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The History of Sir Richard Calmady: a Romance . Malet, Lucas, 1852–1931.
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page: 273

BOOK IV

A SLIP BETWIXT CUP AND LIP

CHAPTER I

LADY LOUISA BARKING TRACES THE FINGER OF PROVIDENCE

THE spirit of unrest, which had entered Brockhurst in the dim October weather, along with certain guests, did not—Lady Calmady had foreseen as much—leave with their leaving. It remained a constant quantity. Further, it engendered events very far away from and, at first sight, wholly at variance with those which had accompanied its advent.

For example, Lady Louisa Barking, passing through Lowndes Square one bleak, March morning on her way from Albert Gate to do a little, quiet shopping in Sloane Street, observed that the Calmadys’ house—situated at the corner of the square and of —— Street—was given over to a small army of work‐people. During Richard’s minority it had been let for a term of years to Sir Reginald Aldham, of Aldham Revel in Midlandshire. Since Dickie’s coming of age it had stood empty, pending a migration of the Brockhurst establishment, which migration had, in point of fact, never yet taken place. But now, as Lady Louisa, walking with a firm and distinguished tread along the grey, wind‐swept pavements, remarked, the house was in process of redecoration, of painting within and without. And, looking on these things, Lady Louisa’s soul received very sensible comfort. She was extremely tenacious of purpose. And, in respect of one purpose at least, Heaven had not seen fit, during the last four or five months, to smile upon her. Superstitious persons might have regarded this fact as a warning. Lady Louisa, however, merely regarded it as an oversight. Now at last, so it appeared to her, Heaven had awakened to a consciousness of its delinquencies, with the satisfactory page: 274 result that her own commendable patience touched on reasonable hope of reward. And this was the more agreeable and comforting to her because the Quayle family affairs were not, it must be owned, at their brightest and best just at present. Clouds lowered on the family horizon. For some weeks she had felt the situation called for effective action on her part. But then, how to act most effectively she knew not. Now the needed opportunity stared her in the face, along with those high ladders and scaffolding poles surrounding the Calmady mansion. She decided, there and then, to take the field; but to take it discreetly, to effect a turning movement, not attempt a front attack.

So, on her return to Albert Gate, after the completion of her morning shopping, she employed the half‐hour before luncheon in writing an affectionate, sisterly letter to Ludovic Quayle. That accomplished, young gentleman happened, as she was aware, to be staying at Brockhurst. She asked his opinion—in confidence—on the present very uncomfortable condition of the family fortunes, declaring how implicitly she trusted his good sense and respected his judgment. Then, passing adroitly to less burning questions, she ended thus—

“Pray let Lady Calmady know how really delighted everybody is to hear she and Sir Richard will be up this season. I do trust, as I am such a near neighbour, that if there is anything I can do for her, either now, or later when they are settling, she will not hesitate to let me know. It would be such a sincere pleasure to me. Mr. Barking is too busy with tiresome, parliamentary committees to be able to allow himself more than a week at Easter. I should be thankful for a longer rest, for I am feeling dreadfully fagged. But you know how conscientious he always is; and of course one must pay a certain price for the confidence the leaders of one’s party repose in one. So do tell Lady Calmady we are quite sure to be back immediately after Easter.”

Reading which sentences Mr. Quayle permitted himself a fine smile on more than one count.

“Louisa reminds me of the sweet little poem of ‘Bruce and the Spider,’” he said to himself. “She displays heroic persistence. Her methods are a trifle crude though. To provoke statements by making them is but a primitive form of diplomacy. Yet why be hard upon Louisa? Like my poor, dear father, she, more often than not, means well.”

It followed that some few days later, on his return to Whitney, Ludovic indited a voluminous letter to his sister, in his very best page: 275 style.—“It is rather a waste,” he reflected regretfully. “She will miss the neatest points. The happiest turns of phrase will be lost upon Louisa!” To recoup himself for which subjective loss the young man amused himself by giving a very alarmist account of certain matters, though he was constrained to admit the pleasing fact that Sir Richard and Lady Calmady really had it in contemplation to go up to town somewhere about Easter.

And, truth to tell, the main subject of Mr. Quayle’s letter could hardly be otherwise than disquieting, for it was undeniable that Lord Shotover’s debts were causing both himself and others serious embarrassment at this period. There was nothing new in this, that young nobleman’s indebtedness being a permanent factor in his family’s financial situation. This spring his indebtedness had passed from the chronic to the acute stage, that was all; with the consequence that it became evident Lord Shotover’s debts must be paid, or his relations must submit to the annoyance of seeing him pass through the Bankruptcy Court. Which of these objectionable alternatives was least objectionable Lord Fallowfeild still stood in doubt, when, in obedience to the parental summons, the young man reached Whitney. Lord Fallowfeild had whipped himself up into a laudable heat of righteous indignation before the arrival of the prodigal. Yet he contrived to be out when the dog‐cart conveying the said prodigal, and Mr. Decies, of the 101st Lancers—a friend of Guy Quayle, home on leave from India, whence he brought news of his fellow‐subaltern—actually drove up to the door. When, pushed thereto by an accusing conscience, he did at last come in, Lord Fallowfeild easily persuaded himself that there really was not time before dinner for the momentous conversation. Moreover, being very full of the milk of human kindness, he found it infinitely more agreeable to hear the praises of the absent son, Guy, than to fall foul of the present son, Shotover. So that it was not till quite late that night, by which time he was slightly sleepy, while his anger had sensibly evaporated, that the interview did actually take place.

“Now then, Shotover, march off to the place of execution,” Ludovic Quayle said sweetly, as he picked up his bedroom candlestick. “It was a deep and subtle thought that of bringing down Decies. Only, query, did you think of it, or was it just a bit of your usual luck?”

Lord Shotover smiled rather ruefully upon his prosperous, and, it may be added, slightly parsimonious, younger brother.

“Well, I don’t deny it did occur to me it might work,” he page: 276 admitted. “And after all, you know, one mercy is there’s no real vice about his dear old lordship.”

Lord Fallowfeild fidgeted about the library, his expression that of a well‐nourished and healthy, but rather fretful infant.

“Oh! ah!—well—so here you are, Shotover,” he said. “Unpleasant business this of yours—uncommonly disagreeable business for both of us.”

“Deucèd unpleasant business,” the younger man echoed heartily. He closely resembled his father in looks, save that he was clean shaven and of a lighter build. Both father and son had the same slight lisp in speaking.—“Deucèd unpleasant,” he repeated. “Nobody can feel that more than I do.”

“Can’t they though?” said Lord Fallowfeild, with a charmingly innocent air of surprise. “There, sit down, Shotover, won’t you? It’s a painful thing to do, but we’ve got to talk it over, I suppose.”

“Well, of course, if you’re kind enough to give me the time, you know,—that’s rather what I came down here for.”

“So you did though,” the elder man returned, brightening as though making an illuminating discovery. Then, fearing he was forgetting his part and becoming amiable too rapidly, he made a gallant effort to whip up his somnolent indignation. “It’s very distressing to me to put it so plainly, but in my opinion it’s a disgraceful business.”

“Oh! I give you my word I know it,” Lord Shotover replied, with most disarming candour. His father affected, with difficulty, not to hear the remark.

“It doesn’t do for a man in your position to be owing money all over the country. It brings the aristocracy into contempt with the shop‐keeping class. They’re always on the lookout for the shortcomings of their superiors, those people. And they do pay their debts, you see.”

“They’ve always got such a thundering lot of money,” Lord Shotover put in. “Don’t know how they’d contrive to spend it unless they did pay their debts.”

“Oh! ah!—yes”—His father hesitated. It struck him Shotover was a reasonable fellow, very reasonable, and he took the whole matter in a very proper spirit. In short, it was not easy to blow up Shotover. Lord Fallowfeild thrust his hands far down into his trouser pockets and turned sideways in the great, leather‐covered chair.

“I’m not narrow‐minded or prejudiced,” he began. “I always have kept on civil terms with those sort of people and always will. Courtesy is an obligation on the part of a gentleman page: 277 and a Christian. I’d as soon be rude to my tailor as eat with my knife. But a man must respect his own rank or others won’t respect it, especially in these nasty, radical, levelling times. You must stand by your class. There’s a vulgar proverb about the bird that fouls its own nest, you know. Well, I never did that. I’ve always stood by my own class. Helped my poor brother Archibald—you can’t remember him—weren’t born at the time —to run away with Lady Jane Bateman. Low, common fellow Bateman. I never liked Bateman. She left Ludovic all that money, you know”—

“Wish to goodness she’d left it to me,” murmured Lord Shotover.

“Eh?” inquired his father. Then he fell into a moralising vein. “Nasty, disreputable things elopements. I never did approve of elopements. Leave other men’s wives alone, Shotover.”

The younger man’s mouth worked a little.

“The nuisance is sometimes they won’t leave you alone.”

Lord Fallowfeild gazed at him a moment, very genially.

“Oh! ah!—well—I suppose they won’t,” he said, and he chuckled. “Anyhow I stood by your poor uncle Archibald. He was my brother of course, and she was a second cousin of your mother’s, so I felt bound to. And I saw them across the Channel and into the Paris train. Dreadfully bad crossing that night I remember, no private cabins to be had, and Lady Jane was dreadfully ill. Never take your wife to sea on your honey moon, Shotover. It’s too great a risk. That business cost me a lot of money one way and another, and let me in for a most painful scene with Bateman afterwards. But, as I say, you’re bound to stand by your own class. That’ll be my only reason for helping you, you understand, Shotover, if I do help you.”

“And I am sure I hope you will.”—The young man rose and stood with his back to the fire and his hands under his coat‐tails. He stooped a little, looking down pensively at the hearth‐rug between his feet. His clothes—not yet paid for, or likely to be‐claimed admiration, so did the length of his legs and the neatness of his narrow hips.

“I can only assure you I shall be most awfully grateful if you do help me,” he said quietly. “I don’t pretend to deserve it—but that doesn’t lessen gratitude—rather the other way, don’t you know. I shall never forget it.”

“Won’t you though?”

And for the life of him Lord Fallowfeild could not help beaming upon this handsome prodigal.—“Uncommonly high‐ page: 278 bred looking fellow, Shotover,” he said to himself. “Don’t wonder women run after him. Uncommonly high‐bred, and shows very nice feeling too.”

And then the kindly and simple gentleman drew himself up with a mental jerk, remembering that he was there to curse rather than to bless. He fidgeted violently.

“Not that I have actually made up my mind to help you yet,” he went on. “I am very much inclined to cast you adrift. It distresses me to put it to you so plainly, but you are disgrace—fully extravagant, you know, Shotover.”

“Oh! I know,” the young man admitted.

“You’re a selfish fellow.”—Lord Fallowfeild became relentless. “Yes, it’s extremely painful to me to say it to you, but you are downright selfish. And that, in the long‐run, comes uncommonly hard on your sisters. Good girls, your sisters. Never given your mother or me any trouble, your sisters. But money has to come from somewhere, and each time I pay your debts I have to cut down your sisters’ portions.”

“Yes, I know, and that’s what’s made me so infernally unwilling to come to you about my affairs,” Lord Shotover said, in tones of perfectly genuine regret.

“Is it though?” his father commented.—“Good fellow at heart,” he added to himself. “Displays very proper feeling. Always was a good‐hearted fellow.”

“I can only tell you I’ve been awfully wretched about it for the last three months.”

“Have you though?” said Lord Fallowfeild, with sympathy.

“I got just about as low as I well could. I felt I was nothing but a nuisance and encumbrance. It was beastly to think of fleecing the girls, don’t you know. I came precious near cutting my throat—only that seemed rather a dirty way of getting out of it all.”

“So it is—poor boy—quite right. Nasty mean way of shirking your responsibilities. Quite agree with you. I have never had any opinion of a man who cut his throat. Never mention such a thing, Shotover.” He blew his nose resonantly.—“Never talk of such a thing,” he repeated. “And —poor boy—I—I’ll pay your debts. Only I tell you this really is the last time. There must be no misunderstanding about that. You must reform, Shotover, if it’s only on account of your sisters. I don’t want to take an unfair advantage of you in alluding to your sisters. Only you must understand clearly this is the last time. You see it’s becoming too frequent. I don’t want to press the case unduly against you, but you recollect—I’m sure you do— page: 279 I paid your debts in fifty‐eight, and again in sixty‐two, or sixty‐three, was it? Yes, it must have been sixty‐three, because that was the year my poor friend Tom Henniker died. Good fellow Henniker—I missed Henniker. And they wanted me to take over the hounds. Nice fellow in the hunting‐field, Henniker. Never saw him lose his temper but once, and that was when Image rode over the hounds on the edge of Talepenny Wood.”

“Rather coarse sort of brute, Image,” put in Lord Shotover.

“And Henniker had such an excellent manner with the farmers, genial and cheery, very cheery at times and yet without any loss of dignity. Great test of a man’s breeding that, being cheery without loss of dignity. Now my poor friend, Henniker—oh! ah! yes, where was I though? Your debts now, Shotover. Yes, it must have been sixty‐three, because they all wanted me to succeed him as master, and I had to tell them I could not afford it, so it must have been just after I cleared you.”

He looked at his erring son with the most engaging air of appeal and remonstrance.

“Really it won’t do, Shotover,” he repeated. “You must reform. It’s becoming too frequent. You’d better travel for a time. That’s the proper thing for a man in your position to do when he’s in low water. Not scuttle, of course. I wouldn’t on any account have you scuttle. But, three weeks or a month hence when things are getting into shape, just travel for a time. I’ll arrange it all for you. Only never talk of cutting your throat again. And you quite understand this is positively the last time. I am very much in earnest, my dear boy, nothing will move me. This settlement is final. And we’ll just run up quietly to town to‐morrow and have a talk with my lawyers, Fox and Goteway. Very civil and accommodating fellow, Goteway—he may be able to make some suggestions. Very nice, confidential‐mannered person, Goteway. Knows how to hold his tongue and doesn’t ask unnecessary questions—useful man, Goteway”—

Which things coming to the knowledge of Lady Louisa Barking moved her at once to wrath, and to deepened conviction that the moment for decisive action had arrived. It appeared to her that her father had put himself out of court. His weakness regarding his eldest son had practically delivered him into her hand. She congratulated herself upon the good which is thus beneficently permitted to spring out of evil. Yet while recognising that a just Providence sometimes, at all events, overrules human folly to the production of happy results, she was by no means disposed to spare the mortal whose individual page: 280 foolishness had given the divine wisdom its opportunity. Therefore when, some few days later, Lord Fallowfeild called on her, after a third or fourth interview with Messrs. Fox and Goteway—beaming, expansive, from the sense of a merciful action accomplished—she received him in a distinctly repressive manner. The great, white and gold drawing‐rooms in Albert Gate were not more frigid or unbending than the bearing of their mistress as she suffered her father’s embrace. And that amiable nobleman, notwithstanding his large frame and exalted social position, felt himself shiver inwardly in the presence of his daughter, even as he could remember shivering when, as a small schoolboy, he had been summoned to the dread presence of the headmaster.

“Very good rooms these of yours, Louisa,” he began hastily. “Always have admired these rooms. Capital space for entertaining. Barking was quite right to secure the house as soon as it was in the market. I told him at the time he would never regret it.”

Lady Louisa did not answer, but called after the retreating footman, who had just brought in a stately and limited tea‐tray, much silver and little food:—“I am not at home, William.”

Then, as she put small and accurate measures of tea into a massive teapot, she added severely:—“What is all this I hear about Shotover, papa?”

“Oh! ah! yes—poor Shotover. Came up to town together again to‐day. Good‐hearted fellow, your brother Shotover, but thoughtless. However, I have had a most satisfactory talk with my men of business, Fox and Goteway. I know Barking does not think much of Fox and Goteway. Wanted me to go to his own lawyers, Hodges and Banquet. But if anyone serves you conscientiously you should not leave them. It’s against my principles to turn off those who serve me conscientiously. I told Barking so at the time, I remember. It came out of the business about your settlements, wasn’t it—or the last time I paid Shotover’s”—He cleared his throat hurriedly. “I see the Calmadys’ house is being done up,” he continued. “Nice young fellow, Calmady. But I never can help feeling a certain awkwardness with him. Takes you up rather short in conversation too sometimes. Terribly distressing thing his deformity and all that, both for himself and Lady Calmady. Hope, perhaps, she doesn’t feel it as some women would though—tactful woman, Lady Calmady, and very good woman of business. Still, never feel quite at my ease with Lady Calmady. Can’t help wondering how they’ll do in London, you know. Rather difficult thing his going about much with that”—

page: 281

Lady Louisa held out a small teacup. Her high penetrating voice asserted itself resolutely against her father’s kindly, stumbling chatter, as she asked:—

“Is it true you are not coming up from Whitney this season?”

“Oh!—tea—yes, thank you very much, my dear. No—well, I think possibly we may not come up this year. Goteway believes he has heard of a very eligible tenant for the Belgrave Square house, very eligible. And so, nothing actually decided yet, but I think very possibly we may not come up.”

He spoke apologetically, regarding his daughter, over the small teacup, with an expression of entreaty. Every feature of his handsome, innocent countenance begged her not to deal harshly with him. But Lady Louisa remained obdurate.

“Shotover’s conduct is becoming a positive scandal,” she said.

“Not conduct, my dear—no, not conduct, only money,” protested Lord Fallowfeild.

“If money is not conduct I really don’t know what is,” retorted his daughter. “I do not pretend to go in for such fine distinctions. In any case Mr. Barking heard the most shocking rumours at his club the other day.”

“Did he though?” ejaculated Lord Fallowfeild.

“He was too considerate to tell me anything very definite, but he felt that, going out and seeing everybody as of course I have to, it was only right I should have some hint of what was being said. Everyone is talking about Shotover. You can imagine how perfectly intolerable it is for me to feel that my brother’s debts are being canvassed in this sort of way.”

“I am very sorry there should be any gossip,” Lord Fallowfeild said humbly. “Nasty thing gossip—lies, too, mostly, all of it. Nasty, low, unprofitable thing gossip.”

“And, of course, your all not coming up will give colour to it.”

“Will it though? I never thought of that. You always see straight through things, Louisa. You have by far the best head in the family, except Ludovic—uncommonly clever fellow, Ludovic. Wonder if I had better talk it all over with Ludovic? If you and he agree in thinking our not coming up will make more talk, why, if only on Shotover’s account, I”—

But this was not in the least the turn which his daughter desired the conversation to take.

“Pray remember you have other children besides Shotover, papa!” she said hastily. “And for everyone’s sake run no page: 282 further risk of impoverishing yourself. It is obvious that you must save where you can. If there is the chance of a good let for the Belgrave Square house, it would be madness to refuse it. And, after all, you do not really care about London. If there are any important debates in the Lords, you can always come up for a night or so. It does not matter about you.”

“Oh! doesn’t it though?” Lord Fallowfeild put in quite humbly and gently.

“And mama would always rather stay on at Whitney. Only it must not appear as if we were the least uncomfortable at meeting people. I shall make it a point to go everywhere. I shall be dreadfully fagged, of course, but I feel it a duty to all of you to do so. And I should like the girls to go out too. People must not suppose they have no gowns to their backs. Maggie and Emily have had several seasons. I am less worried about them. But Connie must be seen. She is looking extremely pretty.”

“Isn’t she though?” Lord Fallowfeild chimed in, brightening. The picture of those reportedly gownless backs had depressed him abominably.

“Yes, and she must have every advantage. I have quite decided that. She must come up to me at once. I shall write to mama and point out to her how necessary it is that one of the girls, at least, should be very much en evidence this year. And I am most anxious it should be Connie. As I undertake all the fatigue and responsibility I feel I have a right of choice. I will see that she is properly dressed. I undertake everything. Now, papa, if you are going down by the 6.10 train you ought to start. Will you have a hansom?”

Then, as she shook hands with him, and presented an unresponsive cheek to the paternal lips, Lady Louisa clinched the matter.

“I may consider it quite settled, then, about Constance?” she said. “I mentioned it to Mr. Barking yesterday, and we agreed it ought to be done even if it entailed a little inconvenience and expense. It is not right to be indifferent to appearances. The other two girls can come up for a little while later. Alicia must help. Of course there is not much room in that wretched, little Chelsea house of hers, but George Winterbotham can turn out of his dressing‐room. Alicia must exert herself for once. And, papa, Connie need not bring a maid. Those country girls from Whitney don’t always fit in quite well with the upper servants, and yet there is a difficulty about keeping them out of the housekeeper’s room. I will provide a maid for her. I’ll write page: 283 to mama about everything to‐morrow. And, papa, I do beg you will discourage Shotover from coming here, for really I would much rather not see him at present. Good‐bye. Pray start at once. You have barely time to get to Waterloo.”

And so Lord Fallowfeild started, a little flustered, a little crestfallen, on his homeward journey.

“Able woman, Louisa,” he said to himself. “Uncommonly clear‐sighted woman, Louisa. But a trifle hard. Wonder if Barking ever feels that, now? Not very sensitive man, Barking, though. Suppose that hardness in Louisa comes of her having no children. Always plenty of children in our family—except my poor brother Archibald and Lady Jane, they had no children. Yet somebody told me she’d had one by Bateman, which died. Never understood about that. Capital thing for Ludovic she never did have any by Archibald. But it’s always curious to me Louisa should have no children. Shouldn’t have expected that somehow of Barking and Louisa. Sets her more free, of course, in regard to her sisters. Very thoughtful for her sisters, Louisa. I suppose she must have Connie. Nuisance all this gossip about Shotover. Pretty child, Connie—best looking of the lot. People say she’s like me.—Wonderfully pretty child, Connie. That young fellow Decies thinks so too, or I’m very much mistaken. Very much attracted by Connie. Fine young fellow, Decies—comfort to hear of Guy from him. Suppose she must go up to Louisa? Gentleman‐like fellow, Decies. I shouldn’t care to part with Connie”—

And then, his reflections becoming increasingly interjectional as the train trundled away south‐westward, Lord Fallowfeild leaned back in the corner of the railway carriage and fell very fast asleep.

CHAPTER II

TELLING HOW VANITY FAIR MADE ACQUAINTANCE WITH RICHARD CALMADY

THERE was no refusing belief to the fact. The old, cloistered life at Brockhurst, for good or evil, was broken up. Katherine Calmady recognised that another stage had been reached on the relentless journey, that new prospects opened, new horizons invited her anxious gaze. She recognised also that all which had been was dead, according to its existing form, page: 284 and should receive burial, silent, somewhat sorrowful, yet not without hope of eventual resurrection in regard to the nobler part of it. The fair coloured petals of the flower fall away from the maturing fruit, the fruit rots to set free the seed. Yet the vital principle remains, life lives on, though the material clothing of it change. And, therefore, Katherine—an upspringing of patience and chastened fortitude within her, the result of her reconciliation to the Divine Light and resignation of herself to its indwelling—set herself, not to arrest the falling of the flower, but to help the ripening of the seed. If the old garments were out of date, too strait and narrow for her child’s growth, then let others be found him. She did not wait to have him ask, she offered, and that without hint of reproach or of unwillingness.

Yet so to offer cost her not a little. For it was by no means easy to sink her natural pride, and go forth smiling with this son of hers, at once beautiful and hideous in person, for all the world to see. Something of personal heroism is demanded of whoso prescribes heroic remedies, if those remedies are to succeed. At night, alone in the darkness, Katherine, suddenly awaking, would be haunted by perception of the curious glances, and curious comments, which must of necessity attend Richard through all the brilliant pageant of the London season. How would he bear it? And then—self‐distrust laying fearful hands upon her—how would she bear it, also? Would her late acquired serenity of soul depart, her faith in the gracious purposes of Almighty God suffer eclipse? Would she fall back into her former condition of black anger and revolt? She prayed not. So long as these evils did not descend upon her, she could bear the rest well enough. For, could she but keep her faith, Katherine was beginning to regard all other suffering which might be in store for her as a negligible quantity. With her healthy body, and wholesome memories of a great and perfect human love, it was almost impossible that she should adopt a morbid and self‐torturing attitude. Yet any religious ideal, worth the name, will always have in it an ascetic element. And that element was so far present with her that personal suffering had come to bear a not wholly unlovely aspect. She had ceased to gird against it. So long as Richard was amused and fairly content, so long as the evil which had been abroad in Brockhurst House, that stormy autumn night, could be frustrated, and the estrangement between herself and Richard,—unacknowledged, yet sensibly present,—which that evil had begotten, might be lessened, she cared little what sacrifices she made, what fatigue, exertion, even pain, she might be called on to endure. An enthusiasm of self‐surrender animated her.

page: 285

During the last five months, slowly and with stumbling feet, yet very surely, she had carried her life and the burden of it up to a higher plane. And, from that more elevated standpoint, she saw both past events and existing relationships in perspective, according to their just and permanent values. Only one object, one person, refused to range itself, and stood out from the otherwise calm, if pensive, landscape as a threatening danger, a monument of things wicked and fearful. Katherine tried to turn her eyes from that object, for it provoked in her a great hatred, a burning indignation, sadly at variance with the saintly ideals which had so captivated her mind and heart. Katherine remained—always would remain, happily for others—very much a woman. And, as woman and mother, she could not but hate that other woman who had, as she feared, come very near seducing her son.

Therefore very various causes combined to reconcile her to the coming adventure. Indeed she set forth on it with so cheerful a countenance, that Richard, while charmed, was also a trifle surprised by the alacrity with which she embraced it. He regarded her somewhat critically, questioning whether his mother was of a more worldly and light‐minded disposition than he had heretofore supposed.

There had been some talk of Julius March joining the contemplated exodus. But he had declined, smiling rather sadly.

“No, no,” he said. “To go would be a mistake and a weakly selfish one on my part. I have long ceased to be a man of cities, and am best employed, and indeed am most at my ease, herding my few sheep here in the wilderness. I am part and parcel of just all that, which we have agreed it is wise you shall leave behind you for a while. My presence would lessen the thoroughness of the change of scene and of thought. You take up a way of life which was familiar to you years ago. The habits of it will soon come back. I have never known them. I should be a hindrance, rather than a help. No, I will wait and keep the lamps burning before the altar, and the fire burning upon the hearth until—and, please God, it may be in peace, crowned with good fortune—you both come back.”

But the adventure, fairly embarked on, displayed quite other characteristics—as is the way with such skittish folk—than Katherine had anticipated. Against possibilities of mortification, against possibilities of covert laughter and the pointing fingers of the crowd, she had steeled herself. But it had not occurred to her that both Richard’s trial and her own might take the form of an exuberant and slightly vulgar popularity; and that, far from page: 286 being shoved aside into the gutter, the young man might be hoisted, with general acclamation, on to the very throne of Vanity Fair.

