I try to read in the evenings, because the words and cadence seep into my subconscious during the night and then help me write the next morning. Unfortunately, this evening I left my book downstairs after I had locked up the house, so I pulled up my laptop and read a short story titled, “Separated: A Divided Story,” printed in “Cassell’s Family Magazine, ” 1894. I simply copied the text, corrected the formatting as I read, and pasted the story here. It’s not the best story, however, in a mere 6,000 words, engagements are broken, a character goes insane, a family secret is revealed and a love is regained. As my grandmother would say, “It’s a hoot.” Sadly, I can’t find the author’s name. The magazine lists the following contributors:
Separated: A Divided Story
I was very much displeased when Phina came to me with the news that she was engaged to Eustace Manvers.
It seemed so sudden; and he was the one man amongst our acquaintances whom I should have wished my sister not to choose; but as my wishes had not been consulted, I shut my lips tightly, and said nothing. But Phina’s flashing dark eyes read the dissatisfaction in my face, and in a moment her arms were round me.
“Now, little sister, don’t be cross. I know Eustace is not a bit like your dear sedate Robert; but, you see, you and I are so unlike, that it is unreasonable of you to expect me to choose a man of Robert’s stamp.”
I began an indignant defence of my absent Robert, but Phina waxed more eloquent. “Yes, yes, I know he is a model husband, the dear old slow-coach. But you know, Christine, if I were really bound to such a quiet, easy-going man, I should positively grow to hate him in time. I could not settle down for ever in a quiet country place; I want to live, not to stagnate. Eustace and I mean to travel a great deal; we shall be together, and see all the glorious sights and wonderful places of which I have dreamed. Yes, I know we shall be happy; so don’t look grave over it, little sister.”
“Life is not a dream; it is a stern reality, as you will find,” I answered shortly; but my impulsive sister was looking out at the sunset, and vouchsafed no reply. Phina always called me “little sister,” though I was several years her senior, and had been married three years; but it was no wonder she chose the appellation. We were so unlike—I so small and insignificant, and she so tall, graceful, and handsome.
Looking at the matter in a worldly sense, I ought really to have been proud and pleased at my sister’s contemplated union with Eustace Manvers. He belonged to a good old family, possessed a comfortable little estate of his own, and was generally considered handsome. His claim to good looks I could not deny, as far as graceful contour of feature went; but to me the keen grey eyes, gleaming beneath thick fair brows, had an expression that marred the whole beauty of the face. There was that in their keen penetrating glance which made me intensely uncomfortable, and at the same time attracted while repelling me. I said so to Robert once, but he only laughed.
“Do you know, little wife, that you are an extremely nervous and sensitive plant? In one thing you and Phina are much alike: a man with a strong will, mingled with a certain animal magnetism, could make you do almost anything.”
I repudiated the idea of such a thing at the time; but afterwards my eyes were opened to see that Eustace really had an influence over me, and delighted to make his power felt. From that time I began to fear as well as dislike him.
Eustace Manvers exerted all his most fascinating powers in the days that followed the announcement of the engagement, and made himself so agreeable that my old dislike began to fade away. If Phina was deeply in love with her fiancé, he certainly was as much in love with her; he seemed to take pleasure in every word that came from her lips, and watched her every movement with the most lover-like devotion any woman could desire. I did not wonder at this—it was so natural; for my sister appeared to grow more beautiful than ever as days went by. Her whole nature seemed etherealized; every little pleasure was a mine of wealth to her; every-day worries and troubles she laughed away. Her world had become glorified. With the beauty of our Jewish mother, Phina had inherited the passionate nature, and I trembled sometimes as I noted the intensity of her affection for the man she loved. Once I ventured to remonstrate with her, and bade her beware of setting up an idol in her heart.
“As if I could love him too much!”she said impetuously. “Do you think such a thing is possible, Christine? No; I am sure the God who implanted in our hearts the love for each other meant us to love with all the strength of our nature.”
“Nevertheless, it is well sometimes to admit the possibility of a separation,” I said.
