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SYNOPSIS OF PREVIOUS CHAPTERS.

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SYNOPSIS OF PREVIOUS CHAPTERS. CHAPTERS I. TO III.—Caroline Wrottisley and Stephen Fleetwood, distant relatives of Squire Wrottis- ley, live with him. The old man clings to his great niece, but discards Stephen, who is not a Wrottisley, and makes a will in her favour, leaving a bare X200 a year to Stephen on the understanding that he keeps out of prison. The two men quarrel and Stephen allies himself to a professional mesmerist who lectures throughout the country. When the old man dies a new will is found and attested by two nurses, in which he revokes all former wills and leaves everything to Stephen. As the will is discovered by Caroline, Stephen and she come face to face. CHAPTER IV. Stephen surveyed me from head to foot for a few moments in silence. His eyes, however, scarcely met mine, which expressed-well, a little of what I felt. Then he said, with an affected drawl which was put on for my benefit: You may clear out of here and out of this house, Cousin,' with a stress of delicate irony on the title of relationship, as soon as you like. There is not room for both of us and as I have got to stay apparently,' glancing at the will which I still held in my hand, it is only ship-shape that you should go.' Will you let me pass ?' was all I said, for he stood right before me in the way. I handed the will, as I spoke, to Nurse AVreford, who stood by my side, white and trembling, saying nothing, but glancing every now and then, involuntarily, at Stephen. It seemed as if he had some strange influence over this woman yet, to my knowledge, they could never have met before. Oh, I'll let you pass double quick. Don't think of staying on my account and suiting the action to the word he opened the door for me, with mock politeness. Before I could get out, lie had jammed the door of the dead man's chamber upon my heel savagely. t u m- i'oum. Every corner of it seemed rull of the echo of that Beware I had heard in the night only now there was a name attached to it. Beware of Stephen Fleetwood I confess that tne first thing I did when the door was ocked was to sit down on the chair under the window and cry. I am not weaker than other women, neither am I stronger that I am aware of. I was eighteen, and without a friend in the wide world. Outside, the world was bathed in the unsympathetic June sunshine. The dress wvrflv f a"1 t,16i V('P' ,uxlu'y of their summer Jf0 ">c-v clouds skimmed lightly across the azure of the dome overhead I was alone. Scarcely any life could have been more isolated than mine durmg these years under the Squire's roof. He had seen no company, for the old man neither had nor wished for any visitors. The rector of the parish was 111 his dotage, and the curates came and went too rapid- tJZrZ DameClt0 !)0 beeded- 1 searched the hoiizon f01 some one of whom I could turn for advice at this crisis of my life, if not for actual help, and not mntal in an hour I had packed, removed every trace of the 'indfaiinmltl StcPhp_n Fleetwood should see me antrmmp], the more, and was on my way to the -^West7\T of the late Squired carnages. I felt instinctively that the new master atched my departure with stealthy satisfaction but hUll I saw not. Manchester or London? That was the question. The former I knew slightly, having been there twice in company with the Squire, on some of his rare visits to Sth°USl tbWOrld" ••<lon wa*a vast 'terra incognito' which that unknown US lavLi^promisS pr°mise' to wait. !an?r P01'ter Il0W lon" we had | Ten minutes!' ^Will you kindly direct me to the refreshment room ?' this way, Miss, I'll show you.' He did more for he secured me what I wanted amid he surging crowd, who elbowed and crushed for food in the circumscribed area. I offered him twopence for his trouble. Thank'ee no, Miss much obliged it was a plea- sure.' The words, which were simple enough, thrilled through me. After all, the world was not altogether the cold, hard place I had pictured it, during the twenty odd miles ride from Cannock Junction (the station from which I had started) to Sheffield. In the refreshment-room I had noticed a tall, fair young man, who would have been very good-looking except that his eyes were set a little too close together. He was drinking brandy and soda and eating a sand- wich. The consumption of solids and fluids did not occupy the whole of his time, and the intervals were spent in furtively surveying me from head to foot. I presume the scrutiny was satisfactory, for this gentlemen fol- lowed me to my carriage, and transferred