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So Eva's birth was now a secret no longer. It was no secret to herself. It was no secret to her friends. It was no secret to her enemy. Whether it did or did not continue a secret from the world was a matter too trivial to care for.
Some minutes after she had come to the end of that letter she placed it, as if it had been a note of the most unmeaning character, on the taole which stood beside her. But she continued sitting still. It can scarcely be said that she thought. She could feel, but she could not think. She was just as one launched into a new and strange world, in which all is too novel and unaccountable to be grasped by faculties accustomed to things of so different an order.
Eva was roused by the voice of Mrs. Ballow outside her door. That lady rightly| imagined that Miss March was now in full possession of all which Mr. Dowlas had written to Mrs. Ferrier, and she was deeply and affectionately anxious to administer the comfort which her young friend must be sorely needing.
"Eva, my dear," she called to her, "now do pray let me in. I won't trouble you for more than a single minute. But I must just bid you good night. You'll make me so uneasy if you keep me out, indeed you
It cost Miss March an effort; but the effort was made, and she unbolted the door, and admitted her friend into the room.
Mrs. Ballow had concluded already, and with good reasons for the conclusion, that the discovery made by Mrs. Ferrier's means was of a most unwelcome kind. But of its exact nature, and of its probable effect on Eva, Mrs. Ballow was, of course, in utter ignorance. She was really terrified at the look of settled dismay-despair almost which she saw on the young girl's counte
she says. This letter is written by somebody who has nothing to do with Mrs. Ferrier one, at least, who had nothing to do with her."
"Good gracious, my dear! Why, what can it be that has distracted you in this terrible manner? My dear, don't be too hasty in believing it all, whatever it is! Mrs. Ferrier is a wicked woman, -a wicked, selfish woman. And she's capable of any falsehood, I do verily believe, that would separate you from her son; and the whole thing is her contriving, as you very well know. So we are not going to believe what she says." "But, Mrs. Ballow, it is not at all what
"Had nothing to do with her! No. Somebody whom she has engaged-bribed, I shouldn't wonder- to support her in some ridiculous made-up story." "Oh, Mrs. Ballow, why will you mock me with comfort which you know no rational creature could receive? I beg pardon, dear Mrs. Ballow; I forget what I'm saying._Of course you have not read this letter. Forgive me for saying what I did. But I'm satisfied that this story is true, and that my parentage is even worse than Mrs. Ferrier herself can ever have thought it."
"Oh, ah, I dare say the writer of this precious letter took the measure of this wicked woman's foot, and wrote accordingly. My dear, don't give in to them in this hasty way, at all events. Now just let me look at this ridiculous thing."
It would have taken some time to read the letter through and through. But it required but a minute or two to glance at and seize hold of the great leading facts contained in it.
Mrs. Ba low quickly found out what_parentage Mr. Dowlas had attributed to Eva. She put down the letter with anger.
"My dear, I don't believe one word of it not one word of it. One has only to look at you, and see that it can't be true. You shall hear Mr. Ballow himself say the same. You'll think something of what he says, if you won't take comfort from me. We'll look at it all to-morrow morning. And now, my dear, go to bed. Be this thing true or false, you must be tired and want rest.” "Yes, I want rest; but you can hardly think, Mrs. Ballow, that I am likely to get it. If Mr. Ballow cares to look at this letter, perhaps he will read it to-night. The sooner you leave me to my fate the better."
My dear child, you really quite terrify me by the desponding way in which you speak. I've no doubt Mr. Ballow will read the thing at once if you wish him. We'll go into the parlour; really and truly, I don't like to leave you while you're so low as you are just now."
And they both went at once into the parlour. And Mrs. Ballow put the paper into her husband's hand for him to read.
He settled himself to peruse it from the very beginning; neither Mrs. Ballow nor Eva interrupted him by a single word. The former sat in eager expectancy, awaiting the opinion which would come as soon as the document was entirely read through. Eva
sat in the shadiest corner of the room; she looked as one who already knows the worst, and who entertains no hope that that worst can by any means be bettered. Thus passed away more than a quarter of an hour; for Mr. Ballow read slowly. He was evidently balancing in his thoughts the weight of each separate disclosure, and appraising its credibility, before he went on. There was perfect silence, except when the reader turned over page after page of the letter, and when Mrs. Ballow's impatience found relief in an audible gasp. At last the surgeon had finished. He folded the paper and laid it down, and his wife now felt that the obligation to silence need oppress her no longer.
Now, then, Frederick, do you not think as I do that this story is just an abominable falsehood from beginning to end?" Mr. Ballow hesitated before giving his reply.
My dear, I am fully persuaded that the writer of this letter himself believes in the truth of all he writes."
