Read CHAPTER VIII of A Bachelor's Dream , free online book, by Mrs. Hungerford, on

George Brudenell, having passed a restless and troubled evening, passed also a restless and dream-haunted night, coming down to breakfast the next morning jaded and out of sorts.  He could not for a moment dismiss from his memory that interview in the garden last night, or explain to himself the meaning of Alexia Boucheafen’s extraordinary conduct.  What was he to understand from it?  Had her behavior been prompted by astonishment, indecision, or annoyance?  He did not know; and he could make nothing of it.  The Doctor ate no breakfast; but came to the conclusion that he must see her again, and that as soon as possible; his earnestness and anxiety conquered his diffidence.  He rang the bell for Mrs. Jessop, and asked if Mademoiselle were down-stairs yet?  He wished to see her.

Mrs. Jessop, looking curiously at her master, went and returned.  No, Mademoiselle was not down yet; she had complained last night of headache.  Was it anything very particular; and should she be called?  Not on any account.  The Doctor picked up the paper that he had forgotten to read, and went to his consulting-room.

It was empty, for it was not yet his usual hour for receiving patients.  To fill up the time and to escape from his own thoughts he opened the paper.  The first thing that caught his eye and changed his indifference to involuntarily interest was the announcement, in the most sensational terms, of two supposed dynamite outrages which had taken place on the previous night, resulting in the partial wreck of one house and the almost total destruction of another, together with the death of the Russian police-agent who lived in it.

It was just at this time that some such paragraph formed the chief sensational “tit-bit” of almost every newspaper, and outraged public opinion was ready to run wild upon the subject.  The Doctor, excited, horrified, interested, read the account.  The two explosions had taken place almost simultaneously, and had evidently been caused by the same kind of infernal machine, whether containing dynamite or some other explosive was not quite certain.  As for the police-agent who had been killed, it was known that he had been threatened by some secret society, supposed to have lurking-places in various parts of London, he having a year or two before been mainly instrumental in the breaking up of a Nihilist society in Russia, and in bringing to the scaffold its chief and most active member, a young Russian of noble birth.  The second explosion, which had done less damage, and was happily unattended by any serious results beyond the partial wrecking of the house, was at the private residence of a well-known English Detective.  The latest news was that there was a clue to the perpetrators of both outrages.

Doctor Brudenell tossed aside the paper, shrugging his shoulders as at a madman’s irresponsible rashness and folly, and turned his attention to the patient who just then came in.  That patient and the many succeeding patients thought the Doctor odd this morning, brusque, absent, constrained, gruff.  He was thinking of Alexia, wondering what she would say to him, wondering still more what he would say to her.  The room was empty at last; and he went back to the dining-room and rang again for Mrs. Jessop.  He could not face the day’s round of work without seeing her first.  Mrs. Jessop was asked to inquire if Mademoiselle could see him now.  The housekeeper went, and returned looking rather puzzled.  Mademoiselle was not down-stairs yet, although her breakfast was cold and the children were waiting to begin their lessons.  Mrs. Jessop was alarmed; her master wondered, and felt anxious.

“She may be ill,” he said; “you say she complained last night.  Go and see.  Stay I’ll come up-stairs with you!”

He did so.  At the governess’s door Mrs. Jessop knocked softly and waited, knocked loudly and waited.  Then, in obedience to a gesture from the Doctor, she tried to open the door.  The handle yielded instantly; and she, looking in, cried out: 

“Sir, she isn’t here!”

The bed was untouched, had not been slept in.  The housekeeper looked frightened at the Doctor’s white face as he glanced round the room.

“Call her brother.  He has not been seen either.  Quick!”

A couple of curious maids, lingering on the stairs, ran up the next flight to obey.  There was the sound of knocking at panels, a pause, and a cry at which George Brudenell felt his heart turn cold, for he understood what it meant.  That room was vacant too!

He sent all the women away, and examined Alexia’s apartment himself.  There was not a line of writing, not a trace or clue of any sort to explain this mystery.  A few articles of clothing were scattered carelessly about on the chairs and on the sofa; a faded flower which she had worn yesterday in the bosom of her gown lay upon the toilet-table.  The poor blossom was dry and withered; he took it up in his hand, crushed it, and flung its powdery fragments from him.  Then he came out, shut the door, and went straight down-stairs and out to his waiting carriage.

George Brudenell, afterward looking back upon that day, wondered how he got through it; but he did, and reached home at last, to be met by Mrs. Jessop, who, in the last stage of amazement, indignation, and perplexity, informed him that Mademoiselle and her brother had not yet made their appearance.  He had expected that, and, cutting short the good woman’s garrulous comments and questions, sent her away.  He left his dinner untouched, and went into his consulting-room; and, as he waited for the usual influx of patients, strove to understand, to think.  People came in, and he attended to them and watched them go; they told him, some of them, that he looked out of sorts and pale, and he laughed, saying that he was all right.  The evening wore away, it grew late, every one in the house had retired but himself.  It was nearly twelve o’clock; and he was still sitting, with his head in his hands, trying to solve the problem that perplexed him.  Suddenly he started up, and listened.  There were footsteps outside rapid, cautious a key was placed in the lock, and the door yielded.  He darted out into the hall, and grasped the arm of the stealthily-entering figure.


