Mr. and Mrs. Openshaw came from Manchester to settle in London. He had
been what is called in Lancashire a salesman for a large manufacturing
firm, who were extending their business, and opening a warehouse in the
city, where Mr. Openshaw was now to superintend their affairs. He rather
enjoyed the change, having a kind of curiosity about London, which he had
never yet been able to gratify in his brief visits to the metropolis. At
the same time he had an odd, shrewd contempt for the inhabitants, whom he
always pictured to himself as fine, lazy people, caring nothing but for
fashion and aristocracy and lounging away their days in Bond Street and
such places, ruining good English, and ready in their turn to despise him
as a provincial. The hours that the men of business kept in the city
scandalized him too, accustomed as he was to the early dinner of
Manchester folk, and the consequently far longer evenings. Still, he was
pleased to go to London, though he would not for the world have confessed
it even to himself, and always spoke of the step to his friends as one
demanded of him by the interests of his employers, and sweetened to him by
a considerable increase of salary. This, indeed, was so liberal, that he
might have been justified in taking a much larger house than the one he
did, had he not thought himself bound to set an example to Londoners of
how little a Manchester man of business cared for show. Inside, however,
he furnished it with an unusual degree of comfort, and in the winter-time
he insisted on keeping up as large fires as the grates would allow in
every room where the temperature was in the least chilly. Moreover, his
northern sense of hospitality was such that, if he were at home, he could
hardly suffer a visitor to leave the house without forcing meat and drink
upon him. Every servant in the house was well warmed, well fed, and kindly
treated, for their master scorned all petty saving in aught that conduced
to comfort, while he amused himself by following out all his accustomed
habits and individual ways in defiance of what any of his new neighbors
His wife was a pretty, gentle woman, of suitable age and character. He was
forty-two, she thirty-five. He was loud and decided, she soft and
yielding. They had two children--or rather, I should say, she had two, for
the elder, a girl of eleven, was Mrs. Openshaw's child by Frank Wilson,
her first husband. The younger was a little boy, Edwin, who could just
prattle, and to whom his father delighted to speak in the broadest and
most unintelligible Lancashire dialect, in order to keep up what he called
the true Saxon accent.
Mrs. Openshaw's Christian name was Alice, and her first husband had been
her own cousin. She was the orphan niece of a sea-captain in Liverpool--a
quiet, grave little creature, of great personal attraction when she was
fifteen or sixteen, with regular features and a blooming complexion. But
she was very shy, and believed herself to be very stupid and awkward, and
was frequently scolded by her aunt, her own uncle's second wife. So, when
her cousin, Frank Wilson, came home from a long absence at sea, and first
was kind and protective to her; secondly, attentive; and, thirdly,
desperately in love with her, she hardly knew how to be grateful enough to
him. It is true, she would have preferred his remaining in the first or
second stages of behavior, for his violent love puzzled and frightened
her. Her uncle neither helped nor hindered the love affair, though it was
going on under his own eyes. Frank's stepmother had such a variable temper
that there was no knowing whether what she liked one day she would like
the next, or not. At length she went to such extremes of crossness that
Alice was only too glad to shut her eyes and rush blindly at the chance of
escape from domestic tyranny offered her by a marriage with her cousin;
and, liking him better than any one in the world except her uncle (who was
at this time at sea), she went off one morning and was married to him, her
only bridesmaid being the housemaid at her aunt's. The consequence was,
that Frank and his wife went into lodgings, and Mrs. Wilson refused to see
them, and turned away Norah, the warm-hearted housemaid, whom they
accordingly took into their service. When Captain Wilson returned from his
voyages he was very cordial with the young couple, and spent many an
evening at their lodgings, smoking his pipe and sipping his grog; but he
told them that, for quietness' sake, he could not ask them to his own
house, for his wife was bitter against them. They were not, however, very
unhappy about this.
The seed of future unhappiness lay rather in Frank's vehement, passionate
disposition, which led him to resent his wife's shyness and want of
demonstrativeness as failures in conjugal duty. He was already tormenting
himself, and her too, in a slighter degree, by apprehensions and
imaginations of what might befall her during his approaching absence at
sea. At last he went to his father and urged him to insist upon Alice's
being once more received under his roof, the more especially as there was
now a prospect of her confinement while her husband was away on his
voyage. Captain Wilson was, as he himself expressed it, " breaking up,"
and unwilling to undergo the excitement of a scene, yet he felt that what
his son said was true. So he went to his wife; and, before Frank set sail,
he had the comfort of seeing his wife installed in her old little garret
in his father's house. To have placed her in the one best spare room was a
step beyond Mrs. Wilson's powers of submission or generosity. The worst
part about it, however, was, that the faithful Norah had to be dismissed.
Her place as housemaid had been filled up; and, even if it had not, she
had forfeited Mrs. Wilson's good opinion forever. She comforted her young
master and mistress by pleasant prophecies of the time when they would
have a household of their own, of which, whatever service she might be in
meanwhile, she should be sure to form a part. Almost the last action Frank
did before setting sail was going with Alice to see Norah once more at her
mother's house, and then he went away.
Alice's father-in-law grew more and more feeble as the winter advanced.
She was of great use to her stepmother in nursing and amusing him; and,
although there was anxiety enough in the household, there was, perhaps,
more of peace than there had been for years, for Mrs. Wilson had not a bad
heart, and was softened by the visible approach of death to one whom she
loved, and touched by the lonely condition of the young creature,
expecting her first confinement in her husband's absence. To this
relenting mood Norah owed the permission to come and nurse Alice when her
baby was born, and to remain to attend on Captain Wilson.
Before one letter had been received from Frank (who had sailed for the
East Indies and China) his father died. Alice was always glad to remember
that he had held her baby in his arms, and kissed and blessed it before
his death. After that, and the consequent examination into the state of
his affairs, it was found that he had left far less property than people
had been led by his style of living to expect, and what money there was
was all settled upon his wife, and at her disposal after her death. This
did not signify much to Alice, as Frank was now first mate of his ship,
and in another voyage or two would be captain. Meanwhile he had left her
rather more than two hundred pounds (all his savings) in the bank.
