Arthur Beach, Jane's brother, was standing in the hall waiting
to speak to Leonard, but he passed without a word, closing the hall
door behind him. Outside snow was falling, though not fast enough
to obscure the light of the moon which shone through the belt of
Leonard walked on down the drive till he neared the gate, when
suddenly he heard the muffled sound of feet pursuing him through
the snow. He turned with an exclamation, believing that the
footsteps were those of Arthur Beach, for at the moment he was in
no mood for further conversation with any male member of that
family. As it chanced, however, he found himself face to face not
with Arthur, but with Jane herself, who perhaps had never looked
more beautiful than she did at this moment in the snow and the
moonlight. Indeed, whenever Leonard thought of her in after-years,
and that was often, there arose in his mind a vision of a tall and
lovely girl, her auburn hair slightly powdered over with the
falling flakes, her breast heaving with emotion, and her wide grey
eyes gazing piteously upon him.
"Oh! Leonard," she said nervously, "why do you go without saying
good- bye to me?"
He looked at her awhile before he answered, for something in his
heart told him that this was the last sight which he should win of
his love for many a year, and therefore his eyes dwelt upon her as
we gaze upon one whom the grave is about to hide from us for
At last he spoke, and his words were practical enough.
"You should not have come out in those thin shoes through the
snow, Jane. You will catch cold."
"I wish I could," she answered defiantly, "I wish that I could
catch such a cold as would kill me; then I should be out of my
troubles. Let us go into the summer-house; they will never think of
looking for me there."
"How will you get there?" asked Leonard; "it is a hundred yards
away, and the snow always drifts in that path."
"Oh! never mind the snow," she said.
But Leonard did mind it, and presently he hit upon a solution of
the difficulty. Having first glanced up the drive to see that
nobody was coming, he bent forward and without explanation or
excuse put his arms around Jane, and lifting her as though she were
a child, he bore her down the path which led to the summer-house.
She was heavy, but, sooth to say, he could have wished the journey
longer. Presently they were there, and very gently he laid her on
her feet again, kissing her upon the lips as he did so. Then he
took off his overcoat and wrapped it round her shoulders.
All this while Jane had not spoken. Indeed, the poor girl felt
so happy and so safe in her lover's arms that it seemed to her as
though she never wished to speak, or to do anything for herself
again. It was Leonard who broke the silence.
"You ask me why I left without saying good-bye to you, Jane. It
was because your father has dismissed me from the house and
forbidden me to have any more to do with you."
"Oh, why?" asked the girl, lifting her hands despairingly.
"Can't you guess?" he answered with a bitter laugh.
"Yes, Leonard," she whispered, taking his hand in sympathy.
"Perhaps I had better put it plainly," said Leonard again; "it
may prevent misunderstandings. Your father has dismissed me because
my father embezzled all my money. The sins of the father
are visited upon the children, you see. Also he has done this with
more than usual distinctness and alacrity, because he wishes you to
marry young Mr. Cohen, the bullion-broker and the future owner of
"I know, I know," she said, "and oh! Leonard, I hate him!"
"Then perhaps it will be as well not to marry him," he
"I would rather die first," she said with conviction.
"Unfortunately one can't always die when it happens to be
"Oh! Leonard, don't be horrid," she said, beginning to cry.
"Where are you going, and what shall I do?"
"To the bad probably," he answered. "At least it all depends
upon you. Look here, Jane, if you will stick to me I will stick to
you. The luck is against me now, but I have it in me to see that
through. I love you and I would work myself to death for you; but
at the best it must be a question of time, probably of years."
"Oh! Leonard, indeed I will if I can. I am sure that you do not
love me more than I love you, but I can never make you understand
how odious they all are to me about you, especially Papa."
"Confound him!" said Leonard beneath his breath; and if Jane
heard, at that moment her filial affections were not sufficiently
strong to induce her to remonstrate.
"Well, Jane," he went on, "the matter lies thus: either you must
put up with their treatment or you must give me the go-by. Listen:
in six months you will be twenty-one, and in this country all her
relations put together can't force a woman to marry a man if she
does not wish to, or prevent her from marrying one whom she does
wish to marry. Now you know my address at my club in town; letters
sent there will always reach me, and it is scarcely possible for
your father or anybody else to prevent you from writing and posting
a letter. If you want my help or to communicate in any way, I shall
expect to hear from you, and if need be, I will take you away and
marry you the moment you come of age. If, on the other hand, I do
not hear from you, I shall know that it is because you do not
choose to write, or because that which you have to write would be
too painful for me to read. Do you understand, Jane?"
"Oh! yes, Leonard, but you put things so hardly."
"Things have been put hardly enough to me, love, and I must be
plain— this is my last chance of speaking to you."
At this moment an ominous sound echoed through the night; it was
none other than the distant voice of Mr. Beach, calling from his
front-door step, "Jane! Are you out there, Jane?"
