now. Pansy, my darling, my child, you must choose for yourself. It's a choice soon settled one way or the other -- Polesheaton or society; your aunt and Deb and the shop, or becoming one of the quality." Pansy takes her aunt in her arms and presses tender, tearful kisses upon the prematurely wrinkled cheeks; but before Mrs. Adair goes to the dentist the choice is made. "I want to rise in life, Aunt Temperance," says Pansy. "I cannot endure this dull, common life at Polesheaton. I love you with all my heart, but I never shall have such a choice again. I think it would be wicked to turn my back on Mrs. Adair's most generous offer. It would be like flying in the face of Providence." Chapter 4 Brilliant Prospects THE last week at Polesheaton is a restless, uncomfortable one, and Pansy heartily wishes it over. Deb is in a constant state of wonder, admiration, and incredulity, and it annoys her young mistress to find that her admission into fashionable circles should excite such astonishment around. All Polesheaton seems to gaze after her open mouthed and open eyed when she ventures down the High Street. "Are you really going to be a lady, Pansy?" asks Ellen Sotham, the farmer's daughter, who has made an errand with her sister to the post office on purpose to interview Pansy. "I am adopted by Mrs. Adair, of Silverbeach Manor -- the lady at The Grange," says Pansy, somewhat stiffly. A short time ago she enjoyed a chat with Ellen Sotham, who was sent by admiring parents to the "finishing school" in the country town, and holds her head rather high in Polesheaton in consequence. But in future between herself and the Sothams there is a great gulf fixed. Pansy feels they are not the kind of people society expects her to know. "Well, think of that now -- you a fine lady, Pansy!" says Martha, the elder sister. "They say Mrs. Adair is rolling in money, and has nobody to leave it to. You might be a lady of property one of these days, Pansy. Don't it seem funny to think of it?" "Your Aunt Temperance will be lonesome. Isn't she feeling it very much?" asks Ellen, who is intensely jealous in her heart of Pansy's change of fortune, and thinks Mrs. Adair might have made a far better choice had she looked nearer Polesheaton Farm. "No, she takes it quite quietly," answers Pansy. "Of course, Aunt Temperance has often said she wished she could do more for me, seeing my mother was a lady; and now there is a chance of my getting on in life, she would not for worlds stand in the way. I quite intend to make Aunt's fortune one of these days, for she has been so good to me all my life." "Yes," says Martha, "your aunt do take it wonderful quiet, Pansy. Folks are saying they should have thought she'd have fretted a deal more over losing you." "Aunt is very busy preparing for our new lodger," says Pansy. "She is making new chintzes for the chairs, and washing the blind, so her mind is full of other things. And it wouldn't be like Aunt Temperance to fret over anything that's for my good." All the same, Pansy is thankful in her heart when the week draws to an end, for the look in Temperance Piper's eyes as they follow her here and there brings the tears to her own, and sometimes the feeling rushes upon her that her aunt's heart may quietly break when she is gone, and that it is wicked to sever her life from the one that has sacrificed days and nights for her. If nobody else understands what lies beneath Miss Temperance Piper's quietude, little Deb comprehends her mistress. She lies awake in her little attic, wondering if she could learn the violin, and make tidies for the chairs, and fill the vases, and thus in some degree make up for the absence of beautiful Miss Pansy. Meanwhile, she keeps the shop like a new pin, and polishes the counter till it shines, and surprises Miss Piper by rising early so as to bring some look of pleasure to that pale, bewildered face. At last the day of departure comes round. Long before she is due at The Grange, Pansy arrays herself in the drab travelling costume trimmed with brown fur that has been made at the leading Firlands draper's, and wanders about her room, scarcely caring to go downstairs and face her aunt at breakfast. Deb has received a bequest of her old dresses and many of her possessions, but for all that the little handmaid's eyes are red as she boils an egg in honour of the traveller, and places before Pansy a quarter of a pound of best fresh butter and one of Miss Piper's best baked loaves. "Make a good breakfast, darling," says Aunt Temperance, cheerily. "The egg is boiled just as you like it, and I have ground you some fresh coffee and made it half with milk as a treat." Then the remembrance comes to her that this is the last meal she will provide for Pansy, and Miss Piper is in half a mind to retreat to the washhouse, lest Pansy might be depressed by her looks. "I will write and tell you of our arrival at Silverbeach Manor. We are to stay there a fortnight before we travel," says Pansy huskily. "I am certain Mrs. Adair will let me write to you now and then, auntie dear -- she is kindness itself." But Miss Piper understands that the lady who has adopted her child is kind in her own way and according to her own will -- selfish even in her liberality -- and she expects very little from Pansy's promises of letters. "I wonder when we shall see you again, Miss Pansy?" says Deb, laying a timid, reverent finger on the fur. "Lawks, miss, what a sight of money that there must have cost!" But the costly furs represent nothing like the love which baked the loaf and ground the coffee, and searched for that new laid egg for Pansy's last breakfast in Polesheaton. "Well, I must be going," says the girl, trying to speak briskly. "Take care of my chickens, Deb, and Auntie darling, I know you will give my canary his Sunday groundsel. I will make both your fortunes yet -- see if I do not. Goodbye, Deb. Be a good girl and take care of Aunt Temperance. Goodbye, dear, dear Auntie. I never will forget you. I never will love you less, wherever I am." "Goodbye, my little Pansy -- God bless and keep my child!" says Miss Piper as she folds the girl in a trembling embrace. Pansy rather wonders that her aunt can keep from crying -- her own tears are flowing like rain. The next moment somebody requiring stamps knocks hurriedly on the counter and Temperance Piper goes into the shop, while Pansy Piper leaves the place by way of the garden and enters The Grange as Pansy Adair. "A very good fit," says Mrs. Adair, approvingly surveying the drab costume. "You have a very tolerable figure, Pansy, and a few lessons in deportment will do wonders for you. It is not nearly time to start for Firlands yet. You are earlier than I expected, but you can help me pack the evening dresses. My maid is dreadfully tiresome about getting neuralgia at most inconvenient times. She is fit for nothing today. Why, what on earth are you crying about, child?" "I don't like leaving Aunt Temperance," says Pansy. "She looks so poorly and so low-spirited. You will let me write to her now and then -- once a week at least, won't you, dear Mrs. Adair?" "Come, child, do not be babyish," says Mrs. Adair impatiently. "We have gone over this matter again and again. It is even now not too late for you to change your mind. I am perfectly willing to drive away without you, and leave you to an existence in Polesheaton, if you think it preferable to a change of fortune." "Oh no! I'm more grateful to you than I can say," answers Pansy in a stifled voice. "Well, then, pray put that wet handkerchief away and bathe your eyes, and look respectable when Mr. Langdale presently rides in to be our escort to Firlands station. I detest red eyes, child. My nerves are really in too low a state to stand a repetition of such a scene. There is not a girl in Polesheaton who does not envy you today and long to be in your place. Remember that, Pansy." The mention of Cyril Langdale gives a new turn to Pansy's thoughts, and having bathed her eyes she fastens a bunch of yellow chrysanthemums in her travelling coat, and soon cheers up in rapture over Mrs. Adair's evening dresses. By and by Langdale arrives on horseback, looking, thinks Pansy, more aristocratic than ever. Then the carriage and pair draws up before The Grange, and quite a crowd has gathered to see the last of the London lady and to witness the departure of Miss Piper's niece. Neither her aunt nor Deb is there, being busy at letter sorting just then; but Ellen and Martha Sotham from the farm are smiling and nodding on the pavement, and the young girl at the shoe shop is waving kisses affectionately. A group of old men and women discuss Pansy's appearance and speak out in wonderment, "To think of that, now! Don't she look like the Princess Royal in them fine new clothes, and a silk umbrella, a-sitting up in a carriage and pair along with the quality!" Neither Mrs. Adair nor Cyril Langdale appears to hear these remarks, but Pansy's cheeks are burning and she suspects the coachman and footman of hidden amusement. She is thankful when the fingerpost pointing to Polesheaton is left behind, and Mrs. Adair takes her hand caressingly, saying, "Now, Pansy, you have left those dreadful, backward people behind for ever. You are my charge now, and if you please and satisfy me, a golden future lies before you." Pansy notices that Mr. Langdale addresses her henceforth as "Miss Adair." The title seems strange and unfamiliar for a time, but soon she responds to it as readily as though indeed her own. She gives a sigh of enjoyment when she is seated beside Mrs. Adair in a first-class carriage on the train, with wraps, hot water bottles, a basket of grapes, and plenty of illustrated papers. This is life worth living indeed, to recline amid luxurious cushions, and have Mrs. Adair's footman and the guard saluting at the door every now and then, and poor people on the platform looking with interest at their magnificence. A few hours later, and Pansy is for the first time in London; but there is no need for her to feel weary and bewildered and strange amid the turmoil, for a carriage from Silverbeach Manor is waiting at the junction. They drive at their ease down into Surrey, where Silverbeach Manor stands -- a picturesque and much-admired residence near the banks of the Thames at its loveliest point. The Manor is very old. Some say it was built in the reign of Queen Anne. Mr. Adair restored it, but the architect managed to retain its old-world look. Pansy is enraptured with the avenue of chestnut trees, stately even in the darkening days, with the thick yew shrubbery, the quaint corridors, the valuable pictures, and the modern comfort and elegance which Mrs. Adair prizes more than the antiques. Pansy feels quite a heroine of romance as she wanders amid the exotic plants, and puts on her first evening dress from a London West End establishment. But there are crumpled rose leaves even amid her enchantment. She is not quite at her ease in the matter of table etiquette, and meals are for her somewhat spoilt by the necessity of watching Mrs. Adair, that in all points she may follow her movements, and a notion that the servants are conscious of her bewilderment and awkwardness. Then Mrs. Adair thinks it ridiculous of her to drink nothing but water. Pansy has always been a teetotaller, but does not like to run counter to the opinions of her patroness. Fortunately, a neighbour reminds Mrs. Adair that water drinking has become quite fashionable, and so Pansy is permitted to please herself in this matter. The first Sunday at Silverbeach is a new experience. Sunday school at Polesheaton began at a quarter to ten, but here they are breakfasting at that hour, and as Mrs. Adair has a headache and does not feel fit for church, Pansy has to stay in and read to her an empty sort of novel which her conscience pronounces far from Sunday reading. There is an elaborate lunch to which several people drop in, then music (not wholly sacred), extensive criticism of mutual friends not present, afternoon tea, and a late dinner, during which the church bells ring in the distance, calling them to the evening service in vain. Despite Cyril Langdale's company, Pansy feels it is a miserable sort of Sabbath, and her thoughts go wistfully to the familiar place of worship, the Sunday school, and tender-eyed Aunt Temperance. Next morning she says, falteringly, to Mrs. Adair, "I have not sent a line to Aunt Temperance to let her know we got here safely. May I not write one letter -- only one -- to ease her mind, Mrs. Adair?" "Never ask me that question again," is the reply, with a touch of the irritable temper well known at Silverbeach. "Since you wish to ease Miss Piper's mind, you may write one letter -- it must be the first and last." So Pansy betakes herself to her dainty desk of inlaid mother-of-pearl, and on thick, perfumed paper, with monogram and crest, she writes as follows to Miss Piper: My own dearest Auntie, You must not think that I have forgotten you, for I never, never shall as long as I live; but we have been so busy at Silverbeach -- shopping all the morning and visitors all the afternoon, and Mrs. Adair likes me to play or read aloud when she is alone in the evening. I get very little time to myself, but I am not really to begin my studies till we are settled abroad for the winter. This is a most splendid house, a far grander place than The Grange, and the rooms are perfectly lovely. Some of the paintings here cost thousands of pounds, they say. I wish you could see the blue satin curtains in the drawing room, side by side with draperies of the most beautiful old lace. But I think you would like even better to see the peacocks and the countless foreign birds. and rare, expensive pets. A boy is kept on purpose to feed them twice a day. I think, if I had a place like this, I should never want to leave it; but Mrs. Adair says she spent the first year of her married life here, and it rained nearly all that year, and somehow I think she does not care much about Silverbeach. People say her husband was rather a cross old man. All he cared about was to get more money. Mr. Langdale, a friend of Mrs. Adair's, is teaching me to draw. He is so kind and patient, but I never shall care as much about it as about my violin, and I am to have the most expensive training that can be procured. Mrs. Adair does not mind how much she spends on me. She likes to have me with her a great deal, and says she expects me to be quite a success in society and repay her for all her trouble. You may be sure I am enjoying my life here very much. I have all kinds of new dresses, and shoes for every occasion, and I am actually to learn to ride! It seems like a dream. Sometimes I think I shall wake and find that I am only Pansy Piper in poor old Polesheaton. Wouldn't it be dreadful to have such an awakening now! I do enjoy beautiful things, and Mrs. Adair says I was never meant to be hidden away in Polesheaton, teaching music to stupid children, and washing and turning my old dresses. Give Deb my love. I hope you find her a great help. Tell Deb there are seven housemaids here. How she would open her eyes to see the servants' hall! I am sorry to say, my darling Aunt Temperance, that Mrs. Adair says I am not to write again -- at any rate, for the present. But mind you let me know directly should you ever be ill, and be sure, wherever I am, or whatever may happen, I remain for ever, Your own fondly loving niece, Pansy Adair. Chapter 5 A Dream Dispelled THREE years have run their changeful course since Pansy signed herself Miss Piper's "fondly loving niece" -- three years that have left their mark upon all concerned in our story. It is the boating season, and Silverbeach Manor is a scene of free and incessant festivity. The queen of every picnic, excursion, and river jaunt is the beautiful Miss Adair. Scarcely could Pansy be recognized now in the stylish-looking young lady who is Mrs. Adair's pet and pride, who can sing to her violin in French, German, and Italian; sketch and paint in good amateur fashion; ride and drive; and waltz to the satisfaction of a West End teacher. Pansy has more dresses in a season now than many a girl gets in the course of two years; her food, her clothes are of the choicest; and she can read romances half the day when tired of active pleasure. But there is a look sometimes upon the young face that scarcely betokens perfect peace, real happiness and content. Mrs. Adair looks as though she is starting to age, and Pansy often wonders how old she is, and if her weakness and languor mean more than put on for effect. But she makes plans for many a year to come, and speaks of journeys abroad nine and ten winters ahead, and smilingly accepts the contradictions of her visitors when she talks about growing old. Cyril Langdale is still a bachelor, and being a neighbour of Mrs. Adair's is often at Silverbeach Manor where he is welcomed by the hostess for his entertaining art gossip and familiarity with the fashionable world she loves. Mrs. Adair has no relations of her own. Her husband had disagreed with his only near connection, a cousin, because he declined entering into accounts on Sunday -- a day that always hung heavily on the merchant's hands. He was one of Mr. Adair's bookkeepers, and was in consequence dismissed, greatly for his benefit, for he went abroad and traded on his own account, and was abundantly prospered. Being thus without family ties, Mrs. Adair thinks it more than probable she may bequeath Silverbeach to her adopted child, in that remote period when she may be called upon to part with it herself. More than once she has hinted to Pansy that dutiful attention to her wishes may secure this most comfortable inheritance. What have the three years brought within Polesheaton, Miss Temperance Piper, and the little general shop? It would be useless to ask Pansy, for she knows not. Whether she cares or not only her secret heart can tell. The life in the village shop seems to her now like a long-past dream, and though her aunt, in reply to her letter, sent a few tender lines of love and blessing, Pansy dared not offend Mrs. Adair by continuing the correspondence, so that aunt and niece have drifted apart surely and utterly now. Pansy is very much in love -- how could she fail to be, after the long teaching and training of overdrawn and sensational love-stories upon Miss Piper's counter? She was prepared to fall in love from the hour she left the home of her childhood, and Cyril Langdale has continued ever since her hero, her prince, her ideal. "I know he cares about me," she tells herself sometimes, blushing even at the thought. "He has never spoken plainly, but his eyes have a language of their own. He has sketched and painted me again and again, and did he not once call me 'darling' when we were rowing in the moonlight? And does he not hold my hand, and did he not ask me to take care of myself, when my throat was sore, for his sake? I only just caught the whisper, but I am sure those were the words he said. "He is so good, so clever, so tender, so handsome -- what a happy, happy girl I am! Mrs. Adair is fond of him, and she encourages his visits. I know she would let us be engaged. The course of true love will run smooth in our case. I do think I am the most fortunate girl in all the world." It would seem far less romantic to Pansy if her hero proposed to her otherwise than with his impressive dark eyes. Her heart relies absolutely upon his devotion, and if she prays at all in these glittering days, the name of "Cyril" is that which fills her petitions. Never while she lives will she forget the day that scatters her fairy dream for evermore. She is at her brightest and happiest in Mrs. Adair's houseboat, witnessing a festive regatta on the river, when May Damarel, a girl with whom she is very friendly, accosts her with the exclamation, "Why, there you are, Pansy. I have wanted to get you to myself ever so long. I have something marvellous to tell you. Wonders will never cease. A regular old bachelor is going to be married." "Old Mr. Henry?" asks Pansy, looking with amusement at the endeavour of a young-looking spinster in the company to get an elderly bachelor to explain the regatta for her benefit. "Well, perseverance deserves success." "No, no; somebody we know much better, Pansy. Guess again." "We do not know many old bachelors. Do you mean the vicar?" "Why, child, he is nearly ninety. The one I mean is not really old, but people have expected him to