It became time for Alice to hear from her husband. One letter from the
Cape she had already received. The next was to announce his arrival in
India. As week after week passed over, and no intelligence of the ship
having got there reached the office of the owners, and the captain's wife
was in the same state of ignorant suspense as Alice herself, her fears
grew most oppressive At length the day came when, in reply to her inquiry
at the Shipping Office, they told her that the owners had given up hope of
ever hearing more of the "Betsy Jane," and had sent in their claim upon
the underwriters. Now that he was gone forever, she first felt a yearning,
longing love for the kind cousin, the dear friend, the sympathizing
protector whom she should never see again--first felt a passionate desire
to show him his child, whom she had hitherto rather craved to have all to
herself--her own sole possession. Her grief was, however, noiseless and
quiet--rather to the scandal of Mrs. Wilson, who bewailed her stepson as
if he and she had always lived together in perfect harmony, and who
evidently thought it her duty to burst into fresh tears at every strange
face she saw, dwelling on his poor young widow's desolate states and the
helplessness of the fatherless child, with an unction, as if she liked the
excitement of the sorrowful story.
So passed away the first days of Alice's widowhood. By-and-by things
subsided into their natural and tranquil course. But, as if this young
creature was always to be in some heavy trouble, her ewe-lamb began to be
ailing, pining, and sickly. The child's mysterious illness turned out to
be some affection of the spine, likely to affect health, but not to
shorten life--at least, so the doctors said. But the long, dreary
suffering of one whom a mother loves as Alice loved her only child is hard
to look forward to. Only Norah guessed what Alice suffered; no one but God
And so it fell out that when Mrs. Wilson the elder came to her one day in
violent distress, occasioned by a very material diminution in the value of
the property that her husband had left her--a diminution that made her
income barely enough to support herself, much less Alice--the latter could
hardly understand how any thing which did not touch health or life could
cause such grief, and she received the intelligence with irritating
composure. But. when, that afternoon, the little sick child was brought
in, and the grandmother--who, after all, loved it well--began a fresh moan
over her losses to its unconscious ears, saying how she had planned to
consult this or that doctor, and to give it this or that comfort or luxury
in after years, but that now all chance of this had passed away, Alice's
heart was touched, and she drew near to Mrs. Wilson with unwonted
caresses, and, in a spirit not unlike to that of Ruth, entreated that,
come what would, they might remain together. After much discussion in
succeeding days, it was arranged that Mrs. Wilson should take a house in
Manchester, furnishing it partly with what furniture she had, and
providing the rest with Alice's remaining two hundred pounds. Mrs. Wilson
was herself a Manchester woman, and naturally longed to return to her
native town; some connections of her own, too, at that time required
lodgings, for which they were willing to pay pretty handsomely. Alice
undertook the active superintendence and superior work of the household;
Norah, willing, faithful Norah, offered to cook, scour, do any thing, in
short, so that she might but remain with them.
The plan succeeded. For some years their first lodgers remained with them,
and all went smoothly, with the one sad exception of the little girl's
increasing deformity. How that mother loved that child it is not for words
Then came a break of misfortune. Their lodgers left, and no one succeeded
to them. After some months it became necessary to remove to a smaller
house, and Alice's tender conscience was torn by the idea that she ought
not to be a burden to her mother-in-law, but to go out and seek her own
maintenance. And leave her child! The thought came like a sweeping boom of
a funeral bell over her heart.
By-and-by Mr. Openshaw came to lodge with them. He had started in life as
the errand-boy and sweeper-out of a warehouse; had struggled up through
all the grades of employment in it, fighting his way through the hard,
striving Manchester life with strong, pushing energy of character. Every
spare moment of time had been sternly given up to self-teaching. He was a
capital accountant, a good French and German scholar, a keen, far-seeing
tradesman--understanding markets, and the bearing of events, both near and
distant, on trade, and yet with such vivid attention to present details,
that I do not think he ever saw a group of flowers in the fields without
thinking whether their colors would or would not form harmonious contrasts
in the coming spring muslins and prints. He went to debating societies,
and threw himself with all his heart and soul into politics; esteeming, it
must be owned, every man a fool or a knave who differed from him, and
overthrowing his opponents rather by the loud strength of his language
than the calm strength of his logic. There was something of the Yankee in
all this. Indeed, his theory ran parallel to the famous Yankee motto--"
England flogs creation, and Manchester flogs England." Such a man, as may
be fancied, had had no time for falling in love, or any such nonsense. At
the age when most young men go through their courting and matrimony, he
had not the means of keeping a wife, and was far too practical to think of
having one. And now that he was in easy circumstances, a rising man, he
considered women almost as incumbrances to the world, with whom a man had
better have as little to do as possible. His first impression of Alice was
indistinct, and he did not care enough about her to make it distinct. "A
pretty yea-nay kind of woman" would have been his description of her, if
he had been pushed into a corner. He was rather afraid, in the beginning,
that her quiet ways arose from a listlessness and laziness of character,
which would have been exceedingly discordant to his active, energetic
nature. But when he found out the punctuality with which his wishes were
attended to, and her work was done; when he was called in the morning at
the very stroke of the clock, his shaving-water scalding hot, his fire
bright, his coffee made exactly as his peculiar fancy dictated (for he was
a man who had his theory about every thing, based upon what he knew of
science, and often perfectly original), then he began to think, not that
Alice had any peculiar merit, but that he had got into remarkably good
lodgings; his restlessness wore away, and he began to consider himself as
almost settled for life in them.
Mr. Openshaw had been too busy all his days to be introspective. He did
not know that he had any tenderness in his nature; and, if he had become
conscious of its abstract existence, he would have considered it as a
manifestation of disease in some part of him. But he was decoyed into pity
unawares, and pity led on to tenderness. That little helpless
child--always carried about by one of the three busy women of the house,
or else patiently threading colored beads in the chair from which by no
effort of its own, could it ever move--the great, grave blue eyes, full of
serious, not uncheerful expression, giving to the small, delicate face a
look beyond its years--the soft, plaintive voice, dropping out but few
words, so unlike the continual prattle of a child, caught Mr. Openshaw's
attention in spite of himself. One day--he half scorned himself for doing
so--he cut short his dinner-hour to go in search of some toy which should
take the place of those eternal beads. I forget what he bought, but when
he gave the present (which he took care to do in a short, abrupt manner,
and when no one was by to see him) he was almost thrilled by the flash of
delight that came over that child's face, and he could not help, all
through that afternoon, going over and over again the picture left on his
memory by the bright effect of unexpected joy on the little girl's face.