"Oh! heavens!" she said, "there is my father calling me. I came
out by the back door, but mother must have been up to my room and
found me gone. She watches me all day now. What shall I
"Go back and tell them that you have been saying good-bye to me.
It is not a crime; they cannot kill you for it."
"Indeed they can, or just as bad," replied Jane. Then suddenly
she threw her arms about her lover's neck and burying her beautiful
face upon his breast, she began to sob bitterly, murmuring, "Oh my
darling, my darling, what shall I do without you?"
Over the brief and distressing scene which followed it may be
well to drop a veil. Leonard's bitterness of mind forsook him now,
and he kissed her and comforted her as he might best, even going so
far as to mingle his tears with hers, tears of which he had no
cause to be ashamed. At length she tore herself loose, for the
shouts were growing louder and more insistent.
"I forgot," she sobbed, "here is a farewell present for you;
keep it in memory of me, Leonard," and thrusting her hand into the
bosom of her dress she drew from it a little packet which she gave
Then once more they kissed and clung together, and in another
moment she had vanished back into the snow and darkness, passing
out of Leonard's sight and out of his life, though from his mind
she could never pass.
"A farewell present. Keep it in memory of me." The words yet
echoed in his ears, and to Leonard they seemed fateful—a prophecy
of utter loss. Sighing heavily, he opened the packet and examined
its contents by the feeble moonlight. They were not large: a
prayer-book bound in morocco, her own, with her name on the
fly-leaf and a short inscription beneath, and in the pocket of its
cover a lock of auburn hair tied round with silk.
"An unlucky gift," said Leonard to himself; then putting on his
coat, which was yet warm from Jane's shoulders, he also turned and
vanished into the snow and the night, shaping his path towards the
He reached it in due course, and passed into the little parlour
that adjoined the bar. It was a comfortable room enough,
notwithstanding its adornments of badly stuffed birds and fishes,
and chiefly remarkable for its wide old-fashioned fireplace with
wrought-iron dogs. There was no lamp in the room when Leonard
entered, but the light of the burning wood was bright, and by it he
could see his brother seated in a high-backed chair gazing into the
fire, his hand resting on his knee.
Thomas Outram was Leonard's elder by two years and cast in a
more fragile mould. His face was the face of a dreamer, the brown
eyes were large and reflective, and the mouth sensitive as a
child's. He was a scholar and a philosopher, a man of much
desultory reading, with refined tastes and a really intimate
knowledge of Greek gems.
"Is that you, Leonard?" he said, looking up absently; "where
have you been?"
"To the Rectory," answered his brother.
"What have you been doing there?"
"Do you want to know?"
"Yes, of course. Did you see Jane?"
Then Leonard told him all the story.
"What do you think she will do?" asked Tom when his brother had
finished. "Given the situation and the woman, it is rather a
"It may be," answered Leonard; "but as I am not an equation in
algebra yearning to be worked out, I don't quite see the fun of it.
But if you ask me what I think she will do, I should say that she
will follow the example of everybody else and desert me."
"You seem to have a poor idea of women, old fellow. I know
little of them myself and don't want to know more. But I have
always understood that it is the peculiar glory of their sex to
come out strong on these exceptional occasions. 'Woman in our hours
of ease,' etc."
"Well, we shall see. But it is my opinion that women think a
great deal more of their own hours of ease than of those of anybody
else. Thank heaven, here comes our dinner!"
Thus spoke Leonard, somewhat cynically and perhaps not in the
best of taste. But, his rejoicing over its appearance
notwithstanding, he did not do much justice to the dinner when it
arrived. Indeed, it would be charitable to make allowances for this
young man at that period of his life. He had sustained a most
terrible reverse, and do what he might he could never quite escape
from the shadow of his father's disgrace, or put out of his mind
the stain with which his father had dimmed the honour of his
family. And now a new misfortune hung over him. He had just been
driven with contumely from a house where hitherto he was the most
welcome of guests; he had parted, moreover, from the woman whom he
loved dearly, and under circumstances which made it doubtful if
their separation would not be final.
Leonard possessed the gift of insight into character, and more
common sense than can often be expected from a young man in love.
He knew well that the chief characteristic of Jane's nature was a
tendency to yield to the circumstances of the hour, and though he
hoped against hope, he could find no reason to suppose that she
would exhibit greater determination in the matter of their
engagement than her general lack of strength might lead him to
anticipate. Besides, and here his common sense came in, would it be
wise that she should do so? After all, what had he to offer her,
and were not his hopes of future advancement nothing better than a
dream? Roughly as he had put it, perhaps Mr. Beach was right when
he told him that he, Leonard, was both selfish and impertinent,
since was it not a selfish impertinence in him to ask any woman to
link her fortune with his in the present state of his affairs?
Let us therefore make excuses for his words and outward
behaviour, for at heart Leonard had much to trouble him.
When the cloth had been cleared away and they were alone again,
Tom spoke to his brother, who was moodily filling his pipe.
"What shall we do to-night, Leonard?" he said.