The Brockhurst establishment moved up to town at the beginning of April. And by the end of the month, Sir Richard Calmady, his wealth, his house, his horses, his dinners, his mother’s gracious beauty, and a certain mystery which surrounded him, came to be in everyone’s mouth. A new star had arisen in the social firmament, and all and sundry gathered to observe the reported brightness of its shining. Rich, young, good‐looking, well‐connected, and strangely unfortunate, here indeed was a novel and telling attraction among the somewhat fly‐blown shows of Vanity Fair! Many‐tongued rumour was busy with Dickie’s name, his possessions and personality. The legend of the man—a thing often so very other than the man himself—grew, Jonah’s gourd‐like, in wild luxuriance. All those many persons who had known Lady Calmady before her retirement from the world, hastened to renew acquaintance with her. While a larger, and it may be added less distinguished, section of society, greedy of intimacy with whoso or whatsoever might represent the fashion of the hour, crowded upon their heels. Invitations showered down thick as snowflakes in January. To get Sir Richard and Lady Calmady was to secure the success of your entertainment, whatever that entertainment might be—to secure it the more certainly because the two persons in question exercised a rather severe process of selection, and were by no means to be had for the asking.

All these things Ludovic Quayle noted, in a spirit which he flattered himself was cynical, but which was, in point of fact, rather anxiously affectionate. It had occurred to him that this sudden and unlooked‐for popularity might turn Richard’s head a little, and develop in him a morbid self‐love, that vanité de monstre not uncommon to persons disgraced by nature. He had feared Richard might begin to plume himself—as is the way of such persons—less upon the charming qualities and gifts which he possessed in common with many other charming persons, than upon those deplorable peculiarities which differentiated him from them. And it was with a sincerity of relief, of which he felt a trifle ashamed, that, as time went on, Mr. Quayle found himself unable to trace any such tendency, that he observed his friend’s wholesome pride and carefulness to avoid all exposure of his deformity. Richard would drive anywhere, and to any festivity, where driving was possible. He would go to the theatre and opera. He would dine at a few houses, and entertain largely at page: 287 his own house. But he would not put foot to ground in the presence of the many women who courted him, or in that of the many men who treated him with rather embarrassed kindness and civility to his face and spoke of him with pitying reserve behind his back.

Other persons, besides Mr. Quayle, watched Richard Calmady’s social successes with interest. Among them was Honoria St. Quentin. That young lady had been spending some weeks with Sir Reginald and Lady Aldham in Midlandshire, and had now accompanied them up to town. Lady Aldham’s health was indifferent, confining her often for days together to the sofa and a darkened room. Her husband, meanwhile, possessed a craving for agreeable feminine society, liable to be gratified in a somewhat errant manner abroad, unless gratified in a discreet manner at home. So Honoria had taken over the duty, for friendship’s sake, of keeping the well‐favoured, middle‐aged gentleman innocently amused. To Honoria, at this period, no experience came amiss. For the past three years, since the death of her god‐mother, Lady Tobermory, and her resultant access of fortune, she had wandered from place to place, seeing life, now in stately English country‐houses, now among the overtaxed, under‐fed women‐workers of Whitechapel and Soho, now in some obscure Italian village among the folds of the purple Apennines. Now she would patronise a middle‐class British lodging‐house, along with some girl friend richer in talent than in pence, in some seaside town. Now she would fancy the stringent etiquette of a British embassy at foreign court or capital. Honoria was nothing if not various. But, amid all mutations of occupation and of place, her fearlessness, her lazy grace, her serious soul, her gallant bearing, her loyalty to the oppressed, remained the same. “Chaste and fair” as Artemis, experimental as the Comte de St. Simon himself, Honoria roamed the world—fascinating yet never quite fascinated, enthusiastic yet evasive, seeking earnestly to live, yet too self‐centred as yet to be able to recognise in what, after all, consists the heart of living.

She and Mr. Quayle had met at Aldham Revel during the past winter. She attracted, while slightly confusing, that accomplished young gentleman—confusing his judgment, well understood, since Mr. Quayle himself was incapable of confusion. Her views of men and things struck him as distinctly original. Her attitude of mind appeared unconventional, yet deeply rooted prejudices declared themselves where he would least have anticipated their existence. And so it became a favourite pastime of page: 288 Mr. Quayle’s to present to her cases of conscience, of conduct, of manners or morals—usually those of a common acquaintance—for discussion, that he might observe her verdict. He imagined this a scientific, psychologic exercise. He desired, so he supposed, to gratify his own superior, masculine intelligence, by noting the aberrations, and arriving at the rationale, of her thought. From which it may be suspected that even Ludovic Quayle had his hours of innocent self‐deception. Be that, however, as it may, certain it is that in pursuit of this pastime he one day presented to her the peculiar case of Richard Calmady for discussion, and that, not without momentous, though indirect, result.

It happened thus. One noon in May, Ludovic had the happiness of finding himself seated beside Miss St. Quentin in the Park, watching the endless string of passing carriages and the brilliant crowd on foot. Sir Reginald Aldham had left his green chair—placed on the far side of the young lady’s—and leaned on the railings talking to some acquaintance.

“A gay maturity,” Ludovic remarked with his air of patronage, indicating the elder gentleman’s shapely back. “The term ‘old boy’ has, alas, declined upon the vernacular and been put to base uses of jocosity, so it is a forbidden one. Else, in the present instance, how applicable, how descriptive a term! Should we, I wonder, give thanks for it, Miss St. Quentin, that the men of my generation will mature according to a quite other pattern?”

“Will not ripen, but sour?” Honoria asked maliciously. Her companion’s invincible self‐complacency frequently amused her. Then she added:—“But, you know, I’m very fond of him. It isn’t altogether easy to keep straight as a young boy, is it? Depend upon it, it is ten times more difficult to keep straight as an old one. For a man of that temperament it can’t be very plain sailing between fifty and sixty.”

Mr. Quayle looked at her in gentle inquiry, his long neck directed forward, his chin slightly raised.

“Sailing? The yacht is?”—

“The yacht is laid up at Cowes. And you understand perfectly well what I mean,” Honoria replied, somewhat loftily. Her delicate face straightened with an expression of sensitive pride. But her anger was shortlived. She speedily forgave him. The sunshine and fresh air, the radiant green of the young leaves, the rather superb spectacle of wealth, vigour, beauty, presented to her by the brilliant London world in the brilliant summer noon, was exhilarating, tending to lightness of page: 289 heart. There was poetry of an opulent, resonant sort in the brave show. Just then a company of Life Guards clattered by, in splendour of white and scarlet and shining helmets. The rattle of accoutrements, and thud of the hoofs of their trotting horses, detached itself arrestingly from the surrounding murmur of many voices and ceaseless roar of the traffic at Hyde Park Corner. A light came into Honoria’s eyes. It was good to be alive on such a day! Moreover, in her own purely platonic fashion, she really entertained a very great liking for the young man seated at her side.

“You have missed your vocation,” she said, while her eyes narrowed and her upper lip shortened into a delightful smile. “You were born to be a schoolmaster, a veritable pedagogue and terror of illiterate youth. You love to correct. And my rather sketchy English gives you an opportunity of which I observe you are by no means slow to take advantage. You care infinitely more for the manner of saying, than for the thing said. Whereas I”— she broke off abruptly, and her face straightened, became serious, almost severe, again. “Do you see who Sir Reginald is speaking to?” she added. “There are the Calmadys.”

A break had come in the loitering procession of correctly clothed men and gaily clothed women, of tall hats and many coloured parasols; and, in the space thus afforded, the Brockhurst mail‐phaeton became apparent drawn up against the railings. The horses, a noticeably fine and well‐matched pair of browns, were restless, notwithstanding the groom at their heads. Foam whitened the rings of their bits, and falling flakes of it dabbled their chests. Lady Calmady leaned sideways over the leather folds of the hood, answering some inquiry of Sir Reginald, who, hat in hand, looked up at her. She wore a close‐fitting, grey, velvet coat, which revealed the proportions of her full, but still youthful figure. The air and sunshine had given her an unusual brightness of complexion, so that in face as well as in figure, youth still, in a sensible measure, claimed her. She turned her head, appealing, as it seemed, to Richard, and the nimble breeze playing caressingly with the soft white laces and grey plumes of her bonnet added thereby somehow to the effect of glad and gracious content pervading her aspect. Richard looked round and down at her, half laughing. Unquestionably he was victoriously handsome, seen thus, uplifted above the throng, handling his fine horses, all trace of bodily disfigurement concealed, a touch of old‐world courtliness and tender respect in his manner as he addressed his mother.

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Ludovic Quayle watched the little scene with close attention. Then, as the ranks of the smart procession closed up again, hiding the carriage and its occupants from sight, he leaned back with a movement of quiet satisfaction and turned to his companion. Miss St. Quentin sat round in her chair, presenting her slender, dust‐coloured, lace‐and‐silk‐clad person in profile to the passers‐by, and so tilting her parasol as to defy recognition. The expression of her pale face and singular eyes was far from encouraging.

“Indeed—and why?” Ludovic permitted himself to remark, in tones of polite inquiry. “I had been led to believe that you and Lady Calmady were on terms of rather warm friendship.” “We are,” Honoria answered, “that is, at Brockhurst.”

“Forgive my indiscretion—but why not in London?”

The young lady looked full at him.

“Mr. Quayle,” she asked, “is it true that you are responsible for this new departure of theirs, for their coming up, I mean?”

“Responsible? You do me too great an honour. Who am I that I should direct the action of my brother man? But Lady Calmady is good enough to trust me a little, and I own that I advocated a modification of the existing régime.”—Ludovic crossed his long legs and fell to nursing one knee. “It is no breach of confidence to tell you—since you know the fact already—that fate decreed an alien element should obtrude itself into the situation at Brockhurst last autumn. I need name no names, I think?”

Honoria’s head was raised. She regarded him steadfastly, but made no sign.

“Ah! I need not name names,” he repeated; “I thought not. Well, after the alien element removed itself—the two facts may have no connection—Lady Calmady very certainly never implied that they had—but, as I remarked, after the alien element removed itself, it was observable that our poor, dear Dickie Calmady became a trifle difficult, a trifle distrait, in plain English most remarkably grumpy and far from delightful to live with. And his mother”—

“It’s too bad, altogether too bad!” broke out Honoria hotly.

“Too bad of whom?” Mr. Quayle asked, with the utmost suavity. “Of the nameless, obtrusive, alien element, or of poor, dear Dick?”

The young lady closed her parasol slowly, and, turning, faced the sauntering crowd again.

“Of Sir Richard Calmady, of course,” she said.

Her companion did not answer immediately. His eyes page: 291 pursued a receding carriage far down the string, amid the gaily shifting sunshine and shadow, and the fluttering lace and grey feathers of a woman’s bonnet. When he spoke, at last, it was with an unusual trace of feeling.

“After all, you know, there are a good many excuses for Richard Calmady.”

“If it comes to that there are a good many excuses for Helen de Vallorbes,” Honoria put in quickly.

“For? For?” the young man repeated, relaxing into the blandest of smiles. “Yes, thanks—I see I was right. It was unnecessary to name names.—Oh! undoubtedly, innumerable excuses, and of the most valid description, were they needed—were they not swallowed up in the single, self‐evident excuse that the lady you mention is a supremely clever and captivating person.”

“You think so?” said Honoria.

“Think so? Show me the man so indifferent to his reputation for taste that he could venture to think otherwise!”

“Still she should have left him alone.”—Honoria’s indolent, reflective speech took on a peculiar intonation, and she pressed her long‐fingered hands together, as though controlling a shudder. “I—I’m ashamed to confess it, I do not like him. But, as I told you, just on that account”—

“Pardon me, on what account?”

Miss St. Quentin was quick to resent impertinence, and now momentarily anger struggled with her natural sincerity. But the latter conquered. Again she forgave Mr. Quayle. Yet a dull flush spread itself over her pale skin, and he perceived that she was distinctly moved. This piqued his curiosity.

“I know I’m awfully foolish about some things,” she said. “I can’t bear to speak of them. I dread seeing them. The sight of them takes the warmth out of the sunshine.”

Again Ludovic fell to nursing his knee.—What an amazing invention is the feminine mind! What endless entertainment is derivable from striving to follow its tergiversations!

“And you saw that which takes the warmth out of the sunshine just now?” he said. “Ah! well—alas, for Dickie Calmady!”

“Still I can’t bear anyone not to play fair. You should only—hit a man your own size. I told Helen de Vallorbes so. I’m very, very fond of her, but she ought to have spared him.”—She paused a moment. “All the same if I had not promised Lady Aldham to stay on—as she’s so poorly—I should have gone out of town when I found the Calmadys had come up.”

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“Oh! it goes as far as that, does it?” Ludovic murmured.

“I don’t like to see them with all these people. The extent to which he is petted and fooled becomes rather horrible.”

“Are you not slightly—I ask it with all due deference and humility—just slightly merciless?”

“No, no,” the girl answered earnestly. “I don’t think I’m that. The women who run after him, and flatter him so outrageously, are really more merciless than I am. I do not pretend to like him—I can’t like him, somehow. But I’m growing most tremendously sorry for him. And still more sorry for his mother. She was very grand—a person altogether satisfying to one’s imagination and sense of fitness, at home, with that noble house and park and racing‐stable for setting. But here, she is shorn of her glory somehow.”

The girl rose to her feet with lazy grace.

“She is cheapened. And that’s a pity. There are more than enough pretty cheap people among us already.—I must go. There’s Sir Reginald looking for me.—If I could be sure Lady Calmady hated it all I should be more reconciled.”

“Possibly she does hate it all, only that it presents itself as the least of two evils.”

“There is a touch of dancing dogs about it, and that distresses me,” Miss St. Quentin continued. “It is Lady Calmady’s rôle to be apart, separate from and superior to the rest.”

“The thing’s being done as well as it can be,” Mr. Quayle put in mildly.

“It shouldn’t be done at all,” the girl declared.—“Here I am, Sir Reginald. You want to go on? I’m quite ready.”

CHAPTER III

IN WHICH KATHERINE TRIES TO NAIL UP THE WEATHER‐GLASS TO “SET FAIR”

IT is to be feared that intimate acquaintance with Lady Calmady’s present attitude of mind would not have proved altogether satisfactory to that ardent idealist Honoria St. Quentin. For, unquestionably, as the busy weeks of the London season went forward, Katherine grew increasingly far from “hating it all.” At first she had found the varied interests and persons presented to her, the rapid interchange of thought, the constant movement of society, slightly bewildering. But, as Julius March page: 293 had foretold, old habits reasserted themselves. The great world, and the ways of it, had been familiar to her in her youth. She soon found herself walking in its ways again with ease, and speaking its language with fluency. And this, though in itself of but small moment to her, procured her, indirectly, a happiness as greatly desired as it had been little anticipated.

For to Richard the great world was, as yet, something of an undiscovered country. Going forth into it he felt shy and diffident, though a lively curiosity possessed him. The gentler and more modest elements of his nature came into play. He was sensible of his own inexperience, and turned with instinctive trust and tender respect to her in whom experience was not lacking. He had never, so he told himself, quite understood how fine a lady his mother was, how conspicuous was her charm and distinguished her intelligence. And he clung to her, grown man though he was, even as a child, entering a bright room full of guests, clings to its mother’s hand, finding therein much comfort of encouragement and support. He desired she should share all his interests, reckoning nothing worth the doing in which she had not a part. He consulted her before each undertaking, talked and laughed over it with her in private afterwards, thereby unconsciously securing to her halcyon days, a honeymoon of the heart of infinite sweetness, so that she, on her part, thanked God and took courage.

And, indeed, it might very well appear to Katherine that her heroic remedy was on the road to work an effectual cure. The terror of lawless passion and of evil, provoked by that fair woman clothed as with the sea‐waves, crowned and shod with gold, whom she had withstood so manfully in spirit in the wild autumn night, departed from her. She began to fear no more. For surely her son was wholly given back to her—his heart still free, his life still innocent? And, not only did this terror depart, but her anguish at his deformity was strangely lessened, the pain of it lulled as by the action of an anodyne. For, witnessing the young man’s popularity, seeing him so universally courted and welcomed, observing his manifest power of attraction, she began to ask herself whether she had not exaggerated the misfortune of that same deformity and the impediment that it offered to his career and chances of personal happiness. She had been morbid, hypersensitive. The world evidently saw in his disfigurement no such horror and hopeless bar to success as she had seen. It was therefore a dear world, a world rich in consolation and promise. It smiled upon Richard, and so she smiled upon it, gratefully, trustfully, finding in the plenitude of page: 294 her thankfulness no wares save honest ones set out for sale in the booths of Vanity Fair. A large hopefulness arose in her. She began to form projects calculated, as she believed, to perpetuate the gladness of the present.

Among other tender customs of Richard’s boyhood into which Katherine, at this happy period, drifted back was that of going, now and again, to his room at night, and gossiping with him, for a merry yet somewhat pathetic half‐hour, before herself retiring to rest. It fell out that, towards the middle of June, there had been a dinner‐party at the Barkings, on a scale of magnificence unusual even in that opulent house. It was not the second, or even the third, time Richard and his mother had dined in Albert Gate. For Lady Louisa had proved the most assiduously attentive of neighbours. Little Lady Constance Quayle was with her. The young girl had brightened notably of late. Her prettiness was enhanced by a timid and appealing playfulness. She had been seized, moreover, with one of those innocent and absorbing devotions towards Lady Calmady that young girls often entertain towards an elder woman, following her about with a sort of dog‐like fidelity, and watching her with eyes full of wistful admiration. On the present occasion the guests at the Barking dinner had been politicians of distinction—members of the then existing Government. A contingent of foreign diplomatists from the various embassies had been present, together with various notably smart women. Later there had been a reception, largely attended, and music, the finest that Europe could produce and money could buy.

“Louisa climbs giddy heights,” Mr. Quayle had said to himself, with an attempt at irony. But, in point of fact, he was far from displeased, for it appeared to him the house of Barking showed to uncommon advantage to‐night.—“Louisa has no staying power in conversation, and her voice is too loud, but in snippets she is rather impressive,” he added. “And, oh! how very diligent is Louisa!”

Driving home, Richard kept silence until just as the brougham drew up, then he said abruptly:—

“Tired? No—that’s right. Then come and sit with me. I want to talk. I haven’t an ounce of sleep in me somehow to‐night.”

It was hot, and when, some three‐quarters of an hour later, Katherine entered the big bedroom on the ground floor the upper sashes of the window were drawn low behind the blinds, letting in the muffled roar of the great city as an undertone to the intermittent sound of footsteps, or the occasional passing of page: 295 a belated carriage or cab. It formed an undertone, also, to Richard’s memory of the music to which he had lately listened, and the delight of which was still in his ears and pulsing in his blood, making his blue eyes bright and dark and curving his handsome lips into a very eloquent smile as he lay back against the piled‐up pillows of the bed.

“Good heavens, how divinely Morabita sang,” he said, looking up at his mother as she stood looking down on him, “better even than in Faust last night! I want to hear her again just as often as I can. Her voice carries one right away, out of oneself, into regions of pure and unmitigated romance. All things are possible for the moment. One becomes as the gods, omnipotent. We’ve got the box as usual on Saturday, mother, haven’t we? Do you remember if she sings?”

Katherine replied that the great soprano did sing.

“I’m glad,” Richard said. “And yet I don’t know that it’s particularly wholesome to hear her. After being as the gods, one descends with rather too much of a run to the level of the ordinary mortal.”—He turned on his elbow restlessly, and the movement altered the lie of the bedclothes, thereby disclosing the unsightly disproportion of his person through the light blanket and sheet.—“And if one’s own level happens unfortunately to be below that of even the ordinary mortal—well—well—don’t you know”—

“My dear!” Katherine put in softly.

Richard lay straight on his back again, and held out his hand to her.

“Sit down, do,” he said. “Turn the big chair round so that I may see you. I like you in that frilly, white, dressing‐gown thing. Don’t be afraid, I’m not going to be a brute and grumble. You’re much too good to me, and I know I am disgustingly selfish at times. I was this winter, but”—

“The past is past,” Katherine put in again very softly.

“Yes, please God, it is,” he said,—“in some ways.”—He paused, and then spoke as though with an effort, returning from some far distance of thought:—“Yes, I like you in that white, frilly thing. But I liked that new, black gown of yours to‐night too. You looked glorious, do you mind my saying so? And no woman walks as well as you do. I compared, I watched. There’s nothing more beautiful than seeing a woman walk really well—or a man either, for that matter.”

Then he caught at her hand again, laughing a little.—“No, I’m not going to grumble,” he said. “Upon my word, mother, I swear I’m not. Here let’s talk about your gowns. I should page: 296 like to know, shall you never wear anything but grey or black?”

“Never, not even to please you, Dickie.”

“Ah, that’s so delicious with you!” he exclaimed. “Every now and then you bring one up short, one knocks one’s head against a stone wall! There is an indomitable strain in you. I only hope you’ve transmitted it to me. I’m afraid I need stiffening.—I beg your pardon,” he added quickly and courteously, “it strikes me I am becoming slightly impertinent. But that woman’s voice has turned my brain and loosed the string of my tongue so that I speak words of unwisdom. You enjoyed her singing too, though, didn’t you? I thought so, catching sight of you while it was going on, attended by the faithful Ludovic and little Lady Constance. It’s quite touching to see how she worships you. And wasn’t Miss St. Quentin with you too? Yes, I thought so. I can’t quite make up my mind about Honoria St. Quentin. Sometimes she strikes me as one of the loveliest women here—and she can walk, if you like, it’s a joy to see her. And then again, she seems to me altogether too long, and off‐hand somehow, and boyish! And then, too,”—Richard moved his head against the white pillows, and stared up at the window, where the blind sucked, with small creaking noises, against the top edge of the open sash,—“she fights shy of me, and personal feeling militates against admiration, you know. I am sorry, for I rather want to talk to her about—oh, well, a whole lot of things. But she avoids me. I never get the opportunity.”

“My darling, don’t you think that is partly imagination?”

“Perhaps it is,” he answered. “I daresay I do indulge in unnecessary fancies about people’s manner and so on. I can’t very well be off it, you know. And everyone is really very kind to me. Morabita was perfectly charming when I thanked her in very floundering Italian. It’s a pity she’s so fat. But, never mind, the fat vanishes, to all intents and purposes, when she begins to sing.—And old Barking is as kind as he can be. I feel awfully obliged to him, though his ministrations to‐night amounted to being slightly embarrassing. He brought me cabinet ministers and under‐secretaries, and gorgeous Germans and Turks, in batches—and even a real live Chinaman with a pig‐tail. Mother, do you remember the cabinets at home in the Long Gallery? I used to dream about them. And that Chinaman gave me the queerest feeling to‐night. It was idiotic, but—did I ever tell you?—when I was a little chap, I was always dreaming about war or something, from page: 297 which I couldn’t get away. Others could, but for me—from circumstances, don’t you know—there was no possibility of scuttling. And the little Chinese figures on the black, lacquer cabinets were mixed up with it. As I say, it gripped me tonight in the midst of all those people and—Oh yes! old Barking is very kind,” he went on, with a change of tone. “Only I wish Lady Louisa would warn him he need not trouble himself to be amusing. He came and sat by me, towards the end of the evening, and told me the most inane stories in that inflated manner of his. Verily, they were ancient as the hills, and a weariness to the spirit. But that good‐looking, young fellow, Decies, swallowed them all down with the devoutest attention and laughed aloud in all that he conceived to be the right places.”

A pause came in Richard’s flow of words. He moved again restlessly and clasped his hands under his head. Katherine had seldom seen him thus excited and feverish. A sense of alarm grew on her lest her heroic remedy was, after all, not working a wholly satisfactory cure. For there was a violence in his utterance and in his face, a certain recklessness of speech and of demeanour, very agitating to her.

“Oh, everyone’s kind, awfully kind,” he repeated, looking away at the sucking blind again, “and I’m awfully grateful to them, but—Oh! I tell you, that woman’s voice has got me and made me drunk, made me mad drunk. I almost wish I had never heard her. I think I won’t go to the opera again. Emotion that finds no outlet in action only demoralises one and breaks up one’s philosophy, and she makes me know all that might be, and is not, and never, never can be. Good God! what a glorious, what an amazing, business I could have made of life if”—He slipped a little on the pillows, had to unclasp his hands hastily and press them down on either side him to keep his body fairly upright in the bed. His features contracted with a spasm of anger.—“If I had only had the average chance,” he added harshly. “If I had only started with the normal equipment.”

And, as she listened, the old anguish, lately lulled to rest in Katherine’s heart, arose and cried aloud. But she sought resolutely to stifle its crying, strong in faith and hope.

“I know, my dearest, I know,” she said pleadingly. “And yet, since we have been here, I have thought perhaps we had a little underrated both your happy gift of pleasing and the readiness of others to be pleased. It seems to me, Dickie, all doors open if you stretch out your hand. Well, my dear, I would have you go forward fearlessly. I would have you more page: 298 ambitious, more self‐confident. I see and deplore my own cowardly mistake. Instead of hiding you away at home, and keeping you to myself, I ought to have encouraged you to mix in the world and fill the position to which both your powers and your birth entitle you. I was wrong—I lament my folly. But there is ample time in which to rectify my mistake.”

Richard’s face relaxed.

“I wonder—I wonder,” he said.

“I am sure,” she replied.

“You are too sanguine,” he said. “Your love for me blinds you to fact.”

“No, no,” she replied again. “Love is the only medium in which vision gains perfect clearness, becomes trustworthy and undistorted,”—Instinctively Katherine folded her hands as in prayer, while the brightness of a pure enthusiasm shone in her sweet eyes. “That I have learned beyond all possibility of dispute. It has been given me, through much tribulation, to arrive at that.”

Richard smiled upon her tenderly, then, turning his head, remained silent for a while. The sullen roar of the great city invaded the quiet room through the open windows, the heavy regular tread of a policeman on his beat, a shrill whistle hailing a hansom from a house some few doors distant up the square, and then an answering rumble of wheels and clatter of hoofs. Richard’s face had grown fierce again, and his breath came quick. He turned on his side, and once more the dwarfed proportions of his person became perceptible. Lady Calmady averted her eyes, fixing them upon his. But even there she found sad lack of comfort, for in them she read the inalienable distress and desolation of one unhandsomely treated by Nature, maimed and incomplete. Even the Divine Light, resident within her, failed to reconcile her to that reading. She shrank back in protest, once again, against the dealing of Almighty God with this only child of hers. And yet—such is the adorable paradox of a living faith—even while shrinking, while protesting, she flung herself for support, for help, upon the very Being who had permitted, in a sense caused, her misery.

