That evening, Dan paid a visit to Mr. Jarner in order to confess his
newly born passion. After the rebuff he had received from Miss
Linisfarne, he judged it as well to enlist the sympathy of the vicar,
so that if the one retarded the other would speed his wooing. Miss
Linisfarne had taken up a distinctly hostile attitude towards Meg. She
monopolized Dan all the tea-time, and seemed displeased when he
addressed the girl even in the most casual manner. Dan was quite
unaware of her reason for acting thus, and so wished to seek the
advice and assistance of Mr. Jarner.

The vicar was installed in the oaken parlour, and, according to his
usual custom, had placed himself at the open window with his beer and
his long clay pipe. There was no light in the room save what was given
by the soft twilight. Dan hailed his host outside, and was bidden to
enter with hearty hospitality.

“Hey, lad, I’m glad to see you,” said Mr. Jarner, in his usual loud
voice; “come inside–come inside. A tankard and a pipe and a chat ye
shall have. Down, Jane! Down, Mike!”–this to the yapping terriers.
“Come in, my lord.”

“Hush!” said Dan, pausing on the threshold of the parlour; “not that
name here.”

“Ay, ay! I forgot. It is Dan I’m to call you. Sit ye down. Yonder’s
the chair. Wait, and I’ll light up.”

“Not on my account, sir,” said his visitor, seating himself on the
window seat. “Let us sit down here and enjoy the beauty of the
evening. It is good to live on days like these. You remember Keble on
the evening, vicar?”

“Ay, sir; Keble and Cowper. Both knew the quiet of eventide. Isn’t
that a pretty picture, sir?”–the vicar pronounced it ‘pratty.’ “Yon’s
the church tower black against the clear glow of the sky. Bats and
owls are abroad; I’ve been watching their flittings. And hark, if you
have a soul for music, Dan.”

“The nightingale!”

“He’s in the thicket yonder, and sings his evening hymn nightly to me.
To think that yonder strain is but an invitation to battle–the cock
nightingale calling to his rival!”

“Then all the sorrow of the bird—-”

“Comes from the poets. Poetic invention, sir! though I don’t deny the
ideal view is finer than the real. But we can talk of birds and beasts
another time. What brings you here, Dan?”

“A desire for your company, vicar.”

“Pooh-pooh, sir! Am I a young maiden that ye should come slipping
through the dark to talk with me? You’ve–ay, ay, here’s a tankard for
you, Dan. Come, drink up!”

“To tell you the truth, Mr. Jarner, I wish to speak seriously with
you,” said Dan, after they had pledged each other in ale.

“Is it about those mysteries, Dan? Have you found out anything new?”

“I have seen Miss Linisfarne.”

The vicar laid down his pipe on the window sill, and, with his hands
on his knees, stared in surprise at his visitor. The news astonished

“You–seen–Miss–Linisfarne!” said he, with a pause between each
word. Dan nodded thrice to assure him that such was the case. Whereat
the vicar picked up his pipe again, and proceeded to proclaim his
wonderment. “It is the first time she has seen a stranger for years.
How did you chance on her, may I ask?”

“Meg took me to the Court to see the picture of Sir Alurde Breel, and,
while we were looking at it, Miss Linisfarne made her appearance.”


“She was most agreeable, and very curious to know who I was.”

“Did you gratify her curiosity, Dan?” demanded the vicar, with a
twinkle in his eye. His short acquaintance with Lord Ardleigh had
shown him something of the young man’s character.

“No, sir. I managed to keep my secret with some difficulty, so she
made another attempt to find it out, and asked me to tea.”

“Preserve us!” cried Jarner, breaking his pipe in his astonishment;
“if this is not the most remarkable thing I have heard. Tea at Farbis
Court, and you a stranger! In all the years I have known Miss
Linisfarne, I have never broken bread under her roof. Look after
yourself, lad. There’s woman’s guile at work. If you don’t take care
of yourself, the old lady will marry you. You’ll be mated, my lord,
before you know where you are. There is no trusting Eve’s daughters,”
finished the vicar, rising to get a fresh pipe.

“I’ll be married soon, no doubt, Mr. Jarner, but not to Miss

In the glow of the match, with which the vicar was lighting his new
pipe, Dan saw that his face had suddenly grown serious.

“Are you talking of Meg, my lord?”

“Yes. Of whom else should I talk? I am in love with Meg, sir, and,
with your assistance, hope to make her my wife.”

“Is this a joke, my lord?” demanded Mr. Jarner, sternly.

“I was never more serious in my life.”

“Then you’re a lunatic, sir–a crazy person! What?–what? To love a
woman you’ve seen but twice–to—-”

“Pardon me! I’ve seen her four times.”

