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Had the Roland whom she knew been bent on leaving the world itself, he would not have set out upon the journey of journeys without bidding her good-bye. . . . Meanwhile, every day killed some new lingering hope until there was not a single leaf of hope left to kill. Pride could not help her, or comfort her. If he had gone, he had gone. But what ground had she for pride in feeling that her heart had also gone? Worthless as his love might have been, she could not take back her own. When wounded love can think of wounded pride, it is cured.
It is not good to think of Helen's days and nights while the first sharp suspense, which counted and dreaded each moment one by one, was freezing into that accustomed pain which takes no heed even of days—which, in time, fails to note even the passage of years. But it is worse still to think of her nights and days after they had become thus frozen. There was one person at any rate who contrived to draw good out of her evil. Gustave Renouf was not sorry to miss the presence of one whom he had learned to envy—at least, until failure had thrown Roland from a greater height, and therefore into a deeper depth, than he. Moreover, though his daughter was very dear to him, according to his nature, it was because she believed in him rather than because he believed in her, and because he received from her, and from her only, the admiration that he-and he only--felt that he deserved. All that she gave to her lover was so much, according to his ideas, taken away from himself. Roland's failure had been a triumph, and there was no longer even a money reason for her wishing to leave the father who so much needed her company. On the contrary, thought Gustave, the money reason was all the other way. He himself could not be expected to earn much, or even anything, considering the greatness of the future for which he was working and waiting, and, if Helen could not marry a man rich enough to keep both father and daughter, it was for the good of the world that she should stay at home to keep the cupboard full. What great ideas might not be lost for ever, what fountains of wealth might not remain undiscovered, if he were driven to plod for bread instead of being free to find in dominoes that distraction upon which Genius, for its proper expansion, depends! There is indeed a silver lining to every cloud-a truth especially manifest to those who are not themselves under its shade.
But all this did not prevent him from seeing, with the sharp eyes of jealousy, that there was a change in the character of Helen's cheerfulness in his company, and he brooded over the suspicion that, except in his company, she was not cheerful at all. Nor did all this prevent him from having a perfect right to be indignant with the man who had taken himself off so cavalierly, even though his departure was in every way desirable. That, of course, was natural enough, and the most commonplace of men, without the faintest touch of genius about him, would have felt precisely the same. But Helen's state of mind was obviously so uncomfortable—for her father—that he, in his own interest, was imperatively called upon to bring it to an end. If she could only be got to see this Roland Fanshaw in his true colours—as a charlatan, an impostor, a conceited blockhead, who had fancied he could succeed where Gustave Renouf had not yet succeeded, and who had most righteously fallen into the pit that he himself had made ! She would certainly forget him then, to save herself from the shame of having to feel that she had been taken in. But unfortunately that was just the point thật she could not be made to see. Perhaps, in order to perceive the wickedness of another man's failure in its whole extent, one must be a man. Nor could all the tact of an invalid enable him to hit upon the way to go to work with a woman's mind. In short, now that Roland had fallen from his pedestal, Gustave Renouf, though he could not mount the pedestal in his place, desired to show himself in at least one available manner, the superior—to trample into dust the image that had as yet only fallen. He would not have injured Roland in any tangible way : he merely felt towards him as hundreds of inventors, artists, students have felt towards one another since the date of the invention of Envy.
So matters went on between Gustave and his daughter until one morning his daily losses at dominoes were compensated by an interesting piece of news.
“Helen,” he said, when he came home, a little earlier than his custom-for the news, until he could get rid of it, seemed to blister his tongue—“Helen, do you happen to remember a young man named Fanshaw : Roland, I think, was his other name ?"
Perhaps, thought Helen, after her first inward start on hearing a name so long unnamed, perhaps it was delicacy on the part of her father that had led him to speak of Roland as of one who had been forgotten. Perhaps affectation of blindness may be the kindest way of dealing with a heart-break, after all. But in that case, unless he had something very real to tell, he would not have named the name at all. Was it of life or of death that he was about to speak? She might have answered something, but, whatever her word was, it was dead before it reached the air.
“ Roland Fanshaw !" said Gustave, dwelling on the name as if it had a flavour that required study. “I had forgotten him—I did not expect ever to hear of him again. But I heard of him-to-day."
“Father! He is alive? Then why --"
“You seem very impatient, Helen. What can it signify to—Me? I was distracting my mind in company with a Russian friend of mine —for I have friends, Helen-Sergius Sergievitch by name: the finest player of dominoes, after myself, whom I know. He has the more luck, but then I have the more science and in the long run, science is sure to tell. I have but poor luck, God knows : but bah ! Patience, Science, and Gustave Renouf against the world !"
“Patience--yes. But you were speaking of—you had heard ——"
“Of Roland Fanshaw. True. It is not easy to keep trifles in mind. You remember he invented a screw which, unluckily for him, as I could have told him if he had not been always too conceited to ask me, had been invented before. . . . Sometimes I have thought that he did not like to ask, because he knew pretty well what the answer would be. . . . But never mind that now. I am told he has become a great, rich man. But I don't envy him, Helen. A good conscience is the best treasure, and pride will have a fall. I would not take all his money for the mere dust and sweepings of my ideas. Nobody thinks, before me, of my ideas. But they will think enough of them afterwards, when Roland Fanshaw lies forgotten in the grave."