When he returned home he found his slippers placed by his sitting-room
fire, and even more careful attention paid to his fancies than was
habitual in those model lodgings. When Alice had taken the last of his
tea-things away--she had been silent, as usual, till then--she stood for
an instant with the door in her hand. Mr. Openshaw looked as if he were
deep in his book, though in fact he did not see a line, but was heartily
wishing the woman would go, and not make any palaver of gratitude. But she
"I am very much obliged to you, sir. Thank you very much," and was gone,
even before he could send her away with a "There, my good woman, that's
For some time longer he took no apparent notice of the child. He even
hardened his heart into disregarding her sudden flush of color and little
timid smile of recognition when he saw her by chance. But, after all, this
could not last forever; and having a second time given way to tenderness,
there was no relapse. The insidious enemy having thus entered his heart in
the guise of compassion to the child, soon assumed the more dangerous form
of interest in the mother. He was aware of this change of
feeling--despised himself for it--struggled with it; nay, internally
yielded to it and cherished it long before he suffered the slightest
expression of it, by word, action, or look, to escape him. He watched
Alice's docile, obedient ways to her stepmother; the love which she had
inspired in the rough Norah (roughened by the wear and tear of sorrow and
years); but, above all, he saw the wild, deep, passionate affection
existing between her and her child. They spoke little to any one else or
when any one else was by; but, when alone together, they talked, and
murmured, and cooed, and chattered so continually, that Mr. Openshaw first
wondered what they could find to say to each other, and next became
irritated because they were always so grave and silent with him. All this
time he was perpetually devising small new pleasures for the child. His
thoughts ran, in a pertinacious way, upon the desolate life before her;
and often he came back from his day's work loaded with the very thing
Alice had been longing for, but had not been able to procure. One time it
was a little chair for drawing the little sufferer along the streets, and
many an evening that following summer Mr. Openshaw drew her along himself,
regardless of the remarks of his acquaintances. One day in autumn he put
down his newspaper as Alice came in with the breakfast, and said, in as
indifferent a voice as he could assume,
"Mrs. Frank, is there any reason why we two should not put up our horses
Alice stood still in a perplexed wonder. What did he mean? He had resumed
the reading of his newspaper as if he did not expect any answer; so she
found silence her safest course, and went on quietly arranging his
breakfast without another word passing between them. Just as he was
leaving the house to go to the warehouse as usual, he turned back and put
his head into the bright, neat, tidy kitchen, where all the women
breakfasted in the morning:
"You'll think of what I said, Mrs. Frank" (this was her name with the
lodgers), "and let me have your opinion upon it to-night."
Alice was thankful that her mother and Norah were too busy talking
together to attend much to this speech. She determined not to think about
it at all through the day, and, of course, the effort not to think made
her think all the more. At night she sent up Norah with his tea. But Mr.
Openshaw almost knocked Norah down as she was going out at the door by
pushing past her and calling out, "Mrs. Frank!" in an impatient voice, at
the top of the stairs.
Alice went up, rather than seem to have affixed too much meaning to his
"Well, Mrs. Frank," he said, "what answer? Don't make it too long, for I
have lots of officework to get through to-night "
"I hardly know what you meant, sir," said truthful Alice.
"Well, I should have thought you might have guessed. You're not new at
this sort of work, and I am. However, I'll make it plain this time. Will
you have me to be thy wedded husband, and serve me, and love me, and honor
me, and all that sort of thing? Because, if you will, I will do as much by
you, and be a father to your child--and that's more than is put in the
Prayer-book. Now I'm a man of my word, and what I say I feel, and what I
promise I'll do. Now for your answer."
Alice was silent. He began to make the tea as if her reply was a matter of
perfect indifference to him; but, as soon as that was done, he became
"Well?" said he.
"How long, sir, may I have to think over it?"
"Three minutes" (looking at his watch). "You've had two already--that
makes five. Be a sensible woman, say Yes, and sit down to tea with me, and
we'll talk it over together, for after tea I shall be busy; say No" (he
hesitated a moment to try and keep his voice in the same tone), "and I
sha'n't say another word about it, but pay up a year's rent for my rooms
to-morrow, and be off. Time's up. Yes or no?"
"If you please, sir--you have been so good to little Ailsie--"
"There, sit down comfortably by me on the sofa, and let us have our tea
together. I am glad to find you are as good and sensible as I took you
And this was Alice Wilson's second wooing.
Mr. Openshaw's will was too strong, and his circumstances too good, for
him not to carry all before him. He settled Mrs. Wilson in a comfortable
house of her own, and made her quite independent of lodgers. The little
that Alice said with regard to future plans was in Norah's behalf.
"No," said Mr. Openshaw. "Norah shall take care of the old lady as long as
she lives, and after that she shall either come and live with us, or, if
she likes it better, she shall have a provision for life--for your sake,
missus. No one who has been good to you or the child shall go unrewarded.
But even the little one will be better for some fresh stuff about her. Get
her a bright, sensible girl as a nurse; one who won't go rubbing her with
calf's-foot jelly, as Norah does, wasting good stuff outside that ought to
go in, but will follow doctors' directions, which, as you must see pretty
clearly by this time, Norah won't, because they give the poor little wench
pain. Now I'm not above being nesh for other folks myself. I can stand a
good blow, and never change color; but, set me in the operating-room in
the Infirmary, and I turn as sick as a girl. Yet, if need were, I would
hold the little wench on my knees while she screeched with pain, if it
were to do her poor back good. Nay, nay, wench! keep your white looks for
the time when it comes--I don't say it ever will. But this I know, Norah
will spare the child and cheat the doctor, if she can. Now, I say, give
the bairn a year or two's chance, and then, when the pack of doctors have
done their best--and, maybe, the old lady has gone--we'll have Norah back,
or do better for her."
The pack of doctors could do no good to little Ailsie; she was beyond
their power. But her father (for so he insisted on being called, and also
on Alice's no longer retaining the appellation of mamma, but becoming
henceforward mother), by his healthy cheerfulness of manner, his clear
decision of purpose, his odd turns and quirks of humor, added to his real
strong love for the helpless little girl, infused a new element of
brightness and confidence into her life; and, though her back remained the
same, her general health was strengthened, and Alice never going beyond a
smile herself--had the pleasure of seeing her child taught to laugh.
As for Alice's own life, it was happier than it had ever been before. Mr.
Openshaw required no demonstration, no expressions of affection from her.
Indeed, these would rather have disgusted him. Alice could love deeply,
but could not talk about it. The perpetual requirement of loving words,
looks, and caresses, and misconstruing their absence into absence of love,
had been the great trial of her former married life. Now, all went on
clear and straight, under the guidance of her husband's strong sense, warm
heart, and powerful will. Year by year their worldly prosperity increased.
