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tured to myself my triumph. Ken- There was surely no tedious lingerelm's surprise, delight, gratitude-- ing by the way in my book. I wrote this would pay for all my pain. in desperate haste to have finished it.
“It is you,
With Kenelm's many letters one last few weeks, Minnie, something morning came a letter for me. I re- has divided us. Shall we not be one ceived it from him, and blushed as I again before we part ?" slipped it into my apron pocket. It I was silent; I did not raise my was from my friend, in answer to a eyes. Perhaps in the struggle to note I had sent her about my book. appear unmoved, I looked obsti
By this time I had become mor- nate and cross, for Kenelm's tone bidly nervous. I was haunted by a changed. vague sense of wrong-doing, and a “That letter - remember, Mary, dread of being driven to tell a direct that I do not stoop to suspect you of falsehood. I had had more than one wrong; it is simply your want of conterrible alarm of detection.
fidence that I deplore.” i After pocketing my letter I care- “Suspect me of wrong, indeed !” I fully avoided looking towards my cried, again taking refuge in that husband.
petulant unreasonableness which “Read this, Minnie,” he said pre- baffles men sorely. sently, putting one of the letters he Kenelm, who have no confidence in had received before me.
me! You treat your wife as if she I obeyed.
were a mere child.” “What shall you do, Kenelm? “If the time is gone by when she Shall you go?" I asked, when I had loved to be so treated—when she finished. "It was from one of my made me her conscience and hid husband's brothers, begging his me- nothing from me-I must painfully diation with the stern old father, who learn how this changed wife desires had been bitterly offended-how,does that I should treat her.”. not concern my story.
He left the room ; when he was “Shall we go, you surely mean, gone I wept. But I was a little Minnie.”
angry; or, as, passing his study-door I drooped my head ; my work was on my way up-stairs to pack his nearly completed ; it would be dread- clothes, I saw him seated at his ful to me to leave it now. We had study-table with his head bowed been so estranged lately, my longing upon his hands, I could not have reto have done with this and every sisted the temptation to go to him secret was very great; if I were left and confess everything alone a day or two, it could be safely It was only by looking back aftercompleted.
wards that I could understand how " Perhaps you are right, and I much change he found in me-how ought to go alone,” Kenelm said, many signs he saw that my thoughts after a painful silence.
were not all, or even chiefly, his-be“I think you should. It is an ex- sides reading that in my often abpensive journey ; your father does stracted face. Many of my little not like me, and
duties were neglected, or performed “I had rather my wife had been by Ann; many minute cares for thus eager that we should not sepa- Kenelm omitted during those feverish rate. You have prudence on your weeks. side, but-you are changed, Mary." As I packed my husband's clothes, He rose as he spoke.
I shed some tears over them. When "Do not say I am changed ! Do he was actually gone, after a most not speak so ! I cannot bear it!" I painfully calm leave-taking, I felt spoke passionately. He came to my utterly miserable ; I spent the day side, sat down by me, and took my between crying and sleeping, and hand.
only thought of my book with dis“If I am to be of any use, I should gust and loathing: go to-day-at once," he began. "The Next morning brought me a cordial – a few kind lines from Kenelm, I managed to get to my bedroom, written the night before, from the and, after washing my stained brow, resting-place which was half-way to- discovered a small but deep wound wards his journey's end.
on my temple. I had fallen against Having further stimulated my cou- a sharp iron-bound corner of the box rage by re-perusing my friend's note, which I had used as a desk. which told me of the favourable ar- I did not distinctly recall what rangements she hoped to make for the had frightened me. I felt terribly publication of my book, I set to work. weak, and lay on my bed quite still The misery of my heroine was ap for several hours.
Then I rang proaching its climax ; I was one with and ordered Ann to bring me some her, shaken by her fears, torn by her coffee into my room. My window passions, transported by her hope. was darkened, and she seemed to notice
Highly-wrought excitement kept nothing particular in my appearance, me up. While Kenelin was away, I I told her I was not very well, and did not go beyond the garden; I could did not wish to be disturbed. not eat, and I hardly slept.
