This page will take you into pieces of literature that are carefully selected for their great content at the literary, scientific, or philosophical level. A short selection will be presented in full. A long one will be divided into sections that will be refreshed regularly. Emphasis and highlights are mostly ours, not made by the original author.
Here is our current selection:
Fan, the Story of a Young Girl's Life (1892)
by Henry Harford (W.H. Hudson)
With a mind agitated with a variety of emotions--her still active resentment, grief at her loss, and a burning sense of shame at the thought that her too ready response to Eden's first advances had misled and tempted him--Fan set about destroying and putting from her all
reminders of this last vanished friendship.
She burnt the letters, and made up his books into a large package: there were about fifteen volumes by this time, including one that she had been reading with profound interest. She would never know the end of that tale--the pathetic history of a beautiful young girl, friendless like herself in London; nor would she ever again see that book or hear its title spoken without experiencing a pain at her heart. The parcel was addressed in readiness to be sent off next morning, and there being nothing more to occupy her hands, she sat down in her room, overcome with a feeling of utter loneliness. Why was she alone, without one person in all the world to care for her? Was it because of her poverty, her lowly origin, or because she was not clever? She had been called pretty so often--Mary, Constance, all of them had said so much in praise of her beauty; but how poor a thing this was if it could not bind a single soul to her, if all those who loved for a time parted lightly from her--those of her own sex; while the feeling that it inspired in men was one she shrunk fearfully from.
During the next few days she was ill at ease, and in constant fear of some action on Mr. Eden's part, dictated by passion or some other motive. But she saw and heard nothing of him; even the parcel of books was not acknowledged, and by Thursday she had almost convinced herself that he had abandoned the pursuit. On the evening of that day, just after she had gone up to her room at the top of the house, her heavy-footed landlady was heard toiling up after her, and coming into the room, she sank down panting in a chair.
"These stairs do try my heart, miss," she said, "but you didn't hear me call from my room when you came up. There's a gentleman waiting to see you in the parlour. I took him in there because he wouldn't go away until he had seen you."
"Mr. Eden--oh, why has he come here to make me more unhappy?" thought Fan, turning pale with apprehension.
"He's that impatient, miss, you'd better go down soon. He's been ringing the bell every five minutes to see if you'd come, and says you are very late." Then she got up and set out on her journey downstairs, but paused at the door. "Oh, here's the gentleman's card--I quite forgot it." And placing it on the table, she left the room.
For some moments Fan stood hesitating, then without removing her hat, and with a wildly-beating heart, moved to the door. As she did so she glanced at the card, and was astonished to find that it was not Arthur Eden's. The name on it was "Mr. Tytherleigh," and beneath, in the left-hand corner, "Messrs. Travers, Enwright, and Travers, Solicitors, Lincoln's Inn Fields."
Who was Mr. Tytherleigh? And what had she, a poor friendless girl, to do with a firm of lawyers? Then it occurred to her that it was Arthur Eden after all who wished to see her, and that he had sent her up this false card only to inveigle her into an interview. Her ideas about the code of a gentleman were somewhat misty. It is true that Eden had taken advantage of her friendless position, and had lied to her, and worn a mask, and deliberately planned to make her his mistress; but he would no more have taken another man's name in order to see her than he would have picked a pocket or sent a libellous post-card. Being ignorant of these fine distinctions, she went down to the little sitting-room on the ground floor greatly fearing. Her visitor was standing at the window on the opposite side of the room, and turned round as she entered; a natty-looking man, middle-aged, with brown moustache, shrewd blue eyes, and a genial expression.
"Miss Affleck?" he said, bowing and coming a few steps forward.
"Yes, that is my name," she returned, greatly relieved at finding a stranger.
"You look pale--not quite well, I fear. Will you sit down?" he said. Then he added with a smile, "I hope my visit has not alarmed you, Miss Affleck? It is a very simple and harmless matter I have come to you about. We--the firm of Travers and Co.--have been for a long time trying to trace a person named Affleck, and hearing accidentally that a young lady of that name lodged here, I called to make a few inquiries." While speaking he had taken a newspaper--the Standard--from his pocket, and pointing out an advertisement in the second column of the first page, asked her to read it.