himself and his belongings into it. I did not attribute the compliment to any attraction I might possess at the outset: but the attitude my new companion took up left no reasonable doubt in my mind, a er a very few miles had separated us from the great hardware capital. I beg your pardon, may I have the pleasure of lend- tim e°U a PftP8r P' han<lin? one across to me at the same I hardly knew whether to accept or decline the proffered kindness. My inexperience was profound. My instinct was against the lender, but the difficulty consisted m knowing how to say No." I consequently 2 returning the loan as soon as I deceutly could. My bow opened the way to further advances. ( ^ou are looking tired not far to travel, I trust P Yes, i am going to London.' Half a day's journey yet A first visit? r i j 111 terr°gator was making use of his eyes in a way 1 did not appreciate. An old gentleman, evidently interested in what was going- on, was observing us and pretending to read at the same time. I felt my cheeks growing hot. But I was too little versed in the ways of the world to know how to choke off or snub the apparently polite interrogations of my vis-a-vis. I answered after a pause Yes, I have never been to London before.' If I can be of any assistance— Thank you I do not require any.' The colloquy, although carried on in a low tone, could of course be heard iu all parts of the carriage. Opposite the old gentleman sat a lady of vinegar aspect, who from the asperity of the glances she cast in his direction whenever he looked towards me, I judged to be his wife. She had doubtless viewed the foregoing scene with sufficient displeasure, and now joined in the conversa- tion. I hope you know all about the place you are going to, young lady. London is an evil place beset with temptations. Here she fumbled in a black bag, and eventually pro- duced a bundle of tracts, two of which she generously handed to me. One was called 1 A Brand Plucked from the Burning,' and the other, 'Saved so as by Fire.' Both of them seemed unkindly appropriate to the sultry warmth of the June air. The journey at length drew to a close. Everything my opposite neighbour could do to attract my attention, and ingratiate himself into my regard, was done. I was thankful at last even for the presence of the vinegar lady and her bundle of tracts. There came a difference in the surroundings of the line, as we swept hurriedly along. Green fields and hedge-rows had given place to red brick houses, new and old small stations offered signs, made illegible by the rapidity of our advance, to our sight every three or four minutes. The chimney stacks crept closer to- gether. The engine whistled more frequently and shrilly. The long looked for had come. Even I, with my untutored eyes, knew we were in the environs of London. The question which I had debated from the commence- ment of the journey now faced me impatient of solu- tion. What was I to do when the train drew up at King's Cross? Where was I to go to? The Squire always put up at an hotel I knew, on his infrequent pilgrimages. But a certain modicum of com- mon sense, which stood me in stead of experience, sufficed to inform me that hotels are expensive luxuries, reserved for those who have overflowing purses. I had stayed at the Royal at Manchester with my uncle, and the mental picture of that palatial building filled me with dread. I felt that my opposite neighbour read my perlexity. This only increased the discomfort of my mental con- dition. The train drew up at a ticket platform. The fair- haired gentleman's pasteboard was of a different colour than mine mine was third class his was either first or second, one of the two, I could not tell which. The discovery filled me with a new sense of alarm, and at the same time my blood rose. The stranger had given up a better and more luxurious seat, for which he had paid, in order to travel in my compartment—to travel, in fact, with me. At the terminus I got out, collected my luggage, and proceeded to carry the plan I had formed in my mind into execution, I waited until the first bustle of the arrival had spent itself, and was then about to seek out a friendly official, and ask for advice as to procuring a lodging. I turned and met my companion of the railway carriage face to face. I had lost sight of him before, and hoped he was gone. 'You are in doubt where to go, Miss Wrottislev,' with a marked emphasis on the name. You had better Place yourself under my guidance. I shall be happy to be of assistance to you.' 