marry for years, and have grown accustomed to looking upon him now as a confirmed bachelor." The thought flashed across Pansy's mind that Cyril Langdale may have hinted to his friends that he has some hope and idea of marrying. She blushes deeply, and tells May she is no good at guessing, while little throbs of trembling joy awake new sweetness within her heart. "Well, I mean Cyril Langdale. Who would have thought of his getting engaged? Can you guess the lady, I wonder? " Pansy thinks she can, but only leans against the flower-wreathed pillar of the boat, and looks smilingly out to the sunny waters. "Of course it is that American widow, Mrs. Tredder. I suppose she is the handsomest woman on the river today, and you know he worships beauty. Then they say her husband was almost a millionaire. Mother says she has never seen more valuable diamonds than Mrs. Tredder's. It is a fortunate marriage for him, for people say his tastes are very expensive. You have seen Mrs. Tredder, have you not, Pansy?" "Yes ... we saw her at his studio one Sunday," answers Pansy slowly, who was deeply struck at the time by the widow's wonderful beauty, but had not the slightest notion that Cyril Langdale was paying his homage in that direction. "I think he would have told us," she says, with a face that has lost its roses. "He never mentioned Mrs. Tredder much. I believe you are making a mistake." "Am I? Why, they are always together in London, and she is ever so proud of his genius. He is painting her for next year's Royal Academy. Why, speak of an angel -- there they are, both of them, in Sir Patrick Wynn's gondola! How lovely she looks, leaning back against the crimson cushions! Isn't the gondolier handsome, Pansy -- an ideal Venetian? I do wish we had a gondola." "How hot it is! The sun makes my head ache," says Pansy, moving away from her friend and shading her eyes with her hand. *** It is true that the beautiful widow, with her diamonds and dividends, has been successfully sought by the beauty-loving artist, and that he is complacently conscious of victory where many another has met with repulse. At the same time, his conscience is not wholly easy concerning Pansy Adair, with whom he has undoubtedly flirted, and whom he might have seriously fancied if he could be certain her patroness would endow her with Silverbeach Manor and her wealth. He glances at Mrs. Adair's houseboat, and is rather relieved to notice the smiling nod with which Pansy responds to his salutation, and to hear her laughter ring across to the gondola as she eats strawberries and cream in the midst of a light-hearted throng. "Permit me to congratulate you, Mr. Langdale, and to wish you happiness," Pansy says, looking into his face when, later on, he brings his fiancÃ©e on board the houseboat. Mrs. Tredder dazzles all around by her perfect costume and bewitching face, and is very friendly to Pansy and invites her to visit her in Hyde Park. Langdale becomes quite at his ease, so successful a curtain is Pansy's pride; but the girl feels today that her very heart is broken. For a time her health and spirits suffer considerably from the shock of this first sharp sorrow. She cannot accuse Cyril Langdale of desertion, for he never belonged to her openly, and has always enjoyed the character of being quite a "lady's man", but subtle looks and tones, only known to the two of them, undoubtedly gave her reason to believe he cared for her in sincerity. It takes her a long, long, bitter time to realize that he is about to become the husband of one who, till almost recently, was a stranger. She is realizing that even with money to spend and spare, and amid lives that fare sumptuously every day, trouble, and heart-sickness, and disappointment may not be shut out. "I will find rest in music," she decides, struggling against the lethargy that steals over her, and that no tonic seems to dispel. "I have read that there is nothing like a hobby to banish sad thoughts and make troubled hearts content. I will live for my violin. I will put aside my poor, lost dream of love, and be satisfied with fame. Mrs. Adair would never let me perform professionally, but I will be the best-known amateur violinist in society. It must be sweet, it must be glorious to be famous. I will work hard, I will strive hard to be great." *** Pansy did indeed strive hard, and became as an honoured guest in the drawing rooms of ladies of title. Mrs. Adair is filled with pride with the eloquent praises (and silences even more complimentary) that follow Pansy's performances, while the society papers bestow upon her such glowing tributes as this: Among the brilliant throng at Lady ----'s or the Duchess of So-and-So's, might have been seen one of the queens of London society -- Miss Adair, of Silverbeach Manor, the talented amateur violinist. This beautiful and gifted young lady was, as usual, attired in the perfection of taste, and elicited the most enthusiastic applause by her rendering alike of classical studies and lighter pieces on the exquisite instrument which has been presented to her by Mrs. Adair. We understand that this lady objects to Miss Adair's photographs being publicly sold; otherwise the fair face and form of one so universally admired would before this have been seen amid the portraits of society leaders and types of beauty. Pansy used to read such words long ago, about ladies moving in a world that seemed further from her then than Paradise itself. How she envied the fashionable beauties of whom such descriptions were penned. But now the homage is so customary that it only wearies her, and she begins to understand that society, once the acme of her ambition, is apt to prove, to those who have too much of it, a little monotonous and tiresome. Surely the zenith of Pansy's musical glory is reached when a special request reaches Silverbeach that she will play before Royalty, and Mrs. Adair in her excitement sends to Paris for a dress for her adopted child, who is robed for the occasion in white and silver brocade, draped with rare old lace, the flowers at her shoulder being the choicest orchids. Looking at herself in the tall mirror before her departure, Pansy gives no thought to the elderly figure of her aunt, baking, washing, sewing hour by hour in a dingy village shop, tireless, often sleepless, that a little orphan girl might be comfortably fed and clad. She shines resplendent before Royalty, and excels herself as to her playing, till the aristocratic hearers are enraptured, and a certain gracious Princess speaks to her kindly and admiringly, and gives her a photograph of herself with her autograph in a charming frame. But the excitement has proved too much for Pansy. To be famous at the cost of one's health is glory dearly bought, and whether her musical triumphs or her heart-trouble assist in the breaking down, she falls ill, and many weeks elapse before the Silverbeach doctor, a specialist as to nerves, will permit her to leave her bed for the couch in Mrs. Adair's snuggery. It is while lying on her couch that vague, tender yearnings begin to stir within her for the love that wrapped her childhood. The face that comforted her early sorrows, smiled brighter sunlight into her joys. She cannot forget the little gabled roof of the village shop, the humble, old-fashioned garden, the homely, cosy kitchen. The scene comes back before her, and instead of the cushioned lounge, the artistic curtains about the mantel-board, the musical clock and bronze Tunisian figures in the room where she is resting, she sees once more Aunt Temperance putting on her glasses to sort the letters, Deb weighing sweets and cheese with attentive face and careful hand, and her pretty canary, once her pride and care. A great longing seizes her to receive a letter from her aunt again, to send them a little help, to let Aunt Temperance know and understand she is not unforgetful, ungrateful. "She may be ill -- in need," says Pansy, brokenly, venturing in her privileged convalescence to breach the long-avoided subject to Mrs. Adair. "Aunt Temperance denied herself so much to provide for me. I have money. May I not send her a little?" "You may send her a five pound note anonymously," says Mrs. Adair, yielding this point because of the low state of Pansy's nerves; "but the correspondence between you has ceased once and for all. Miss Piper is no longer your aunt. You seem to forget that your name is Adair and your home is Silverbeach Manor. You have made your choice, and it is wrong to look back discontentedly. You have nothing more to do with your past as long as you live. You must understand this, Pansy, if you mean to continue my charge, my comfort, my child. I will accept no divided affection." So the five pound note goes anonymously to Miss Temperance Piper, Polesheaton Post office; and none at Silverbeach is aware that it is returned to the Dead Letter Office with the inscription, "Gone away -- address not known." Chapter 6 Pansy's Predicament. THE months that follow are full of what Pansy Adair once looked upon in vision as pursuits most delightful and bewitching. Mrs. Adair has some secret notion that Cyril Langdale's marriage may have had something to do with Pansy's indisposition, and she resolves to divert the mind of her adopted child who has become very dear to her, by a round of pleasure in its most brilliant aspects. Dances, fetes, fancy bazaars, theatre-going -- in this way she endeavours to secure the girl's happiness. She herself was wearied of these things long ago herself, but for Pansy's sake she plunges anew into a vortex of excitement, and is rewarded by seeing her charge on all sides courted and admired. As time goes on, proposals of marriage which Mrs. Adair considers very flattering, are made to Pansy. A nobleman well known on the horse racing scene would fain share with her his title and his wealth; an aged and much respected member of Parliament aspires to make her his second wife; a young dramatist, making money fast, and quite a lion in society, is one of her most devoted cavaliers. Pansy is cool as concerns her admirers, and Mrs. Adair says indulgently, "I shall not hurry your choice, my dear. I should prefer to keep you at my side for many a long year to come. When you are tired of London society, we might take a long yachting cruise together. Many people have given us an open invitation. Or perhaps we might settle down in Italy for two or three years. The air suits me better than this foggy climate. I should be sorry to lose you so soon, and there is no need whatever, with your prospects, for you to make a hasty or loveless marriage." Pansy thinks she detects a glance accompanying these words in the direction of a large oil-painting of Mr. Adair in civic robes -- a very fretful-looking old gentleman, whose bad-tempered eyes seem to be following her about all over the room. For a time the theatre seems very charming to Pansy, but before long the sameness and monotony of her theatre-going life make her restless and weary. The plays seem all alike; the rich dresses, the decorations, the music seem to conspire to tire her. The idea of seeing a play night after night would once have been enchanting to Pansy Piper, but the fashionable Miss Pansy Adair is secretly weary of footlights, stage scenery, dramatic attitudes, and actors and actresses. One of their neighbours at Silverbeach, Miss Mabel Bromley, has recently become a nurse, and Pansy visits her one day in the midst of her duties at the small hospital to which she belongs. Sister Mabel, as she is called, directs Pansy's attention to a poor sufferer from lung disease, a girl about their own age, and asks her softly if she recognizes her. "No, poor creature," says Pansy compassionately. "I am no district visitor, you know, Mabel. Mrs. Adair would not let me run the risk of infection, though sometimes the feeling comes over me that I would like to do something for other people. I get all the comfort and pleasure I can, and give nothing in return. I wish my life were half as useful as yours." "Oh, Pansy dear, you have not the nerves for a sick-nurse! But if only Mrs. Adair would allow it, a quiet tune on your violin in the convalescent wards would be a most helpful ministry. Our patients are so fond of music. We have a nurse here who sings hymns for them in the evening, and they seem to calm and soothe the sick people wonderfully." "I am not religious," says Pansy, bluntly. "I never sing hymns except at church. But if I may really come and play here sometimes, it will be the best use to which I ever put my violin. But, Mabel, who is that poor, thin creature of whom you spoke just now?" "Her name is Elsie Smith, but she is called Miss Genevieve Marechal, of the theatre. A few months ago she was most popular. Surely you remember her, Pansy? What beautiful dresses she always wore, and in what a bright, lively manner she sang and acted. Showers of bouquets were thrown to her night after night." "I remember her quite well now," says Pansy slowly, watching the white face that is brightened by a trembling smile as a worker of the Flower Mission goes up to her bed and hands her a beautiful bunch of carnations, with a text of eternal comfort. "But, Mabel, what a change in her. She always seemed the most cheerful person around." "Even then," says Sister Mabel, "her sickness had hold of her, and was aggravated by late hours, the heat of the theatre, the chilly out-of-door air, and the unnatural pace of her life. When she could no longer bring in money, her employers ceased to take interest in her. She grew poorer and poorer, till at last a worker in a charitable mission found her suffering alone in a miserable attic, and arranged her admission here. I respect the poor girl, Pansy. She is good and virtuous, but I feel sure her theatrical life was beset by temptation, and she will not hear of her little sister going on the stage. We have got the child into a training-home for servants." The hospital is close to a railway station, and Pansy returns alone to Silverbeach by train. One passenger after another in her compartment alights at intervening stations. Her only companion at last is a young man engaged in reading. She is absorbed in her own thoughts, for her soul has been stirred today by the sight of the patient nurses, the workers in the Flower Mission, and the sufferers whose lives are so different from her own. If, like some of these, she were lying today on a bed of sickness from which she might never rise, she asks herself what value to her heart would be her dresses and jewels, her musical achievements, even wonderful Silverbeach Manor? At this moment Pansy remembers the old Sunday school of her childhood -- the plain, whitewashed room, brightened by texts on the walls, and by the presence of loving, earnest teachers and smiling young faces. How joyously she had sung of Heaven and of home in those far-distant days. And then she thinks of those solemn times when, as a child, a growing girl, she listened to the voice of her aunt praying for her and with her that she might be a disciple of Him who died for us -- that the Lord Jesus would set His seal upon her as His own ransomed child. "Ah, well," she thinks, with something between a smile and a sigh, "my aunt's prayer is one of the many unanswered petitions that have been offered up. I am certainly not religious -- I wonder how anyone could be at Silverbeach Manor." There is a young housemaid, fresh from Bible class crowned and wreathed with prayer, shining alone for Jesus in the servants' hall at Silverbeach. She might testify that there is no place where the soul cannot serve and honour the Lord. But the young disciple is only third housemaid, and Pansy takes little notice of the comings and goings of the servants under Fox, Mrs. Adair's housekeeper. Presently she puts her hand listlessly in her pocket for her small purse, and then more carefully. Then she rises, and with a heightened colour makes a search for her ticket. What has become of it, and where is the purse that held it? The purse contained a ten pound note besides some gold. Can it be that one of the patients at the hospital, skilled, perhaps, in stealing, has secured the purse? Pansy is not used to travelling alone, and it was only with difficulty that she persuaded Mrs. Adair to let her visit town unattended today. She shrinks from an encounter with the guard who will come round for tickets at Morfill Junction, where she has to change trains. By this time her agitated movements have disturbed her companion, who politely inquires if he can assist her in any way. Pansy eyes him distrustfully. He looks nothing like the dandies to whom she is accustomed. She is surprised that he should be riding in a first-class carriage. His hat is clearly not of the newest, and the collar of his overcoat has seen service, and he is not wearing gloves. Only lately she was reading in a journal that a railway thief had robbed a gentleman, and then politely lent him half a crown to take him home, when the poor old gentleman could nowhere find his purse. The conviction flashes upon Pansy that this quiet young man, hidden so long behind the newspaper, has possession of her purse. "I think you have taken my purse," she says, with burning cheeks. "I had it only just now, some time after the last passenger got out. Nobody but you can have taken it. Unless you restore it directly, I will pull the communication cord and stop the train." "Wait a few minutes," says her companion, soothingly. "We shall soon be at Morfill, and then you can state your complaint. Have you seen The Graphic this week?" In his own mind he thinks the excited, indignant girl is not quite right in her head, and he experiences a passing thought of regret that one so attractive-looking should be unaccountable for her ways. "I am not so foolish as all that," says Pansy, astutely. "I have been reading about the ways of railway thieves, and you cannot deceive me. When we get to Morfill you will make your escape, so I will stop the train immediately unless you give me my purse." "My dear young lady, I know nothing about your purse. Let us make a search for it in the carriage." Pansy looks at his pockets, but he is so strongly built that she does not attempt the assault. "I know it is in your possession," she says passionately. "I have two diamonds in it that fell out of my ring, and I would not lose them for anything. Once and for all, will you give me my purse? If you do, I promise to let you go unpunished." "I can only repeat, madam, that I know nothing whatever about your purse." "Then I will stop the train, and the guard shall search you." Pansy moves haughtily towards the communication cord, and can scarcely credit that the thief has the audacity to seize her hands. "Excuse me," he says, "we are just approaching the long tunnel, and it might be dangerous to bring the train to a standstill here. You really must not pull the communication cord, madam. This is a very busy line, and at this point it would be a great risk. I hope I am not hurting you." He registers a mental resolution not to be left alone with a possible monomaniac again, and Pansy, having some idea he may have concealed a revolver, dares not resist his hold, though she trembles like a leaf between fear and anger. No sooner are they out of the tunnel than she commences to scream as loudly as possible, thereby much discomforting her companion, and causing a number of people to put their heads out of the windows of adjacent compartments. At Morfill quite a little crowd surrounds the windows of her carriage. "Hello," says the guard, "what is all this about, sir? Stand aside please, gentlemen, and let the lady make her complaint." "He has my purse," gasps Pansy, pointing at the much-annoyed young man, who vainly looks about for a way of escape. "He stole it from me during the journey. I know he did." "A most evil-looking fellow," she hears someone say in the crowd. "These railway robberies are on the increase, and it is to be hoped the magistrate will make an example of this man. The poor young lady is almost fainting from fright." "It is quite a delusion," says the accused individual, earnestly. "The charge is ridiculous. Here is my card," and he hands one to the guard. "I really cannot wait. I have a particular appointment at Masden, and the train is waiting at the other platform." "So it do," says the guard, "but I'm afraid you can't catch that there train this time, young man. Them as steals purses can steal