“When, and where?”

“First, at the Gates of Dawn. Second, on the crest of the ridge.
Third, at afternoon tea, in my dell, yesterday. Fourth, to-day at
Farbis Court.”

“My lord–my lord, you—-”

“Don’t call me ‘my lord’!”

“Ay, but I shall, my lord. This is a serious matter, and it behoves
you to talk with me in your true colours. As a priest, my Lord
Ardleigh, I tell you that it is wrong for you to behave so!”

“I don’t understand you, sir,” said Dan, placidly. He was not at all
put out by the vicar’s anger, which he considered just enough, in the
parson’s present state of misapprehension.

“She has been to your dell, sir–alone.”

“Don’t go too far, sir! You have no right to judge me without a

“The Lord forgive me if I am harsh!” said Jarner, wiping his forehead;
“but the girl is dear to me, and I would not have a hair of her head
harmed for all the gold of Ophir. I listen, my lord.”

“There is not much to tell, Mr. Jarner. Meg had tea with me in the
dell; and it was there I fell in love with her.”

“You cannot love so suddenly, sir! This is a young man’s fancy!”

“Indeed, no! I am in love with her beauty, her heart, and her noble
character. Can you blame me?”

“No! It is natural that you should love so fine a creature. But so
soon–so soon! Ay, there’s the rub, my lord! Easy in–easy out!”

“My dear vicar, if you had constructed an ideal, and suddenly found it
realized in the flesh, would you not fall in love with it forthwith?”

“Probably, my lord–probably!”

“Well, that is what I have done. For years I have sought a woman like
Meg, in the hope of making her my wife. Now I have found her, I am not
inclined to let her go.”

“But your rank–your relatives.”

“A fig for both, my dear sir. I shall woo, and, I hope, win, under the
name of Dan, and as to my relatives, I can settle with them. Believe
me, Mr. Jarner, Meg will make a noble Countess of Ardleigh.”

“That is true!–that is true! A heart of gold, my lord–of gold

“From what I have seen of her, from what you have told me of her, I
see well that I can find no better mate. If she will accept me as her
husband, vicar, I shall feel proud and happy. You see, sir, the
gipsy’s prophecy is coming true, after all.”

Mr. Jarner wiped his eyes. He was deeply affected for the moment, for,
knowing the merits of Meg, he wished her to marry a man worthy of her.
Such a one Dan appeared to be, for, lord or no lord, he was an honest,
noble young fellow, whom any girl might be proud to have at her feet.
It was greatly to Mr. Jarner’s credit that Dan’s rank weighed not one
iota in his estimation of the situation.

“Good! good!” said Jarner, gripping Dan’s hand; “if it is no fancy,
but real, enduring love, I’ll help you, my lord. But,” he added,
springing to his full height, “if you play her false—-”

“I shall not play her false,” rejoined Dan, seriously. “On my honour,
I swear that she shall be my wife.”

The vicar would have replied, but at that moment a whistle rang out in
the garden. Jarner raised his head and listened. It was repeated.

“Not a word more, Dan,” said he, hurriedly; “here is Tinker Tim, I
know his whistle–we will talk of this again. Be honest and true, and
I shall be your friend.”

They had just time to exchange a hearty hand-shake, when Tim’s huge
bulk appeared at the window. The dogs barked furiously; but, nothing
dismayed, the gipsy thrust in his mighty shoulders, and nodded to the

“Evening to both o’ ye,” said Tim, familiarly. “I looked in at your
dell, young man, but the fire was out and you also. Hy! passin, I’ve
got ye the dorg.”

“What, another dog?” laughed Dan, as the gipsy hauled a fox-terrier
pup out of his pocket. “Why, vicar, you must have a dozen.”

“Nay, five only! This makes the sixth,” replied Jarner, taking the dog
from Tim. “Light the lamp, Dan, and we’ll have a look at this one.”

Thereafter ensued an argument over the dog, its breed, its price, and
its condition, between the vicar and Tim. Dan listened with great
amusement, and the buyer and seller went at it hard, the one trying to
get the better of the other. At length a satisfactory bargain was
concluded, and Tim, before taking his departure, accepted a drink of
ale from the hospitable clergyman.

“I’ll go with you, Tim,” said Dan, putting on his cap; “it will be
company up to my dell.”

“Right, rye!” replied the Tinker, draining the tankard. “Good night t’
ye, my noble gentleman,” he added, nodding to Jarner.

“Come and see me to-morrow; we will resume our conversation.”