“Mother, can I say something to you?” Richard asked, rather hoarsely, at last.

“Anything—in heaven or earth.”

“But it is a thing not usually spoken of as I want to speak of it. It may seem indecent. You won’t be disgusted, or think me wanting in respect or in modesty?”

“Surely not,” Lady Calmady answered quietly, yet a certain page: 299 trembling took her, a nervousness as in face of the unknown. This strong, young creature developed forces, presented aspects, in his present feverish mood, with which she felt hardly equal to cope.

“Mother, I—I want to marry.”

“I, too, have thought of that,” she said.

“You don’t consider that I am debarred from marriage?”

“Oh no, no!” Katherine cried, a little sob in her voice.

He looked at her steadily, with those profoundly desolate eyes.

“It would not be wrong? It would not be otherwise than honourable?” he asked.

If doubts arose within Katherine of the answer to that question, she crushed them down passionately.

“No, my dearest, no,” she declared. “It would not be wrong—it could not, could not be so—if she loved you, and you loved whomsoever you married.”

“But I’m not in love—at least not in love with any person who can become my wife. Yet that does not seem to me to matter very much. I should be faithful, no fear, to anyone who was good enough to marry me. Enough of love would come, if only out of gratitude, towards the woman who would accept me as—as I am—and forgive that—that which cannot be helped.”

Again trembling shook Katherine. So terribly much seemed to her at stake just then! Silently she implored that wisdom and clear‐seeing might be accorded her. She leaned a little forward and taking his left hand held it closely in both hers.

“Dearest, that is not all. Tell me all,” she said, “or I cannot quite follow your thought.”

Richard flung his body sideways across the bed, and kissed her hands as they held his. The hot colour rushed over his face and neck, up to the roots of his close‐cropped, curly hair. He spoke, lying thus upon his chest, his face half buried in the sheet.

“I want to marry because—because I want a child—I want a son,” he said.

No words came to Katherine just then. But she disengaged one hand and laid it upon the dear brown head, and waited in silence until the violence of the young man’s emotion had spent itself, until the broad, muscular shoulders had ceased to heave and the strong, young hands to grasp her wrist. Suddenly Richard recovered himself, sat up, rubbing his hands across his eyes, laughing, but with a queer catch in his voice.

“I beg your pardon,” he said. “I’m a fool, an awful fool. page: 300 Hang Morabita and her voice and the golden houses of the gods, and beastly, showy omnipotence, to which her voice carries one away! To talk sense—mother—just brutal common sense. My fate is fixed, you know. There’s no earthly use in wriggling. I am condemned to live a cow’s life and die a cow’s death.—The pride of life may call, but I can’t answer. The great prizes are not for me. I’m too heavily handicapped. I was looking at that young fellow, Decies, to‐night, and considering his chances as against my own—Oh! I know there’s wealth in plenty. The pasture’s green enough to make many a man covet it, and the stall’s well bedded‐down. I don’t complain. Only, mother, you know—I know. Where’s the use of denying that which we neither of us ever really forget?—And then sometimes my blood takes fire. It did to‐night. And the splendour of living being denied me, I—I—am tempted to say a Black Mass. One must take it out somehow. And I know I could go to the devil as few men have ever gone, magnificently, detestably, with subtleties and refinements of iniquity.”

He laughed again a little. And, hearing him, his mother’s heart stood still.

“Verily, I have advantages!” he continued. “There should be a picturesqueness in my descent to hell which would go far to place my name at the head of the list of those sinners who have achieved immortality”—

“Richard! Richard!” Lady Calmady cried, “do you want to break my heart quite?”

“No,” he answered, simply. “I’d infinitely rather not break your heart. I have no ambition to see my name in that devil’s list except as an uncommonly ironical sort of second best. But then we must make some change, some radical change. At times, lately, I’ve felt as if I was a caged wild beast—blinded, its claws cut, the bars of its cage soldered and riveted, no hope of escape, and yet the vigour, the immense longing for freedom and activity, there all the while.”

Richard stretched himself.

“Poor beast, poor beast, poor beast!” he said, shaking his head and smiling. “I tell you I get absurdly sentimental over it at times.”

And then, happily, there came a momentary lapse in the entirety of his egoism. He turned on his side, took Lady Calmady’s hand again, and fell to playing absently with her bracelets.

“You poor darling, how I torture you!” he said. “And yet, now we’ve once broken the ice and begun talking of all this, we’re page: 301 bound to talk on to the finish—if finish there is. You see these few weeks in London—I’ve enjoyed them—but still they’ve made me understand, more than ever, all I’ve missed. Life calls, mother, do you see? And though the beast is blind, and his claws are cut, and his cage bolted, yet, when life calls, he must answer—must—or run mad—or die—do you see?”

“And you shall answer, my beloved. Never fear, you will answer,” Katherine replied proudly.

Richard’s hand closed hard upon hers.

“Thank you,” he said. “You were made to be a mother of heroes, not of a useless log like me.—And that’s just why I want to be good. And to be good I want a wife, that I may have that boy. I could keep straight for him, mother, though I’m afraid I can’t keep straight for myself, and simply because it’s right, much longer. I want him to have just all that I am denied. I want him to restore the balance, both for you and for me. I may have something of a career myself, perhaps, in politics or something. It’s possible; but that will come later, if it comes at all. And then it would be for his sake. What I want first is the boy, to give me an object and keep up my pluck, and keep me steady. I, giving him life, shall find my life in him, be paid for my wretched circumscribed existence by his goodly and complete one. He may be clever or not—I’d rather, of course, he was not quite a dunce—but I really don’t very much mind, so long as he isn’t an outrageous fool, if he’s only an entirely sound and healthy human animal.”

Richard stretched himself upon the bed, straightened the sheet across his chest, and clasped his hands under his head again. The desolation had gone out of his eyes. He seemed to look afar into the future, and therein see manly satisfaction and content. His voice was vibrant, rising to a kind of chant.

“He shall run, and he shall swim, he shall fence, and he shall row,” he said. “He shall learn all gallant sports, as becomes an English gentleman. And he shall ride,—not as I ride, God forbid! like a monkey strapped on a dog at a fair, but as a centaur, as a young demi‐god. We will set him, stark naked, on a bare‐backed horse, and see that he’s clean‐limbed, perfect, without spot or blemish, from head to heel.”

And once more Katherine Calmady held her peace, somewhat amazed, somewhat tremulous, since it seemed to her the young man was drawing a cheque upon the future which might, only too probably, be dishonoured and returned marked “no account.” For who dare say that this child would ever come to the birth, or, coming, what form it would bear? Yet, even so, page: 302 she rejoiced in her son and the high spirit he displayed, while the instinct of romance which inspired his speech touched an answering chord in, and uplifted, her.

By now the brief June night was nearly spent. The blind still creaked against the open window sash, but the thud of horse‐hoofs and beat of passing footsteps had become infrequent, while the roar of the mighty city had dwindled to a murmur, as of an ebbing tide upon a shallow, sand‐strewn beach. The after‐light of the sunset, walking the horizon, beneath the Pole star from west to east, broadened upward now towards the zenith. Even here, in the heart of London, the day broke with a spacious solemnity. Richard raised himself, and, sitting up, blew out the candles placed on the table at the bedside.

“Mother,” he said, “will you let in the morning?”

Lady Calmady was pale from her long vigil, and her unspoken, yet searching, emotion. She appeared very tall, ghostlike even, in her soft, white raiment, as she moved across and drew up the sucking blind. Above the grey parapets of the houses, and the ranks of contorted chimney‐pots, the loveliness of the summer dawn grew wide. Warm amber shaded through gradations of exquisite and nameless colour into blue. While, across this last, lay horizontal lines of fringed, semi‐transparent, opalescent cloud. To Katherine those heavenly blue interspaces spoke of peace, of the stilling of all strife, when the tragic, yet superb, human story should at last be fully told and God be all in all. She was very tired. The struggle was so prolonged. Her soul cried out for rest. And then she reminded herself, almost sternly, that the Kingdom of God and the peace of it is no matter of time or of place; but is within the devout believer, ever present, immediate, possessing his or her soul, and by that soul in turn possessed. Just then the sparrows, roosting in the garden of the square, awoke with manifold and vociferous chirping and chattering. The voice from the bed called to her.

“Mother,” it said imperatively, “come to me. You are not angry at what I have told you? You understand? You will find her for me?”

Lady Calmady turned away from the open window and the loveliness of the summer dawn. She was less tired somehow. God was with her, so she could not be otherwise than hopeful. Moreover, the world had proved itself very kind towards her son. It would not deny him this last request, surely?

“My dearest, I think I have found her already,” Lady Calmady answered.

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Yet, even as she spoke, she faltered a little, recognising the energy and strength manifest in the young man’s countenance, remembering his late discourse, and the pent‐up fires of his nature to which that discourse had borne only too eloquent testimony. For who was a young girl, but just out of the school‐room, a girl in pretty, fresh frocks—the last word of contemporary fashion,—whose baby face and slow, wide‐eyed gaze bore witness to her entire innocence of the great primitive necessities, the rather brutal joys, the intimate vices, the far‐ranging intellectual questionings, which rule and mould the action of mankind,—who was she, indeed, to cope with a nature such as Richard’s?

“Mother, tell me, who is it?”

And instinctively Katherine fell to pleading. She sat down beside the bed again and smoothed the sheet.

“You will be tender and loving to her, Dickie?” she said. “For she is young and very gentle, and might easily be made afraid. You will not forget what is due to your wife, to your bride, in your longing for a child?”

“Who is it?” Richard demanded again.

“Ludovic’s sister—little Lady Constance Quayle.”

He drew in his breath sharply.

“Would she—would her people consent?” he said.

“I think so. Judging by appearances, I am almost sure they would consent.”

A long silence followed. Richard lay still, looking at the rosy flush that broadened in the morning sky and touched the bosoms of those delicate clouds with living, pulsating colour. And he flushed too, all his being softened into a great tenderness, a great shyness, a quick yet noble shame. For his whole attitude towards this question of marriage changed strangely as it passed from the abstract, from regions of vague purpose and desire, to the concrete, to the thought of a maiden with name and local habitation, a maiden actual and accessible, whose image he could recall, whose pretty looks and guileless speech he knew.

“I almost wish she was not Ludovic’s sister, though,” he remarked presently. “It is a great deal to ask.”

“You have a great deal to offer,” Katherine said, adding:—“You can care for her, Dickie?”

He turned his head, his lips working a little, his flushed face very young and bright.

“Oh yes! I can care fast enough,” he said. “And I think—I think I could make her happy. And, you see, already she worships you. We would pet her, mother, and give her all page: 304 manner of pretty things, and make a little queen of her—and she would be pleased—she’s a child, such a child.”

Richard remained awake far into the morning, till the rose had died out of the sky, and the ascending smoke of many kitchen‐chimneys began to stain the expanse of heavenly blue. The thought of his possible bride was very sweet to him. But when at last sleep came, dreams came likewise. Helen de Vallorbes’ perfect face arose, in reproach, before him, and her azure and purple draperies swept over him, stifling and choking him as the salt waves of an angry sea. Then someone—it was the comely, long‐limbed, young soldier, Mr. Decies—whom he had seen last night at the Barkings’ great party when Morabita sang—and the soprano’s matchless voice was mixed up, in the strangest fashion, with all these transactions—lifted Helen and all her magic sea‐waves from off him, setting him free. But, even as he did so, Dickie perceived that it was not Helen, after all, whom the young soldier carried in his arms, but little Lady Constance Quayle. Whereupon, waking with a start, Dickie conceived a wholly unreasoning detestation of Mr. Decies; while, along with that, his purpose of marrying Lady Constance increased notably, waxed strong and grew, putting forth all manner of fair flowers of promise and of hope.

CHAPTER IV

A LESSON UPON THE ELEVENTH COMMANDMENT—“PARENTS OBEY YOUR CHILDREN”

A FAMILY council was in course of holding in the lofty white‐and‐gold boudoir, overlooking the Park, in Albert Gate. Lady Louisa Barking had summoned it. She had also exercised a measure of selection among intending members. For instance Lady Margaret and Lady Emily—the former having a disposition, in the opinion of her elder sister, to put herself forward and support the good cause with more zeal than discretion, the latter being but a weak‐kneed supporter of the cause at best—were summarily dismissed.

“It was really perfectly unnecessary to discuss this sort of thing before the younger girls,” she said. “It put them out of their place and rather rubbed the freshness off their minds. And then they would chatter among themselves. And it all became a little foolish and missy. They never knew when to stop.”

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One member of the Quayle family, and that a leading one, had taken his dismissal before it was given and, with a nice mixture of defective moral‐courage and good common‐sense, had removed himself bodily from the neighbourhood of the scene of action. Lord Shotover was still in London. Along with the payment of his debts had come a remarkable increase of cheerfulness. He made no more allusions to the unpleasant subject of cutting his throat, while the proposed foreign tour had been relegated to a vague future. It seemed a pity not to see the season out. It would be little short of a crime to miss Goodwood. He might go out with Decies to India in the autumn, when that young soldier’s leave had expired, and look Guy up a bit. He would rather like a turn at pig‐sticking—and there were plenty of pig, he understood, in the neighbourhood of Agra, where his brother was now stationed. On the morning in question, Lord Shotover, in excellent spirits, had walked down Piccadilly with his father, from his rooms in Jermyn Street to Albert Gate. The elder gentleman, arriving from Westchurch by an early train, had solaced himself with a share of the by no means ascetic breakfast of which his eldest son was partaking at a little after half‐past ten. It was very much too good a breakfast for a person in Lord Shotover’s existing financial position—so indeed were the rooms—so, in respect of locality, was Jermyn Street itself. Lord Fallowfeild knew this, no man better. Yet he was genuinely pleased, impressed even, by the luxury with which his erring son was surrounded, and proceeded to praise his cook, praise his valet’s waiting at table, praise some fine, old, sporting prints upon the wall. He went so far, indeed, as to chuckle discreetly—immaculately faithful husband though he was—over certain photographs of ladies, more fair and kind than wise, which were stuck in the frame of the looking‐glass over the chimney‐piece. In return for which acts of good‐fellowship Lord Shotover accompanied him as far as the steps of the mansion in Albert Gate. There he paused, remarking with the most disarming frankness:—

“I would come in. I want to awfully, I assure you. I quite agree with you about all this affair, you know, and I should uncommonly like to let the others know it. But, between ourselves, Louisa’s been so short with me lately, so infernally short—if you’ll pardon my saying so—that it’s become downright disagreeable to me to run across her. So I’m afraid I might only make matters worse all round, don’t you know, if I put in an appearance this morning.”

“Has she, though?” ejaculated Lord Fallowfeild, in reference page: 306 presumably to his eldest daughter’s reported shortness. “My dear boy, don’t think of it. I wouldn’t have you exposed to unnecessary unpleasantness on any account.”

Then, as he followed the groom‐of‐the‐chambers up the bare, white, marble staircase—which struck almost vault‐like in its chill and silence, after the heat and glare and turmoil of the great thoroughfare without—he added to himself:—

“Good fellow, Shotover. Has his faults, but upon my word, when you come to think of it, so have all of us. Very good‐hearted, sensible fellow at bottom, Shotover. Always responds when you talk rationally to him. No nonsense about him.”—His lordship sighed as he climbed the marble stair. “Great comfort to me at times Shotover. Shows very proper feeling on the present occasion, but naturally feels a diffidence about expressing it.”

Thus, in the end, it happened that the family council consisted only of the lady of the house, her sister Lady Alicia Winterbotham, Mr. Ludovic Quayle, and the parent whom all three of them were, each in their several ways, so perfectly willing to instruct in his duty towards his children.

Ludovic, perhaps, displayed less alacrity than usual in offering good advice to his father. His policy was rather that of masterly inactivity. Indeed, as the discussion waxed hot—his sisters’ voices rising slightly in tone, while Lord Fallowfeild’s replies disclosed a vein of dogged obstinacy—he withdrew from the field of battle and moved slowly round the room staring abstractedly at the pictures. There was a seductive, female head by Greuze, a couple of reposeful landscapes by Morland, a little Constable—waterways, trees, and distant woodland, swept by wind and weather. But upon these the young man bestowed scant attention. That which fascinated his gaze was a series of half‐length portraits, in oval frames, representing his parents, himself, his sisters, and brothers. These portraits were the work of a lady whose artistic gifts, and whose prices, were alike modest. They were in coloured chalks, and had, after adorning her own sitting‐room for a number of years, been given, as a wedding present, by Lady Fallowfeild to her eldest daughter. Mr. Quayle reviewed them leisurely now, looking over his shoulder now and again to note how the tide of battle rolled, and raising his eyebrows in mute protest when the voices of the two ladies became more than usually elevated.

“You see, papa, you have not been here”—Lady Louisa was saying.

“No, I haven’t,” interrupted Lord Fallowfeild. “And very page: 307 much I regret that I haven’t. Should have done my best to put a stop to this engagement at the outset—before there was any engagement at all, in fact.”

“And so you cannot possibly know how the whole thing—any breaking off I mean—would be regarded.”

“Can’t I, though?” said Lord Fallowfeild. “I know perfectly well how I should regard it myself.”

“You do not take the advantages sufficiently into consideration, papa. Of course with their enormous wealth they can afford to do anything.”—Mr. Winterbotham’s income was far from princely at this period, and Lady Alicia was liable to be at once envious of, and injured by, the riches of others. Her wardrobe was limited. She was, this morning, vexatiously conscious of a warmer hue in the back pleats than in the front breadth of her mauve, cashmere dress, sparsely decorated with bows of but indifferently white ribbon.—“It has enabled them to make an immense success. One really gets rather tired of hearing about them. But everybody goes to their house, you know, and says that he is perfectly charming.”

“Half the parents in London would jump at the chance of one of their girls making such a marriage,”—this from Lady Louisa.

Mr. Quayle looked over his shoulder and registered a conviction that his father did not belong to that active, parental moiety. He sat stubbornly on a straight‐backed, white‐and‐gold chair, his hands clasped on the top of his favourite, gold‐headed walking‐stick. He had refused to part with this weapon on entering the house. It gave him a sense of authority, of security. Meanwhile his habitually placid and infantile countenance wore an expression of the acutest worry.

“Would they, though?” he said, in response to his daughter’s information regarding the jumping moiety.—“Well, I shouldn’t. In point of fact, I don’t. All that you and Alicia tell me may be perfectly true, my dear Louisa. I would not, for a moment, attempt to discredit your statements. And I don’t wish to be intemperate.—Stupid thing intemperance, sign of weakness, intemperance.—Still I must repeat, and I do repeat, I repeat clearly, that I do not approve of this engagement.”

“Did I not prophesy long, long ago what my father’s attitude would be, Louisa?” Mr. Quayle murmured gently, over his shoulder.

Then he fell to contemplating the portrait of his brother Guy, aged seven, who was represented arrayed in a brown‐holland blouse of singular formlessness confined at the waist by page: 308 a black leather belt, and carrying, cupid‐like, in his hands a bow and arrows decorated with sky‐blue ribbons.—“Were my brothers and I actually such appallingly insipid‐looking little idiots?” he asked himself. “In that case the years do bring compensations. We really bear fewer outward traces of utter imbecility now.”

“I don’t wish to be harsh with you, my dears—never have been harsh, to my knowledge, with any one of my children. Believe in kindness. Always have been lenient with my children”—

“And, as indirect consequence thereof, note my eldest brother’s frequent epistles to the Hebrews!” commented Mr. Quayle softly. “The sweet simplicity of this counterfeit presentment of him, armed with a pea‐green bait‐tin and jointless fishing‐rod, hardly shadows forth the copious insolvencies of recent times!”

“Never have approved of harshness,” continued Lord Fallowfeild. “Still I do feel I should have been given an opportunity of speaking my mind sooner. I ought to have been referred to in the first place. It was my right. It was due to me. I don’t wish to assert my authority in a tyrannical manner. Hate tyranny, always have hated parental tyranny. Still I feel that it was due to me. And Shotover quite agrees with me. Talked in a very nice, gentlemanly, high‐minded way about it all this morning, did Shotover.”

The two ladies exchanged glances, drawing themselves up with an assumption of reticence and severity.

“Really!” exclaimed Lady Alicia. “It seems a pity, papa, that Shotover’s actions are not a little more in keeping with his conversation, then.”

But Lord Fallowfeild only grasped the head of his walking‐stick the tighter, congratulating himself the while on the unshakable firmness both of his mental and physical attitude.

“Oh! ah! yes,” he said, rising to heights of quite reckless defiance. “I know there is a great deal of prejudice against Shotover, just now, among you. He alluded to it this morning with a great deal of feeling. He was not bitter, but he is very much hurt, is Shotover. You are hard on him, Alicia. It is a painful thing to observe upon, but you are hard, and so is Winterbotham. I regret to be obliged to put it so plainly, but I was displeased by Winterbotham’s tone about your brother, last time you and he were down at Whitney from Saturday to Monday.”

“At all events, papa, George has never cost his parents a single penny since he left Balliol,” Lady Alicia replied, with some spirit and a very high colour.

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But Lord Fallowfeild was not to be beguiled into discussion of side issues, though his amiable face was crumpled and puckered by the effort to present an uncompromising front to the enemy.

“Some of you ought to have written and informed me as soon as you had any suspicion of what was likely to happen. Not to do so was underhand. I do not wish to employ strong language, but I do consider it underhand. Shotover tells me he would have written if he had only known. But, of course, in the present state of feeling, he was shut out from it all. Ludovic did know, I presume. And, I am sorry to say it, but I consider it very unhandsome of Ludovic not to have communicated with me.”

At this juncture Mr. Quayle desisted from contemplation of the family portraits and approached the belligerents, threading his way carefully between the many tables and chairs. There was much furniture, yet but few ornaments, in Lady Louisa’s boudoir. The young man’s long neck was directed slightly forward and his expression was one of polite inquiry.

“It is very warm this morning,” he remarked parenthetically, “and, as a family, we appear to feel it. You did me the honour to refer to me just now, I believe, my dear father? Since my two younger sisters have been banished, it has happily become possible to hear both you, and myself, speak. You were saying?”

“That you might very properly have written and told me about this business, and given me an opportunity of expressing my opinion before things reached a head.”

Mr. Quayle drew forward a chair and seated himself with mild deliberation. Lord Fallowfeild began to fidget.—“Very clever fellow, Ludovic,” he said to himself. “Wonderfully cool head”—and he became suspicious of his own wisdom in having made direct appeal to a person thus distinguished.

“I might have written, my dear father. I admit that I might. But there were difficulties. To begin with, I—in this particular—shared Shotover’s position. Louisa had not seen fit to honour me with her confidence.—I beg your pardon, Louisa, you were saying?—And so, you see, I really hadn’t anything to write about.”

“But—but—this young man”—Lord Fallowfeild was sensible of a singular reluctance to mention the name of his proposed son‐in‐law—“this young Calmady, you know, he’s an intimate friend of yours”—

“Difficulty number two. For I doubted how you would take the matter”—

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“Did you, though?” said Lord Fallowfeild, with an appreciable smoothing of crumples and puckers.

“I’m extremely attached to Dickie Calmady. And I did not want to put a spoke in his wheel.”

“Of course not, my dear boy, of course not. Nasty unpleasant business putting spokes in other men’s wheels, specially when they’re your friends. I acknowledge that.”

“I am sure you do,” Mr. Quayle replied, indulgently. “You are always on the side of doing the generous thing, my dear father,—when you see it.”

Here his lordship’s grasp upon the head of his walking‐stick relaxed sensibly.

“Thank you, Ludovic. Very pleasant thing to have one’s son say to one, I must say, uncommonly pleasant.”—Alas! he felt himself to be slipping, slipping. “Deucèd shrewd, diplomatic fellow, Ludovic,” he remarked to himself somewhat ruefully. All the same, the little compliment warmed him through. He knew it made for defeat, yet for the life of him he could not but relish it.—“Very pleasant,” he repeated. “But that’s not the point, my dear boy. Now, about this young fellow Calmady’s proposal for your sister Constance?”

Mr. Quayle looked full at the speaker, and for once his expression held no hint of impertinence or raillery.

“Dickie Calmady is as fine a fellow as ever fought, or won, an almost hopeless battle,” he said. “He is somewhat heroic, in my opinion. And he is very lovable.”

“Is he, though?” Lord Fallowfeild commented, quite gently.

“A woman who understood him, and had some idea of all he must have gone through, could not well help being very proud of him.”

Yet, even while speaking, the young man knew his advocacy to be but half‐hearted. He praised his friend rather than his friend’s contemplated marriage.—“But his dear, old lordship’s not very quick. He’ll never spot that,” he added mentally. And then he reflected that little Lady Constance was not very quick either. She might marry obediently, even gladly. But was it probable she would develop sufficient imagination ever to understand, and therefore be proud of, Richard Calmady?

“He is brilliant too,” Ludovic continued. “He is as well read as any man of his standing whom I know, and he can think for himself. And, when he is in the vein, he is unusually good company.”

“Everybody says he is extraordinarily agreeable,” broke in page: 311 Lady Alicia. “Old Lady Combmartin was saying only yesterday—George and I met her at the Aldhams’, Louisa, you know, at dinner—that she had not heard better conversation for years. And she was brought up among Macaulay, and Rogers, and all the Holland House set, so her opinion really is worth having.”

But Lord Fallowfeild’s grasp had tightened again upon his walking‐stick.

“Was she, though?” he said rather incoherently.

“Pray, from all this, don’t run away with the notion Calmady is a prig,” Ludovic interposed. “He is as keen a sportsman as you are—in as far, of course, as sport is possible for him.”

Here Lord Fallowfeild, finding himself somewhat hard pressed, sought relief in movement. He turned sideways, throwing one shapely leg across the other, grasping the supporting walking‐stick in his right hand, while with the left he laid hold of the back of the white‐and‐gold chair.

“Oh! ah! yes,” he said valiantly, directing his gaze upon the tree‐tops in the Park. “I quite accept all you tell me. I don’t want to detract from your friend’s merits—poor, mean sort of thing to detract from any man’s friend’s merits. Gentlemanlike young fellow Calmady, the little I have seen of him—reminds me of my poor friend his father. I liked his father. But, you see, my dear boy, there is—well, there’s no denying it, there is—and Shotover quite”—

“Of course, papa, we all know what you mean,” Lady Louisa interposed, with a certain loftiness and, it must be owned, asperity. “I have never pretended there was not something one had to get accustomed to. But really you forget all about it almost immediately—everyone does—one can see that —don’t they, Alicia? If you had met Sir Richard everywhere, as we have, this season, you would realise how very very soon that is quite forgotten.”