cards. We've no means of knowing this here is your name and address. Anyways, you'll have to come along to the stationmaster's office. This way if you please, miss. Mr. Spinks will inquire into this affair. He were in the police force once, were Mr. Spinks." The accused evidently resigns himself to his fate, and though he looks wistfully after the Masden train he walks beside the watchful guard to the office, followed by inquisitive spectators, some of whom say, audibly, "It's the young lady from Silverbeach, Miss Adair. What a fright it do seem to have given the poor young lady, to be sure!" The stationmaster listens attentively to Pansy's agitated complaint, and scans, with quick scrutiny, the quiet face of the accused. "Nobody else can have stolen it," says Pansy. "I took out my purse to see if my ticket was all right just after we passed Highdale, and the last passenger got out there. Only this man remained." The young fellow wishes he had got out at Highdale as well, and escaped all this annoyance. "I am sorry you have lost your purse," he says to Pansy, "but after an examination of my pockets, I trust the officials here will permit me to proceed on my journey, as I am pressed for time." "Oh, the search is nothing," says Pansy. "People like you can hide things anywhere in a moment. I have read all about you. I dare say you gave it to a confederate in the crowd just now." "Your opinion is scarcely flattering," says the young man, quietly, "but time presses. Where can I be searched, if it has to be done? " "One moment," says the station master. "Is the young lady quite sure the purse is lost? I have known cases where articles have been found about the dress. If the lady would not mind examining the folds of her skirt, it may be somewhere in the drapery." "Oh dear, no!" says Pansy, but the remembrance flashes across her that a little while ago she put a letter, as she thought, in the pocket of that dress, and found out afterwards that it had slipped into quite another part of her skirt. Certainly it is a most awkward pocket to reach. At this moment she detects that the bottom of the skirt is unduly heavy. She puts down her hand with a burning face, and up comes the purse, which has slipped through another part instead of her pocket. The quiet eyes meet hers for an instant as she stands aghast, wishing the ground would open and hide her. The porters comment on the cleverness of their chief, and the station master turns again to his pen and ink. Pansy stammers some words of shamed apology, but the supposed culprit is already out of the office, trying to make up for lost time by inquiries as to another route to Masden now the mainline train has departed. Chapter 7 Marlow Holme MAY DAMAREL, of Willowtree, Pansy's closest friend, is about to be married. Her fiancÃ© is a celebrated organist, too grave and clever-looking, some of the young folks think, for May; but it is a true love-match, and both parties seem very happy in prospect of the occasion. "You shall be chief bridesmaid," May whispered to Pansy when announcing her engagement, and so it has been arranged. And never did fairer bridesmaid pass between seats filled with eager, interested spectators than the beautiful Miss Adair, in silken garments the colour of a tea rose, and drooping daffodils holding the drapery here and there. Pansy is secretly a little excited today, for she has heard that the best man is to be Marlow Holme, the poet, whose work she knows and loves, and she rather likes the thought of walking down the aisle on the poet's arm. She visions a far-away look, dreamy eyes, long flowing hair, a general aspect of familiarity with Pegasus, and unconsciousness of what is going on around. As soon as possible she steals a glance at the tall figure standing beside the bridegroom. Though the service has commenced, Pansy can scarcely withhold an exclamation of horror. Her face flushes crimson, and the other bridesmaids think a pin must be pricking her, or that her hair must be coming down. In Marlow Holme, deputed to be her escort, she has recognized at once the young man to whom she caused such annoyance by hasty and unjust suspicion. There is only one comfort -- he took little notice of her that day, being hurried and impatient. "It is scarcely likely he will know me again in festive attire, with my hair done quite a different way," thinks Pansy, with consoling remembrance. But she has never been able to forgive herself for the unwomanly vehemence with which she so positively insisted upon the young man's guilt, and she very sensibly decides never more to judge from first appearances, or to accept circumstantial evidence as wholly infallible. Being a poet, he is sure to be poor. Perhaps he was trying for some lucrative employment when hurrying to Masden, where resides a well-known editor and publisher. Perhaps he lost the appointment through the delay occasioned by her persistence! Pansy resolves to question May concerning Mr. Thornden's friend, and reflects somewhat impatiently that she is not likely to obtain a confidential chat with the new-made wife till the honeymoon is over and the pair have returned to town. If indeed the poet lost a good appointment through her folly, Pansy feels she would like to send him the ten pound note which at present reposes within her desk. She rejoices in the knowledge that Holme does not recognize her, as he politely escorts her to the carriage, makes pleasant conversation, attends to her requirements during the repast that is provided at Willowtree. Her quick observation discerns that he drinks the bride's health in the beverage wherein slices of lemon and lumps of ice are floating within a goblet of amber hue. He is the only male abstainer at the table, but that does not seem to discomfort him at all. Marlow Holme looks like one who, having made up his mind that a course is right, would stick to it though in the minority -- one who would not be ashamed to show his colours in the face of all the world. Pansy is quite at her ease till they chance to find themselves alone in the inner drawing room that evening, searching for a violin piece the bride's father has requested. They are turning over the contents of the music cabinet, when Marlow Holme asks suddenly, "Have you had any more misfortunes with your purse of late, Miss Adair?" "Oh," stammers Pansy, "I thought you did not know me." And tears of vexation and shame bedew her eyes. "Oh, Mr. Holme, I am so ashamed of myself. I never can find my pocket in that dress!" "Why, I did not think you would take the matter so to heart," he says gently, "or I would never have made any reference to it. Let us bury it in oblivion, Miss Adair. You were very much disturbed that day." "I will have my pockets made differently," falters Pansy. "It was all the fault of my dress. Mr. Holme, I have thought about it so often since, and wished I could in some way make up to you for my insults. Can you ever forgive my accusations?" "Indeed I can, and do. No lady before had ever honoured me with so much notice," he says, with a smile. "Well, as we recognized each other, perhaps it was better to clear the air. Now let our unfortunate railway journey together become a thing of the forgotten past." Several guests sleep at Willowtree, and the next day there is a picnic at a lovely, overhanging wood, where a great deal of climbing is necessary, and where the poet's arm is frequently at Pansy's disposal. "What a handsome pair they make I" says May's mother, surveying Holme and Pansy side by side. "But of course Mr. Holme would not satisfy Mrs. Adair. A writer's earnings are so precarious, and I have heard young Holme gives a great deal away. James Thornden thinks highly of him, and I have never seen Pansy look so well content with an escort. I hope we have not been imprudent in introducing one who is only a writer to a girl with such prospects as Pansy's." Pansy thinks she has never seen eyes smile so kindly before, as he holds out his hand in token of the pardon she has asked. She says, "Mr. Holme, before we forget my injustice I want you to let me make reparation." "You can do so fully," says he, "if I may have that wild rose you gathered." She yields it to him with a smile. "No, but I mean in another sense. You were very anxious to get to Masden, and I have been thinking you might have been seeking some appointment, which perhaps you lost through missing an interview. It may have meant a heavy loss for you. Would ten ... twenty pounds...?" "No, they would not," he says gently, for he reads her distress too clearly to feel offended. "I was in search of no work that day, as concerns my pen. Some friends were inconvenienced by my unpunctuality, that is all. There was a large temperance meeting at Masden, and the speaker did not get there till the close. If you have ever arranged such meetings you will understand I was anxious not to put out the organisers by arriving late. Still, it is over now, Miss Adair, and my Masden friends have forgiven me. So banish remorse from your heart, and let us enjoy the wild flowers and these young ferns." The woods have never seemed so charming to Pansy before, nor has a picnic appeared to pass so quickly. Somehow she feels as if she had known this young poet a long, long time, and they part that day each secretly feeling they want to know more of each other. Marlow Holme is not a society man, but is the working spirit in many a project of usefulness, many a channel of blessing difficult to open up. "I can never understand your being a poet," she says, smilingly, to Holme one day. "People call you so business-like and practical, and you are working such splendid schemes. I thought poets lived in a dream world of their own." "And were useless to hungry, sick, neglected fellow-creatures," he exclaims. "I cannot permit you to misjudge my brethren thus, Miss Adair. I know lives aflame with genius that count it more glory to give a practical helping hand here and there than to wear Fame's laurels, and count it more happiness than receiving public plaudits to comfort those that mourn and make straight rough and crooked pathways." *** When young Mrs. May Thornden settles down in her Richmond home Pansy frequently spends a few days with her, for Mrs. Adair is feeling unequal to going out much just now, and is glad for her adopted daughter to enjoy herself without the cost of personal weariness. Those three or four days at Richmond are sunshiny times for Pansy. She often sees Mr. Thornden's poet-friend, who so often chances to drop in while she is visiting there. She seldom mentions Marlow Holme, even to Mrs. Adair, for she is well aware Mrs. Adair would suspect a poor poet of fortune-hunting. But she thinks of him when alone, dreams of him, reads his poems again and again, till the beautiful thoughts and words seem graven upon her heart. And she learns to look up to him, to treasure his opinion, to revere his character in a way that never entered into her former fascination for him. One evening Mrs. Thornden has been singing a ballad about a mother's love, and Marlow Holme remarks to Pansy on the balcony, "That is a blessing we two have missed, is it not so, Miss Adair? I can just remember my own mother. She died when I was quite a little fellow, but her face is a fadeless memory. And if I am not mistaken, you are Mrs. Adair's niece? At least, so I have heard," His face is full of interest, perhaps of something more. Pansy's life story concerns him in a way his secret heart is just beginning to realize. The girl flushes and trembles, not so much because his kind, clear gaze is meeting her own, as because the recollection that has become so dim of the general shop at Polesheaton rises anew before her eyes. Marlow Holme must never know of poor Aunt Piper and the shop. He is her ideal of a cultured, educated gentleman, and she prizes his good opinion more than that of any other friend. What would he think of her if he knew she were related to a second-rate shopkeeper, and had cut bacon and weighed candles, and made up packets of grocery for many a bygone year? The perfume from her fan mingles with the scent of the lilies in the balcony as she replies with a falter that he attributes to her sense of orphanhood, "My mother -- the daughter of an officer -- -died a long, long time ago. I have never known the mother-tenderness of which May sang just now." "But Mrs. Adair of Silverbeach has filled a mother's place as far as she can, I imagine?" he says in response. "Mrs. Thornden often speaks of your aunt's affection for you, and her pride in your musical talent." She reflects how people often make the mistake of believing Mrs. Adair to be her aunt, so why should she enlighten Marlow Holme? Why should she tell him that Silverbeach Manor is only her home through its owner's gracious adoption of a poor girl without education, money, or prospects? "Oh, nobody can be kinder than she is, and we are very fond of one another," answers Pansy. "Still, I often wonder what my mother was like. I often envy May her cheery, sympathizing, tireless mother." "Yes, I have heard Mrs. Adair is easily fatigued and very delicate," says Marlow Holme. "Her weakness must be a tie to you who are bound to her by so much love and duty. Else I was thinking of asking your aid in a project one or two friends and I are just commencing." "Please tell me about it," says Pansy, flushing with pleasure. It seems so sweet to her that he wants her to share in a scheme that is dear to his heart. "Mrs. Adair never minds my coming out. She has always plenty of fancy work and sketching on hand." But Pansy knows that this very morning a voluntary proposal to stay at Silverbeach would have been extremely welcome to the invalid. Prosperity has not made her less selfish than in the days of need at Polesheaton. "We are starting a mission at Masden, about five miles from Silverbeach. It would be a very short train journey for you, Miss Adair." "Oh, we often drive to Masden. The river and canal views are so picturesque; but those dreadful brickfields spoil the place, for the labourers are just like rough savages." "They are hard to deal with," says Marlow Holme, "but there is One with whom nothing is too hard." Pansy looks up at him a little wistfully. She knows that society thinks him "odd" because he is not ashamed to be openly known as religious. "Please continue," she says. "My friend, the Masden curate, and two or three others are uniting to help those who seem most neglected, and to teach their children, and the little ones that belong to the barges," he tells her. "We are anxiously looking for lady helpers in the Ragged School. Do you know anything of such work, Miss Adair?" "I went to a Sunday school when I was a child, Mr. Holme. I was fond of the old place and the teachers." "I am glad to hear it," he says heartily. "So many children belonging to the upper classes can be carefully kept from mixing with the little ones in Sunday schools. I am glad Mrs. Adair showed her sympathy with the grand Sunday school movement by sending you there. You will in that case be able, I feel sure, to gain her consent to helping us as a teacher. I shall be at Masden Ragged School on Monday. Might I hope to introduce you then to your little scholars?" "If you think I can do them any good," hesitates Pansy. "You can teach them the three Rs at any rate, and explain the Bible stories we have pictured on the walls. Do come to our aid, Miss Adair. I have this mission deeply at heart. Give me the help of your influence in the neighbourhood." The last words are spoken softly, then he adds with a flush, "I ought not to put such a work on personal grounds. A grander motive than kindness to a friend is the thought that you will be doing something for Him whose care and love and Divine compassion yearn over these neglected little ones." "I will do what I can," says Pansy in a broken voice. Nobody has spoken to her personally of the Master since she bade farewell to Aunt Temperance. She goes back into the drawing room with a heart ill at ease. She feels she is deceiving Marlow Holme in permitting him to picture her as Pansy Adair, the niece whom the mistress of Silverbeach has brought up from childhood. But the shop -- the shop must be buried in oblivion. After all, she is to Mrs. Adair as a niece, and everybody has forgotten that Silverbeach was not always her home. May Thornden calls upon them to write in her "confessional album," and Marlow Holme obediently takes pen in hand. Pansy's smile is a little forced, as she notices that he writes Deceit in any shape or form against the bidding to "Name your pet aversion." Chapter 8 A Little Maid MRS. ADAIR is horrified at first by the idea of Pansy's entering a ragged school. She predicts scarlet fever, smallpox, and skin complaints, and Pansy has to bring her most urgent coaxing and persuasive powers to bear before her guardian will allow her to devote one evening a week to the Masden enterprise. "You will tire of it in a month," she says, when her reluctant permission is obtained. "Charities are fashionable just now, but the mania never lasts long. Mind you take plenty of camphor, toilet vinegar, and lavender, and on no account go too near the children." So the luxurious carriage and the liveried servants and the two elegant bays take Pansy over to Masden, and form quite a Lord Mayor's Show in the estimation of the excited lads and lassies waiting round the ragged school. Then the equipage, with several boys hanging resolutely behind, moves off to the hotel stables and Pansy enters the schoolroom where Marlow Holme welcomes her with his eyes even more than his lips, and speedily introduces her to her class. "My sakes, ain't she got nice clothes!" is the exclamation that greets her entrance. Then a small child complains, "Teacher, Bobby's been and took my sugar dolly," and a daring-looking boy who has brought fireworks, challenges Pansy to put him out of the room. "There ain't no teacher in this here place as I couldn't wallop with one hand, so there, miss!" he exclaims defiantly. "Nobody ain't a-going to put me out, they ain't. I'd just like to see them try it on." His wish is speedily gratified by prompt ejection by means of Marlow Holme. After ten minutes or so he is led back in a state of quietude broken only by a peppermint sucked at intervals. Several of the children belong to barges, and are uneducated in every way. They are provided with reading books, and Pansy has a blackboard, but it is impossible for her to get any sort of order until the happy thought occurs to her that she will sing to them. At that moment they all become mute in intense expectation. "Sing 'Poll on, dark stream', teacher," suggests a mite, eagerly. "I do not know it at all," says Pansy. "Oh! Don't you, teacher? We knows it, we does;" and soon the scholars are singing, "Roll on, dark stream, we fear not thy foam; The pilgrim is longing for Home, sweet home." "Let's have 'Sowing the seeds'," demands another. Then the boy with the peppermint requests, "We all got mixed, And had a jolly spree." Pansy is shocked, but she soon finds the children are impressed by the tunes, whatever the words, and the boy who is able to whistle, "We all got mixed" so tunefully turns out to be a Band of Hope child in Marlow Holme's society. "Does you know 'Glory, glory, glory'?" queries a blue-eyed lassie in a pink sun bonnet. Yes, Pansy remembers that hymn. Many a time has she sung it at Aunt Temperance's knee, as well as in the old Sunday school at Polesheaton. She had intended singing them her favourite song, "The Lost Chord", but at the child's request she begins the hymn, "Around the throne of God in Heaven," and the tune and words are full for herself of memories of the past. Marlow Holme, who has come in to bring her chalk for the board, wonders at the far-away, troubled look in her eyes. He congratulates her on what she is doing, pats a few of the children on the head, and returns to his carpentry class. Pansy is bright enough to be a brisk, animated teacher, and the reading class is far from a discouraging one, though several of the children are inclined to be argumentative and conversational. "Please, teacher, come again," cry the boys and girls as the bell sounds for instruction to cease. Marlow Holme echoes the words, coming in to open the sliding doors which divide Pansy's classroom from the hall. "Please, teacher, come again." "I like it very much," says Pansy, flushing and smiling. "It is such a change from