At Mrs. Wilson's death Norah came back to them as nurse to the newly-born
little Edwin, into which post she was not installed without a pretty
strong oration on the part of the proud and happy father, who declared
that if he found out that Norah ever tried to screen the boy by a
falsehood, or to make him nesh either in body or mind, she should go that
very day. Norah and Mr. Openshaw were not on the most thoroughly cordial
terms, neither of them fully recognizing or appreciating the other's best
This was the previous history of the Lancashire family who had now removed
They had been there about a year, when Mr. Openshaw suddenly informed his
wife that he had determined to heal long-standing feuds, and had asked his
uncle and aunt Chadwick to come and pay them a visit and see London. Mrs.
Openshaw had never seen this uncle and aunt of her husband's. Years before
she had married him there had been a quarrel. All she knew was, that Mr.
Chadwick was a small manufacturer in a country town in South Lancashire.
She was extremely pleased that the breach was to be healed, and began
making preparations to render their visit pleasant.
They arrived at last. Going to see London was such an event to them that
Mrs. Chadwick had made all new linen fresh for the occasion, from
night-caps downward; and as for gowns, ribbons, and collars, she might
have been going into the wilds of Canada, where never a shop is, so large
was her stock. A fortnight before the day of her departure for London she
had formally called to take leave of all her acquaintance, saying she
should need every bit of the intermediate time for packing up. It was like
a second wedding in her imagination; and, to complete the resemblance
which an entirely new wardrobe made between the two events, her husband
brought her back from Manchester, on the last market-day before they set
off, a gorgeous pearl and amethyst brooch, saying, "Lunnon should see that
Lancashire folks knew a handsome thing when they saw it."
For some time after Mr. and Mrs. Chadwick arrived at the Openshaws' there
was no opportunity for wearing this brooch; but at length they obtained an
order to see Buckingham Palace, and the spirit of loyalty demanded that
Mrs. Chadwick should wear her best clothes in visiting the abode of her
sovereign. On her return she hastily changed her dress, for Mr. Openshaw
had planned that they should go to Richmond, drink tea, and return by
moonlight. Accordingly, about five o'clock, Mr. and Mrs. Openshaw and Mr.
and Mrs. Chadwick set off.
The housemaid and cook sat below, Norah hardly knew where. She was always
engrossed in the nursery, in tending her two children, and in sitting by
the restless, excitable Ailsie till she fell asleep. By-and-by the
housemaid, Bessy, tapped gently at the door. Norah went to her, and they
spoke in whispers.
"Nurse, there's some one down stairs wants you."
"Wants me! Who is it?"
"A gentleman? Nonsense!"
"Well, a man, then, and he asks for you, and he rang at the front-door
bell, and has walked into the dining-room."
"You should never have let him," exclaimed Norah; "master and missus
"I did not want him to come in; but when he heard you lived here, he
walked past me, and sat down on the first chair, and said, "Tell her to
come and speak to me." There is no gas lighted in the room, and supper is
all set out."
"He'll be off with the spoons," exclaimed Norah, putting the housemaid's
fear into words, and preparing to leave the room, first, however, giving a
look to Ailsie, sleeping soundly and calmly.
Down stairs she went, uneasy fears stirring in her bosom. Before she
entered the dining-room she provided herself with a candle, and, with it
in her hand, she went in, looking around her in the darkness for her
He was standing up, holding by the table. Norah and he looked at each
other, gradual recognition coming into their eyes.
"Norah?" at length he asked.
"Who are you?" asked Norah, with the sharp tones of alarm and incredulity.
"I don't know you;" trying, by futile words of disbelief, to do away with
the terrible fact before her.
"Am I so changed?" he said, pathetically. "I dare say I am. But, Norah,
tell me," he breathed hard, "where is my wife? Is she--is she alive?"
He came nearer to Norah, and would have taken her hand, but she backed
away from him, looking at him all the time with staring eyes, as if he
were some horrible object. Yet he was a handsome, bronzed, good-looking
fellow, with beard and mustache, giving him a foreign-looking aspect; but
his eyes! there was no mistaking those cager, beautiful eyes--the very
same that Norah had watched not half an hour ago, till sleep stole softly
"Tell me, Norah--I can bear it--I have feared it so often. Is she dead?"
Norah still kept silence. "She is dead!" He hung on Norah's words and
looks as if for confirmation or contradiction.
"What shall I do?" groaned Norah. "Oh, sir, why did you come? how did you
find me out? where have you been ? We thought you dead, we did indeed."
She poured out words and questions to gain time, as if time would help
"Norah, answer me this question straight, by yes or no--Is my wife dead?"
"No, she is not," said Norah, slowly and heavily.
"Oh, what a relief! Did she receive my letters? But perhaps you don't
know. Why did you leave her? Where is she? Oh, Norah, tell me all
"Mr. Frank," said Norah at last, almost driven to bay by her terror lest
her mistress should return at any moment, and find him there--unable to
consider what was best to be done or said--rushing at something decisive,
because she could not endure her present state--"Mr. Frank, we never heard
a line from you, and the ship-owners said you had gone down, you and every
one else. We thought you were dead, if ever man was, and poor Miss Alice
and her little sick, helpless child! Oh, sir, you must guess it," cried
the poor creature at last, bursting out into a passionate fit of crying,
"for indeed I can not tell it. But it was no one's fault. God help us all
Norah had sat down. She trembled too much to stand. He took her hands in
his. He squeezed them hard, as if, by physical pressure, the truth could
be wrung out.
"Norah." This time his tone was calm, stagnant as despair. "She has
Norah shook her head sadly. The grasp slowly relaxed. The man had fainted.
There was brandy in the room. Norah forced some drops into Mr. Frank's
mouth, chafed his hands, and--when mere animal life returned before the
mind poured in its flood of memories and thoughts--she lifted him up, and
rested his head against her knees. Then she put a few crumbs of bread,
taken from the supper-table, soaked in brandy, into his mouth. Suddenly he
sprang to his feet.
"Where is she? Tell me this instant." He looked so wild, so mad, so
desperate, that Norah felt herself to be in bodily danger; but her time of
dread had gone by. She had been afraid to tell him the truth, and then she
had been a coward. Now her wits were sharpened by the sense of his
desperate state. He must leave the house. She would pity him afterward,
but now she must rather command and upbraid, for he must leave the house
before her mistress came home. That one necessity stood dear before her.
"She is not here; that is enough for you to know. Nor can I say exactly
where she is" (which was true to the letter, if not to the spirit). "Go
away, and tell me where to find you to-morrow, and I will tell you all. My
master and mistress may come back at any minute, and then what would
become of me, with a strange man in the house?"