"There, my love!-There, Eva! Now you hear what Mr. Ballow says; and if you think that I only think what I wish to think, you won't say so of Frederick, I know. Now you really had better go to bed at once, my dear."
"Thank you, Mrs. Ballow; thank you for all your kindness, both at this and at other times. In a very little while I shall be in no situation to tax your kindness; but I sball never forget it. Good night."
She spoke with that quiet bitterness of tone which may be called resignation, but which can never be confounded with submission. And then she quitted the room.
"Now, my dear," said Mr. Ballow, "now I can speak more freely upon this painful matter for painful it is, in whichever way we come to view it. I could scarcely discuss it in Eva's presence. You know she has never been made aware of Mr. Ferrier's earliest adventure-I mean his rescuing the child (whether she were that child or no) out of Scarlington House."
"No. But does that letter profess to prove that she is the same child?"
"It does appear to do so, whether designedly or otherwise. And if I knew no more than was known to this poor woman - this woman who claims to be Eva's own mother
I should feel it very hard to doubt that she is the mother. You seem to have only just glanced at the principal facts in the paper. You may not have noticed that, if there be any kind of truth in it, your uncle Ferrier greatly mistook the real meaning of what he saw in Scarlington House that night. The man and woman who, as he supposed, were combining to make away with the poor child, were really combining to take it in, and, as it would seem, to impose it upon the world as Mrs. Campion's child. Not, of course, that we are justified in making any public use of Mrs. Campion's name.'
"But everything combines to fix the matter, one way or other, upon those Campions."
Certainly; but it might be none the less difficult to obtain a confession from them. We had better keep to such openings as we can avail ourselves of. As I was going to say, poor Mrs. Roberts appears to have had no idea that her baby, instead of being at once received into Mrs. Campion's family, was really snatched away - from destruction, as he thought-by your excellent uncle. Mr. Campion must have known that the child he consented to place in Mrs. Robert's hands was not his own, or can we believe he would ever have cast her off? And it is very possible that Mrs. Beakham, the nurse who took the baby to Scarlington House, might never have known how mysteriously it was taken away. She might very easily not notice it as she passed through that parlour again. At all events, she was discreet, and said not a word to the child's real mother. But we, of course, know that if that same child really was brought up by Mrs. Campion until she was just four years old, she must have been taken from that nurse in Hammersmith (where your uncle placed her), and by some very ingenious deceit indeed palmed off as Mrs. Campion's own child."
"Yes; but do you really think that such a deceit could possibly be managed? It appears to me that such a trick as that would be ten times more difficult than the other."
"You are quite right, Ellen; and I shall be very slow to believe in it. Only, you see, there is really only a choice of difficulties for us. And it does appear, from what your uncle has left on record, that Mrs. Campion heard of the child whom Mr. Ferrier was supposed to have rescued from some ditch between Fulham and Hammersmith; - that she showed so much interest in it as to make particular inquiries. And we do not know how far deceit, once entered upon, may be carried forward. That nurse, Mrs Markley, may have been heavily bribed to give up the infant entrusted to her charge. She would very easily, I should think, get hold of some other stray foundling, whom she might impose on your uncle as his own protégée; or the story of the child's death may have been a fabrication altogether. Her sudden disappearance had, certainly, a suspicious look. It would be a great satisfaction could we but get hold of this woman; but I fear that satisfaction is now quite out of the question. I greatly fear that she is dead."
"Indeed! Then you have actually made some attempts to find her? Why, Frederick, I never heard you mention that."
No, my dear; I thought it better not to tell you. Not that I doubted your discretion, my dear; it would argue ill for my own good sense if I ever had. No, but I thought it as well not to torment you with any half-finished plans. So-it was nearly five years ago-just about the time when we met the red-faced woman in the Exhibition-I put one or two advertisements in some London papers, and also sent several to be inserted in Australian journals for to Australia, you know, the woman, at all events, said she was going. I went so far as to make a few inquiries through one or two of our friends who have relatives in Australia. The advertisements never brought me any reply of any sort. I did get a letter from Sydney, informing me that such a person as Mrs. Markley was known to have come out there about the end of 1838; that she was supposed, many years ago, to have gone back to Europe; that she had, at all events, disappeared from Sydney; and that, moreover, she left the place a widow, as she came. This was all I could ever make out as to Mrs. Markley."
"But perhaps, Frederick, she was afraid of coming forward."