dinners, dances and tennis. I always did like barge people, They are so dreamy, and gliding, and soothing." "Well, we must teach them to do more than dream," he answers. "Now we have our closing Bible reading, the Lord's Prayer, and a hymn before school is dismissed." The mission has now started a Sunday school, but every evening a few Bible verses and a hymn wind up the proceedings. The children shout, "There's a Friend for little children," but the flatness of a voice here and there, and the general tendency to drawl and sing too lustily cannot rob from Pansy's heart the sacredness of their hymn. She too learned to sing those words in her childhood, when their truth was near and dear to her. Her lonely drive back to Silverbeach is a very thoughtful one, yet amid the sadness of her meditations there is an undercurrent of happiness that she scarcely understands. Mrs. Adair, half asleep on the lounge, is startled by the new element of brightness that enters with Pansy. "Why, child," she exclaims, "this new fancy of teaching dirty children seems to agree with you. Novelty is charming, but I must say it is a strange sort of taste. Pray go and bathe your face and hands in water with aromatic vinegar and disinfecting soap before you play to me this evening. I have always had such a terror of catching smallpox." It would astonish Pansy's guardian could she discern that the evenings at the ragged school become far dearer than any of the numerous entertainments to which she is invited. Her heart is glad with the sense of usefulness arid helpfulness to her fellow creatures, and she learns to prize the affection of the boys and girls who are so troublesome oftentimes, yet so warm-hearted, merry, and loving. Once or twice Mrs. Adair has required the carriage elsewhere, and then Pansy comes home by train, escorted to the station by Marlow Holme who waits with her on the platform and sees her comfortably into the train. He says no word to her that others might not overhear, but those quiet moments when they pace the platform together in the starlight are memorable to both. "He never forgets I am Miss Adair, of Silverbeach, and he is only a poor writer living in London lodgings," thinks Pansy sometimes with a half smile, for there are ways and means, she remembers, whereby her heiress-lot can let the poor writer understand he need not wholly despair of favour and success. Mrs. Adair is much interested just now in the plans an eminent architect is preparing for her of a villa she is proposing to build in the South of France. She much prefers living abroad to England, and attributes her ill health to the climate of her native land. She proposes to spend a great deal of money upon her romantic residence, and decides to shut up Silverbeach next year, and in the end to try and let it. Pansy's heart sinks unaccountably at the prospect of living abroad, but as regards Mrs. Adair's decision she knows she may venture so far and no farther, so she has to resign herself to travelling with what grace she finds possible. Despite her invalidism, Mrs. Adair feels she must take upon herself the management of the reception committee at an event for which the most elaborate preparations have been made around Silverbeach. This is a floral fete in aid of a new tennis-club, and Royalty has consented to open the proceedings. All the fashionable world of the neighbourhood is in a ferment of excitement. Pansy, as a satin-skirted shepherdess, will preside in the rose tent, and Mrs. Adair sends for a milliner from a Regent Street shop to devise for herself a new and most becoming bonnet. A military band is engaged, bewitching costumes are planned, fruit and flowers and dainty knick-knacks are profusely offered, and the occasion is altogether too magnificent and exclusive for Mrs. Adair to be absent. "You and Miss Pansy looks like sisters, ma'am," says the maid to Mrs. Adair, adjusting the lace on the filmy costume, "except that you has the advantage as to figure. The terracotta trimmings do throw up your complexion wonderful, ma'am, and the rosebuds fastening of your bonnet just gives the whole a finish." Mrs. Adair surveys herself complacently, knowing that her costume and her appearance will form a society paragraph in several journals. And her heart swells with pride as she notices how bright and happy-looking her beautiful charge has grown of late, and how becoming to Pansy are the rose pink ribbons on her crook, her low-cut bodice, and broad hat of rich satin. "We are quite a success," she thinks as they drive off to the fete. There were many years of her wealth-crowned life when she deemed existence a failure, but now that a young, fair life belongs to her and brings new sunshine into her days, things do not seem quite so dreary to her tired eyes. Royalty is late, and suspense and excitement are on tiptoe by the time the band strikes up the National Anthem. Then all is brilliance, graciousness, exclusiveness; those in the inner circle swell inwardly with elation; those on the fringe of that circle experience throbs of jealousy and dissatisfaction. Mrs. Adair and Pansy have honoured places all through, and Pansy is chosen to present roses as expensive as can be procured to the distinguished visitors. It is when the refined festivities are at their height, and Pansy's roses are universally in request, while the girl's own thoughts are away from the fete in certain quiet London rooms, that Mrs. Adair feels suddenly unwell, and asks a gentleman to find her carriage. "I will send it back later on for Pansy," she says. "Do not spoil her enjoyment. I am only a little tired." During the homeward drive she feels stranger still, and on reaching Silverbeach she asks the coachman to call at her doctor's and bring him, if possible, to the Manor. Some years ago, she had a serious attack of haemorrhage, which is always her secret dread when out of sorts. Evasive answers are returned by the footman when she asks for her maid. The annoyance increases her anxiety, and it turns out that her own maid and two of the housemaids, believing her absence certain for several hours, have taken the opportunity to patronize a neighbouring circus, and are not expected home to the servants' tea. The third housemaid, Lizzie Russell, a timid-looking little maid, who is deeply in awe of her grand place and fashionable mistress, appears tremblingly when summoned. Seeing Mrs. Adair is ill, the shyness disappears, and she proves an apt nurse, removing the elaborate costume and assisting her mistress to lie down, deftly, calmly, and gently. In an hour or two Pansy sends home a note saying Lady Grace Summit has persuaded her to sleep at Summit Grange that night, and requesting her things may be sent on. Nobody replies, for Silverbeach Manor is in a state of confusion and fear. Mrs. Adair is prostrate with haemorrhage of the lungs, and the doctor, who had laid his veto upon her against excitement and exhaustion, has sent for a physician and seems to think the case most critical. Mrs. Adair's own maid is back by this time, frightened and solicitous, but her mistress motions her away and signs for Lizzie Russell to remain. The quiet, calm movements seem a comfort to her, Lizzie having learnt by long nursing a sick mother how cruel to a sufferer would be any show of nervousness or hysteria in the attendant. "A trained nurse will be here in the morning. You and I will take charge tonight," says the doctor to Lizzie, and she quietly agrees, but before the daylight dawns there is no need for any more anxious watching, tender ministrations, hope or fear. At first they spoke of sending for Pansy, but while Mrs. Adair had strength to speak she told them not to stop the girl's pleasure -- it was only a passing illness -- her constitution was marvellous, and she would be at the fete again before it closed. Pansy was to be summoned on no account whatever because her nerves were far from strong, and she need not hear of the illness till Mrs. Adair felt better. Now she lies back utterly exhausted, her breathing slow and laboured, her lips scarcely able to speak in a whisper they are only just able to catch, "Pray, pray, pray." "She wants somebody to pray, doctor," says the housekeeper, who has had leave of absence for two or three days, and has returned to the Manor at this time of suspense and extremity. "When will Sir Silas Wynne be here?" says the doctor anxiously, longing for the physician's arrival. He is a capable man himself and has done all he can, but he wishes to share his responsibility with the great man from Hanover Square. "Perhaps Sir Silas was away from home when your telegram got there, sir," says the housekeeper. "But, deary me, the poor lady's soul, sir. Won't somebody see after the poor lady's soul?" The doctor knows the housekeeper is a Roman Catholic, and is not surprised to see her make the sign of the cross as she weeps beside the bed. "Let a clergyman be fetched, of course," he answers. "Mrs. Adair evidently wishes to hear prayers read, though I do not think myself she is in such urgent extremity." The patient cannot hear his words, but she tries to reach Lizzie Russell's hand, and still her chill lips form that imploring word, "Pray!' In the prayer meetings of her own Bible class, Lizzie has felt shy at times to pray aloud, but all self-consciousness vanishes as she kneels beside the silken coverlet which covers a passing life. The doctor looks greatly surprised, and the housekeeper quite scandalized at the notion of a servant girl usurping the function of priest. But Lizzie has clasped the damp hand in hers, and bent her head above it, and the Saviour of rich and poor has His witness even in this uncongenial atmosphere. She falters, and the trembling hand tries to press her own in response. "Lord Jesus, our Redeemer, look down on mistress now. Show her Thou didst die for her upon the cross. Show her Thou art her Saviour, her Hope, her Life. She is too weak to speak, dear Lord, but she wants to see Thee, touch Thee, trust Thee. Thou wilt not cast her out. Thou didst not cast me out. Take her as she is, Lord Jesus. Make her clean in Thine own precious blood, O Saviour of sinners, O Redeemer of the lost." "'Nothing in my hands'" falters Mrs. Adair, a hymn they often sing at Silverbeach Church coming as a dim memory to her mind. And Lizzie takes up the cry, and speaks clearly, slowly, earnestly the verse: "Nothing in my hands I bring, Simply to Thy Cross I cling." To the music of that plea the dim eyes close on earth. Chapter 9 A Conditional Heritage LADY Grace Summit has lent Pansy an evening dress, but the non-arrival of her own clothing makes Pansy uneasy. She was not at all surprised to find Mrs. Adair had tired of the fete and gone home, but she will not wait to drive over to the fete after lunch with Lady Grace, because she begins to think something may be wrong at Silverbeach. After breakfasting in bed she accepts the offer of her friend to drive her back to the Manor. A messenger has already been sent for her, but has taken a short cut across the fields and thus missed Lady Grace's carriage. Pansy makes her adieux smilingly and unconsciously, and promises to be again at the tent of roses early in the afternoon. The butler's face as he opens the door at Silverbeach fairly alarms her, and the housekeeper comes forward to meet her and draws her into the morning room, breaking into lamentations. "She can only have fainted," says Pansy, incredulously. "Why don't you do something to bring her round? She was as well as possible yesterday." "So they tell me, Miss Adair, and I never shall forgive myself that I was away on a visit to my married sister at Brixton. I would have begged the mistress not to tire and excite herself over the doings in the park. The doctor has often told her to keep quiet. But there's no one can do any more for the poor dear mistress, Miss Pansy dear. Lizzie and me closed her eyes, and Lizzie has been a great comfort all night, miss; I'll say that for her. And the doctor have written to mistress's lawyer. I'm not aware that mistress had any near relations to be communicated with, but you know better than I do." "No," says Pansy; "her husband had a cousin, I believe, but he emigrated. She often said she was without relations. Oh, it cannot be true. Let me go to her." It is not till Pansy stands beside the bed and kisses the calm, cold brow that she realizes the end has come indeed to the life so lately garlanded with every comfort and pleasure that wealth can bring. Only a few hours ago the lips that are silent spoke of summers and winters yet to come, of enjoyable trips in Switzerland, of a new plan of lighting and warming the beautiful villa designed for the residence abroad. Now through all these plans and schemes God has struck eternal silence. The tears fall like rain from Pansy's wistful eyes, and a solemn whisper seems to reach her heart beside that bed: "Therefore, be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh." "Do come and take some refreshment, madam. You really must not neglect yourself. So much will fall upon you now that you owe a duty to your constitution, and you had better let me assist you to lie down, and bring you up a little luncheon to your room." Mrs. Adair's lady's maid, always obsequious, is doubly so this morning, and her manner, as she draws Pansy solicitously from that quiet room, reminds the girl what a different position is her own henceforth. She has not the slightest doubt that her guardian, who outpoured upon her so much affection, has bequeathed to her this fair inheritance. She is mistress of Silverbeach, of the beautiful home she has learnt to love, and all its costly possessions. But she stands alone in the world, for the courtesies of her numerous acquaintances cannot comfort or rest her heart. It is natural that her wistful thoughts should go out at this hour to the aunt who gave her up so patiently to a brighter, grander life. She will seek out poor Aunt Piper, and install her somewhere in plenty and comfort. What a welcome will be hers when she enters Polesheaton again, and goes quietly into the post office and twines her arms around Aunt Temperance, whose heart, she knows, has room for her still. The days that follow are busy ones for Pansy. Everyone seems to acknowledge her as mistress and head, and Lady Grace Summit tells her of a very expensive and much sought-after lady companion connected with the aristocracy, who for suitable remuneration might be induced to reside at Silverbeach. Mr. Traylon, the solicitor, is much at the Manor, and makes arrangements for that solemn ceremony wherein he and the doctor and the clergymen are mourners, and which is complimented by a string of empty carriages representing the sorrowing of various families of repute around. Pansy is a little surprised to see Marlow Holme amid the people near the grave. He stands there with uncovered head, listening reverently to the service, but he makes no attempt to intrude himself on her notice, though he sends her a few lines of heartfelt sympathy. After the funeral, the contents of Mrs. Adair's will are made known in private to Pansy. Most people look upon her as mistress of Silverbeach as truly as was its departed owner, but Mr. Traylon and Pansy and one or two others are aware that the inheritance has not been bequeathed unconditionally. It is absolutely forfeited if Pansy has any voluntary communication with "Miss Temperance Piper, her former guardian." So run the terms of Mrs. Adair's last will, made some time ago, and perhaps repented of in that last hour when selfishness and earthly distinctions fade away for ever. But the will was made at a time when Mrs. Adair was resolute that her adopted child should belong to herself and to Silverbeach, and never disgrace her wealth and education by a return to her former sphere of life or recognition of common friends. "Do you agree to this sole condition, Miss Adair?" asks Mr. Traylon, quietly. "In the event of your refusal to do so, Silverbeach passes to the family of Mr. Adair's cousin who emigrated. I do not think Mrs. Adair knew them at all, though doubtless the family could be traced. Perhaps you would desire a certain time for consideration?" But Pansy looks through the plate glass windows at the grounds, the lake, the hot-houses, and shudders at the notion of surrendering luxuries that have become to her as necessities. "No consideration is needed, Mr. Traylon," she says, hastily. "I accept the condition. I will keep to the terms of the will." And, as far as the fact of mourning will permit, a great deal of homage, adulation, and sympathy is henceforth offered to the fair young mistress of Silverbeach Manor. Miss Ashburne, the highly recommended chaperone, is engaged as Pansy's companion. She proves to be exceedingly elegant and impressive, with extreme horror of anything common and unfashionable, and devoted worship of all things on which society has set its stamp of approval. She is eloquent in condemnation of work in the ragged school, as savouring of the habits of the lower middle classes. She has, however, no real authority over Pansy, and the teaching at Masden continues. Pansy in her heart accepts her class as Marlow Holme's legacy, though having fairly started the mission he is seldom seen at Masden, being engaged in launching a very difficult enterprise elsewhere. Nearly a year after Mrs. Adair's death, Pansy and her companion are staying at Rooksdale House, a mansion-like boarding house at a fashionable seaport. Conscience or undefined longings may have something to do with the fact that Pansy has to take tonics, and is advised sea air. She has come to Rockcombe rather reluctantly, finding great sameness in fashionable resorts and boarding-houses, but Miss Ashburne reminds her reproachfully that the Duchess of Balways stays at Rockcombe, and Rooksdale House was once the property of a distinguished Marquis. "This is a pleasant surprise," says a never-forgotten voice beside her in the drawing room before dinner. "I am so glad you have come to Rockcombe, Miss Adair. The air is so bracing, and the views are glorious. May I present my friend, Major Grenville?" Pansy smiles a warmer welcome than she speaks. She can scarcely believe it possible that Marlow Holme and she are side by side, brought into contact with one another, perhaps for many a day -- that he of whom she has lately seen so little is looking at her now with the glance so well remembered. How can he, whose home is in the shabby lodgings she so often pictures, afford to pay the terms required by the proprietress of Rooksdale House? But she decides that as he and Major Grenville are evidently together, the Major is probably paying the expenses of both, and in her heart she feels intensely grateful to him for his kindness to her poet-friend. "We are down here helping the local friends to start a YMCA Institute," Holme tells her next day, while Miss Ashburne is in reverential converse with an aged earl on the terrace, and the two have drawn apart to look at the vessels on the blue waters of the bay. "The place has some important shops, and the young men are responding with interest to the movement. We shall remain here till after the approaching public meeting. Then Grenville and I are asked to Firlands, to try and revive public interest in the work of the YMCA there." "Firlands," says Pansy, with a start. "Yes, a beautiful resort among the pines. It is a charming spot, and very popular with physicians. Have you never been there, Miss Adair? " "Some years ago," she answers warily. "It must look quite different now." "It is quite an important place," says he. "I have been down there several times. When I first came to England from the Colonies the climate laid me up, and I was sent to Firlands to recuperate. I like the surroundings, too. They are so picturesque and quaint. Do you remember that funny little place, Polesheaton, with the tiny church, and the barber shaving the people out of doors by the village pump, and the duck pond in the High Street? But, perhaps, when at Firlands you did not drive to Polesheaton." Pansy looks at him with a burning face. "I ... I have seen Polesheaton," she says. "It is a dreary little hole. Don't you think it is rather chilly standing still, Mr. Holme?" So they wander among the chestnuts and limes and beeches in the grounds, and afterwards stroll down to the shore and forget all about the flight of time till they hear the luncheon bell at Rooksdale