With a swift gesture she signed to him to go back into the room, entered after him, and cautiously shut and locked the door.  Then with another rapid movement she pulled aside her veil and stood looking at him.  He was too astonished to speak, but he saw that she was breathless, intensely pale, that her dress was slightly disordered, and that in the eyes which he knew that he had never understood there was an expression which he could read at last a look of mingled defiance and fear.

“Sir, will you save me?”

“Save you!” In his bewilderment he could only confusedly echo her words.  She moved a pace nearer to him.

“Yes, save me.  Last night you said you loved me; but I do not plead to you for that.  I plead because I am a woman, alone, friendless, lost without your aid.  Sir, will you give it will you save me?”

“From whom?  From what?”

“From the hands of the police, who are now, as I speak, on my track; from the Russian Government, to which I shall be delivered; from the death, or worth than death, which their sleuth-hounds will mete out to me.”

“Death!  Good heavens, what have you been doing?”

She laughed, glanced round the room, caught up the paper which lay where he had put it down, and pointed to the column which he had read.

“That!” she cried.

“That?  What do you mean?”

“I mean that I killed that man,” she answered, deliberately.  “I placed the infernal machine by his door, and so took the vengeance which I swore to take a year ago, when he took prisoner and gave to torture and death my lover.  I failed once, I failed twice; last night I succeeded.  He is dead!”

“You murdered this man?

“Yes, as my lover was murdered, as my brother was murdered, as my mother and my sister are being murdered in Siberia, as my father died, murdered in the dungeons of St. Peter and St. Paul.  And for what?  For daring to act, to speak, to read, to think; for striving to be men and women, for revolting against the horrible tyranny which crushed them as it crushes millions!  That was their crime.  Bah! what do you know, you English, of brutality, of force, of cruelty, of slavery?  You play with the words, and think you have the thing!”

She looked at him as he shrank from her, horrified, unable to grasp or believe her words.  Again she laughed bitterly, and, putting her hand into the bosom of her dress, drew out a little roll of paper, and held it toward him.  The Doctor drew back.  It had suddenly become horrible.  He faltered: 

“What is it?”

“The last lines of farewell which my lover contrived to have sent to me from his prison the day before they butchered him,” she answered, steadily.  “He bade me farewell, and called upon me to avenge him.  It was redder then than now, for even the blood of an innocent man fades with time; and he wrote this with his blood.  With it in my hand, with the memory of his face, when they dragged him away from me forever, always before me, I swore I would obey his last prayer.  It is done.  His murderer is dead!”

She spoke with an air of dreary triumph, a dreadful exultation that chilled her listener’s blood.  This was not the woman he had loved, upon whom he had poured out all his long-guarded stores of devotion and passion this terrible, beautiful, avenging Medusa!  His utter confusion and bewilderment were patent to her; as he sank into a chair, she drew a pace nearer to him, speaking rapidly, never pausing except when he himself interrupted her, never halting for a word.

“Sir, listen!  I am in your power, since without your aid I cannot escape.  I should have been a prisoner now had I not thought of you and had about me the key of your door.  I thought you would save me I think you will, for I have already saved you.”

“Me!” he exclaimed, wonderingly.

“You!  Think you I do not know where you were taken on Saturday night?”

“You knew!  Then ”

“I was there yes.  I knew you would be waylaid and taken there.  I knew what you would be asked to do first, to attend to the injuries of the foolish one among us who had tried to do what he could not do; secondly, to finish what he had begun.  You are a braver man than I thought you, and you refused.  Without those chemicals we were helpless, for it is those that were used last night.  In that deserted house our meeting-place at intervals for the past year your dead body might have lain undiscovered for months would have lain undiscovered in all probability for you were dealing with desperate men, and you defied them.  I went there, as I have done twice before since I lived here, and I pleaded for you and saved you.  But I could not have done it except for one thing I took with me what they wanted.  Gustave understands chemicals, and how to combine them; he came here, after I had lied to you about him for all that story that I told you was one great lie, told because I knew something of my power over you, and that you would probably act as you did hoping that he could here possess himself of the chemicals that were needed, and which we could not obtain without too great risk of discovery.  You believed every word of the story with which I befooled you; he came here, and obtained them easily.”

Her audacity, her frankness were almost brutal.  His bewilderment was subsiding, but he revolted more and more, understanding so little of the horrible tree of which such a woman as this was the poisoned and poisoning fruit.

“Your brother?” he said, withdrawing from her a little farther.  “How did he become possessed of them here?”

“My brother!” she cried, laughing.  “He is not my brother; his name is Boucheafen no more than mine.  My name!  I have almost forgotten what it is, I have borne so many that are false; were I to tell you it you would be no wiser.  Where, you ask, did he get the chemicals?  From your laboratory.  We stole them; look, examine, and you will find them missing!”