The hot, strong coffee revived me One night, -I had heard Ann go to wonderfully, and my thoughts rebed long before, and there was no turned to my all but finished work. sound or stir in the silent house,-my My book was not to be a Tragedy; self-possession, my sense of my own it was to end quietly, peacefully, identity, altogether failed me. perfectly, as a beautiful summer-day.
I crouched upon the bare floor in I laughed softly over the happiness the bare room. I struggled to sepa- of this summery ending, and the rate myself from the woes into which tears rained from my eyes. I sat I had plunged "the wife” of my ima- close to the open window on that gination. I could not-intense emo- lovely day, in a deliciously subdued tion overpowered me. Sick with and sympathetic mood, and wrote anguish, I cried out, “ Husband, my blissful concluding chapters. husband! Good God! this is more With one brief interruption only I than I can bear!”
continued to write till late in the I covered my face ; that cry had afternoon. I no longer wrote with startled me back to myself, and great haste and passion, but, as I remember, terror came over me; I had always with a quiet sense of perfect power. been timid of night and darkness. I had finished. I said "thank
As I continued to crouch there, God.” covering my face, it seemed to me My heroine was happy now, and that something stirred in the room, my heart craved like happiness clathat chill breath fanned my neck and morously.“ Make haste and come arms. I raised my head, seeking light. home, Kenelm !” I cried.
My candle had burned out ; I was I went down stairs to hunt for alone in stirring darkness-the thick string, wax, and stamps ; my book darkness of a close-shuttered room. must be immediately sent off. I strained my eyes into it; I seemed On my work-table lay a letter from chained to the spot.
my husband. How long had it lain Suddenly my excited fancy made there unopened? I pressed it to my my husband present to me, standing lips and to my bosom before I read it. in the middle of the room, regarding It said he would be home this me. He was pale; his expression was evening! What happiness! This reproachful, his form spectral. evening at seven, it said ; what time
I spread out my arms towards him; could it be now! my senses failed me, my last con- Even as I wondered, our clock sciousness being of a blow and a struck-seven. flash of pain.
There I stood in my loose, tumbled Daylight was streaming through all white dressing-gown, my hair wildly cracks and crevices when I recovered. disordered, my hands stained with I found myself lying with my face ink, and my cheeks with tears. I upon the floor. I sat up with diffi- could not move ; it was like a dreadculty, and turned sick and dizzy ful nightmare dream. when I saw a pool of blood close to My head began to ache maddenwhere my face had lain. By-and-by ingly. I thought how none of my
intended preparations for Kenelm's my pillow. As I clasped the key I return were made ; and I—was I fit renewed my fervent vows never again to meet him? I pressed my hand to have a secret. upon my brow; unwittingly I dis- Next day I noticed that my husplaced the plaster upon my wound, band seemed very, very sad. His from which the blood began again mediation had only availed to draw to trickle.
more of his father's anger upon
himI would have given years of life self-he had been of no service to to recall one hour then.
his brother. I heard the garden gate. I saw When we had talked over this and Kenelm come up the path, and still I some other family matters, silence could not move.
fell. I felt afraid of what might The room door opened and ad- come next, for Kenelm's eyes watched mitted my husband.
me earnestly. He paused in sad amazement. “Minnie, my wife, it is you who
His face was like the face I had want change now,” he said presently. seen in my vision, which now vividly “You look ill, and you must be very returned to me. I tried to believe this weak to have been so much disturbed was a vision too. His form seemed as you were yesterday, merely by my to waver and flicker, and a black sudden arrival. Would you like to gulf opened at my feet.
go home for a little while ?” Both my husband and Ann were “Oh Kenelm! so much!” I know standing over me when I regained that my face kindled brightly; for consciousness; when I raised myself indeed I longed after them all, and on the couch, Ann disappeared. thought that it would be a delicious
so sorry-so grieved,” I rest to be at home with him.” began, “ I did not expect you yet. I · Poor child ! I thought you would had only just read your letter, and like it. So you have pined for home,
“Do not talk now-rest, love. Was Minnie ?" this just done?”