"I scarcely think that. I put the advertisements the wording of them, that is - very cautiously. But I do greatly doubt if the poor woman ever had any cause for being afraid. If she did give the child out of her hands, she was guilty of a gross breach of trust. For such an act she must have had some inducement; and that inducement must have at least included money. There was the risk of your uncle's finding out her treachery. She would feel certain that the people who wanted the child had some very peculiar motive for the wish. She must have been quite aware that what they wanted was not a child merely, but this particular child of all others; for they might have possessed themselves of some other infant in a much easier and safer way. And Mrs. Markley could not know but that your uncle was aware of much more than he chose to tell her, and was well aware, if anything happened to the child, in what quarter to direct his suspicions. So altogether, if Mrs. Markley were indeed a woman to prefer her own interests before the claims of truth and honesty, I do think she would have felt it her interest to keep faith with your uncle Ferrier, and would have kept faith with him accordingly. If she did, why, then we know that the child he gave into her keeping died when but a few months old, and our young friend's parentage is just as unaccounted for as ever."
"Of course. Well, Frederick, it is a relief to me to know that you think so. Then why not act upon this belief?"
"Because, my dear, there is really very much to be said the other way. We, at all events, must identify Eva with the little girl afterwards adopted by your uncle. And what I read here, mysterious and unaccountable as much of it is, tallies very well with one or two things, also very obscure and unaccountable, which we have both read in Mr. Ferrier's manuscript. I certainly have heard that Mr. and Mrs. Campion have but one daughter, who (as her parents are separated) lives with her mother, and that they are not known ever to have had another child but her. Only it is very difficult to get any definite tidings about them; they seem to have sunk somehow out of the world's sight. I can imagine it possible that some audacious impostor, who had a child of which he desired to be rid, employed Mr. Campion's name, and sent that little girl for Mrs. Roberts to receive as her own. But you see how conjectural is all this. I fear, if we consulted any one who had no bias in this matter, he would tell us that we are but resisting an inevitable but unwelcome con
clusion, and that Miss March can be no other than the child of that unhappy Mrs. Roberts."
"Oh, impossible, Mr. Ballow! I never will believe it! What! the daughter of a convict father, and, to say the least, a most incautious and imprudent mother? Why, only just look at Eva, before you assign her such parents."
"Those parents, my dear, had no such advantages as hers. They had no such protection as your excellent uncle's. They had no such example as that of your excellent uncle's more excellent niece. When we would praise people, we should take their circumstances into account."
"Oh, ah, I see. You mean my uncle's niece would have had little excellence but for having, in her turn, so excellent a husband. I thank you, Mr. Ballow."
Well, my dear, it's a general rule. Apply it as you like. Once again, I say that I do see great improbability in this story of Mrs. Roberts, though I acquit her of all untruth. But, setting one improbability against another, I fear we have at present no good case against her claim. Let us go to bed at once, my dear; I'm sure we're both heartily tired of this matter; and I only fear it will tire us a great deal more ere we have quite done with it."
And to bed they accordingly went. If the Ballows rested not well that night, you may be very sure that it would not be a very tranquil night for poor Eva. The discovery for it never occurred to her at this time to doubt its reality, the discovery entailed upon her a worse embarrassment than she could ever have expected. She had thought, from time to time, that she might find her parents among the poor and lowly, and might thus be called to exercise humility. She had confessed to herself that she might find them amongst the faulty and degraded, and so might have to exercise a forbearance and forgiveness. Now, however, she stood revealed, the child of a mother at once guilty and innocent, at once a victim and a trangressor.
Mrs. Robert's misfortunes had been too directly the fruits of her own folly to entitle her to unmixed compassion, and too little of her own contriving to condemn her to unqualified abhorrence. Her daughter must pity her, and she might find it hard to divert her pity from every admixture of contempt.
With the universal propensity to think that every possible position of matters would have presented fewer difficulties than
the actual one, poor Eva suffered much more that night than in the whole previous course of her existence.
Towards morning, however, she obtained a little rest, and when she awoke she was able to look at the matter before her, if not with more of pleasure, at least with greater calmness. In one respect, at least, she thought her duty lay straight and clear before her.
She must go to her mother. She must now begin to be all, and (if possible) more than all, that she could have been to her had she grown up under her mother's eye. It was not for her to evade a daughter's duties, because estranged from her mother since her birth. That estrangement ought hardly to be attributed as a crime to her mother; at all events, it had secured to Eva a far better education, a far better entrance into the world, than her mother could possibly have given her.
Eva's clear, strong sense was asserting itself, even in the unforeseen and baffling contradictions of her present position. To live with her mother would for a season involve the detested presence of her aunt, Mrs. Dowlas. But this need not be for ever, nor for long. Had this been all, the heaviness which weighed upon Eva during the night might have given way in the morning to something like joy.
