A striking resemblance

A congregation drawn to the Church of All Angels, by various
inducements, filled it to overflowing the next morning. Some came
because it was Christmas Day, others to hear Lionel Kaimes preach;
many desired to see the ducal party, and one or two presented
themselves in God’s house to thank Him for the gift of His Son, sent
to save a dying world. Knowing the Duke’s old age impeccability,
nearly all his guests were present and filled three large pews, to the
wondering awe of the villagers and their wives. These last,
especially, were distracted by the splendour of the ladies’ dresses,
and the variety of the new fashions. Many laudable imitations of those
marvellous frocks were visible in country lane and village street
before Easter.

Lady Jim and her husband discreetly sat in the body of the church,
some distance from the pulpit, as Leah did not wish to come under the
curate’s eye. She thought he was quite capable of preaching at her, in
which case a natural resentment would have led to a quarrel,
prejudicial to the exercise of Lionel’s good offices with the Duke.
Moreover, Leah, occupied with her own thoughts, did not want to be
distracted by a sermon of religious platitudes. She stood up and sat
down mechanically, looking too flamboyant to be in harmony with the
simplicity of the building. Tucked into the opening of her
“Incroyable” coat, claret-coloured and with strikingly large buttons,
she wore a cup-shaped nosegay of white and pink orchids. Her hat was
large, with many feathers of the new Titian red, and resembled nothing
in nature. She did not wear jewellery, but the vivid colours of her
dress made up for the absence of gems. There was something tropical
about Leah, and in that chill grey church she glowed like a gorgeous
flower, all splendour and perfume and radiant vitality. Her exuberant
beauty and colour attracted even the attention of Jim. He bent
forward, when the prayer for the King’s Majesty was being said:

“I believe you’re enjoyin’ it,” muttered Jim, resentfully.

“H-sh-s-s-s!” breathed Leah, devoutly, and knelt in a saintly attitude
which was far from expressing her real feelings. For the moment she
did not pray herself, or think of the prayer that was being offered.
Her thoughts were busy with bills and duns and Jim’s defects, and the
chances that Demetrius might prove useful. And when she did murmur a
prayer, it was one of those which are rarely answered, or, if
answered, turn to the confusion of the suppliant. Plenty of money, no
trouble, much enjoyment, and the destruction of her enemies, were the
elements which composed this remarkable petition. Lady Jim was not
very clear as to whom she was asking, but she had a vague feeling,
which she mistook for religion, that there might be Some One who could
give her what she required. Moreover, it was just as well to be on the
safe side. Yet, even as she tried the experiment, the earthly
superstition asserted itself, and she carefully fingered a peacock’s
feather inside her muff. This serving of God and a fetish may seem
ridiculous in a woman of Leah’s capacity. Nevertheless, she devoutly
believed that if the unseen Deity did not help her, the seen Baal
would. And after all, was there not a cat of Heine’s acquaintance, who
made genuflections before a pink-ribboned flageolet? But cats, as the
poet remarks, are so superstitious. And Leah the pantheress was of the
feline tribe.

Having made herself safe with the Unknown, Lady Jim joined in the
ensuing hymn bravely. She thought the words dreary and the tune
barbarous, but the fervour of her deep contralto voice reached the
Duke’s ears, and he gave her an approving glance; so that was
something gained. Leah would have gone through the whole collection of
Ancient and Modern to learn the precise meaning of that look, but she
was satisfied with guessing, and sat down cheerfully to be bored with
the sermon. It occurred to her that the prayer had been heard, and
would probably be granted. But whether by the peacock’s feather, or
the Deity of whom Lionel now began to speak, she could not determine.

“And His name shall be called Wonderful”–this was the curate’s text,
and he discoursed on it in a simple and impressive way. Speaking of
the birth of Christ, of His teaching and plan of salvation, of His
self-denying life and unwearying kindness, the young man’s grave and
tender periods shamed the most inattentive into thoughtfulness. Lionel
was not a born orator, but he was very much in earnest, and preached
with an emphasis which carried undeniable conviction. Mrs. Penworthy
felt suddenly virtuous, and resolved to repeat as much of the sermon
as she could remember to Freddy, so that he might not grumble so much
over what the silly thing called “her extravagance.” Even Lady Canvey
wagged her aged head, and thought that she might help a few deserving
paupers, if their needs could be supplied in moderation. Leah herself
was impressed, to the extent of hoping that the Duke would see that it
behoved him to fill the empty pockets of a deserving and pretty
daughter-in-law. Jim would have approved of this sentiment, but all
the time he was fast asleep, and woke up cross when she pinched him to
rise for the Doxology.

