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   Chapter 33 ALL LOST BUT——

Armorel of Lyonesse By Walter Besant Characters: 32533

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


Mr. Alec Feilding paced the thick carpet of his studio with a restless step and an unquiet mind. Never before had he faced a more gloomy outlook. Black clouds, storm and rain, everywhere. Bad, indeed, is it for the honest tradesman when there is no money left, and no credit. But a man can always begin the world again if he has a trade. The devil of it is when a man has no trade at all, except that of lying and cheating in the abstract. Many men, it is true, combine cheatery and falsehood with their trade. Few are so unfortunate as to have no trade on which to base their frauds and adulterations.

Everything threatened, and all at once. Nay, it seemed as if everything was actually taken from him and all at once. Not something here, which might be repaired, and something there, a little later on, but all at once-everything. Nothing at all left. Even his furniture and his books might be seized. He would be stripped of his house, his journal, his name, his credit, his position-even his genius! Therefore his face-that face which Armorel found so wooden-was now full of expression, but of the terror-stricken, hunted kind: that of the man who has been found out and is going to be exposed.

On the table lay three or four letters. They had arrived that morning. He took them up and read them one after the other. It was line upon line, blow upon blow.

The first was from Roland Lee.

'I see no object,' he said, 'in granting you the interview which you propose. There is not really anything that requires discussion. As to our interests being identical, as you say-if they have been so hitherto they will remain so no longer. As to the market price of the pictures, which you claim to have raised by your judicious management, I am satisfied to see my work rise to its own level by its own worth. As to your threat that the influence which has been exerted for an artist may be also exerted against him-you will do what you please. Your last demand, for gratitude, needs no reply. I start again, exactly where I was when you found me. I am still as poor and as little known. The half-dozen pictures which you have sold as your own will not help me in any way. Your assertion that I am about to reap the harvest of your labours is absurd. I begin the world over again. The last picture-the one now in your studio-you will be good enough not to exhibit'-'Won't I, though?' asked the owner-'at the penalty of certain inconveniences which you will learn immediately. I have torn up and burned your cheque.'-'So much the better for me,' said the purchaser.-'You say that you will not let me go without a personal interview. If you insist upon one, you must have it. You will find me here any morning. But, as you can only want an interview in the hope of renewing the old arrangement, I am bound to warn you that it is hopeless and impossible, and to beg that you will not trouble yourself to come here at all. Understand that no earthly consideration will induce me to bear any further share in the deception in which I have been too long a confederate. The guilty knowledge of the past should separate us as wide apart as the poles. To see you will be to revive a guilty memory. Since we must meet, perhaps, from time to time, let us meet as a pair of criminals who avoid each other's conversation for fear of stirring up the noisome past. What has been resolved upon, so far as I-and another-are concerned, Miss Armorel Rosevean has undertaken to inform you.-R. L.'

'Deception! Criminals!' I suppose there is no depth of wickedness into which men may not descend, step by step, getting daily deeper in the mire of falsehood and crime, yet walking always with head erect, and meeting the world with the front of rectitude. Had anyone told Mr. Alec Feilding, years before, what he would do in the future, he would have kicked that foul and obscene prophet. Well: he had done these things, and deliberately: he had posed before the world as painter, poet, and writer of fiction. As time went on, and the world accepted his pretensions, they became a part of himself. Nay: he even excused himself. Everybody does the same thing: or, just the same, everybody would do it, given the chance: it is a world of pretension, make-believe, and seeming. Besides, he was no highwayman, he bought the things: he paid for them: they were his property. And yet-'Deception! Criminals!' The words astonished and pained him.

And the base ingratitude of the man. He was starving: no one would buy his things: nobody knew his work, when he stepped in. Then, by dexterity in the art of Puff, which the moderns call réclame-he actually believed this, being so ignorant of Art-he had forced these pictures into notice: he had run up their price, until for that picture on the easel he had been offered, and had taken, 450l.! Ungrateful!

'Deception! Criminals!'

Why, the man had actually received a cheque for 300l. for that very picture. What more could he want or expect? True, he had refused to cash the cheque. More fool he!

And now he was going absolutely to withdraw from the partnership, and work for himself. Well-poor devil! He would starve!