“Is it, though?” said Lord Fallowfeild somewhat incredulously. His face had returned to a sadly puckered condition.

“Yes, I assure you, nobody thinks of it, after just the first little shock, don’t you know,”—this from Lady Louisa.

“I think one feels it is not quite nice to dwell on a thing of that kind,” her sister chimed in, reddening again. “It ought to be ignored.”—From a girl, the speaker had enjoyed a reputation for great refinement of mind.

“I think it amounts to being more than not nice,” echoed Lady Louisa. “I think it is positively wrong, for nobody can page: 312 tell what accident may not happen to any of us at any moment. And so I am not at all sure that it is not actually unchristian to make a thing like that into a serious objection.”

“You know, papa, there must be deformed people in some families, just as there is consumption or insanity.”

“Or under‐breeding, or attenuated salaries,” Mr. Quayle softly murmured. “It becomes evident, my dear father, you must not expect too much of sons, or I of brothers, in‐law.”

“Think of old Lord Sokeington—I mean the great uncle of the present man, of course—of his temper,” Lady Louisa proceeded, regardless of ironical comment. “It amounted almost to mania. And yet Lady Dorothy Hellard would certainly have married him. There never was any question about it.”

“Would she, though? Bad, old man, Sokeington. Never did approve of Sokeington.”

“Of course she would. Mrs. Crookenden, who always has been devoted to her, told me so.”

“Did she, though?” said Lord Fallowfeild. “But the marriage was broken off, my dear.”

He made this remark triumphantly, feeling it showed great acuteness.

“Oh, dear no! indeed it wasn’t,” his daughter replied. “Lord Sokeington behaved in the most outrageous manner. At the last moment he never proposed to her at all. And then it came out that for years he had been living with one of the still‐room maids.”

“Louisa!” cried Lady Alicia, turning scarlet.

“Had he, though? The old scoundrel!”

“Papa,” cried Lady Alicia.

“So he was, my dear. Very bad old man, Sokeington. Very amusing old man too, though.”

And, overcome by certain reminiscences, Lord Fallowfeild chuckled a little, shamefacedly. His second daughter thereupon arranged the folds of her mauve cashmere, with bent head.—“It is very clear papa and Shotover have been together to‐day,” she thought. “Shotover’s influence over papa is always demoralising. It’s too extraordinary the subjects men joke about and call amusing when they get together.”

A pause followed, a brief cessation of hostilities, during which Mr. Quayle looked inquiringly at his three companions.

“Alicia fancies herself shocked,” he said to himself, “and my father fancies himself wicked, and Louisa fancies herself a chosen vessel. Strong delusion is upon them all. The only page: 313 question is whose delusion is the strongest, and who, consequently, will first renew the fray? Ah! the chosen vessel! I thought as much.”

“You see, papa, one really must be practical,” Lady Louisa began in clear, emphatic tones. “We all know how you have spoiled Constance. She and Shotover have always been your favourites. But even you must admit that Shotover’s wretched extravagance has impoverished you, and helped to impoverish all your other children. And you must also admit, notwithstanding your partiality for Constance, that”—

“I want to see Connie. I want to hear from herself that she”—broke out Lord Fallowfeild. His kindly heart yearned over this ewe‐lamb of his large flock. But the eldest of the said flock interposed sternly.

“No, no,” she cried, “pray, papa, not yet. Connie is quite contented and reasonable—I believe she is out shopping just now, too. And while you are in this state of indecision yourself, it would be the greatest mistake for you to see her. It would only disturb and upset her—wouldn’t it, Alicia?”

And the lady thus appealed to assented. It is true that when she arrived at the great house in Albert Gate that morning she had found little Lady Constance with her pretty, baby face sadly marred by tears. But she had put that down to the exigencies of the situation. All young ladies of refined mind cried under kindred circumstances. Had she not herself wept copiously, for the better part of a week, before finally deciding to accept George Winterbotham? Moreover, a point of jealousy undoubtedly pricked Lady Alicia in this connection. She was far from being a cruel woman, but, comparing her own modest material advantages in marriage with the surprisingly handsome ones offered to her little sister, she could not be wholly sorry that the latter’s rose was not entirely without thorns. That the flower in question should have been thornless, as well as so very fine and large, would surely have trenched on injustice to herself. This thought had, perhaps unconsciously, influenced her when enlarging on the becomingness of a refined indifference to Sir Richard Calmady’s deformity. In her heart of hearts she was disposed, perhaps unconsciously, to hail rather than deplore the fact of that same deformity. For did it not tend subjectively to equalise her lot and that of her little sister, and modify the otherwise humiliating disparity of their respective fortunes? Therefore she capped Lady Louisa’s speech, by saying immediately:—

“Yes, indeed, papa, it would only be an unkindness to run page: 314 any risk of upsetting Connie. No really nice girl ever really quite likes the idea of marriage.”—

“Doesn’t she, though?” commented Lord Fallowfeild, with an air of receiving curious, scientific information.

“Oh, of course not! How could she? And then, papa, you know how you have always indulged Connie”—Lady Alicia’s voice was slightly peevish in tone. She was not in very good health at the present time, with the consequence that her face showed thin and bird‐like. While, notwithstanding the genial heat of the summer’s day, she presented a starved and chilly appearance.—“Always indulged Connie,” she repeated, “and that has inclined her to be rather selfish and fanciful.”

The above statements, both regarding his own conduct and the effect of that conduct upon his little ewe‐lamb, nettled the amiable nobleman considerably. He faced round upon the speaker with an intention of reprimand, but in so doing his eyes were arrested by his daughter’s faded dress and disorganised complexion. He relented.—“Poor thing looks ill,” he thought. “A man’s an unworthy brute who ever says a sharp word to a woman in her condition.”—And, before he had time to find a word other than sharp, Lady Louisa Barking returned to the charge.

“Exactly,” she asserted. “Alicia is perfectly right. At present Connie is quite reasonable. And all we entreat, papa, is that you will let her remain so, until you have made up your own mind. Do pray let us be dignified. One knows how the servants get hold of anything of this kind and discuss it, if there is any want of dignity or any indecision. That is too odious. And I must really think just a little of Mr. Barking and myself in the matter. It has all gone on in our house, you see. One must consider appearances, and with all the recent gossip about Shotover, we do not want another esclandre—the servants knowing all about it too. And then, with all your partiality for Constance, you cannot suppose she will have many opportunities of marrying men with forty or fifty thousand a year.”

“No, papa, as Louisa says, in your partiality for Connie you must not entirely forget the claims of your other children. She must not be encouraged to think exclusively of herself, and it is not fair that you should think exclusively of her. I know that George and I are poor, but it is through no fault of our own. He most honourably refuses to take anything from his mother, and you know how small my private income is. Yet no one can accuse George of lack of generosity. When any of my family want to come to us he always makes them welcome. Maggie page: 315 only left us last Thursday, and Emily comes to‐morrow. I know we can’t do much. It is not possible with our small means and establishment. But what little we can do, George is most willing should be done.”

“Excellent fellow Winterbotham,” Lord Fallowfeild put in soothingly. “Very steady, painstaking man Winterbotham.”

His second daughter looked at him reproachfully.

“Thank you, papa,” she said. “I own I was a little hurt just now by the tone in which you alluded to George.”

“Were you, though? I’m sure I’m very sorry, my dear Alicia. Hate to hurt anybody, specially one of my own children. Unnatural thing to hurt one of your own children. But you see this feeling of all of you about Shotover has been very painful to me. I never have liked divisions in families. Never know where they may lead to. Nasty, uncomfortable things divisions in families.”

“Well, papa, I can only say that divisions are almost invariably caused by a want of the sense of duty.”—Lady Louisa’s voice was stern. “And if people are over‐indulged they become selfish, and then, of course, they lose their sense of duty.”

“My sister is a notable logician,” Mr. Quayle murmured, under his breath. “If logic ruled life, how clear, how simple our course! But then, unfortunately, it doesn’t.”

“Shotover has really no one but himself to thank for any bitterness that his brothers and sisters may feel towards him. He has thrown away his chances, has got the whole family talked about in a most objectionable manner, and has been a serious encumbrance to you, and indirectly to all of us. We have all suffered quite enough trouble and annoyance already. And so I must protest, papa, I must very strongly and definitely protest, against Connie being permitted, still more encouraged, to do exactly the same thing.”

Lord Fallowfeild, still grasping his walking‐stick,—though he could not but fear that trusted weapon had proved faithless and sadly failed in its duty of support,—gazed distractedly at the speaker. Visions of Jewish money‐lenders, of ladies more fair and kind than wise, of guinea points at whist, of the prize ring, of Baden‐Baden, of Newmarket and Doncaster, arose confusedly before him. What the deuce,—he did not like bad language, but really,—what the dickens, had all these to do with his ewe‐lamb, innocent, little Constance, her virgin‐white body and soul, and her sweet, wide‐eyed prettiness?

“My dear Louisa, no doubt you know what you mean, but I give you my word I don’t,” he began.

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“Hear, hear, my dear father,” put in Mr. Quayle. “There I am with you. Louisa’s wing is strong, her range is great. I myself, on this occasion, find it not a little difficult to follow her.”

“Nonsense, Ludovic,” almost snapped the lady. “You follow me perfectly, or can do so if you use your common sense. Papa must face the fact, that Constance cannot afford—that we cannot afford to have her—throw away her chances, as Shotover has thrown away his. We all have a duty, not only to ourselves, but to each other. Inclination must give way to duty—though I do not say Constance exhibits any real disinclination to this marriage. She is a little flurried. As Alicia said just now, every really nice‐minded girl is flurried at the idea of marriage. She ought to be. I consider it only delicate that she should be. But she understands—I have pointed it out to her—that her money, her position, and those two big houses—Brockhurst and the one in Lowndes Square—will be of the greatest advantage to the girls and to her brothers. It is not as if she was nobody. The scullery‐maid can marry whom she likes, of course. But in our rank of life it is different. A girl is bound to think of her family, as well as of herself. She is bound to consider”—

The groom‐of‐the‐chambers opened the door and advanced solemnly across the boudoir to Lord Fallowfeild.

“Sir Richard Calmady is in the smoking‐room, my lord,” he said, “to see you.”

CHAPTER V

IPHIGENIA

CHASTENED in spirit, verbally acquiescent, yet unconvinced, a somewhat pitiable sense of inadequacy upon him, Lord Fallowfeild travelled back to Westchurch that night. Two days later the morning papers announced to all whom it might concern,—and that far larger all, whom it did not really concern in the least—in the conventional phrases common to such announcements, that Sir Richard Calmady and Lady Constance Quayle had agreed shortly to become man and wife. Thus did Katherine Calmady, in all trustfulness, strive to give her son his desire, while the great and little world looked on, and made comments various as the natures and circumstances of the units composing them.

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Lady Louisa was filled with the pride of victory. Her venture had not miscarried. At church on Sunday—she was really too busy socially, just now, to attend what it was her habit to describe as “odds and ends of week‐day services,” and therefore worshipped on the Sabbath only, and then by no means in secret or with shut door—she repeated the General Thanksgiving with much unction and in an aggressively audible voice. And Lady Alicia Winterbotham expressed a peevish hope that—“such great wealth might not turn Constance’s head and make her just a little vulgar. It was all rather dangerous for a girl of her age, and she”—the speaker—“trusted somebody would point out to Connie the heavy responsibilities towards others such a position brought with it.” And Lord Shotover delivered it as his opinion that—“It might be all right. He hoped to goodness it was, for he’d always been uncommonly fond of the young ’un. But it seemed to him rather a put‐up job all round, and so he meant just to keep his eye on Con, he swore he did.” In furtherance of which laudable determination he braved his eldest sister’s frowns with heroic intrepidity, calling to see the young girl whenever all other sources of amusement failed him, and paying her the compliment—as is the habit of the natural man, when unselfishly desirous of giving pleasure to the women of his family—of talking continuously and exclusively about his own affairs, his gains at cards, his losses on horses, even recounting, in moments of more than ordinarily expansive affection, the less wholly disreputable episodes of his many adventures of the heart. And Honoria St. Quentin’s sensitive face straightened and her lips closed rather tight whenever the marriage was mentioned before her. She refused to express any view on the subject, and to that end took rather elaborate pains to avoid the society of Mr. Quayle. And Lady Dorothy Hellard—whose unhappy disappointment in respect of the late Lord Sokeington and other nonsuccessful excursions in the direction of wedlock, had not cured her of sentimental leanings—asserted that—“It was quite the most romantic and touching engagement she had ever heard of.” To which speech her mother, the Dowager Lady Combmartin, replied, with the directness of statement which made her acquaintance so cautious of differing from her:—“Touching? Romantic? Fiddle‐de‐dee! You ought to be ashamed of yourself for thinking so at your age, Dorothy. A bargain’s a bargain, and in my opinion the bride has got much the best of it. For she’s a mawkish, milk‐and‐water, little schoolgirl, while he is charming—all there is of him. If there’d been a little more I declare I’d have married him myself.” And good‐looking Mr. Decies, of the page: 318 101st Lancers, got into very hot water with the mounted constables, and with the livery‐stable keeper from whom he hired his hacks, for “furious riding” in the Park. And Julius March walked the paved ways and fragrant alleys of the red‐walled gardens at Brockhurst, somewhat sadly, in the glowing June twilights, meditating upon the pitiless power of change which infects all things human, and of his own lifelong love doomed to “find no earthly close.” And Mrs. Chifney, down at the racing‐stables, rejoiced to the point of tears, being possessed by the persistent instinct of matrimony common to the British, lower middle‐class. And Sandyfield parish rejoiced likewise, and pealed its church‐bells in token thereof, foreseeing much carnal gratification in the matter of cakes and ale. And Madame de Vallorbes, whose letters to Richard had come to be pretty frequent during the last eight months, was overtaken by silence and did not write at all.

But this omission on the part of his cousin was grateful, rather than distressing, to the young man. It appeared to him very sympathetic of Helen not to write. It showed a finely, imaginative sensibility and considerateness on her part, which made Dickie sigh, thinking of it, and then, so to speak, turn away his head. And to do this last was the less difficult that his days were very full just now. And his mind was very full, likewise, of gentle thoughts of, and many provisions for, the happiness of his promised bride.

The young girl was timid in his presence, it is true. Yet she was transparently, appealingly, anxious to please. Her conversation was neither ready nor brilliant, but she was very fair to look upon in her childlike freshness and innocence. A protective element, a tender and chivalrous loyalty, entered into Richard’s every thought of her. A great passion and a happy marriage were two quite separate matters—so he argued in his inexperience. And this was surely the wife a man should desire, modest, guileless, dutiful, pure in heart as in person? The gentle dumbness which often held her did not trouble him. It was a pretty pastime to try to win her confidence and open the doors of her artless speech.

And then, to Richard, tempted it is true, but as yet himself unsullied, it was so sacred and wonderful a thing that this spotless woman‐creature in all the fragrance of her youth belonged to him in a measure already, and would belong to him, before many weeks were out, wholly and of inalienable right. And so it happened that the very limitations of the young girl’s nature came to enhance her attractions. Dickie could not get page: 319 very near to her mind, but that merely piqued his curiosity and provoked his desire of discovery. She was to him as a book written in strange character, difficult to decipher. With the result that he accredited her with subtleties and many fine feelings she. did not really possess, while he failed to divine—not from defective sympathy so much as from absorption in his self‐created idea of her—the very simple feelings which actually animated her. His masculine pride was satisfied, in that so eligible a maiden consented to become his wife. His moral sense was satisfied also, since he had—as he supposed—put temptation from him and chosen the better part. Very certainly he was not violently in love. That he supposed to be a thing of the past. But he was quietly happy. While ahead lay the mysterious enchantments of marriage. Dickie’s heart was very tender, just then. Life had never turned on him a more gracious face.

Nevertheless, once or twice, a breath of distrust dimmed the bright surface of his existing complacency. One day, for instance, he had taken his fiancée for a morning drive and brought her home to luncheon. After that meal she should sit for a while with Lady Calmady, and then join him in the library downstairs, for he had that which he coveted to show to her.—But it appeared to him that she tarried unduly with his mother, and he grew impatient waiting through the long minutes of the summer afternoon. A barrel‐organ droned slumberously from the other side of the square, while to his ears, so long attuned to country silences or the quick, intermittent music of nature, the ceaseless roar of London became burdensome. Ever after, thinking of this first wooing of his, he recalled—as slightly sinister—that ever‐present murmur of traffic,—bearing testimony, as it seemed later, to the many activities in which he could play, after all, but so paltry and circumscribed a part.

And, listening to that same murmur now, something of rebellion against circumstance arose in Dickie for all that the present was very good. For, as he considered, any lover other than himself would not sit pinned to an arm‐chair awaiting his mistress’ coming, but, did she delay, would go to seek her, claim her, and bear her merrily away. The organ‐grinder, meanwhile, cheered by a copper shower from some adjacent balcony, turned the handle of his instrument more vigorously, letting loose stirring valse‐tune and march upon the sultry air. Such music was, of necessity, somewhat comfortless hearing to Richard, debarred alike from deeds of arms or joy of dancing. His impatience increased. It was a little inconsiderate of his mother surely to page: 320 detain Constance for so long! But just then the sound of women’s voices reached him through the half‐open door. The two ladies were leisurely descending the stairs. There was a little pause, then he heard Lady Calmady say, as though in gentle rebuke:—

“No, no, dear child, I will not come with you. Richard would like better to see you alone. Too, I have a number of letters to write. I am at home to no one this afternoon. You will find me in the sitting‐room here. You can come and bid me good‐bye—now, dear child, go.”

Thus admonished, Lady Constance moved forward. Yet, to Dickie’s listening ears, it appeared that it took her an inordinate length of time to traverse the length of the hall from the foot of the stairs to the library door. And there again she paused—the organ, now nearer, rattling out the tramp of a popular military march. But the throb and beat of the quick‐step failed to hasten Lady Constance’s lagging feet, so that further rebellion against his own infirmity assaulted poor Dick.

At length the girl entered with a little rush, her soft cheeks flushed, her rounded bosom heaving, as though she arrived from a long and arduous walk, rather than from that particularly deliberate traversing of the cool hall and descent of the airy stairway.

“Ah! here you are at last, then!” Richard exclaimed. “I began to wonder if you had forgotten all about me.”

The young girl did not attempt to sit down, but stood directly in front of him, her hands clasped loosely, yet somewhat nervously, almost in the attitude of a child about to recite a lesson. Her still, heifer’s eyes were situate so far apart that Dickie, looking up at her, found it difficult to focus them both at the same glance. And this produced an effect of slight uncertainty, even of a defect of vision, at once pathetic and quaintly attractive. Her face was heart‐shaped, narrowing from the wide, low brow to the small, rounded chin set below a round, babyish mouth of slight mobility but much innocent sweetness. Her light, brown hair, rising in an upward curve on either side the straight parting, was swept back softly, yet smoothly, behind her small ears. The neck of her white, alpaca dress, cut square according to the then prevailing fashion, was outlined with flat bands of pale, blue ribbon, and filled up with lace to the base of the round column of her throat. Blue ribbons adorned the hem of her simple skirt, and a band of the same colour encircled her shapely, though not noticeably slender, waist. Her bosom was page: 321 rather full for so young a woman; so that, notwithstanding her perfect freshness and air of almost childlike simplicity, there was a certain statuesque quality in the effect of her white‐clad figure seen thus in the shaded library, with its russet‐red walls and ranges of dark bookshelves.

“I am so sorry,” she said breathlessly. “I should have come sooner, but I was talking to Lady Calmady, and I did not know it was so late. I am not afraid of talking to Lady Calmady, she is so very kind to me, and there are many questions I wanted to ask her. She promises to help and tell me what I ought to do. And I am very glad of that. It will prevent my making mistakes.”

Her attitude and the earnestness of her artless speech were to Richard almost pathetically engaging. His irritation vanished. He smiled, looked up at her, his own face flushing a little.

“I don’t fancy you will ever make any very dangerous mistakes!” he said.

“Ah! but I might,” the girl insisted. “You see I have always been told what to do.”

“Always?” Dickie asked, more for the pleasure of watching her stand thus than for any great importance he attached to her answer.

“Oh yes!” she said. “First by our nurses, and then by our governesses. They were not always very kind. They called me obstinate. But I did not mean to be obstinate. Only they spoke in French or German, and I could not always understand. And since I have grown up my elder sisters have told me what I ought to do.”

It seemed to Richard that the girl’s small, round chin trembled a little, and that a look of vague distress invaded her soft, ruminant, wide‐set eyes.

“And so I should have been very frightened, now, unless I had had Lady Calmady to tell me.”

“Well, I think there’s only one thing my mother will need to tell you, and it won’t run into either French or German. It can be stated in very plain English. Just to do whatever you like, and—and be happy.”

Lady Constance stared at the speaker with her air of gentle perplexity. As she did so undoubtedly her pretty chin did tremble a little.

“Ah! but to do what you like can never really make you happy,” she said.

“Can’t it? I’m not altogether so sure of that. I had ventured to suppose there were a number of things you and I page: 322 would do in the future, which will be most uncommonly pleasant without being conspicuously harmful.”

He leaned sideways, stretching out to a neighbouring chair with his right hand, keeping the light, silk‐woven, red blanket up across his thighs with his left.

“Do sit down, Constance, and we will talk of things we both like to do, at greater length—Ah! bother—forgive me—I can’t reach it.”

“Oh! please don’t trouble. It doesn’t matter. I can get it quite well myself,” Lady Constance said, quite quickly for once. She drew up the chair and sat down near him, folding her hands again nervously in her lap. All the colour had died out of her cheeks. They were as white as her rounded throat. She kept her eyes fixed on Richard’s face, and her bosom rose and fell, while her words came somewhat gaspingly. Still she talked on with a touching little effect of determined civility.

“Lady Calmady was very kind in telling me I might sometimes go over to Whitney,” she said. “I should like that. I am afraid papa will miss me. Of course there will be all the others just the same. But I go out so much with him. Of course I would not ask to go over very often, because I know it might be inconvenient for me to have the horses.”

“But you will have your own horses,” Richard answered. “I wrote to Chifney to look out for a pair of cobs for you last week—browns—you said you liked that colour I remember. And I told him they were to be broken until big guns, going off under their very noses, wouldn’t make them so much as wince.”

“Are you buying them just for me?” the girl said.

“Just for you?” Dickie laughed. “Why, who on earth should I buy anything for but just you, I should like to know?”

“But”—she began.

“But—but”—he echoed, resting his hands on the two arms of his chairs leaning forward and still laughing, though somewhat shyly. “Don’t you see the whole and sole programme is that you should do all you like, and have all you like, and—and be happy.”—Richard straightened himself up, still looking full at her, trying to focus both these quaintly‐engaging, far‐apart eyes. “Constance, do you never play?” he asked her suddenly.

“I did practise every morning at home, but lately”—

“Oh! I don’t mean that,” the young man said. “I mean quite another sort of playing.”

“Games?” Lady Constance inquired. “I am afraid I am page: 323 rather stupid about games. I find it so difficult to remember numbers and words, and I never can make a ball go where I want it to, somehow.”

“I was not thinking of games either, exactly,” Richard said, smiling.

The girl stared at him in some perplexity. Then she spoke again, with the same little effect of determined civility.

“I am very fond of dancing and of skating. The ice was very good on the lake at Whitney this winter. Rupert and Gerry were home from Eton, and Eddy had brought a young man down with him—Mr. Hubbard—who is in his business in Liverpool, and a friend of my brother Guy’s was staying in the house too, from India. I think you have met him—Mr. Decies. We skated till past twelve one night—a Wednesday, I think. There was a moon, and a great many stars. The thermometer registered fifteen degrees of frost Mr. Decies told me. But I was not cold. It was very beautiful.”

Richard shifted his position. The organ had moved farther away. Uncheered by further copper showers it droned again slumberously, while the murmur sent forth by the thousand activities of the great city waxed loud, for the moment, and hoarsely insistent.

“I do not bore you?” Lady Constance asked, in sudden anxiety.

“Oh no, no!” Richard answered. “I am glad to have you tell me about yourself, if you will; and all that you care for.”

Thus encouraged, the girl took up her little parable again, her sweet, rather vacant, face growing almost animated as she spoke.

“We did something else I liked very much, but from what Alicia said afterwards I am afraid I ought not to have liked it. One day it snowed, and we all played hide‐and‐seek. There are a number of attics in the roof of the bachelor’s wing at Whitney, and there are long up‐and‐down passages leading round to the old nurseries. Mama did not mind, but Alicia was very displeased. She said it was a mere excuse for romping. But that was not true. Of course we never thought of romping. We did make a great noise,” she added conscientiously, “but that was Rupert and Gerry’s fault. They would jump out after promising not to, and of course it was impossible to help screaming. Eddy’s Liverpool friend tried to jump out too, but Maggie snubbed him. I think he deserved it. You ought to play fair; don’t you think so? After promising, you would never jump out, would you?”

And there Lady Constance stopped, with a little gasp.

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“Oh! I beg your pardon. I am so sorry. I forgot,” she added breathlessly.

Richard’s face had become thin and keen.

“Forget just as often as you can, please,” he answered huskily. “I would infinitely rather have you—have everybody —forget altogether—if possible.”

“Oh! but I think that would be wrong of me,” she rejoined, with gentle dogmatism. “It is selfish to forget anything that is very sad.”

“And is this so very sad?” Richard asked, almost harshly.

The girl stared at him with parted lips.

“Oh yes!” she said slowly. “Of course,—don’t you think so? It is dreadfully sad.”—And then, her attitude still unchanged and her pretty, plump hands still folded on her lap, she went on, in her touching determination to sustain the conversation with due readiness and civility. “Brockhurst is a much larger house than Whitney, isn’t it? I thought so the day we drove over to luncheon—when that beautiful, French cousin of yours was staying with you, you remember?”

“Yes, I remember,” Richard said.

And as he spoke Madame de Vallorbes, clothed in the sea‐waves, crowned and shod with gold, seemed to stand for a moment beside his innocent, little fiancée. How long it was since he had heard from her! Did she want money, he wondered? It would be intolerable if, because of his marriage, she never let him help her again. And all the while Lady Constance’s unemotional, careful, little voice continued, as did the ceaseless murmur of London.