She read as follows:
Margaret Affleck (maiden name). Messrs. Travers, Enwright, and Travers, Solicitors, Lincoln's Inn Fields, wish to communicate with this person, who was in service in London about sixteen years ago, and is supposed to have married about that time. A reward will be given for any information relating to her.
"That was my mother's name," said Fan.
"Then may I ask you, why did you not reply to this advertisement, which, you see, is upwards of three years old, and was inserted repeatedly in several papers?"
"I never saw it--I did not read the newspapers. But my mother has been dead a long time. I should not have answered this if I had seen it."
"No? That sounds strange. Will you kindly tell me why you call yourself by your mother's maiden name?"
She coloured and hesitated for some moments, and then returned, "I cannot tell you that. If my mother was the Margaret Affleck you advertised for, and something has been left to her, or some relation wishes to trace her, it is too late now. She is dead, and it is nothing to me."
This she said with some bitterness and a look of pain; he, meanwhile, closely studying her face.
"Nothing to you, Miss Affleck? If money had been left to your mother, it would, I imagine, be something to you, she being dead. As it happens--there is no legacy--no money--nothing left; but I think I know what you mean by saying that it would be of no advantage to you."
"What do I mean?" she said, still led on to speak after resolving to say no more.
"You mean that your mother was never married."
Her face flushed hotly, and she rose from her chair. Mr. Tytherleigh also rose quickly from his seat, fearing that she was about to leave the room without saying more.
"Miss Affleck," he said, "will you allow me to make a little explanation before asking you any more questions? I have said that there is no money left to Margaret Affleck, but I can safely say that if you are the daughter of that Margaret advertised for so long ago, you can lose nothing by giving us any information you may possess. Certainly you can lose nothing by assisting us, but you might gain a great deal. Please look again at this advertisement--'supposed to have married'--but was your mother ever married?"
"Yes, she was," answered Fan, a little reluctantly. "Her husband's name was Joseph Harrod; but I do not know where he is. I left him years ago."
"Nor do we want him. But tell me this, Miss Affleck, and please do not be offended with me for asking so painful a question; but everything hinges on it. Are you the child of this Joseph Harrod--your mother's husband?"
She cast down her eyes. It was a hard question to answer; but the kind tone in which he had spoken had won her heart, for kindness was very precious to her just now, and quickly had its effect, in spite of her recent sad experience. She could not help trusting him. "No, he was not
my father," she answered.
"And who was your father, Miss Affleck?"
"I do not know."
"But do you know absolutely nothing about him--did your mother never mention him to you? How do you come to know that Joseph Harrod was not your father?"
"My mother told me. She said that my father was a gentleman, and--that I looked like him. She would not tell me his name, because she had taken an oath never to reveal it to anyone."
He was watching her face as she spoke, her--eyes cast down. "One question more, Miss Affleck: do you happen to know where your mother was born?"
"She came from Norfolk."
Mr. Tytherleigh rested an elbow on the table, and thrusting his fingers through his hair, stared down at the note-book in which he had been writing down her answers. "How strange--how very strange!" he remarked. Presently he added, "We must find out where you were baptised, Miss Affleck; you do not know, I suppose?"
She could not tell him, and after some further conversation, and hearing a brief sketch of her life, her visitor rose to go. "Mr. Tytherleigh," said Fan, "I remember something now I wish to tell you. One day, when I was about twelve years old, I went with mother to a street near Manchester Square, where she had some work, and on the way back to Edgware Road we passed a small curious old-looking church with a churchyard crowded thick with grave-stones. It was a very narrow street, and the grave-stones were close to the pavement, and I stopped to read the words on one. Then mother said, 'That is the church I was married in, Fan, and where you were christened.' But I do not know the name of the church, nor of the street it is in."
Mr. Tytherleigh took down this information. "I shall soon find it," he said; and promising to write or see her again in two or three days' time, he left her.
She had not so long to wait. On the next day, after returning from Regent Street, she was called down to see Mr. Tytherleigh once more.
"Miss Affleck," he said, advancing with a smile to meet her, "I am very glad to be able to tell you that our inquiries have satisfied us that you are the daughter of the Margaret Affleck we advertised for. And I can now add that when we were seeking for your mother, or information of her, our real object was to find you."
"To find me!" exclaimed Fan, starting up from her seat, a new hope in her heart. "Do you know then who my father is?"