“I cannot admit it. Nothing but death could separate us; and even that, to true hearts, is but a bodily separation. Now, don’t croak, Christine; let me be happy. You were happy when Robert was your lover, and not your husband.”
“I am happy now,” I answered softly, letting my memory flit back to those glad days when Robert wooed me.
‘Yes; sweet as was the dawn of love’s dream, I felt I would not exchange the deep calm joy of my wedded life for my former freedom, light-hearted and glad as it had been.
As weeks passed by, I was conscious that a barrier had risen between Phina and myself. She no longer spoke to me of Eustace; if I mentioned his name, she apparently took no notice. I began to torment myself for having been so cold and unsympathetic that she could no longer confide in me. Sometimes I felt very jealous of Eustace and her growing manifestation of affection for him. It was Eustace first and last, and his diurnal visits were the culminating points of joy in days that were all happiness to her.
A few miles from our little village of Eltonbridge was a small country seat named the Priory—a quaint romantic building, reputed to be the oldest in the neighbourhood.
For many years the place had been uninhabited, the owner finding a difficulty in selling it, and not caring to reside there himself.
At last it was purchased by a Mr. Seldon, a wealthy manufacturer. The neighbouring families were at first reluctant to acknowledge a man who had made his money in trade; but Sir Alfred and Lady Joyce, of Joyce Court, called upon the new-comers, and the rest of their circle followed suit.
I was not at all prepossessed in favour of Mr. and Mrs. Seldon or their daughter, an only child. The daughter was certainly the most presentable of the three; but there was a brusqueness of manner and want of refinement that jarred upon my too sensitive nerves. The Priory estate joined that of Eustace Manvers: which fact was sufficient to account for Phina’s head- strong overtures of friendship towards Miss Seldon. They had been in their new home just three weeks when “Beatrice”—as Phina had already learned to call her—was invited to spend a few days with us. With our house and grounds she was rapturously enchanted.
The gardens were “quite too lovely for anything,” she declared. “Pa must come over and take pattern by them, as he meant to do up the Priory in tip-top style.” My little two-year-old Bobby was the sweetest cherub that ever breathed”; but unfortunately he did not appreciate the superlative appellations lavished upon him; he sturdily refused to let Miss Seldon nurse him, and screamed if she tried to kiss him. I could not understand the attraction this new friend had for Phina, nor how Eustace could share the infatuation.
On the last evening of Miss Seldon’s visit we were sitting in the drawing-room, the windows widely opened; for it had been, one of those overpowering days which sometimes burst suddenly upon us with almost tropical heat—a kind of recompense for the cold bleak spring which has made us doubt the possible approach of summer. Robert was dining out, and I was anxiously listening for his return; for the air was sultry and oppressive, and dark clouds were beginning to gather. Conversation had flagged; perhaps it was too much trouble to talk in such an atmosphere. Miss Seldon broke the silence; she was never still for more than a few moments.
“Mr. Manvers, do you believe in mesmerism?” It might have been fancy, but I thought Eustace started and changed colour.
“I beg your pardon, Miss Seldon.”
“Do you believe in mesmerism, I asked—because I don’t, and I don’t think anybody will ever make me, either. Pa took us to some place in London once, and I would go up and let them experiment on me. Of course, ma was awfully shocked; but I was determined to see if there was anything in it. But it was no go; the fellow could make nothing of me, and at last he had to give it up as a bad job. Didn’t I laugh, too!”
“Who was the gentleman who failed so ignominiously?”Eustace asked, in calm clear tones.”I think he called himself Professor Latreille, or some such name.”
“Ah! I have heard of the man. I am sorry he could not convince you of the wonderful power of his mysterious art; for it is a power—a marvellous power — in spite of your ridicule, Miss Seldon. I firmly believe in it; in fact, at one time I practised the art myself, and with no little success.”