“I remember,” she was saying, “because your cousin is quite the most beautiful person I have ever seen. Papa admired her very much too. We spoke of that as soon as Louisa had left us, when we were alone. But there seemed to me so many staircases at Brockhurst, and rooms opening one out of the other. I have been wondering—since—lately—whether I shall ever be able to find my way about the house.”

“I will show you your way,” Dickie said gently, banishing the vision of Helen de Vallorbes.

“You will show it me?” the girl asked, in evident surprise.

Then a companion picture to that of Madame de Vallorbes arose before Dickie’s mental vision—namely the good‐looking, long‐legged, young, Irish soldier, Mr. Decies, of the 101st Lancers, flying along the attic passages of the Whitney bachelor’s wing, in company with this immediately‐so‐demure and dutiful maiden and all the rest of that admittedly rather uproarious, page: 325 holiday throng. Thereat a foolish lump rose in poor Richard’s throat, for he too was, after all, but young. He choked the foolish lump down again. Yet it left his voice a trifle husky.

“Yes, I will show you your way,” he said. “I can manage that much, you know, at home, in private, among my own people. Only you mustn’t be in a hurry. I have to take my time. You must not mind that. I—I go slowly.”

“But that will be much better for me,” she answered, with rather humble courtesy, “because then I am more likely to remember my way. I have so much difficulty in knowing my way. I still lose myself sometimes in the park at Whitney. I did once this winter with—my brother Guy’s friend, Mr. Decies. The boys always tease me about losing my way. Even papa says I have no bump of locality. I am afraid I am stupid about that. My governesses always complained that I was a very thoughtless child.”

Lady Constance unfolded her hands. Her timid, engagingly vague gaze dwelt appealingly upon Richard’s handsome face.

“I think, perhaps, if you do not mind, I will go now,” she said. “I must bid Lady Calmady good‐bye. We dine at Lady Combmartin’s to‐night. You dine there too, don’t you? And my sister Louisa may want me to drive with her, or write some notes, before I dress.”

“Wait half a minute,” Dickie said. “I’ve got something for you. Let’s see—Oh! there it is!”

Raising himself he stood, for a moment, on the seat of the chair, steadying himself with one hand on the back of it, and reached a little, silver‐paper covered parcel from the neighbouring table. Then he slipped back into a sitting position, drew the silken blanket up across his thighs, and tossed the little parcel gently into Lady Constance Quayle’s lap.

“I as near as possible let you go without it,” he said. “Not that it’s anything very wonderful. It’s nothing—only I saw it in a shop in Bond Street yesterday, and it struck me as rather quaint. I thought you might like it. Why—but—Constance, what’s the matter?”

For the girl’s pretty, heart‐shaped face had blanched to the whiteness of her white dress. Her eyes were strained, as those of one who beholds an object of terror. Not only her chin but her round, baby mouth trembled. Richard looked at her, amazed at these evidences of distressing emotion. Then suddenly he understood.

“I frighten you. How horrible!” he said.

But little Lady Constance had not suffered persistent training page: 326 at the hands of nurses, and governesses, and elder sisters, during all her eighteen years of innocent living for nothing. She had her own small code of manners and morals, of honour and duty, and to the requirements of that code, as she apprehended them, she yielded unqualified obedience, not unheroic in its own meagre and rather puzzle‐headed fashion. So that now, notwithstanding trembling lips, she retained her intention of civility and entered immediate apology for her own weakness.

“No, no, indeed you do not,” she replied. “Please forgive me. I know I was very foolish. I am so sorry. You are so kind to me, you are always giving me beautiful presents, and indeed I am not ungrateful. Only I had never seen—seen—you like that before. And, please forgive me—I will never be foolish again—indeed, I will not. But I was taken by surprise. I beg your pardon. I shall be so dreadfully unhappy if you do not forgive me.”

And all the while her shaking hands fumbled helplessly with the narrow ribbon tying the dainty parcel, and big tears rolled down slowly out of her great, soft, wide‐set, heifer’s eyes. Never was there more moving or guileless a spectacle! Witnessing which, Richard Calmady was taken somewhat out of himself, his personal misfortune seeming matter inconsiderable, while his childlike fiancée had never appeared more engaging. All the sweetest of his nature responded to her artless appeal in very tender pity.

“Why, my dear Constance,” he said, “there’s nothing to forgive. I was foolish, not you. I ought to have known better. Never mind. I don’t. Only wipe your pretty eyes, please. Yes—that’s better. Now let me break that tiresome ribbon for you.”

“You are very kind to me,” the girl murmured. Then, as the ribbon broke under Richard’s strong fingers, and the delicate necklace of many, roughly‐cut, precious stones—topaz, amethyst, sapphire, ruby, chrysolite, and beryl, joined together, three rows deep, by slender, golden chains—slipped from the enclosing paper wrapping into her open hands, Constance Quayle added, rather tearfully:—“Oh! you are much too kind! You give me too many things. No one I know ever had such beautiful presents. The cobs you told me of, and now this, and the pearls, and the tiara you gave me last week. I—I don’t deserve it. You give me too much, and I give nothing in return.”

“Oh yes, you do!” Richard said, flushing. “You—you give me yourself.”

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Lady Constance’s tears ceased. Again she stared at him in gentle perplexity.

“You promise to marry me”—

“Yes, of course, I have promised that,” she said slowly.

“And isn’t that about the greatest giving there can be? A few horses, and jewels, and such rubbish of sorts, weigh pretty light in the balance against that—I being I”—Richard paused a moment—“and you—you.”

But a certain ardour which had come into his speech, for all that he sat very still, and that his expression was wholly gentle and indulgent, and that she felt a comfortable assurance that he was not angry with her, rather troubled little Lady Constance Quayle. She rose to her feet, and stood before him again, as a child about to recite a lesson.

“I think,” she said, “I must go. Louisa may want me. Thank you so much. This necklace is quite lovely. I never saw one like it. I like so many colours. They remind me of flowers, or of the colours at sunset in the sky. I shall like to wear this very much. You—you will forgive me for having been foolish or if I have bored you?”

Her bosom rose and fell, and the words came breathlessly.

“I shall see you at Lady Combmartin’s? So—so now I will go.”

And with that she departed, leaving Richard more in love with her, somehow, than he had ever been before or had ever thought to be.

CHAPTER VI

IN WHICH HONORIA ST. QUENTIN TAKES THE FIELD

IT had been agreed that the marriage should take place, in the country, one day in the first week of August. This at Richard’s request. Then the young man asked a further favour, namely that the ceremony might be performed in the private chapel at Brockhurst, rather than in the Whitney parish church. This last proposal, it must be owned, when made to him by Lady Calmady caused Lord Fallowfeild great searchings of heart.

“I give you my word, my dear boy, I never felt more awkward in my life,” he said, subsequently, to his chosen confidant, Shotover. “Can quite understand Calmady doesn’t care to court publicity. Told his mother I quite understood. page: 328 Shouldn’t care to court it myself if I had the misfortune to share his—well, personal peculiarities, don’t you know, poor young fellow. Still this seems to me an uncomfortable, hole and corner sort of way of behaving to one’s daughter—marrying her at his house instead of from my own. I don’t half approve of it. Looks a little as if we were rather ashamed of the whole business.”

“Well, perhaps we are,” Lord Shotover remarked.

“For God’s sake, then, don’t mention it!” the elder man broke out, with unprecedented asperity. “Don’t approve of strong language,” he added hastily. “Never did approve of it, and very rarely employ it myself. An educated man ought to be able to express himself quite sufficiently clearly without having recourse to it. Still, I must own this engagement of Constance’s has upset me more than almost any event of my life. Nasty, anxious work marrying your daughters. Heavy responsibility marrying your daughters. And, as to this particular marriage, there’s so very much to be said on both sides. And I admit to you, Shotover, if there’s anything I hate it’s a case where there’s very much to be said on both sides. It trips you up, you see, at every turn. Then I feel I was not fairly treated. I don’t wish to be hard on your brother Ludovic and your sisters, but they sprung it upon me, and I am not quick in argument, never was quick, if I am hurried. Never can be certain of my own mind when I am hurried—was not certain of it when Lady Calmady proposed that the marriage should be at Brockhurst. And so I gave way. Must be accommodating to a woman, you know. Always have been accommodating to women—got myself into uncommonly tight places by being so more than once when I was younger”—

Here the speaker cheered up visibly, contemplating his favourite son with an air at once humorous and contrite.

“You’re well out of it, you know, Shotover, with no ties,” he continued, “at least, I mean, with no wife and family. Not that I don’t consider every man owning property should marry sooner or later. More respectable if you’ve got property to marry, roots you in the soil, gives you a stake, you know, in the future of the country. But I’d let it be later—yes, thinking of marriageable daughters, certainly I’d let it be later.”

From which it may be gathered that Richard’s demands were conceded at all points. And this last concession involved many preparations at Brockhurst, to effect which Lady Calmady left London with the bulk of the household page: 329 about the middle of July, while Richard remained in Lowndes Square and the neighbourhood of his little fiancée—in company with a few servants and many brown holland covers—till such time as that young lady should also depart to the country. It was just now that Lady Louisa Barking gave her annual ball, always one of the latest, and this year one of the smartest, festivities of the season.

“I mean it to be exceedingly well done,” she said to her sister Alicia. “And Mr. Barking entirely agrees with me. I feel I owe it not only to myself, but to the rest of the family to show that none of us see anything extraordinary in Connie’s marriage, and that whatever Shotover’s debts may have been, or may be, they are really no concern at all of ours.”

In obedience to which laudable determination the handsome mansion in Albert Gate opened wide its portals, and all London—a far from despicable company in numbers, since Parliament was still sitting and the session promised to be rather indefinitely prolonged—crowded its fine stairways and suites of lofty rooms, resplendent in silks and satins, jewels and laces, in orders and titles, and manifold personal distinctions of wealth, or office, or beauty, while strains of music and scent of flowers pervaded the length and breadth of it, and the feet of the dancers sped over its shining floors.

It chanced that Honoria St. Quentin found herself, on this occasion, in a meditative, rather than an active, mood. True, the scene was remarkably brilliant. But she had witnessed too many parallel scenes to be very much affected by that. So it pleased her fancy to moralise, to discriminate—not without a delicate sarcasm—between actualities and appearances, between the sentiments which might be divined really to animate many of the guests, and those conventional presentments of sentiment which the manner and bearing of the said guests indicated. She assured Lord Shotover she would rather not dance, that she preferred the attitude of spectator, whereupon that gentleman proposed to her to take sanctuary in a certain ante‐chamber, opening off Lady Louisa Barking’s boudoir, which was cool, dimly lighted, and agreeably remote from the turmoil of the entertainment now at its height.

The acquaintance of these two persons was, in as far as time and the number of their meetings went, but slight, and, at first sight, their tastes and temperaments would seem wide asunder as the poles. But contrast can form a strong bond of union. And the young man, when his fancy was engaged, was among those who do not waste time over preliminaries. If pleased, he page: 330 bundled, neck and crop, into intimacy. And Miss St. Quentin, her fearless speech, her amusingly detached attitude of mind, and her gallant bearing, pleased him mightily from a certain point of view. He pronounced her to be a “first‐rate sort,” and entertained a shrewd suspicion that, as he put it, Ludovic “was after her.” He commended his brother’s good taste. He considered she would make a tip‐top sister‐in‐law. While the young lady, on her part, accepted his advances in a friendly spirit. His fraternal attitude and unfailing good‐temper diverted her. His rather doubtful reputation piqued her curiosity. She accepted the general verdict, declaring him to be good‐for‐nothing, while she enjoyed the conviction that, rake or no rake, he was incapable of causing her the smallest annoyance, or being guilty—as far as she herself was concerned—of the smallest indiscretion.

“You know, Miss St. Quentin,” he remarked, as he established himself comfortably, not to say cosily, on a sofa beside her,—“over and above the pleasure of a peaceful little talk with you, I am not altogether sorry to seek retirement. You see, between ourselves, I’m not, unfortunately, in exactly good odour with some members of the family just now. I don’t think I’m shy”—

Honoria smiled at him through the dimness.

“I don’t think you’re shy,” she said.

“Well, you know, when you come to consider it from an unprejudiced standpoint, what the dickens is the use of being shy? It’s only an inverted kind of conceit at best, and half the time it makes you stand in your own light.”

“Clearly it’s a mistake every way,” the young lady asserted. “And, happily, it’s one of which I can entirely acquit you of being guilty.”

Lord Shotover threw back his head and looked sideways at his companion.—Wonderfully graceful woman she was certainly! Gave you the feeling she’d all the time there was or ever would be. Delightful thing to see a woman who was never in a hurry.

“No, honestly I don’t believe I’m weak in the way of shyness,” he continued. “If I had been, I shouldn’t be here to‐night. My sister Louisa didn’t press me to come. Strange as it may appear to you, Miss St. Quentin, I give you my word she didn’t. Nor has she regarded me with an exactly favourable eye since my arrival. I am not abashed, not a bit. But I can’t disguise from myself that again I have gone, and been, and jolly well put my foot in it.”

He whistled very softly under his breath.—“Oh! I have, I promise you, even on the most modest computation, very extensively and comprehensively put my foot in it!”

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“How?” inquired Honoria.

Lord Shotover’s confidences invariably amused her, and just now she welcomed amusement. For, crossing her hostess’ boudoir, she had momentarily caught sight of that which changed the speculative sarcasm of her meditations to something approaching pain—namely a pretty, wide‐eyed, childish face rising from out a cloud of white tulle, white roses, and diamonds, the expression of which had seemed to her distressingly remote from all the surrounding gaiety and splendour. Actualities and appearances here were surely radically at variance? And, now, she smilingly turned on her elbow and made brief inquiry of her companion, promising herself good measure of superficial entertainment which should serve to banish that pathetic countenance, and allay her suspicion of a sorrowful happening which she was powerless alike to hinder or to help.

Lord Shotover pushed his hands into his trousers pockets, leaned far back on the sofa, turning his head so that he could look at her comfortably without exertion and chuckling, a little, as he spoke.

“Well, you see,” he said, “I brought Decies. No, you’re right, I’m not shy, for to do that was a bit of the most barefaced cheek. My sister Louisa hadn’t asked him. Of course she hadn’t. At bottom she’s awfully afraid he may still upset the apple‐cart. But I told her I knew, of course, she had intended to ask him, and that the letter must have got lost somehow in the post, and that I knew how glad she’d be to have me rectify the little mistake. My manner was not jaunty, Miss St. Quentin, or defiant—not a bit of it. It was frank, manly, I should call it manly and pleasing. But Louisa didn’t seem to see it that way somehow. She withered me, she scorched me, reduced me to a cinder, though she never uttered one blessed syllable. The hottest corner of the infernal regions resided in my sister’s eye at that moment, and I resided in that hottest corner, I tell you. Of course I knew I risked losing the last rag of her regard when I brought Decies. But you see, poor chap, it is awfully rough on him. He was making the running all through the winter. I could not help feeling for him, so I chucked discretion”—

“For the first and only time in your life,” put in Honoria gently. “And pray who and what is this disturber of domestic peace, Decies?”

“Oh! you know the whole affair grows out of this engagement of my little sister Connie’s. By the way, though, the Calmadys are great friends of yours, aren’t they, Miss St. Quentin?”

The young man regarded her anxiously, fearful lest he should page: 332 have endangered the agreeable intimacy of their present relation by the introduction of an unpalatable subject of conversation. Even in this semi‐obscurity he perceived that her fine smile had vanished, while the lines of her sensitive face took on a certain rigidity and effect of sternness. Lord Shotover regretted that. For some reason, he knew not what, she was displeased. He, like an ass, evidently had blundered.

“I’m awfully sorry,” he began, “perhaps—perhaps”—

“Perhaps it is very impertinent for a mere looker‐on like myself to have any views at all about this marriage,” Honoria put in quickly.

“Bless you, no, it’s not,” he answered. “I don’t see how anybody can very well be off having views about it—that’s just the nuisance. The whole thing shouts, confound it. So you might just as well let me hear your views, Miss St. Quentin. I should be awfully interested. They might help to straighten my own out a bit.”

Honoria paused a moment, doubting how much of her thought it would be justifiable to confide to her companion. A certain vein of knight‐errantry in her character inclined her to set lance in rest and ride forth, rather recklessly, to redress human wrongs. But in redressing one wrong it too often happens that another wrong—or something perilously approaching one—must be inflicted. To save pain in one direction is, unhappily, to inflict pain in the opposite one. Honoria was aware how warmly Lady Calmady desired this marriage. She loved Lady Calmady. Therefore her loyalty was engaged, and yet—

“I am no match‐maker,” she said at last, “and so probably my view is unnecessarily pessimistic. But I happened to see Lady Constance just now, and I cannot pretend that she struck me as looking conspicuously happy.”

Lord Shotover flattened his shoulders against the back of the sofa, expanding his chest and thrusting his hands still farther into his pockets with a movement at once of anxiety and satisfaction.

“I don’t believe she is,” he asserted. “Upon my word you’re right. I don’t believe she is. I doubted it from the first, and now I’m pretty certain. Of course I know I’m a bad lot, Miss St. Quentin. I’ve been very little but a confounded nuisance to my people ever since I was born. They’re all ten thousand times better than I am, and they’re doing what they honestly think right. All the same I believe they’re making a ghastly mistake. They’re selling the poor, little girl against her will, that’s about the long and short of it.”

He bowed himself together, looking at his companion from page: 333 under his eyebrows, and speaking with more seriousness than she had ever heard him yet speak.

“I tell you it makes me a little sick sometimes to see what excellent, well‐meaning people will do with girls in respect of marriage. Oh, good Lord! it just does! But then a high moral tone doesn’t come quite gracefully from me. I know that. I’m jolly well out of it. It’s not for me to preach. And so I thought for once I’d act—defy authority, risk landing myself in a worse mess than ever, and give Decies his chance. And I tell you he really is a charming chap, a gentleman, you know, and a nice, clean‐minded, decent fellow—not like me, not a bit. He’s awfully hard hit too, and would be as steady as old time for poor, little Con’s sake if”—

“Ah! now I begin to comprehend,” Honoria said.

“Yes, don’t you see, it’s a perfectly genuine, for‐ever‐and‐ever‐amen sort of business.”

Lord Shotover leaned back once more, and turned a wonderfully pleasant, if not pre‐eminently responsible, countenance upon his companion.

“I never went in for that kind of racket myself, Miss St. Quentin,” he continued. “Not being conspicuously faithful, I should only have made a fiasco of it. But I give you my word it touches me all the same when I do run across it. I think it’s awfully lucky for a man to be made that way. And Decies is. So there seemed no help for it. I had to chuck discretion, as I told you, and give him his chance.”

He paused, and then asked with a somewhat humorous air of self‐depreciation:—“What do you think now, have I done more harm than good, made confusion worse confounded, and played the fool generally?”

But again Honoria vouchsafed him no immediate reply. The meditative mood still held her, and the present conversation offered much food for meditation. Her companion’s confession of faith in true love, if you had the good fortune to be born that way, had startled her. That the speaker enjoyed the reputation of being something of a profligate lent singular point to that confession. She had not expected it from Lord Shotover, of all men. Ands as coming from him, the sentiment was in a high degree arresting and interesting. Her own ideals, so far, had a decidedly anti‐matrimonial tendency; while being in love appeared to her a much overrated, if not actively objectionable, condition. Personally she hoped to escape all experience of it. Then her thought travelled back to Lady Calmady—the charm of her personality, her sorrows, her splendid self‐devotion, and to page: 334 the object of that devotion—namely Richard Calmady, a being of strange contrasts, at once maimed and beautiful, a being from whom she—Honoria—shrank in instinctive repulsion while unwillingly acknowledging that he exercised a permanent and intimate fascination over her imagination. She dwelt, in quick pity, too, upon the frightened, wide‐eyed, childish face recently seen rising from out its diaphanous cloud of tulle, the prettiness of it heightened by fair wealth of summer roses and flash of costly diamonds, and upon Mr. Decies, the whole‐hearted, young, soldier lover, whose existence threatened such dangerous complications in respect of the rest of this strangely assorted company. Finally her meditative survey returned to its point of departure. In thought she surveyed her present companion—his undeniable excellence of sentiment and clear‐seeing, his admittedly defective conduct in matters ethical and financial. Never before had she been at such close quarters with living and immediate human drama, and, notwithstanding her detachment, her lofty indifference and high‐spirited theories, she found it profoundly agitating. She was sensible of being in collision with unknown and incalculable forces. Instinctively she rose from her place on the sofa, and, moving to the open window, looked out into the night.

Below, the Park, now silent and deserted, slept peacefully, as any expanse of remote country pasture and woodland, in the mildly radiant moonlight. Here and there were blottings of dark shadow cast by the clumps or avenues of trees. Here and there the timid, yellow flame of gas lamps struggled to assert itself against the all‐embracing silver brightness. Here and there windows glowed warm, set in the pale, glistering facades of the adjacent houses. A cool, light wind, hailing from the direction of the unseen Serpentine, stirred the hanging clusters of the pink geraniums that fell over the curved lip of the stone vases, standing along the broad coping of the balcony, and gently caressed the girl’s bare arms and shoulders.

Seen under these unaccustomed conditions familiar objects assumed a fantastic aspect. For the night is a mighty magician, with power to render even the weighty brick and stone, even the hard, uncompromising outlines, of a monster, modern city, delicately elusive, mockingly tentative and unsubstantial. Meanwhile, within, from all along the vista of crowded and brilliantly illuminated rooms, came the subdued, yet confused and insistent, sound of musical instruments, of many voices, many footsteps, the hush of women’s trailing garments, the rise and fall of unceasing conversation. And to Honoria, standing in this quiet, dimly‐seen place, the sense of that moonlit world without, and page: 335 this gas and candle‐lit world within, increased the nameless agitation which infected her. A haunting persuasion of the phantasmagoric character of all sounds that saluted her ears, all sights that met her eyes, possessed her. A vast uncertainty surrounded and pressed in on her; while those questionings of appearances and actualities, of truth and falsehood, right and wrong, justice and injustice, with which she had played idly earlier in the evening, took on new and almost terrible proportions, causing her intelligence, nay, her heart itself, to reach out, as never before, in search of some sure rock and house of defence against the disintegrating apprehension of universal instability and illusion.

“Ah! it is all very difficult, difficult to the point of alarm!” she exclaimed suddenly, turning to Lord Shotover and looking him straight in the face, with an unself‐consciousness and desire of support so transparent that that gentleman found himself at once delighted and slightly abashed.

“Bless my soul, but Ludovic is a lucky devil!” he said to himself.—“What’s—what’s so beastly difficult, Miss St. Quentin?” he asked aloud. And the sound of his cheery voice recalled Honoria to the normal aspects of existence with almost humorous velocity. She smiled upon him.

“I really believe I don’t quite know,” she said. “Perhaps that the two people, of whom we were speaking, really care for each other, and that this engagement has come between them, and that you have chucked discretion and given him his chance. Tell me, what sort of man is he—strong enough to make the most of his chance when he’s got it?”

But at that moment Lord Shotover stepped forward, adroitly planting himself right in front of her and thus screening her from observation.

“By George!” he said under his breath, in tones of mingled amusement and consternation, “he’s making the most of his chance now, Miss St. Quentin, and that most uncommonly comprehensively, unless I’m very much mistaken.”

Her companion’s tall person and the folds of a heavy curtain, while screening Honoria from observation, also, in great measure, obscured her view of the room. Yet not so completely but that she saw two figures cross it, one black, one white, those of a man and a girl. They were both speaking, the man apparently pleading, the girl protesting and moving hurriedly the while, as though in actual flight. She must have been moving blindly, at random, for she stumbled against the outstanding, gilded leg of a consol table, set against the farther wall, page: 336 causing the ornaments on it to rattle. And so doing, she gave a plaintive exclamation of alarm, perhaps even of physical pain. Hearing which, that nameless agitation, that sense of collision with unknown and incalculable forces, seized hold on Honoria again, while Lord Shotover’s features contracted and he turned his head sharply.

“By George!” he repeated under his breath.

But the girl recovered herself, and, followed by her companion,—he still pleading, she still protesting,—passed by the farther window on to the balcony and out of sight. There followed a period of embarrassed silence on the part of the usually voluble Shotover, while his pleasant countenance expressed a certain half‐humorous concern.

“Really,. I’m awfully sorry,” he said. “I’d not the slightest intention of landing you in the thick of the brown like this.”

“Or yourself either,” she replied, smiling; though, with that sense of nameless agitation still upon her, her heart beat rather quick.

“Well, perhaps not. Between ourselves, moral courage isn’t my strong point. There’s nothing I funk like a row. I say, what shall we do? Don’t you think we’d better quietly clear out?”

But, just then, a sound caught Honoria’s ear before which all vague questions of ultimate truth and falsehood, right and wrong fled away. Whatever might savour of illusion, here was something real and actual, something pitiful, moreover, arousing the spirit of knight‐errantry in her, pushing her to lay lance in rest and go forth, reckless of conventionalities, reckless even of considerations of justice, to the succour of oppressed womanhood. What words the man on the balcony, without, was saying, she could not distinguish—whether cruel or kind; but that the young girl was weeping, with the abandonment of long‐resisted tears, she could not doubt.

“No, no, listen, Lord Shotover,” she exclaimed authoritatively. “Don’t you hear? She is crying as if her poor heart would break. You must stay. If I understand you rightly your sister has only got you to depend on. Whatever happens you must stand by her and see her through.”

“Oh! but, my dear Miss St. Quentin”— The young man’s aspect was entertaining. He looked at the floor, he looked at Honoria, he rubbed the back of his neck with one hand as though there might be placed the seat of fortitude. “You’re inviting me to put my head into the liveliest hornet’s nest. What the deuce—excuse me—am I to say to her and all the page: 337 rest of them? Decies, even, mayn’t quite understand my interference and may resent it. I think it is very much safer, all round, to let them—him and her—thrash it out between them, don’t you know. I say though, what a beastly thing it is to hear a woman cry! I wish to goodness we’d never come into this confounded place and let ourselves in for it.”

As he spoke, Lord Shotover turned towards the door, meditating escape in the direction of that brilliant vista of crowded rooms. But Honoria St. Quentin, her enthusiasm once aroused, became inexorable. With her long, swinging stride she outdistanced his hesitating steps, and stood, in the doorway, her arms extended—as to stop a runaway horse—her clear eyes aglow as though a lamp burned behind them, her pale, delicately cut face eloquent of very militant charity. A spice of contempt, moreover, for his display of pusillanimity was quite perceptible to Shotover in the expression of this charming, modern angel, clad in a ball‐dress, bearing a fan instead of the traditional fiery‐sword, who, so determinedly, barred the entrance of that comfortably conventional, worldly paradise to which he, just now, so warmly desired to regain admittance.

