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   Chapter 9 No.9

A Mummer's Wife By George Moore Characters: 42763

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

She would have liked to talk to Hender first, but Hender would not arrive for another hour, and nothing had ever seemed to her so important as that Dick should lodge with them. It was therefore with bated breath that she waited for Ralph to speak. They could not hope, he said, to find a nicer lodger; the little he had seen of him made him desirous of renewing the acquaintance, and he continued all through breakfast to eulogize Mr. Lennox. His mother, whose opinions were attacked, sat munching her bread and butter with indifference. But it was not permitted to anyone to be indifferent to Ralph's wishes, and, determined to resent the impertinence, he derisively asked his mother if she had any objections.

'You've a right to do what you like with your rooms; but I should like to know why you so particularly want this actor here. One would think he was a dear friend of yours to hear you talk. Is it the ten shillings a week he pays for his room and the few pence you make out of his breakfast you're hankering after?'

'Of course I want to keep my rooms let. Perhaps you might like to have them yourself; you could have all the clergymen in the town to see you once a week, and a very nice tea-party you'd make in the sitting-room.' Nor was this all; he continued to badger his mother with the bitterest taunts he could select. Quite calmly Kate watched him work himself into a passion, until he declared that he had other reasons more important than the ten shillings a week for wishing to have Mr. Lennox staying in the house. This statement caused Kate just a pang of uneasiness, and she begged for an explanation. Partly to reward her for having backed him up in the discussion, and through a wish to parade his own far-seeing views, he declared that Mr. Lennox might be of great use to them in their little business if he were so inclined. Kate could not repress a look of triumph; she knew now that nothing would keep him from having Dick in the house.

'Shall I write to him to-day, then, and say that we can let him have the rooms from next Monday?'

'Of course,' Ralph replied, and Kate went upstairs with Hender, who had just come in. The little girls were told to move aside; there was a lot of cutting to be done; this was said preparatory to telling them a little later on that they were too much in the way, and would have to go down and work in the front kitchen under the superintendence of Mrs. Ede. Hender was at the machine, but Kate, who had a dressing-gown on order, unrolled the blue silk and fidgeted round the table as if she had not enough room for laying out her pattern-sheets. Hender noticed these manoeuvres with some surprise, and when Kate said, 'Now, my dear children, I'm afraid you're very much in my way; you'd better go downstairs,' she looked up with the expression of one who expects to be told a secret. This manifest certitude that something was coming troubled Kate, and she thought it would be better after all to say nothing about Mr. Lennox, but again changing her mind, she said, assuming an air of indifference:

'Mr. Lennox will be here on Monday. I've just got a letter from him.'

'Oh, I'm so glad; for perhaps this time it will be possible to have one spree on the strict q.t.'

Kate was thinking of exactly the same thing, but Miss Hender's crude expression took the desire out of her heart, and she remained silent.

'I'm sure it's for you he's coming,' said the assistant. 'I know he likes you; I could see it in his eyes. You can always see if a man likes you by his eyes.'

Although it afforded Kate a great deal of pleasure to think that Dick liked her, it was irritating to hear his feelings for her discussed; she could not forget she was a married woman, and she began to regret that she ever mentioned the subject at all, when Miss Hender said:

'But what's the use of his coming if you can't get out? A man always expects a girl to be able to go out with him. The "hag" is sure to be about, and even if you did manage to give her the slip, there's your husband. Lord! I hadn't thought of that before. What damned luck! Don't you wish he'd get ill again? Another fit of asthma would suit us down to the ground.'

The blood rushed to Kate's face, and snapping nervously with the scissors in the air, she said:

'I don't know how you can bring yourself to speak in that way. How can you think that I would have my husband ill so that I might go to the theatre with Mr. Lennox? What do you fancy there is between us that makes you say such a thing as that?'

'Oh, I really don't know,' Miss Hender answered with a toss of her head; 'if you're going to be hoighty-toighty I've done.'