"Was--yes. You have no father living. I did not wish to say too much yesterday, but from the moment I saw you and heard your voice, I was satisfied that I had found the right person."
"Is it then true that I resemble my father?"
"When I said that I was thinking less of your father than of your father's son."
"Then I have a brother living!" she exclaimed excitedly, an expression on her face in which anxiety and a new glad hope were strangely blended. "Have I sisters too? Oh, how I have wished to have a sister! Can you tell me?" Then suddenly her face clouded, and dropping her voice, she said, "But they will not know me--they will be ashamed to own me. I shall never see them--I shall be nothing to them!"
"No, Miss Affleck, you have no sisters. Your father, Colonel Eden, had only one son, Mr. Arthur Eden, whom you know."
"Colonel Eden! Mr. Arthur Eden!" she repeated, with a strange bewildered look. "Is he my brother--Arthur--Arthur!" And while the words came like a cry of anguish from her lips, she turned away, and with hands clasped before her, took a few uncertain steps across the room, then sinking on to the sofa, burst into a great passion of tears and sobs.
Mr. Tytherleigh went to the window and stared at the limited view at the back; after a while he came to her side. "Miss Affleck," he said, "I fully believed when I came to see you that I had welcome news to tell. I am sorry to see you so much distressed."
Restraining her sobs she listened, and his words and tone of surprise served to rouse and alarm her, since such a display of emotion on her part might make him suspect her secret--that hateful secret of Arthur Eden's passion, which must be buried for ever. In the brief space of time which had passed since he had made his announcement, and that cry of pain had risen from her lips, a change had already taken place in her feelings. All the bitter sense of injury and insult, and the anger mixed with apprehension, had vanished; her mind had reverted to the condition in which it had been before the experience at Kew Gardens; only the
feeling of affection had increased a hundred-fold. She remembered now only all that had seemed good in him, his sweet courteous manner, his innumerable acts and words of kindness, and the goodness was no longer a mask and a sham, but a reality. For he was her brother, and the blood of one father ran in their veins; and now that dark cloud, that evil dream, which had come between them, had passed away, and she could cast herself on her knees before him to beg him to forgive and forget the cruel false words she had spoken to him in her anger, and take her to his heart. But in the midst of all the tumult of thoughts and feelings stirring in her, there was the fear that he would now be ashamed of his base-born sister and avoid her.
"I am afraid that I have no cause to feel happy," she returned at last. "Arthur Eden knows me so well, and if he had not felt ashamed of finding a sister in me, he would have come to me himself instead of sending a stranger. But perhaps," she added with fresh hope, "he does not know what you have told me?"
"Yes, he knows certainly, since it was he who discovered that you were the daughter of a Margaret Affleck. I have been acting on his instructions, and told him today when I saw him that there was no doubt that you were Colonel Eden's child. It was better, he thought, and I
agreed with him, that you should hear this from me. He is anxious to see you himself, and until you see him you must not allow such fancies to disturb you. He had no sooner made the discovery I have mentioned the day before yesterday--Wednesday--than he hastened to us to instruct us what to do in the case."
Wednesday! But he had heard about Margaret Affleck on Sunday--why had he kept silence all that time? She could not guess, but it seemed there had been some delay, some hesitation, on his part. The thought sorely troubled her, but she kept it to herself. "Do you think he will come to see me this evening?" she asked, with some trouble in her voice.
"He said tomorrow. And, by-the-bye, Miss Affleck, he asked me to say that he hopes you will be in when he calls to see you."
"But I must go to my place for the day."
"About that, Mr. Eden thinks you had better not go yourself. I shall see or write to your employer this evening to let him know that you will be unable to attend tomorrow."
"But I might lose my place then," said Fan, surprised at the cool way in which Mr. Tytherleigh invited her to take a holiday, and thinking of what the grim and terrible manager would say.
"I cannot say more," he returned. "I have only stated Mr. Eden's wishes, and certainly think it would be better not to risk missing him by going out tomorrow. In any case I shall see or communicate with your employer."
