A Secret of the Sea_ A Novel. Vol. 3 (of 3)
Transcriber's Notes (Volume 3):
1. Page scan source: Web Archive
(University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)
By T. W. SPEIGHT,
"IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT," "UNDER LOCK AND KEY," ETC., ETC.
IN THREE VOLUMES.
RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON.1876.
(All Rights Reserved.)
CONTENTS OF VOL. III.
|III.||VAN DUREN'S DREAM.|
|V.||A FOUND LETTER.|
|VI.||VAN DUREN IN WALES.|
|VII.||THE MESSAGE TO STAMMARS.|
|IX.||VAN DUREN'S FLIGHT.|
|X.||TOLD AT LAST.|
|XI.||"AND YOU SHALL STILL BE LADY CLARE."|
A SECRET OF THE SEA.
"I'm in no particular hurry, doctor, to get back to London," SirThomas Dudgeon had quietly hinted to his medical man. "I daresay theHouse can get on without me quite as well as with me, so you needn'thurry yourself to say I'm fit for harness again till you feel quitesure in your own mind that I am so."
Dr. Welstead was not slow to take the hint, and he kept on calling atStammars two or three times a week, and sending one innocuous draughtafter another, which draughts Sir Thomas conscientiously poured intothe ash-pan when his wife was not looking, till the baronet's holidayhad extended itself to the beginning of May. But by this time SirThomas looked so well and rosy, and was in possession of such a heartyappetite, that a vague suspicion that she was being duped began tohaunt her ladyship's mind. She said nothing to her husband, but madeher preparations in silence. Then, one morning at the breakfast-table,the shell exploded.
"To-day is Wednesday, dear," she said, "and I have made allarrangements for our going up to town on Saturday morning. Dr.Welstead seems quite at a loss how to treat you: indeed, countrypractitioners, as a rule, are not competent to deal with anythingbeyond a simple case of measles; so on Saturday afternoon I willmyself drive you to see Sir Knox Timpany, and wait for you while youconsult that eminent authority, who, I doubt not, will make you aswell as ever you were, in the course of a very few days."
Sir Thomas fumed and fretted, but her ladyship was inexorable. Go hemust; and when he saw there was no help for it, he made a merit ofnecessity; but at the same time he registered a silent vow that notall the wives in England should drag him to the door of Sir KnoxTimpany.
At the last moment, however, the baronet and Gerald started for Londonalone. Late on Friday, Lady Dudgeon received a telegram. Her onlysister was very ill, and it was needful that she should hurry offwithout an hour's delay. "Considering all that I have done forCaroline, it is really very ungrateful of her to be ill at a time likethis," she grumbled to her husband. "She knew how anxious I was to getback to town, and she might have doctored herself up for another monthor two. I hope to goodness she won't die till the season is over. Ican't bear myself in mourning."
"Your only sister, my dear," remarked Sir Thomas, soothingly. "Iwouldn't leave her, if I were you, while there's the least danger.Your conscience might prick you afterwards, you know."
"Stuff!" was her ladyship's rejoinder. "Of course, I shall do what isproper; but if I were to die to-morrow, Caroline's first thought wouldbe how soon after that event she might begin to wear flounces again."
Without wishing his sister-in-law any harm, Sir Thomas would not havebeen sorry if her illness had kept his wife at her bedside for half ayear. The thought of having a few weeks, or even a few days, inLondon, without being supervised by her ladyship, was to bring backthe feelings of his youth when school broke up for the summerholidays. In fact, during the three weeks that elapsed before herladyship joined him in town, he was more like a schoolboy let loosethan the fancy sketch of him with which the Pembridge Gazette oneweek favoured its readers, wherein he was described as a senator,grave and staid, whose trained and powerful intellect was perpetuallyengaged in grappling with the most tremendous social and politicalproblems of the age.
After a little dinner, quiet and early, at which Gerald generally satdown with him, Sir Thomas would post off to the House. But an hour oran hour and a half there was quite enough for him. Whist and a primecigar at his club were far preferable to prosy speeches by people whomhe did not know, and on subjects about which he did not care twopence.
Since the day of his confession in the library, Gerald had seen verylittle of Eleanor. If they met casually in passing from one room toanother, a bow and a faint smile was all the greeting that passedbetween them. When they met at the dinner-table, no ordinary observerwould have noticed any difference in their demeanour towards eachother. Gerald talked as much as ever he had done: he knew that SirThomas and his wife liked him to make talk for them: but fewer of hisobservations were now addressed directly to Miss Lloyd than used to bethe case at one time. Sometimes he even turned over the music forEleanor when she played after dinner; but had Lady Dudgeon been themost Argus-eyed of dowagers, instead of the most unsuspicious, shecould not possibly have found fault with his demeanour on suchoccasions. He was Sir Thomas Dudgeon's secretary--and nothing more.