Kate thought it very provoking that Hender could never speak except coarsely, and it would have given her satisfaction to have said something sharp, but she had let Hender into a good many of her secrets, and it would be most inconvenient to have her turn round on her. Not, indeed, that she supposed she'd be wicked enough to do anything of the kind, but still--

And influenced by these considerations, Kate determined not to quarrel with Hender, but to avoid speaking to her of Dick. Even with her own people she maintained an attitude of shy reserve until Dick arrived, declining on all occasions to discuss the subject, whether with her husband or mother-in-law. 'I don't care whether he comes or not; decide your quarrels as you like, I've had enough of them,' was her invariable answer. This air of indifference ended by annoying Ralph, but she was willing to do that if it saved her from being forced into expressing an opinion-that was the great point; for with a woman's instinct she had already divined that she would not be left out of the events of the coming week. But there was still another reason. She was a little ashamed of her own treachery. Otherwise her conscience did not trouble her; it was crushed beneath a weight of desire and expectancy, and for three or four days she moved about the house in a dream. When she met her husband on the stairs and he joked her about the roses in her cheeks, she smiled curiously, and begged him to let her pass. In the workroom she was happy, for the mechanical action of sewing allowed her to follow the train of her dreams, and drew the attention of those present away from her. She had tried her novels, but now the most exciting failed to fix her thoughts. The page swam before her eyes, a confusion of white and black dots, the book would fall upon her lap in a few minutes, and she would relapse again into thinking of what Dick would say to her, and of the hours that still separated them. On Sunday, without knowing why, she insisted on attending all the services. Ralph in no way cared for this excessive devotion, and he proposed to take her for a walk in the afternoon, but she preferred to accompany Mrs. Ede to church. It loosened the tension of her thoughts to raise her voice in the hymns, and the old woman's gabble was pleasant to listen to on their way home-a sort of meaningless murmur in her ears while she was thinking of Dick, whom she might meet on the doorstep. It was, however, his portmanteau that they caught sight of in the passage when they opened the door. Ralph had taken it in; Lennox said that he had a lot of business to do with the acting manager, and would not return before they went up to prayers. Still Kate did not lose hope, and on the off chance that he might feel tired after his journey, and come home earlier than he expected, she endeavoured to prolong the conversation after supper. By turns she spoke to Mrs. Ede of the sermons of the day, and to Ralph of the possibilities of enlarging the shop-front. But when she was forced to hear how the actor was to send them the new fashions from London, the old lady grew restive, as did Ralph when the conversation turned on the relative merits of the morning and afternoon sermon. It was the old story of the goat and the cabbage-each is uneasy in the other's company; and even before the usual time mother and son agreed that it would be better to say prayers and get to bed.

Kate would have given anything to see Dick that night, and she lay awake for hours listening for the sound of the well-known heavy footstep. At last it came, tramp, tramp, a dull, heavy, noisy flapping through the silence of the house. She trembled, fearing that he would mistake the door and come into their room; if he did, she felt she would die of shame. The footsteps approached nearer, nearer; her husband was snoring loudly, and, casting a glance at him, she wondered if she should have time to push the bolt to. But immediately after, Dick stumbled up the stairs into his room, and, hugging the thought that he was again under her roof, she fell to dreaming of their meeting in the morning, wondering if it would befall her to meet him on the stairs or in the shop face to face, or if she would catch sight of him darting out of the door hurrying to keep an appointment which he had already missed. Mrs. Ede usually took in the lodger's hot water, it not being considered quite right for Kate to go into a gentleman's room when he was in bed. But the next morning Mrs. Ede was out and Ralph was asleep, so there was nothing for it but to fill the jug.

Dick heard the door open, but didn't trouble to look round, thinking it was Mrs. Ede, and Kate glided to the washhandstand and put down the jug in the basin. But the clink of the delf caused him to look round.

'Oh, is that you, Kate?' he said, brushing aside with a wave of his bare arm his frizzly hair. 'I didn't expect to see so pretty a sight first thing in the morning. And how have you been?'

'I'm very well, thank you, sir,' Kate replied, retreating.

'Well, I don't see why you should run away like that. What have I done to offend you? You know,' he said, lowering his voice to a confidential whisper, 'I didn't write to you about the poetry you sent me (at least, I suppose it was from you, it had the Hanley post-mark; if it wasn't, I'll burn it), because I was afraid that your old mother or your husband might get hold of my letter.'

'I must go away now, sir; your hot water is there,' she said, looking towards the door, which was ajar.

'But tell me, wasn't it you who sent me the verses? I have them here, and I brought you a little something-I won't tell you what-in return.'

'I can't talk to you now,' said Kate, casting on him one swift glance of mingled admiration and love. Although somewhat inclined to corpulence, he was a fine man, and looked a tower of strength as he lay tossed back on the pillows, his big arms and thick brown throat bare. A flush rose to her cheeks when he said that he had brought her a little something; all the same, it was impossible to stop talking to him now, and hoping to make him understand her position, raising her voice, she said:

'And what can I get you for breakfast, sir? Would you like an omelette?'