He stood in front of the picture and looked at it mournfully. The beautiful thing-far more beautiful than any he had exhibited before. It cut him to the heart to think-not that he had been such a fraud, but-that he could have no more from the same source. His career was cut short at the outset, his ambitions blasted, by this unlucky accident. Yet a year or two and the Academy would have made him an Associate: a few more years and he would have become R.A. Perhaps, in the end, President. And now it was all over. No Royal Academy for him, unless-a thing almost desperate-he could find some other Roland Lee-some genius as poor, as reckless of himself. And it might be years-years-before he could find such a one. Meantime, what was he to show? What was he to say? 'Deception! Criminals!' Confound the fellow! The words banged about his head and boxed his ears.

The second letter was from Effie-the girl to whom he had paid such vast sums of money, whom he had surrounded with luxuries-on whom he had bestowed the precious gift of his personal friendship. This girl also wrote without the least sense of gratitude. She said, in fact, writing straight to the point, 'I beg to inform you that I shall not, in future, be able to continue those contributions to your paper which you have thought fit to publish in two volumes with your own name attached. I have submitted my original manuscript of those verses to a friend, who has compared them with your published volume, and has ascertained that there is not the alteration of a single word. So that your pretence of having altered and improved them, until they became your own, is absurd. My brother begs me to add that your statement made before all the people at the reading was false. You made no suggestions. You offered no advice. You said that the play was worthless. My brother has made no alterations. You offered to give him fifty pounds for the whole rights in the play, with the right of bringing it out under your own name. This offer he refuses absolutely.

'I sincerely wish I could restore the money you have given me. I now understand that it was the price of my silence-the Wages of Sin.

'E. W.'

No more verses from that quarter. Poets, however, there are in plenty, writers of glib and flowing rhymes. To be sure, they are as a race consumed by vanity, and want to have their absurd names stuck to everything they do. Very well, henceforth he would have anonymous verses, and engage a small army of poets. The letter moved him little, except that it came by the same post as the other. It proved, taken with the evening of the play, concerted action. As for comparing the girl's manuscript verses with the volume, how was she to prove that the manuscript verses were not copied out of the volume?

Then there was a third letter, a very angry letter, from Lady Frances, his story-teller.

'I learn,' she said, 'that you have chosen me as the fittest person upon whom to practise your deceptions. You assured me that you were engaged to Miss Armorel Rosevean. I learn from the young lady herself that this is entirely false: you did offer yourself, it is true, a week after you had assured me of the engagement. You were promptly and decidedly refused. And you had no reason whatever for believing that you would be accepted.

'I should like you to consider that you owe your introduction into society to me. You also owe to me whatever name you have acquired as a story-teller. Every one of the society stories told in your paper has been communicated to you by me. And this is the way in which you repay my kindness to you.

'Under the circumstances, I think you cannot complain if I request that in future we cease to meet even as acquaintances. Of course, my contributions to your paper will be discontinued. And if you venture to state anywhere that they are your own work, I will publicly contradict the statement.

'F. H.'

He stood irresolute. What was to be done? For the moment he could think of nothing. 'It is that cursed girl!' he cried. 'Why did she ever come here? By what unlucky accident did she meet these two-Roland Lee and Effie? Why was I such a fool as to ask Lady Frances to call upon her? Why did I send Zoe to her? It is all folly together. If it had not been for her we should have been all going on as before. I am certain we should-and going on comfortably. I should have made Roland's fortune as well as my own name-and his hand was getting stronger and better every day. And I should have kept that girl in comfort, and made a very pretty little name for myself that way. She was improving, too-a bright and clever girl-a real treasure in proper hands. And I had the boy as well, or should have had. Good Heavens! what losses! What a splendid possession to have destroyed! No man ever before had such a chance-to say nothing of Lady Frances!' It was maddening. We use the word lightly, and for small cause. But it really was maddening. 'What will they say? What are they going to do? What can they say? If it comes to a question of affirmation I can swear as well as anyone, I suppose. If Roland pretends that he painted my pictures-if Effie says she wrote my poems-how will they prove it? What can they do?

'But things stick. If it is whispered about that there will be no more pictures and no more poems-oh! it is the hardest luck.'

One more letter reached him by that morning's post:-

'Dearest Alec,-I have left Armorel, and am no longer a Companion. The gilt could not disguise the pill. I have, however, a communication to make of a more comfortable character than this. It is true that I am like a housemaid out of a situation. But I think you will change the natural irritation caused by this announcement for a more joyful countenance when you see me. I shall arrive with my communication about noon to-morrow. Be at home, and be alone.-Your affectionate

'Zoe.'

What had she got to say? At the present crisis what could it matter what she had to say? If she had only got that money out of Armorel, or succeeded in making the girl his servant. But she could not do the only really useful thing he ever asked of her.

