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in store for him in the future, should you not say it would be good if he were to tell his griefsay in confession?' and Sir John for a moment turned his eyes towards his guest, and then as quickly averted them.

Mr. Woodham pushed his filberts aside, and laid his arm upon the table.

'No, I should not,' he answered. 'I have seen how confession of that sort works, and I believe it to be a delusion and a snare. If there were such a man amongst my hearers yesterday, I can but hope he will take his trouble to God, and receive pardon from his Maker.'

'You know,' went on Sir John, 'I was reared a Presbyterian, and I am a Presbyterian in most of my doctrines and ideas; yet still it seems to me-of course I am now speaking generally-that there might be sins it would be a relief to confess to man, that the reserve of even the most reticent human being might some day overleap its barrier, and feel it a necessity to give expression to feelings pent up possibly for years.'

Still with that puzzled anxious look upon his countenance, Mr. Woodham shook his head.

'If in a moment of weakness a man were to do what you suggest, he would repent it bitterly afterwards,' he said. 'I do not know how it may be in the Romish Church,' he went on; but in ours most certainly I can but say to act upon such an impulse would be a fatal error. The Ritualists themselves feel that,' he added, trying to speak lightly; for they rarely tell anything in confession which might not be proclaimed from the house-tops.'

What a look it was Sir John threw upon his companion-one of appeal, reproof, entreaty, misery, and hope!

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But Mr. Woodham did not try to get over it. He only placed his hand firmly on the table, and asked,

'To what is all this tending, Sir John?'

'Just to this,' said Sir John, still with that uneasy glance of his eyes, that shifting uneasy expression on his face. 'I want to tell you the story of a friend of mine; he wants it told. He desires advice; and I think, after hearing your sermon, you are just the man to give it.'

'For God's sake, don't tell the story to me!' interrupted Mr. Woodham. Whoever the man may be, whatever his sin and his sorrow, don't let him take me into his confidence now. It-it -might put a bar between meand-him. O, pray, Sir John, keep silence! If the tale be an old one, let it still lie buried.'

There was silence-an awful silence. Then Sir John Moffat, looking straight in Mr. Woodham's eyes, knew why he wanted to hear no more; and Mr. Woodham, gazing like one fascinated into that worn haggard face, understood something of the sin and the sorrow which had taken all the sap out of life, and left existence the dry wood he had always vaguely understood that man felt it to be.

An hour later Mr. Woodham was standing under the starlight in front of Holyrood House. That silence, which both himself and

Sir John felt to be more oppressive than the wildest uproar, had been broken by the entrance of Simonds with coffee. Never was


interruption more welcome; never did man feel more relieved than Mr. Woodham when he heard Sir John ask his butler if the young ladies were in the drawingThe words spoken, if not quite in his usual tone, at least in a manner sufficiently easy and natural, seemed to clear the atmosphere like a gust of crisp frosty air sweeping through the closeness of a sick-chamber.

'No, Sir John,' answered Simonds; they went up-stairs inmediately after dinner.'

Mr. Woodham took comfort out of this. He did not want to remain longer than he could possibly avoid. He desired to be out in the night alone for a time, till he recovered somewhat from the effect of the shock he had received.

He finished his coffee, and then, murmuring some remark about fearing to intrude if he stayed longer while Lady Moffat was unwell, took his leave. This time Sir John did not strive to detain him. There was a hopeless weary look in his face that struck to Mr. Woodham's heart; a listless feebleness with which he shook his guest's hand at the hall-door, whither he accompanied him, the clergyman could not drive from his memory.

When he left the gates he did not turn towards Kensington High-street; instead, he set his face northward; and at the top of Palace Gardens, taking the Notting Hill-road, made a detour round by the Uxbridge-road and the grounds of Holland House, till at length he found himself in the main thoroughfare to Hammersmith, and not far from Edwardes-square. But he did not,

even when close by, take the turning which led to his mother's house. house. He kept straight on-up the Kensington-road and Kensington High-street, till he came again to Palace Gardens, and the place he felt was now so full of mystery to his mind.

