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A Vanished Hand by Sarah Doudney

A VANISHED HAND

by

SARAH DOUDNEY

Author of "Where the Dew Falls in London," Etc. Etc.

With Illustrations

London James Nisbet & Co., Limited 21 Berners Street

Printed by Ballantyne, Hanson & Co. At the Ballantyne Press

[Illustration: SHE PUT THE ROLL OF PAPER INTO HIS HAND]

CONTENTS

CHAP.

I. IN A BACK ROOM II. WHAT WAS WRITTEN III. TAKING COUNSEL IV. MRS. TRYON V. MRS. BEATON VI. HAROLD AND META VII. MRS. PENN VIII. LOOKING AT PICTURES IX. MEETINGS X. LONELINESS XI. MRS. VERDON XII. HIS FIRST VISIT XIII. IN PORTMAN SQUARE XIV. RUSHBROOK XV. WAYNE'S COURT XVI. GOING TO CHURCH XVII. THE PICNIC XVIII. THE ISLAND XIX. CONCLUSION

A VANISHED HAND

CHAPTER I

_IN A BACK ROOM_

"For one shall grasp, and one resign, One drink life's rue, and one its wine, And God shall make the balance good." --WHITTIER.

Elsie Kilner had a battle to fight, and it must be fought after her own fashion. It was the kind of battle which is fought every day and every hour; but the battlefield is always a silent place, and there is neither broken weapon nor crimson stain to tell us where the strife has been.

Elsie's battle was fought in a back room in All Saints' Street on an afternoon in March. It was not a gloomy room; although the window looked out upon walls and roofs and chimneys, she had a good clear view of the sky. Some pigeons occupied a little house outside one of the neighbouring windows, and there was a roof covered with red tiles on which they loved to strut and plume their feathers in the sunshine.

To a woman country-born the sight of pigeons and red tiles called up visions of an old home. The memories which came to Elsie in her London room were as fresh and sweet as the breath of early spring flowers.

She could see again the red manor-house among the Sussex hills, and the old green garden which winter could never quite despoil. The cherry-tree spread its boughs close to her window, and seemed to fill the room with the delicate dewy light of its blossoms; the winds came blowing in, sweet and chill, from thymy common and "sheep-trimmed down."

Perhaps she had never seen her home so plainly with her bodily eyes as she saw it now in imagination. Our everyday blessings are too common to be looked at in their true light; but when time and change have put them far away from us we see them in all their beauty.

"It makes me feel desperate," she said half aloud to herself.

She had a dark, delicate face, as changeful as an April sky. It was not a happy face; the dark eyes were restless, the soft lips often quivered. And yet, in spite of sorrow and unrest, and the experiences of nearly nine-and-twenty years, there was an extraordinary freshness, almost girlishness, in her appearance, which did not suffer even from the close proximity of younger women. The mourning dress, fitting closely to her graceful figure, told its own story of recent loss.


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