He left her with an excited mind which kept her awake a greater part of the night, and next morning she resolved to do as she had been told and remain in all day, even at the risk of losing her situation. Then as the hours wore on and Arthur came not, her excitement increased until it was like a fever in her veins, and made her lips dry, and burnt in her cheeks like fire. She could not read, nor work, nor sit still; nor could she take any refreshment, with that gnawing hunger in her heart; but hour after hour she moved about her narrow room until her knees trembled under her, and she was ready to sink down, overcome with despair that the brother she had found and loved was ashamed to own her for a sister. Finally she set the door of her room open, and at every sound in the house she flew to the landing to listen; and at last, about five o'clock, on going for the hundredth time to the landing, she heard a visitor come into the hall and ask for "Miss Affleck." She hurried down to the ground floor, passing the servant girl who had admitted her brother and was going up to call her. When she entered the sitting-room Eden was standing on the further side staring fixedly at a picture on the wall. It was a
picture of a fashionable young lady of bygone days, taken out of one of L.E.L.'s or Lady Blessington's Beauty Books; she was represented wearing a shawl and flounced dress, and with a row of symmetrical curls on each side of her head--a thing to make one laugh and weep at the same time, to think of the imbecility of the human mind of sixty years ago that found anything to admire in a face so utterly inane and lackadaisical. So absorbed was Eden in this work of art that he did not seem to hear the door open and his sister's steps on the worn carpet.
"Arthur--at last!" she cried, advancing to him, all her sisterly affections and anxiety thrilling in her voice.
He half turned towards her with a careless "How d'ye do, Fan?" and then once more became absorbed in contemplating the picture.
Her first impulse on entering the room had been to throw her arms about his neck, but the momentary glimpse of his face she had caught when he turned to greet her arrested her steps. His face was deathly pale, and there was an excited look in his eye which seemed strangely to contrast with his light, indifferent tone.
"A very fine picture that; I shouldn't mind having it if the owner cares to part with it," he said at length, and then half turning again, regarded her out of the corners of his eyes. "Well, Fan, what do you think of all this curious business?" he added, with a slight laugh.
For how many hours she had been trying to picture this meeting in her mind, now imagining him tender and affectionate as she wished him to be, now cold or contemptuous or resentful; and in every case her heated brain had suggested the very words he would use to her; but for this careless tone, and the inexplicable look on his face, according so ill with his tone, she was quite unprepared, and for some time she could make no reply to his words.
"Arthur," she spoke at last, "if you could have known how anxiously I have been waiting for you since yesterday, I think you would in mercy have come a little sooner."
"Well, no, Fan, I think not," he returned, still careless.
She advanced two or three steps nearer.
"Have you then come at last only to confirm my worst fears? Tell me, Arthur--my brother! Are you sorry to have me for a sister?"
Again he laughed.
"What a simple maiden you must be to ask such a question!" he said. "Sorry? Good God, I should think so! Sorry is no word for it. If Fate thought it necessary to thrust a sister on me I wish it had rather been some yellow-skinned, sour old spinster, but not you."
"Do you hate me then?" she exclaimed, misinterpreting his meaning in her agitation. "Oh what have I done to deserve such unhappiness? Have I brought it on myself by those cruel words I spoke to you when we last met?"
He had turned again towards her and was watching her face, but when she looked at him his eyes dropped.
"Yes, I remember your words, Fan," he said. "You abused me at Kew Gardens, and you think I am having my revenge. You would remember me, you said, only to detest me. Am I less a monster now because I am your relation?"
"Arthur, forgive me--can you not say that you forgive me?" coming still nearer, and putting out her hands pleadingly to him.
His lips moved but made no sound; and she, urged on by that great craving in her heart, at length stood by his side, but he averted his face from her.
"Arthur," she spoke again in pleading tones, "will you not look at me?" Then, with sudden anguish, she added, "Have I lost everything you once saw in me to make you love me?" But he still made no sign; and growing bolder she put her arm round his neck. "Arthur, speak to me," she pleaded. "It will break my heart if you cannot love me."
All at once he looked her full in the face, and their eyes met in a long gaze, hers tender and pleading, his wild and excited. His lips had grown dry and almost of the colour of his cheeks, and his breath seemed like a flame to her skin. "Arthur, will you refuse to love me, your sister?" she murmured tenderly, drawing her arm more tightly about his neck until his face was brought down to hers, then pressing her soft lips to his dry mouth.
He did not resist her caress, only a slight shiver passed through his frame, and closing his eyes, he dropped his forehead on her shoulder.