“Did you really? How interesting! And has the power left you, Mr. Manvers? ”
“Hardly, I think; but long neglect and disuse”
“Oh, do try and see if you can do anything! You may experiment on me if you like—now do.” Eustace crossed the room and stood in front of the entreating beauty. I turned my head away, for I was annoyed that the subject had been brought up, and mentally decided that it was the first and last time such an exhibition should take place in my drawing- room.
For a few moments there was silence, then the sound of Miss Seldon’s suppressed laughter, which finally broke out into a loud “Ha! Ha!” I rose and closed the window; for the gardener was outside attending to some plants, and I was ashamed that he should hear such loud unlady-like tones. I looked at Eustace; he was very pale’.
“You are the first woman with whom I have failed,” he said at last.
“Try me,” said Phina, who had been silent hitherto. It might have been my foolish fancy again, but I thought I really did detect a curl of the lip as he turned away from Miss Seldon, and said in even tones—” I shall have a very easy task.”
“Phina, I beg that you will desist,” I said authoritatively.
“Nonsense, Christine!—it is only fun. Go on, please, Eustace.”
When she spoke in that tone, I knew well from past experience that remonstrance was useless. I was seriously displeased by this time—so much so that in my anger I forgot good breeding and courtesy, and deliberately turned my back upon the three inmates of the room.
Again there was dead silence, more heavy and oppressive than before.
How I wished Robert would come and put an end to this unseemly farce!
A moment later I sprang from my chair at the sound of a fall, my exclamation of surprise being drowned by Miss Seldon’s scream of fright. Phina had fallen from her seat, and lay upon the floor, white and rigid. Eustace lifted her gently, but she made no sound.
In my fright and terror, my anger did not die down.”You have been guilty of unwarrantable impertinence, Mr. Manvers. You deliberately set my wishes aside, and with this result. I hope”
In the mid-it of my indignant tirade speech suddenly failed me. Those half-opened eyes were fixed upon me with a gleam of command which, without words, bade me be silent, and I dared not disobey. All my pulses were thrilling with a strange excitement; power- less and trembling, I stood, unable to move or speak. It seemed like an hour—I dare say it was but a moment—then I heard the sound of a familiar footfall. “Robert !” I cried, and the spell was broken.
“Will you kindly ring the bell, Miss Seldon?” said Eustace, in his suavest manner.
I was thankful to see my guest take her departures on the following morning. Phina was quite unnerved and prostrate for several days.
I nursed her carefully, and was at last rewarded by seeing the death-like pallor of her face give place to a faint pink tinge, which told of returning health. She was very silent during those days, and I fore- bore to tease her with needless conversation, and studiously avoided all mention of what had taken place on the evening of her sudden illness. We had an engagement to dine at the Priory the following week.
“I think you had better remain at home, dear,” I said.
“Oh, no; I feel quite well, and I really wish to go. I am longing to see Beatrice again,” she replied. Eustace had made his visits very short and infrequent during this time; but Phina made no remark, and expressed but little pleasure when told that he had called.
Of course, we went to the Priory. Phina determinedly refused to stay at home, even when Eustace added his entreaties to mine. Masons were already busy about the old place adding a new wing, which was to comprise a ball-room and billiard saloon.”Spoiling the place completely,” as I said to Robert. The dinner passed off much as such dinners do, save that there was an ostentatious display of silver, and a very poor display of brilliant conversation. Afterwards, in the drawing-room, Miss Seldon sat on the sofa by my side, and detailed the merits and imperfections of several of the single gentlemen among the guests, each of whom, she said, “wanted her.”
It has always been unaccountable to me that girls should be so fond of talking about the different men who have fallen in love with them, or “wanted” them, as Miss Seldon called it. I am very thankful indeed that no one but Robert ever “wanted” me, or, if anyone did, he or they never took the trouble to tell me so. I am afraid Miss Seldon found me a very unsympathetic confidante, for presently she moved away and left to me my own comfortable corner, with no one near enough to speak to me. The soft cushions being very conducive to drowsiness, I fell into a doze for a few moments.