Beyond a stray sentence here and there, Leah had not paid much
attention: she had heard it all before, though some of the sentiments
were new, and, as she thought, ridiculous. When the preacher was
fairly started she relapsed into her own thoughts. These being
unpleasant, she permitted her hard eyes to wander round the church.
After a wondering gaze at the extraordinary fashions of the women, and
a patronising examination of the decorations, she caught sight of a
face belonging to a young man on the other side of the aisle. He was
so like Jim that she involuntarily turned to see if her husband still
slumbered placidly by her side. The double was dressed in grey tweeds
and looked almost like a gentleman. He stooped a trifle, in spite of
his square shoulders and stalwart figure, and every now and then
coughed painfully. Apparently he was ill with some pulmonary
complaint, which the freezing atmosphere of the church accentuated.
Leah wondered at the resemblance, and thought of certain traditionary
stories concerning the youthful days of the Duke. But after a second
glance she decided that perhaps there was nothing in it. Jim was of a
pink-and-white, bovine, commonplace type, and there were hundreds
like him in manners and morals and looks. Moreover, she was so weary
of seeing Jim’s inane face over the breakfast-cups that she did not
care to gaze at the imitation. Nevertheless, being a woman with the
orthodox share of Eve’s curiosity, she resolved to ask questions about
this consumptive double. Mrs. Arthur, the Firmingham housekeeper,
could doubtless tell some story, as she knew much more about the Duke
than had ever appeared, even in the most scurrilous society paper. And
Lady Jim knew how to make her talk.

When the plate circled, Leah quadrupled Jim’s half-crown, and he did
not approve when the piece of gold jingled amongst the silver.

“You’ve been borrowin’,” Jim accused her in an angry whisper.

“Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow,” sang Leah, without
replying; and put her whole heart and voice into the hymn in the hope
that some of the blessings might trickle her way. And why not, seeing
that she had baited her hook with a sprat to catch the much-needed
mackerel? But it was useless to explain this to Jim. He would not have
understood such lavish fishing.

“It was really too lovely,” Mrs. Penworthy assured the Duke at
luncheon. “Mr. Kaimes spoke just the things I feel. And the
decorations–oh, really–so very tasteful. But the mistletoe, Duke. I
don’t think there should have been mistletoe round the pulpit.”

“Such an immoral plant,” chimed in Lady Canvey, with sharp, twinkling
eyes; “and so useless to some people, who can dispense with it as an
excuse. I daresay the Druids were no better than they should have
been.”

“They were before my time,” said Mrs. Penworthy, very prettily; “and
you must have been quite a child then, dear Lady Canvey.”

The sermon affected Lady Frith in another fashion.

“Oh, dear Bunny,” she said to her saturnine husband, “what a lovely
way Lionel puts things! Do let us help people. There’s Leah, you
know—-”

“Exactly,” assented Frith, dryly. “I do know, and for that reason I
don’t intend to waste money in that direction.”

“But Lionel talked of aiding the poor and needy.”

“That doesn’t include the extravagant and ungrateful,” retorted her
lord. “You are an unsophisticated child, Hilda.”

“Oh, Bunny, how could you call poor Leah and her husband names? We
must love every one at this season.”

“Oh, I’ll love them as much as you please; but not to the extent of
supporting them.”

Plainly there was nothing to be got out of Frith, as Lady Jim decided
when the Marchioness reported a part of this conversation later in the
day. But she attempted to soften the Marquis by saying things which
she knew the child-wife would babble again to her hard-hearted
husband.

“Jim and I don’t want money, dear,” she said, kissing Lady Frith; “so
long as Frith is nice to us, we don’t care. You have your position to
keep up, and we are nothing. But it was sweet of you to speak.”

“Oh no,” prattled Hilda, in her childish way. “I want every one to
love me, ever so much.”

“I am sure they do. Isn’t Frith jealous?”

“As nearly jealous as a perfect man can be.”

“I thought perfect men had no imperfection,” retorted Lady Jim,
ironically; “but it’s all right, dear,” another kiss–“we must bear
our cross, as Lionel said this morning. Now I must go to see old Mrs.
Arthur. One must be good to one’s inferiors.”

The result of this conversation was, that Lady Frith told her husband
of Leah’s pointedly correct humbleness; whereat the marquis laughed
shortly. He quite understood Lady Jim’s tactics, and was resolved that
they should not succeed. Frith was one of the few men Lady Jim had
never fascinated, and she hated to be under his clear-sighted gaze. If
Hilda could have heard Leah’s inward remarks as she proceeded to the
housekeeper’s room, she would scarcely have given so favourable a
report.