She stopped, turning with dilating eyes toward the window, as footsteps approached.  They passed, and she turned back again, once more drawing a step nearer to him, fascinating him with the light of her brilliant inflexible eyes.

“Sir, listen again.  You have been deceived, as I have shown, but you do not know how much.  You recollect the day upon which you saw me first?”


“I told you that I had been robbed; it was a lie.  The man that you saw attack me meant to murder me.”

“To murder you?”

“Yes.  Sir, once more.  You don’t know what they are, these secret societies, these hidden leagues moulded by Russian oppression and tyranny, these cliques, of which hate, vengeance, extermination, are the watchwords.  Knowing so well what treachery is, they are jealous of the faith of their members.  Death punishes treachery, and I had been treacherous, and death was my sentence.  The Cause avenges itself; the appointed man accepted his appointed task.  The man who threatened you that night that old man, our chief saved me.”

George Brudenell passed his hand over his forehead.  The feeling which had assailed him when he was a prisoner in the mysterious house assailed him again the involuntary doubt as to the reality of what he saw and heard.  Still with her relentless eyes fixed upon him, she went on: 

“I had been treacherous I will tell you how.  There belonged to us a lad, a boy, almost a child he was innocent, simple; he was our errand boy, cat’s-paw what you will; and he did what you have done, fell in love with me because I am beautiful, perhaps.  Bah!  Many men have loved me it is nothing.  We suspected him, thought him false; with the Cause to suspect is to condemn.  He was condemned, and to me was allotted the task of striking him.  I meant to do it, I swore to do it.  At the last moment my courage failed me perhaps I pitied him and I spared him.  The sentence passed upon him was passed also upon me.”

“And he?”

“He?” She met his look with a gloomy smile.  “The Cause does not forgive unless for its own good, as it afterward forgave me.  Our chief absolved me, for I was useful so useful that my one act of treachery, my one moment of weakness, was condoned.  For him what was he?  An untrustworthy tool merely.  Another hand struck the blow which I had been appointed to strike.  He died as I nearly died.”  She stopped and smiled in the same gloomy way.  “No suspicion struck you when his body lay there yonder, and I stood beside you, looking at his dead face!”

“That boy!” cried George Brudenell, horrified.

“That boy,” she assented.

There was a pause, during which the Doctor rose and drew back from the tall, splendidly-poised figure, as firm and erect as he had ever seen it.  He did not realize yet the blow that had fallen upon him, the blank in his life that would come later; but he felt as though he were struggling in a sea of horror, and was unable to disguise his shrinking from her, his avoidance of her, the woman to whom yesterday he had offered his love humbly, and whom he had besought to be his wife.  He asked coldly, not looking at her: 

“What can I do?”

“Sir, I have told you save me.  We were seen last night, the clue was followed up, and we were surprised an hour ago in our most secret meeting-place.  Three of us were taken all would have been but for the darkness, and that we knew so well each winding of the place.  Where the others are I do not know.  Sir, help me!  I am penniless, your police blood-hounds! are on my track.  Every moment that I stay here makes the danger greater.  To-day I am a creature you hate, scorn, shrink from; but yesterday I was the woman you loved help me, then!  I am young to die I saved you!  Answer, will you save me?”

“I will help you,” said George Brudenell, quietly.

Time has effaced many things from Doctor Brudenell’s memory, but it can never blot out his mental picture of that night the drive through the silent street to the distant railway-station, from which a train could be taken to carry them to the sea, the waiting through the dragging hours until the tardy dawn broke, the fear, the stealth, the suspicion, the watching, the rapid flight through the early morning, that ended only when the blue water so cruelly bright, untroubled, and tranquil it looked! was audible and visible.  Not a word had he spoken to his companion through the night, nor did either of them break silence until they stood upon the deck of the vessel which was to bear her to the New World which has rectified so many of the mistakes of the Old.

The deck was being cleared of those who were to return to the shore, when, for the last time, she turned her beautiful eyes upon his face.

“Farewell, Monsieur,” she said, quietly; and he echoed: 

“Farewell, Mademoiselle.”

Good Mrs. Jessop never discovered which patient it was to whom her master had been called in the dead of the night, and who had kept him away for the best part of twenty-four hours; and she never could understand what that “foreign young woman” a person concerning whom she was for a long time exceedingly voluble and bitter could possibly mean by running off in that scandalous way.  But there were several other things that Mrs. Jessop did not understand for instance, why the doctor for the next few weeks lost his appetite so completely, was so “snappish and short,” and seemed to care for nothing but the newspaper; and she was quite scandalized when he actually spent a whole day, as she, by dint of judiciously “pumping” Patrick, contrived to ascertain, in attending the trial of those “horrid wretches of dynamitards,” where he heard the case, and heard the sentence of five years’ penal servitude passed upon a gray-haired man with a scar upon his cheek.

Laura has come home now, and the children are a great deal bigger and even more tiresome than ever.  She thinks her brother is very stupid not to marry, and often roundly tells him so.  But the Doctor takes her suggestion very quietly; he is too old now, he says, and, besides, as he reminds Laura, it was never “in his line.”