'Oh, I shan't be able to wait for breakfast; I have to be up at our acting manager's by nine o'clock. What time is it now?'

'I think it's just going the half-hour, sir.'

'Oh, then, I've lots of time yet,' replied Dick, settling himself in a way that relieved Kate of all apprehension that he was going to spring out before her on the floor.

'Then shall I get you breakfast, sir?'

'No, thanks, I shan't have time for that; I shall have something to eat up at Hayes'. But tell me, is there anyone listening?' he said, lowering his voice again. 'I want to speak to you now particularly, for I'm afraid I shall be out all day.'

Afraid that her husband might overhear her, Kate made a sign in the negative, and whispered, 'Tomorrow at breakfast.'

Although the thought that he had a present for her delighted her all day, Kate was not satisfied; for there had been something pretty, something coquettish associated in her mind with carrying in his breakfast tray (doubtless a remembrance of the ribbon-bedecked chambermaids she had read of in novels), which was absent in the more menial office of taking in his hot water. Besides, had he not told her that he was going to be out all day? Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday she had dotted over with little plans; Thursday and Friday she knew nothing of. Saturday? Well, there was just a possibility that he might kiss her before going away. She felt irritated with herself for this thought, but could not rid herself of it; a bitter sense of voluptuousness burnt at the bottom of her heart, and she railed against life sullenly. She had missed him on Sunday; Monday had ended as abruptly as an empty nut, and Hender's questions vexed and wearied her; she despaired of being able to go to the theatre. Nothing seemed to be going right. Even the little gold earrings which Dick took out of a velvet case and wanted to put into her ears only added a bitterer drop to her cup. All she could do was to hide them away where no one could find them. It tortured her to have to tell him that she could not wear them, and the kiss that he would ask for, and she could not refuse, seemed only a mockery. He was going away on Sunday, and this time she did not know when he would return. In addition to all these disappointments, she found herself obliged to go for a long walk on Tuesday afternoon to see a lady who had written to her about a dress. She did not get home until after six, and then it was only to learn that Mr. Lennox had been about the house all day, idling and talking to Ralph in the shop, and that they had gone off to the theatre together. Mrs. Ede was more than indignant, and when the little man was brought home at night, speaking painfully in little short gasps, she declared that it was a judgment upon him.

Next day he was unable to leave his room. When Dick was told what had happened he manifested much concern, and insisted on seeing the patient. Indeed, the sympathy he showed was so marked that Kate at first was tempted to doubt its sincerity. But she was wrong. Dick was truly sorry for poor Ralph, and he sat a long time with him, thinking what could be done to relieve him. He laid all the blame at his own door. He ought never to have kept a person liable to such a disease out so late at night. There was a particular chair in which Ralph always sat when he was affected with his asthma. It had a rail on which he could place his feet, and thus lift one knee almost on to a level with his chest; and in this position, his head on his hand, he would remain for hours groaning and wheezing. Dick watched him with an expression of genuine sorrow on his big face; and it was so clear that he regretted what he had done that for a moment even Mrs. Ede's heart softened towards him. But the thaw was only momentary; she froze again into stone when he remarked that it was a pity that Mr. Ede was ill, for they were going to play Madame Angot on Thursday night, and he would like them all to come. The invitation flattered Ralph's vanity, and, resolved not to be behindhand in civility, he declared between his gasps that no one should be disappointed on his account; he would feel highly complimented by Mr. Lennox's taking Mrs. Ede to the play; and on the spot it was arranged that Kate and Miss Hender should go together on Thursday night to see Madame Angot.

Kate murmured that she would be very pleased, and alluding to some work which had to be finished, she returned to the workroom to tell Hender the news.

'That's the best bit of news I've heard in this house for some time,'

Hender said.

Kate felt she could not endure another disappointment. All that was required of her now was to assume an air of indifference, and take care not to betray herself to Mrs. Ede, whom she suspected of watching her. But her excitement rendered her nervous, and she found the calm exterior she was so desirous of imposing on herself difficult to maintain. The uncertainty of her husband's temper terrified her. It was liable at any moment to change, and on the night in question he might order her not to leave the house. If so, she asked herself if she would have the courage to disobey him. The answer slipped from her: it was impossible for her to fix her attention on anything; and although she had a press of work on her hands, she availed herself of every occasion to escape to the kitchen, where she might talk to Lizzie and Annie about the play, and explain to them the meaning of the poster, that she now understood thoroughly. Their childish looks and questions soothed the emotions that were burning within her.