“Good day, Mrs. Arthur,” said Lady Jim, to the old-fashioned dame in
the black silk and lace cap, who rose to drop a prim curtsey. “I have
come to wish you the compliments of the season.”

“Thank you, my lady. Won’t you be seated?”

Lady Jim selected the most comfortable chair in the quaint small room,
and graciously requested the housekeeper to resume her seat. Then she
asked about Mrs. Arthur’s cough, and her sailor son, and her married
daughter, and after various other things in which she did not feel the
least interest. The old woman, much impressed with Leah’s
condescension, and not sufficiently clever to see through her arts,
expanded like a winter rose in this aristocratic sunshine. In a few
minutes she was chatting quite at her ease, and with the discursive
garrulousness of old age. This was the unguarded mood Leah desired for
the satisfaction of her curiosity, and having created it by an
appearance of the deepest interest in Mrs. Arthur’s domestic
small-beer chronicles, she proceeded to take advantage of the
opportunity.

“The service was delightful this morning,” she observed; “the
decorations were charming and the congregation so attentive. I suppose
you know every one in the village, Mrs. Arthur.”

“I ought to, my lady. I am Firmingham bred and born.”

“And a very good representative of the place,” said Leah, kindly. “The
villagers are really quite nice-looking–especially the men.”

“If you saw my son—-”

“Was he in church this morning?” asked Lady Jim, who knew very well
that the young man was with his ship in Chinese waters. “I saw rather
a handsome young fellow in one of the pews, but he looked ill. Of
course, I thought him handsome,” she went on carelessly, and with a
soft laugh: “he was the image of my husband.”

Mrs. Arthur looked rather nervous. “There is only one young man
hereabouts who resembles Lord James,” she observed, “and I do not
wonder you saw the likeness, my lady. Harold Garth is like Lord James
now, and is such as his Grace was in his youth.”

“Oh!” Leah’s eyes opened. “Do you mean to say—-?”

“Nothing, my lady–nothing”; and Mrs. Arthur’s hands fiddled nervously
with the gold chain she wore round her neck. Then, woman-like, she
went on to contradict herself. “Harold Garth has lately returned from
Canada, where he went to farm.”

“Garth? I seem to know the name!”

“I don’t know who can have mentioned it to you, my lady. He is the
only Garth in the district, and I daresay you never saw him before.”

“Well, no; I must admit that I never have. Why?”

“Canada,” explained Mrs. Arthur, vaguely. “He has been there for the
last twenty years. He went out to make money, at the age of fifteen.”

“And has apparently returned with consumption.”

“Yes, poor lad; but the Duke is very kind to him.”

Lady Jim laughed meaningly. “Oh, the Duke is very kind to him, is he?
That’s so like the Duke. Always thoughtful. Fifteen and twenty–he is
about thirty-five.”

“More or less, my lady.”

“My husband’s age,” said Lady Jim, pointedly. “Yes, my lady,” assented
Mrs. Arthur, closing her lips firmly.

Leah tried another question. “Why doesn’t this young man’s family keep
him instead of letting the Duke support him?”

“Harold Garth has no family, my lady. His mother is dead.”

“And his father?”

Mrs. Arthur looked down. “I know nothing about his father,” she said
in low tones. “Harold is a lonely man, poor soul. He lives at the
Pentland Arms, and Mrs. Kibby, the landlady, is as kind to him as
though he were her own son. And his Grace–bless him–does all he can
to smooth Harold’s way to the grave. He sent that foreign doctor
to—-”

“Demetrius,” said Lady Jim, quickly. “Oh, so Demetrius knows him?”

“Yes, my lady. He thinks he can cure him of this consumption. I do not
think so myself” proceeded Mrs. Arthur, garrulously, “for Harold is
booked for death. You can see it in his face. I believe his Grace
wants him to go to a warmer climate.”

“What a deep interest the Duke takes in this man!”

Mrs. Arthur looked up suddenly, and a flush dyed her withered cheek.
The eyes of the two women met, and the situation was adjusted without
words. After that interchange of glances Leah knew, as well as if Mrs.
Arthur had explained at length, that Harold had ducal blood in his
veins. “And that is why he is so like Jim,” she thought, rising to go.
“I hope the poor fellow will get well,” she said aloud; “but really,
he was foolish to venture into that cold church.”

“I don’t think he minds if he is dead or alive, my lady. He has no
friends.”