'How do you know who I am—my name?' I stammered nad torgotten it was on the luggage which lay around me. J fr-lJ kn?T not °nly y°wr name, but where you come have the pleasure of the intimate acquaintance of that biggest scoundrel unhung, Mr Stephen Fleet- wood.' I had by this time collected my energies, and got my army in line of battle. I do not know vou. sir, neither do I wish to know you. The friends of Fleetwood ara no friends of mine. I have not asked for your assistance. Kindly stand out of my way.' You have no idea how pretty you look when you get into a passion There passed by us at this moment a stalwart porter. An urgent snmmong brought him to my assistance. Will you make this gentleman leave me alone, piease P He is quite a stranger to me.' Now, then, sir, let the lady be or I'll have you up before the stationmaster. He is only on the Up platform.' Nonsense. This young lady knows me well enough. It is only her fun.' Well, she says she don't, and she looks serious enough so that's enough for me. Please to move on sir.' The fair-haired one looked inclined to show fight; but my selection of a porter was satisfactory, and the stranger paid a compliment to his physique which ho had not offered to my womanliness, and retired tem- porarily at any rate. I N, ow, miss, what can I do for you ? Shall I call a cab ?' it a porter ever talks in his sleep, he probably mutters this question. It is his formula in every difficulty. J I ,I have nowhere to go to: I want a lodging with respectable people, until I can look round a little.' ( Nowhere to go,' he repeated, and his face fell, aione in Lonaon, miss, without a friend you couldn't have come to a worse place. You ought to be ugly, or old, or both, to be about this place by yourself. And excuse me,' removing his hat and scratching his honest head, you ain't either of those and I can't tell you to your face you are.' The difficulty of securing the necessary qualifications for a free passage about town seemed insurmountable. It would require a good many years to make me old.' and as to ugly,' my looking-glass flattered me that nothing but vitrol would accomplish that. Do you not know of any lodging that you could recommend ?' Yes, I do know of one, miss, up near the Angel. But. lor' what is going to become of you There's sharks in dozens and hundreds in these waters worse than sharks for they only munch the body, and these snap up body and soul together.' Then he turned and looked me over again. I think, miss, after all you had better marry me you might do better and you might do worse. I earn my twenty-five shillings a week, take one week with another, and I'm steady as Old Time, and there is no other young woman in the case to be bowled over and to scratch your eyes out afterwards.' The proposal, although somewhat sudden, was evidently serious. T T, ,am ,T Cftnn°t quite do that,' I said; but i held out my hand to him in token that I was not oftenaen. Well, if you won't you won't; but if vou change your mind, I am always to be found here. Come along and 111 get you into a cab, what'11 run you for nothing —because lie's a pal of mine.' Oh, I don't need that,' I said, but my friend was resolute and I had to give way. Wo shook hands once more. The friendly cabby received his directions and in a few seconds I was driving through the streets towards my destination. Directly my cab drove up to the door, the landlady came out to see what the arrival promised. She had a comely, kindly, round, red face adorned with a cap through which bright ribbons made their chequered way to be gathered up into a bow at the back. <> I explained in a few seconds why I had come, and who had sent me. Mrs. Hedger gave me a motherly welcome but was evidently of precisely the same opinion as the friendly porter. As I entered the door of No. 7, Haggerstone Place, a hansom drove rapidly by; but not so rapidly that I was prevented from recognising in one of two occupants— the other being a woman whom I did not particularly notice, but of whom I was to see more later on—the fair-haired gentleman who had been so rudely attentive on the journey and on the platform. ii ""a of course, be only a curious coincidence that he, of all people, should have been driven by my new home, as I was entering it; but with a cold tremor about my heart I recognised that in all probability it was something more. CHAPTER V Kitj"0rro !rd rS6d frt?m th° tim° '°f arrival at King s Cross It was becoming absolutly necessary that I should find some means of subistence Other- wise either-chanty or starvation stared me in the face. 1 had tried for situations of various kinds some advertised m newspapers, some found for me by my landlady and others by the porter George Forbes: who still acted as a sort of guardian angel over