"Do you know what you are doing, Fan?" he murmured. "I have had such a hard fight, and now--my victory is turned to defeat! You ask me to love you; poor girl, it would be better if I scorned you and broke your heart! Darling, I love you--you cannot conceive how much. If you could--if one spark of this fire that burns my blood could drop into yours, then it would be sweeter than heaven to live and die with you!"
He lifted his face again, and his lips sought hers, to cling long and passionately to them, while he gathered her in his arms and drew her against his breast, closer and closer, until she could scarcely refrain from crying out with pain. Then suddenly he released her, almost flinging her from him, and walking to the sofa on the other side of the room, he sat down and buried his face in his hands.
Fan remained standing where he had left her, too stunned and confused by this violent outburst of passion to speak or move. At length he rose, and without a word, without even casting a look at her, left the room. Then, recovering possession of her faculties, she hurried out after him, but on gaining the hall found that he had already left the house.
Not knowing what to think or fear, she went to her room and sat down. The meeting to which she had looked forward so impatiently had come and was over, and now she did not know whether to rejoice or to lament. For an hour she sat in her close hot room, unable to think clearly on the subject, oppressed with a weak drowsy feeling she could not account for. At last she remembered that she had spent an anxious sleepless night, and had taken no refreshment during the day, and rousing herself she went downstairs to ask the landlady to give her some tea. It refreshed her, and lying down without undressing on her bed, she fell into a deep sleep, from which she did not awake until about ten o'clock. Lying there, still drowsy, and again mentally going through that interview with Arthur, her eye was attracted by the white gleam of an envelope lying on the dusky floor--a letter which the servant had thrust in under the door for her. It was from Arthur.
MY DEAR SISTER [he wrote], I fear I have offended you more deeply than ever; I was scarcely sane when I saw you today. Try, for God's sake, to forget it. I am leaving London tomorrow for a few weeks, and trust that when I return you will let me see you again; for until you assure me with your own lips, Fan, that I am forgiven, the thought of my behaviour today will be a constant misery. And will you in the meantime let yourself be guided by Mr. Travers, who was our father's solicitor and friend, and who can tell you what his last wishes about you were? Whatever you may receive from Mr. Travers will come to you, not from me, but from your father. If Mr. Travers asks you to his house please go, and look on him as your best friend. I believe that Mr. Tytherleigh intends calling on you tomorrow at one o'clock, and I think that he has already informed your employer that it will not be convenient for you to attend again at Regent Street.
Good-bye for a time, dear sister, and try, try to think as kindly as you can of Your affectionate brother,
This letter had the effect of dissipating every sad and anxious thought, and Fan undressed and went to bed, only to lie awake thinking of her happiness. Her heart was overflowing with love for her brother; for how great a comfort, a joy, it was to know that after all that had happened
he was good and not bad! He was indeed more than good in the ordinary sense of the word, for what kindness and generosity and delicacy he had displayed towards her in his letter. So far did her leniency go that she even repeated his mad words, "Darling, I love you, you cannot conceive how much," again and again with a secret satisfaction; for how hard it would have been if that passionate love he had felt for her, which only the discovery of their close relationship had made sinful, or inconvenient, had changed to aversion or cold indifference; and this would certainly have happened if Arthur Eden had not been so noble-minded a person.
When morning came she could not endure the thought that he was going away without that assurance from her own lips of which he had spoken. Mr. Tytherleigh would call to see her at one o'clock, but there were three or four long hours to get rid of before then, and in the end she dressed herself and went boldly to his apartments in Albemarle Street, where she arrived about eleven o'clock.
The servant who answered her knock did not know whether she could see Mr. Eden, and summoned her mistress.
"Mr. Eden has only been home about an hour," said this lady, a little stiffly. "He said he was going to sleep, and that he was not to be disturbed on any account."
"But he is going to leave town today, and I must see him," returned Fan. Then, with a blush brightening her cheeks, she added, "I am his sister."
"Why, miss, so you are!" exclaimed the woman astonished, and breaking out in smiles. "I never knew that Mr. Eden had a sister, but I might have guessed it when I saw you, for you are his very image. I'll just go up and ask him if he can see you."
Fan, in her impatience, followed her up into Eden's sitting-room on the first floor. At the further end of the room the woman rapped at the door.