“No, no,” she said, with a certain vibration in her quiet voice, “you are not to go! You are not to desert her. It would be unworthy, Lord Shotover. You brought Mr. Decies here and so you are mainly responsible for the present situation. And think, just think what it means. All the course of her life will be affected by that which takes place in the next half‐hour. You would never cease to reproach yourself if things went wrong.”

“Shouldn’t I?” the young man said dubiously.

“Of course you wouldn’t,” Honoria asserted, “having it in your power to help, and then shirking the responsibility! I won’t believe that of you. You are better than that. For think how young she is, and pretty and dependent. She may be driven to do some fatally, foolish thing if she’s left unsupported. You must at least know what is going on. You are bound to do so. Moreover, as a mere matter of courtesy, you can’t desert me and I intend to stay.”

“Do you, though?” faltered Lord Shotover, in tones curiously resembling his father’s.

Honoria drew herself up proudly, almost scornfully.

“Yes, I shall stay,” she continued. “I am no match‐maker. I have no particular faith in or admiration for marriage”—

“Haven’t you, though?” said Lord Shotover. He was slightly surprised, slightly amused, but to his credit be it stated page: 338 that he put no equivocal construction upon the young lady’s frank avowal. He felt a little sorry for Ludovic, that was all, fearing the latter’s good fortune was less fully established than he had supposed.

“No, I don’t believe very much in marriage—modern, upper‐class marriage,” she repeated. “And, just precisely on that account, it seems to me all the more degrading and shameful that a girl should risk marrying the wrong man. People talk about a broken engagement as though it was a disgrace. I can’t see that. An unwilling, a—a—loveless marriage is the disgrace. And so at the very church door I would urge and encourage a woman to turn back, if she doubted, and have done with the whole thing.”

“Upon my word!” murmured Lord Shotover—The infinite variety of the feminine outlook, the unqualified audacity of feminine action, struck him as bewildering. Talk of women’s want of logic! It was their relentless application of logic—as they apprehended it—which staggered him.

Honoria had come close to him. In her excitement she laid her fan on his arm.

“Listen,” she said, “listen how Lady Constance is crying. Come—you must know what is happening. You must comfort her.”

The young man thrust his hands into his pockets with an air of good‐humoured and despairing resignation.

“All right,” he replied, “only I tell you what it is, Miss St. Quentin, you’ve got to come too. I refuse to be deserted.”

“I have not the smallest intention of deserting you,” Honoria said. “Even yet discretion, though so lately chucked, might return to you. And then you might cut and run, don’t you know.”

CHAPTER VII

RECORDING THE ASTONISHING VALOUR DISPLAYED BY A CERTAIN SMALL MOUSE IN A CORNER

AS Honoria St. Quentin and the reluctant Shotover stepped, side by side, from the warmth and dimness obtaining in the anteroom, into the pleasant coolness of the moonlit balcony, Lady Constance Quayle, altogether forgetful of her usual careful civility and pretty correctness of demeanour, uttered an inarticulate cry—a cry, indeed, hardly human in its abandon and page: 339 unreasoning anguish, resembling rather the shriek of the doubling hare as the pursuing greyhound nips it across the loins. Regardless of all her dainty finery of tulle, and roses, and flashing diamonds, she flung herself forward, face downwards, across the coping of the balustrade, her bare arms outstretched, her hands clasped above her head. Mr. Decies, blue‐eyed, black‐haired, smooth of skin, looking noticeably long and lithe in his close‐fitting, dress clothes, made a rapid movement as though to lay hold on her and bear her bodily away. Then, recognising the futility of any such attempt, he turned upon the intruders, his high‐spirited, Celtic face drawn with emotion, his attitude rather dangerously warlike.

“What do you want?” he demanded hotly.

“My dear good fellow,” Lord Shotover began, with the most assuaging air of apology, “I assure you the very last thing I‐we—I mean I—want is to be a nuisance. Only Miss St. Quentin thought—in fact, Decies, don’t you see—dash it all, you know, there seemed to be some sort of worry going on out here and so”—

But Honoria did not wait for the conclusion of elaborate explanations, for that cry and the unrestraint of the girl’s attitude not only roused, but shocked her. It was not fitting that any man, however kindly or even devoted, should behold this well‐bred, modest and gentle, young maiden in her present extremity. So she swept past Mr. Decies and bent over Lady Constance Quayle, raised her, strove to soothe her agitation, speaking in tones of somewhat indignant tenderness.

But, though deriving a measure of comfort from the steady arm about her waist, from the strong, protective presence, from the rather stern beauty of the face looking down into hers, Lady Constance could not master her agitation. The train had left the metals, so to speak, and the result was confusion dire. A great shame held her, a dislocation of mind. She suffered that loneliness of soul which forms so integral a part of the misery of all apparently irretrievable disaster, whether moral or physical, and places the victim of it, in imagination at all events, rather terribly beyond the pale.

“Oh!” she sobbed, “you ought not to be so kind to me. I am very wicked. I never supposed I could be so wicked. What shall I do? I am so frightened at myself and at everything. I did not recognise you. I didn’t see it was only Shotover.”

“Well, but now you do see, my dear Con, it’s only me” that gentleman remarked, with a cheerful disregard of grammar. page: 340 “And so you mustn’t upset yourself any more. It’s awfully bad for you, and uncomfortable for everybody else, don’t you know. You must try to pull yourself together a bit and we’ll help you—of course, I’ll help you. We’ll all help you, of course we will, and pull you through somehow.”

But the girl only lamented herself the more piteously.

“Oh no, Shotover, you must not be so kind to me! You couldn’t, if you knew how wicked I have been.”

“Couldn’t I?” Lord Shotover remarked, not without a touch of humorous pathos. “Poor little Con!”

“Only, only please do not tell Louisa. It would be too dreadful if she knew—she, and Alicia, and the others. Don’t tell her, and I will be good. I will be quite good, indeed I will.”

“Bless me, my dear child, I won’t tell anybody anything. To begin with I don’t know anything to tell.”

The girl’s voice had sunk away into a sob. She shuddered, letting her pretty, brown head fall back against Honoria St. Quentin’s bare shoulder,—while the moonlight glinted on her jewels and the night wind swayed the hanging clusters of the pink geraniums. Along with the warmth and scent of flowers, streaming outward through the open windows, came a confused sound of many voices, of discreet laughter, mingled with the wailing sweetness of violins. Then the pleading, broken, childish voice took up its tale again:—

“I will be good. I know I have promised, and I have let him give me a number of beautiful things. He has been very kind to me, because he is clever, and of course I am stupid. But he has never been impatient with me. And I am not ungrateful, indeed, Shotover, I am not. It was only for a minute I was wicked enough to think of doing it. But Mr. Decies told me he—asked me—and—and we were so happy at Whitney in the winter. And it seemed too hard to give it all up, as he said it was true. But I will be good, indeed I will. Really it was only for a minute I thought of it. I know I have promised. Indeed, I will make no fuss. I will be good. I will marry Richard Calmady.”

“But this is simply intolerable!” Honoria said in a low voice.

She held herself tall and straight, looking gallant yet pure, austere even, as some pictured Jeanne d’Arc, a great singleness of purpose, a high courage of protest, an effect at once of fearless challenge and of command in her bearing.—“Is it not a scandal,” she went on, “that in a civilised country, at this time of day, a woman should be allowed, actually forced, to suffer so much? page: 341 You must not permit this martyrdom to be completed—you can’t!”

As she spoke Decies watched her keenly. Who this stately, young lady—so remarkably unlike the majority of Lord Shotover’s intimate, feminine acquaintance—might be, he did not know. But he discerned in her an ally and a powerful one.

“Yes,” he said impulsively, “you are right. It is a martyrdom and a scandalous one. It’s worse than murder, it’s sacrilege. It’s not like any ordinary marriage. I don’t want to be brutal, but it isn’t. There’s something repulsive in it, something unnatural.”

The young man looked at Honoria, and read in her expression a certain agreement and encouragement.

“You know it, Shotover—you know it just as well as I do. And that justified me in attempting what I suppose I would not otherwise have felt it honourable to attempt.—Look here, Shotover, I will tell you what has just happened. I would have had to tell you to‐morrow, in any case, if we had carried the plan out. But I suppose I have no alternative but to tell you now, since you’ve come.”

He ranged himself in line with Miss St. Quentin, his back against one of the big, stone vases. He struggled honestly to keep both temper and emotion under control, but a rather volcanic energy was perceptible in him.

“I love Lady Constance,” he said. “I have told her and—and she cares for me. I am not a Crœsus like Calmady. But I am not a pauper. I have enough to keep a wife in manner suitable to her position and my own. When my uncle, Ulick Decies, dies—which I hope he’ll not hurry to do, since. I am very fond of him—there’ll be the Somersetshire property addition to my own dear, old place in County Cork. And your sister simply hates this marriage”—

“Lord bless me, my dear fellow, so do I!” Lord Shotover put in with evident sincerity.

“And so, when at last I had spoken freely, I asked her to”—

But the young girl cowered down, hiding her face in Honoria St. Quentin’s bosom.

“Oh! don’t say it again—don’t say it,” she implored. “It was wicked of me to listen to you even for a minute. I ought to have stopped you at once and sent you away. It was very wrong of me to listen, and talk to you, and tell you all that I did. But everything is so strange, and I have been so miserable. I never supposed anybody could ever be so miserable. And I knew it was ungrateful of me, and so, I dared not tell anybody. page: 342 I would have told papa, but Louisa never let me be alone with him. She said papa indulged me, and made me selfish and fanciful, and so I have never seen him for more than a little while. And I have been so frightened.”—She raised her head, gazing wide‐eyed first at Miss St. Quentin and then at her brother. “I have thought such dreadful things. I must be very bad. I wanted to run away. I wanted to die”—

“There, you hear, you hear,” Decies cried hoarsely, spreading abroad his hands, in sudden violence of appeal to Honoria. “For God’s sake help us! I am not aware whether you are a relation, or a friend, or what. But I am convinced you can help, if only you choose to do so. And I tell you she is just killing herself over this accursed marriage. Someone’s got at her and talked her into some wild notion of doing her duty, and marrying money for the sake of her family”—

“Oh, I say, damn it all!” Lord Shotover exclaimed, smitten with genuine remorse.

“And so she believes she’s committing the seven deadly sins, and I don’t know what besides, because she rebels against this marriage and is unhappy. Tell her it’s absurd, it’s horrible, that she should do what she loathes and detests. Tell her this talk about duty is a blind, and a fiction. Tell her she isn’t wicked. Why, God in heaven, if we were none of us more wicked than she is, this poor old world would be so clean a place that the holy angels might walk barefoot along the Piccadilly pavement there, outside, without risking to soil so much as the hem of their garments! Make her understand that the only sin for her is to do violence to her nature by marrying a man she’s afraid of, and for whom she does not care. I don’t want to play a low game on Sir Richard Calmady and steal that which belongs to him. But she doesn’t belong to him—she is mine, just my own. I knew that from the first day I came to Whitney, and looked her in the face, Shotover. And she knows it too, only she’s been terrorised with all this devil’s talk of duty.”

So far the words had poured forth volubly, as in a torrent. Now the speaker’s voice dropped, and they came slowly, defiantly, yet without hesitation.

“And so I asked her to go away with me, now, to‐night, and marry me to‐morrow. I can make her happy—oh, no fear about that! And she would have consented and gone. We’d have been away by now—if you and this lady had not come just when you did, Shotover.”

The gentleman addressed whistled very softly.

“Would you, though?” he said, adding meditatively:—

page: 343

“By George now, who’d have thought of Connie going the pace like that!”

“Oh, Shotover, never tell, promise me you will never tell them!” the poor child cried again. “I know it was wicked, but”—

“No, no, you are mistaken there,” Honoria put in, holding her still closer. “You were tempted to take a rather desperate way out of your difficulties. It would have been unwise, but there was nothing wicked in it. The wrong thing is—as Mr. Decies tells you—to marry without love, and so make all your life a lie, by pretending to give Richard Calmady that which you do not, and cannot, give him.”

Then the young soldier broke in resolutely again.

“I tell you I asked her to go away, and I ask her again now”‐

“The deuce you do!” Lord Shotover exclaimed, his sense of amusement getting the better alike of astonishment and of personal regrets.

“Only now I ask you to sanction her going, Shotover. And I ask you”—he turned to Miss St. Quentin—“to come with her. I am not even sure of your name, but I know, by all that you’ve said and done in the last half‐hour, I can be very sure of you. And, I perceive, that if you come nobody will dare to say anything unpleasant—there’ll be nothing, indeed, to be said.”

Honoria smiled. The magnificent egoism of mankind in love struck her as distinctly diverting. Yet she had a very kindly feeling towards this black‐haired, bright‐eyed, energetic, young lover. He was in deadly earnest—to the removing even of mountains. And he had need to be so, for that mountains immediately blocked the road to his desires was evident even to her enthusiastic mind. She looked across compellingly at Lord Shotover. Let him speak first. She needed time, at this juncture, in which to arrange her ideas and to think.

“My dear good fellow,” that gentleman began obediently, patting Decies on the shoulder, “I’m all on your side. I give you my word I am, and I’ve reason to believe my father will be so too. But you see, an elopement—specially in ’our sort of highly respectable, hum‐drum family—is rather a strong order. Upon my honour it is, you know, Decies. And, even though kindly countenanced by Miss St. Quentin, and sanctioned by me, it would make a precious undesirable lot of talk. It really is a rather irregular fashion of conducting the business you see. And then—advice I always give others and only wish I could page: 344 always remember to take myself—it’s very much best to be off with the old love before you’re on with the new.”

“Yes, yes,” Miss St. Quentin put in with quick decision. “Lord Shotover has laid his finger on the heart of the matter. It is just that.—Lady Constance’s engagement to Richard Calmady must be cancelled before her engagement to you, Mr. Decies, is announced. For her to go away with you would be to invite criticism, and put herself hopelessly in the wrong. She must not put herself in the wrong. Let me think! There must be some way by which we can avoid that.”

An exultation, hitherto unexperienced by her, inspired Honoria St. Quentin. Her attitude was slightly unconventional. She sat on the stone balustrade, with long‐limbed, lazy grace, holding the girl’s hand, forgetful of herself, forgetful, in a degree, of appearances, concerned only with the problem of rescue presented to her. The young man’s honest, wholehearted devotion, the young girl’s struggle after duty and her piteous despair, nay, the close contact of that soft, maidenly body that she had so lately held against her in closer, more intimate, embrace than she had ever held anything human before, aroused a new class of sentiment, a new order of emotion, within her. She realised, for the first time, the magnetism, the penetrating and poetic splendour of human love. To witness the spectacle of it, to be thus in touch with it, excited her almost as sailing a boat in a heavy sea, or riding to hounds in a stiff country, excited her. And it followed that now, while she perched aloft boylike, on the balustrade, her delicate beauty took on a strange effulgence, a something spiritual, mysterious, elusive, and yet dazzling as the moonlight which bathed her charming figure. Seeing which, it must be owned that Lord Shotover’s attitude towards her ceased to be strictly fraternal, while the attractions of ladies more fair and kind than wise paled very sensibly.

“I wish I hadn’t been such a fool in my day, and run amuck with my chances,” he thought.

But Miss St. Quentin was altogether innocent of his observation or any such thinkings. She looked up suddenly, her face irradiated by an exquisite smile.

“Yes, I have it,” she cried. “I see the way clear.”

“But I can’t tell them,” broke in Lady Constance.

Honoria’s hand closed down on hers reassuringly.

“No,” she said, “you shall not tell them. And Lord Shotover shall not tell them. Sir Richard Calmady shall tell Lord page: 345 Fallowfeild that he wishes to be released from his engagement, as he believes both you and he will be happier apart. Only you must be brave, both for your own sake, and for Mr. Decies’, and for Richard Calmady’s sake also.—Lady Constance,” she went on, with a certain gentle authority, “do you want to go back to Whitney to‐morrow, or next day, all this nightmare of an unhappy marriage done away with and gone? Well, then, you must come and see Sir Richard Calmady to‐night, and, like an honourable woman, tell him the whole truth. It must be done at once, or your courage may fail. We will come with you‐Lord Shotover and I”—

“Good Lord, will we though!” the young man ejaculated, while the girl’s great, heifer’s eyes grew strained with wonder at this astounding announcement.

“I know it will be rather terrible,” Honoria continued calmly. “But it is a matter of a quarter of an hour, as against a lifetime, and of honour as against a lie. So it’s worth while, don’t you think so, when your whole future, and Mr. Decies’”—she pressed the soft hand again steadily—“is at stake? You must be brave now, and tell him the truth—just simply that you do not love him enough—that you have tried,—you have, I know you have done that,—but that you have failed, that you love someone else, and that therefore you beg him, in mercy, before it is too late, to set you free.”

Fascinated both by her appearance and by the simplicity of her trenchant solution of the difficulty, Lord Shotover stared at the speaker. Her faith was infectious. Yet it occurred to him that all women, good and bad, are at least alike in this—that their methods become radically unscrupulous when they find themselves in a tight place.

“It is a fine plan. It ought to work, for—cripple or not—poor Calmady’s a gentleman,” he said, slowly. “But doesn’t it seem just a trifle rough, Miss St. Quentin, to ask him to be his own executioner?”

Honoria had slipped down from the balustrade, and stood erect in the moonlight.

“I think not,” she replied. “The woman pays, as a rule. Lady Constance has paid already quite heavily enough, don’t you think so? Now we will have the exception that proves the rule. The man shall pay whatever remains of the debt. But we must not waste time. It is not late yet, we shall still find him up, and my brougham is here. I told Lady Aldham I should be home fairly early. Get a cloak, Lady Constance, and meet us in the hall. I suppose you can go down by some back page: 346 way so as to avoid meeting people. Lord Shotover, will you take me to say good‐night to your sister, Lady Louisa?”

The young man fairly chuckled.

“And you, Mr. Decies, must stay and dance.”—She smiled upon him very sweetly. “I promise you it will come through all right, for, as Lord Shotover says, whatever his misfortunes may be, Richard Calmady is a gentleman.—Ah! I hope you are going to be very happy. Good‐bye.”

Decies’ black head went down over her hand, and he kissed it impulsively.

“Good‐bye,” he said, the words catching a little in his throat. “When the time comes, may you find the man to love you as you deserve—though I doubt if there’s such a man living, or dead either, for that matter! God bless you.”

Some half‐hour later Honoria stood among the holland‐shrouded furniture in Lady Calmady’s sitting‐room in Lowndes Square. The period of exalted feeling, of the conviction of successful attainment, was over, and her heart beat somewhat painfully. For she had had time, by now, to realise the surprising audacity of her own proceedings. Lord Shotover’s parley with Richard Calmady’s man‐servant, on the doorstep, had brought that home to her, placing what had seemed obvious, as a course of action to her fervid imagination, in quite a new light. Sir Richard Calmady was at home? He was still up?—To that, yes. Would he see Lady Constance Quayle upon urgent business?—To that again, yes—after a rather lengthy delay, while the valet, inscrutable, yet evidently highly critical, made inquiries.—The trees in the square had whispered together uncomfortably, while the two young ladies waited in the carriage. And Lord Shotover’s shadow, which had usually, very surely, nothing in the least portentous about it, lay queerly, three ways at once, in varying degrees of density, across the grey pavement in the conflicting gas and moon‐light.

And now, as she stood among the shrouded furniture, which appeared oddly improbable in shape seen in the flickering of two hastily‐lighted candles, Honoria could hear Shotover walking back and forth, patiently, on that same grey pavement outside. She was overstrained by the emotions and events of the past hours. Small matters compelled her attention. The creaking of a board, the rustle of a curtain, the silence even of this large, but half‐inhabited, house, were to her big with suggestion, disquietingly replete with possible meaning, of exaggerated importance to her anxiously listening ears.

Lord Shotover had stopped walking. He was talking to the page: 347 coachman. Honoria entertained a conviction that, in the overflowing of his good‐nature, he talked—sooner or later—to every soul whom he met. She derived almost childish comfort from the knowledge of the near neighbourhood of that eminently good‐natured presence. Lord Shotover’s very obvious faults faded from her remembrance. She estimated him only by his size, his physical strength, his large indulgence of all weaknesses—including his own. He constituted a link between her and things ordinary and average, for which she was rather absurdly thankful at this juncture. For the minutes passed slowly, very slowly. It must be getting on for half an hour since little Lady Constance, trembling and visibly affrighted, had passed out of sight, and the door of the smoking‐room had closed behind her. The nameless agitation which possessed her earlier that same evening returned upon Honoria St. Quentin. But its character had suffered change. The questioning of the actual, the suspicion of universal illusion, had departed; and in its place she suffered alarm of the concrete, of the incalculable force of human passion, and of a manifestation of tragedy in some active and violent form. She did not define her own fears, but they surrounded her nevertheless, so that the slightest sound made her start.

For, indeed, how slowly the minutes did pass! Lord Shotover was walking again. The horse rattled its bit, and pawed the ground impatient of delay. Though lofty, the room appeared close and hot, with drawn blinds and shut windows. Honoria began to move about restlessly, threading her way between the pieces of shrouded furniture. A chalk drawing of Lady Calmady stood on an easel in the far corner. The portrait emphasised the sweetness and abiding pathos, rather than the strength, of the original; and Honoria, standing before it, put her hands over her eyes. For the pictured face seemed to plead with and reproach her. Then a swift fear took her of disloyalty, of hastiness, of self‐confidence trenching on cruelty. She had announced, rather arrogantly, that whatever balance remained to be paid, in respect of Sir Richard and Lady Constance Quayle’s proposed marriage, should be paid by the man. But would the man, in point of fact, pay it? Would it not, must it not, be paid, eventually, by this other noble and much enduring woman—whom she had called her friend, and towards whom she played the part, as she feared, of betrayer? In her hot espousal of Lady Constance’s cause she had only saved one woman at the expense of another—Oh! how hot the room grew! Suffocating—Lord Shotover’s steps died away in the distance. She could look page: 348 Lady Calmady in the face no more. Secure in her own self‐conceit and vanity, she had betrayed her friend.

Suddenly the sharp peal of a bell, the opening of a door, the dragging of silken skirts, and the hurrying of footsteps.—Honoria gathered up her somewhat scattered courage and swung out into the hall. Lady Constance Quayle came towards her, groping, staggering, breathless, her face convulsed with weeping. But to this, for the moment, Miss St. Quentin paid small heed. For, at the far end of the hall, a bright light streamed out from the open doorway. And in the full glare of it stood a young man—his head, with its cap of close‐cropped curls, proudly distinguished as that of some classic hero, his features the beautiful features of Katherine Calmady, his height but two‐thirds the height a man of his make should be, his face drawn and livid as that of a corpse, his arms hanging down straight at his sides, his hands only just not touching the marble quarries of the floor on either side of him.

Honoria uttered an exclamation of uncontrollable pity and horror, caught Constance Quayle by the arm, and hurried out into the moonlit square to the waiting carriage. Lord Shotover flung away the end of his cigar and strolled towards them.

“Got through, fixed it all right—eh, Connie? Bravo—that’s grand!—Oh, you needn’t tell me! I can imagine it’s been a beastly piece of work, but anyway it’s over now. You must go home and go to bed, and I’ll account for you somehow to Louisa. My mind’s becoming quite inventive to‐night, I promise you.—There, get in—try to pull yourself together. Miss St. Quentin, upon my word I don’t know how to thank you. You’ve been magnificent, and put us under an everlasting obligation, Con and Decies, and my father and me.—Nice night isn’t it? You’ll put us down in Albert Gate? All right. A thousand thanks.—Yes, I’ll go on the box again. You haven’t much room for my legs among all those flounces. Bless me, it occurs to me I’m getting confoundedly hungry. I shall be awfully glad of some supper.”

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CHAPTER VIII

A MANIFESTATION OF THE SPIRIT

BROCKHURST HOUSE had slumbered all day long in the steady warmth of the July sun. The last three weeks had been rainless, so that the short turf of the uplands began to grow crisp and discoloured, while the resinous scent of the fir forest, at once stimulating and soothing, was carried afar out over the sloping cornfields and low‐lying pastures. Above the stretches of purple‐budding heather and waste sandy places, upon the moors, the heat‐haze danced and quivered as do vapours arising from a furnace. Along the under side of the great woods, and in the turn of the valleys, shadows lingered, which were less actual shadows than blottings of blue light. The birds, busy feeding wide‐mouthed, hungry fledglings, had mostly ceased from song. But the drowsy hum of bees and chirrup of grasshoppers was continuous, and told, very pleasantly, of the sunshine and large plenty reigning out of doors.

For Katherine the day in question had passed in Martha‐like occupations.—A day of organising, of ordering and countermanding, a day of much detail, much interviewing of heads of departments, a day of meeting respectful objections, enlightening thick understandings, gently reducing decorously opposing wills. Commissariat, transport, housing of guests, and the servants of guests—all these entered into the matter of the coming wedding. To compass the doing of all things, not only decently and in order, but handsomely, and with a becoming dignity, this required time and thought. And so, it was not until after dinner that Katherine found herself at leisure to cease taking thought for the morrow. Too tired to rest herself by reading, she wandered out on the troco‐ground followed by Camp.

London had not altogether suited the bull‐dog as the summer wore on. Now, in his old age, so considerable a change of surroundings put him about both in body and mind. Seeing which, Richard had begged his mother to take the dog with her on leaving town. Camp benefited, unquestionably, by his return to country air. His coat stared less. He carried his ears and tail with more sprightliness and conviction. Still he fretted after his absent master, and followed Katherine’s footsteps very closely, his forehead more than ever wrinkled and his unsightly mouth pensive notwithstanding its perpetual grin. He attended page: 350 her now, squatting beside her when she paused, trotting slowly beside her when she moved, a silent, persistent, and, as it might seem, somewhat fatefully faithful companion.

Yet the occasion was to all appearances far from fateful, the night and the scene, alike, being very fair. The moon had not yet risen, but a brightness behind the sawlike edge of the fir woods eastward heralded its coming, while sufficient light yet remained in the western and northern sky for the mass of the house, its ruddy walls and ranges of mullioned windows, its pierced, stone parapet and stacks of slender, twisted chimneys, to be seen with a low‐toned distinctness of form and colour infinitely charming. Soft and rich as velvet, it rose, with a certain noble serenity, above its terraces and fragrant, red‐walled gardens, under the enormous dome of the tranquil, far‐off, evening sky.