my destiny, hut nothing had resulted. I was utterly inexperienced That was the cardinal fault and quite s/fficent I could neither wait at the table nor serve behind the counter. I did not know enough of the small arts to teach or of accounts to keep a ledger. I was never so painfully conscious before of the negative strength of my own disqualifications. But I had not been persecuted. That was to the good, at any rate. If the occupant of the hansom had marked No. Haggerstone Place, he had made no use f™, Ti Tn :rl'!U,s he was llfrai<l of a thrash- in^ from stalwart George Forbes or perhans he h-id come to the conclusion that the pursuit was hopeless. Incident of fl ..month I had practically forgotten the r!U!7iy,Cnrrm?0- The present anxieties ot Me had completely driven it out of my head Alrs Hedger was the widow of a minor actor at one of the transpontine theatres, and her interest in the stage, and all that belonged to it, was still as active and intelligent as ever. She was a critic of the first water. Her one selfish pleasure, when the duties of her honse- 'c_1- __11_- f ft' ii rin °'! lts lr|dulgence, consisted of a seat in the gallery as soon after « first night' of any new piece as possible. On these occasions no one knew better not even Mr Scarifer of the Daily Tribune what was what and if she condemned a piece it was certain to fail-at any rate, on the Surrey side, than did the relict of the late Adolphus Hedger. The Hedger talent ran in the blood. Mr. Hedger had a niece, a Miss Polly Hedger, who was a minor star in the corps de ballet of the Pamphyllion Theatre. I hnd had the pleasure of seeing this young lady twice during the month, from the same exalted sphere to which Mrs Hedger resorted, on occasions when that lady insisted on my accompanying her, she standing treat. I had to confess to a little (iiffieultiiu distinguishing this beautiful and accomplished scion of a theatrical family amongst a hundred others all dressed if that is the word, so very much alike. When Mrs. Hedger got a little excited her English was apt to forsake that pellucid stream of pure idiom which she employed in her quieter and more collected moments. But I must say that she never quarrelled with the eighth letter of the alphabet—that "pons asmorum of the unlettered multitude she explained this on one occasion to me by remarking in her simple open way: ''You know Hedger was always very par- ticular about his h's. He had been taught that on the stage. Besides, as he used to remark, his own name began with one, and if he didn't take care of his own property, who would ? Which is very true, my dear as perhaps you have found out already.' Mrs. Hedger took after the departed Adolphus in her affectionate reverence for the sanctity of their initial letter. Perhaps, now that he (literally) walked the stage of life no more, the widow of this amiable man felt that a double responsibility in the matter devolved upon her. I always admired the way in which Mrs. Hedger stuck to her one article of lingual faith, even when exe- cuting passages of considerable difficulty in a moment of excitement. But to return. I at length made out that Polly was one of four young ladies of the chorus who were attired more or less as pheasants their gauze gowns being covered with pheasants' feathers, and their heads being adorned with the same. Polly was the second from the further end. The performance did not seem to me to make any particular demand on the intellectual capacity, neither did the physical part appear beyond the ambition of a girl who, like myself, had her full complement of flesh and blood gifts and was, besides, not unendowed with a sense of, and capacity for, agile motion. It was not unnatural that I should think of the ballet, as a profession, having tried most others, and failed to make even an entry, tind having the distinguished ex- ample of Miss Polly Hedger before my eyes. I often wondered, during the first weeks of my sojourn at No. 7, Haggerstone Place, how it was that this young lady did not visit the aunt who evidently had such a high appreciation of her talents and success. Once or twice I hinted my surprise to my landlady. But she always put me off in a half-embarrassed way with, Oh, Polly, she's that busy, she has no time to come out here, except occasionally,' or something to that effect. I felt instinctively that there was more in the back- ground about Polly that Mrs Hedger did not care to tell me, although she always spoke of her with marked (and I thought unnecessary) emphasis as a very good girl, one of the very best.' I ventured one day to say, But surely, on Sundays, Mrs Hedger, your niece