"What the devil do you want now? I told you not to disturb me," was shouted in no amiable voice from inside.
Fan hurried to the door and called through the keyhole, "Arthur, I must see you before you leave town."
"Oh, Fan, is that you? I really beg your pardon," he replied. "All right; make yourself comfortable, and I'll be with you in five minutes."
Fan, left alone, began an inspection of her brother's "den," about which she had often heard him speak, and the first object which took her attention was a brown-paper parcel lying on a chair against the wall. It was the parcel of novels she had returned to him a few days before, not yet opened. But when she looked round for that large collection of books, about which he had spoken to her, she found it not, nor anything in the way of literature except half a dozen volumes lying on the table, bearing Mudie's yellow labels on their covers. Near the chair on which the parcel was lying a large picture rested on the carpet, leaning against the wall. A sheet of tissue paper covered it, which her curiosity prompted her to remove, and then how great was her surprise at being confronted with her own portrait, exquisitely done in water-colours, half the size of life, and in a very beautiful silver frame. How it got there was a mystery, but not for one moment did she doubt that it was her own portrait; only it
looked, she thought, so much more beautiful than the reality. She had never worn her hair in that picturesque way, nor had she ever possessed an evening dress; yet she appeared in a lovely pale-blue dress, her neck and arms bare, a delicate cream-coloured lace shawl on one arm resting on her shoulder.
She was still standing before it, smiling with secret pleasure, and blushing a little, when Eden, coming in, surprised her.
"I see you have made a discovery, Fan," he said.
She turned quickly round, the bright colour suffusing her cheeks, and held out her hand to him. He was pale and haggard, but the strange excited look had left his face, and he smiled pleasantly as he took her hand and touched her finger-tips to his lips.
"Why did you come to me here?" he asked, beginning to move restlessly about the room.
"To give you that assurance with my own lips you asked for--I could not let you go away without it. Will you not kiss me, Arthur?"
"No, not now. Do sit down, Fan. I thought that you would only feel the greatest aversion to me, yet here you are in my own den trying to--You imagine, I suppose, that a man is a kind of moral barrel-organ, and that when the tune he has been grinding out for a long time gets out of date, all he has got to do is to change the old cylinder for a new one and grind out a fresh tune. Do you understand me, Fan?"
She considered his words for a little while and then answered, "Arthur, I think it will be better--if you will not avoid me--if you will believe that all my thoughts of you are pleasant thoughts. I do not think you can be blamed for feeling towards me as you do." She reddened and cast down her eyes, dimmed with tears, then continued, "It was only that chance
discovery that makes you think so badly of yourself."
"You are strangely tolerant," he said, sitting down near her. "Strangely and sweetly rational--so lenient, that if I did not know you as well as I do, I might imagine that your moral sense is rather misty. Your words, dear girl, make me sick of deceit and hypocrisy, and I shall not try to see myself as you see me. I am worse than you imagine; if you knew all you would not be so ready to invent excuses for me--you would not forgive me." Then he got up, and added, "f"
"Don't send me away so soon, Arthur," she returned. "What is it that I could not forgive? You should not say that before you put me to the test."
"Good heavens, Fan, do you wish me to do that? Well, perhaps that would be best. I said that I was sick of deceit, and I ought to have the courage of my opinions. Do you know that when Mr. Tytherleigh called to see you, my lawyers had only just learnt the secret I had discovered several days before?/f<"
"Yes, I knew that."
"But you don't know--you couldn't imagine why I kept back the information."
"I thought that the delay was because I had offended you--I didn't think much about it."
"Of course that was not the reason."
"Then you must tell me, Arthur."
"Must I tell you, dear sister? When you left me alone at Kew I asked myself whether it would not be better to conceal what I had heard and marry you. I don't know what madness possessed me. The instant you spoke the words that Margaret Affleck was your mother's name, I was convinced that you were my half-sister--the mystery of something in you, which had
always puzzled and baffled me, was made plain. Your voice at times was like my father's voice, and perhaps like my own; and in your face and your expression you are like my father's mother in a miniature of her taken when she was a girl, and which I often used to see. And yet"--he paused and turned his face from her,--"this very conviction that you were
so closely related to me made my feeling only stronger. Every scornful word you uttered only made it stronger; it seemed to me that unless I possessed you my life would not be worth having.... Even my father's dying wishes were nothing to me.... And for three days and nights.... How can you forgive me, Fan, when I had it in my heart to do such a thing?"