Thursday morning especially seemed interminable, but at last the long-watched clock on their staircase struck the wished-for hour, and still settling their bonnet-strings, Kate and Hender strolled in the direction of the theatre. The evening was dry and clear, and over an embrasure of the hills beyond Stoke the sun was setting in a red and yellow mist. The streets were full of people; and where Piccadilly opens into the market-place, groups and couples of factory girls were eagerly talking, some stretching forward in a pose that showed the nape of the neck and an ear; others, graver of face, walking straight as reeds with their hands on their hips, the palms flat, and the fingers half encircling the narrow waists.

'You must be glad to get out.' Hender said. 'To be cooped up in the way you are! I couldn't stand it.'

'Well, you see, I can enjoy myself all the more when I do get out.'

Kate would have liked to answer more tartly, but on second thoughts she decided it was not worth while. It bored her to be reminded of the humdrum life she led, and she had come to feel ashamed that she had been to the theatre only twice in her life, especially when it was mentioned in Dick's presence.

'We're too soon,' said Hender, breaking in jauntily on Kate's reflections; 'the doors aren't open yet.'

'I can see that.'

'But what are you so cross about?' asked Hender, who was not aware of what was passing in her employer's mind.

'I'm not cross. But how long shall we have to wait? Mr. Lennox said he'd meet us here, didn't he?'

'Oh, he can't be long now, for here comes Wentworth with the keys to open the doors.'

The street they were in branched to the right and left rectangularly; opposite were large flat walls, red in colour, and roofed like a barn, and before one black doorway some fifty or sixty people had collected. The manager pushed his way through the crowd, and soon after, like a snake into a hole, the line began to disappear. Hender explained that this was the way to the pit, and what Kate took for a cellar was the stage entrance. A young man with a big nose, whom she recognized as Mr. Montgomery, stared at them as he passed; then came two ladies-Miss Leslie and Miss Beaumont. Dick did not appear for some time after, but at last the big hat was seen coming along. Although, as usual, in a great hurry, he was apparently much pleased to see them, and he offered Kate his arm and conducted her across the street into the theatre.

'You're a bit early, you know. The curtain doesn't go up for half an hour yet,' he said, as they ascended a high flight of steps, at the top of which sat a woman with tickets in her hand.

'We were afraid of being too late.'

'It was very good of you to come. I hope you'll have a pleasant evening; it would be quite a treat to act when you were in the house.'

'But aren't you going to act, sir?'

'You mustn't call me sir; everybody calls me Dick, and I don't know anyone who has a better right to do so than you.'

'But aren't you going to act, Di-? I can't say it.'

'I don't call it acting. I come on in the first act. I just do that to save the salary, for you know I have an interest in the tour.'

Kate had no idea as to what was meant by having 'an interest in the tour,' and she did not ask, fearing to waste her present happiness in questions. Her attention was so concentrated on the big man by her side that she scarcely knew she was in a theatre, and had as yet perceived neither the star-light nor the drop-curtain. Dick spoke to her of herself and of himself, but he said nothing that recalled any of the realities of her life, and when he suddenly lifted his hand from hers and whispered, 'Here comes Miss Hender: we mustn't appear too intimate before her,' she experienced the sensation of one awaking out of a most delicious dream.

Hender cast a last retort at the two men with whom she was chaffing, and, descending through the chairs, said:

'Mr. Lennox, you're wanted behind.'

Dick promised to see them again when the act was over, and hastened away, and Hender, settling herself in her chair, looked at Kate in a way which said as distinctly as words, 'Well, my young woman, you do go it when you're out on the loose.' But she refrained from putting her thoughts into words, possibly because she feared to turn her mistress from what she considered, too obviously, indeed, to be the right path.

They were sitting in the middle division of a gallery divided into three parts, where the twilight was broken by the yellow-painted backs of the chairs, and where a series of mirrors, framed in black wood, decorated the walls, reflecting monotonously different small corners of the house.

Only a dozen or fifteen people had as yet come in, and they moved about like melancholy shades;

or, when sitting still, seemed like ink-spots on a dark background.

