Lady Hope had retreated into her own
room, for the absence of her husband was beginning
to prey upon her; and she was all the more sad and
lonely because she knew in her heart that the two persons
whom she saw together in the moonlight were thinking,
perhaps talking, of the love which she must never
know in its fullness again which she had
never known as good and contented wives experience
Indeed, love is the one passion that
can neither be wrested from fate or bribed into life.
It must spring up from the heart, like a wild flower
from seed God plants in virgin forest soil, to bring
contentment with its blossoming. The sunshine
which falls upon it must be pure and bright from heaven.
Plant it in an atmosphere of sin, and that which might
have been a holy passion becomes a torment, bitter
in proportion to its strength.
Ah! how keenly Rachael Closs felt
all this as she sat there alone in her bower room,
looking wistfully out upon those two lovers, both so
dear to her that her very soul yearned with sympathy
for the innocent love she had never known, and never
could know upon earth! Yet, dear as these two
persons were to her, she would have seen that fair
girl and the manly form beside her shrouded in their
coffins, if that could have brought back one short
twelve-months of the passionate insanity which had
won Lord Hope to cast aside all restraint and fiercely
wrench apart the most sacred ties in order to make
her his wife. She asked for impossibilities.
Love born in tumult and founded in selfishness must
have its reactions, and between those two the shadow
of a wronged woman was forever falling; and, struggle
as they would, it grew colder and darker every year.
But upon these two persons time operated differently.
The wild impetuosity of his character had hardened
into reserve. His ambition was to stand high
among men of his own class to be known as
a statesman of power in the realm.
But, in all this Rachael knew that
she was a drawback and a heavy weight upon his aspirations.
Was it that she was less bright or beautiful?
No, no. Her mirror contradicted the one
doubt, and the power which she felt in her own genius
rebuked the other.
Once give her a foothold among the
men and women who had so persistently considered her
as an intruder, and the old vigor and pride of her
life would come back with it: the idolatry which
had induced that infatuated man to overlook these
stumbling blocks to his pride and impediments to his
ambition would surely revive.
“Let him see me at court; let
him compare me with the women whose cutting disdain
wounds me to death, because it disturbs him; let him
place me where this intellect can have free scope,
and never on this earth was there a woman who would
work out a husband’s greatness so thoroughly.”
In the first years of her marriage,
Rachael would say these things to herself, in the
bitterness of her humiliation and disappointment.
Others, less beautiful and lacking her talent, had
been again and again introduced from lower ranks into
the nobility of England, accepted by its queen, and
honored by society. Why was she alone so persistently
excluded? The answer was always ready, full of
bitterness. The enmity of old Lady Carset had
done it all. It was her influence that had closed
the queen’s drawing-room against Lord Hope’s
second wife. It was her charge regarding the
Carset diamonds that had made Rachael shrink from
wearing the family jewels, which justly belonged to
her as Lord Hope’s property. It was this
which made her so reluctant to pass the boundaries
of Oakhurst. It was this that embittered her whole
life, and rendered it one long humiliation.
These reflections served to concentrate
the hopes and affections of this woman so entirely
around one object, that her love for Hope, which had
been an overwhelming passion, grew into that idolatry
no man, whose life was in the world, could answer
to, for isolation was necessary to a feeling of such
As the hope of sharing his life and
his honors gave way, doubts, suspicions, and anxieties
grew out of her inordinate love, and the greatest
sorrow to her on earth was the absence of her husband.
It was not alone that she missed his company, which
was, in fact, all the world to her; but, as he went
more and more into the world, a terrible dread seized
upon her. What if he found, among all the highly
born women who received him so graciously, some one
who, in the brightness of a happy life, might make
him regret the sacrifice he had made for her, the
terrible scenes he had gone through in order to obtain
her? What if he might yet come to wish her dead,
as she sometimes almost wished herself!
In this way the love, which had flowed
like a lava stream through that woman’s life,
engendered its own curse, and her mind was continually
haunted by apprehensions which had no foundation, in
fact, for, to this day, Lord Hope loved her with deeper
passion than he had ever given to that better woman;
but with him the distractions of statesmanship, and
the allurements of social life, were a resource from
intense thought, while she had so little beside himself.
She had striven to bind him to her
by kindness to his child, until the bright girl became,
as it were, a part of himself, with whom it would be
death to part.
Is it strange, then, that this dream
of uniting Clara to her only brother should have been
very sweet to the unhappy woman?
Lord Hope had been absent a whole
month now, and even with the excitement of her brother’s
presence, Rachael had found those four weeks terribly
What would she do if that fair girl
were separated from her entirely? Then solitude
would be terrible indeed!
But another anxiety came upon her
by degrees. In what way would her husband receive
Hepworth Closs? How would he accept the position
the two persons out yonder were drifting into?