House. Many a morning they are together, to their own bliss and contentment and the disapproval of Miss Ashburne who objects to writers as strange and short of money, and would much prefer for the present that Pansy should entertain no notion of changing her condition. One day, when Marlow Holme has helped her over some rugged rocks, he ventures to keep her hand in his own and says, softly, "I wish you would let me help you across every rough place through your life. Will you, Pansy?" "Oh, I am not good enough. You do not know how horrid I am," she falters. He takes her other hand and speaks earnestly. "Pansy, you are the love of my life. Are we to be apart or together? Your kindness, your interest in my books, your gentle ways, have led me to hope. If I am loving vainly, I must try to bear my fate bravely as Heaven's will, but if you care for me a little, there is no reason why our roads should not lie together for ever and ever." By the time she returns to Rooksdale House, Pansy can scarcely credit she is now engaged. Marlow leaves her at the gate with a bright and tender face. He has to go into the town, and she seeks the private sitting room she has reserved, with dew-wet eyes that study the betrothal ring she wears. It is a little diamond ring that was once his mother's, that Marlow Holme drew out from his wallet. She casts herself down and beseeches the blessing of God upon her shining future. But something checks the prayer for which her soul is hungering -- some inward sense of ingratitude, worldliness, deceit. With a longing for some tender heart on which to outpour her joy, Pansy blushingly shows her ring to Miss Ashburne. She wishes Pansy happiness with looks of strong disapproval, and suggests that it might be well for Mr. Traylon, the solicitor, to make inquiries into the gentleman's means, for those who live by their pen seldom possess satisfactory banking references. "What does it matter?" says Pansy to herself. "All that I have is his. I only care about Silverbeach to give it to him. How good, how clever, how splendid he is. How different life seems. I shall be perfectly happy and satisfied now." But uncomfortable remembrances, uneasy feelings of ingratitude and neglect, rise between her heart and the perfect peace that God's blessing only can bestow. Before he leaves Rockcombe, Marlow Holme himself introduces the subject of money matters, and Pansy is astonished and a little disconcerted to find he is by no means the needy individual she had somehow imagined him. "May's husband said you lived in comfortless rooms, Marlow," she tells him as they pace the pier one evening in the starlight. "I thought writers always were poor -- and I thought I was going to make you rich." He presses her hand to his side as it rests within his arm. "So you are, my darling. Richer in all ways than I dreamed of being or deserved to be. But my publishers are extremely kind and liberal, and the public are kind enough to like my works, so my literary income is considerable. Apart from that, I was an only child, and inherited all my father had to leave. He was a very successful merchant. As to my lodgings, they are quite good enough for a wandering bachelor." Pansy hears the next day from Major Grenville that a large proportion of Marlow's income is devoted to the Master's treasury, to strengthen the hands of the workers, and brighten the lives and hearts of His own. "I wish you would come to Firlands, dear," Marlow says persuasively to Pansy, as the time for his departure from Rockcombe approaches. "Grenville and I are going to the Wilberforce, a splendid new temperance hotel, quite a show place, I assure you. Many ladies patronize it. I am sure you and Miss Ashburne would be comfortable there, and I should like to show you the Fern Cavern and the Pine Park. Both are within easy drives." Pansy has picnicked many a time as a child in these places on the birthdays of the young Sothams, when the farmer would lend one of his wagons for his children's use. Both places are on the other side of Firlands, and Pansy tells herself there is no need for her to go near Polesheaton if she spends a week at the Wilberforce. The Firlands people know nothing of her, and if they ever saw her as a child they would never associate Miss Adair with the little girl at Polesheaton post office "We will spend the last week of our holiday at Firlands to please you, Marlow," she says, smilingly, "though you do not at all deserve it, for it is altogether too bad of you to turn out be well off when I longed so to enrich you!" Chapter 10 Old Acquaintance MISS ASHBURNE is graciously pleased to approve of Firlands, having found the air beneficial when companion to a much-quoted dowager-duchess. At the close of a lovely day, at the sunset time, the two ladies reach the fair resort among the pines, and Major Grenville and Marlow Holme are waiting on the station platform to escort them to a horse and carriage. With what a tumult of strange feelings Pansy sees once more the well-remembered streets. Marlow thinks her quieter than usual, and paler. He is solicitous as to her feeling tired after the journey, but Firlands is so closely associated in Pansy's memory with Polesheaton that the thoughts are rushing back to her of that day when her first good dress was made at a Firlands shop, and that hour when from Firlands station she started out upon her new life of brilliance and grandeur. The place has since then been considerably enlarged, but it was always full of delights and wonders to Pansy's childhood, and somehow it seems smaller now than it appeared in the past, and far less wonderful and imposing than in the days when life's greatest treat was to look at the shop windows, so different to quiet Polesheaton. The ladies join the table d'hÃ´te dinner at the Wilberforce, and there Pansy's worries begin. Close beside her sits an old gentleman who used to take lodgings in Polesheaton for the sake of sketching sometimes, and had many a chat with her in the post office, and sometimes presented her with chocolate from the grand confectioner's at Firlands. Pansy recognizes him directly, though the iron-grey hair of yore is white, and he is less erect than he used to be. Suppose he should recognize his little favourite of old, and before all these people ask questions and make remarks which would let Marlow know her former obscurity, and plunge her into shame and confusion! Fortunately for Pansy, the old gentleman is very cross because a certain dish he coveted is exhausted, and he has no attention to spare beyond his grievance. However, her dinner is spoilt for her, so great is her dread of recognition, and she begins to wish that even for the sake of being with Marlow she had never consented to visit Firlands. "I am painting the loveliest little place I have seen for many a day," says Marlow next morning. He is very fond of busying himself with a brush when he has leisure. "If you and Miss Ashburne will favour me with your company today, I should greatly like to drive you over. Grenville will be engaged with friends from London till six, when we both are due at a public meeting." "If Miss Adair is not too tired after yesterday's journey," says Miss Ashburne, "we shall enjoy a drive this beautiful morning. Are you painting the forest scenery, Mr. Holme?" "No, my subject is a picturesque old cottage covered with wisteria by the side of a stream crowned with water lilies. I am getting in likewise a bit of an old mill close by. Well, Pansy dear, will you favour me today? Shall I order the carriage?" "Whereabouts is the cottage?" asks Pansy, who has a miserable feelings that such a place is part of the Polesheaton memory. Surely the old gentleman who caused her such agitation at yesterday's dinner has painted it again and again. She is prepared for his reply, and makes up her mind not to go. "Just on the other side of Polesheaton, a quaint little place a few miles off. You drive through Polesheaton, and the cottage stands just by the crossroads. A carriage road to Polesheaton has now been made through the forest. It is lovely scenery all the way. Do say you will come this glorious morning." "I see the Summits are staying here. Their name is in the visitors' list," says Pansy quickly. "I should like to see Lady Grace this morning. They may be leaving soon." He looks so disappointed -- having very little leisure and rejoicing in the hope of a holiday morning with Pansy -- that at last she relents, lest he should deem her wilful and capricious. After all, there is some secret yearning within her to look just once upon the old church, the duck pond, the ancient houses, the tiny post office with the birds' nests in the roof. They will only drive quickly through -- no worry or perplexity can arise from gratifying Marlow by taking the drive he has arranged. The road through the forest is gemmed with every loveliness of berry, flower, and tree. At times it is dusky with firs, then the vision catches glimpses of water, bracken, and wild flowers. Rabbits and squirrels dart here and there, startled by the horse's feet. The first hour is a happy one to Pansy, sitting opposite Marlow and meeting his bright, loving gaze, discussing with him his forthcoming book, and realizing that henceforth she has a share in the poems that help and inspire so many. She sees how fortune has favoured her. Was ever woman's life so rich in all that can gladden and glorify it? But Pansy can scarcely carry on the conversation when, in the distance, she sees the ivied tower of Polesheaton Church, and knows that soon they will pass the signpost and drive through the familiar High Street. "Polesheaton is such a funny little place," says Marlow. "Full of reminders of the old coaching days, and keeping itself disapprovingly apart from the rush and commotion of modern life." "The sort of place where nothing ever happens, I suppose," says Miss Ashburne. "Something did happen a few years ago," says Marlow, smiling. "The old woman whose cottage I was painting the other day is quite a local authority. She regaled me with all the annals of Polesheaton. I am afraid I was thinking more about my artistic endeavours, but I remember one event she related. Some boy or girl from the place -- I forget which -- was adopted as her own by a very wealthy lady, and the old woman described the fortunate young person as 'rolling in riches' somewhere at the present time." "And very glad to be out of Polesheaton, I should think," remarks Miss Ashburne. "My dear Miss Adair, are you chilly? It struck me as so remarkably mild this morning." Marlow tenderly adjusts a light shawl round Pansy who is shivering and scanning his face with anxious eyes. But it is evident to her he has not the slightest suspicion of any personal interest in the anecdote. "You must have some lunch at Polesheaton, darling. We can picnic beside the water lilies. Well, as I was saying, this wealthy young person has proved richer in purse than in character, for my Polesheaton acquaintance indignantly informed me he or she had thrown over the one relation who had toiled and slaved for the childhood of this thankless child, who will probably live yet to be ashamed of such miserable ingratitude. At any rate, for the credit of human nature, let us hope so." "I am sure, my dear Miss Adair," says Miss Ashburne, "you are not feeling well. I hope Firlands will not prove too relaxing for you. Would you like some refreshment at once? The maid put some sandwiches up, I know." But Pansy shakes her head, and remarks she will be all right when she recovers from yesterday's journey. They are at the duck pond now, and she shrinks even from the admiring gaze of the children who chase the carriage for pence. There is the baker's shop, with its pretty proprietress looking almost the same as when she gave Pansy buns and gingerbread. There is the butcher's, but his son, grown nearly out of recognition, is serving in his stead. There is the old inn, with its wide yard, where farm labourers have come to dwell since the coaching days departed. There is the side entrance to The Grange. There is the gabled post office. How small, how shabby it looks. The chimneys seem scarcely safe, and there is an air of decay about it. No, it is no longer a post office. A new post office has arisen at the tinsmith's opposite, nor is the old post office a general shop now. There are a few straw hats in the window, and an old fashioned book. Evidently the Polesheaton milliner and dressmaker has here taken up her abode. Then where is Aunt Piper living? Has she gone to lodge with one of the neighbours, and how is she able to live without her shop? Pansy is trying to talk all this time about the ancient chest within the church and the gargoyles without, but her heart throbs with longing to see that never-forgotten face once more, and witness Aunt Piper's joy in the embrace of her tenderly loved little Pansy again. But Mrs. Adair judged rightly that Pansy would not secretly break the conditions of her inheritance. Any voluntary communication with Aunt Piper means the loss of Silverbeach Manor -- the forfeiture of all future status for herself. She glances at Marlow. She has chosen the very room at Silverbeach where he is to write. His study is to face the rose garden, and be luxurious and fair as her wealth can devise. For his sake she must at any cost keep Silverbeach. What a change the Manor will be for his poet-life after his bachelor lodgings in town, where he has spent so little on his own tastes and comfort. Yet if she could only see Aunt Piper without being herself perceived -- if that simply clad figure, in its quiet bonnet and dress of black or grey, were only at this moment to pass down the street. And Deb -- why, the child must actually be between eighteen and nineteen now, almost a woman! Yet Pansy looks to right and left, thinking that however Deb may have sprung up, she would recognize the round, freckled face, the reddish hair, the big blue eyes. Neither Deb nor Aunt Temperance passes down the street, however, and Pansy has no fear that the old woman at Marlow's cottage will know her, for she was a forgetful old body even then, and Pansy knows she is different indeed in appearance to the child who sometimes strayed that way for water lilies. Pansy is right. To the cottager she represents only "gentlefolks", and she is treated with extreme reverence, the dame apologizing for chipped plates, and remarking that she knows the kind of "chiney" fitting for quality like them, having lived kitchen maid with the Tatlocks. They take their provisions to a grassy knoll overlooking the water. Marlow brings out his painting, and the ladies admire and make comments, Pansy presently availing herself of his materials to sketch on her own account, though with a shaking hand. Presently they hear the rumble of wheels and a cart comes by containing the driver, an elderly lady, and a younger one, who alights to gather a few water lilies. Pansy moves a little for the stranger to pass, and their eyes meet -- Pansy's in fear and dismay, Martha Sotham's in delighted recognition. "If it isn't Pansy! Why, whoever would have known you, Pansy, dressed out like that? Who'd have thought to see you look so fine? Mother, it's Pansy! She's hard of hearing, Pansy. Come right along and speak to mother." "She is a country girl I used to take some notice of," says Pansy to Miss Ashburne. Marlow is filling a little phial with water at the stream, and is intent upon his work. "Bless me, so it's little Pansy Piper!" says Mrs. Sotham, as Pansy rushes up to the cart to be out of hearing of the others. "How loud she speaks," says Pansy. "Well, Martha, how are you all? You look just the same as of old." "Well, you don't," says Martha bluntly. "Fine feathers make fine birds. You look quite the lady, Pansy. Have you heard about my sister Ellen? She's quite the lady, too. She married the hairdresser over at Firlands, with the wax heads in his window always going round." "Martha," says Pansy, determining inwardly to avoid that shop, "where is Aunt Temperance living now? Is she well? How does she live? " "If you don't know, I don't, Pansy. We always thought she was with you. A few months after you left she had an illness which affected her head a little. She could not attend to business, and it went down. Father lent her money sometimes, but she could not get along at all. She just seemed to have no heart in it. So a year or two went by, and then she started off one day all alone, talking very strangely about going to find her little Pansy. Deb went right off after her. I don't know if she ever found her, poor soul. Some said you refused to do anything for her, and some said she lived with you. Well, the pony won't wait. Goodbye, Pansy. I just wish Ellen could see how your skirt is draped." And the Sothams drive off, smiling and nodding, leaving behind them a trembling, unhappy, dazed-looking young woman. That excursion so thoroughly unnerves Pansy that she pleads a headache, and goes to lie down immediately on returning to the hotel. Her fiancÃ© looks after her anxiously as she ascends the staircase, and longs for the time to come when his frail, fair Pansy will be within his own care and keeping. A burst of tears somewhat relieves Pansy's headache, and on consideration she cannot see that Martha Sotham's recognition has done her any harm. Marlow was too much engrossed in his painting to hear her awkward greeting, and if Miss Ashburne's wonderment were at all aroused, as Pansy suspects, she knows it is to that lady's interest to ask no questions and make no inquisitive remarks. "Lady Grace Summit, if you please, miss," says the maid who has accompanied her to Firlands, knocking at her door. "And Miss Ashburne says would you please to take a cup of tea?" "Let a tray be taken into the drawing room," says Pansy, hastily rising from the bed and bathing her eyes. She is glad of the change of thought this visit will bring, and she puts on her prettiest tea gown, and descends to her private sitting room. "I am so sorry you have such a wretched headache, darling," says Lady Grace, embracing Pansy who is one of her special pets. "I heard from Major Grenville -- an old friend of Mr. Summit's -- that you were here, and I have just run in to congratulate you. I am charmed, Pansy. Fancy marrying a poet! I fairly adore Mr. Holme's poetry, you know, and it will be delightful to have him at Silverbeach. You must persuade him to live at Silverbeach, of course. We do not want strangers at the Manor. And Mr. Summit and I want you to do us a favour, Pansy. I do so enjoy getting up a wedding. We want you to be married from our house, and it shall be the prettiest wedding ever seen in the country. It is not to be for some time yet? Well, when it does come off, remember it is to be from our house, and I will help you meanwhile to get your trousseau. But I think you are looking very poorly, Pansy. You never quite got over that sad shock of losing poor dear Mrs. Adair. Yes, I will take some tea, thank you, Miss Ashburne." So Lady Grace Summit glides on, while her husband murmurs acquiescence in hospitable invitation, and eats pound cake on the ottoman. Pansy cheers up in discussing the interesting event which at some future time is to excite the neighbourhood of Silverbeach, but she elects to dine in private today. She feels unequal to undergoing possible recognition from the old gentleman who sat near her yesterday at dinner. The following day she notices that the head waiter at the hotel regards her attentively, and the suspicion crosses her mind that his parents live at Polesheaton, and she has sometimes served him across the post office counter. Another time she meets old Farmer Sotham himself on the hotel steps, bringing poultry and butter, and once in a Firlands shop she sees an assistant with whom she used to play as a child on Polesheaton Green. Altogether she resolves to make a pretext to leave before her week is out, and she heartily repents that she ever ventured back to this neighbourhood of memories. Chapter 11 A Plea for Charity THE Wilberforce Hotel has placed one of its most elegant and expensive chambers at the disposal of Miss Adair of Silverbeach, but Pansy believes that the humblest maid beneath the roof of the hotel has calmer, sweeter sleep at night than she whose windows are graced by costly curtains, whose bed is luxurious as money and care can procure, and whose walls are tasteful with artistic paper showing golden