He laid down the letter on the table, beside one from his printers-three days old. In this communication the printers pointed out that his account was very large; that no satisfactory arrangement had been proposed; that they were going to discontinue printing his paper unless something practical was effected; and that they hoped to hear from him without delay.

There was a knock at the door: the discreet man-servant brought a card, with the silence and confidential manner of one who announces a secret emissary-say a hired assassin.

The visitor was Mr. Jagenal. He came in friendly and expansive.

'My dear boy!' he said with a warm grasp. 'Always at work-always at work?'

Alec dexterously swept the letters into an open drawer. 'Always at work,' he said. 'But I must be hard pressed when I cannot give you five minutes. What is it?'

'I will come to the point at once. You know Mrs. Elstree very well, I believe?'

'Very well indeed-I knew her before her father's failure. Before her marriage.'

'Quite so. Then what do you make of this?' He handed over a note, which the other man read: 'Dear Sir,-Unexpected circumstances have made it necessary for me to give up my charge of Armorel Rosevean at once. I have not even been able to wait a single day. I have been compelled to leave her without even wishing her farewell.-Very truly yours, Zoe Elstree.'

'It is very odd,' he said truthfully. 'I know nothing of these circumstances. I cannot tell you why she has resigned.'

'Oh! I thought I would ask you! Well, she has actually gone: she has vanished: she has left the girl quite alone. This is all very irregular, isn't it? Not quite what one expects of a lady, is it?'

'Very irregular indeed. Well, I am responsible for her introduction to you, and I will find out, if I can, what it means. She is coming here to-day, she writes: no doubt to give me her reasons. What will Miss Rosevean do?'

'Oh! she is an independent girl. She tells me that she has found a young lady about her own age, and they are going to live together. Alec, I don't quite understand why you thought Mrs. Elstree so likely a person for companion. Philippa tells me that she has no friends, and we appointed her because we thought she had so many.'

'Pleasing-attractive-accomplished-what more did you want? And as for friends, she must have had plenty.'

'But it seems she had none. Nobody has ever called upon her. And she never went into any society. Are you sure that you were not misled about her, my dear boy? I have heard, for instance, rumours about her and the provincial stage.'

'Oh! rumours are nothing. I don't think I could have been mistaken in her. However, she has gone. I will find out why. As for Armorel Rosevean--'

'Alec-what a splendid girl! Was there no chance there for you? Are you so critical that even Armorel is not good enough for you?'

'Not my style,' he said shortly. 'Never mind the girl.'

'Well-there is one more thing, Alec-and a more pleasant subject-about yourself. I want to ask you one or two questions-family questions.'

'I thought you knew all about my family.'

'So I do, pretty well. However-this is really important-most important. I wouldn't waste your time if it was not important. Do you remember your great-aunt Eleanor Fletcher?'

'Very well. She left all her money to charities-Cat!'

'And your grandmother, Mrs. Needham?'

'Quite well. What is in the wind now? Has Aunt Eleanor been proved to have made a later will in my favour?'

'You will find out in a day or two. Eh! Alec, you are a lucky dog. Painter-poet-nothing in which you do not command success. And now-now--'

'Now-what?'

'That I will tell you, my dear boy, in two or three days. There's many a slip, we know, but this time the cup will reach your lips.'

'What do you mean?' cried the young man, startled. 'Cup? Do you mean to tell me that you have something-something unexpected-coming to me? Something considerable?'

'If it comes-oh! yes, it is quite certain to come-very considerable. You are your mother's only son, and she was an only child, and her grandfather was one Robert Fletcher, wasn't he?'

'I believe he was. There's a family Bible on the shelves that can tell us.'

'Did you ever hear anything about the early life and adventures of this Robert Fletcher?'

'No: he was in the City, I believe, and he left a good large fortune. That is all.'

'That is all. That is all. Well, my dear boy, the strangest things happen: we must never be surprised at anything. But be prepared to-morrow-or next day-or the day after-to be agreeably-most agreeably-surprised.'

'To the tune of-what? A thousand pounds, say?'

'Perhaps. It may amount very nearly to as much-very nearly-Ha! ha!-to nearly as much as that, I dare say-Ho! ho!' He chuckled, and wagged his white head. 'Very nearly a thousand pounds, I dare say.' He walked over to look at the picture.

