Chapter XXXV: A Cry
The third week had nearly elapsed, and as yet no one was allowed to
see the patient.
For a time Stephen was inclined to be chagrined. It is not pleasant
to have even the most generous and benevolent intentions thwarted;
and she had set her mind on making much of this man whom fate and his
own bravery had thrown athwart her life. But in these days Stephen
was in some ways a changed woman. She had so much that she wished to
forget and that she would have given worlds to recall, that she could
not bear even to think of any militant or even questioning attitude.
She even began to take herself to task more seriously than she had
ever done with regard to social and conventional duties. When she
found her house full of so many and so varied guests, it was borne in
upon her that such a position as her own, with such consequent
duties, called for the presence of some elder person of her own sex
and of her own class.
No better proof of Stephen's intellectual process and its result
could be adduced than her first act of recognition: she summoned an
elderly lady to live with her and matronise her house. This lady,
the widow of a distant relation, complied with all the charted
requirements of respectability, and had what to Stephen's eyes was a
positive gift: that of minding her own business and not interfering
in any matter whatever. Lady de Lannoy, she felt, was her own master
and quite able to take care of herself. Her own presence was all
that convention required. So she limited herself to this duty, with
admirable result to all, herself included. After a few days Stephen
would almost forget that she was present.
Mr. Hilton kept bravely to his undertaking. He never gave even a
hint of his hopes of the restoration of sight; and he was so
assiduous in his attention that there arose no opportunity of
accidental discovery of the secret. He knew that when the time did
come he would find himself in a very unpleasant situation. Want of
confidence, and even of intentional deceit, might be attributed to
him; and he would not be able to deny nor explain. He was, however;
determined to stick to his word. If he could but save his patient's
sight he would be satisfied.
But to Stephen all the mystery seemed to grow out of its first
shadowy importance into something real. There was coming to her a
vague idea that she would do well not to manifest any concern, any
anxiety, any curiosity. Instinct was at work; she was content to
trust it, and wait.
One forenoon she received by messenger a letter which interested her
much. So much that at first she was unwilling to show it to anyone,
and took it to her own boudoir to read over again in privacy. She
had a sort of feeling of expectancy with regard to it; such as
sensitive natures feel before a thunderstorm. The letter was natural
enough in itself. It was dated that morning from Varilands, a
neighbouring estate which marched with Lannoy to the south.
'My Dear Madam,--Will you pardon me a great liberty, and allow my
little girl and me to come to see you to-day? I shall explain when
we meet. When I say that we are Americans and have come seven
thousand miles for the purpose, you will, I am sure, understand that
it is no common interest which has brought us, and it will be the
excuse for our eagerness. I should write you more fully, but as the
matter is a confidential one I thought it would be better to speak.
We shall be doubly grateful if you will have the kindness to see us
alone. I write as a mother in making this appeal to your kindness;
for my child--she is only a little over eight years old--has the
matter so deeply in her heart that any disappointment or undue delay
would I fear affect her health. We presume to take your kindness for
granted and will call a little before twelve o'clock.
'I may perhaps say (in case you should feel any hesitation as to my
bona fides) that my husband purchased some years ago this estate. We
were to have come here to live in the early summer, but were kept in
the West by some important business of his.
'Believe me, yours sincerely,
Stephen had, of course, no hesitation as to receiving the lady. Even
had there been objection, the curiosity she had in common with her
kind would have swept difficulties aside. She gave orders that when
Mrs. Stonehouse arrived with her daughter they were to be shown at
once into the Mandarin drawing-room. That they would probably stay
for lunch. She would see them alone.
A little before twelve o'clock Mrs. Stonehouse and Pearl arrived, and
were shown into the room where Lady de Lannoy awaited them. The high
sun, streaming in from the side, shone on her beautiful hair, making
it look like living gold. When the Americans came in they were for
an instant entranced by her beauty. One glance at Mrs. Stonehouse's
sweet sympathetic face was enough to establish her in Stephen's good
graces forever. As for Pearl, she was like one who has unexpectedly
seen a fairy or a goddess. She had been keeping guardedly behind her
mother, but on the instant she came out fearlessly into the open.
Stephen advanced quickly and shook hands with Mrs. Stonehouse, saying
'I am so glad you have come. I am honoured in being trusted.'