Such an argument was too petty to touch his excited mind.
"I don't care for your master and mistress. If your master is a man, he
must feel for me--poor shipwrecked sailor that I am--kept for years a
prisoner among savages, always, always, always thinking of my wife and my
home--dreaming of her by night, talking to her, though she could not hear,
by day. I loved her more than all heaven and earth put together. Tell me
where she is, this instant, you wretched woman, who salved over her
wickedness to her as you do to me!"
The clock struck ten. Desperate positions require desperate measures.
"If you will leave the house now, I will come to you to-morrow and tell
you all. What is more, you shall see your child now. She lies sleeping up
stairs. Oh, sir, you have a child--you do not know that as yet--a little
weakly girl, with just a heart and soul beyond her years. We have reared
her up with such care! We watched her, for we thought for many a year she
might die any day, and we tended her, and no hard thing has come near her,
and no rough word has ever been said to her. And now you come and will
take her life into your hand, and will crush it. Strangers to her have
been kind to her; but her own father--Mr. Frank, I am her nurse, and I
love her, and I tend her, and I would do any thing for her that I could.
Her mother's heart beats as hers beats; and, if she suffers a pain, her
mother trembles all over. If she is happy, it is her mother that smiles
and is glad. If she is growing stronger, her mother is healthy; if she
dwindles, her mother languishes. If she dies--well, I don't know; it is
not every one can lie down and die when they wish it. Come up stairs, Mr.
Frank, and see your child. Seeing her will do good to your poor heart.
Then go away, in God's name, just this one night; to-morrow, if need be,
you can do any thing--kill us all if you will, or show yourself a great,
grand man, whom God will bless forever and ever. Come, Mr. Frank, the look
of a sleeping child is sure to give peace."
She led him up stairs, at first almost helping his steps, till they came
near the nursery door. She had well-nigh forgotten the existence of little
Edwin. It struck upon her with affright as the shaded light fell over the
other cot; but she skillfully threw that corner of the room into darkness,
and let the light fall on the sleeping Ailsie. The child had thrown down
the coverings, and her deformity, as she lay with her back to them, was
plainly visible through her slight night-gown. Her little face, deprived
of the lustre of her eyes, looked wan and pinched, and had a pathetic
expression in it even as she slept. The poor father looked and looked with
hungry, wistful eyes, into which the big tears came swelling up slowly and
dropped heavily down, as he stood trembling and shaking all over. Norah
was angry with herself for growing impatient of the length of time that
long lingering gaze lasted. She thought that she waited for full half an
hour before Frank stirred. And then, instead of going away, he sank down
on his knees by the bedside, and buried his face in the clothes. Little
Ailsie stirred uneasily. Norah pulled him up in terror. She could afford
no more time, even for prayer, in her extremity of fear, for surely the
next moment would bring her mistress home. She took him forcibly by the
arm; but, as he was going, his eye lighted on the other bed: he stopped.
Intelligence came back into his face. His hands clenched.
"His child?" he asked.
"Her child," replied Norah. "God watches over him," said she,
instinctively, for Frank's looks excited her fears, and she needed to
remind herself of the Protector of the helpless.
"God has not watched over me," he said, in despair, his thoughts
apparently recoiling on his own desolate, deserted state. But Norah had no
time for pity. To-morrow she would be as compassionate as her heart
prompted. At length she guided him down stairs, and shut the outer door,
and bolted it--as if by bolts to keep out facts.
Then she went back into the dining-room, and effaced all traces of his
presence as far as she could. She went up stairs to the nursery and sat
there, her head on her hand, thinking what was to come of all this misery.
It seemed to her very long before her master and mistress returned, yet it
was hardly eleven o'clock. She heard the loud, hearty Lancashire voices on
the stairs, and, for the first time, she understood the contrast of the
desolation of the poor man who had so lately gone forth in lonely despair.
It almost put her out of patience to see Mrs. Openshaw come in, calmly
smiling, handsomely dressed, happy, easy, to inquire after her children.
"Did Ailsie go to sleep comfortably ?" she whispered to Norah.
Her mother bent over her, looking at her slumbers with the soft eyes of
love. How little she dreamed who had looked on her last! Then she went to
Edwin, with perhaps less wistful anxiety in her countenance, but more of
pride. She took off her things to go down to supper. Norah saw her no more
Besides having a door into the passage, the sleeping-nursery opened out of
Mr. and Mrs. Openshaw's room, in order that they might have the children
more immediately under their own eyes. Early the next summer morning Mrs.
Openshaw was awakened by Ailsie's startled call of "Mother! mother!" She
sprang up, put on her dressing-gown, and went to her child. Ailsie was
only half awake, and in a not unusual state of terror.
"Who was he, mother? Tell me."
"Who, my darling? No one is here. You have been dreaming, love. Waken up
quite. See, it is broad daylight."
"Yes," said Ailsie, looking round her, then clinging to her mother, "but a
man was here in the night, mother."
"Nonsense, little goose; no man has ever come near you."
"Yes he did. He stood there, just by Norah--a man with hair and a beard;
and he knelt down and said his prayers. Norah knows he was here, mother"
(half angrily, as Mrs. Openshaw shook her head in smiling incredulity).
"Well, we will ask Norah when she comes," said Mrs. Openshaw, soothingly.
"But we won't talk any more about him now. It is not five o'clock; it is
too early for you to get up. Shall I fetch you a book and read to you?"
"Don't leave me, mother," said the child, clinging to her. So Mrs.
Openshaw sat on the bedside talking to Ailsie, and telling her of what
they had done at Richmond the evening before, until the little girl's eyes
slowly closed, and she once more fell asleep.
"What was the matter?" asked Mr. Openshaw, as his wife returned to bed.
"Ailsie wakened up in a fright, with some story of a man having been in
the room to say his prayers--a dream, I suppose." And no more was said at
Mrs. Openshaw had almost forgotten the whole affair when she got up about
seven o'clock. But by-and-by she heard a sharp altercation going on in the
nursery--Norah speaking angrily to Ailsie, a most unusual thing. Both Mr.
and Mrs. Openshaw listened in astonishment.
"Hold your tongue, Ailsie! let me hear none of your dreams; never let me
hear you tell that story again!" Ailsie began to cry.
Mr. Openshaw opened the door of communication before his wife could say a
"Norah, come here!"
The nurse stood at the door, defiant. She perceived she had been heard,
but she was desperate.