The two women looked down into the great pit, through which the crowd was rolling in one direction, a sort of human tide, a vague tumult in which little was distinguishable; a bald head or a bunch of yellow flowers in a woman's bonnet flashed through the darkness for an instant like the crest of a wave. A dozen pale jets of a miserable iron gas-fitting hanging out of the shadows of the roof struggled in the gloom, leaving the outlines of the Muses above the proscenium as undefinable as the silhouettes of the shopkeepers in the pit. Over against the shopkeepers was the drop-curtain, the centre of which contained a romantic picture intended to prepare the spectators for the play soon to begin. Kate admired the lake, and during the long interval it seemed to her bluer and more beautiful than any she had ever seen. Along the shores there were boats with sailors hoisting sails, and she began to wonder what was the destination of these boats, if the sailors were leaving their sweethearts or setting forth to regain them.

It seemed to Kate that the play was never going to begin, so long had she been kept waiting. She did not consult Hender, but possessed her soul in patience till a thin young man came up from under the stage, pushing his glasses higher on his beak-like nose. He took his place on the high stool; he squared his shoulders; looked around; waved his stick. The sparkling marriage chorus, with the fanciful peasants and the still more fanciful bridegroom in silk, the bright appearance of Clairette at the window, and the sympathy awakened by her love for the devil-may-care revolutionary poet seduced Kate like a sensual dream; and in all she saw and felt there was a mingled sense of nearness and remoteness, an extraordinary concentration, and an absence of her own proper individuality. Never had she heard such music. How suave it was compared with the austere and regular rhythm of the hymns she sang in church! The gay tripping measure of the market-woman's song filled her with visions and laughter. There was an accent of insincerity in the serenade that troubled her as a sudden cloud might the dreams of the most indolent of lazzaroni, but the beseeching passion of the duet revealed to her sympathies for parting lovers that even her favourite poetry had been unable to do. All her musical sensibilities rushed to her head like wine; it was only by a violent effort, full of acute pain, that she saved herself from raising her voice with those of the singers, and dreading a giddiness that might precipitate her into the pit, she remained staring blindly at the stage.

Her happiness would have been complete, if such violent emotions can be called happiness, had it not been for Hender. This young person, actuated probably by a desire of displaying her knowledge, could not be prevented from talking. As each actor or actress entered she explained their position in the company, and all she knew of their habits in private life. Mr. Mortimer's dispute the other night with Bill, the scene-shifter, necessitated quite a little tirade against drunkenness, and as it was necessary to tell of what had been said in the ladies' dressing-room, a description of Miss Beaumont's underclothing was introduced; it was very elegant-silk stockings and lace-trimmed chemises; whereas Miss Leslie's was declared to be much plainer. Once or twice Hender was asked to keep quiet, but Kate did not much mind. The thunder of applause which rose from a pit filled with noisy factory boys and girls was accepted in good faith, and it floated through her mind, elevating and exciting her emotions as the roar of the breakers on the shore does the dreams of a dreamer. But the star she was expecting had not yet appeared. She had seen Miss Leslie, Miss Beaumont, Joe Mortimer, and Frank Bret, and numberless other people, who had appeared in all sorts of dresses and had sung all kinds of enchanting songs, but Dick was nowhere to be found. She had searched vainly for him in the maze of colour that was being flashed before her eyes. Would he appear as a king, a monk, a shepherd, or would he wear a cocked hat? She did not know, and was too bewildered to think. She had a dim notion that he would do something wonderful, set everything to rights, that they would all bow down before him when he entered, and she watched every motion of the crowd, expecting it every moment to make way for him. But he did not appear, and at last they all went away singing. Her heart sank within her, but just when she had begun to lose hope, two men rushed across the stage and commenced to spy about and make plans. At first Kate did not recognize her lover, so completely was he disguised, but soon the dreadful truth commenced to dawn upon her. Oh, misery! Oh, horror! How could this be? And she closed her eyes to shut out her dreadful disappointment. Why had he done this thing? She had expected a king, and had found a policeman.

'There he is, there he is!' whispered Hender. 'Don't you see, 'tis he who does the policeman? A French policeman! He drags the bride away at the end of the act, you know.'

Poor Kate felt very unhappy indeed. Her fanciful house of cards had fallen down and crushed her under the ruins. She felt she could no longer take an interest in anything. The rest of the act was torture to her. What pleasure could it be to her to see her lover, looking hideous, drag a bride away from her intended?

