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shelves and stood looking at nothing for about the space of time in which one might have slowly counted twenty.

Then he came back and resumed his seat. Stretching his hands, which were tightly clasped, over the table, he began speaking in a low voice and in a dull monotone which was sadly impressive.

If she

'Rich or poor, Mr. Woodham, a curate or a lord, you are, of all men, the man I would desire to see Rachel's husband. were to become your wife, I should prefer you, however, as you are; for I doubt if she would be so happy as a great lady as she might find herself in a humbler walk of life. She has no high ideas; she is simple in her tastes. But why do I talk this way? She can never be your wife-never.'

'Not be my wife? For what reason?'


Because you will not marry

'I will not marry her?' again repeated Mr. Woodham.


No; not when you have heard what I have to say. remember the other night I told you there was a person I knew troubled in mind; that he sought advice; that he wanted you to know his secret. That man was myself; and Sir John, having made this leap, stopped suddenly, as if frightened, and drew a long gasping breath.

'I felt sure of it,' murmured Mr. Woodham to himself.

'It is a story,' went on Sir John, of sin and sorrow-of sin and sorrow; but you must hear it.'

'No,' answered Mr. Woodham, all his former hesitation, all his perplexed uncertainty, disappearing in a moment-no, I must not hear it at least, not now, not till I am your daughter's husband.

If hereafter you will give her to me, I will receive your gift as the greatest man could bestow. Whatever her birth may be, whatever of sin and sorrow your life holds, can make no difference to me. Only give her to me with her own free full consent. Let her come to me with her sweet shy face, and put her hand in mine, and vow before God's altar to be my true and loving wife; and then, Sir John, no matter what your trouble is, I will share it with a son's true heart, help you if I can, and bear whatever part of the burden needs to fall upon me unrepiningly. I say this from the depths of my soul, as truly and sincerely as I hope you will have help from the Source of all help, that the good Lord may have mercy and pity upon you.' 'Amen,' said Sir John, in a broken whisper.




SIR JOHN MOFFAT and Mr. Woodham left Holyrood House together, and went down Palace Gardens, talking as they walked.

Sir John was going into the City, and Mr. Woodham said he would accompany him for a short way. The hour chanced to be much later than that the owner of Mr. Seaton's old residence usually started for town; but he had not, on this morning, any particular business requiring his presence at the office, and, accordingly, the pair turned in between the red-brick pillars, which modestly indicate the abode of Royalty, and strolled leisurely past the red-brick palace, that has such a charming look of home about it, and straight on by the

broad walk to that piece of water which bears so strong a resemblance to another piece of water in the avenue at Bushey Park.

As they walked under the trees, that, if power of speech were given them, could tell so many a story of human wrong and human woe, Mr. Woodham eager, though thoughtful, Sir John distrait and melancholy beyond his wont, the same person the clergyman had jostled in the darkness met both gentlemen face to face.

He did not know either, and had actually passed them by, when Sir John, in answer to some remark of his companion, happened to speak.

Instantly the stranger in London paused, startled. They were moving from him; but he turned upon his step and followed them, not near enough to overhear what they were saying, but sufficiently close to keep them well in sight.

On Sir John paced, in his quiet measured way, totally unconscious that any one was dogging him. A policeman touched his hat to theworthy knight,' as he chanced to be called by many City people; but the stranger did not pause to make any inquiries. He meant to satisfy his own mind; to ascertain if he had been attracted by aught more than a mere trick of fancy. If it were the man! O Lord! if after all these many years he had found him at last! What then? He gasped almost as he asked himself involuntarily this question; but he answered it instantly: then he would know for certain. If this were the man, he should learn, without a doubt, whether he held the clue of his wife's disappearance.

Supposing he had nothing to do with it or her? So much the better for him. Supposing Doctor

Dilton right? He would hunt him down, let him be as rich as he might-as highly considered as man could be; he would strip off the mask, and expose him to the world as a cheat, a hypocrite, and a villain.

The more he looked at the figure preceding him, so stiff and solemn in its movements, with so little of ease in limb or actionat the profile, changed and aged though it was the more certain he felt that he beheld the person so long looked for, so constantly thought of, in the flesh at last.