"Don't let me hear you speak in that manner to Ailsie again," he said
sternly, and shut the door.
Norah was infinitely relieved, for she had dreaded some questioning; and a
little blame for sharp speaking was what she could well bear, if
cross-examination was let alone.
Down stairs they went, Mr. Openshaw carrying Ailsie; the sturdy Edwin
coming step by step, right foot foremost, always holding his mother's
hand. Each child was placed in a chair by the breakfast-table, and then
Mr. and Mrs. Openshaw stood together at the window, awaiting their
visitors' appearance and making plans for the day. There was a pause.
Suddenly Mr. Openshaw turned to Ailsie and said,
"What a little goosey somebody is with her dreams, wakening up poor, tired
mother in the middle of the night with a story of a man being in the
"Father, I'm sure I saw him," said Ailsie, half crying. "I don't want to
make Norah angry; but I was not asleep, for all she says I was. I had been
asleep--and I wakened up quite wide awake, though I was so frightened. I
kept my eyes nearly shut, and I saw the man quite plain--a great brown man
with a beard. He said his prayers. And then he looked at Edwin. And then
Norah took him by the arm and led him away, after they had whispered a bit
"Now, my little woman must be reasonable," said Mr. Openshaw, who was
always patient with Ailsie. "There was no man in the house last night at
all. No man comes into the house, as you know, if you think, much less
goes up into the nursery. But sometimes we dream something has happened,
and the dream is so like reality that you are not the first person, little
woman, who has stood out that the thing has really happened."
"But indeed it was not a dream," said Ailsie, beginning to cry.
Just then Mr. and Mrs. Chadwick came down, looking grave and discomposed.
All during breakfast time they were silent and uncomfortable. As soon as
the breakfast things were taken away and the children had been carried up
stairs, Mr. Chadwick began, in an evidently preconcerted manner, to
inquire if his nephew was certain that all his servants were honest, for
that Mrs. Chadwick had that morning missed a very valuable brooch which
she had worn the day before. She remembered taking it off when she came
home from Buckingham Palace. Mr. Openshaw's face contracted into hard
lines--grew like what it was before he had known his wife and her child.
He rang the bell even before his uncle had done speaking. It was answered
by the housemaid.
"Mary, was any one here last night while we were away?"
"A man, sir, came to speak to Norah."
"To speak to Norah! Who was he? How long did he stay!"
"I'm sure I can't tell, sir. He came--perhaps about nine. I went up to
tell Norah in the nursery, and she came down to speak to him. She let him
out, sir. She will know who he was, and how long he staid."
She waited a moment to be asked any more questions, but she was not, so
she went away.
It minute afterward Mr. Openshaw made as though he were going out of the
room, but his wife laid her hand on his arm:
"Do not speak to her before the children," she said, in her low, quiet
voice. "I will go up and question her."
"No, I must speak to her. You must know," said he, turning to his uncle
and aunt, "my missus has an old servant as faithful as ever woman was, I
do believe, as far as love goes, but, at the same time, who does not
always speak truth, as even the missus must allow. Now my notion is that
this Norah of ours has been come over by some good-for-nothing chap (for
she's at the time o' life when they say women pray for husbands--'any,
good Lord, any'), and has let him into our house, and the chap has made
off with your brooch, and m'appen many another thing beside. It's only
saying that Norah is soft-hearted, and doesn't stick at a white
lie--that's all, missus."
It was curious to notice how his tone, his eyes, his whole face was
changed as he spoke to his wife, but he was the resolute man through all.
She knew better than to oppose him; so she went up stairs, and told Norah
her master wanted to speak to her, and that she would take care of the
children in the mean while.
Norah rose to go without a word. Her thoughts were these:
"If they tear me to pieces, they shall never know through me. He may
come--and then, just Lord have mercy upon us all, for some of us are dead
folk to a certainty. But he shall do it, not me."
You may fancy, now, her look of determination as she faced her master
alone in the dining-room, Mr. and Mrs. Chadwick having left the affair in
their nephew's hands, seeing that he took it up with such vehemence.
"Norah, who was that man that came to my house last night?"
"Man, sir!" As if infinitely surprised; but it was only to gain time.
"Yes, the man that Mary let in; that she went up stairs to the nursery to
tell you about; that you came down to speak to; the same chap, I make no
doubt, that you took into the nursery to have your talk out with; the one
Ailsie saw, and afterward dreamed about, thinking, poor wench! she saw him
say his prayers, when nothing, I'll be bound, was farther from his
thoughts; the one that took Mrs. Chadwick's brooch, value ten pounds. Now,
Norah, don't go off. I'm as sure as my name's Thomas Openshaw that you
knew nothing of this robbery, but I do think you've been imposed on, and
that's the truth. Some good-for-nothing chap has been taking up to you,
and you've been just like all other women, and have turned a soft place in
your heart to him; and he came last night a-lovyering, and you had him up
in the nursery, and he made use of his opportunities, and made off with a
few things on his way down. (Come, now, Norah, it's no blame to you, only
you must not be such a fool again. Tell us," he continued, "what name he
gave you, Norah. I'll be bound it was not the right one, but it will be a
clew for the police."
Norah drew herself up. "You may ask that question, and taunt me with my
being single, and with my credulity, as you will, Master Openshaw. You'll
get no answer from me. As for the brooch, and the story of theft and
burglary, if any friend ever came to see me (which I defy you to prove,
and deny), he'd be just as much above doing such a thing as you yourself,
Mr. Openshaw--and more so too; for I am not at all sure as every thing you
have is rightly come by, or would be yours long, if every man had his
own." She meant, of course, his wife, but he understood her to refer to
his property in goods and chattels.
"Now, my good woman," said he, "I'll just tell you truly, I never trusted
you out and out, but my wife liked you, and I thought you had many a good
point about you. If you once begin to sauce me, I'll have the police to
you, and get out the truth in a court of justice, if you'll not tell it me
quietly and civilly here. Now the best thing you can do is quietly to tell
me who the fellow is. Look here! a man comes to my house; asks for you;
you take him up stairs; a valuable brooch is missing next day; we know
that you, and Mary, and cook, are honest; but you refuse to tell us who
the man is. Indeed, you've told one lie already about him, saying no one
was here last night. Now I just put it to you, what do you think a
policeman would say to this, or a magistrate? A magistrate would soon make
you tell the truth, my good woman."
"There's never the creature born that should get it out of me," said
Norah--"not unless I choose to tell."