Kate wished that her lover had not chosen to act such a part, and she felt, dimly, perhaps, but intensely, that it was incongruous of him to exhibit himself to her as a policeman who at the end of the act dragged the bride away from her intended. And she could not understand why he should have chosen, if he loved her, to dress himself in such very unbecoming clothes. She thought she would like to run out of the theatre, but that was impossible. But when Dick came to her at the fall of the curtain and sat down by her side she forgot all about the foreign policeman; he was Dick again.

'How did you like the piece, dear?'

'Very much.' It was on her tongue to ask him why he had chosen to play the policeman, but all that was over; why should she trouble him with questions? Yet the question in her mind betrayed itself, for, laying his hand affectionately on hers, he said that he felt that something had happened. Hender, who had seen Dick take Kate's hand, thought that this was a moment for her to escape, but Kate begged of her to stay. Hender, however, feeling that her absence would be preferable to her company, mentioned that she must go; she had to speak to the manager on some business which she had forgotten till now.

'Why did you want her to stay?' said Dick, 'don't you like being alone with me?' Kate answered him with a look, wondering all the while what could have induced him to play the part of that ugly policeman. 'I'm sure you didn't like the piece,' he continued, 'and yet I must say from behind it seemed to go very well; but then, there are so many things you miss from the wings.'

Kate understood nothing of what he said, but seeing that he was terribly sincere, and fearing to pain him, she hastened to give the piece her unqualified approbation.

'I assure you I couldn't have liked anything more-the music was so pretty.'

'And how did you think I looked? It's only a small part, you know, but at the same time it requires to be played. If there isn't some go put into it the finale all goes to pot.'

Now Kate felt sure he was quizzing her, and at length she said, the desire to speak her mind triumphing over her shyness, 'But why did you make yourself look like that? It wasn't a nice part, was it?'

'It's only a trumpery bit of a thing, but it is better for me to take it than have another salary on the list. In the next act, you know, I come on as the Captain of the Guard.'

'And will that be nice?' Kate asked, her face flushing at the idea of seeing her lover in a red coat.

'Oh yes, it looks well enough, but it isn't an acting part. I'm only on for a few minutes. I'm only supposed to come on in search of the conspirators. I take a turn or two of the waltz with Miss Beaumont, who plays Lange, and it's all over. Have you ever heard the waltz?' Kate never had; so, drawing her close to him, he sang the soft flowing melody in her ear. In her nervousness she squeezed his hand passionately, and this encouraged him to say, 'How I wish it were you that I had to dance with! How nice it would be to hold you in my arms! Would you like to be in my arms?'

Kate looked at him appealingly; but nothing more was said, and soon after Dick remembered he had to get the stage ready for the second act. As he hurried away, Hender appeared. She had been round to the 'pub.' to have a drink with Bill, and had been behind talking to her ladies, who, as she said, 'were all full of Dick's new mash.'

'They've seen you, and are as jealous as a lot of cats.'

'It's very wicked of them to say there's anything between Mr. Lennox and me,' replied Kate angrily. 'I suppose they think everybody is like themselves-a lot of actresses!'

Hender made no answer, but she turned up her nose at what she considered to be damned insulting to the profession.

However, in a few minutes her indignation evaporated, and she called Kate's attention to what a splendid house it was.

'I can tell you what; with a shilling pit, a sixpenny gallery, and the centre and side circles pretty well full, it soon runs up. There must be nigh on seventy pounds in-and that for Thursday night!'