This was the parting salutation of Jarner to Dan, and after he
promised to call, he strode away with Tim into the darkness. At the
top of the ridge, Dan halted to look down at the Gates of Dawn, which
reared themselves like the portals of night in the gloom. Tim chuckled
and clapped his companion heavily on the shoulder.

“What about the prophecy, my lord?” said he, in a dry voice.

“My lord!” repeated Dan, starting. “What, you know?”

“I know that you are Lord Ardleigh, and that the prophecy of the
Mother is fulfilled.”

Summer was giving place to autumn, and still Lord Ardleigh lingered at
Farbis. A constant succession of fine days enabled him to continue his
outdoor life; and so many weeks had he dwelt in the dell, that he
quite looked on it in the light of a home. Instructed and guided by
Meg, who was proficient in woodcraft, he soon became conversant with
moors and valleys, and pine woods and adjacent hamlets. For miles
round he explored the country, and learned the fascination exercised
on the thoughtful mind by the barren hills. Those summer days were
henceforth to rank among the pleasant memories of his life; and with
reason, for were they not the days of his wooing? Who forgets the time
when Cupid was king?

It may be questioned whether he would have professed such ardent
admiration of Bohemianism, had not Meg been with him daily from morn
till sunset. She was his companion in all excursions, and treated him
in a sisterly fashion. Such chilly affection he was far from
relishing, being deeply in love, but the time was not yet ripe for him
to speak. Meg had still to learn the pains and sweetness of love, but
such knowledge had not yet come to her. In vain did Dan, by looks and
words, endeavour to touch her heart. She could not understand, and
though she professed to like him greatly, gave no sign of experiencing
any deeper feeling. Her namesake Diana were scarce colder than this
rustic maiden.

“She is like Undine,” complained Dan to his friend the vicar; “she has
no soul.”

“No heart, you mean,” replied Jarner, dryly; “there you are wrong. She
has a warm and loving heart. Never a tale of poverty but—-”

“I know all that, sir; but I want her heart to melt to my tale, not to
the whining of a sturdy mendicant.”

“I am afraid I cannot instruct you how to gain her affection, my lord;
I have never felt the tender passion myself. Ho! ho! You come to a bad
adviser when you seek my opinion on such points.”

This was but cold comfort, and Dan went away in despair. He likened
his case to that of Pygmalion, and then took courage from such
comparison, remembering that even the marble statue turned to warm
flesh and blood in the end. Meanwhile, he followed his divinity about
the hills, and hoped that he would gain her heart in the days to come.
His wish was gratified, but in a most unexpected fashion. It was the
jealous tongue of Miss Linisfarne, that first opened the eyes of Meg,
and changed her from girl to woman.

Dan was not offensively conceited. He entertained a reasonably good
opinion of his looks and capabilities, but did not deem himself an
Apollo with whom every woman was bound to fall in love. Yet,
resolutely as he strove to thrust the notion from him, he became aware
in more ways than one that Miss Linisfarne looked on him with great
favour. Whether it was his appearance or his conversation he was
unable to determine, but the pale lady of Farbis Court showed him
plainly that he had taken her heart by storm. In place of lying
for hours on her couch or limiting her walk to terrace and
picture-gallery, she became almost as great a pedestrian as Meg. She
invited Dan to the Court on every possible occasion, she followed him
to the dell on the pretext of wishing to see his caravan, and
frequently formed an undesirable third in those excursions on the
moorlands. And, to put the matter beyond all doubt, she showed by her
altered demeanour that she was wildly jealous of Meg.

Dan began to find his life anything but pleasant. He did not love Miss
Linisfarne, whom he looked on as quite an old woman, and objected
strongly to her incessant attentions. She never left him alone for a
single moment, and was always finding pretexts to be in his company.
At first he laughed at such madness, but soon began to weary of his
elderly admirer, the more so as she took to treating Meg in a very
unpleasant fashion. With the instinct of a jealous woman she saw that
Dan was in love with Meg, and since she could not revenge herself on
the man, took every opportunity of doing so on the girl. She subjected
her to all kinds of petty spite, sneered at her masculine habits, and
always sent her out of the room when Dan happened to be at the Court.
Meg resented this behaviour, though she was far from guessing the
cause, and so went but seldom to see her benefactress. On his part
Dan, learning from experience that Meg was not to be found as formerly
at the Court, kept away also, and thus inflamed Miss Linisfarne’s
heart with rage and envy. So far had her unrequited passion carried
her that she was rapidly approaching a stage when she might be
expected to be dangerous. Dan noted this fact, and kept as much as
possible from intruding on her privacy. The remedy was worse than the

Like the ostrich which thinks itself unseen because its head is thrust
into the sand, Miss Linisfarne never deemed that her passion was
patent to all Farbis. The villagers saw it, and made remarks on her
age and folly; Mr. Jarner noticed it and frowned, and a rumour even
reached Dr. Merle in the seclusion of his house. Only Meg was
ignorant, for no one dared to say a word about Miss Linisfarne in her
hearing. She was too mindful of former benefits to hear her
benefactress blamed in the smallest degree.