'Thank you so much, Lady de Lannoy. I felt that you would not mind,
especially when you know why we came. Indeed I had no choice. Pearl
insisted on it; and when Pearl is urgent--we who love her have all to
give way. This is Pearl!'
In an instant Stephen was on her knees by the beautiful child.
The red rosebud of a mouth was raised to her kiss, and the little
arms went lovingly round her neck and clung to her. As the mother
looked on delighted she thought she had never seen a more beautiful
sight. The two faces so different, and yet with so much in common.
The red hair and the flaxen, both tints of gold. The fine colour of
each heightened to a bright flush in their eagerness. Stephen was so
little used to children, and yet loved them so, that all the
womanhood in her, which is possible motherhood, went out in an
instant to the lovely eager child. She felt the keenest pleasure
when the little thing, having rubbed her silk-gloved palms over her
face, and then holding her away so that she could see her many
beauties, whispered in her ear:
'How pretty you are!'
'You darling!' whispered Stephen in reply. 'We must love each other
very much, you and I!'
When the two ladies had sat down, Stephen holding Pearl in her lap,
Mrs. Stonehouse said:
'I suppose you have wondered, Lady de Lannoy, what has brought us
'Indeed I was very much interested.'
'Then I had better tell you all from the beginning so that you may
understand.' She proceeded to give the details of the meeting with
Mr. Robinson on the Scoriac. Of how Pearl took to him and insisted
on making him her special friend; of the terrible incident of her
being swept overboard, and of the gallant rescue. Mrs. Stonehouse
was much moved as she spoke. All that fearful time, of which the
minutes had seemed years of agony, came back to her so vividly at
times that she could hardly speak. Pearl listened too; all
eagerness, but without fear. Stephen was greatly moved and held
Pearl close to her all the time, as though protecting her. When the
mother spoke of her feeling when she saw the brave man struggling up
and down the giant waves, and now and again losing sight of him in
the trough of the sea, she put out one hand and held the mother's
with a grasp which vibrated in sympathy, whilst the great tears
welled over in her eyes and ran down her cheeks. Pearl, watching her
keenly, said nothing, but taking her tiny cambric handkerchief from
her pocket silently wiped the tears away, and clung all the tighter.
It was her turn to protect now!
Pearl's own time for tears came when her mother began to tell this
new and sympathetic friend of how she became so much attached to her
rescuer that when she knew he would not be coming to the West with
them, but going off to the wildest region of the far North, her
health became impaired; and that it was only when Mr. Robinson
promised to come back to see her within three years that she was at
all comforted. And how, ever since, she had held the man in her
heart and thought of him every day; sleeping as well as waking, for
he was a factor in her dreams!
Stephen was more than ever moved, for the child's constancy touched
her as well as her grief. She strained the little thing in her
strong young arms, as though the fervency of her grasp would bring
belief and comfort; as it did. She in her turn dried the others'
eyes. Then Mrs. Stonehouse went on with her story:
'We were at Banff, high up in the Rockies, when we read of the
burning and wrecking of the Dominion. It is, as you know, a Montreal
boat of the Allan Line; so that naturally there was a full
telegraphic report in all the Canadian papers. When we read of the
brave man who swam ashore with the line and who was unable to reach
the port but swam out across the bay, Pearl took it for granted that
it must have been "The Man," as she always called Mr. Robinson. When
by the next paper we learned that the man's name WAS Robinson nothing
would convince her that it was not HER Mr. Robinson. My husband, I
may tell you, had firmly come to the same conclusion. He had ever
since the rescue of our child always looked for any news from Alaska,
whither he knew Mr. Robinson had gone. He learned that up away in
the very far North a new goldfield had been discovered by a man of
the same name; and that a new town, Robinson City, began to grow up
in the wilderness, where the condition of life from the cold was a
new experience to even the most hardy gold miners. Then we began to
think that the young hero who had so gallantly saved our darling was
meeting some of his reward ... !'
She paused, her voice breaking. Stephen was in a glow of holy
feeling. Gladness, joy, gratitude, enthusiasm; she knew not which.
It all seemed like a noble dream which was coming true. Mrs.