They were now well on in the second act. The brilliancy of the 'Choeur des Merveilleuses,' the pleading pity of 'She is such a simple little thing,' the quaint drollery of the conspirators, made Kate forget the aspersions cast on Clairette's character. The light music foamed in her head like champagne, and in a whirling sense of intoxication a vision of Dick in a red coat passed and repassed before her. For this she had to wait a long time, but at last the sounds of trumpets were heard, and those on the stage cried that the soldiers were coming. Kate's heart throbbed, a mist swam before her eyes, and immediately after came a sense of bright calm; for, in all the splendour of uniform, Dick entered, big and stately, at the head of a regiment of girls in red tights. The close-fitting jacket had reduced his size, the top-boots gave a dignity to his legs. He was doubtless a fine man; to Kate he was more than divine. Then the sweet undulating tune he had sung in her ears began, and casting a glance of explanation in the direction of the gallery, he put his arm round Miss Beaumont's waist. The action caused Kate a heart-pang, but the strangeness of the scene she was witnessing distracted her thoughts. For immediately the other actors and actresses in their startling dresses selected partners, and the stage seemed transformed into a wonderful garden of colour swinging to the music of a fountain that, under the inspiration of the moonlight, broke from its monotonous chant into rhythmical variations. Dick, like a great tulip in his red uniform, turned in the middle, and Miss Beaumont, in her long yellow dress, sprawled upon him. Her dress was open at both sides, and each time she passed in front, Kate, filled with disgust, strove not to see the thick pink legs, which were visible to the knees. Miss Leslie in her bride's dress bloomed a lily white, as she danced with a man whose red calves and thighs seemed prolonged into his very chest. La Rivodière cast despairing glances at Lange, poor Pomponet strove to get to his bride, and all the blonde wigs and black collars of the conspirators were mixed amid the strange poke bonnets of the ladies, and the long swallow-tailed coats, reaching almost to the ground, flapped in and out of the legs of the female soldiers. Kate smiled feebly and drank in the music of the waltz. It was played over again; like a caged canary's song it haunted Clairette's orange-blossoms; like the voluptuous thrill of a nightingale singing in a rose-garden it flowed about Lange's heavy draperies and glistening bosom; like the varied chant of the mocking bird it came from under Ange Pitou's cocked hat. It was sung separately and in unison, and winding and unwinding itself, it penetrated into the deepest recesses of Kate's mind. It seduced like a deep slow perfume; it caressed with the long undulations of a beautiful snake and the mystery of a graceful cat; it whispered of fair pleasure places, where scent, music, and love are one, where lovers never grow weary, and where kisses endure for ever. She was conscious of deep self-contentment, of dreamy idleness, of sad languor, and the charm to which she abandoned herself resembled the enervations of a beautiful climate, the softness of a church; she yearned for her lover and the fanciful life of which he was the centre, as one might for some ideal fatherland. The current of the music carried her far away, far beyond the great hills into a land of sleep, dream, and haze, and a wonderful tenderness swam within her as loose and as dim as the green sea depths, that a wave never stirs. She struggled, but it was only as one in a dream strives to lift himself out of the power that holds; and when the conductor waved his stick for the last time, and the curtain came down amid deafening applause, irritated and enervated, she shrank from Hender, as if anxious not to be wholly awakened.

The third act passed she scarcely knew how. She was overborne and over-tempted; all her blood seemed to be in her head and heart, and from time to time she was shaken with quick shudderings.

When Dick came to see her she scarcely understood what he said to her, and it annoyed her not to be able to answer him. When the word 'love' was pronounced she smiled, but her smile was one of pain, and she could not rouse herself from a sort of sad ecstasy. Gay as the tunes were, there was in every one a sort of inherent sadness which she felt but could not explain to Dick, who began to think that she was disappointed in the piece.

'Disappointed! Oh no,' she said, and they stood for a long while staring at a large golden moon, lighting up the street like a bull's-eye.

'How nice it is to be here out of that hot stuffy theatre!' said Dick, putting his arm round her.

'Oh, do you think so? I could listen to that music for ever.'

'It is pretty, isn't it? I'm so glad you liked it. I told you the waltz was lovely.'

'Lovely! I should think so. I shall never forget it.'

She lost her habitual shyness in her enthusiasm, and sang the first bars with her face raised towards her lover's; then, gaining courage from his look of astonishment and pleasure, she gave all the modulations with her full voice.

'By Jove! you've a deuced nice soprano, and a devilish good ear too. 'Pon my soul, you sing that waltz as well as Beaumont.'

'Oh, Dick, you mustn't laugh at me.'

'I swear I'm not laughing. Sing it again; nobody's listening.'

They were standing in the shade of a large warehouse; the line of slates making a crescent of the full moon, and amid the reverberating yards and brickways Kate's voice sounded as penetrating and direct as a flute. The exquisite accuracy of her ear enabled her to give each note its just value. Dick was astonished, and he said when she had finished:

'I really don't want to flatter you, but with a little teaching you would sing far better than Beaumont. Your ear is perfect; it's the production of the voice that wants looking to;' and he talked to her of the different tunes, listening to what she had to say, and encouraging her to recall the music she had heard. He would beg her to repeat a phrase after him; he taught her how to emphasize the rhythm, and was anxious that she should learn the legend of Madame Angot.

'Now,' said Dick, 'I'll sing the symphony, and we'll go through it with all the effects-one, two, three, four, ta ra ta ta ta ta ta.'

But as Kate attacked the first bar it was taken up by three or four male voices, the owners of which, judging by the sound, could not be more than forty or fifty yards away.