might have time to pay you a visit.' Oh, on Sundays,' my landlady replied with a smile of gratified pride and satisfaction, Polly always goes to Church she is a very good girl, one of the very best' (this was the refrain, the envoi. with which I was already sufficiently familiar), and in the afternoon she goes out with the gentleman she is engaged to down the river, or to Hampton Court, or what not. He is a clerk in a solicitor's office, where they don't keep enough staff for the work, and it is the only day he has,' she added, half apologetically. When I did at last see Polly Hedger, the mystery, which apparently hung over that young lady's incessant j absorption in her duties, was explained by the principal person herself who had none of the reserve on the subject which possessed her aunt. It was a trilie more than a month after my coming to Town when the life of the streets, the cry of the hawkers of flowers, of fish, of fruits, of crockery and basket work, the dolorous note of the sweep had all grown more familiar; when the sense of stifling com- pression in a narrow prison of bricks and mortar had ceased to be so oppressively irksome when I no longer looked out from my bed in the morning on first awaken- ing expecting to see through the partially curtained and unshuttered casement, the grand free lines of our Derbyshire moorlands. My purse was growing very empty, and the absolute need of finding some means of filling it was a bugbear of necessity, which faced me every moment of my wak- ing day, aud even haunted me in my dreams. Existence once so dear to me had lost all its charm. I lay down to sleep heavy-eyed, night by night, with the big tears weighing down the long lashes, and iu my despondency would have been ready to welcome even Death itself, as a relief from the long hopeless vista of life which lay before me. CHAPTER VI. Polly had come. It was on a Saturday morning about half-past ten. I had been sitting in listless despondency by the open window of my small sitting- room, listening to and yet not hearing the twittering of dozens of sparrows perched on the lead gutter-pipe which ran beneath the roof of No. 7. My room was very small. It was crowded with hideous ornaments, all of which had probably been purchased in the street, from the gaudy paper screen which hid the fireplace to the picture of Napoleon the Third giving up his sword to the German Emperor which hung, a comparatively recent acquisition, over a harmonium which stood in a recess opposite the window. Polly, I knew instinctively it was she, came in at the door and with her somehow seemed to come a ray of sunlight quite different from the hot July glare, which for the last couple of hours had been stifling me in its close embrace. She went along the narrow passage into the kitchen. I heard the sound of a vigorous kiss, such as two very healthy women would give one another if they had not met for some time. Then the kitchen door closed, and only a faint mur- mur of voices came to me for the next half-hour. At the end of that time the kitchen door opened again, and in a minute there was a familiar knock on the centre panel of my sitting-room door. Come in, please Mrs. Hedger loomed large in the doorway, adorned in her Sunday cap, donned for the special occasion of so important and long delayed introduction. All the hope of distinction, not to say immortality, which the Hedger family possessed in the world they had made their own, centred in Polly, now that the accomplished Adolphus had gone to join the majority. Mrs. Hedger unconsciously expressed this in her radiant, red face. Polly was much more simply and quietly attired than I had at all expected, in a shade of brown, with a hat of the same colour. Her tight-fitting dress did not con- ceal the fact that she was a woman of fine, almost statuesque outlines. The girl was obviously not more than two and twenty, and might even be a year or two less than that. I will describe her in contrast to my- self-for we were a complete contrast—in a moment. This is Polly, my dear,' was Mrs. Hedger's simple, yet ample introduction. Polly took me into her arms and kissed me two or three times. Then she drew back and looked at me with a curiosity which was half humorous and wholly friendly and open. 'How beautiful you are!' she said after a pause. 