Strange as Sir John's manner and Sir John's words had seemed when he sat opposite to him, they appeared shrouded in a far deeper mystery when he considered both, hurrying along with no other companionship than his own thoughts. What was the mystery in Palace Gardens? Like most other persons, he had felt there must, to quote Mr. Lassils' frank expression, be a screw loose'

somewhere in the Moffat household; but hitherto it never occurred to him there was aught worse amiss than my lady's awful temper-enough, in all conscience

and perhaps a streak of insanity on the side of Sir John's handsome wife, which might account charitably for her stormy moods and otherwise inexplicable eccentricities.

Now, however, it was impossible for him to doubt that, let what would be wrong, Sir John was 'in it,' not as a victim, but as an accomplice. There was no mistaking that fact. Mr. Woodham had not lived his life in vain ; he had not walked through the world with his eyes shut. If his West-end experiences had shown him little more than the vanity and selfishness, and egotism and meanness, and want of charity of those born Fortune's favourites, his knowledge of the East gave an insight into human nature he might have sought for in vain amongst the squares and terraces of fashionable London. He had worked amongst the poorest of the poor and the lowest of the low. He had seen sorrow

and he had beheld sin; he had spoken comforting words to women well-nigh heart-broken, and listened to the despairing utterances of remorse. So he knew, from the moment Sir John began his comments upon the character of David, there must be some attraction for him in the story his fellows did not wot of; and when he put forward his supposititious friend he felt so certain it was of himself he spoke, he stopped the words ere they could pass his lips, dreading to hear, afraid with a great fear of learning what Sir John desired to tell.

Why did he desire to tell it? As he walked along, with the silence of suburban London around, and the glittering stars shining above his head, Mr. Woodham asked himself that question till he grew tired and weary of conjecture.

Was it because, to adopt his own expression, he had kept silence for years? The clergyman would not entertain that idea for a moment, neither could he imagine the reserve almost of a lifetime, reserve which certainly was an integral part of Sir John's character, breaking bounds save under the pressure of some new and terrible necessity.

He did not believe a person could so change his nature as in an instant to feel the need of a confidant, after having managed to exist so long without


The more he reflected, the more puzzled he grew. What could have happened to induce such a sudden collapse in the strength of such a nature? Had any pressing occasion for action and decision arisen? Was any crisis imminent, any collapse at hand? If it were so, how could he justify his own refusal to hear the story, whatever it might be? In a general

way, he knew he was right to advise reticence, to repress such confidences; but in this particular case he felt doubtful. He might have mistaken the cry of his own heart, the desire of his own soul, the knowledge of the world he had acquired, for prudence and discretion. In his own eagerness to put far from him acquaintance with any terrible secret, he might have been stifling the anguished appeal of a torn and tortured conscience.


He would go back; he would tell Sir John he had reconsidered his own words; he would say he was willing to share any burden, to assist any laden sinner. so in hot haste he walked up Palace Gardens, and passed through the gate, and strode along the drive, and looked up at Holyrood House, where lights were still shining, and stood before the door-ay, and held the knocker in his hand, and thenpaused and hesitated.

Sir John might ere now have repented of his own utterances; might be regretting even then the lengths to which he had gone; might feel vexed at his pretext having been deemed so transparent. No; Mr. Woodham could not again solicit a confidence he had refused, could not encroach upon a trouble, the evidences of which were so accidentally exposed before him.

'I will write in the morning,' he considered; 'write and say that if any poor help of mine can serve the person referred to, if one who is not wealthy or influential, or aught save true and faithful, appear likely to prove of use, he may command me. I cannot, under any pretence, force myself upon him to-night;' and he turned slowly away, and walked thoughtfully and sadly down Palace Gardens.

He believed his own sermon had some share in Sir John's distress; but not much,' he considered, with mournful modesty, 'not much.'

'Whatever the sin may have been, it is not that which is troubling him now; it is the consequences of the sin. When Nathan said to David, "Thou art the man," it was then the king felt fully, and confessed his guilt. What is the calamity which has come to this sinner, reflecting to his own conscience, as from a mirror, the face of his crime?'

With head bent and mind absorbed, he was passing the entrance to Kensington Palace, when a stranger, advancing swiftly from the opposite direction, almost ran against him.

On both sides apologies swift and courteous were made and received. Mr. Woodham continued on his road, and the unknown individual pursued his


I wonder what it all means,' considered the clergyman, recalling for the hundredth time Sir John's words and Sir John's manner. Wanting a clue, how could he tell? How could he know that an advertisement which that morning appeared in the second column of the Times had been to the master of Holyrood House as the voice of Fate, as the coming event for which Mr. Woodham's sermon might have prepared him?