"Go to bed, I suppose," he answered.
"See here, Leonard," said his brother again, "what do you say to
having a last look at the old place?"
"If you wish, Tom, but it will be painful."
"A little pain more or less can scarcely hurt us, old fellow,"
said Tom, laying his thin hand on his brother's shoulder.
Then they started. A quarter of an hour's walking brought them
to the Hall. The snow had ceased falling now and the night was
beautifully clear, but before it ceased it had done a welcome
office in hiding from view all the litter and wreckage of the
auction, which make the scene of a recent sale one of the most
desolate sights in the world. Never had the old house looked
grander or more eloquent of the past than it did on that night to
the two brothers who were dispossessed of their heritage. They
wandered round it in silence, gazing affectionately at each
well-known tree and window, till at length they came to the
gun-room entrance. More from habit than for any other reason
Leonard turned the handle of the door. To his surprise it was open;
after the confusion of the sale no one had remembered to lock
"Let us go in," he said.
They entered and wandered from room to room till they reached
the greater hall, a vast and oak-roofed chamber built after the
fashion of the nave of a church, and lighted by a large window of
ecclesiastical design. This window was filled with the armorial
bearings of many generations of the Outram family, wrought in
stained glass and placed in couples, for next to each coat of arms
were the arms of its bearer's dame. It was not quite full, however,
for in it remained two blank shields, which had been destined to
receive the escutcheons of Thomas Outram and his wife.
"They will never be filled now, Leonard," said Tom, pointing to
these; "curious, isn't it, not to say sad?"
"Oh! I don't know," answered his brother; "I suppose that the
Cohens boast some sort of arms, or if not they can buy them."
"I should think that they would have the good taste to begin a
new window for themselves," said Tom.
Then he was silent for a while, and they watched the moonlight
streaming through the painted window, the memorial of so much
forgotten grandeur, and illumining the portraits of many a dead
Outram that gazed upon them from the panelled walls.
"Per ardua ad astra," said Tom, absently reading the
family motto which alternated pretty regularly with a second device
that some members of it had adopted—"For Heart, Home, and
"'Per ardua ad astra'—through struggle to the stars—and
'For Heart, Home, and Honour,'" repeated Tom; "well, I think that
our family never needed such consolations more, if indeed there are
any to be found in mottoes. Our Heart is broken, our hearth is
desolate, and our honour is a byword, but there remain the
'struggle and the stars.'"
As he spoke his face took the fire of a new enthusiasm:
"Leonard," he went on, "why should not we retrieve the past? Let us
take that motto —the more ancient one—for an omen, and let us
fulfil it. I believe it is a good omen, I believe that one of us
will fulfil it."
"We can try," answered Leonard. "If we fail in the struggle, at
least the stars remain for us as for all human kind."
"Leonard," said his brother almost in a whisper, "will you swear
an oath with me? It seems childish, but I think that under some
circumstances there is wisdom even in childishness."
"What oath?" asked Leonard.
"This; that we will leave England and seek fortune in some
foreign land—sufficient fortune to enable us to repurchase our lost
home; that we will never return here until we have won this
fortune; and that death alone shall put a stop to our quest."
Leonard hesitated a moment, then answered:
"If Jane fails me, I will swear it."
Tom glanced round as though in search of some familiar object,
and presently his eye fell upon what he sought. A great proportion
of the furniture of the old house, including the family portraits,
had been purchased by the in-coming owner. Among the articles which
remained was a very valuable and ancient bible, one of the first
ever printed indeed, that stood upon an oaken stand in the centre
of the hall, to which it was securely chained. Tom led the way to
this bible, followed by his brother. Then they placed their hands
upon it, and standing there in the shadow, the elder of them spoke
aloud in a voice that left no doubt of the earnestness of his
purpose, or of his belief in their mission.
"We swear," he said, "upon this book and before the God who made
us that we will leave this home that was ours, and never look upon
it again till we can call it ours once more. We swear that we will
follow this, the purpose of our lives, till death destroys us and
it; and may shame and utter ruin overtake us if, while we have
strength and reason, we turn our backs upon this oath! So help us
"So help us God!" repeated Leonard.
Thus in the home of their ancestors, in the presence of their
Maker, and of the pictured dead who had gone before them, did
Thomas and Leonard Outram devote their lives to this great purpose.
Perhaps, as one of them had said, the thing was childish, but if
so, at the least it was solemn and touching. Their cause seemed
hopeless indeed; but if faith can move mountains, much more can
honest endeavour attain its ends. In that hour they felt this. Yes,
they believed that the end would be attained by one of them, though
they guessed little what struggles lay between them and the Star
they hoped to gain, or how strangely they should be borne
On the morrow they went to London and waited there a while, but
no word came from Jane Beach, and for good or ill the chains of the
oath that he had taken riveted themselves around Leonard Outram's
Within three months of this night the brothers were nearing the
shores of Africa, the land of the Children of the Mist.