lilies in the light of the tinted night lamp. Now that Pansy is alone and has time to think, her heart aches in the remembrance of Martha Sotham's words, that the little business in Polesheaton grew gradually less and less, and illness came upon Aunt Temperance and weakened her energies till at last she spoke in a wandering way of seeking her little Pansy, and left her old home and her friends to roam in bewilderment -- whither? What has become of her? She may be in need and difficulty. She may be ill. Surely it would not be counted as "voluntary communication" with her to send her assistance through some mutual friend. Though their paths forever lie apart, Pansy feels she must in some way ensure that the aunt who cared for her childhood is in ease and comfort. Oh, if she had told Marlow the truth from the beginning, but she knows his horror of deceit. She feels she cannot bring herself to reveal to him that she is the miserably ungrateful favourite of fortune of whom he spoke in their drive. One day when Marlow Holme is engaged for some hours on YMCA business, and Miss Ashburne is in bed with an influenza cold which prevents all idea of travelling to London for the present, Pansy wanders among the pines for a while. Later she shops a little with Lady Grace, excusing herself from the hairdresser's, for within there she catches sight of her former companion, Ellen Sotham the farmer's daughter, now wife of the proprietor, and looking extremely elegant in black satin and a gold chain, her hair quite a marvel of professional skill. Finally, her restless thoughts decide her to engage a pony carriage from the hotel and drive alone -- how well she remembers the way -- to Farmer Sotham's to ask further concerning Aunt Temperance, and to endeavour through the farmer to provide her aunt with money. Even Marlow would not be in the way today. She is glad he is absent from her side. For once she will be Pansy Piper again, and feel free to learn all she can about the little shop, and prove to her old friends that she has not wholly forgotten her aunt's love and kindness. She provides herself in Firlands with a graceful wool shawl of French grey as a gift for Mrs. Sotham, and a black velvet cap for the farmer to protect his head from draughts, and a pretty brooch for Martha, besides a box of confectionery for the younger members of the household. The pony goes slowly, having but lately come to the Wilberforce Temperance Hotel stables from other ownership, and showing a tendency to stop and graze beside any wayside tavern. At last the chimneys of the old farm are visible, and Pansy passes the stile over which she has climbed so often, to take a short cut to the kitchen door. She arrives through the gate causing great commotion among the poultry in the yard, and almost as much excitement in the breasts of Mrs. Sotham and Martha. The latter leads the way to the best parlour, and brings a tray with milk and seed cake. "Now, this is kind of you, Pansy," says Mrs. Sotham, "not to be above calling on your old friends, when they do say you could curl your hair in bank notes, and that you've the loveliest possible place London way -- a finer place than Tatlock Grange itself." "Silverbeach Manor is very beautiful," says Pansy, "and Mrs. Adair has left me well off." She makes no mention of the condition of her wealth. "But, Mrs. Sotham, I did not come to talk about myself. I want to do something for poor Aunt Temperance. Do you mean to say nobody knows where she is? " "Polesheaton people don't know," answers the farmer's wife when Pansy has repeated her inquiry in louder tones. "Martha, my dear, we might put up a jar of that quince jelly for Pansy. She'll remember the old quince tree, and how many a time you girls have climbed into it. Ah, you wouldn't be seen climbing the quince tree now, would you, my dear? " "I am grown up now," says Pansy, yet with half a sigh for the days of fun and freedom. "Then you can give me no advice, Mrs. Sotham, as to how I could possibly provide for poor Aunt Piper's support?" "My dear child, we don't even know that she's alive, though many's the time her name is brought up at prayer meeting, and I doubt not she's somewhere under the good Lord's care. Mr. Sotham did his best to look after her, Pansy, though what with bad harvests, and a big family, and having to keep the place in repair, there's not too much money in my husband's pockets, I assure you. But your poor aunt would have been welcome to more than the little she had from us, if only she'd have let us know in a neighbourly way she were so dreadfully badly off. Away she went, without so much as 'by your leave' or 'with your leave', and Deb found a scrap of writing to say she'd gone seeking for you, and the landlord could have her stock and bits of furniture to settle what she owed for rent." "She'd be proud to know you were trying to find her out, Pansy," says Martha. "I'll speak to Father, and maybe he will get news of her yet, for he meets a many in the markets, and he shall make inquiries for you. I suppose you'd have her to live with you at Silverbeach? I'd like to get a sight of where you live, Pansy. Do tell us about it, and what you do all day." "My days are not nearly as useful as yours, Martha. I dare say you have charge of the dairy now? " "That I have, and we supply cream and butter to that grand hotel where your pony chaise belongs. But just think of Miss Piper living with you at Silverbeach. It's no more than you ought to do, Pansy. I'm always one to speak my mind, as you know, but it will be a rare good thing for the poor soul after all her ups and downs. And there's nobody we love better in Polesheaton than your Aunt Temperance, Pansy." "I could not arrange for her to live with me," says Pansy, flushing. "My idea was to provide for her comfortably, so that she wanted for nothing. But my household arrangements do not depend on myself, Martha. I am engaged to be married." Martha shouts the news into her mother's ear, and they ask with much excitement if her "intended" is a lord or a duke. They seem disappointed to hear he is untitled, but Mrs. Sotham cheers up as Pansy tells eloquently of his good works and zeal in so many channels of Christian helpfulness. "Better marry a Christian than a prince, my dear," she says. "Well, if only your poor aunt could hear the news. I fancy I see her stitching away at some of your clothes. I never saw anybody more at home with her needle. Why, she made your frocks when you were quite a little thing, Pansy. Many's the time I've seen her sewing away at the tucks and frills, so as you could be cosy and smart, when she ought to have been taking her rest. When you were gone, Pansy, she said she perceived you had been her idol, and so God had taken you away to afflict her soul." "Don't cry, dear," says Martha affectionately, for Pansy's tears are falling fast. "I always said you had a heart, though some declared you had forgotten all about the old lady. Of course it is a long while now since she wandered away, and Deb went after her. If we can hear anything at any time about her, we should let you know directly. How nice it would be if she could be traced in time for you to invite her to your wedding!" Pansy cannot bring herself to tell these worthy people the conditions in which she holds her inheritance, making it impossible for Aunt Temperance to come near Silverbeach Manor. They are delighted with her presents, and part from her most cordially, telling her she looks most wonderfully genteel, and they would give anything to see how she looks when she is wearing her wedding dress. "The wedding will not come off for some time yet," says Pansy. "Be sure I will send you some cake." With that she drives off, feeling that she is no nearer the end of her anxiety concerning Aunt Temperance than when she sought the farm. As she drives slowly homeward, the intensity of her longing to know what has become of her aunt amounts to pain. Every scene recalls her childhood and early girlhood, and the tenderness that wrapped her round and was tireless for her sake. She wonders if perhaps it is even now too late for earthly help to reach that wandering life. "Oh, let it not be too late!" prays Pansy in her heart. "Grant, O God, she is living. Let me make her happy, even though our roads must lie apart." The last evening of Pansy's stay in Firlands, she and Miss Ashburne are invited to dine with the Summits at whose apartments Major Grenville and Marlow Holme will also be present. Pansy sends her maid to assist Miss Ashburne, who is losing her cold, but feels that it has left her weak. Thinking Marlow may be waiting for her at the foot of the staircase, Pansy sails down when she is ready in the most becoming a costume of half-mourning that a West End fashion retailer can provide. Her grey cloak, edged with fur, is round her, and flowers are shining in her hair. One of the waiters, talking to a young gardener whom she had seen working in the grounds of the hotel, looks at her in some perplexity. "Excuse me, madam," he says, respectfully, "this young man has been waiting some time to see Mr. Holme. Could you please tell him if you know when Mr. Holme will be in? " "I expect him soon," says Pansy kindly, for the young gardener is all blushes and bows, looking half-dazzled by the radiant vision that shines upon him; "but he may be detained. He is very busy today, as he leaves Firlands tomorrow." "The gentleman don't know me, your ladyship," says the young fellow hesitantly; and Pansy thinks how honest and pleasant are his looks and tones. "But folks say he is very kind and charitable, and I've heard as how he has a great deal to do with some almshouses, called Thanksgiving Cottages, up in London. There's an old lady as I'm trying hard to get into an almshouse, or something of the sort. I thought if so be as I could tell the gentleman all about it -- but Jenks here tells me, begging your pardon, my lady, as how you're a-going to be his good lady -- and if you'd only have the goodness to put in a word for this here party with Mr. Holme, we'd all be most uncommon grateful to your ladyship." "I will do what I can," says Pansy, "but I believe the carriage is waiting. I am going out. Please tell me as quickly as possible the facts of the case concerning which you are applying to Mr. Holme." Jenks has left the hall by this time, and the young man stands with uncovered head, talking earnestly and eagerly to the gracious young lady who waits among the plants and statues to hear his tale. "The person as I wants to get into Thanksgiving Cottages, miss -- seeing as our minister told me once he had visited them, and nice cosy homelike places they were -- is an old lady that has seen better days. She talks of going into the workhouse, but that we will never let her do. She's a poor broken-down body, my lady, as ever you see, though there's one belonging to her, I'm told, as is rolling in money, but that's neither here nor there, seeing as how she don't take no notice of the old lady, and she have made my Deb promise she'll never ask no favours nor no money for her from them as washes their hands of her -- more shame to them, begging your ladyship's pardon." His speech is so eager as to become involved, and Pansy shivers, though her cloak is cosily lined and the evening is warm. She fixes her eyes on his face, and says in a voice that scarcely seems her own, "Tell me more. Who is she? Where is she? You want to get her in the almshouse?" "That's better, at any rate, than the workhouse, my lady, thanking you for your kind interest in the poor old party. She isn't so to speak altogether right in her head at times. Deb says it's the trouble have broken her down, but then again at other times she'll seem to come to herself, and when she do she frets at being a burden on Deb, and nothing will content her but that we promise to put her somewhere where she'll be no expense to Deb." "Who is Deb?" asks Pansy, putting her hand to her head. She thinks she hears Miss Ashburne's voice in the corridor above, but she must comprehend who it is this young man is trying to get into the almshouse. "Deb is my wife, your ladyship," he says, a little proudly. "We've been married five weeks next Tuesday. I were engaged for a thorough good place -- a lodge and all -- and directly I knows my good fortune I says, 'We'll get married, Deb, my girl, right off', for we'd been engaged nigh a year. Says I, 'We're young and strong, and we'll work hard, and fare hard, and pray hard, Deb, as I heard a good minister advise a young pair once, and the old lady shall live along with us and want for nothing.' So we got married, my lady, and come to Firlands a month ago, and we hadn't got into the lodge before my master that was to be had some property left him in Scotland, and he let his place here right off to a gentleman as brought his own servants. There was gardeners already on his Scottish estate, and he said as how he wanted to keep on the old hands if he could. He give me a sovereign, and I looked here and there for a job. I've got work here for a bit, but it won't last long. Deb, she takes in washing, and she's hard at it day and night, so to speak, and the old lady sews a bit; but that's all she can do. Do you think you could speak a word for the poor body to the good gentleman, my lady? " "Come in here," says Pansy, opening the door of a little sitting room, for she can hear Miss Ashburne coming down the stairs. "I can listen better here." "This is where Jenks put her to wait, my lady. I brought the old lady along with me. Miss Piper, ma'am, rouse yourself a bit. The good gentleman isn't in yet, but here's a kind lady as is going to do her best to get you a real happy home." For an instant their eyes meet. A light comes into the changed, sunken face, aged by illness and sorrow. The shabby old woman in the thin black dress lays a trembling hand on Pansy's silvery fur with a gasp of delight. But Pansy hears Miss Ashburne's voice and Major Grenville's step in the hall -- another moment and the story will be public. She turns hastily away, tells the young man she will see what she can do, but she can spare him no more time. He thanks her humbly and gratefully, and the aged figure in the corner of the little room sinks back listlessly into her usual state of quietude. Pansy does not know how she gets through that evening, or how she converses with her host to whose care she is entrusted for dinner. Everyone notices how unwell she looks, and Lady Grace tells her, smilingly, that she is evidently pining for her lost liberty. "I fear I made a mistake, darling," says Marlow Holme during the evening, "in pressing you to come to Firlands. Some say the air is relaxing here, but it does not suit you at all. Your head aches, does it not, sweetheart?" They are together in the fernery at the back of the drawing room, and he draws her tenderly into his arms. Pansy longs to lean her head on his shoulder and tell him her troubles and the shock she has received this day. But he would never think the same of her again if he knew she had deceived him in concealing her former obscurity. Marlow is so different in his notions to other people that he might even advise her to become Aunt Piper's child once more and give up her splendid inheritance. "Yes, Marlow," she says, half sobbing, "my head aches badly, and the music confuses it. I do not think Firlands can suit me. I feel so depressed and out of sorts altogether." "I know the mood you mean, Pansy," he says. "I have had many a grey, clouded day of my own. The only comfort is that no mood, no depression, can shut us from the Master's love. He loves us and remembers us and cares for us, whether we be cast down or in sunlight." Chapter 12 Mobs's Text Card. NEXT morning Pansy and Miss Ashburne are breakfasting together at the hotel, prior to their journey by train to London, and the older lady is admonishing the younger concerning her lack of appetite, when a bustle is heard in the corridor and Martha Sotham rushes in, exclaiming excitedly, "I would not let them announce me -- I know the London train goes soon -- but you will delay your return to town, will you not, Pansy? I told you I would try and get news of Miss Temperance Piper. Whatever do you think? She is in Firlands, poor soul. And Deb is married, and----" "Miss Ashburne, Miss Sotham," says Pansy, somewhat nervously, "I do not think you have met before. Martha, your visit is an early one. You will be glad, no doubt, of a cup of coffee." "I have finished," says Miss Ashburne. "I must just see how the maid is getting on with the packing. Pray take my seat, Miss Sotham." Greatly to Pansy's relief her companion glides away, aware that she would be one too many in the conversation. But Miss Ashburne has already made up her mind to try and unearth this mystery that concerns the lady of Silverbeach. The knowledge might give her a hold over Pansy, which would be personally advantageous. "Quite the lady, isn't she?" observes Martha, watching Miss Ashburne's retreating figure. "No, thank you, Pansy, no coffee. I breakfasted at seven, because it's father's day to drive to Firlands and call at the Wilberforce, and I thought I could just catch you before you left. But when you hear my news you'll be for staying here awhile longer, I know. Some of our Polesheaton folks have seen Miss Piper in Firlands, and I know now where she lives. Oh, Pansy, they do say she looks so very poor. She'll be as proud as a queen to find you've been fretting about her and to have a sight of you again. Deb has married a gardener, but they have a struggle to get along, I fancy." "I cannot give you long, Martha," says Pansy, looking confused, and taking out her watch, which causes Martha to say, "Set with diamonds -- what a beauty!" "I never like to hurry for a train, and all our arrangements are complete to return to London this morning. I was aware of what you told me already. I knew it yesterday." "Oh, then, you have seen your Aunt Temperance," cries Martha excitedly. "Mother will be pleased. The poor old lady must have been half wild with delight to see you again. Do tell me all about it, Pansy. Is Miss Piper changed very much? And whatever did Deb say when you went there, looking so genteel? " "Martha," comes the constrained reply, "there are family circumstances to which I can only allude in confidence. I do not wish my affairs to be the talk of Polesheaton, but I may as well tell you at once, quite between ourselves, that I have not conversed with Aunt Temperance. Nor shall I be able to do so. Our lives must lie apart. I was naturally anxious to know something of her fate when I called upon you, and I shall entrust your father with a sum of money for her use. But I cannot visit her, or in any other way acknowledge our relationship." "But why not?" asks Martha, with wondering eyes. "I don't see why you should not get her some good clothes, and have her to live with you at Silverbeach. I know I'll look after my mother as long as I can, and folks say Miss Piper was every bit like a mother to you, Pansy. I think it will be a shame if you don't see a good deal of her, poor soul, now that you are quite your own mistress. "I am not my own mistress," says Pansy, agitatedly. "Very few people know the condition of my riches. If I break that condition I am penniless. My property was left to me with the stipulation that I hold no willing communication with Aunt Temperance. Mrs. Adair had taken a dislike to her, I think, and to all idea of my former life. I seemed so entirely to belong to her at last. I love Silverbeach dearly. It goes to a stranger if I break the stipulation. So you see, Martha, I am in honour bound to see nothing of Aunt Temperance, and to refrain from speaking to her or writing to her, whatever my own feelings might desire." "In honour bound," repeats Martha sharply. "Oh, well, if you think so, Pansy, I have nothing more to say. I'm not a grand lady like you are. I am only a plain farmer's daughter, but to my notions the Tower of London and all the jewels in it, and the Bank of England with all its gold, would not be worth going against my conscience for. Anybody's conscience must tell them it's wrong to grieve a heart that has borne and done so much for them in the past. It's as bad as Absalom in the Bible -- and there's never been an Absalom yet that came to any good." "If you please, ma'am, will you wear your grey travelling coat or your brown one?" asks the maid, knocking at the door. "Miss Ashburne desired me to remind you of the time." "My grey coat. I am just coming," says Pansy hastily. "Come, Martha, let us part friends. I will send your father something substantial for Aunt Temperance. I know he will be kind enough to use it for her benefit. You see now, Martha, I am not to be envied with all my good fortune. 