The last to hear of it was Mother Jericho, and she mentioned it to
Tinker Tim as a good joke. Instead of looking on it as such, the gipsy
scowled and swore, and finally went to the dell in search of Dan. Why
he should trouble himself about Miss Linisfarne and her follies it is
impossible to say; but he certainly spoke freely to Dan on the

“Morning, rye,” said he, striding into the dell like Hercules. “What’s
all this about the old woman?”

Ardleigh looked up in surprise. He was astonished to hear the tone in
which Tim spoke, and resented the scowl with which the gipsy greeted

“What do you mean, Tim?” he asked coldly.

“She told me,” said the Tinker, jerking his thumb over his shoulder,
“that the old lady at the Court wants t’ marry ye.”

“That is news to me! And how did she, by whom you no doubt mean Mother
Jericho, learn this?”

“It’s all over the place. Miss Linisfarne wants to become your wife.”

Dan did not know whether to laugh or to frown. Although he was aware
that there was some truth in the rumour, he was by no means inclined
to admit as much to Tim; the more so as the attitude of the gipsy was
distinctly hostile, and he eyed Dan in a gloomy and threatening

“Is it true, rye?” he demanded savagely.

“What business is it of yours, even if it is true?” said Dan,
wrathfully, springing to his feet.

“It’s every business,” retorted the tinker, scowling; “it is–it
is—- By Heaven!” he cried, his passion breaking loose, “I’ll twist
her neck!”

“Twist Miss Linisfarne’s neck?”

“Ay! That I shall!”

Dan advanced, and, laying his hand on the giant’s shoulder, looked at
him curiously. The man was strongly moved, though by what Dan could
not conjecture. Such an unexpected display of anger was all of a piece
with the other mysteries connected with Miss Linisfarne.

“See here, my man,” said Dan, deliberately; “we had better understand
one another. I allow no man to speak to me as you have done. You are
keeping something from me.”

“It’s a lie!” said Tim, hoarsely.

Dan, in nowise moved by the insult, persisted in his questioning.
“It’s the truth. How did you know my name?”

“That’s my business.”

“And mine also. I was directed to Farbis by your kinsfolk. I was met
here by Mother Jericho, and a few weeks ago you called me by my name.
Now you are angry because my name is connected with Miss Linisfarne’s
by lying gossip.”

“Is it lying gossip?” asked Tim, eagerly ignoring the rest of the

“Of course it is. I am in love with Meg. Do you think I want to marry
Miss Linisfarne, who is old enough to be my mother?”

Tim drew his hand across his brow, and heaved a sigh of relief. The
declaration was evidently a great relief to him. He tried to evade an
answer to the other questions by talking about Meg.

“It was for the girl’s sake, rye,” said he, hurriedly. “I know you
love her, and that she loves you, so I didn’t want ye to love the old

“That is untrue, Tim. I love Meg, but she does not love me.”

“She will some day, rye.”

“Mind your own business, my man,” said Dan, sharply. “Meg has nothing
to do with you, or you with her. What I wish to know is, why you
threaten ill to Miss Linisfarne?”

“I can’t tell ye–I can’t tell ye.”

“You must; and also how you came to know my name.”

“Ho! ho! rye! That’s easy. A pal o’ mine had a cart made at the place
where your caravan was built. He saw it there, and asked whose it was,
so, when they said Lord Ardleigh, he passed the word round our people
that a rye was on the wing.”

“So you knew who I was from the first?” said Dan, in a vexed tone.

“Ay, that I did, my lord, and Mother Jericho also.”

“Had such knowledge anything to do with her prophecy?”


In spite of this denial, Tim looked so uneasy that Dan felt sure he
was not speaking the truth. Determined to know it at any cost, he was
about to ask a leading question, when Tim caught his hand and clapped
him on the shoulder.

“Don’t ask me any questions, rye. When the time comes, I’ll tell ye

“All what?”

“All these things ye wish to know–about the old lady and Dr. Merle
and the prophecy.”

“When will the time come?”

“On the day ye take Meg to church,” said Tim, and with a significant
nod marched away.