'Really, A

lec,' he said, 'you deserve all the luck you get. Nobody can possibly grudge it to you. This picture is charming. I don't know when I have seen a sweeter thing. You have the finest feeling for rock and sea-shore and water. Well, my dear boy, I am very sorry that you haven't as fine a feeling for Armorel Rosevean-the sweetest girl and the best, I believe, in the world. Good-bye!-good-bye! till the day after to-morrow-the day after to-morrow! It will certainly reach to a thousand-or very near. Ho! ho! Lucky dog!'

Mr. Jagenal went away nodding and smiling. There are moments when it is very good to be a solicitor: they are moments rich in blessing: they compensate, in some measure, for those other moments when the guilty are brought to bay and the thriftless are made to tremble: they are the moments when the solicitor announces a windfall-the return of the long-lost Nabob-the discovery of a will-the favourable decision of the Court.

Alec sat down and seized a pen. He wrote hurriedly to his printers: 'Let the present arrangements,' he said, continue unchanged. I shall be in a position in two or three days to make a very considerable payment, and, after that, we will start on a more regular understanding.'

Another knock, and again the discreet man-servant came in on tiptoe. 'Lady refused her card,' he whispered.

The lady was none other than Armorel herself-in morning dress, wearing a hat.

He bowed coldly. There was a light in her eyes, and a heightened colour on her cheek, which hardly looked like a friendly call. But that, of course, one could not expect.

'After our recent interview,' he said, 'and after the very remarkable string of accusations which fell from your lips, I could hardly expect to see you in my studio, Miss Rosevean.'

'I came only to communicate a resolution arrived at by my friends Mr. Roland Lee and Miss Effie Wilmot.'

'From your friends Mr. Roland Lee and Miss Effie Wilmot? May I offer you a chair?'

'Thank you. No. My message is only to tell you this. They have resolved to let the past remain unknown.'

'To let the past remain unknown.' He tried to appear careless, but the girl watched the sudden light of satisfaction in his eyes and the sudden expression of relief in his face. 'The past remain unknown,' he repeated. 'Yes-certainly. Am I-may I ask-interested in this decision?'

'That you know best, Mr. Feilding. It seems hardly necessary to try to carry it off with me-I know everything. But-as you please. They agree that they have been themselves deeply to blame: they cannot acquit themselves. Certainly it is a pitiful thing for an artist to own that he has sold his name and fame in a moment of despair.'

'It would be indeed a pitiful thing if it were ever done.'

'Nothing more, therefore, will be said by either of them as to the pictures or poems.'

'Indeed? From what you have already told me: from the gracious freedom of your utterances at the National Gallery, I seem to connect those two names with the charges you then brought. They refuse to bring forward, or to endorse, those charges, then? Do you withdraw them?'

'They do not refuse to bring forward the charges. They have never made those charges. I made them, and I, Mr. Feilding'-she raised her voice a little-'I do not withdraw them.'

'Oh! you do not withdraw them? May I ask what your word in the matter is worth unsupported by their evidence-even if their evidence were worth anything?'

'You shall hear what my word is worth. This picture'-she placed herself before it-'is painted by Mr. Roland Lee. Perhaps he will not say so. Oh! It is a beautiful picture-it is quite the best he has ever painted-yet. It is a true picture: you cannot understand either its beauty or its truth. You have never been to the place: you do not even know where it is: why, Sir, it is my birthplace. I lived there until I was sixteen years of age: the scene, like all the scenes in those pictures you call your own, was taken in the Scilly archipelago.' He started. 'You do not even know the girl who stands in the foreground-your own model. Why-it is my portrait-mine-look at me, Sir-it is my portrait. Now you know what my word is worth. I have only to stand before this picture and tell the world that this is my portrait.'

He started and changed colour. This was unexpected. If the girl was to go on talking in this way outside, it would be difficult to reply. What was he to say if the words were reported to him? Because, you see, once pointed out, there could be no doubt at all about the portrait.

'A portrait of myself,' she repeated.

'Permit me to observe,' he said, with some assumption of dignity, 'that you will find it very difficult to prove these statements-most difficult-and at the same time highly dangerous, because libellous.'

'No, not dangerous, Mr. Feilding. Would you dare to go into a Court of Justice and swear that these pictures are yours? When did you go to Scilly? Where did you stay? Under what circumstances did you have me for a model? On what island did you find this view?'

He was silent.

'Will you dare to paint anything-the merest sketch-to show that this picture is in your own style? You cannot.'