Would he consent to a union which even her partiality
admitted as unsuitable, or would he, in his cold,
calm way, plant his foot upon their hearts and crush
her fond desire out of existence?
As Lady Hope pondered over these thoughts
in silence and semi-darkness, Clara came through the
window, in great excitement.
“Oh! mamma Rachael! He
is going away from us. He told me so just now;
but you will not let him. You will never let him!”
Lady Hope started out of her reverie.
“Going away? Where? Who? I cannot
“Hepworth Mr. Closs,
I mean. Oh, mamma! he threatens to leave us here
all alone by ourselves the most cruel thing
that ever was heard of. I thought how angry you
would be, and came at once. You can do anything
with him he loves you so dearly. Let
him threaten if he likes, but you will not let him
go. You will tell him how foolish, how cruel it
is to leave us, while papa is away. Oh! mamma
Rachael, you can do anything! Do this! Do
“But why, darling why do you care
“Why! why!” Clara threw
back her head till the curls waved away from her shoulders,
then a burning crimson came over her, the shamed face
drooped again, and she answered: “I don’t
know I don’t know.”
Rachael bent her face till it almost
touched that hot cheek, and whispered:
“Is it that you love him, my own Clara?”
Again Clara lifted her face.
A strange light came upon it. Her lips were parted,
her blue eyes opened wide.
“Love him love him? Oh! mamma
Rachael, is this love?”
Rachael smiled, and kissed that earnest
face, holding it between both hands.
“I think it is, darling.
Nay, I am sure that you love him, and that he loves
“Loves me? Then why does
he go away? I should think so but for that.”
“Because of that, I am afraid, Clara.”
“Loves me, and goes away because
he loves me!” said the girl, bewildered.
“I don’t understand it.”
“There may be many reasons, Clara.”
“I can’t think of one. Indeed I can’t.
Papa never was cruel.”
“He may not think it quite honorable
to let make you love him, when your father
knows nothing about it.”
“But papa would not mind.”
“Hepworth does not know that;
nor do I. Your father is a very proud man, Clara,
and has a right to look high, for his only child.”
“What then? Mr. Closs is
handsomer, brighter, more more everything
that is grand and royal, than any nobleman I have
ever seen. What can papa say against that?”
“But he is a man of no family
position simply Hepworth Closs, nothing
more. We can scarcely call him an Englishman.”
“What then, mamma? He is
a gentleman. Who, in all this neighborhood, can
compare with him?”
“No one! no one!” answered
Rachael, with enthusiasm. “There is but
one man on all the earth so far above the rest; but
persons who look upon birth and wealth as everything,
may not see him with our eyes, my Clara. Then
there is another objection. Hepworth is over thirty.”
“Mamma Rachael, you know well
enough that I never did like boys,” said Clara,
with childish petulance.
“And compared with the great
landed noblemen of England, he is poor.”
“Not so, mamma Rachael.
He has made lots and lots of money out in those countries
where they dig gold from the earth. He described
it all to me, about washing dirt in pans, and crushing
rocks in great machines, and picking up pure gold
in nuggets why, he found an awful big one
himself. I daresay he has got more real money
than papa. I do, indeed.”
Lady Hope sighed. Perhaps she
thought so too; for Oakhurst was closely entailed,
and ready money was sometimes scarce in that sumptuous
“And then how much shall I have?
Let me ask that of papa.”
“But you will inherit something
with the Carset title in spite of your grandmother.”
“Yes, I know. An enormous
old castle with just land enough to keep it in repair.
That isn’t much to boast of, or make a man like
Mr. Closs feel modest when he thinks of me.”
“But the title. Is it nothing
to be a peeress in your own right?”
“I would rather he were an earl,
and I a peeress in his right.”
“You are a strange girl, Clara.”
“But you love me if I am, mamma Rachael.”
“Love you, child! You will never know how
“And if it so happened that
he did really like me, you wouldn’t go against
“But what would my will be opposed to that of
“Only this you can
do anything with papa. Don’t I remember
when I was a little girl?”
Rachael sighed heavily.
“That was a long time ago, Clara,
and childish wants are easily satisfied.”
Clara threw both arms around her stepmother’s
neck and kissed her.
“Never mind if he is a little
stubborn now and then; you can manage him, yet, mamma.
Only, don’t let Mr. Closs do that horrid thing.
I never could ride alone with the ponies after the
last three weeks. You don’t know how instructive
he is! Why, we have travelled all over the world
together, and now he wants to throw me overboard; but
you won’t let him do that, mamma Rachael.
What need is there of any thought about what may come?