Dan did not attempt to stay him, but stood reflectively looking at the

“I’ll speak to Jarner again,” he said, thoughtfully; “in spite of what
he says, there is some mystery about Meg. If Jarner doesn’t know it,
Dr. Merle does. I’ll see him.”

He lifted up his eyes, and saw the very man of whom he spoke coming
down the path.

It was with considerable astonishment that Dan saw Dr. Merle
approaching the dell. That so habitual a recluse should break through
his customary rules, and visit a comparative stranger showed that he
must be influenced by a powerful motive. What that motive might be Dan
was unable to conjecture, but hurriedly fixed on the only reason
likely to account for the unexpected presence of his guest. It might
be, Dan thought, that Merle had heard rumours of his attentions to
Meg; and, therefore, had come to demand an explanation. This Dan was
quite prepared to give, and, indeed, rather congratulated himself on
the opportunity thus afforded of placing matters on a proper footing.
His expectation was vain, for it soon appeared from the ensuing
conversation that Merle had sought an interview for an entirely
different purpose.

Although it was a warm day, the wretched creature shivered as he came
down the path, and blinked his eyes constantly in the unaccustomed
sunshine. For so many years he had lived in that darkened room, that
the access of light and the keen air rendered him uncomfortable. He
was wrapped up as though it were winter, and crawled feebly along with
the aid of a staff. With his pallid face, loose mouth, and red-rimmed
eyes, he looked a most pitiable object, and Dan secretly wondered that
this decrepit wreck should be the father of so splendid a specimen of
womanhood as Meg.

“A most undesirable father-in-law,” said Dan to himself, as he went
forward to assist his visitor. “But there is one comfort–he cannot
live much longer. Even now he looks as though about to tumble into his

In order to pay this visit Merle had evidently omitted to take his
usual dose of laudanum; but in place of such abstinence rendering his
brain clear, it made him weak and irritable. The sudden cessation of
the drug unstrung his nerves and clouded his intellect, so that he
sank on the log, to which Dan conducted him, in a state of mental and
physical collapse. His breath came in quick gasps, his hands trembled,
and his lean body shook as with the palsy. In all his experience, Dan
had never seen so degenerate a specimen of the human race. Much as he
despised him, yet he could not refrain from pitying the creature. He
was so weak and prostrate and broken up.

All this time Merle said nothing, his whole attention being taken up
in getting himself settled. When on the log, he coughed, and wiped the
perspiration off his brow, and shivered and shook, until able to
speak. It was quite five minutes before he could do so, and all the
time Dan, after a brief word of welcome, held his peace, and eyed his
visitor with strong curiosity.

“Ow, ow!” coughed Merle, weakly. “What a hill that is to climb! I
haven’t climbed one for years. Why do you live in this out-of-the-way
place? It is quite a journey from my house.”

“Why did you not send word that you wished to see me, Dr. Merle?” said
Dan, gently. “Had you done so I should have called at your house, and
so saved you the journey.”

“I didn’t want you to call, young man. Meg would have asked the reason
of your visit, and I do not wish her to know what I have to say.”

“Indeed! Does it then concern her?” said Dan, anxiously.

“No! It has nothing to do with her,” retorted Merle, querulously; “why
should it? I wish to speak of myself, and of Miss Linisfarne, and of

“Well, and what have you to say?” asked Dan, guessing from this speech
that the errand had something to do with the rumours pervading Farbis.

“You must not be offended, young man.”

“I can safely promise you that,” said Dan, with veiled contempt;
“nothing you could say would offend me. Pray proceed, Dr. Merle! I am
all attention.”

“It is said that you are in love with Miss Linisfarne!”

“So I have heard before.”

“Is it true?” demanded Merle, eagerly, putting out one shaking
hand–“is it true?”

Dan did not answer at once. That two such different individuals as
Tinker Tim and Dr. Merle should display emotion in regard to Miss
Linisfarne astonished him greatly. He could not conceive what
influence that faded old woman could exercise over the recluse and the
gipsy; the more so as neither, so far as he knew, had ever set eyes on
the lady. It had been impossible to get the truth out of Tim; but
there was a possibility of forcing a weak creature like Merle to
explain himself. This Dan determined to do, and so spoke with
forethought and deliberation.

“Is it true?” said Merle again, seeing that the young man kept silent.

“Before I answer that question I must ask you to explain your
connection with Miss Linisfarne.”

Merle stared at him with a terrified expression, and could hardly
force his dry lips to speak. When he did manage to find his tongue it
was to tell an untruth.

“I have no connection with Miss Linisfarne. All the time she has been
in Farbis I have never seen her.”

“Then why trouble to ask if I love her?”