"But I should not have consented to marry you," said Fan simply.
"Consider, Fan; you, a poor friendless girl in London, with nothing to look forward to. In a little while you would have recovered from your anger, and in the end, when you knew how great my love was, you would have consented. For I knew that you liked me very much; and perhaps you loved me a little."
"I did love you, Arthur, from the very first, but it was not that kind of love. I know that I should never have felt it for you. I did not know that you were my brother, but I think that my heart must have known it."
"Perhaps so, Fan; perhaps in hearts of such crystal purity as yours there is some divine instinct which grosser natures are without. But you ignore the point altogether. My crime was in the intention, and if it had proved as you think, my guilt would have been just as great. That is my sin, Fan; the thought was in my heart for days and nights, and though the days and nights were horrible, I refused to part with my secret."
"But, Arthur, you did part with it in the end. No one compelled you to give it up."
"No, no one. I was afraid, I think, that some horrible thing would happen to me--that I would perhaps go mad if I carried out my intention; and I was driven at last, not by conscience, but by servile fear to make a clean breast of it."
"But, Arthur," she persisted, in a voice of keen pain, "is there any difference between conscience and what you call fear? I know that I would sometimes do wrong, and that fear prevents me. We have all good and bad in us, and--the good overcame the bad in you."
There was silence for some time between them, then Eden said, "Fan, what a strange girl you are! The whiteness of your soul is such that it has even pained me to think of it; and now that I have shown you all the blackness of my own, and am sick of it myself, you look very calmly at it, and even try to persuade me that it is not black at all. The one thing you have said which sounds artificial, and like a copy-book lesson, is that we all have good and bad in us. What is the bad in you, Fan--what evil does it tempt you to do?"
This question seemed to disturb her greatly.
"For one thing," she said hesitatingly, and casting her eyes down, "I always hate those who injure me--and--and I am very unforgiving." Then, raising her eyes, which looked as if the tears were near them, she added, "But, Arthur, please don't be offended with me if I say that I don't think you are right to put such a question to me--just now."
"No, dear, it isn't right. From me to you it is a brutal question, and I shall not offend again. But to hear you talk of your unforgiving temper gives me a strange sensation--a desire to laugh and cry all at the same time." He looked at his watch. "I don't wish to drive you away, Fan, but poor Mr. Tytherleigh will be at his wits' end if he misses you."
"What is he going to see me about, Arthur?/f<"
"I don't know at all. You are in Mr. Travers' hands."
He was about to rise; but Fan, coming quickly to his side, stopped him.
"Good-bye, Arthur--my darling brother," she said, stooping and kissing him quickly on his cheek, then on his lips. "May I take one thing away with me?"
"Your picture? Yes; you may take it if you like: that is to say, you may keep it for a time. I shall not give it to you."
"But it is mine--my own portrait," said Fan, with a happy laugh. "Though I do not know by what magic you got it."
"That's easily explained. When I heard where you had had your photo taken, I went and ordered a copy for myself. The negative had been preserved. Then I had it enlarged, and the water-colour taken from it. And there are your books, Fan--take them too."
"I will take one, Arthur; I was just reading it when--" She did not finish the sentence, but began hastily untying the parcel to get the book, while her brother rang the bell, and ordered a cab "for Miss Eden."
How strange--how sweet it sounded to her!
"Is that my name, Arthur?/f<" she asked, turning to him with a look of glad surprise.
"Yes, until you change it; and, by the way, you had better order yourself some cards."
A few minutes later and she was speeding northwards in a hansom, feeling that the motion, so unlike that of the familiar lumbering omnibus, had a wonderfully exhilarating effect on her. It was a pleasure she had not tasted since the time when she lived in London with Mary, and that now seemed to her a whole decade ago. But never in those past days had she
faced the fresh elastic breeze in so daintily-built a cab, behind so fiery, swift-stepping a horse. Never had she felt so light-hearted. For now she was not alone in life, but had a brother to love; and he loved her, and had shown her his heart--all the good and the evil that was in it; and all the evil she could forgive, and was ready to forget, and it was nothing to her. She was even glad to think that when he had first seen her in that little shabby sitting-room in Norland Square it had been to love her.