We are all going on beautifully, now, and, I dare say,
papa is enjoying himself shooting grouse. When
he comes back and sees how much Mr. Closs is like
you, everything will be right. Only, mamma Rachael,
tell me one thing. Are you sure that that
he isn’t thinking me a child, and likes me only
for that? This very night he called me ‘my
child,’ and said he was going. That made
me wretchedly angry, so I came in here. Now tell
“Hush! hush! I hear his step on the terrace.”
The girl darted off like a swallow.
For the whole universe she could not have met Hepworth
there in the presence of a third person.
As she left the room, Closs entered it.
“Rachael,” he said, standing
before his sister, in the square of moonlight cast
like a block of silver through the window, “I
have been weak enough to love this girl whom we both
knew as an infant, when I was old enough to be a worse
man than I shall ever be again; and, still more reprehensible,
I have told her of it within the last half-hour; a
pleasant piece of business, which Lord Hope will be
likely to relish. Don’t you think so?”
“I do not know I
cannot tell. Hope loves his daughter, and has
never yet denied anything to her. He may not
like it at first; but oh! Hepworth,
I know almost as little of my husband’s feelings
or ideas as you can.”
“But you will not think that I have done wrong?”
“What, in loving Clara? What man on earth
could help it?”
“Well, I do love her, and I think she loves
“I know she does.”
“Thank you, sister; but she is such a child.”
“She is woman enough to be firm and faithful.”
“You approve it all, then?”
Hepworth sat down by his sister and threw his arm
“My poor Rachael! how I wish
this, or anything else, could make you really happy!”
She did not answer; but he felt her form trembling
under his arm.
“But I only see in it new troubles
for you and dishonor for myself. There is really
but one way for me to act I must leave this
“And Clara? After what
you have said, that would, indeed, be dishonorable.”
“She is so young; the pain would
all go with me. In a few months I shall probably
have scarcely a place in her memory.”
“You wrong the dearest and finest
girl in the whole world when you say that, Hepworth!
To desert her now would be profound cruelty.”
“Then in what way am I to act?”
“Write to Lord Hope; tell him
the truth that you have won the respect
of men by your actions, and have, with your own energies,
acquired wealth enough to make you a fair match in
that respect for his daughter. Make no allusion
to the past; he is proud, and terribly sensitive on
that point, and might suspect you of making claims
to equality because of it.”
Hepworth smiled as he stood before
her in the moonlight, and she saw it. Wide travel
and experience among men had led him to think that,
after all, the highest level of humanity did not always
range with hereditary titles; but he only said, very
“Lord Hope cannot accuse me
justly of aspiring where he is concerned.”
Rachael felt the hot crimson leap
to her face. Did Hepworth dare to equal himself
with Lord Hope, the one great idol of her own perverted
life? She answered, angrily, forgetting that the
sinner was her only brother:
“Lord Hope need have no fear
that any man living will so aspire.”
“Poor foolish girl!” said
Hepworth, feeling the flash of her black eyes, and
touched with pity, rather than anger, by her quick
resentment. “Do not let us quarrel about
Hope. If he makes you happy, I have nothing to
say against him.”
Rachael shrank back in her seat, uttering
these two words in a voice so full of pathetic sorrow,
that it brought the pain of coming tears into Hepworth’s
eyes. He was glad to turn the subject.
“Then you are not willing that I should go away?”
“It would almost kill me to lose you again,
The young man felt that she spoke
the truth; the very tones of her voice thrilled him
with a tender conviction.
“I will write to Hope,”
he said; “it must end in that or absence.
It shall not be my fault, Rachael, if I ever go far
away from you again.”
Lady Hope took her brother’s hand between hers.
“That is kind, and I really
think the only wise thing to be done,” she said.
“Hope knows that you were born a gentleman.”
“And having married into the
family himself, can hardly say that it is not good
enough for his daughter. This is answer enough
for all objections of that kind. In fact, Rachael,
I begin to think we can make out a tolerable claim.
Now that we have decided on the letter, I will write
it at once, here, if you will let me order more lights.”
Hepworth rang the bell as he spoke,
and directly wax candles were burning on the ebony
desk at which Lady Hope was accustomed to write.
Having made up his mind, Closs was
not the man to hesitate in doing the thing he had
resolved on. He spread a sheet of paper before
him, and began his letter at once. Rachael watched
him earnestly as his pen flew over the paper.
For the first time she realized, with
a pang of apprehension, the step she was so blindly
encouraging. What if Lord Hope took offense at
the letter, or should condemn her for the intimacy
which had led to it? She was afraid of her husband,
and each movement of Hepworth’s pen struck her
with dread. Had she, indeed, laid herself open
to the wrath of a man, who was so terrible in his
anger, that it made even her brave heart cower?
“There, it is finished,”
said Hepworth, addressing his letter, and flinging
down the pen. “Now let us throw aside care,
and be happy as we can till the answer comes.”
Lady Hope sighed heavily, and, reaching
forth her hand, bade him good-night.