Every aspect of this place, in rain and shine, summer and winter, from dawn to dark and round to dawn again, was familiar to Katherine Calmady. Coming here first, as a bride, the homely splendour of the house, and the gladness of its situation crowning the ridge of hill, appealed strongly to her imagination. Later it sheltered her long sorrow, following so hard on the heels of her brief joy. But, in both alike, during all the vicissitudes of her thought and of her career, the face of Brockhurst remained as that of a friend, kindly, beneficent, increasingly trusted and beloved. And so she had come to know every stick and stone of it, from spacious, vaulted cellar to equally spacious, low‐roofed, sun‐dried attic—the outlook from each window, the character of each room, the turn of each stairway, the ample proportions of each lobby and stair‐head, all the pleasant scents, and sounds, and colours, that haunted it both within and without. It might have been supposed that after so many years of affectionate observation and commerce, Brockhurst could have no new word in its tongue, could hold no further self‐revelation, for Lady Calmady. Yet, as she passed now from the arcaded garden‐hall, supporting the eastern bay of the Long Gallery, on to the level, green square of the troco‐ground, and stood gazing out over the downward sloping park—the rough, short turf of it dotted with ancient thorn trees and broken by beds of bracken and dog‐roses—to the Long Water, glistening like some giant mirror some quarter‐mile distant in the valley, she became sensible of a novel element in her present relation to this place.

For the first time, in all her long experience, she was at Brockhurst quite alone. The house was vacant even of a friend. For Julius March had, rather to Katherine’s surprise, selected just page: 351 this moment for the paying of his yearly visit to a certain college friend, a scholarly and godly person, now rector of a sleepy, country parish away in the heart of the great Midlandshire grasslands. Katherine experienced a momentary sense of injury at his going. Yet perhaps it was as well. Between the turmoil of the past London season, the coming turmoil of the wedding and the large and serious issues which that wedding involved, this time of solitude might be salutary. To Katherine, just now, it seemed as a bridge carrying her over from one way of life to another. A but slightly known country lay ahead. Solitude and self‐recollection are good for the soul if it would possess itself in peace. The fair brightness of the Indwelling Light had not been obscured in her during these months devoted to the world and to society. But it was inevitable that her consciousness of it, and consequently its clear‐shining, should have suffered diminution at times. The eager pressure of things to be done, things to be seen, of much conversation, the varied pageant of modern life perpetually presented to her eyes and her intelligence, could not but crowd out the spiritual order somewhat. Of late she had had only time to smile upon her God in passing, instead of spending long hours within the courts of His temple. This she knew. It troubled her a little. She desired to return to a condition of more complete self‐collectedness. And so, the first movement of surprise past, she hailed her solitude as a means of grace, and strove, in sweet sincerity, to make good use of it.

And yet—since the human heart, if sound and wholesome, hungers, even when penetrated by godward devotion, for some fellow‐creature on whom to expend its tenderness—Katherine, just now, regretted to be alone. The scene was so beautiful, she would gladly have had someone look on it beside herself, and share its charm. Then thoughts of the future obtruded themselves. How would little Constance Quayle view Brockhurst? Would it claim her love? Would she embrace the spirit of it, and make it not only the home of her fair, young body, but the home of her guileless heart? Katherine yearned in spirit over this girl standing on the threshold of all the deeper experiences of a woman’s life, of those amazing revelations which marriage holds for an innocent and modest maiden.—But oh! how lovely are such revelations when the lover is also the beloved!

Katherine moved on a few paces. The thought of all that, even now at forty‐eight, cut her a little too sharply. It is not wise to call up visions of joys that are dead. She would think of something else, so she told herself, as she paused in her rustling grey dress upon the dry, gravel path, the surface of which still page: 352 sensibly held the warmth of the sun, while Camp squatted soberly on his haunches beside her. But, at first, only worrying thoughts responded to her call.—It was not quite kind, surely, of Julius to have left home just now. It was a little inconsiderate of him. If she dwelt on the thought of that, clearly it would vex her—so it must be banished. Reynolds, the housekeeper, had really been very perverse about the turning of the two larger china‐closets into extra dressing‐rooms for the week of the wedding, and Clara showed an inclination to back her up in opposition. Of course the maids would give in—they always did, and that without any subsequent attempt at small reprisals. Still the thought of that, too, was annoying and must be banished.—At dinner she had received a singular letter from Honoria St. Quentin. It contained what appeared to Katherine as rather over‐urgent protestations of affection and offers of service, if at any future time she—the writer—could be of use. The letter was charming in its slight extravagance. But it struck Katherine as incomprehensibly penitent in tone—the letter of one who has not treated a friend quite loyally and is hot with anxiety to atone. It was dated this morning too, and must have been posted at some surprisingly early hour to have thus reached Brockhurst by the day mail. Lady Calmady did not quite relish the missive, somehow, notwithstanding its affection. It lacked the perfection of personal dignity which had pleased her heretofore in Honoria St. Quentin. She felt vaguely disappointed. And it followed that this thought, therefore, must go along with the rest. For she refused to be disquieted. She would compel herself to be at peace.

So, putting these small sources of discomfort from her, as unworthy both of her better understanding and of this fair hour and fair place, Katherine yielded herself wholly to the influences of her surroundings. The dew was rising—promise of another hot, clear day to‐morrow—and along with it rose a fragrance of wild thyme from the grass slopes immediately below. That fragrance mingled with the richer scents of jasmine, full‐cupped, July roses, scarlet, trumpet‐flowered honeysuckle, tall lilies, and great wealth of heavy‐headed, clove carnations, veiling the red walls or set in the trim borders of the gardens behind. A strangely belated nightingale still sang in the big, Portugal laurel beside the quaint, pepper‐pot summer‐house in the far corner of the troco‐ground, where the twenty‐foot, brick wall dips, in steps of well‐set masonry, to the grey, three‐foot balustrade. She never remembered to have heard one sing so late in the summer. The bird was answered, moreover, by another singer from the coppice, bordering the trout‐ page: 353 stream which feeds the Long Water, away across the valley. In each case the song was, note for note, the same. But the chant of the near bird was hotly urgent in its passion of “wooing and winning;” while the song of the answerer came chastened and etherealised by distance. A fox barked sharply on the left, out in the Warren. And the churring of the night‐hawks, as they flitted hither and thither over the beds of bracken and dog‐roses, like gigantic moths, on swift, silent wings, formed a continuous accompaniment, as of a spinning‐wheel, to the other sounds.

Never, as she watched and listened, had the genius of Brockhurst appeared more potent or more enthralling. For a space she rested in it, asking nothing beyond that which sight and hearing could give. It was very good to breathe the scented air and be lulled by the inarticulate music of nature. It was good to cease from self and from all individual striving, to become a part merely of the universal movement of things, a link merely in the mighty chain of universal being. But such an impersonal attitude of mind cannot last long, least of all in the case of a woman! Katherine’s heart awoke and cried again for some human object on which to expend itself, some kindred intelligence to meet and reflect her own. Ah, were she but better, more holy and more wise, these cravings would doubtless not assail her! The worship of the Indwelling Light would suffice, and she would cease from desire of the love of any creature. But she had not journeyed so far upon the road of perfection yet, as she sadly told herself. Far from it. The nightingale sang on, sang of love, not far hence, not far above, not within the spirit only, but here, warm, immediate, and individual. And, do what she would, the song brought to her mind such love, as she herself had known it during the few golden months of her marriage—of meetings at night, sweet and sacred; of partings, sweet and sacred too, at morning; of secret delights; of moments, at once pure and voluptuous, known only to virtuous lovers. It was not often that remembrance of all this came back to her, save as a faint echo of a once clear‐sounding voice. Indeed she had supposed it all laid away forever, done with, even as the bright colours it had once so pleased her to wear were laid away in high, mahogany presses that lined one side of the lofty state‐bedroom upstairs. But now remembrance laid violent hands on her, shaking both mind and body from their calm. The passion of the bird’s song, the caressing suavity of the summer night, the knowledge, too, that so soon another bride and bridegroom would dwell here at Brockhurst, worked upon her strangely. She struggled with herself, surprised and half angered by the force of her own page: 354 emotion, and pleaded at once against, and for, the satisfaction of the immense nostalgia which possessed her.

“Ah! it is bitter, very bitter, to have had at once so much and so little. Bow my proud neck, O Lord, to Thy yoke.—If my beloved had but been spared to me I had never walked in darkness, far from the way of faith, and my child had never suffered bodily disfigurement. Perfect me, O God, even at the cost of further suffering. It is sad to be shut away from the joys of my womanhood, while my life is still strong in me. Break me, O Lord, even as the ploughshare breaks the reluctant clod. Hold not Thy hand till the work be fully accomplished, and the earth be ready for the sowing which makes for harvest.—Give me back the beloved of my youth, the beloved of my life, if only for an hour. Teach me to submit.—Show me, beyond all dread of contradiction that vows, truly made, hold good even in that mysterious world beyond the grave. Show me that though the body—dear home and vehicle of love—may die, yet love in its essence remains everlastingly conscious, faithful and complete. Bend my will to harmony with Thine, O Lord, and cleanse me of self‐seeking.—Ah! but still let me see his face once again, once again, oh, my God—and I will rebel no more. Let me look on him, once again, if only for a moment, and I shall be content. Hear me, I am greatly troubled, I am athirst—I faint”—

Katherine’s prayer, which had risen into audible speech, sank away into silence. The near nightingale had fallen silent also. But from across the valley, chastened and etherealised by distance, still came the song of the answering bird. To Katherine those fine and delicate notes were full of promise. They bore testimony to the soul which dwells forever behind the outward aspect and sense. Whether she fainted in good truth, or whether she passed, for a while, into that sublimated state of consciousness wherein the veils of habit cease to blind and something of the eternal essence and values of things is revealed—perception overstepping, for once, the limits of ordinary, earth‐bound apprehension and transcending ordinary circumscription of time and place—she could not tell. Nor did she greatly care. For a great peace descended upon her, accompanied by a gentle, yet penetrating expectancy. She stood very still, her feet set on the warm gravel, the night air wrapping her about as with a fragrant garment, the ghostly sweetness of that far‐away bird‐song in her ears, while momentarily the conviction of the near presence of the man who had so loved her, and whom she had so loved, deepened within her. And therefore it was without alarm, without any shock of amazement, that gradually she found her aware‐ page: 355 ness of that presence change from something felt, to something actually seen.

He came towards her—that first Richard Calmady, her husband and lover—across the smooth, green levels of the troco‐ground which lay dusky in the mingling half‐lights of the nearly departed sunset and the rising moon—as he had come to her a hundred times in life, back from the farms or the moorlands, from sport or from business, or from those early morning rides, the clean freshness of the morning upon him, after seeing his racehorses galloped. He came bareheaded, in easy workmanlike garments, short coat, breeches, long boots and spurs. He came with the repose of movement which is born of a well‐knit frame, and a temperate life, and the grace of gentle blood. He came with the half smile on his lips, and the gladness in his eyes when they first met hers, which had always been there however brief the parting. And Katherine perceived it was just thus our beloved dead must needs return to us—should they return at all—laying aside the splendours of the spirit in tenderness for mortal weakness. Even as the Christ laid aside the visible glory of the Godhead, and came a babe among men, so must they come in humble, every‐day fashion, graciously taking on the manner and habit common to them during earthly life. Therefore she suffered no shrinking, but turned instinctively, as she had turned a hundred times, laughing very softly in the fulness of content, raising her hands, throwing back her head, knowing that he would come behind her and take her hands in his, and kiss her, so, bending down over her shoulder. And, when he came, she did not need to speak, but only to gaze into the well‐beloved face, familiar, yet touched—as it seemed to her—with a mysterious and awful beauty, beholding which she divined the answer to many questions.

For she perceived, as one waking from an uneasy dream perceives the comfortable truth of day, that her love was not given back to her, for the dear reason that her love had never been taken away. The fiction of Time ceased to rule in her, so that the joy of bride and new‐wed wife, the strange, sweet perplexities of dawning motherhood were with her now, not as memories merely, but as actual, ever‐present, deathless facts—the culminating, and therefore permanent, revelation of her individual experience. She perceived this continued and must continue, since it was the fine flower of her nature, the unit of her personal equation, the realisation of the eternal purpose concerning her of Almighty God. The fiction of old age was discredited, so was the bitterness of deposition, the mournful fiction of being passed page: 356 by and relegated to the second place. Her place was her own. Her standing ground in the universal order, a freehold, absolute and inalienable. She could not abdicate her throne, neither could any wrest it away from her. She perceived that not self‐effacement, but self‐development, not dissolution, but evolution, was the service required of her. And, as divinely designed contribution to that end was every joy, every sorrow, laid upon her; since by these was she differentiated from all others, by these was she built up into a separate existence, sane, harmonious, well‐proportioned, a fair lamp lighted with a burning coal from off the altar of that God of whom it is written, not only that He is a consuming fire, but that He is Love.

All this, and more, did Katherine apprehend, beholding the familiar, yet mysterious countenance of her well‐beloved. And the tendency of that apprehension made for tranquillity of spirit, for a sure and certain hope. The faculty which reasons, demands explanation and proof, might not be satisfied; but that higher faculty which divines, accepts, believes, assuredly was so. Nor could it be otherwise, since it is the spirit, the idea, not the letter, which giveth life.

How long she stood thus, in tender and illuminating, though wordless, communion with the dead, Katherine did not know. The deepest spiritual experiences, like the most exquisite physical ones, are to be measured by intensity rather than duration. For a space the vision sensibly held her, the so ardently desired presence there incontestibly beside her, a personality vivid and distinct, yet in a way remote, serene as the immense dome of the cloudless sky, chastened and etherealised as the song of the answering nightingale; and in this differing from any bodily presence, as the song in question differed from that of the bird in the laurel close at hand.

Gradually, and with such sense of refreshment as one enjoys who, bathing in some clear stream at evening, washes away all soil and sweat of a weary journey, Katherine awoke to more ordinary observation of her material surroundings. She became aware that the dog, Camp, had turned singularly restless. He slunk away as though wishing to avoid her near neighbourhood, crawled back to her, with dragging hind‐quarters, cringing and whining as though in acute distress. And, by degrees, another sound obtruded itself, speaking of haste and effort, notably at variance with the delicate and gracious stillness. It came from the highroad crossing the open moor, which loomed up a dark, straight ridge against the southern horizon. It came in rising and falling cadence, but ever nearer and page: 357 nearer, increasingly distinct, increasingly urgent—the fast, steady trot of a horse. The moon, meanwhile, had swept clear of the sawlike edge of the fir forest; and, while the thin, white light of it broadened upon the dewy grass and the beat of the horse‐hoofs rang out clearer and clearer, Katherine was aware that the dear vision faded and grew faint. As it had come, softly, without amazement or fear, so it departed, without agitation or sadness of farewell, leaving Katherine profoundly consoled, the glory of her womanhood restored to her in the indubitable assurance that what had been of necessity continued, and forever was.

And, therefore, she still listened but idly to the approaching sound, not reckoning with it as yet, though the roll of wheels was now added to the rapid beat of the hoofs of a trotting horse. It had turned down over the hillside by the cross road leading to the upper lodge. Suddenly it ceased. The shout of a man’s voice, loud and imperative, a momentary pause, then the clang of heavy, iron gates swinging back into place; and once again the roll of wheels and that steady, urgent, determined trot, coming nearer and nearer down the elm avenue, whose stately rows of trees looked as though made of ebony and burnished silver in the slanting moonlight. On it came across the bridge spanning the glistering whiteness of the Long Water. And on again, steadily and no less rapidly, as though pressed by the hand of a somewhat merciless driver, hot to arrive, bearer of stirring tidings, up the steeply ascending hill to the house.

Lady Calmady listened, beginning to question whom this nocturnal disturber of the peace of Brockhurst might be. But only vaguely as yet, since that which she had recently experienced was so great, so wide‐reaching in its meaning and promise, that, for the moment, it dwarfed all other possible, all other imaginable, events. The gracious tranquillity which enveloped her could not be penetrated by any anxiety or premonition of momentous happenings as yet. It was not so, however, with Camp. For a spirit of extravagant and unreasoning excitement appeared to seize on the dog. Forgetful of age, of stiff limbs and short‐coming breath, he gambolled round Lady Calmady, describing crazy circles upon the grass, and barking until the unseemly din echoed back harshly from against the great red and grey façade. He fawned upon her, abject, yet compelling; and, at last, as though exasperated by her absence of response, turned tail and bounded away through the garden‐hall and along the terrace, disappearing through the small, arched side‐door into the house. And there, within, stir and movement became momentarily more apparent. Shifting lights flashed out page: 358 through the many‐paned windows, as though in quick search of some eagerly desired presence.

Nevertheless, for a little space, Katherine lingered, the fragrance of the wild thyme and of the fair gardens still about her, the somnolent churring of the night‐hawks and faint notes of the nightingale’s song still saluting her ears. It was so difficult to return to and cope with the demands of ordinary life. For had she not been caught up into the third heaven and heard words unspeakable, unlawful, in their entirety, for living man to utter?

But things terrestrial, in this case as in so many other cases, refused to make large room for, or brook delay from, things celestial. Two servants came out, hurriedly, from that same arched side‐door. Then Clara, that devoted handmaiden, called from the window of the red drawing‐room.

“Her ladyship’s there, on the troco‐ground. Don’t you see, Mr. Winter?”

The butler hurried along the terrace. Katherine met him on the steps of the garden‐hall.

“Is anything wrong, Winter?” she asked kindly, for the trusted servant betrayed unusual signs of emotion. “Am I wanted?”

“Sir Richard has returned, my lady,” he said, and his voice shook. “Sir Richard is in the Gun‐Room. He gave orders that your ladyship should be told that he would be glad to speak to you immediately.”

CHAPTER IX

IN WHICH DICKIE SHAKES HANDS WITH THE DEVIL

“MY dear, this is quite unexpected.”

Lady Calmady’s tone was one of quiet, innate joyousness. A gentle brightness pervaded her whole aspect and manner. She looked wonderfully young, as though the hands of the clock had been put back by some twenty and odd years. Every line had disappeared from her face, and in her eyes was a clear shining very lovely to behold. Richard glanced at her as she came swiftly towards him across the room. Then he looked down again, and answered deliberately:—

“Yes, it is, as you say, quite unexpected. This time last night I as little anticipated being back here as you anticipated my coming. But one’s plans change rapidly and radically at times. Mine have done so.”

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He sat at the large, library writing‐table, a pile of letters, papers, circulars, before him, judged unworthy of forwarding, which had accumulated during his absence. He tore off wrappers, tore open envelopes, quickly yet methodically, as though bending his mind with conscious determination to the performance of a self‐inflicted task. Looking at the contents of each in turn, with an odd mixture of indifference and close attention, he flung the major part into the waste‐paper basket set beside his revolving‐chair. A tall, green‐shaded lamp shed a circle of vivid light upon the silver and maroon leather furnishings of the writing‐table, upon the young man’s bent head, and upon his restless hands as they grasped, and straightened, and then tore, with measured if impatient precision, the letters and papers lying before him.

Lady Calmady stood resting the tips of her fingers on the corner of the table, looking down at him with those clear shining eyes. His reception of her had not been demonstrative, but of that she was hardly sensible. The reconciling assurances of faith, the glories of the third heaven, still dazzled her somewhat. Her feet hardly touched earth yet, so that her mother‐love, and all its sensitive watchfulness was, as yet, somewhat in abeyance. She spoke again with the same quiet joyousness of tone.

“You should have telegraphed to me, dearest, and then all would have been ready to welcome you. As it is, I fear, you must feel yourself a trifle neglected. I have been, or have fancied myself, mightily busy all day—foolishly cumbered about much serving—and had gone out to forget maids, and food, and domesticities generally, into the dear garden.”—She paused, smiling. “Ah! it is a gracious night,” she said, “full of inspiration. You must have enjoyed the drive home. The household refuses to take this marriage of yours philosophically, Dickie. It demands great magnificence, quite as much, be sure, for its own glorification as for yours. It also multiplies small difficulties, after the manner of well‐conducted households, as I imagine, since the world began.”

Richard tore the prospectus of a mining company, offering wealth beyond the dreams of avarice, right across with a certain violence.

“Oh, well, the household may forego its magnificence and cease from the multiplication of small difficulties alike, as far as any marriage of mine is concerned. You can tell the household so to‐morrow, mother, or I can. Perhaps the irony of the position would be more nicely pointed by the announcement coming directly from myself. That would heighten the drama.”

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“But, Dickie, my dearest?” Katherine said, greatly perplexed.

“The whole affair is at an end. Lady Constance Quayle is not going to marry me, and I am not going to marry Lady Constance Quayle.—On that point at least she and I are entirely at one. All London will know this to‐morrow. Perhaps Brockhurst, in the interests of its endangered philosophy, had better know it to‐night.”

Richard leaned forward, opening, tearing, sorting the papers again. A rasping quality was in his voice and speech, hitherto unknown to his mother; a cold, imperious quality in his manner, also, new to her. And these brought her down to earth, setting her feet thereon uncompromisingly. And the earth on which they were thus set was, it must be owned, rather ugly. A woman made of weaker stuff would have cried out against such sudden and painful declension. But Katherine, happily both for herself and for those about her, waking even from dreams of noble and far‐reaching attainment, waked with not only her wits, but her heart, in steady action. Yet she in nowise went back on the revelation that had been vouchsafed to her. It was in nowise disqualified or rendered suspect, because the gamut of human emotion proved to have more extended range and more jarring discords than she had yet reckoned with. Her mind was large enough to make room for novel experience in sorrow, as well as in joy, retaining the while its poise and sanity. Therefore, recognising a new phase in the development of her child, she, without hesitation or regret of self‐love for the disturbance of her own gladness, braced herself to meet it. His pride had been wounded—somehow, she knew not how—to the very quick. And the smart of that wound was too shrewd, as yet, for any precious balms of articulate tenderness to soothe it. She must give it time to heal a little, meanwhile setting herself scrupulously to respect his dark humour, meet his pride with pride, his calm with at least equal calmness.

She drew a chair up to the end of the table, and settled herself to listen quite composedly.

“It will be well, dearest,” she said, “that you should explain to me clearly what has happened. To do so may avert possible complications.”

Richard’s hands paused among the papers. He regarded Lady Calmady reflectively, not without a grudging admiration. But an evil spirit possessed him, a necessity of mastery—inevitable reaction from recently endured humiliation—which page: 361 provoked him to measure his strength against hers. He needed a sacrifice to propitiate his anger. That sacrifice must be in some sort a human one. So he deliberately pulled the tall lamp nearer, and swung his chair round sideways, leaning his elbow on the table, with the result that the light rested on his face. It did more. It rested upon his body, upon his legs and feet, disclosing the extent of their deformity.

Involuntarily Katherine shrank back. It was as though he had struck her. Morally, indeed, he had struck her, for there was a cynical callousness in this disclosure, in this departure from his practice of careful and self‐respecting concealment. Meanwhile Richard watched her, as, shrinking, her eyelids drooped and quivered.

“Mother,” he said, quietly and imperatively.—And when, not without perceptible effort, she again raised her eyes to his, he went on:—“I quite agree with you that it will be well for me to explain with a view to averting possible complications. It has become necessary that we should clearly understand one another—at least that you, my dear mother, should understand my position fully and finally. We have been too nice, you and I, heretofore, and, the truth being very far from nice, have expended much trouble and ingenuity in our efforts to ignore it. We went up to London in the fond hope that the world at large would support us in our self‐deception. So it did, for a time. But, being in the main composed of very fairly honest and sensible persons, it has grown tired of sentimental lying, of helping us to bury our heads ostrich‐like in the sand. It has gone over to the side of truth—that very far from flattering or pretty truth to which I have just alluded—with this result, among others, that my engagement has come to an abrupt and really rather melodramatic conclusion.”

He paused.

“Go on, Richard,” Lady Calmady said, “I am listening.”

He drew himself up, sitting very erect, keeping his eyes steadily fixed on her, speaking steadily and coldly, though his lips twitched a little.

“Lady Constance did me the honour to call on me last night, rather later than this, absenting herself in the very thick of Lady Louisa Barking’s ball for that purpose.”

Katherine moved slightly, her dress rustled.

“Yes—considering her character and her training it was a rather surprising démarche on her part, and bore convincing testimony to her agitation of mind.”

“Did she come alone?”

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Richard lapsed into an easier position.

“Oh, dear no!” he said. “Allowing for the desperation which dictated her proceedings, they were carried out in a very regular manner, with a praiseworthy regard for appearances. Lady Constance is, in my opinion, a very sweet person. She is perfectly modest and has an unusual regard—as women go—for honour and duty—as women understand them.”—Again his voice took on that rasping quality. “She brought a friend, a young lady, with her. Fortunately there was no occasion for me to speak to her—she had the good taste to efface herself during our interview. But I saw her in the hall afterwards. I shall always remember that very distinctly. So, I imagine, will she. Then Lord Shotover waited outside with the carriage. Oh! believe me, admitting its inherent originality, the affair was conducted with an admirable regard for appearances.”

Again the regular flow of Richard’s speech was broken. His throat had gone very dry.

“Lady Constance appealed to me in extremely moving terms, articulate and otherwise, to set her free.”

“To set her free—and upon what grounds?”

“Upon the rather crude, but pre‐eminently sensible grounds, my dear mother, that after full consideration, she found the bid was not high enough.”

“Indeed,” Katherine said.

“Yes, indeed, my dear mother,” Richard repeated. “Does that surprise you? It quite ceased to surprise me, when she pointed out the facts of the case. For she was touchingly sincere. I respected her for that. The position was an ungracious one for her. She has a charming nature, and really wanted to spare me just as much as was possible along with the gaining of her cause. Her gift of speech is limited, you know; but then no degree of eloquence or diplomacy could have rendered that which she had to say agreeable to my self‐esteem. Oh! on the whole she did it very well, very conclusively.”

Richard raised his head, pausing a moment. Again that dryness of the throat checked his utterance. And then, recalling the scene of the past night, a great wave of unhappiness, pure and simple, of immense disappointment, immense self‐disgust broke over him. His anger, his outraged pride, came near being swamped by it. He came near losing his bitter self‐control and crying aloud for help. But he mastered the inclination, perhaps unfortunately, and continued speaking.

“Yes, decidedly, with the exception of Ludovic, that family do not possess ready tongues, yet they contrive to make their page: 363 meaning pretty plain in the end. I have just driven over from Whitney, and am fresh from a fine example of eventual plain speaking from that excellent father of the family, Lord Fallowfeild. It was instructive. For the main thing, after all, as we must both agree, mother, is to understand oneself clearly and to make oneself clearly understood. And in this respect you and I, I’m afraid, have failed a good deal. Blinded by our own fine egoism we have even failed altogether to understand others. Lady Constance, for instance, possesses very much more character than it suited us to credit her with.”