“Because you have no right to love her,” replied Merle, vehemently. “I
forbid you–I forbid you! I shall speak to Tinker Tim. I–I—-”

His voice faltered and died away in his throat, for Dan had seized him
by the shoulder, and was speaking to him in a very peremptory manner.

“There must be an end to this, Dr. Merle,” he said decisively. “I
cannot allow you to meddle with my private affairs without having some
explanation. You spoke of Miss Linisfarne–you speak of Tinker Tim.
Between the three of you there is some understanding. Now, what is

“I daren’t tell,” whimpered the wretched creature, thoroughly
frightened by this vehemence. “There is nothing–nothing.”

“Yes, there is! Out with it, sir. Before you leave this place I must

Merle half arose from his seat as to escape; but Dan, now thoroughly
angry at what he regarded as an unjustifiable interference, forced him
down. The man snarled and muttered. Like a rat driven into a corner he
turned at bay.

“I shan’t tell you!”

“I’ll drop you into the well if you don’t,” said Dan, grimly. “I’m not
going to have you and Tim interfering with my business without knowing
your reasons.”

“Has Tim been here?”

“He left as you came. I wonder you did not meet him. And he asked me
the same question as you have done. What business is it of yours or of
his if I marry Miss Linisfarne? It has nothing to do with you.”

“Yes, it has–yes, it has! I love her–I love her!”

“How can that be, when, by your own confession, you never saw her till
you came to Farbis?”

“I didn’t say that! I said that I had not seen her since she came to

“Indeed! Then you knew her before she settled at the Court?”

“Yes! I–that is–oh, don’t ask me any more!” said Merle, in an
hysterical manner. “I can’t tell you. If Tinker Tim knew he would kill

The alarm of the man was so genuine that Dan soothed him with soft
words, as one would soothe a frightened child. And, indeed, Merle was
little else, for the pernicious drug had effectually destroyed his
manhood, and converted him into a nervous, irresponsible being.

“Don’t be afraid, Merle,” said Dan, quietly; “no one shall hurt you. I
can protect you from Tim; only tell me all!”

“I cannot tell you about Tim, for I know hardly anything of him. But I
can tell you my own story.”

“Very good; do so! Tim has promised to tell me his later on.
Meanwhile, let me hear yours. You say you knew Miss Linisfarne?”

“Yes, twenty-three years ago, it may be more. I have quite lost count
of time.”

“I don’t wonder at that,” said Dan, gravely.

“I–I only use it to soothe my pain,” said Merle, hurriedly. “It makes
me dream, and forget the past. If you only knew how I have been
tortured–how I am tortured by memory–how burdensome my life is to
me, you would not grudge me the drug which enables me to bear my
accursed existence.”

“Why are you tortured by memory? Have you committed a crime?”

“No! Do I look like a criminal! My sole crime is in having loved this
woman too well. My name is not Merle–what it is does not matter.
Three and twenty years ago I was a man, not a creature like I am now;
but a man with a career before me. I met with Laura Linisfarne and
loved her. She said she loved me, and then we were engaged. I lived in
a fool’s paradise for some months, and then found out her treachery,
her wickedness. She ruined my life; she made me an outcast and a
bye-word. I followed her here–to the exile to which her sin had
condemned her. For years I have not seen her, but watched over her
agony. For every pang I have felt, she has likewise suffered, for she
has no opium to dull the stings of memory. If she says she loves you,
she lies. She is a viper, a devil, a fiend! Were I strong enough, I
would kill her! I was a man once–now look at me!”

He sprang to his feet and stretched out his arms. A look of fury
distorted his face, and he shook like a reed.

“Look at me!” he cried. “This is he that was once Richard Mallard!”

“Ah! Mallard–not Merle.”

“Oh, what have I said–what have I said?” cried Merle, with a sudden
revulsion of feeling. “I did not mean to tell you my name, I–I—-”

“Hush, hush, no harm is done.”

“You know my secret; I shall tell you no more. Let me go–let me go.
If you would know more, ask Tim. He can tell you why I came here–how
bitterly I have suffered at the hands of that woman. And now she would
marry you. Avoid her–avoid her, or she will ruin you as she has done

“She will not marry me. I don’t love her,” said Dan, slowly. “I am in
love with your daughter Meg; I want to marry her.”

Merle looked at him with a dazed expression, then tossed up his arms,
and, with a sudden access of strength, ran away up the path, laughing

“Ha! ha! you love my daughter,” he cried, shrilly. “Go and tell Laura
so! It will make her suffer. After all these years her sin has found
her out. Go! go! tell her all! It will fill the measure of my

He disappeared, still laughing loudly, and Dan could hear the echoes
of that cruel mirth dying away in the distance. Astonished as he was
at the way in which Merle had received his announcement, he made no
attempt to follow; but, without changing his position, reflected on
his course of action. His decision was soon made.