"I've a great mind to see," said Mr. Openshaw, growing angry at the
defiance. Then, checking himself, he thought before he spoke again:
"Norah, for your missus's sake I don't want to go to extremities. Be a
sensible woman if you can. It's no great disgrace, after all, to have been
taken in I ask you once more--as a friend--who was this man that you let
into my house last night?"
No answer. He repeated the question in an impatient tone. Still no answer.
Norah's lips were set in determination not to speak.
"Then there is but one thing to be done. I shall send for a policeman."
"You will not," said Norah, starting forward. "You shall not, sir. No
policeman shall touch me. I know nothing of the brooch, but I know this:
ever since I was four-and-twenty, I have thought more of your wife than of
myself; ever since I saw her, a poor motherless girl, put upon in her
uncle's house, I have thought more of serving her than of serving myself.
I have cared for her and her child as nobody ever cared for me. I don't
cast blame on you, sir, but I say it's ill giving up one's life to any
one; for, at the end, they will turn round upon you and forsake you. Why
does not my missus come herself to suspect me? Maybe she's gone for the
police? But I don't stay here either for police, or magistrate, or master.
You're an unlucky lot. I believe there's a curse on you. I'll leave you
this very day. Yes, I'll leave that poor Ailsie too. I will! No good will
ever come to you."
Mr. Openshaw was utterly astonished at this speech, most of which was
completely unintelligible to him, as may easily be supposed. Before he
could make up his mind what to say or what to do, Norah had left the room.
I do not think he had ever really intended to send for the police to this
old servant of his wife's, for he had never for a moment doubted her
perfect honesty; but he had intended to compel her to tell him who the man
was, and in this he was baffled. He was, consequently, much irritated. He
returned to his uncle and aunt in a state of great annoyance and
perplexity, and told them he could get nothing out of the woman; that some
man had been in the house the night before, but that she refused to tell
who he was. At this moment his wife came in, greatly agitated, and asked
what had happened to Norah, for that she had put on her things in
passionate haste, and left the house.
"This looks suspicious," said Mr. Chadwick. "It is not the way in which an
honest person would have acted."
Mr. Openshaw kept silence. He was sorely perplexed. But Mrs. Openshaw
turned round on Mr. Chadwick with a sudden fierceness no one ever saw in
"You don't know Norah, uncle. She is gone because she is deeply hurt at
being suspected. Oh, I wish I had seen her, that I had spoken to her
myself. She would have told me any thing." Alice wrung her hands.
"I must confess," continued Mr. Chadwick to his nephew, in a lower voice,
"I can't make you out. You used to be a word and a blow, and oftenest the
blow first; and now, when there is every cause for suspicion, you just do
naught. Your missus is a very good woman, I grant, but she may have been
put upon as well as other folk, I suppose. If you don't send for the
police, I shall."
"Very well," replied Mr. Openshaw, surlily; "I can't clear Norah. She
won't clear herself, as I believe she might if she would. Only I wash my
hands of it, for I am sure the woman herself is honest. and she lived a
long time with my wife, and I don't like her to come to shame."
"But she will then be forced to clear herself. That, at any rate, will be
a good thing."
"Very well, very well. I am heart-sick of the whole business. Come, Alice,
come up to the babies; they'll be in a sore way. I tell you, uncle," he
said, turning round once more to Mr. Chadwick, suddenly and sharply, after
his eye had fallen on Alice's wan, tearful, anxious face, "I'll have no
sending for the police, after all. I'll buy my aunt twice as handsome a
brooch this very day, but I'll not have Norah suspected and my missus
plagued. There's for you!"
He and his wife left the room. Mr. Chadwick quietly waited till he was out
of hearing, and then said to his wife, "For all Tom's heroics, I'm just
quietly going for a detective, wench. Thou need'st know naught about it."
He went to the police-station, and made a statement of the case. He was
gratified by the impression which the evidence against Norah seemed to
make. The men all agreed in his opinion, and steps were to be immediately
taken to find out where she was. Most probably, as they suggested, she had
gone at once to the man, who, to all appearance, was her lover. When Mr.
Chadwick asked how they would find her out, they smiled, shook their
heads, and spoke of mysterious but infallible ways and means. He returned
to his nephew's house with a very comfortable opinion of his own sagacity.
He was met by his wife with a penitent face:
"Oh, master, I've found my brooch! It was just sticking by its pin in the
flounce of my brown silk, that I wore yesterday. I took it off in a hurry,
and it must have caught in it; and I hung up my gown in the closet. Just
now, when I was going to fold it up, there was the brooch! I'm very vexed,
but I never dreamed but what it was lost."
Her husband, muttering something very like "Confound thee and thy brooch
too! I wish I'd never given it thee," snatched up his hat and rushed back
to the station, hoping to be in time to stop the police from searching for
Norah. But a detective was already gone off on the errand.
Where was Norah? Half mad with the strain of the fearful secret, she had
hardly slept through the night for thinking what must be done. Upon this
terrible state of mind had come Ailsie's questions, showing that she had
seen the man, as the unconscious child called her father. Lastly came the
suspicion of her honesty. She was little less than crazy as she ran up
stairs and dashed on her bonnet and shawl, leaving all else, even her
purse, behind her. In that house she would not stay. That was all she knew
or was clear about. She would not even see the children again, for fear it
should weaken her. She dreaded, above every thing, Mr. Frank's return to
claim his wife. She could not tell what remedy there was for a sorrow so
tremendous, for her to stay to witness. The desire of escaping from the
coming event was a stronger motive for her departure than her soreness
about the suspicions directed against her, although this last had been the
final goad to the course she took. She walked away almost at headlong
speed, sobbing as she went, as she had not dared to do during the past
night, for fear of exciting wonder in those who might hear her. Then she
stopped. An idea came into her mind that she would leave London
altogether, and betake herself to her native town of Liverpool. She felt
in her pocket for her purse as she drew near the Euston Square station
with this intention. She had left it at home. Her poor head aching, her
eyes swollen with crying, she had to stand still and think, as well as she
could, where next she should bend her steps. Suddenly the thought flashed
into her mind that she would go and find out poor Mr. Frank. She had been
hardly kind to him the night before, though her heart had bled for him
ever since. She remembered his telling her, when she inquired for his
address, almost as she had pushed him out of the door, of some hotel in a
street not far distant from Euston Square. Thither she went; with what
intention she scarcely knew, but to assuage her conscience by telling him
how much she pitied him. In her present state she felt herself unfit to
counsel, or restrain, or assist, or do aught else but sympathize and weep.