“You are harsh, dearest,” Katherine murmured, and her lips trembled.

“Not at all,” he answered. “I have only said good‐bye to lying. Can you honestly deny, my dear mother, that the whole affair was just one of convenience? I told you—it strikes me now as a rather brutally primitive announcement—that I wanted a wife because I wanted a son—a son to prove to me the entirety of my own manhood, a son to give me at second hand certain obvious pleasures and satisfactions which I am debarred, as you know, from obtaining at first hand. You engaged to find me a bride. Poor, little Lady Constance Quayle, unluckily for her, appeared to meet our requirements, being pretty and healthy, and too innocent and undeveloped to suspect the rather mean advantage we proposed to take of her.—What? I know it sounds rather gross stated thus plainly. But, the day of lies being over, dare you deny it?—Well then, we proceeded to traffic for this desirable bit of young womanhood, of prospective maternity,—to buy her from such of her relations as were perverted enough to countenance the transaction, just as shamelessly as though we had gone into the common bazaar, after the manner of the cynical East, and bargained for her, poor child, in fat‐tailed sheep or cowries. Doesn’t it appear to you almost incredible, almost infamous that we—you and I, mother—should have done this thing? The price we offered seemed sufficient to some of her people—not to all, I have learned that past forgetting to‐day, thanks to Lord Fallowfeild’s thick‐headed, blundering veracity. But, thank Heaven, she had more heart, more sensibility, more self‐respect, more decency, than we allowed for. She plucked up spirit enough to refuse to be bought and sold like a pedigree filly or heifer. I think that was rather heroic, considering her traditions and the pressure which had been brought to bear to keep her silent. I can only honour and reverence her for coming to tell me frankly, though at the eleventh hour, that she preferred a man of no particular page: 364 position or fortune, but with the ordinary complement of limbs, to Brockhurst, and the house in London, and my forty to forty‐five thousand a year, plus”—

Richard laughed savagely, leaning forward, spreading out his arms.

“Well, my dear mother,—since, as I say, the day of lies is over,—plus the remnant of a human being you may see here, at this moment, if you will only have the kindness to look!”

At first Katherine had listened in mute surprise, bringing her mind, not without difficulty, into relation to the immediate and the present. Then watchful sympathy had been aroused, then anxiety, then tenderness, denying itself expression since the time for it was not yet ripe. But as the minutes lengthened and the flow of Richard’s speech not only continued, but gained in volume and in force, sympathy, anxiety, tenderness, were merged in an emotion of ever‐deepening anguish, so that she sat as one who contemplates, spell‐bound, a scene of veritable horror. From regions celestial to regions terrestrial she had been hurried with rather dislocating suddenness. But her sorry journey did not end there. For hardly were her feet planted on solid earth again, than the demand came that she should descend still further—to regions sub‐terrestrial, regions frankly infernal. And this descent to hell, though rapid to the point of astonishment, was by no means easy. Rather was it violent and remorseless—a driving as by reiterated blows, a rude, merciless dragging onward and downward. Yet, even so, for all the anguish and shame—as of unseemly exposure—the perversion of her intention and action, the scorn so ruthlessly poured upon her, it was less of herself, the compelled, than of Richard, the compelling, that she thought. For even while his anger thus drove and dragged her, he himself was tortured in the flame far below—so it seemed, and that constituted the finest sting of her agony—beyond her power to reach or help. She, after all, but stood on the edge of the crater, watching. He fought, right down in the molten waves of it—fought with himself, too, more fiercely even than he fought with her. So that now, as years ago waiting outside the red drawing‐room hearing the stern, peremptory tones of the surgeons, the moan of unspeakable physical pain, the grating of a saw, picturing the dismemberment of the living body she so loved, Katherine was tempted to run a little mad and beat her beautiful head against the wall. But age, while taking no jot or tittle from the capacity of suffering, still, in sane and healthy natures, brings a certain steadiness to the brain and coolness to the blood. Therefore Katherine sat very still and silent, her page: 365 sweet eyes half closed, her spirit bowed in unspoken prayer. Surely the all‐loving God, who, but a brief hour ago, had vouchsafed her the fair vision of the delight of her youth, would ease his torment and spare her son?

And, all the while, outward nature remained reposeful and gracious in aspect as ever. The churring of the night‐hawks, the occasional bark of the fox in the Warren, the song of the answering nightingales, wandered in at the open casements. And, along with these, came the sweetness of the beds of wild thyme from the grass slopes, and the rich, languid scent of the blossom of the little, round‐headed, orange trees set, in green tubs, below the carven guardian griffins on the flight of steps leading up to the main entrance. That which had been lovely, continued lovely still. And, therefore perhaps,—she could hope it even amid the fulness of her anguish,—the gates of hell might stand open to ascending as well as descending feet; and so that awful road might at last—at last—be retraced by this tormented child of hers, whom, though he railed against her, she still supremely loved.

But Richard, whether actually or intentionally it would be difficult to say, misinterpreted and resented her silence and apparent calm. He waited for a time, his eyes fastened upon her half‐averted face. Then he picked up one of the remaining packets from the table, tore off the wrapper, glanced at the contents, stretched out his left arm holding the said contents suspended over the waste‐paper basket.

“Yes, it is evident,” he declared, “even you do not care to look! Well, then, must you not admit that you and I have been guilty of an extravagance of fatuous folly, and worse, in seriously proposing that a well‐born, sensitive girl should not only look at, habitually and closely, but take for all her chance in life a crippled dwarf like me—an anomaly, a human curiosity, a creature so unsightly that it must be carried about like any baby‐in‐arms lest its repulsive ungainliness should sicken the bystanders if, leaving the shelter of a railway‐rug and an arm‐chair, it tries—unhappy brute—to walk?—Oh! I’m not angry with her. I don’t blame her. I’m not surprised. I agree with her down to the ground. I sympathise and comprehend—no man more. I told her so last night—only amazed at the insane egoism that could ever have induced me to view the matter in any other light. Women are generally disposed to be hard on one another. But if you, my dear mother, should be in any degree tempted to be hard on Constance Quayle, I beg you to consider your own engagement, your own marriage, my father’s”—

Here Katherine interrupted him, rising in sudden revolt.

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“No, no, Richard,” she said, “that is more, my dear, than I can either permit or can bear. If you have any sort of mercy left in you, do not bring your father’s name, and that which lies between him and me, into this hideous conversation.”

The young man looked hard at her, and then opening his hand, let the pieces of torn paper flutter down into the basket. It was done with a singularly measured action, symbolic of casting off some last tie, severing some last link, which bound his life and his allegiance to his companion.

“Yes, exactly,” he said. “As I expected, the day of lying being over, you as good as own it an outrage to your taste, and your affections, that so frightful a thing, as I am, should venture to range itself alongside your memories of your husband. Out of your own mouth are you judged, my dear mother. And, if I am thus to you, upon whom, after all, I have some natural claim, what must I be to others? Think of it! What indeed!”

Katherine made no attempt to answer. Perception of the grain of truth which seasoned the vast, the glaring, injustice of his accusations unnerved her. His speech was ingeniously cruel. His humour such, that it was vain to protest. And the hopelessness of it all affected her to the point of physical weakness. She moved across the room, intending to gain the door and go, for it seemed to her the limit of her powers of endurance had been reached. But her strength would not carry her so far. She stumbled on the upturned corner of the shining, tiger‐skin rug, recovered herself trembling, and laid hold of the high, narrow, marble shelf of the chimney‐piece for support. She must rest a little lest her strength should wholly desert her, and she should fall before reaching the door.

Behind her, within the circle of lamplight, Richard remained, still sorting, tearing, flinging away that which remained of the pile of papers. This deft, persistent activity of his, in its mixture of purpose and abstraction, was agitating—seeming, to Katherine’s listening ears, as though it might go on endlessly, until not only these waste papers, but all and everything within his reach, things spiritual, things of the heart, duties, obligations, gracious and tender courtesies, as well as things merely material, might be thus relentlessly scrutinised, judged worthless, rent asunder and cast forth. What would be spared she wondered, what left? And, when the work of destruction was completed, what would follow next?—Bracing herself, she turned, purposing to close the interview by some brief pleading of indisposition and to escape. But, as she did so, the sound of tearing ceased. Richard slipped down from his place at the writing‐table, and page: 367 shuffling across the room, flung himself into the long, low arm‐chair on the opposite side of the fireplace.

“I don’t want to detain you for an unreasonable length of time, mother,” he said. “We understand each other in the main, I think, and that without subterfuge or self‐deception at last. But there are details to be considered; and, as I leave here early to‐morrow morning, I think you’ll feel with me it’s desirable we should have our talk out. There are a good many eventualities for which it’s only reasonable and prudent to make provision on the eve of an indefinitely long absence. Practically a good many people are dependent on me, one way and another, and I don’t consider it honourable to leave their affairs at loose ends, however uncertain my own future may be.”

Richard’s voice had still that rasping quality, while his bearing was instinct with a coldly dominating, and almost aggressive, force. Katherine, though little addicted to fear, felt strangely shaken, strangely alienated by the dead weight of the personality, by perception of the innate and tremendous vigour, of this being to whom she had given birth. She had imagined, specially during the last few months of happy and intimate companionship, that if ever mother knew her child, she knew Richard—through and through. But it appeared she had been mistaken. For here was a new Richard, at once terrible and magnificent, regarding whom she could predicate nothing with certainty. He defied her tenderness, he outpaced her imagination, he paralysed her will. Between his thoughts, desires, intentions, and hers, a blind blank space had suddenly intruded itself, impenetrable to her thought. In person he was here close beside her, in mind he was despairingly far away. And to this last, not only his words, but his manner, his expression, his singular, yet sombre beauty, bore convincing testimony. He had matured with an almost unnatural rapidity, leaving her far behind. In his presence she felt diffident, mentally insecure, even as a child.

She remained standing, holding tightly to the narrow ledge of the mantelpiece. She felt dazed and giddy as in face of some upheaval, some cataclysm, of nature. In relation to her son she was conscious, in truth, that her whole world had suffered shipwreck.

“Where are you going, Dickie?” she asked at last very simply.

“Anywhere and everywhere where amusement, or even the semblance of it, is to be had,” he answered.—“Do you wish to know how long I shall be away? Just precisely as long as amusement in any form offers itself, and as my power of being page: 368 amused remains to me. This strikes you as slightly ignoble? I am afraid that’s a point, my dear mother, upon which I am supremely indifferent. You and I have posed rather extensively on the exalted side of things so far, have strained at gnats and finished up by swallowing a remarkably full‐grown camel. This whole business of my proposed marriage has been anything but graceful, when looked at in the common‐sense way in which most people, of necessity, look at it. Lord Fallowfeild appealed to me against myself—which appeared to me slightly humorous—as one man of the world to another. That was an eye‐opener. It was likewise a profitable lesson. I promptly laid it to heart. And it is exclusively from the point of view of the man of the world that I propose to regard myself, and my circumstances, and my personal peculiarities, in future. So, to begin with, if you please, from this time forth, we put aside all question of marriage in my case. We don’t make any more attempts to buy innocent and well‐bred, young girls, inviting them to condone my obvious disabilities in consideration of my little title and my money.”

Richard ceased to look at Lady Calmady. He looked away through the open window into the serene sky of the summer night, a certain hunger in his expression not altogether pleasant to witness.

“Fortunately ”he continued, with something between a laugh and a sneer, “there is a mighty army of women—always has been—who don’t come under the head of innocent, young girls, though some of them have plenty of breeding of a kind. They attach no superstitious importance to the marriage ceremony. My position and money may obtain me consolations in their direction.”

Lady Calmady ceased to require the cold support of the marble mantelshelf.

“It is unnecessary for us to discuss that subject, at least, Richard,” she said.

The young man turned his head again, looking full at her. And again the distance that divided her from him became, to her, cruelly apparent, while his strength begot in her a shrinking of fear.

“I am sorry,” he replied, “but I can’t agree with you there. It is inevitable that we should differ in the future, and that you should frequently disapprove. I can’t expect you to emancipate yourself from prejudice, as I am already emancipated. I am not sure I even wish that. Still, whatever the future may bring forth, of this, my dear mother, I am determined to make a clean breast page: 369 to‐night, so that you shall never have cause to charge me with lack of frankness or of attempt to deceive you.”

Yet, at the moment, the poor mother’s heart cried out to be deceived, if thereby it might be eased a little of suffering. Then, a nobler spirit prevailing within her, Katherine rallied her fortitude. Better he should be bound to her even by cynical avowal of projected vice, than not bound at all. Listening now, she gained the right—a bitter enough right—to command a measure of his confidence in those still darker days which, as she apprehended, only too certainly lay ahead. So she answered, calmly:—

“Go on, Richard. As you say we may differ in the future. I may disapprove, but I can be silent. You are right. It is better for us both that I should hear.”

And once more the young man was compelled to yield her a grudging admiration. His tone softened somewhat.

“I don’t like to see you stand, mother,” he said. “Our conversation may be prolonged. One never quite knows what may crop up. You will be overtired. And to‐morrow, when I am gone, there will be things to do.”

Lady Calmady drew forward the chair from the end of the writing‐table. Her back was towards the lamp, her face in shadow. Of this she was glad. In a degree it lessened the strain. The sweet, night air, coming in at the open casements, fluttered the lace on her bodice, as with the touch of a light, cool hand. Of this she was glad too. It was refreshing, and she grew increasingly exhausted and physically weak. Richard observed her, not without solicitude.

“I am afraid you are not well, mother,” he said.

But Katherine shook her head, smiling upon him with misty eyes and lips somewhat tremulous.

“I am always well,” she replied. “Only to‐night it has been given me to scale heights and sound opposing depths, and I am a little overcome by perplexity and by surprise. But what does that signify? I shall have plenty of time—too much, probably—in which to rest and range my ideas when—you are gone, my dearest.”

“You must not be here alone.”

“Oh no! People will visit me, no doubt, animated by kindly wishes to lessen my solitude,” she answered, still smiling. Remembrance of Honoria St. Quentin’s letter came to her mind. Could it be that the girl had some inkling of what was in store for her, and that this had inspired the slight over‐warmth of her protestations of affection?—“Honoria would always be ready to come, should I ask her,” she said.

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All solicitude passed from Richard’s expression, all softening from his tone.

“By all means ask her. That would cap the climax, and round the irony of the situation to admiration!”

“Indeed? Why?” Katherine inquired, painfully impressed by the renewed bitterness of his manner.

“If you’re fond of her that is convincingly sufficient. She and I have never been very sympathetic, but that’s a detail. I shall be gone. Therefore pray have her, or anybody else you happen to fancy, so long as you do have someone. You mustn’t be here alone.”

“Julius remains faithful through all chances and changes.”

“But I imagine even Julius has sufficient social sense to perceive that faithfulness may be a little out of place at this juncture. At least I sincerely hope he’ll perceive it, for otherwise he will have to be made to do so—and that will be a nuisance.”

“Dickie, Dickie, what are you implying?” Lady Calmady exclaimed. “By what strange and unlovely thoughts are you possessed to‐night?”

“I am learning to look at things as the average man of the world looks at them, that’s all,” he said. “We have been too refined, you and I, to be self‐critical, with the consequence that we have allowed ourselves a considerable degree of latitude in many directions. Julius’ permanent residence here ranks among the fine‐fanciful disregardings of accepted proprieties with which we have indulged ourselves. But spades are to be called spades in future—at least by me. So, for the very same reason that I go forth, like the average man of the world, to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, do I object to Julius, or any other man, being your guest during my absence, unless you have some woman of your own position in life living here with you. The levels in social matters have changed, once and for all. I have come to a sane mind and renounced the eccentric subterfuges and paltry hypocrisies, by means of which we have attempted, you and I, to keep disagreeable facts at bay. Truth, bare and unabashable, is the only goddess I worship henceforth.”

He leaned forward, laying his hands upon the arms of his chair. His manner was harsh still. But all coldness had departed from it, rather did a white heat of passion consume him dreadful to witness.

“Yes, it is wisest to repeat that, so that, on your part, there may be no excuse for any shadow of misapprehension. The levels have altered. The old ones can never be restored. I page: 371 want to have you grasp this, mother—swallow it, digest it, so that it passes into fibre and tissue of your every thought about me. For an acutely unscientific, an ingeniously unreasonable, idea obtains widely among respectable, sentimental, so‐called religious persons, regarding those who are the victims of disfiguring accident, or, like myself, are physically disgraced from birth. Because we have been deprived of our natural rights, because we have so abominably little, we are expected to be slavishly grateful for the contemptible pittance that we have. Because, slothfully, by His neglect, or, wantonly, for His amusement, the Creator has tortured us, maiming, distorting us, setting us up as a laughing‐stock before all man and womankind—because He has played a ghastly and brutal practical joke on us, fixing the marks of low comedy in our living flesh and bone—therefore we, forsooth, are to be more pious, more clean‐living, temperate, and discreet than the rest—to bow amiably beneath the cross, gratefully to kiss the rod! Those irregularities of conduct which are smiled at, and taken for granted, in a man made after the normal, comely fashion, become a scandal in the case of a poor, unhappy devil like me, at which good people hold up their hands in horror. Faugh!—I tell you I’m sick of such cowardly cant. A pretty example the Almighty’s set me of justice and mercy! Handsome encouragement He has given me to be virtuous and sober! Much I have for which to praise His holy name! Arbitrarily, without excuse, or faintest show of antecedent reason, He has elected to curse. And the curse will cling forever and ever, till they lay me in a coffin nearly half as short again as that of any other man, and leave the hideousness of my deformity to be obliterated and purged at last—eaten away by the worms in the dark.”

Richard stretched out his hands, palms upward.

“And in return for all this shall I bless? No, indeed—no, thank you. Not even towards God Almighty Himself will I play the part of lick‐spittle and sycophant. I have fine enough stuff in me, let alone the energy begotten by the flagrance of His injustice, to take higher grounds with Him than that. I will break what men hold to be His laws, wherever and whenever I can—I will make hay of His so‐called natural and moral order, just as often as I get the chance. I will curse, and again curse, back.”

The speaker’s voice was deep and resonant, filling the whole room. His utterance deliberate and unshaken. His face dark with the malign beauty of implacable hatred. Hearing him, seeing him thus, Katherine Calmady’s fortitude forsook her. She page: 372 ceased to distinguish or discriminate. Nature gave way. She knelt upon the floor before him, her hands clasped, tears coursing down her cheeks. But of her attitude and aspect she was unconscious.

“Oh, Richard, Richard,” she cried, “forgive me! Curse me, my dearest, throw all the blame on me, my dearest—I accept it—not on God. Only try, try to forgive! Forgive me for being your mother. Forgive me that I ever loved and married. Forgive me the intolerable wrong which, all unknowingly, I did you before your birth. I humble myself before you, and with reason. For I am the cause; I, who would give my life for your happiness, my blood for your healing, a thousand times. But through all these years I have done my poor best to serve you and to make up. The hypocrisies and subterfuges which you lash so scornfully—and rightly perhaps—were the fruit of my overcare for you. Rail at me. I deserve it. Perhaps I have been faithless, but only once or twice, and for a moment. I was faithless towards you here, in the garden to‐night. But then I supposed you content. Ah! I hardly know what I say!—Only rail at me, my beloved, not at God. And then try—try not to leave me in anger. Try, before you go, to forgive!”

Richard had sunk back in his chair, his hands clasped behind his head, watching her. It gave him the strangest sensation to see his mother kneeling before him thus. At first it shocked him almost to the point of heated protest, as against a thing unpermissible and indecorous. Then, the devils of wounded pride, of anarchy, and of revolt asserting themselves, he began to relish, to be appeased by, the unseemly sight. Little Lady Constance Quayle, and all that of which she was the symbol, had disappointed and escaped him. But here was a woman, worth a dozen Constance Quayles, in beauty, in intellect, and in heart, prostrate before him, imploring his clemency as the penitent implores the absolution of the priest! An evil gladness took him that he had power thus to subjugate so regal a creature. His gluttony of inflicting pain—since he himself suffered—his gluttony of exercising dominion—since he himself had been defied and defrauded—was in a degree satisfied. His arrogance was at once reinforced and assuaged.

“It is absurd to speak of forgiveness,” he said presently, and slowly, “as it is absurd to speak of restitution. These are mere words, having no real tally in fact. We appear to have volition, but actually and essentially we are as leaves driven by the wind. Where it blindly drives, there we blindly go. So it has been from the beginning. So it always will be. In the last twenty‐ page: 373 four hours there are many things I have ceased to believe in, and among them, my dear mother, is human responsibility.”

He paused, and motioned Lady Calmady towards her chair with a certain authority.

“Therefore calm yourself,” he said. “Grieve as little as may be about all this matter, and let us talk it over without further emotion.”

He waited a brief space, giving her time to recover her composure, and then continued coldly, with a careful abstention from any show of feeling.

“Let us clear our minds of cant, and go forward knowing that there is really neither good nor evil. For these—even as God Himself, whose existence I treated from the anthropomorphic standpoint just now, so as to supply myself with a target to shoot at, a windmill at which to tilt, a row of ninepins set up for the mere satisfaction of knocking them down again‐these are plausible delusions invented by man, in the vain effort to protect himself and his fellows from the profound sense of loneliness, and impotence, which seizes on him if he catches so much as a passing glimpse of the gross comedy of human aspiration, human affection, briefly human existence.”

But, strive as he might, excitement gained on Richard once more, for young blood is hot and gallops masterfully along the veins, specially under the whip of real or imagined disgrace. He sat upright, grasping the arms of his chair, and looking, not at his mother, but away into the deep of the summer night.

“Perhaps my personal peculiarities confer on me unusually acute perception of the inherent grossness of the human comedy. I propose to take the lesson to heart. They teach me not to sacrifice the present to the future; but to fling away ideals like so much waste paper, and just take that which I can immediately get. They tell me to limit my horizon, and go the common way of common, coarse‐grained, sensual man—in as far as that way is possible to me—and be of this world worldly. And so, mother, I want you to understand that from this day forth I turn over a new leaf, not only in thought, but in conduct. I am going to have just all that my money and position, and even this vile deformity—for, by God, I’ll use that too—what people won’t give for love they’ll give for curiosity—can bring me of pleasure and notoriety. I am going to lay hold of life with these rather horribly strong arms of mine”—he looked across at Lady Calmady with a sneering smile.—“Strong?” he repeated, “strong as a young bull‐ape’s. I mean to tear the very vitals out of living; to tear knowledge, excitement, intoxication, out of it, page: 374 making them, by right of conquest, my own. I will compel existence to yield me all that it yields other men, and more—because my senses are finer, my acquaintance with sorrow more intimate, my quarrel with fortune more vital and more just. As I cannot have a wife, I’ll have mistresses. As I cannot have honest love, I’ll have gratified lust. I am not stupid. I shall not follow the beaten track. My imagination has been stimulated into rather dangerous activity by the pre‐natal insult put upon me. And now that I have emancipated myself, I propose to apply my imagination practically.”

The young man flung himself back in his chair again.

“There ought to be startling results,” he said, with gloomy exultation. “Don’t you think so, mother? There should be startling results.”

Lady Calmady bowed herself together, putting her hands over her eyes. Then raising her head, she managed to smile at him, though very sadly, her sweet face drawn by exhaustion and marred by lately shed tears.

“Ah yes, my dearest,” she answered, “no doubt the results will be startling; but whether any sensible increase of happiness, either to yourself or others, will be counted among them is open to question.”

Richard laughed bitterly.—“ I shall have lived, anyhow,” he rejoined. “Worn out, not rusted and rotted out—which, according to our former fine‐fanciful programme, seemed the only probable consummation of my unlucky existence.”

His tone changed, becoming quietly businesslike and indifferent.

“I am entering horses for some of the French events, and I go through to Paris to‐morrow to see various men there and make the necessary arrangements. I shall take Chifney with me for a few days. But the stables will not give you any trouble. He will have given all the orders.”

“Very well,” Katherine said mechanically.

“Later I shall go on to Baden‐Baden.”

Katherine rallied somewhat.

“Helen de Vallorbes is there,” she said, not without a trace of her former pride.

“Certainly Helen de Vallorbes is there,” he answered. “That is why I go. I want to see her. It is inconsistent, I admit, for Helen remains the one person gloriously untouched by the wreck of the former order of things. Pray let there be no misconception on that point. She belonged to the ideal order, she belongs to it still.”

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“Ah, my dear, my dear!” Katherine almost cried. His perversity hurt her a little too much so that the small, upspringing flame of decent pride was quenched.

“Yes,” he went on, “there was my initial, my cardinal, mistake. For I was a traitor to all that was noblest and best in me, when I persuaded myself, and weakly permitted you to persuade me, that a loveless marriage is better than a love in which marriage is impossible,—that Lady Constance Quayle, poor little soul, bought, paid for, and my admitted property, could fill Helen’s place,—though Helen was—and I intend her to remain so, for I care for her enough to hold her honour as sacred as I do your own—for ever inaccessible.”

Lady Calmady staggered to her feet.

“That is enough, Richard,” she said. “That is enough. If you have more to say, in pity leave it until to‐morrow.”

The young man looked at her strangely.

“You are ill, mother,” he said.

“No, no, I am only broken‐hearted,” she replied. “And a broken heart, alas! never killed so healthy a body as mine. I shall survive this—and more perhaps. God knows. Do not vex yourself about me, Dickie.—Go, live your life as it seems fit to you. I have not the will, even had I the right, to restrain you. And meanwhile I will be the steward of your goods, as, long ago, when you were a child and belonged to me wholly. You can trust me to be faithful and discreet, at least in financial and practical matters. If you ever need me, I will come even to the ends of the earth. And should the desire take you to return, here you will find me.—And so, good‐bye, my darling. I am foolishly tired. I grow light‐headed, and dare not linger, lest in my weakness I say that which I afterwards regret.”

She passed to the door and went out, without looking back.

Left to himself Richard Calmady crossed to the writing‐table, swung himself up into the revolving chair, and remained there sorting and docketing papers far into the night. But once, stooping, with long‐armed adroitness, to unlock the lowest drawer of the table, a madness of disgust towards the unsightliness of his own person seized on and tore him.

“O God, God, God!” he cried aloud, in the extremity of his passion, “why hast Thou made me thus?”

And to that question, as yet, there was no answer, though it rang afar over the sleeping park, and up to the clear shining stars of the profound and peaceful summer night.

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