“Oh yes, the Duke—-”

“Certainly his Grace, who is a friend to all,” said Mrs. Arthur
loyally.

Lady Jim laughed, and went away. She had learned all she wished to
learn, but, beyond satisfying a passing curiosity, had no desire to
pursue the subject. Still, she thought it would amuse her to ask
Demetrius a few questions concerning this patient, and went in search
of him. Somehow the subject of Harold Garth and his resemblance to Jim
took hold of her imagination, and she could not put it out of her
head. While she was thinking of other matters, the thought of the
strange likeness–now fully accounted for–would slip in, and she
would find herself pondering. Afterwards she declared that this
insistence of a passing thought was the work of Providence, for so she
called the peacock-feather Baal she served.

Demetrius was not in the house, having been called out to see some one
who was ill in the village. So Lionel assured her, and moreover
supplied her with the name of the patient. “It’s a young fellow called
Harold Garth,” he said gravely; “he foolishly came to church this
morning, and, being already ill, is worse from having ventured out.”

“I never heard a parson call going to church foolishness before,” said
Lady Jim, surprised that the subject should crop up again in so
unexpected a manner. “Who is Harold Garth?”

“A protége of the Duke’s. He has just returned from Canada,” said the
curate, simply; “and, curiously enough, he is rather like the Kaimes
family. Perhaps that is why the Duke is so kind to him.”

“Perhaps it is,” said Leah, wondering how much Lionel guessed. “I
don’t think I ever saw him,” she added, mendaciously.

“If you did you would mistake him for your husband.”

“How awful!” shuddered Leah. “As though one Jim wasn’t enough to be
bothered with. But can’t we talk of something more interesting–your
sermon, for instance?”

“I trust you found that interesting,” said Lionel, smiling.

“Oh yes–it wasn’t too long.”

“I see”–dryly–“you judge the interest of a sermon by its length.”

“Oh no–really, I quite enjoyed your preaching.”

“I don’t preach that people may enjoy, but that they may think
seriously of what they are.”

“I’m sure I think seriously enough, Lionel. Have you spoken to the
Duke? No? I wish you would.”

“To-morrow. This is Christmas Day, remember.”

“As if I could forget, with all the nonsense that’s going on here,”
retorted Lady Jim, glancing superciliously round at the decorations.
“Every one is overdoing the brotherly business. I quite expected my
maid to tell me that she loved me. And I don’t see why you shouldn’t
ask the Duke to-day. You’ll squeeze the money out of him the more
easily while he’s got this Christmassy emotion on.”

“I don’t squeeze money out of people,” said Kaimes, stiffly.

“What a large income you must have, then.”

“I live within it.”

“That’s nothing to boast of. I’d live within mine, if I had ten
thousand a year.”

“I doubt it,” replied Lionel, who could not help laughing at her
coolness; “you’d spend fifty thousand if you had it.”

“Rather–if I were the Duchess of Pentland. But there’s no chance of
such luck. Frith’s too healthy. Do smile again, Lionel–you’ve got
such nice teeth, and look quite a good sort when you let yourself go.”

“What am I to smile at?” asked the curate, with deliberate austerity.

“At me, and on me. I put ten shillings into the plate this morning.”

Lionel was a thoroughly good young man, and had a great sense of the
dignity of his cloth and the responsibility of his position. But he
also possessed humour, and could not help retorting after the style of
a certain witty bishop.

“That’s the smallest fire insurance I ever heard of,” said he,
genially, and moved away, leaving Lady Jim amused.

“I didn’t think he had so much fun in him,” she thought, making for
the library; “but the speech is too clever to be original”–which
showed that Leah suspected the existence of the witty bishop.

But the word insurance put her mind on Jim’s mad idea to pretend death
and cheat the company out of twenty thousand pounds, with
accumulations. Leah devoutly wished that the trick could be managed.
Its success meant a clearance of debt and of Jim, when the millennium
would come, and, as Mrs. Nickleby’s admirer put it, “all would be gas
and gaiters.” She resolved to have another chat with Jim on the
subject, and meantime went to seek for a novel. After boring herself
with Mrs. Arthur and Lionel, she wished to read away a well-earned
hour of peace.

But this for the moment she was not destined to enjoy. The library was
empty, save for the presence of the last person whom Lady Jim wished
to encounter. When Miss Jaffray looked up from a gigantic volume with
an almost toothless smile, Leah turned to fly. But the old maid
arrested her flight with a joyful shout. She usually did shout, as her
brother was slightly deaf, which deceived her into thinking the entire
human race was likewise afflicted.

“So sweet of you to come here,” shouted Miss Jaffray. “I am just dying
for some one to talk to.”