'There is a crook in every lot,' as the hymn says." "You might finish the verse, Pansy," said Martha, significantly, "for the next lines are more important still. This is how the hymn goes: 'There is a crook in every lot, And an earnest need for prayer. But a lowly heart that leans on Thee, Is happy everywhere.' There, Pansy, I must not be hard on you, for I am not placed just as you are. I will pray you may in all things be guided aright." Martha departs in her father's cart, looking troubled and perplexed, and in the midst of flattering attentions from the hotel people Miss Adair and her companion are driven to the station, one of them feeling thankful in her heart when the pines of Firlands are lost to sight. David Rumsay, Deb's husband, lodging at Lower Road Cottages, receives during the morning a note from the graceful lady who conversed with him the previous evening. It encloses five pounds for the case he mentioned, but nothing is said about admission to the institution with which Marlow Holme is connected. Pansy is glad Marlow leaves that afternoon. She would not have him talk with Miss Piper or Deb on any account. Pansy's first care when she reaches London is to send Farmer Sotham a cheque for her aunt's benefit, asking him to use it as he sees best, and on no account to bring her name into the question, as there are special reasons why she desires that Miss Piper should not associate her with the gift. Having posted the cheque, her conscience feels easier. She tells herself that Farmer Sotham will be sure to make comfortable provision for Miss Piper, and that while careful not to break the stipulation made by poor Mrs. Adair, she has secured her aunt's welfare, and proved her liberality, at any rate, to the Sothams. Lady Grace Summit busies herself in planning Pansy's magnificent wedding; Marlow Holme has literary business in America that will shortly call him away; and the marriage is not to take place at once, there being many important arrangements to make. But it is settled that they will live at Silverbeach Manor, and already certain rooms are in process of improvement and embellishment, and Pansy is devising wonderful schemes for the purpose of lovelier effects in gardens and grounds. She often now sees in her mind Mr. and Mrs. Cyril Langdale. She feels thankful that instead of belonging to her first fancy, concerning whom she has long been disenchanted, the future holds a true soul-union with one whom she knows to be good, and great, and noble. Pansy's satisfaction as to the cheque sent to Polesheaton is short-lived. Instead of the pleasing acknowledgment she expects from one of the Sothams, Martha writes on behalf of her father as follows: "We had already been looking after your aunt a bit, but you know she is proud, and one cannot help her too openly. Deb gave us a long account of all they have been through together -- she is as devoted to your aunt as if she belonged to her -- and they have both had times of sore need, that is plain. We took over a few things from the farm, and when your letter came Father spoke to her about getting nice lodgings somewhere, and mother spoke about a new gown, and your aunt seemed so sensible all of a sudden, and cried out, 'It's Pansy's money -- she's sending me money. Tell her I'll not touch one farthing of it. It was the child's love I wanted!' Father says I am to send you back the cheque. We Polesheaton folk will not let your Aunt Temperance starve." Pansy tears up the letter and tries to forget its contents, but she cannot succeed in doing so. She pictures the heart-soreness that prompted the old lady's cry; the wistful startled face that half recognized her at Firlands, the love that has yearned for her in vain. *** It is the evening of evenings at Masden Mission School -- the anniversary, when tea and bread-and-butter and cake are to commence the festivities, prizes are to be distributed, and the children of Sunday and Ragged schools are to recite and sing. The tea is at five, and children gather at the gate about half past two, finding much excitement in the arrival of the baker's cart, and visions of trays of buns. Every boy and girl has managed to secure some adornment out of the ordinary, such as a bright necktie, a posy, a medal; and Pansy has sent over from Silverbeach a collection of plants and flowers that makes the plain schoolroom lovely as a garden. A live Lord is to preside at the meeting, and this in itself makes a great sensation at Masden. Marlow Holme, now back in England, looks as happy as anyone deserves to be who makes young folks happy, and he is seen in twenty places at once, with children pulling at his coat, hanging on his arm, doing their best to get injured with the knife wherewith he attacks the cake. All the time the young man's heart is listening for the footstep he loves the best, and at last Pansy's carriage is announced by an excited cheer from the youngsters, and his beautiful fiancÃ©e is at his side, in a quiet, perfect costume of dark grey cashmere, yet with the indescribable shadow still upon her face that he anxiously attributes to weak health. Miss Ashburne is here also, for the noble chairman is an acquaintance with whom she likes to keep in touch. She disapproves of the boys and girls and their common parents, and goes and sits in state on the platform among the palms, where tea is handed up to her deferentially. Pansy likes the change of scene after her everyday grandeur. She has grown very fond of her scholars, and she is proud of their progress. Mobs, a blue-eyed, bright-looking little fellow is quite the hero of the evening. He is a remarkably clever lad, and has done so well in the examination that quite a pile of prizes is to come his way. The boy is so elated as to seem suspended on wires. Everyone has a smile and a word for him, and he eyes the tempting-looking books on the platform with a proud sense of personal interest. "Who is that?" whispers Pansy to Marlow, when the after-meeting opens amid lingering fragrance of tea and cake. She is looking in the direction of a shabby, broken-down looking man in a torn coat, with very short hair, who has shambled to a seat with eyes bent on the ground. Many of the parents, extra well-dressed for the occasion, whisper and nudge each other as he approaches, and there is quite a stir among the children who all gaze in his direction, and appear to be talking about him. Marlow answers in a low tone, "Poor fellow. That is Mobs's father. He used to be a clerk and fairly respectable, but he fell through drink, and committed forgery. He is out of prison on a ticket-of-leave. I am seeing if the mission can help him and his poor struggling wife; Mobs ought to be the making of the family by and by. What a shame to stare at the poor man so. He has never entered our hall before." Mobs has only just perceived his father and the whispering and nudging that is going on. The boy is in an honoured place towards the front, but no sooner does he realize what is taking place than he jumps up and edges his way down to his father, sits beside him, and slips his arm through his. "That's splendid," says Marlow, a little huskily. "The poor chap has got a look of manliness already. Mobs is his one sunbeam. Thank God, he is a good, brave, dutiful child." Pansy has tears in her eyes as she watches her little scholar go up again and again to take his prizes, followed by the proud gaze of his father, and eagerly returning to show the beautiful books and pictures. The man's looks are softened and calmed as he listens to the singing of the children, and hears his boy's clear voice take a solo in a message of Heavenly love. Can his life be despised, condemned, forsaken of God indeed, when this child remains to him, honouring him, claiming him tenderly as his father in sight of all the assembly? People are not staring inquisitively at him now. They begin to congratulate him concerning his boy, and to show a disposition of friendliness. "Mobs," says Pansy to her scholar, when she has summoned him aside to help carry in the buns, "I am very glad you went and sat by your father tonight. What made you do it, dear?" Mobs colours, and mutters something about, "The Bible, and everybody looking down on Father," and finally says, rather brokenly, "It's that text card you gave me, Miss Adair -- it was the very day Father come home." "I remember once giving you a text card. I bought a packet in London," says Pansy. "Well, Mobs, what was the text I gave you?" "Don't you remember, teacher? I thought you might have known about Father, and have given it to me a' purpose. I was almost ashamed of owning him, coming out of there, but I felt different after I got reading that card, and now I love Father with all my heart, and I'm going to stick by him and Mother, and do for them just all I can. This here's the text card, teacher," and he fishes it out of his knickerbockers. "'Honour thy father and mother... that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.'" Mobs runs off with the buns, and Pansy is left there alone, the text flashing into her heart like Heavenly light. Is this child to do God's will, and is she to show no love and honour to her who has taken a mother's place? "Lord, help me -- forgive -- teach me -- oh, teach me to do Thy will!" she falters, and in that hour the heart-struggle ceases. She will give up her rich inheritance. She will openly honour the love that loved her helplessness. As Marlow Holme takes Pansy to her carriage, he says, "This will be a glorious evening for some, my darling. Our chairman is delighted with Mobs, and wants to undertake his training. I have told him the family history, and my belief that the poor convict is sincerely penitent, though almost hopeless. Our chairman has told Mobs's father to call on him tomorrow, and bring the boy. Once he looks after them, I believe humanly speaking their troubles are past, for he is sure to find just the place of work the poor fellow can fill and regain his self-respect. How good, how gracious the Lord is, Pansy. How His love, His compassion, can bring light out of darkness." Pansy silently clings to his arm. She feels this starlit hour as though she could scarcely say "goodbye." She means to tell him all, to hide herself away from his contempt, to break the engagement herself that in his heart he would surely wish cancelled. She has been thankless, selfish, deceitful. It will be fitting that the one she loves most should forsake her, just as she forsook the love that had nurtured her. "God be with you, love," he whispers. "I shall see you tomorrow." He does not know he will never see Pansy Adair again. Chapter 13 For Old Sake's Sake PANSY'S feelings have reached a crisis. Duty and tenderness are drawing her to the life that cared for her orphan state. Her wealth has gradually been becoming to her almost intolerable in the thought of Aunt Temperance sewing for her living, and dependent on the care of Deb's hard-working hands. Little Mobs, faithful to the bidding on his text card, has made up her mind. All that night she lies wakeful, trying to form some plans for the future, trying to compose a letter of explanation to Marlow Holme. She rises early, and begins more than one letter to him, wet with her tears, but in the end she addresses to his apartments in town a few brief lines only. They read abrupt and cold, for the tension of her feelings is such that she dare not trust herself to say more to him: This letter is to bid you farewell. It is better our engagement should end. I have deceived you. Forget our past engagement; this is to set you free. I enclose the ring you gave me. Pansy. She calls Lizzie Russell, who is still a housemaid at the Manor, and to whom she has become attached. "See this packet is registered and posted, Lizzie," she says. "Do it yourself. I trust you to get it off by the early post." "Certainly, miss," says Lizzie; "but you do look so poorly, miss. Let me bring up your breakfast." Pansy makes no reply, lest she should betray her tears. The girl brings her a tempting tray, longing to cheer and comfort her, for she imagines there has been some little disagreement between her young mistress and her fiancÃ©. "Is it raining, Lizzie?" asks Pansy, who is looking for a waterproof cloak. "Yes, miss, it does look gloomy this morning, but 'rain before seven, clear by eleven' you know. It won't keep dull, miss, I'm sure. The skies are certain to clear by and by." Pansy's own maid is away on a holiday, and she is relieved that such is the case. She puts on her plainest hat, dons her waterproof, locks her jewel case, and encloses the key in a letter to the solicitor. She takes only such trinkets as Mrs. Adair gave her before she died -- none inherited by the will. Marlow's letters and a few special treasures she puts into a hand portmanteau, and then she writes to the lawyer, telling him she renounces her claim to her conditional inheritance, for the stipulation is beyond her carrying out, and she is now going to cast in her lot with the relation whose acquaintance the will forbids. "If the one who inherits Silverbeach raises no objection," she says, "I should like all the servants to be paid to the end of the quarter and a month beyond, also Miss Ashburne the same. Please arrange all this for me, as I am now leaving Silverbeach Manor, never more to return." Miss Ashburne is breakfasting at her ease when she is startled by the apparition of her employer, attired for out-of-doors, though it is raining hard. "My dear Miss Adair, you are not surely thinking of going out. You will be drenched. You are not looking well. I fear you have had a sleepless night. Let me send the groom for the doctor." "Oh, no, Miss Ashburne, I am not ill. I have something to tell you -- something that I fear will startle you. I am not Miss Adair any longer. My name is Piper." "It used to be, I know," says Miss Ashburne, soothingly, for of late she has managed to glean a pretty correct idea of the state of affairs; "but Mrs. Adair adopted you, made you her heiress, and called you by her name. Your nerves are excited by sleeplessness, I am sure. You are quite entitled to consider yourself Miss Adair, of Silverbeach Manor. Now do take a little hot chocolate and give up all thought of going out today." "No, Miss Ashburne; my mind is made up. I have come to say goodbye. I am sure Mrs. Adair's legal adviser will deal honourably with you, as I have requested. Please wait here and preside here till he arrives. With me he has nothing more to do, and I do not suppose he will make any search for me. Mine is only a conditional inheritance, and the condition I cannot keep. I hold Silverbeach while I disown the aunt who brought me up. I have decided now to give up my property and go back to my poor old aunt." "But, my dear child," says Miss Ashburne, quite agitatedly, "this is impracticable, absolutely irreligious. Would you actually fling into a stranger's hands a splendid estate like this simply for the sake of an old person who cannot have long to live? Providence has provided for you an ample fortune. Think well before you turn your back on it." "I have thought well," is the quiet reply, "and in the night I prayed about the matter, too. I know my aunt cannot have long to live, so I have all the less time to prove to her I am not the miserably selfish creature she must think me in her heart." With no more ado, Pansy leaves Silverbeach Manor behind, the beautiful, restful home which is to pass to a stranger. She wonders vaguely if he will take care of the birds, the dogs, her own pet riding horse, the ponies she has driven in the chaise. All these belong to the past. Of the future she knows nothing, save that she is going back to a heart that is breaking for her. She dreads being recognized at Silverbeach station, but few of her acquaintances are travelling so early, and soon she will be whirled away to her new life. Her idea is to seek out David Rumsay, the gardener, whose address at Lower Road Cottages in Firlands she obtained at the hotel before she left. If Miss Piper has been placed in some institute now, or if she has resolutely gone to the workhouse, Pansy will follow her even there, and take her to some lodging where her musical powers may earn money for them both. Waiting for the Firlands train is a trying experience. Pansy has just missed one, and sits tired, hungry, yet too sad to eat, in the third-class waiting room where she has time and leisure to reflect on all that has gone out of her life by her decision to choose Aunt Temperance before Silverbeach Manor. Her headache is not improved by the screaming of a neighbouring babe and the quarrelling of a couple angry with each other for missing the train. To complete her discomfiture she sees some people she knows sailing down the platform. They are going by the express, which is only first-class, and Pansy notes their cushions, and wraps, and papers, and luncheon basket, and the attentions of guards and porters. Henceforth she must expect nothing of the sort. She knows she has chosen to belong to the women who earn their living, and she hopes that her life will be a blessed, and happy, and contented one. Surely, nobody is really poorer for doing what they believe to be right. Even now, she thinks that perhaps Marlow may refuse to accept his freedom, seek her out, demand her reasons, and tell her he can trust her and care for her, even though she hid from him that secret of her early life. But when once the train has started for Firlands, and she is really on her way to the scenes of old, she forgets even her losses, thinking of the joy she is bearing to her aunt. Oh, that she be yet alive, that God in Heaven may permit the meeting, and allow the future to atone for the past, since her heart surely repents of her thanklessness. It is evening before Firlands is reached. Last time, Marlow was on the platform -- now, nobody comes forward to help. She feels a little desolate, and asks a porter to direct her to Lower Road Cottages. The man is busy and does not answer. Already Pansy feels a difference between travelling third-class and first. Her second request, made to a lad cleaning lamps, is more successful. "It's the third turning to the right across the railway bridge, miss, bearing round to the left by the public house. That's where I live. Were you wanting my mother, Mrs. Pillings?" "No, I want a gardener of the name of Rumsay.' "Ah, he lodges in the house with the flowers in the window. You bear round by the public house, miss, and you'll be all right." After one or two mistakes, Pansy's wearied steps reach the tavern in question, and the barman, taking an airing on the steps, shows her which is Rumsay's dwelling. The gardener himself opens the door in answer to her knock, and salutes her respectfully. "Good evening, Mr. Rumsay," says Pansy, rather brokenly. "You spoke to me once about an old lady you wanted to get into Thanksgiving Cottages." "Begging your ladyship's pardon," says Rumsay, "I did not recognise you. Will you please to walk in? I've had an extra job or two of late, ma'am, and the poor old lady hasn't been fretting quite so much about being burdensome, so we've thought no more just now of her finding another home. Mind the step, please, my lady. Let me get the lamp -- 'tis a very dark entry. Deb, where are you, wife? Here's the lady as sent Miss Piper that money from the Wilberforce." A comely, bright-faced young wife comes forward with a welcome, and places a chair. Deb does not recognize Pansy at first. The years have brought changes to both. But there is someone in the corner by the fire whose eyes are fixed on Pansy. The old lady's lips are parted, and the colour is coming and going in her withered face. Deb sees Pansy looking towards her. "Her head is better than it used to be, ma'am," she says softly, "but I don't know that she could converse with you, for she's nervous of strangers. All day long she's had such a strange fancy that one she lost years ago is coming back to her, and the idea has made her quite lively today. See how straight she's sitting up this evening. I don't know, ma'am, as how we could ever