But he did not mean to make any mistake; he intended to be sure before he took even so much of action as was involved in speech.

In his heart he felt certain that there, walking before him, was the man who had stayed his feeble feet stumbling across the threshold of the valley of the shadow, who had, with his strong arm, supported him back to life, who had acted the part of the Good Samaritan to one worsted in the battle of existence.

Had it all been acting, all a premeditated plan? The eyes that were so like Rachel's fastened themselves upon the gray hair, the wan face, the weary expression, and, in spite of themselves, softened as they looked.

More in keeping with the widest and most silent charity was the look of the man walking on in front, than any deep-laid plan, any nefarious plot against his fellow's honour, any long train of treachery lighted and exploded at the end.

Following behind, and noting each turn of the head, each gesture, each movement, Thomas Palthorpe read the true nature of John Moffat aright.

He could not believe him a deceiver, a false finished hypocrite.


He did believe he had sent the money; but he found himself fighting against the idea he had meant aught save the truest kindness towards him. This man could not be a sinner-this man, with his calm manner, composed demeanour, earnest mode of talking. The thing was impossible. Some other one; some person his heartless wife had met, unknown to himself; some other who had caused her pulses to throb quicker for his coming, her face brighten, her smiles to dimple her fair cheeks. Ah, me! ah, me! till the great judgment-day how shall we ever clearly understand each other, or comprehend what a mysterious trouble man's complex nature is here even to himself how he wrestles against his own impulses; how he swears he will not be suspicious; how he is borne out on seas of higher meaning one moment, surely to be washed back by waves of doubt to the earthly shores his better self abhors?

On, and still on, passion gaining the mastery now, reason arguing in calmest accents then; an impulsive nature swaying thither and hither, as it tracked distractedly, not merely the footsteps of one long sought for, but also the devious twists and turnings of a past so obscure, it had oftentimes seemed the mysteries it held must for ever remain unsolved; thus they-the injured and the injurer-walked through the prettiest park of London, pacing both patiently forward to an end which they could not even dimly imagine.

Clearly between Mr. Woodham and Sir John the conversation had become engrossing, because the clergyman pursued his way to Hyde Park-corner without a thought of the distance he should have to retrace, while Sir

John did not seem to consider he might have found an omnibus long before he reached Apsley House.

An omnibus was preferably this rich man's favourite conveyance for reaching the City. He might have driven thither in his own carriage, or mounted a steed warranted to combine all equine virtues, or paid cab-fares; all the conveniences and luxuries poor folks consider desirable were within his reach, and yet he chose that at which those not Fortune's favourites are apt to turn up a scornful nose.

With the air of one quite accustomed to such exercises, he climbed modestly to a seat on the knife-board, scarcely noticing as he did so that a heavilybearded man followed his example, and took his place on the other side.

'I shall hear from you, I suppose, before you return from Florence,' said Sir John to his companion, shaking hands as they paused upon the kerbstone.

I will write to you frequently,'

Isaid the other.

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who had his memories connected with the City also.

No one in the olden days had ever seemed delighted to see him when he walked abroad, through twisting alleys and narrow lanes and busy thoroughfares; not even a beggar deemed it worth while to touch his hat to a fellow-creature so palpably impecunious as the then young clerk.

He had found the modern El Dorado paved for him with exceptionally hard flints instead of golden nuggets; he had walked those same side-paths tired and dispirited and mortified and sore perplexed. But then life was before him; now, twenty long years, taken out of the best part of existence, lay behind; twenty years a woman's perfidy had overclouded; twenty years he would have given up his money, his position, to recall.

'For I ought to 'have known the best or the worst then,' he considered. All these years I have been going about like a horse with a clog fastened to his foot; like the horse, too, scarcely feeling the impediment till now, when, looking back, I perceive how it has prevented my progress, and hampered every step of my way.'

Sir John turned into a narrow lane, then crossed a paved court, took his way up a narrow passage, and entered a building at the further end. At the corner of the passage a bank-messenger touched his hat respectfully; and a little further on a ticket-porter acknowledged his presence more obsequiously still.