The people of the inn said such a person had been there; had arrived only
the day before; had gone out soon after his arrival, leaving his luggage
in their care, but had never come back. Norah asked for leave to sit down
and await the gentleman's return. The landlady--pretty secure in the
deposit of luggage against any probable injury--showed her into a room,
and quietly locked the door on the outside. Norah was utterly worn out,
and fell asleep--a shivering, starting, uneasy slumber, which lasted for
The detective, meanwhile, had come up with her some time before she
entered the hotel, into which he followed her. Asking the landlady to
detain her for an hour or so, without giving any reason beyond showing his
authority (which made the landlady applaud herself a good deal for having
locked her in), he went back to the police-station to report his
proceedings. He could have taken her directly; but his object was, if
possible, to trace out the man who was supposed to have committed the
robbery. Then he heard of the discovery of the brooch, and consequently
did not care to return.
Norah slept till even the summer evening began to close in, their started
up. Some one was at the door. It would be Mr. Frank; and she dizzily
pushed back her ruffled gray hair, which had fallen over her eyes, and
stood looking to see him. Instead, there came in Mr. Openshaw and a
"This is Norah Kennedy," said Mr. Openshaw.
"Oh, sir," said Norah, "I did not touch the brooch--indeed I did not. Oh,
sir, I can not live to be thought so badly of;" and, very sick and faint,
she suddenly sank down on the ground. To her surprise, Mr. Openshaw raised
her up very tenderly. Even the policeman helped to lay her on the sofa;
and, at Mr. Openshaw's desire, he went for some wine and sandwiches, for
the poor gaunt woman lay there almost as if dead with weariness and
"Norah," said Mr. Openshaw, in his kindest voice, "the brooch is found. It
was hanging to Mrs. Chadwick's gown. I beg your pardon--most truly I beg
your pardon for having troubled you about it. My wife is almost
broken-hearted. Eat, Norah--or, stay, first drink this glass of wine,"
said he, lifting her head, and pouring a little down her throat.
As she drank she remembered where she was and who she was waiting for. She
suddenly pushed Mr. Openshaw away, saying, "Oh, sir, you must go--you must
not stop a minute. If he comes back he will kill you."
"Alas! Norah, I do not know who 'he' is. But some one is gone away who
will never come back; some one who knew you, and whom I am afraid you
"I don't understand you, sir," said Norah, her master's kind and sorrowful
manner bewildering her yet more than his words. The policeman had left the
room at Mr. Openshaw's desire, and they two were alone.
"You know what I mean when I say some one is gone who will never come
back. I mean that he is dead!"
"Who!" said Norah, trembling all over.
"A poor man has been found in the Thames this morning--drowned."
"Did he drown himself?" asked Norah, solemnly.
"God only knows," replied Mr. Openshaw, in the same tone. "Your name and
address at our house were found in his pocket; that, and his purse, were
the only things that were found upon him. I am sorry to say it, my poor
Norah, but you are required to go and identify him."
"To what?" asked Norah.
"To say who it is. It is always done, in order that some reason may be
discovered for the suicide--if suicide it was. I make no doubt he was the
man who came to see you at our house last night. It is very sad, I know."
He made pauses between each little clause, in order to try and bring back
her senses, which he feared were wandering, so wild and sad was her look.
"Master Openshaw," said she, at last, "I've a dreadful secret to tell
you--only you must never breathe it to any one, and you and I must hide it
away forever. I thought to have done it all by myself, but I see I can
not. Yon poor man--yes, the dead, drowned creature, is, I fear, Mr. Frank,
my mistress's first husband!"
Mr. Openshaw sat down as if shot. He did not speak, but after a while he
signed to Norah to go on.
"He came to me the other night, when, God be thanked you were all away at
Richmond. He asked me if his wife was dead or alive. I was a brute, and
thought more of your all coming home than of his sore trial; I spoke out
sharp, and said she was married again, and very content and happy; I all
but turned him away; and now he lies dead and cold."
"God forgive me!" said Mr. Openshaw.
"God forgive us ally said Norah. "Yon poor man needs forgiveness, perhaps,
less than any one among us. He had been among the savages--shipwrecked--I
know not what--and he had written letters which had never reached my poor
"He saw his child!"
"He saw her--yes. I took him up to give his thoughts another start, for I
believed he was going mad on my hands. I came to seek him here, as I more
than half promised. My mind misgave me when I heard he never came in. Oh,
sir, it must be him!"
Mr. Openshaw rang the bell. Norah was almost too much stunned to wonder at
what he did. He asked for writing materials, wrote a letter, and then said
"I am writing to Alice to say I shall be unavoidably absent for a few
days; that I have found you; that you are well, and send her your love,
and will come home to-morrow. You must go with me to the Police Court; you
must identify the body; I will pay high to keep names and details out of
"But where are you going, sir?"
He did not answer her directly. Then he said,
"Norah, I must go with you, and look on the face of the man whom I have so
injured--unwittingly, it is true; but it seems to me as if I had killed
him. I will lay his head in the grave as if he were my only brother: and
how he must have hated me! I can not go home to my wife till all that I
can do for him is done. Then I go with a dreadful secret on my mind. I
shall never speak of it again after these days are over. I know you will
not either." He shook hands with her; and they never named the subject
again the one to the other.
Norah went home to Alice the next day. Not a word was said on the cause of
her abrupt departure a day or two before. Alice had been charged by her
husband, in his letter, not to allude to the supposed theft of the brooch;
so she, implicitly obedient to those whom she loved both by nature and
habit, was entirely silent on the subject, only treated Norah with the
most tender respect, as if to make up for unjust suspicion.
Nor did Alice inquire into the reason why Mr. Openshaw had been absent
during his uncle and aunt's visit, after he had once said that it was
unavoidable. He came back grave and quiet, and from that time forth was
curiously changed--more thoughtful, and perhaps less active; quite as
decided in conduct, but with new and different rules for the guidance of
that conduct. Toward Alice he could hardly be more kind than he had always
been; but he now seemed to look upon her as some one sacred, and to be
treated with reverence as well as tenderness. He throve in business, and
made a large fortune, one half of which was settled upon her.
Long years after these events--a few months after her mother died--Ailsie
and her "father" (as she always called Mr. Openshaw) drove to a cemetery a
little way out of town, and she was carried to a certain mound by her
maid, who was then sent back to the carriage. There was a head-stone, with
F. W. and a date upon it--that was all. Sitting by the grave, Mr. Openshaw
told her the story; and for the sad fate of that poor father whom she had
never seen, he shed the only tears she ever saw fall from his eyes.