“You shall not say that. This is "No; I struck my head last night, my home. I will not go to my father's and”
if you say such things.” “My poor wounded darling !" « Well! well! do not believe I reI had no need to make excuses. proach you, darling ; we will part in He cared for me to-night instead of peace." I for him, yet he looked very travel- Part?" worn and it. He dressed
my wound “I think it will be as well that with tender fingers, and said many you should go soon ; for a few weeks tender words. But he looked very I must work very hard, and shall be sad, and I could not bear to meet his even duller company than ever." inquiring gaze. I closed my eyes and "Do you think I will go home felt myself a wretched little hypo- alone ? Oh Kenelm ! what does this crite. I passionately vowed never again to have a secret from Kenelm. “ That is what I cannot tell,” he
My husband made me go to bed said. “But I know that you are early. He read to me till he thought neither well nor happy; I know that I was asleep; then I knew that he our poverty has pressed its privations prayed by me before he went away. upon you ; I know that you pine in How I longed to clasp him round the your dull life here—” Deck and tell him all my secret, but “What more do you know?” I I was afraid and ashamed.
asked defiantly. When I had heard him go down He answered with mild, even-toned stairs and shut the parlour-door be- voice, but absolutely hurting me by hind him, I sprang up. My Blue- the urgent pressure of his gaze,
“I beard chamber was unlocked; all know that in some sad way--by my my papers lay about the floor! own fault, it may be—I have lost my
I secured the key, but, as I got wife's confidence ; I also know that into bed again, it fell from my trem- this is not one of the things I will bling fingers. I regained it. The learn to do without.” noise had disturbed Kenelm. I heard What more, sir ?” I demanded him coming, and buried my face in hotly.
“This is all. When you are at Once more I locked myself into home, Minnie, and I am alone again the empty room. I packed up my for a little while, we may each be manuscript, addressed it to my friend, able to find out in what, and how far, and wrote a note to accompany it, we have erred, and then be able to passionately entreating her to let me begin our married life afresh." hear soon-to do everything quickly.
He spoke as if such serious danger Then I put on my bonnet and shawl, impended, as if such utter ruin threat- hid my precious roll under my arm, ened our peace, that I shuddered ; but and set off for the post-office. he spoke, too, as if he forgot all the As I walked hurriedly along happy, happy months when I had beneath the limes in our lane, and been a devoted and contented wife, then through suburban streets, my and only remembered the last few thoughts were quite engrossed in weeks—this made me angry; it was planning for the disposal of the fairy unjust !-he was exaggerating every- fortune my book was to bring me. thing!
Suddenly I swerved aside and turned "I will not go home unless you a sharp corner; in another moment I command me, and I am your wife, should have met my husband, whom whom you have no right to send I had believed to be safe at home. away ; you are cruel and unjust !” Had he seen me? I thought not. I
“Am I so? We were not talking had disappeared before the abstracof rights ; I was planning for your tion of his look had cleared to recoghappiness; but indeed I work in the nition. dark. I do not see why you should I made a little circuit-accomcall me cruel and unjust. Again I plished my purpose, and turned repeat, I do not stoop to suspect you homewards. of wrong; your having a secret from My heart sank when I saw my me and the obstinacy with which you husband pacing up and down beneath keep it, is my only ground of dis- the limes. He had seen me, then, and pleasure. It may be that my own was now waiting for me. The limes character is alone to blame ; that I were in full blossom; their scent am too stern ; but I have hoped that now always takes me back to that my wife loved me too well to fear me.” afternoon.
**She does! Oh Kenelm, she does!" When I met Kenelm's eyes, and I sprang after him as he turned sadly noted the pinched expression which away. But then my looks belied my repressed excitement had given to worus ; the key of the Blue-beard lip and nostril, I braced myself up chamber fell from my dress, and I for my last and worst ordeal. stopped the picture of guilty con- He did not speak. He locked my fusion.
hand under his arm, taking me into He picked it up. “This is not the custody. He led me into the house, first time you have let it fall," he seated me in a chair in his study, said, as he gave it me.