Stonehouse went on:-
'From Californian papers of last month we learned that Robinson, of
Robinson City, had sailed for San Francisco, but had disappeared when
the ship touched at Portland; and then the whole chain of his
identity seemed complete. Nothing would satisfy Pearl but that we
should come at once to England and see "The Man," who was wounded and
blind, and do what we could for him. Her father could not then come
himself; he had important work on hand which he could not leave
without some preparation. But he is following us and may be here at
'And now, we want you to help us, Lady de Lannoy. We are not sure
yet of the identity of Mr. Robinson, but we shall know the instant we
see him, or hear his voice. We have learned that he is still here.
Won't you let us? Do let us see him as soon as ever you can!' There
was a pleading tone in her voice which alone would have moved
Stephen, even had she not been wrought up already by the glowing
fervour of her new friend.
But she paused. She did not know what to say; how to tell them that
as yet she herself knew nothing. She, too, in the depths of her own
heart knew--KNEW--that it was the same Robinson. And she also knew
that both identities were one with another. The beating of her heart
and the wild surging of her blood told her all. She was afraid to
speak lest her voice should betray her.
She could not even think. She would have to be alone for that.
Mrs. Stonehouse, with the wisdom and power of age, waited, suspending
judgment. But Pearl was in a fever of anxiety; she could imagine
nothing which could keep her away from The Man. But she saw that
there was some difficulty, some cause of delay. So she too added her
pleading. Putting her mouth close to Lady de Lannoy's ear she
whispered very faintly, very caressingly:
'What is your name? Your own name? Your very own name?'
'Stephen, my darling!'
'Oh, won't you let us see The Man, Stephen; dear Stephen! I love him
so; and I do SO want to see him. It is ages till I see him! Won't
you let me? I shall be so good--Stephen!' And she strained her
closer in her little arms and kissed her all over face, cheeks and
forehead and eyes and mouth wooingly. Stephen returned the embrace
and the kisses, but remained silent a little longer. Then she found
'I hardly know what to say. Believe me, I should--I shall, do all I
can; but the fact is that I am not in authority. The Doctor has
taken him in charge and will not let anyone go near him: He will not
even have a nurse, but watches and attends to him himself. He says
it might be fatal if anything should occur to agitate him. Why, even
I am not allowed to see him!'
'Haven't you seen him yet at all; ever, ever, Stephen?' asked Pearl,
all her timidity gone. Stephen smiled--a wan smile it was, as she
'I saw him in the water, but it was too far away to distinguish. And
it was only by firelight.'
'Oh yes, I know,' said Pearl; 'Mother and Daddy told me how you had
burned the house down to give him light. Didn't you want to see him
more after that? I should!' Stephen drew the impulsive child closer
as she answered:
'Indeed I did, dear. But I had to think of what was good for him. I
went to his room the next day when he was awake, and the Doctor let
me come in for only a moment.'
'Well! What did you see. Didn't you know him?' She forgot that the
other did not know him from her point of view. But the question went
through Stephen's heart like a sword. What would she not have given
to have known him! What would she not give to know him now! ...
She spoke mechanically:
'The room was quite dark. It is necessary, the Doctor says, that he
be kept in the dark. I saw only a big beard, partly burned away by
the fire; and a great bandage which covered his eyes!' Pearl's hold
relaxed, she slipped like an eel to the floor and ran over to her
mother. Her new friend was all very well, but no one would do as
well as mother when she was in trouble.
'Oh mother, mother! My Robinson had no beard!' Her mother stroked
her face comfortingly as she answered:
'But, my dear, it is more than two years since you saw him. Two
years and three months, for it was in June that we crossed.' How the
date thrilled Stephen. It verified her assumption.
Mrs. Stonehouse did not notice, but went on:
'His beard would have grown. Men wear beards up in the cold place
where he was.' Pearl kissed her; there was no need for words.
Throwing herself again on Stephen's knees she went on with her
'But didn't you hear him?'
'I heard very little, darling. He was very weak. It was only the
morning after the wreck, and he spoke in a whisper!' Then with an
instinct of self-preservation she added: 'But how could I learn
anything by hearing him when he was a stranger to me? I had never
even heard of Mr. Robinson!'