I was awakened by the sound of a masculine voice from behind the screen at the back of my sofa. It was Major Thorn who was speaking—
“Savours rather of Americanism, doesn’t it? Well, there’s plenty of money, I suppose, and in these days cash covers a multitude of sins in the social world.”
“True. I see Miss Seldon is creating a sensation among our marriageable gentlemen. If our friend Manvers were not already engaged, I should say that he was smitten.”
I recognised the voice of my old friend Mr. Summerhayes, the rector.
“It is a thousand pities Miss Elkington fell in love with him,” returned the major.
“He would never be so foolish as to think of putting Miss Seldon in the place of his betrothed, to say nothing of the dishonour. There is no comparison between them.”
“Of course not, to our way of thinking; but the money might be a temptation. Miss Seldon is an only child, and the Priory grounds join the Manvers estate.”“Pray do not entertain the idea for a moment, major. Really our conversation is degenerating into gossip.”
“Yes. Well, we will say no more—only I know a thing or two about Manvers which makes me suspicious. He is not as rich as you might imagine.”
‘”What a splendid sunset!”said the rector. Dear old man! I knew how he hated anything approaching scandal, and Phina was one of his favourites.
I spent a mauvais quart d’heure until Phina came, and sat down beside me. I noticed that her face was flushed, her hands trembled, and beads of perspiration stood on her forehead.
“Do let us be going, Christine,” she said, with an appealing look in her dark eyes.
“Are you not well, dear?”
“Yes; but I want to go. Eustace thinks I had better,” she replied.
“It is of no consequence to me what Mr. Manvers thinks,” I answered crossly.
“But I cannot—oh, I dare not—stay,” she said, standing up.
The eyes of the other ladies were turned inquiringly towards us, and, fearful of making a scene, I took leave of Mrs. Seldon, and departed.
I noticed that Eustace did not see us to the carriage, as was his custom on such occasions.
“What did you mean by saying you dared not remain?” I asked on the way home.
“Oh, nothing. My head ached, and I did not know what I was saying.”
And yet she had told me that she felt quite well.
The more I thought of it, the more convinced I became that Eustace Manvers, for some purpose of his own, had exercised what I mentally designated his “unholy powers” over my darling sister.
As the summer waned. I began to hope, and yet to fear, that Phina would come to me one day and tell me that she was going to be married. I hoped it for the sake of her own peace of mind; I feared because I believed that, whatever Eustace had felt at the commencement of the engagement, all his love for his promised wife had now died out of his heart.
There was no real necessity for long waiting. Phina had her own small fortune, and would be no burden to any man. As the weeks flitted by, I noticed that she drooped more and more. Sometimes she was silent and depressed, at others elated and excitable.
Eustace came as seldom as he consistently could, and I knew that all the neighbourhood was talking of his marked attention to Miss Seldon. She visited us often enough, and at times I could scarcely bring myself to be civil to her.
At last, I could bear it no longer. If Phina was blind, it was time someone opened her eyes. She listened to all I had to say without a single denial or interruption; but when, at the end, I besought her for her own honour’s sake to give Eustace up, her fiery indignation burst forth.
“What right have you, Christine, or anyone else, to say that he no longer loves me? I tell you, jealousy and malicious tongues will never separate us.”
“You are separated already in everything but tlie outward bond; and that, if you do not break it yourself, will soon be broken for you. Phina, dear, believe that it is only for your good I speak.”
“I will never believe he has ceased to love me unless I hear it from his own lips. Christine, was there ever any insanity in our family? ”
1 was startled by the query.
“What makes you ask such a thing?” I inquired.
“I wish particularly to know. I was asked the same question myself once. You would not condemn a man for breaking his engagement if he believed the girl he loved had any tendency that way, would you?”
“Certainly I should. He should think of these things beforehand. In my opinion, a betrothal is as sacred and binding as marriage: ‘ For better, for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.’ You know all the rest, Phina.”
“You have not answered my question. There was some relative of ours who died insane, was there not?”
There was a peevishness in her tone which warned me to give a direct answer without further waiting.