'Anyone,' he said, 'may bring charges-the most reckless charges. But I think you would hardly dare--'

'I will do this, then. If you dare to exhibit this picture as your own, I will, most assuredly, take all my friends and stand in front of it, and tell them when and where it was painted, and by whom, and show them my own portrait.'

The resolution of this threat quelled him. 'I have no intention,' he said, 'of exhibiting this picture. It is sold to an American, and will go to New York immediately. Next year, perhaps, I may take up your challenge.'

She laughed scornfully. 'I promised Roland,' she said, 'that you should not show this picture. That is settled, then. You shall not, you dare not.'

She left the picture reluctantly. It was dreadful to her to think that it must go, with his name upon it.

On a side-table lay, among a pile of books, the dainty white-and-gold volume of poems bearing the name of this great genius. She took it up, and laughed.

'Oh!' she said. 'Was there ever greater impudence? Every line in this volume was written by Effie Wilmot-every line!'

'Indeed? Who says so?'

'I say so. I have compared the manuscript with the volume. There is not the difference of a word.'

'If Miss Effie Wilmot, for purposes of her own, and for base purposes of deception, has copied out my verses in her own handwriting, probably a wonderful agreement may be found.'

'Shame!' cried Armorel.

'You see the force of that remark. It is a great shame. Some girls take to lying naturally. Others acquire proficiency in the art. Effie, I suppose, took to it naturally. I am sorry for Effie. I used to think better of her.'

'Oh! He tries, even now! How can you pretend-you-to have written this sweet and dainty verse? Oh! You dare to put your signature to these poems!'

'Of course,' said the divine Maker, with brazen front and calmly dignified speech, 'if these things are said in public or outside the studio, I shall be compelled to bring an action for libel. I have warned you already. Before repeating what you have said here you had better make quite sure that you can prove your words. Ask Miss Effie Wilmot what proofs she has of her assertion, if it is hers, and not an invention of your own!'

Armorel threw down the volume. 'Poor Effie!' she said. 'She has been robbed of the first-fruits of her genius. How dare you talk of proofs?' She took up the current number of the journal. 'That is not all,' she said. 'Look here! This is one of your stories, is it not? I read in a paper yesterday that no Frenchman ever had so light a touch: that there are no modern stories anywhere so artistic in treatment and in construction as your own-your own-your very own, Mr. Feilding. Yet they are written for you, every one of them: they are written by Lady Frances Hollington. You are a Triple Impostor. I believe that you really are the very greatest Pretender-the most gigantic Pretender in the whole world.'

'Of course,' he went on, a little abashed by her impetuosity. 'I cannot stop your tongue. You may say what you please.'

'We shall say nothing more. That is what I came to say on behalf of my friends. I wished to spare them the pain of further communication with you.'

'Kind and thoughtful!'

'I have one more question to ask you, Mr. Feilding. Pray, why did you tell people that I was engaged to you?'

'Probably,' he replied, unabashed, 'because I wished it to be believed.'

'Why did you wish it to be believed?'

'Probably for private reasons.'

'It was a vile and horrible falsehood!'

'Come, Miss Rosevean, we will not call each other names. Otherwise I might ask you what the world calls a girl who encourages a man to dangle after her for weeks, till everybody talks about her, and then throws him over.'

'Oh! You cannot mean--' Before those flashing eyes his own dropped.

'I mean that this is exactly what you have done,' he said, but without looking up.

'Is it possible that a man can be so base? What encouragement did I ever give you?'

'You surely are not going to deny the thing, after all. Why, it has been patent for all the world to see you. I have been with you everywhere, in all public places. What hint did you ever give me that my addresses were disagreeable to you?'

'How can one reply to such insinuations?' asked Armorel, with flaming face. 'And so you followed me about in order to be able to say that I encouraged you! What a man! What a man! You have taught me to understand, now, why one man may sometimes take a stick and beat another. If I were a man, at this moment, I would beat you with a stick. No other treatment is fit for such a man. I to encourage you!-when for a month and more I have known what an Impostor and Pretender you are! You dare to say that I have encouraged you!-you-the robber of other men's name and fame!'

'Well, if you come to that, I do dare to say as much. Come, Miss Armorel Rosevean. I certainly do dare to say as much.'

She turned with a gesture of impatience.

'I have said what I came to say. I will go.'

'Stop a moment!' said Alec Feilding. 'Is it not rather a bold proceeding for a beautiful girl like you, a day or two after you have refused a man, to visit him alone at his studio? Is it altogether the way to let the world distinctly understand that there never has been anything between us, and that it is all over?'