then released my hand, and stood Then he knew that my last night's opposite to me. I noticed that the sleep had been feigned. It hardened hand he leant upon the table quivmy heart to think how deceitful he ered. I was sorry; I feared he would must beliere me to be, and to re do himself harm; but when I raised member the innocent, holy motive of my eyes to bis, his air of judicial all this long concealment.
sternness had a strange effect upon Kenelm went to his study, as I my nerves. I laughed uncontrollably. imagined, shutting himself in there Just think how that laugh must for the morning
have broken upon his highly-wrought I felt utterly reckless. Unknown excitement and grievous distress! to myself, a desire for rerenge was I fancy that any man less noble beginning to mingle with the other than my husband would have struck motives that determined me to per me. There was intense pain and serere to the end. I thought that anger in his eyes-still I laughed my the lower I now sank in my hus- insulting, unnatural laugh. He left band's esteem the
higher should I me. I chose to believe that he had rise by-and-by when he knew all, locked the door; I would not go to when my hour of triumph came ascertain. I ceased laughing, and
grew very indignant. I, Kenelm's but now. In your absence, I will wife, to be treated like a naughty earnestly strive to discover where I child! Very bitterly would he repent have been wrong in my conduct as a his injustice! Then, as I loved him, husband.” my heart grew tender at the thought I hardly heeded his words; my of the pain he would feel when my foot was beating the floor restlessly. hour of triumph came. For the first I answered : time I doubted of the possibility of “You will be sorry; my day will this triumph. I could not rejoice if come; you will repent this harshhe suffered. We were one.
I threw myself on the ground, “Am I harsh, Minnie ? then I shall rested my head on Kenelm's foot- indeed repent. I strive to be calm stool, and cried myself to sleep. I and just, only to act for your good.” suppose I was thoroughly worn out. "Oh, you are very calm ; you will I must have slept many hours. It be happy without me, quite! But was dusk when the opening of the you are most unjust !" hall door and my husband's step in “I repeat again, Mary, that I susthe passage roused me. I heard him pect you of no wrong. Your want enter every room in the house before of confidence has irritated me. When he came into the study; this, and my I am alone I hope to see clearly how not detecting the sound of the turn- I lost your confidence, and how I can ing of a key, staggered me in my regain it. If you were reasonable, you belief that I had been locked in; but would own that it is best for us to I would not think that I had been a part for a little while." voluntary prisoner all this while. “I am very reasonable! It is best!"
My husband could not see me I answered; and I know my eyes when he entered. He peered about, shone gleefully, for I had jumped then hastened to the open window. over dismal weeks, and was thinking "Good God! She has jumped out!” of our joyful meeting. He left me he cried.
abruptly. “I am here, Kenelm!” I said, My heart was ready to break when rising.
next day I was whirled away from “You have been here all the time my husband, who stood on the platI have been away?”
form gazing after_us. Regardless “I believe I fell asleep.”
of all lookers-on, I gave way to a “ Tea is waiting in the parlour- great burst of weeping, hiding my will you make it?
face on my sister's shoulder. I followed him. I noticed upon My time at home was chiefly spent how haggard a face the lamp shone; in wandering about the garden, orbut his manner was cold and re- chard, and fields, recalling past courtpressed tenderness. He broke a îng-days, and dreaming over my compainful silence by saying:
ing triumph. “Mary! I have made arrange- They were all very kind to me, ments for your going home to- petting me as they had been used morrow.”
to do; but I liked best to be much An angry refusal to go rose to my alone, to think uninterruptedly of lips. I repressed it, and said nothing. Kenelm. Several times he came to
*“ Your eldest sister passes through spend an hour or two with us; he London on her way home from Kent rejoiced at my improved looks, but to-morrow. I shall take you to the neither of us said anything of my station to meet her. I have written return. to her and to your father. Your My friend had written to me in health requires change of air.” most fervent praise of my book. She
“It is well you should let me was working at it diligently-was to know on what plea you send me write a preface for it, and had made away.”
favourable arrangements for its publi“The scene of this afternoon taught cation. me that we cannot live together, feel- Time slipped away rapidly. My ing as we now do towards each other, husband's visits were the only events I will not risk again feeling towards of my life, which passed in dull my wife as I did when you laughed dreaminess. I suppose nature was