“Yes, there was, Phina; but mind, I believe it was temper, and not insanity.”
“How foolish you are, Christine! Tell me about it.”
“It was our mother’s mother. She was a Jewess, and very beautiful, but haying a passionate and ungovernable temper. When her daughter—our mother, Phina—married a Christian and renounced the Jewish faith, she cursed her, and vowed never to speak to her again. It was the keeping this wicked vow, I firmly believe, that caused her reason to forsake her. Aunt Lena told me about it years ago; I think it would have been as well to have said nothing.”
Phina sat silent for a time. Presently she asked, “Do you think such things are hereditary?”
” No, I do not,” I responded firmly.
To tell the truth, I had never given the subject a thought, and to have Phina asking such strange questions made me very uncomfortable.
How I wished that our dear father and mother had been spared! They could have governed this wild and passionate nature of my sister’s, which was always causing me so much anxiety. Then it struck me how much Phina resembled the portrait I had seen of our grandmother.
I told Robert of all this, and he looked grave. “We must not allow this, little wife. You and Phina shall have a holiday. You will forget all your little difficulties, and come home fresh and happy.”
We paid a series of visits among old friends, and I was delighted to note the effect of a change of scene on the drooping spirits of my sister. Once more she was radiant and beautiful; and so numerous were her admirers, that I comforted myself with the thought that, should Eustace Manvers prove unfaithful, there would be no lack of candidates to fill his place. Only, if Phina loved him as I loved my Robert, it would be impossible to displace him for another. I could only hope her love, like her nature, was different from mine.
Alas for my hopes! As soon as we returned to Eltonbridge all her old restlessness and excitability returned. I knew, without asking, that she was helplessly, hopelessly miserable. I could see that a crisis was approaching, and I hoped and prayed that it might speedily come, and end the unendurable suspense.
Little did I think how terrible that crisis was to be! I had been to see my friend Mrs. Summerhayes, and had prolonged my stay beyond the hour for making fashionable calls; but in the country we do not adhere strictly to fixed rules—in the case of intimate friends, at least.
The clay had been dull, and it was unusually dark for the hour. I did not mind the short walk, but the chill greyness which wrapped the landscape in gloom had a de- pressing influence, and I hurried along, anxious to reach the more congenial atmosphere of my bright happy home.
The hall door stood open, and not a sound could be heard. A sudden sense of desolation fell upon me as I entered the dark drawing-room, hoping to find Robert or Phina there. The room was deserted; but even in the fading light I could detect an air of unusual disorder: chairs were disarranged, and a choice vase on a little table had been knocked over on its side.
“Bobbie has been here,” I said to myself, trying to shake off the feeling of oppression and apprehension. As I turned to cross the room, my foot struck some- thing small and hard. 1 stooped and picked it up. It was Phina’s engagement ring, battered and crushed.
Then I knew that at last the crisis had come.
My poor darling!
I rushed up the stairs to my sister’s room. It was ablaze with light; and there, seated before the looking- glass, her white arms and neck glittering with jewels, was Phina.
She turned to me with a loud wild laugh.
“He will never find another as handsome,” she cried.
“Am I not more beautiful than she? Yes, 1 know I am; but we are separated now—separated!” She uttered the last words with an unearthly scream.
Paralysed as I was with terror, the dreadful truth dawned upon me—my sister had lost her reason!
Two days later, Eustace Manvers called. Doubtless the news had spread, in spite of my precautions, and he had come to condole with us in our calamity. I was too weak and unnerved to go down at once; but when Robert had been with him for about ten minutes, I summoned all my courage and entered the morning- room.
“I have seen it coming on for a long while,” he was saying as 1 went in.
“Your perceptions are unusually acute,” I said, without a word of greeting.
He looked uncomfortable, and stood up as if anxious to go. ”I have been explaining to Mr. Fielden that under the circumstances it will be advisable to consider the engagement between your sister and myself at an end. It would be folly to continue it.”
“Are you sure it was not at an end before this happened?” I asked, looking him fully in the face.