“He is become rich—he is become great ?" asked Helen, turning pale. “I-I knew he would become great." For the first time since Roland had left her, her father heard her sigh.
“He was always a great-fool. The way to become rich quickly is easy enough-any blockhead who likes can be a millionaire. I could be one in a week, if it were worth while, and if there weren't nobler things to live for."
“Father, tell me everything you have heard. You need not be afraid.”
“Ah, I thought you couldn't have been grieving all this while about a man like that. When he is poor, he comes where he can find-ideas. I'll tell you all I know. Roland Fanshaw has taken to finance : he has become a great man in stocks and shares. He mixes with princes and countesses and lives in style. And here am I!”
Helen shook her head, with another sigh. “No," said she ; “I thought I was going to hear of him at last--that he is dead or living --but I was wrong. He was no money-maker—in that way. Andhe might have left us if he was poor and we rich, but he rich and we poor-no!"
“What you don't believe? Then, what do you believe ?” “That there are two Roland Fanshaws,” said Helen.
It was so much the last thing her father had looked for her saying that he could only shrug his shoulders angrily, and wonder of what sort of stuff women could be made. There had been nothing strange to him in the news that a man on suddenly growing rich should have thrown over his old friends, and should think better of his fancy for the daughter of an artisan, so far as marriage was concerned. How was he to argue with a girl who was unable to understand the first axioms of the science of human nature ?
But to her the picture was as impossible as if it were she herself of whom it had been painted. She knew that she had known Roland, and never better than when she had seen him for the last time-a few hours before, if this impossible story were true, he had taken the first step into wealth and whatever honour may go therewith. Though she had never studied human nature, she had learned Roland's, and knew at least that men do not change their whole natures, if such a thing is ever done, in a few hours. It was unlikely enough that there should be two Roland Fanshaws in the world. But it was ten thousand times more likely than that the same Roland should be two different men.
Even if she had possessed the means of inquiring into such an inipossible identity between the poor student and the rich financier, she would not have inquired. What would be the use, when the only result would be to prove conclusively that the two were not one ?
Not all, however, was the exchange of good coffee for worthless news that came from Gustave Renouf's mental distraction. He did not extend his own connection as a draughtsman and designer, but, to some extent, he did extend his daughter's as a needlewoman. Sergius Sergievitch, for example, who was in the service of a foreign lady of quality, and who was on good terms with his lady's femmede-chambre, obtained his friend's daughter a good deal of work in exchange for those lessons in dominoes in which, somehow, the teacher always lost and the pupil always won. Perhaps the lady of quality paid more than Helen's father ever received, and perhaps Helen's father received something more than he ever paid Helen. But, considering the number of middle-men and middle-women concerned, the work was exceptionally well worth taking ; nor was it done the worse for the heavy heart with which the needle was plied. Perhaps woman's work may not be so good a cure for a heartache as man's. But even needlework keeps down tears ; they might fall upon the stuff, and would certainly interfere with the eyes.
It was on this lady's work that Helen was engaged when she heard the story that she could not believe. About a week later, it was out of hand, and she had to carry it home. She had to go some distance, a very long way indeed for her, who could not afford to spend pence upon riding. But far as it was, she was not one of those people who are always meeting with adventures or coincidences wherever they go, and the expedition promised to be one of the most ordinary kind. I dare not say that Roland was absent from her thoughts, for that would mean that she was no longer living. But he was certainly no nearer to them than he was always, when, soon after leaving her employer's door, she saw, seated in an open carriage by the side of a strangely brilliant and handsome woman
She might disbelieve stories pieced together out of the pips of dominoes, but she could not disbelieve her own eyes. For her eyes were at one with her heart, and how could that be disbelieved ? The carriage in which he rode, and the lady he was with, spoke of wealth and grandeur, and all the more to one who went out so little and who lived so humbly. Assuredly it was he, dressed like a man of fashion, and appearing entirely at home. And he wore a flower—he who had once vowed never to touch a blossom unless it had come from her hand. Had not flowers become sacred things between them—the things that make a sacrament of a vow?
Would he see her ? In her agitation she hardly knew whether this was to be hoped or feared. But, before she could decide whether to pass and take her chance, or whether to turn her back to the carriage and gaze intently into the nearest shop window, their eyes had met; he saw her as plainly as she saw him. She could not look away, her eyes were held by his as a lodestone holds steel. It was Roland. Would he not instantly stop the horses, leap from the carriage, and, in one moment, make all things clear? He did nothing of the kind. She saw the look of recognition, but his eyes made no further sign. The fine gentleman was the first to avert his face as the carriage drove on, and the seamstress was left to go her own way alone.
And then, at last, and not till then, Helen knew all. No more suspense, but no more Faith ; that was the worst. It would have been better that she had died. She could not disbelieve what she had scen. Roland was living, thank God for that, and well.