Eleanor had received his confession in a spirit somewhat differentfrom what he had expected. He had thought that her pride would be moredeeply wounded by the deception he had practised on her than itappeared to be. That it was wounded, he knew full well; but when heparted from her at the close of the interview, he did not fail tonotice the quiver of her lip, and the longing, wistful look in hereyes. In his previous thoughts of her, it was evident he had notcalculated sufficiently on the effect which his frank confession andprayer for forgiveness would have on a generous and loving dispositionlike that of Eleanor. It seemed by no means unlikely, as Gerald saidto himself afterwards, when thinking over the interview, that she hadindeed so far forgiven him as to make his reinstatement in her regardsthe question merely of a little time and perseverance; and under othercircumstances he would not have allowed a day to pass withoutattempting a renewal of his suit. But fixed as he was just then, hecould not bring his mind to the adoption of such a course. That he hadfallen somewhat in Eleanor's esteem, that he had sunk to a lower levelin her thoughts, he could not doubt; and however much she might feelinclined to forgive him, it was questionable whether--had thecircumstances of the case really been such as she believed them tobe--she could ever have looked upon him with quite the same eyes asbefore. Such a change as this Gerald did not care to face. Hepreferred that, for a little while, she should think all was overbetween them; that he had given up all thoughts of winning her for hiswife. He knew that before very long she would have to be toldeverything, and till that time should come he would speak no word oflove to her again. The more hardly she thought of him now, the greaterwould be the re-bound towards him when, from other lips than his, sheshould hear the whole strange story that must soon be told her.
About a fortnight after sending his first letter to Kelvin, Geraldfollowed it up with another. But again came the same answer as before,that Mr. Kelvin was still too ill to attend to business. Gerald wasdebating in his own mind as to the advisability of going over toPembridge and seeking an interview with Kelvin, when the receipt ofcertain news from Ambrose Murray decided him to wait a short timelonger. Murray told him the result of the inquiries in Wales, and howhe and Peter Byrne were going to start for Marhyddoc in the course ofa few days; and Gerald was entreated to follow them as quickly aspossible. Under these circumstances there seemed to Gerald nonecessity for troubling Kelvin any further at present. Should AmbroseMurray find that which he was going to Wales to search for, then wouldall necessity for concealment on his part be at an end. One of hisfirst acts would be to ask for the daughter who knew him not. Thenwould come the time for Gerald to say who and what he was. His firstact after Eleanor knew that he was no longer John Pomeroy, the poorsecretary, but Gerald Warburton, the heir to Mr. Lloyd's wealth, wouldbe to tell her how truly he still loved her, and to ask her to becomehis wife. Let her, for a week or two longer, think that he had yieldedher up without a struggle: in a very little while she should discoverthat no power on earth could make him yield her up--nothing, save herown deliberate dismissal of him, could do that.
Thus it was that Gerald left Stammars without saying a word offarewell to Eleanor; and she, sitting half heart-broken by the windowof her own room, saw him drive off to the station, and cried afterhim, "Oh, my darling, why have you left me? Perhaps I shall never seeyou again."
Gerald had only done Eleanor simple justice when he said to himselfthat she was ready to forgive and forget the past. "He has confessedeverything to me, and confession is atonement," she said to herself"He need not have said a word to me, had he been so minded; but thevery fact of his telling me is proof sufficient that he is no longerseeking to win me for my money, but for myself only."
Day by day she had been expecting to receive some word, some lookeven, from him which would tell her that his feelings were stillunchanged; but day passed after day, and neither word nor look wasvouchsafed her. She was chilled and hurt by Gerald's persistentsilence and evident avoidance of her. Could it be, she asked herself,that he thought he had sinned past forgiveness? To prove that such wasnot the case, she would be more gracious and complaisant towards himthan she had ever been before. She would endeavour to let him see, asfar as a modest maiden might do so, that he had nothing to fear; thatthe past was forgiven, and that the future rested with himself alone.But Gerald might have been made of marble, so cold and impassive didhe seem to the tender-hearted girl, who had only discovered of latehow fondly she loved him.
Then her pride came to her aid, and she tried her best to emulateGerald's indifference. She laughed and talked, and seemed altogethermerrier than of old; but no one knew what she suffered in the solitudeof her own room.
Now it was that she determined to put into execution a project thathad been more or less in her thoughts for a longtime. She was tired ofthe empty, frivolous life that she had been leading for some timepast. It had seemed very pleasant to her while the freshness lasted,but that had now worn off, and she had made up her mind that she wouldhave no more of it--or only a taste of it now and then as a relieffrom more serious duties. What she wanted was some plain, earnest workto do--some work that would benefit others as well as herself For along time she had seemed like one groping in the dark; but at last shethought she saw a clear line of duty marked out for her footsteps, thefollowing of which might not be altogether without avail.
And now her purpose grew firm within her. All was at an end betweenher and Pomeroy. She had only herself to consult. In hard work shemight, perchance, find an anodyne for her wound. In any case, shewould try to do so.
"I suppose, my dear, that you won't object to give me a month thisautumn?" said Lady Dudgeon to her husband, as they sat together onemorning, about a couple of days before their projected return toLondon.
"Oh, ho! it's come to