'Come and let us look at ourselves in the glass.' Suiting the action to the word, Polly took me by the hand, and led me into her aunt's bedroom, which was just at the rear of my sitting-room, on the ground floor. Once in the room. my conductor threw off her thin black cloth jacket and the brown hat, smoothed her hair, and then together we stood before the long glass, which was let into the cheap stained wood of the wardrobe. Mrs Hedger stood in the open doorway, and surveyed our movements with amusement, untempered by as- tonishment she was evidently quite used to Polly and her way?. You ought to have your photographs taken, or your likenesses painted just as you are-as Night and Morn- ing,' the good lady remarked sententiously. There was a vein of poetry in the stout form of Mrs Hedger, which only required opportunity to develop. Keeping a lodging-house in Islington, is not conducive to the production of works of the imagination. Polly, I suppose, was Night I was Morning. In figure and form we were very much alike, standing about the same height. But in face and hair we were wide as the Poles and, as was perhaps natural, each admired the other as the type of beauty she considered the best. If the lower part of Polly Hedger's face had been equal to the upper, she would have been very beautiful but there was a want of refinement and grace about the rather thick lips and the chin retired just a little, suggesting that in this beautiful girl the heart predominated over both will and intellect. He" deep brown eyes. with a dancing sunlight in them. were surmounted by long black lashes, and over these again were delicately arched and pencilled brows. Her enrs were small, her hair raven black, yet her com- plexion was of a pure semi-transparent olive, which rarely marks the face of pure British descent. Yet Polly was English, not to say Cockney, to her straight supple back bone. As for me. reflected there in the glass by her side, with a slight flush on my cheek, in consequence of the eager, admiring inspection to which Polly was subjecting me in a way no one could resent, there could be no shadow of dispute as to my Saxon ancestry. The Squire had been quite right, in more than mere name, when he said that Stephen Fleetwood was not a Wrottisley, and that I was. The Wrottisleys had been Thanes of Wrottisley Chase in Domesday; and there never was one of them which cast out the Norman and his kind more absolutely and disdainfully than did I, Caroline Wrottisley. Yellow hair, with a sheen of gold in it when the sun- light rested there, as a ray did now, deep blue eyes, a dimpled chin, with a skin, nearer to one of Perugini's pictures than that of any other woman I have ever seen as some one else remarked to me not long after this. Polly drew a deep breath. Oh, you are L-eiiitiful she said again, as if the remark were forced from her, and she was unconscious that she had made it before. I smiled. I do not think I am half so beautiful as you.' Ob, dont't you P' and she clasped her hands. 'Why, there are hundreds in London like me, except perhaps for my skin, which the painters tell me is uncommon. But I have never seen anyone quite like you.' "Polly is right.' remarked Mrs Hedger from the doorway, which her ample form still filled. I always witiiLea ner to see you. i jfnew what she would say- and that is it.' J Polly was evidently regarded as an oracle by her aunt in matters of taste. £ If you have quite finished looking at me,' I said we will go back to my room,' and suiting the'action to the word I moved away. Polly still stood before the mirror but looked my way, taking me in. 'Yes, and your walk just suits your face. I should like our maitre de ballet.' as he calls himself, to see it lou would make your fortune on the stage. I expect you could act, too, as well as dance and walk I could never act I can never get up a part sufficiently to trust yourself to remember it when all the people are there. And as to walking, many girls can dance who cannot walk. You can teach any healthy woman with the spring in her to dance but Mr Lefevre, our ballet master, says you must be born to walk you cannot acquire it. I do wish he could see you,' she added, clasping her hands together. I thought of the Squire, and what he would say to all this, and of his remark that Stephen Fleetwood at any rate could not put our name on the bills. At the same time what Polly said was intensely interesting to me. Five unbroken sovereigns and a few shilJings lay in my purse. This little store was all that separated me from homelessness and star- vation. ^t this moment the kitchen clock struck twelve. v> hy that is twelve o'clock, f do believe, aunt, I must be off. I shall be late as it is.' And hurrying her things on. and distributing her kisses impartially. Polly departed. As she ran down the steps, she called up to me. 'I shall speak to Mr Lefevre, Miss YY rottisley.' [To BE CONTINUED.! +

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