Even then, even while he sat listening, while the incense floated through the church, and scents and perfumes made the air faint and heavy to his unaccustomed senses, the message was on its way.

It came to Palace Gardens, to Holyrood House, to the master and mistress of the mansion so long uninhabited, wrapped up in print-an emissary of misfortune in the shape of an ordinary paper.

'FIFTY POUNDS REWARD,' thus ran the advertisement. Infor mation wanted concerning the daughter of Thomas Palthorpe, who was born at Sunnydown Farm, Ravelsmede, Hampshire. If living, she would now be of age. The above reward will be paid for any reliable intelligence as to her whereabouts by Messrs. Craton & Crawton, Solicitors, Lincoln's-inn-fields.'

As he read, the Times dropped from Sir John's nerveless fingers. The footfalls of Retribution seemed sounding in his

What did it mean? Who could be searching for Rachel? To whom besides himself did it seem

likely the fact of her life or death might prove of the slightest significance ?

Lady Moffat could have enlightened him on that point. Lady Moffat understood the horror she had so long dreaded The possible misfortune the only misfortune she really feared-which had disturbed her when Fate seemed most propitious, which had coloured the dreams of that magnificently prosperous later life, was at hand.

She did not know whether misfortune was really tracking her down, or whether its stroke might still be averted, but she comprehended what the advertisement meant. She was perfectly aware who had dictated it; and as she once paced beside a swiftly flowing river with the shades of night darkling all around, so she now walked backward and forward in the solitude of her own room, with the unknown future stretching gloomily before her, clouds gathering over the sky of her life, and all surrounding circumstances threatening a terrible storm.



THE person encountered by Mr. Woodham in Palace Gardens walked with a firm free step past Holyrood House, and turned in at the gates of that less pretentious residence Mr. Lassils had entered, with his strangely-made acquaintance, on the night of Lady Moffat's ball.

He opened the door with a latchkey and went straight through the hall to the same small room to which, on the occasion referred to, he introduced his visitor. For, indeed, seen in the light diffused over the apartment by a shaded lamp, he proved to be the individual who had stood afar off, looking at the dancers, listening to the music. He seemed worn and worried; and his face bore a wearied expression, though it brightened at sight of an elderly lady, who sat in an armchair drawn near the fire, knitting.

'I did not expect to find you still up, aunt,' he said, taking a seat at a little distance from the hearth.

'I thought you might wish to speak to me,' she answered. 'I am not much help to you, I know; yet still-'

'You are all the help I have,' he interrupted. 'There is no one in whom I can confide save you. No person in the world may ever feel with me in this matter as you do.'

'That is true,' she said; 'for your sorrow is my shame. We cannot look for any news yet, I suppose.'

I have news,' he answered, handing her a letter; did you ever see that writing before?'

The old lady put on her spectacles and peered curiously at the superscription; then she took an enclosure out of the envelope and

glanced at the few words traced

upon it.

After that she lifted her eyes and gazed at her companion in


'Mira' she exclaimed.

'Mira assuredly,' he answered. 'You see what she says: "Mr. Palthorpe's child died years ago in America."'

'Died years ago,' repeated the old lady. Do you believe it?'

'Not for a moment,' he answered; but just look at that letter again attentively. Notice the quality of the paper, the thickness of the envelope, the delicate perfume hanging about it. Should you say there was any poverty where that note came from?'

'Not poverty, perhaps,' she answered hesitatingly.

'I do not think I ever told you what Doctor Dilton said,' went on her companion; in fact I know I did not, because I could not bear the idea of harbouring his suggestions; but something in that note seems, I do not know in the least why, to emphasise his words. "There is only one man in England," he said, "or in the world, who can tell you all about your wife and child, and that man is Mr. Hay. Find him, and you will hold the clue you want."

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'And shall you try to find him?'

'I haye tried,' was the answer, 'not because I really attached importance to Doctor Dilton's suspicion, but because I wished to leave no stone unturned before advertising. There is no such person to be found in London. I have gone to every one bearing that name both in the City and in the Court Directory, and in the Suburban Directories, and I can neither come upon him or any trace of him.' 'He may lady.

be dead,' said the

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