“I shall see Jarner,” he said, “and then Miss Linisfarne.”

It was the custom of Mr. Jarner to visit at Farbis Court once a week.
He pitied the loneliness of Miss Linisfarne, and did all in his power
to divert her from melancholy reflections, by attempting to interest
her in the duties of his three parishes. His weekly conversations were
generally of a parochial character, and, eager to propitiate her only
friend, Miss Linisfarne feigned an interest in these local affairs,
which she was far from feeling. Still, they introduced a new element
into her life, and gave her an opportunity of enjoying the society of
the vicar, for which she was ever grateful. Meg was constantly with
her; but, though Miss Linisfarne liked such companionship, she
relished infinitely more the calls of Mr. Jarner. She was more
inclined to the society of men than to that of her own sex.

The unexpected appearance of Dan at Farbis wrought a revolution in her
quiet life. Here was a handsome young gentleman–for she had no doubt
on that point–who conversed intelligently, and who had plenty of time
at his disposal to idle away at Farbis Court. Deprived for so many
years of such congenial companionship, Miss Linisfarne welcomed Dan
with enthusiasm, and made him free of her house. As has before been
stated, she was jealous of Dan’s partiality for Meg; and, having shown
the girl plainly that she did not wish a third in their conversations,
managed to keep her out of the road. But, alas for her plans! When Dan
found that the presence of Meg in the dreary drawing-room was no
longer to be counted on, he ceased to visit the Court, as was his

With the instinct of a jealous woman, Miss Linisfarne guessed the
reason of his non-appearance, and was deeply angered that he should so
scorn her. But she was by no means disposed to abandon him without a
struggle, for, strange as it may appear, this faded beauty was really
in love with the young man. Had she not been so, she would scarcely
have made up her mind to marry him, and this is what she now intended
to do. After due deliberation, she determined to bestow herself and
her fortune on this unknown vagrant.

Such a resolution was inconceivably rash, for she knew absolutely
nothing about him. That he was a gentleman she was convinced, but was
quite ignorant of his character, name, station, or wealth. To marry an
adventurer, was what she intended; and, though she tried to salve her
conscience with the reflection that one so handsome must be desirable
in all other respects, yet she could not help feeling that it would be
as well to discover his antecedents before committing herself further.
To this end she sent for the vicar, in the belief that he, if any one,
would know something of this attractive stranger. If the inquiry
proved satisfactory, she was resolved to make him her husband. To such
a pitch of rashness did her mad passion bear her.

Jarner guessed that the coming interview had something to do with Dan,
as he also had heard the rumour of Miss Linisfarne’s infatuation. Also
he had been present when Dan was visiting, and had seen the eager
looks of the lady at her guest. Needless to say he greatly disapproved
of the way in which she was behaving, and resolved to speak his mind
at the interview, should it turn on the subject. And, indeed, as Miss
Linisfarne had never sent for him before, he was perfectly certain
that it was for the purpose of asking him to aid in her schemes that
she invited his presence. This the vicar did not intend to do, as he
by no means desired to break off the projected match between Dan and

On his arrival at the Court, he was shown up to the picture-gallery,
where he found Miss Linisfarne seated before the portrait of Sir
Alurde. This was her favourite resort, for which she had quite
deserted the drawing-room. For hours she gazed on that face which so
resembled that of the man she loved, and glanced occasionally at a
book on her lap, which set forth the history of the Elizabethan. This
history she had found in the library, and on reading it had discovered
that Sir Alurde and the vagrant possessed many traits in common. Yet,
strange to say, it never crossed her mind that there must be a reason
for such resemblance, nor did she guess that Sir Alurde was the
ancestor of the man who chose to call himself Dan. Had she made such a
discovery, it would have given her no pleasure, as she saw that Dan
was not in love with her, and trusted to his poverty and her wealth to
bring about the desired marriage.

The vicar contracted his brows as he saw how infatuated she was with
the picture, for he also was aware of the resemblance. Meg had told
him as a jest, and now that he knew that Dan was Lord Ardleigh, he no
longer wondered at the likeness. But it was not at the portrait he
looked, but at Miss Linisfarne. The change in her appearance quite
astonished him, for she seemed years younger, and in the flush of her
mad passion had almost regained the beauty of her youth. When Jarner
appeared, she arose, with a bright smile, and came towards him with
outstretched hands.