As she was speaking she found her own ideas, the proofs of her own
conviction growing. This was surely another link in the chain of
proving that all three men were but one. But in such case Harold
must know; must have tried to hide his identity!
She feared, with keen eyes upon her, to pursue the thought. But her
blood began to grow cold and her brain to swim. With an effort she
'Even since then I have not been allowed to go near him. Of course I
must obey orders. I am waiting as patiently as I can. But we must
ask the Doctor if he thinks his patient will see you--will let you
see him--though he will not let me.' This she added with a touch of
what she felt: regret rather than bitter ness. There was no room
for bitterness in her full heart where Harold was concerned.
'Will you ask the Doctor now?' Pearl did not let grass grow under
her feet. For answer Stephen rang the bell, and when a servant
'Is Mr. Hilton in the house?'
'I think not, your Ladyship. He said he was going over to Port
Lannoch. Shall I inquire if he left word at what time he would be
'If you please!' The man returned in a few minutes with the butler,
'Mr. Hilton said, your Ladyship, that he expected to be back by one
o'clock at latest.'
'Please ask him on his arrival if he will kindly come here at once.
Do not let us be disturbed until then.' The butler bowed and
'Now,' said Stephen, 'as we have to wait till our tyrant comes, won't
you tell me all that went on after The Man had left you?' Pearl
brightened up at once. Stephen would have given anything to get away
even for a while. Beliefs and hopes and fears were surging up, till
she felt choking. But the habit of her life, especially her life of
the last two years, gave her self-control. And so she waited, trying
with all her might to follow the child's prattle.
After a long wait Pearl exclaimed: 'Oh! I do wish that Doctor would
come. I want to see The Man!' She was so restless, marching about
the room, that Stephen said:
'Would you like to go out on the balcony, darling; of course if
Mother will let you? It is quite safe, I assure you, Mrs.
Stonehouse. It is wide and open and is just above the flower-
borders, with a stone tail. You can see the road from it by which
Mr. Hilton comes from Port Lannoch. He will be riding.' Pearl
yielded at once to the diversion. It would at any rate be something
to do, to watch. Stephen opened the French window and the child ran
out on the balcony.
When Stephen came back to her seat Mrs. Stonehouse said quietly:
'I am glad she is away for a few minutes. She has been over wrought,
and I am always afraid for her. She is so sensitive. And after all
she is only a baby!'
'She is a darling!' said Stephen impulsively; and she meant it. Mrs.
Stonehouse smiled gratefully as she went on:
'I suppose you noticed what a hold on her imagination that episode of
Mollie Watford at the bank had. Mr. Stonehouse is, as perhaps you
know, a very rich man. He has made his fortune himself, and most
honourably; and we are all very proud of him, and of it. So Pearl
does not think of the money for itself. But the feeling was
everything; she really loves Mr. Robinson; as indeed she ought! He
has done so much for us that it would be a pride and a privilege for
us to show our gratitude. My husband, between ourselves, wanted to
make him his partner. He tells me that, quite independent of our
feeling towards him, he is just the man he wanted. And if indeed it
was he who discovered the Alaskan goldfield and organised and ruled
Robinson City, it is a proof that Mr. Stonehouse's judgment was
sound. Now he is injured, and blind; and our little Pearl loves him.
If indeed he be the man we believe he is, then we may be able to do
something which all his millions cannot buy. He will come to us, and
be as a son to us, and a brother to Pearl. We will be his eyes; and
nothing but love and patience will guide his footsteps!' She paused,
her mouth quivering; then she went on:
'If it is not our Mr. Robinson, then it will be our pleasure to do
all that is necessary for his comfort. If he is a poor man he will
never want ... It will be a privilege to save so gallant a man from
hardship ... ' Here she came to a stop.
Stephen too was glad of the pause, for the emotion which the words
and their remembrances evoked was choking her. Had not Harold been
as her own father's son. As her own brother! ... She turned away,
fearing lest her face should betray her.
All at once Mrs. Stonehouse started to her feet, her face suddenly
white with fear; for a cry had come to their ears. A cry which even
Stephen knew as Pearl's. The mother ran to the window.
The balcony was empty. She came back into the room, and' ran to the
But on the instant a voice that both women knew was heard from
'Help there! Help, I say! The child has fainted. Is there no one
there? And I am blind!'