He turned a shade paler, but gave no answer.
“I found this on the floor the evening my sister was taken ill I will return it to you.”
I handed him the battered ring as I spoke.
If I wanted confirmation of my suspicions, I had it in his face as he mechanically took the ring, and without a word to either of us, left the house.
The interview had been too much for me. I felt a throbbing in my head; the room seemed whirling round me; Robert’s arms were about me, then they seemed to lose their hold, and I fell —deeper and deeper—into an abyss of darkness.
I must apologise for intruding my uncouth narrative in the midst of a story so ably told; but Mrs. Fielden insists that I alone can finish what she has begun.
I am a plain, homely man, and writing is a new thing to me; therefore, what I have to say will be told in as few words as possible.
When Mrs. Fielden, with her invalid sister and an attendant, took a small house in our quiet watering- place, 1 called upon her—partly because her husband was an old friend of mine, and partly because I had heard her sister’s sad story, and was anxious to gain a few more particulars.
Some years ago I was in the medical profession, but the death of a relative leaving me comfortably provided for, I decided to leave the somewhat crowded arena, thereby making elbow-room for some young fellow who needed the proceeds of a practice more than I did. I had known Eustace Manvers, too, in days gone by, therefore the affair had more than an ordinary interest for me. Mrs. Fielden was very grateful for my visits, and by-and-by I ventured to ask for an interview with her sister, to which, rather unwillingly, she consented.
Shall I ever forget the first time I saw Phina? She was sitting by the window, looking listlessly out at the dancing waves. She looked round as we entered, and her large, dark, mournful eyes met mine. The depths of their sad appealing seemed to say, “Save me from myself!”and from my inmost being the determination arose to save this radiant young creature from the terrible fate that hung over her. She responded to my greeting in a quiet, inert manner, and then sat silent, scarcely removing her eyes from my face, whilst Mrs. Fielden and I carried on a somewhat desultory conversation.
The clock struck four. As it did so, the pallid hue of Miss Elkington’s face changed to a deep crimson, her hands trembled, and her eyes grew bright.
“We had better go,” said Mrs. Fielden uneasily.
“Pardon me—I wish to remain. I think I can be of service,” I answered, in an undertone.
Miss Elkington had risen to her feet, and was talking to herself in an incoherent manner.
I crossed the room, laid my cool hand on her fevered wrist, and looked fixedly into her eyes.
“Bring me a basin of cold water,” I said to the attendant, without moving my eyes from my patient’s face.
With the water I laved face, brow, and hands.
The effect was magical.
The flush faded, the trembling ceased, and the eyes assumed a natural expression.
“I feel better now,” she said softly.
“I think she is safe for this evening,” I said to the attendant; and wishing Mrs. Fielden farewell, I took my leave.
Strange memories of my old life as a medical student came back to me that night. I remembered how I had once made insanity and its connection with nervous disorders my especial study, and had evolved some rather curious theories from it—theories which had been much ridiculed by some of my colleagues, but which were, I was convinced, perfectly feasible. Then I remembered when my dearest friend and fellow-worker, Arthur Vane, had broken down in a course of study, and how I had nursed him in his terrible nervous affliction. Yes; and my theories and treatment would have been effectual; but one dreadful day he was taken from me, and carried away to some place of confinement.
“Insanity,” the doctors called it. I knew it was no such thing.
“The doctors will soon find out,” said my fellow students.
Alas! before they had time to study the case Arthur died.
It was rather strange that all these old memories should come crowding my brain after my interview with Miss Elkington; yet the more 1 thought of her the more 1 became convinced that she was no more insane than myself; and when my memory reverted to Eustace Manvers, as he had been years ago, I felt I had the clue to much that was unintelligible to other medical men who had studied the case.
I set myself to study her temperament. It was, as I had surmised, highly nervous and sensitive: an Ǽolian harp could not have responded more readily to the passing breeze than the pulsations of her highly- strung nerves to the will-power of the man she had loved so passionately. He had swept the strings of this human harp with no light hand—hence the result: the strings jarred out of tune; but, with God’s help, I knew and felt I could set them once more to sweetest music.