But then it was not all. There was another great matter, and that was - Richard. To think any more of him would be worse than breaking a promise of her own. It would be asking him, or alluring him, to violate the promise given to herself. It would go nigh to justify all that even Mrs. Ferrier was likely to say against her. That lady's immense efforts to keep Richard and Eva asunder ought by this time to be known in every circulating library throughout the United Kingdom. But she herself never knew how successful she was just at this crisis. She did not know how greatly the thought of Richard's mother supported Eva in the resolve to give up her hopes of Richard. Pride sustained the cause of duty from its possible surrender to the claims of love. And poor Eva made even a miserable pretence of thinking that there was something to be thankful for in that she should never call Mrs. Ferrier her mother-in-law. And when she joined her friends at breakfast they really wondered at her extraordinary calmness.
They had scarcely breakfasted when Mr. Dowlas presented himself. As in all affairs in which the Dowlas family intermingled,
our own friends were very glad that the reverend Welshman came unattended by
There were few, if any, who admired Mr. Dowlas as he deserved. Suffering and martyrdom are frequently more interesting and picturesque when they are contemplated from a distance. If voluntary endurance makes a martyr, Mr. Dowlas was assuredly one, and many a saint to whom cathedrals have been reared, and before whose altars candles are burning day and night, has endured a great deal less than Mr. Dowlas had long endured. Moreover, his patience rarely received its merited praise. His acquaintances, of both sexes, set him down for a poor, craven-hearted man, who could not venture to assert his domestic rights. In this they very much wronged him. Mr. Dowlas submitted to his wife's temper, not because he lacked the courage to rule his household, but just because he possessed the rarer faculty of ruling his own spirit. And that spirit was naturally high. As he would say to a very few of his more intimate friends, My wife's unhappy temper will be curbed by no common authority. My unfortunate error in marrying her has left me with the alternative of being her tyrant or her slave. I believe that my natural heart would incline me to tyranny; but I have thought it better for the honour of the gospel I preach better for the welfare of my children, so doubly dependent upon me, better for that future life to which I humbly look forward-that I should allow myself" to be a slave." Thus the submission which even many who esteemed Mr. Dowlas considered as a guilty sacrifice of duty to ease, was really and truly a daily mortification, undergone from a sincere endeavour to walk as best became him.
pity to your poor mother, to come to us for a time. I trust you would not find your stay an entirely unpleasant one; and you and your mother could decide together as to your future course."
In the conversation which ensued on his arrival, Mr. Dowlas besought Eva, with as much earnestness as he felt justified in employing not to turn away from her newly found mother.
"I cannot promise, Miss March," he said, "that in making your home at Llynbwllyn you would enjoy a very happy one. My wife's temperament is is of a somewhat impulsive character. But I do ask you, in
"Does my mother then so much desire to see me?"
"I do not exaggerate when I tell you that I believe your refusal would almost be her death. At least, it would be necessary to break it very slowly to her. I have been told by very good medical authority that any sudden shock of surprise might prostrate her reason at once. I had great fears from the agitation through which she has gone during the past week or two."
Such was the Reverend Morgan Douglas, a man in whose speculative creed you might find abundant flaws; a man entertain-water. ing his full share of the mistakes and narrowness which beset his crder; a man the great sacrifice of whose life it might not be difficult to represent as a monstrous blunder; but still a man whom nothing could turn out of the way which he deemed appointed for him.
"Do you mean, then, that my poor mother has ever been affected in her mind? "Not exactly so. Yet her escape from such a misfortune has been really marvellous. I am speaking the exact truth of poor Susanna when I say that she has been all her lifetime subject to bondage. She has fallen into evil hands through sheer weakness of will and decision in herself. I declare to you, Miss March, that you may believe her when she says that in parting with you at your birth she meant, in her weak way, to do the best she could for you; and she meant as well when she tried to reclaim you."
"Mr. Dowlas-uncle Dowlas, if you will let me call you so, I believe it is my duty to go to her, and I will go."
But, my dear," interposed Mrs. Ballow, will you not consider the matter a little more fully?. Pray, Mr. Dowlas, when must you return home?-to-day?" "Yes. I fear I cannot delay beyond this afternoon. My duties require me to be at home to-morrow evening, and I have left my eldest daughter with some friends in Liverpool, and Mrs. Dowlas has a great desire to go from Liverpool to Bangor by
I fear I must set off by the train which leaves Leamington at three to-day." Then," Mrs. Ballow replied, before Miss March could come out with any answer of her own -"then, if Eva decides upon accompanying you, she will meet you at the station in good time for that train. That arrangement, I suppose, will not be objected to?"
Certainly not, ma'am. Of course, I'm well aware that it's but a short time to decide on so important a matter." And Mr. Dowlas got up from his chair, and was about to say Good morning. Eva, by a gesture, detained him.
"May I may I," she said, "ask you just one question, Mr. Dowlas?"
"I will do my best to answer any ques