If the decision had been left to Lady Jim, she would have gladly
avoided the talk, to bring about this result. But it occurred to her
scheming mind that this dull spinster was wealthy, and might be
cajoled or frightened into lending money. Leah did not specify the
sum, even in her own mind, as she did not know how much more this
virgin soil would yield, if properly worked. Sitting down promptly,
she began to chat on the first subject that came into her head.

“What are you reading so earnestly?” she asked sweetly.

“The _Morte d’Arthur_,” said the spinster, fondling the ponderous tome
which her weak knees could hardly support.

“Heavens!” thought Lady Jim, with a charming smile, meaning nothing,
“am I to be bored with another Arthur?”

“The black-letter edition,” went on Miss Jaffray, in a loud and
oratorical voice. “Most interesting. So sweet to think of those dear
dead days, when knights went about as troubadours with guitars in
steel armour, dying for queens of beauty.”

“Delightful,” assented Lady Jim, yawning at the dullness of the
picture; “but”–with a disparaging glance at the lettering–“isn’t it
rather like reading a German newspaper? I prefer novels myself.”

“So do I, when not in a poetic humour,” shouted her companion. “All
the old, old masters of fiction. Dickens, Bulwer-Lytton, Wilkie
Collins. I love them all–every one.”

“I seem to know those names,” ventured Leah, carefully. “What did they
write, Miss Jaffray?”

The spinster gasped. Brought up in a library, she could not understand
this fashionable ignorance, which, truth to say, was partially
assumed. Leah was by no means the ignoramus she made herself out to
be. But, for the sake of business, she thought it judicious to foster
Miss Jaffray’s vanity by assuming an inferior position.

“Do you ever read?” asked Miss Jaffray, in the voice of Goliath
challenging the army of Saul.

“Oh yes; society newspapers, and French novels.”

“But they are so improper.”

“Nothing amusing is improper to my mind,” said Lady Jim, calmly; “and
I really did skim through a page or two of Dickens. Horribly dull, I
thought him.”

“Oh!” Miss Jaffray gasped again. “He did so much good.”

“Perhaps that is why his books are dull. Thoroughly good people are
invariably—-” Here she discreetly pulled the reins, as Miss Jaffray,
considering herself good, might not relish the malicious witticism,
presuming she could understand it. “I’ll take you as my instructor,
dear Miss Jaffray,” added Leah, stifling another yawn. “Do tell me
what to read.”

“There’s Wilkie Collins’s _Armadale_,” said the old maid, delighted at
being put into the pulpit; “but you may think me rude for recommending
that.”

“Why should I?”

“There’s a character in it so like you, in appearance,” apologised
Miss Jaffray; “in appearance only, you will understand. I should be
sorry indeed to think that in morals you resembled Miss Gwilt.”

“Miss–how much?”

“Gwilt. G-w-i-l-t,” spelt the spinster–“the strange name of a strange
woman. She’s the character I spoke of. No, really you mightn’t like
her. She was–well–er–er–disreputable. Better begin with _The Woman
in White_.”

“Oh, I have heard of that. What is it about?”

“A striking resemblance between two women. One is passed off
by her wicked husband as the other, and buried–to get money, you
understand–a kind of fraud.”

Leah turned cold and hot. It sounded as though this simple woman
was explaining the contemplated deceit of herself and Jim. “I don’t
think I should like that book at all,” she said, diplomatically
cunning; “it sounds dull. I would rather read about the naughty
woman–Miss–what’s-her-name?”

“It’s in yonder bookshelf,” said Miss Jaffray, pointing a lean finger
to the end of the room, “along with the rest of the master’s novels.
But please don’t think that I fancy you resemble Miss Gwilt’s moral
character. You certainly have her auburn hair.”

“Red hair,” corrected Lady Jim, rising. “I’m rather proud of it.”

“You ought to be,” said the old maid, with simple admiration, and
rising to put away her tome. “I can imagine you a queen of beauty in
the dear old tournaments, with knights at your feet.”

“Oh, many are there now, without tournaments,” said Leah, with superb
self-confidence; “but I prefer men of higher rank than knights. Though
I will say,” she added generously, “that men who have won knighthood
are cleverer than those donkeys who inherit.”

All this was Greek to Miss Jaffray, and after putting away her volume
she departed, with a final recommendation about Miss Gwilt. Lady Jim
walked to where Wilkie Collins’s novels lined the shelf, and–needless
to say–selected _The Woman in White_.

“I wonder if I can make fact out of fiction?” she asked herself.