I persevered in my method. Mrs. Fielden, delighted with the result of my first experiment, placed her sister entirely in my hands.
I persuaded my patient to take short drives or walks, encouraged her to talk on trivial subjects, and to notice people and things about her.
The attacks of wildness grew less and less, and at length a touch or a word from me was sufficient to ward them off completely. I am aware that in some cases I should not have been so successful. In this instance I thoroughly understood the temperament, was well acquainted with all the circumstances, and above all, was doggedly determined to succeed at all costs.
It was a work of time, but the day came when my efforts were crowned with success. I saw my patient mingle with the people around her with all the ease and self-possession of a well-bred woman—her smile as sweet and her manner as composed as that of her sister or any other lady.
“You have worked wonders; we can never repay you,” Mrs. Fielden said.
“I will ask for my fee another time,” I replied enigmatically.
I did not mean to be premature; but Mrs. Fielden began to talk of going home, so I had no alternative. I had no well-rounded phrases at command—no honeyed words or flatteries. I simply went to Phina, and asked her plainly if she would be my wife.
“I must tell you something before I give you an answer,” she said; and I listened patiently to what she had to say.
“When I became engaged to Eustace Manvers, I loved him with all the intensity of which my nature was capable. You do not know—Christine does not know—what happened on that dreadful evening when the engagement was broken off. I was alone in the drawing-room, and he came to me—as he had come so often—with a cruel mocking smile and stinging words, instead of the caresses and tenderness he had formerly lavished upon me. Then he told me he had ceased to love me; for I was mad, and it was impossible to love a mad woman. I got angry at last; I pulled his ring from my finger, and flung it away. But he knew his power over me: no bird caught in a net was more helpless than I. He made me believe that I was really mad, and then he left me. Just as he had told me I should do after he was gone, that I did; some unseen power urged me on. I cannot tell you all I endured; but the spell he cast over me is broken forever, and by your hand. I cannot love as I loved him; all the fire has died out of my nature; what affection I have is yours. If you are content to have me thus, I will be your wife.”
“I am content with love without passion,” I answered. “But one thing I must tell you : Eustace Manvers is not the only man who has a strong will; and, Phina, I mean to make you love me.”
What I read in the tender pathos of those dark eyes was sufficient answer for me.
When Mrs. Fielden returned to Eltonbridge, it was with the distinct understanding that I was shortly to follow, and claim Phina as my own.
We were married with what Mrs. Fielden called ” indecent haste”; but I was glad to get it quietly over, and to carry off my wife to new scenes and sunnier climes.
She grew brighter and more beautiful every day. and I was so happy that I never once thought of asking her if she had learned to love me. She was always sweet and gentle to me, and what could a plain, homely man like John Leslie desire more than that?
One morning, when we were walking along the Rue du Beaune, Paris, we came face to face with Eustace Manvers.
I felt Phina’s grasp on my arm grow more firm, but she walked bravely on, after looking fixedly at her former lover. Neither of us returned his polite bow. When we were in our private room at the Hotel de 1’Elysee, free from interruption, 1 looked at my wife, to see what effect this unexpected encounter had had upon her.
Perhaps she read in my face the question my lips would fain have asked; for she looked up at me with, a glad smile, and said —
“I am so thankful, John, that I am your wife, and not his. I cannot understand how he could ever have gained such influence over me.”
“Shall I tell you the secret?” I asked. “Eustace Manvers is one of the most clever mesmerists I ever knew, and in you he found an easy subject. You were too nervous and sensitive to resist.”
“I wonder if he practises his arts on his wife?”Phina said dreamily.
“He has no wife.”
“But, John, when we were married it was reported in Eltonbridge that the next wedding would be that of Mr. Manvers and Miss Seldon.”
“Yes; but that happy consummation has not yet taken place. I believe he went so far as to offer him- self to Miss Seldon.”
“Well, she refused him.”