'I don't believe he knows anything about the matter,' decided the man who followed in his wake with long loose strides; but I will go in and speak to him, anyway.'

With this intention he went up

to the entrance, and was about to push open the inside door, when his eye chanced to catch the name engraved on a great brass plate, stretching across the width of the mahogany :


'Moffat won't spell Hay, however you work it,' he considered. 'No matter; if it be as I suspect, he is partner, or something of that kind; and so thinking, he pushed open the door and walked in.

He found himself in a quiet outer office, where not more than half a dozen clerks were seated at different desks. Going up to the oldest, a white-headed respectable-looking bookkeeper, he asked if 'Mr. Hay was within.' 'There is no Mr. Hay here, sir,' answered the clerk.

'Surely I saw him enter this office a minute since ?'

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Not to my knowledge, sir. We have not any one of that name in our employment.'

'Do you do business with any person of that name?' 'No, sir.'

Puzzled, more puzzled than he would have cared to confess, the man who had been so long absent from London, after tendering some vague apology for his intrusion, left the office, and wandered out into the passage. He took a turn round the court, and then, coming again upon the ticketporter, asked,

'Do you remember a gentleman who passed up here just now?'

'Who was he?'

'That is just what I want to know; a gentleman with gray hair, who stoops a little.'

The porter shook his head, and answered,

'Such a many passes.'

'But you touched your hat to the gentleman I mean, and he

went into that office at the top there.'

'O, him? That is Sir John Moffat.'

'Are you sure?'

'Sure?' repeated the other contemptuously; of course I'm sure. I have known him go up and down this here place for a matter of thirty year and better. Here he comes, if that is the gentleman you mean.'

As they stood, Sir John passed by quite close. Yes, that is the gentleman I mean,' said the stranger who had followed him from Kensington.

Then that is Sir John Moffat; and a better gentleman you would not meet if you walked London streets for a day,' said the porter genially, as he pocketed the half crown he had feared might not be forthcoming.

Without further delay or inquiry Sir John's shadow hurried out of the court and followed him. For at least an hour he tracked his steps hither and thither paused when he paused, waiting about the doors of great offices till Sir John, having finished his business, emerged into the street again; loitered if he stopped to speak to an acquaintance; and at length found himself occupying an adjacent box in a very out-of-the-way and very oldfashioned tavern, quite unlike any of the modern luncheon-bars or dining-rooms, where Sir John, having ordered a steak, potatoes, and half a pint of bitter, took off his hat, and, totally unconscious of observation, began to glance over the newspaper brought him by the waiter.

'What for you, sir?' asked the man, bustling in to the box occupied by the stranger.

For a moment the person so addressed hesitated; then laying down a shilling, and murmuring

something about a forgotten engagement, he went down the stairs, made his way to the nearest main thoroughfare, hailed a hansom, and bade the driver go as fast as he could to Kensington.

He found Doctor Dilton within. In two minutes he told him all he had done; in another he entreated his friend to return with him to the City.

'I am sure, and yet I am doubtful,' he said. Should you know him, do you think?' 'Among a thousand,' was the


'Then come along. You will stand by me, won't you?'

'Yes, I will stand by you,' Doctor Dilton replied; but for all that he did not seem to relish the expedition.

They drove back straight to the City, and, dismissing the cab at the entrance of the narrow alley, walked up to the little court, crossed it, and reached the passage leading to Sir John's office.

'What a queer out-of-the-way spot!' remarked Doctor Dilton, speaking indifferently, though indeed he felt he had never been engaged upon any business in all his life he liked less.

"Yes,' answered his companion shortly.

They were now close upon the heels of some discovery, and the man's heart, crowded with the memories and the fears and the agony of twenty years previously, beat so fast he felt as if its throbbing would suffocate him ere he reached the door.

As they went up the passage they met the ticket-porter, who touched his hat as respectfully as though Sir John himself were coming along, bearing his weight of wealth and honours with him.

The short day was drawing to its close. The gas was already lighted in all the offices; a sense

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