“You are much stronger, I see,” said Jarner, in reply to her greeting.
“That comes of walking in the open air, and of mixing more with your
fellow-creatures. Hey, ma’m! There is nothing like exercise and
society for bringing back the roses to pale cheeks.”

“I think it is more than exercise or society,” replied Miss
Linisfarne, joyously, and glanced at the portrait.

The vicar glanced also, but wilfully chose to misinterpret her
meaning. It was his intention to make her confession as difficult as
possible, and, if there was any chance, to avert it altogether.

“Hey, ma’m! Are you in love with Sir Alurde?”

“No. Not with Sir Alurde,” said Miss Linisfarne, pointedly; “but with
some one who greatly resembles him.”

“And who may that be?” asked Jarner, dryly.

“Cannot you guess? I have sent for you in order to speak on this very

The vicar pretended to search his memory, and shook his head with
feigned vexation.

“No, Miss Linisfarne; I cannot guess with whom you are infatuated.”

“Infatuated, sir!” she cried, starting to her feet.

“Does the word displease you, ma’m?”

“It is hardly courteous. Is love so ridiculous in a woman that you
should hesitate to use the word?”

“Love!” repeated Jarner, reflectively. “I think you told me, Miss
Linisfarne, that you had loved many years ago, and had lost your

“I did,” said she, paling at the irony of his accent.

“Pardon me, if my memory fails,” he continued; “but you also informed
me that your love ended in disaster–that your heart was dead, and
that for such reason you buried yourself in our solitudes.”,

Miss Linisfarne covered her face with her hands. All the joy had died
out of her eyes, and she looked the miserable woman she was.

“For twenty years and more you have lived here,” continued Jarner,
ponderously, “and all that time have remained faithful to the memory
of that early passion. With the details you have not seen fit to
honour me; but I can guess your story.”

She lifted her haggard face in surprise, but he took no notice of the

“You loved and lost, ma’m, and so sought to be constant in this
solitude to your dead lover. For twenty years you have been faithful.
Why, then,” added the vicar, pointing to the picture,–“why, then, let
that displace his image in your heart? It is sacrilege to the dead.”

“You do not understand!”

“Ay, ma’m, I understand well enough. I also have noted the resemblance
which chains you to that portrait. You love the young man who calls
himself Dan.”

“I do!” she cried with a bright flush. “Is there dishonour in such a

“Ay, to the dead!”

“Tush! You know not of what you speak, sir. I have not made you my
father confessor. I love this man. What have you to say against it? He
is handsome, he is a gentleman, he is of a noble nature.”

“I grant all that, but—-”

“Make no objections, Mr. Jarner, for they carry no weight with me. I
love now as I never loved before. You smile! You think I am too old to
set my heart on him, but I tell you that I love this man fondly, and I
shall marry him.”

“Marry him!”

“Why not?” said she, pressing her hands on her heaving breast. “Do you
know anything against him?”

“No, indeed; still—-”

“Then there can be no obstacle to my union with him. He is poor, but I
am rich. If he has no name of his own, he can take mine. What obstacle
is there to our union?”

“The greatest of all,” answered Jarner, dryly; “he loves another


“Ah! you have seen as much. Yes, he loves Meg Merle, and wishes to
make her his wife.”

“That he shall never do! Will he prefer that unformed girl to me–her
poverty to my wealth? She shall not marry him. I love him, and will
surrender him to no rival. Rival! Ha, is it I who call that girl a

“Yes, it is you; and it were wiser if you did not. She is fond of you,
Miss Linisfarne; you have brought her up; she looks on you as a


“Yes, as a mother. So do not ruin her life, and destroy the memory of
your kindness by seeking to marry this man. He is not for you, but for

“I shall not give him up,” she said, doggedly; “mine he shall be. Do
you think that, after all these years of sorrow, I shall willingly
surrender the only chance of joy that has come to me? He shall be my

The vicar picked up his hat as to go, and bowed. “In that case, ma’m,
I need not remain. I disapprove altogether of your infatuation, and
shall do my best to thwart your schemes. One woman only shall he
marry,–Margaret Merle.”

“You seem very interested in this match,” sneered Miss Linisfarne. “Is
it of your making?”

“No. It is his own desire.”

“Who is this man?” she asked, abruptly. “Do you know his name?”

“I do, madam, but I shall not tell it to you.”

“Mr. Jarner—-”

“No more, ma’m! I have wasted too many words as it is. You shall not
interrupt the course of true love. He is not for you, but for Meg

She strove to detain him, but he strode away, deeply angered at her
pertinacity. She stamped her foot, and looked at the picture of Sir

“Meg shall never marry you,” she said, thinking of Dan,–“never!
never! never!”

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