'Here's Montgomery, Joe Mortimer, and all that lot. I wouldn't be caught here with you for anything.'

'By going up this passage we can get home in two minutes.'

'Can we? Well, let's cut; but no, they're too close on us. Do you go, dear; I'll remain and tell them it was a lady singing out of that window. Here, take my latchkey. Off you go.'

Without another word Kate fled down the alley, and Dick was left to explain whatever he pleased concerning the mythical lady whom he declared he had been serenading.

When Kate arrived home that night she lay awake for hours, tossing restlessly, her brain whirling with tunes and parts of tunes. The conspirators' chorus, the waltz song, the legend, and a dozen disconnected fragments of the opera all sang together in her ears, and in her insomnia she continued to take singing lessons from Dick. She was certain that he loved her, and the enchantment of her belief murmured in her ears all night long; and when she met Hender next morning, the desire to speak of Dick burnt her like a great thirst, and it was not until Hender left her to go to the theatre that she began to realize in all its direct brutality the fact that on the morrow she would have to bid him goodbye, perhaps for ever.

Her husband wheezed on the sofa, her mother-in-law read the Bible, sitting bolt upright in the armchair, and the shaded lamp covered the table with light, and fearing she might be provoked into shrieks or some violent manifestation of temper, she went to bed as early as she could. But there her torments became still more intolerable. All sorts of ideas and hallucinations, magnified and distorted, filled her brain, rendered astonishingly clear by the effects of insomnia. She saw over again the murders she had read of in her novels, and her imagination supplied details the author had not dreamed of. The elopements, with all their paraphernalia of moonlight and roses, came back to her…. But if she were never to see him again-if it were her fate to lie beside her husband always, to the end of her life! She buried her head in the pillows in the hopes of shutting out the sound of his snores.

At last she felt him moving, and a moment afterwards she heard him say, 'There's Mr. Lennox at the door; he can't get in. Do go down and open it for him.'

'Why don't you go yourself?' she answered, starting up into a sitting position.

'How am I to go? You don't want me to catch my death at the front door?'

Ralph replied angrily.

Kate did not answer, but quickly tying a petticoat about her, and wrapping herself in her dressing-gown, she went downstairs. It was quite dark, and she had to feel her way along the passage. But at last she found and pulled back the latch, and when the white gleam of moonlight entered she retreated timidly behind the door.

'I'm so sorry,' said Dick, trying to see who the concealed figure was, 'but

I forgot my latchkey.'

'It doesn't matter,' said Kate.

'Oh, it's you, dear. I've been trying to get home all day to see you, but couldn't. Why didn't you come down to the theatre?'

'You know that I can't do as I like.'

'Well, never mind; don't be cross; give me a kiss.'

Kate shrunk back, but Dick took her in his arms. 'You were in bed, then?' he said, chuckling.

'Yes, but you must let me go.'

'I should like never to let you go again.'

'But you're leaving to-morrow.'

'Not unless you wish me to, dear.'

Kate did not stop to consider the impossibility of his fulfilling his promise, and, her heart beating, she went upstairs. On the first landing he stopped her, and laying his hand on her arm, said, 'And would you really be very glad if I were to stay with you?'

'You know I would, Dick.'

They could not see each other, and after a long silence she said, 'We mustn't stop here talking. Mrs. Ede sleeps, you know, in the room at the back of the workroom, and she might hear us.'

'Then come into the sitting-room,' said Dick, taking her hands and drawing her towards him.

'I cannot.'

'I love you better than anyone in the world.'

'No, no; why should you love me?'

'Let us prove our love one to the other,' he murmured, and frightened, but at the same time delighted by the words, she allowed him to draw her into his room.

'My husband will miss me,' she said as the door closed, but she could think no more of him; he was forgotten in a sudden delirium of the senses; and for what seemed to him like half an hour Ralph waited, asking himself what his wife could be doing all that time, thinking that perhaps it was not Lennox after all, but some rambling vagrant who had knocked at the door, and that he had better go down and rescue his wife. He would have done so had he not been afraid of a sudden draught, and while wondering what was happening he dozed away, to be awakened a few minutes afterwards by voices on the landing.

'Let me go, Dick, let me go; my husband will miss me.' She passed away from him and entered her husband's room, and Ralph said: 'Well, who was it?'

'Mr. Lennox,' she answered.

'Our lodger,' Ralph murmured, and fell asleep again.

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