spare her, even to the almshouses." "Don't you know me, Deb?" asks Pansy. The gardener opens his eyes and mouth very widely, Deb stares and gives a little cry of rapture, but Pansy has flown to her aunt's side and covered the aged face with kisses. "You knew me, didn't you, auntie?" sobs Pansy. "I have come to ask you to forgive me, and take me back for your own again. I am not rich now, auntie darling. I am poor, but my heart is more at rest than when I was away from you. I will never leave you again, God willing, as long as I live. Let our home be together, dear, dear Aunt Temperance." David Rumsay seems to have caught cold suddenly, for he goes to use his handkerchief and to beat a retreat. Deb is crying close beside her old mistress, and exclaiming at the beauty and goodness of Miss Pansy, and Pansy turns round and kisses her. "Oh, Deb, you have been faithful where I have failed. What can I say to you for your care of my own aunt? She was like my mother. But for you, perhaps I never should have looked again on her loving face, never have heard her words of forgiveness. You will be happy now, Aunt Temperance -- happy, and at rest with your Pansy." The old lady only says, brokenly, "Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name!" Slowly Deb learns privately how it comes to pass that Pansy is poor. She earnestly applauds the decision that has been made, and leaves aunt and niece alone awhile to rejoice and give thanks in being together again after years of change and estrangement. Deb, meanwhile, has prepared a little meal of tea and toast and a fresh egg, and Pansy is sorely in need of the food. When she is refreshed, and sitting with her aunt's wrinkled hands held closely in her own, she asks Deb to tell her something of her own and Miss Piper's experiences since she left Polesheaton. "Ah, Miss Pansy, dear," says Deb, who is busy at the ironing board, "things never prospered at the shop after you went away. Mistress lost heart, and I wasn't clever at the books like you were, and nothing seemed to go right. Mistress just fretted inwardly. That's what she did, Miss Pansy." "It was my illness spoilt the business," falters Miss Piper. "Some that owed me money left Polesheaton while I was ill, and I began to see it was time I gave up shop keeping. Deb did the work of six, poor child. Ah, my dearie, no words can tell what Deb has been to me." "Well," says Deb, rather sharply, "who was it took me from the workhouse and took me first to the Sunday school? I never had no home till I came to Polesheaton post office, so don't say as you owes me anything, ma'am. It's all the other way round. Still, they were dark days, Miss Pansy, and I never passes the old shop now without thanking the Lord those days are over." "But life is not easy for you now, is it, Deb?" "Ah, Miss Pansy, but all the burden isn't on one pair of shoulders now. My David -- I may say it, miss, for he's out of hearing, by the back door -- my David is one in a thousand. He's not afraid of hard work. We rubs on day by day, and though it would be hard for us if he got quite out of work, still we can trust the Lord God that has kept us from starving up to this time to provide for us." "But, Deb, when Aunt Temperance went away, however did you find her?" "I just kept on trying, Miss Pansy -- and praying -- till I did. Mistress were laid up in the hospital, for she'd been took ill on the London road, and she were in hospital at Panfield, about thirty miles from here. They were very kind at Panfield police station, and helped me to find her. Just then they required a girl in the hospital kitchen, and I worked there for them, and got many a sight of mistress, who was in there for some time. Then I got a job in the hospital laundry, and there I kept, except when they were slack of work, and then we were put to it to get along. But mistress and me had two little rooms in Panfield, and she sewed a little, and I went every day to the laundry, for she never spoke no more of finding you." "What troubles you have seen," says Pansy, her heart full of sorrow and shame. "And all the while I had pleasure and luxury enough to tire me sometimes. What a selfish creature I am." "No, that you ain't, Miss Pansy," says Deb. "It isn't what we've been that we need keep on thinking about, but what the Lord is going to make us. That's what I heard only last Sunday in the sermon. There isn't much selfishness left in you, miss, seeing you've chosen our poor place before Silverbeach Manor. Mistress's dark days are over, I'm thinking, though she's truly had her share of them." "But all the time," says Temperance Piper in quavering tones, "all the time, Deb, the good Lord was watching over us. Praise to His name, He never forsook us." "Never mind the past, aunt darling," cries Pansy, half laughing, half weeping. "I am Pansy Piper again now -- your own child come back to care for you and help you. The debt I owe Deb I can never repay, but she will give me some share in tending you now. We will all do our best together, and we will all make you happy, Aunt Temperance. So forget the past, and forgive my pride, my ungrateful selfishness so long." Chapter 14 Starlight and Chimes (last chapter) PANSY knows that the last place in the world where she would choose to live in her altered circumstances is the neighbourhood that had recently witnessed her pomp and splendour. However, the very first music pupils she secures are the children of the manager of the Wilberforce Hotel, where the best rooms were once at her disposal, and where she fared sumptuously every day. But Deb's husband, David Rumsay, has made a small connection in Firlands as jobbing gardener, and for the sake of the young couple Pansy decides to seek for teaching here, meanwhile selling to the Firlands' jeweller some trinkets which are absolutely her own, Mrs. Adair having given them to her many years ago. They bring her enough to keep them going with care for a while, and her applications at the music shop result in several pupils, for Firlands is certainly a growing neighbourhood. Pansy persuades the Rumsays to rent out the little house, as their landlady is giving it up. She and her Aunt Temperance become their lodgers, and Deb takes infinite pride in her little kitchen, and in the pretty curtains and touches which Pansy bestows here and there. "I dare say they remind her of her own fine house that she gave up for sake of the old lady," says David Rumsay, seeing Pansy watering the geraniums in the window. "There's nothing like a flower to comfort folks when they're down-hearted. I wonder who's got the Manor now?" "Some stranger," says Deb, a little regretfully. "I wish Miss Pansy could have kept it, and kept poor mistress too. But she's chosen right, Dave, for she'd soon have had a broken heart upon her conscience. Don't mistress look twenty years younger than she did before Miss Pansy came back to her? " "Ay, that she do, Deb. The old lady's face puts me in mind of a picture I saw up in London once of old Simeon in the New Testament when he said as how he felt he could depart in peace now that he had seen Jesus." "Mistress isn't going to depart, though," says Deb. "Miss Pansy's the best medicine she could have. It's quite wonderful to see what a change has come over mistress. Dave, it's an answer to prayer. I couldn't tell you how many times I've heard her a-pleading and sobbing for her child to come to her before she passed away from earth. It didn't seem as if that prayer were ever going to be heard, but you see the answer has come at last." "Ah, that minds me of what the minister said at last night's prayer meeting -- 'Delay is not denial'. There's no doubt about it, wife, ours is a prayer-hearing God, and there's never a humble cry poured out before Him as goes up in vain." "I'm a little anxious, though, about Miss Pansy," says Deb, confidentially. "She looks too white to be altogether well. And sometimes what she plays on her violin does seem to sound so sad." "Violins is mournful," asserts her husband. "They always sounds to me a-weeping and a-wailing. Now, I knows where a concertina could be picked up cheap, if Miss Pansy wanted something more lively. And there's a music book along with it, with 'Bay of Biscay', and 'Toll for the Brave', and such like tunes as those." Deb shakes her head. "It isn't the violin as is sorrowful, Dave, dear. I'm thinking it's the heart as is making the music. I wonder if Miss Pansy is fretting after that beautiful place that don't belong to her now." "She'll be better after a bit," says Rumsay. "Folks as has been wallowing in the lap of luxury for years and years must feel it a bit strange when they begins to earn their living. But Miss Pansy is a brave sort, Deb, and she's made her choice, and she'll abide by it without whining and fretting. One of these days she'll have a young man of her own, and they'll be as happy together as crickets, bless you!" "I don't know about crickets," says Deb, laughing "but if they are as happy as we are, Dave, I shall be so thankful. I don't like to see Miss Pansy work so hard, and she don't eat no more than a bird. It's no use trying to look ahead, but I'd rejoice to think she'd get as good a husband to look after her as sits taking his supper in this kitchen." *** "I hope you'll find a sweetheart one of these days, Miss Pansy," says Deb, openly, one afternoon when Pansy is ironing her collars in the kitchen. "You don't know how nice it is to have somebody to tell all your bothers to, like I tell Dave. I never had anybody rightfully belonging to me till Dave came working in the hospital grounds, and one day he up and asked me to keep company. Now I've got the best man in all the world for my own. Don't he play the accordion beautiful, Miss Pansy?" Pansy assents with a smile. "There now, Deb, I thought I had forgotten how to manage an iron properly, but I am getting quite clever again." "I wish you would let me do them, Miss Pansy." "No, Deb, you never get rest. I never saw anyone get through as much in the day as you do. Let the iron alone. It is time for you to see to your husband's tea, I know." "I hope you'll be getting your good man's tea some day, Miss Pansy. Wouldn't it be nice for you to have a little house of your own, and Miss Piper living along with you? Dave will tend your garden and I'll do your washing for nothing when you get married, miss." "That will never be, Deb. I shall always be Pansy Piper now," says the girl quietly, but a look of pain is shadowing her eyes. She accepts her lot. She is not surprised that Marlow has agreed to her letter without word or sign, but life without him seems very lonely at times, and she has to cure these times of depression by doing something helpful for her aunt or Deb. She has proved that there is no remedy for "the blues" like helpfulness, and in ministry to others she tries to forget that the price of the aged lady's gladness has not been Silverbeach alone, but a possession far dearer than money or lands. *** As the days go on, Pansy in contrite devotion to her aunt, in sweet patience and restful thanksgiving, in the sense of an answered prayer for pardon and daily help, is hard at work teaching all around Firlands. She sometimes takes part with her violin in concerts at the Town Hall, and earning more applause than remuneration, for she can only summon courage to name a very modest price. In the winter she is often engaged by neighbouring families to perform at their parties or to play dance music. In this way the little household can manage to keep the wolf from the door. The Sothams are frequent visitors, and many a drive Pansy gets with her aunt to the farm, calling in sometimes at the old shop that was once her home, and gazing from outside at the new-born glories of The Grange, which has now been let to a rich family of the name of Livett. One day Martha Sotham is in great excitement, for Mrs. Livett, driving over to the farm to leave an order, happened to mention she was about to give a dancing party, and it was "Most tiresome that the Firlands band happened to be already engaged" that particular evening. "Of course I put in a word for you, Pansy, dear," says Martha. "You made us promise to keep things close about your having been so rich and quite one of the quality, so I said nothing about all that. But I told Mrs. Livett how splendidly you play, and how you've played at a number of Firlands parties, and she'll give you a guinea and a ride there and back if you'll play for her dance, and also do some accompaniments." Pansy shrinks a little from the notion of going to The Grange, but that guinea will buy Aunt Temperance the winter cloak she is requiring. Scolding herself for foolish sentiment and pride, she thanks Martha and writes Mrs. Livett a promise for the evening. "I only wish I were you" cries her friend. "I should like to get a sight of the dresses. Mrs. Livett always goes to a Court dressmaker, they say, and Miss Idina is always so prettily dressed. And then the supper. I believe when they have a dance at The Grange the supper comes down from London! And I've heard tell the greenhouses are all hung with lanterns, and they have beautiful fairy lamps among the ferns. But there, Pansy, I forgot it is only what you have been used to all these years. Oh, my dear, my dear, what it must have cost you to give up that beautiful Silverbeach! Are you not often just a little sorry in your heart that you acted as you did, Pansy, dear?" Pansy says, "I am unspeakably glad and thankful God helped me to be true to my conscience at last." Pansy has plenty of time for quiet meditation during the drive to Polesheaton. The carriage is rather a shabby concern, for younger flymen have superseded the old driver who is a neighbour of Rumsay's, and Pansy wanted him to have the benefit of the job. He gets her punctually to the cheerful-looking Grange where fair ladies and gallant swains are making a bright picture as they move hither and thither in festive attire. As Pansy takes her seat upon the music stool she remembers Mrs. Adair, and how beneath that roof she put on her first grand tea gown and read admiration in the eyes of Cyril Langdale. What changes have come to pass since then. She has been raised to splendour since those days, and she has fallen again to poverty. Poor Mrs. Adair is beyond the voices and scenes of earth, and new tenants are at The Grange, and the whole place blazes with modern brilliance and elegance. "A little faster, if you please," Miss Livett tells her, pausing beside her for an instant. Pansy's thoughts, that, as ever, have flowed on till they centred round her poet-lover, have caused her music to slacken somewhat. She prides herself on keeping good time, and tries to shake off remembrance, but the place is full of associations, and a painful headache makes her long for the evening to be over. As usual, several guests request to be introduced to the aristocratic-looking girl in black, that they may ask her to dance, but Mrs. Livett says, "Oh, that is only Miss Piper, the person hired to play," and she who, in similar scenes was once queen-rose of all, is thankful when the piano is in a quiet, retired corner, and she can escape public notice. Tonight, she has to play several accompaniments, while various ladies and gentlemen sing; and by and by her heart seems almost to stand still when she hears Mrs. Livett say, "Now, Mr. Holme -- where is Mr. Holme? He has buried himself in the library hitherto. Come, Mr. Holme, you must give us a song. What was that lovely thing we heard you try at the Hudsons? Idina, I am sure you can find something for Mr. Holme to sing." He takes a piece from the smiling daughter of the house, on behalf of whose prospects these dances are given, and advances towards the piano. He sees a quiet figure in black, and bows politely. "Might I trouble you?" he asks, opening the sheet. The next moment their eyes meet, and the whole room swims round to Pansy's vision, and she clutches feebly at the piano. "How very tiresome!" says Mrs. Livett, when the tumult has subsided and strong arms have borne Pansy to another room. "There is no depending upon these people, my dear," she remarks to a friend. "I gave most liberal terms for this young person's services, and she must go and faint away before the evening is half over. Whatever are the young people to do now? They were just wanting another waltz." "I should not think your musician would expect full terms under the circumstances," says the other lady, consolingly. Idina, who is young and romantic, and detected the light of recognition in those eyes that met just now, comes in to tell her mother that Pansy is better, and is extremely sorry to cause inconvenience, but feels she cannot return to the room. "I have had her fly sent for," says Idina, "and Mr. Holme is waiting outside in the street. I think he means to take her home." "How very improper! I am astonished," begins Mrs. Livett. But her daughter says softly, "Mamma, I think they know one another. Somebody told us, you remember, that Marlow Holme used to be engaged. Perhaps she is the one. I am going to strike up a waltz, and I mean to have a thorough practice of dance music tonight. ... Yes, you may come and turn over." This to a devoted satellite, who hovers faithfully round the fair Idina. Pansy goes trembling from the lighted Grange into the cold, lonely street, and finds her hand laid with infinite tenderness on the arm of Marlow Holme. Before she can protest, he has lifted her into the Firlands fly, and seated himself beside her. "Nay, it is no use, my sweet, my own. I have not sought you half over England to let you go in a moment. Oh, Pansy, how could you forsake me with those brief, cold lines of farewell? But there will be no farewell between us, my own little wife, for evermore." Pansy is silent, overwhelmed, faint with happiness. All she can do is to rest against his shoulder, her hands clasped in his, wondering if, indeed, it is Marlow's own familiar face that the stars are showing her. He tells her how he became convinced, on reading her letter, that she had changed her mind as to her feelings towards him. He went off then and there to America in misery and indignation. But a letter from England told him that Pansy had fled from Silverbeach, and had lost her inheritance through returning to a poor relation. He returned to England, and commenced searching for her, but his search did not succeed till he chanced to find her as the hired musician at The Grange, which he had only reached that day on a short visit. Then Pansy tremblingly begins her explanation as to the old name she has taken back, her aunt's history, Deb's devotion, and her own thankless selfishness. "Oh, Marlow," she says, "we cannot be more than friends. I am only a poor woman now, and, besides, I have Aunt Temperance to keep. I will never part again from her, who was my second mother. You must marry some girl in society, Marlow." "I shall marry you," he tells her, "next week at yonder little church among the pines. I have a nest not only big enough for my darling, but for the poor old lady as well. She is mine, being yours, Pansy, and I claim my right to care for her. Deb shall keep the gates, and Rumsay shall have that charming little lodge by the fernery, and work as one of the gardeners. They deserve our best lodge, don't you think so, sweetheart?" "The lodge by the fernery? What do you mean, Marlow?" asks Pansy, wonderingly. "Simply this, my dearest. I knew my father had English relations, but their name had left no impression on my mind, and I really did not know I was connected with Mrs. Adair. Her will left Silverbeach Manor to her husband's cousin or his heirs if you broke her stipulation. I am that cousin's only child, and I have now taken possession. So, you see, Pansy, you gave your property to me, and therefore it still belongs to you. Let me have your good old aunt, and you shall have Silverbeach Manor. Do not cry, my own! How can we thank our God enough for all His compassion and loving-kindness in giving us back to each other again?" He sees she cannot speak for her rainbow tears and smiles. Presently he dismisses the old flyman, with largesse beyond his dreams, and Pansy and he go slowly homeward between the pines through which they see the blossoming of radiant golden stars, while across their path there floats the echo of happy bells. The ringers are practising this evening at the church where so soon these two will be made one.