'I am less afraid of the world than you think. My world is my very little circle of friends. I am very much afraid of what they think. But it is on their account, and with their knowledge, that I am here.'

'Alone and unprotected?'

'Alone, it is true. I can always protect myself.'

'Indeed!' He turned an ugly-a villanous-face towards her. 'We shall see! You come here with your charges and your fine phrases. We shall see!'

He had been standing all this time before his study table. He now stepped quickly to the door. The key was in the lock. He turned it, drew it out, and dropped it in his pocket.

'You have had your innings, and I am going to have mine.'

'Now, my lovely lady,' he said, grinning, 'you have had your innings, and I am going to have mine. You have come to this studio in order to have a row with me. You have had that row. You can use your tongue in a manner that does credit to your early education. As for your nonsense about Roland Lee and Effie and Lady Frances, no one is going to believe that stuff, you know. As for your question, I did tell Lady Frances that you were engaged to me. And I told others. Because, of course, you were-or ought to have been. It was only by some kind of accident that I did not speak before. As I intended to speak the next day, I anticipated the thing by twelve hours or so. What of that? Well, I shall now have to explain that you seem not to know your own mind. It will be awkward for you-not for me. You have thrown me over. And all you have got to say in explanation is a long rigmarole of abuse. This not my own painting? These not my own poems? These, again, not my own stories? Really, Miss Armorel Rosevean, you know so very little of the world-you are so inexperienced-you are so easily imposed upon-that I am inclined to pity rather than to blame you. Of course, you have tried to do me harm, and I ought to be angry with you. But I cannot. You are much too beautiful. To a lovely woman everything, even mischief, is forgiven.'

'Will you open the door and let me go?'

'All in good time. When I please. It will do you no harm to be caught alone in my studio-alone with me. It will look so like returning to the lover whom, in a moment of temper, you threw over. I will take care that it shall bear that interpretation, if necessary. You have changed your mind, sweet Armorel, have you not? You have repented of that cruel decision?'

He advanced a little nearer. I really believe that he was still confident in his own power of subjugating the sex feminine-Heaven knows why some men always retain this confidence.

Armorel looked round the room: the window was high, too high for her to reach: there was no way of escape except through the door. Then she saw something hanging on the wall within her reach, and she took courage.

He drew still nearer: he held out his hands, and laughed.

'You are a really lovely girl,' he said. 'I believe there is not a more beautiful girl in the whole world. Before you go let us make friends and forgive. It is not too late to change your mind. I will forget all you have said and all the mischief you have done me. My man is very discreet. He will say nothing about your visit here, unless I give him permission to speak. This I will never allow unless I am compelled. Come, Armorel, once more let me be your lover-once more. Give me your hands.'

He bowed suppliant. He looked in her face with baleful eyes. He tried to take her hands. Armorel sprang from him and darted to the other end of the room.

The thing she had observed was hanging up among the weapons and armour and tapestry which decorated this wall of the studio. It was an axe from foreign parts, I think, from Indian parts, with a stout wooden handle and a boss of steel at the upper part. Armorel seized this lethal weapon. It was so heavy that no ordinary girl could have lifted it. But her arm, strengthened by a thousand days upon the water, tugging at the oar, wielded it easily.

'Open the door!' she cried. 'Open the door this moment!'

Her wooer made no reply. He shrank back before the girl who handled this heavy axe as lightly as a paper-knife. But he did not open the door.

'Open it, I say!'

He only shrank back farther. He was cowed before the wrath in her face. He did not know what she would do next. I think he even forgot that the key was in his pocket. The door, a dainty piece of furniture, was not one of the common machine-made things which the competitive German-or is it the thrifty Swede?-is so good as to send over to us. It was a planned and fitted door, the panels painted with reeds and grasses, the gift of some admirer of genius. Armorel raised the axe-and looked at him. He did not move.

Crash! It went through the panel. Crash! again and again. The upper part of the door was a gaping wreck of splinters. Outside, the discreet man-servant waited in silence and expectation. Often ladies had held interviews alone with his master. But this was the first time that an interview had ended with such a crash.

'Will you open the door?' she asked again.

The man replied by a curse.

The lock-a piece of imitation medi?valism in iron-was fitted on to the inner part of the door, a very pretty ornament. Armorel raised her axe again, and brought the square boss at the top of it down upon the dainty fragile lock, breaking it and tearing it from the wood. There was no more difficulty in opening the door. She did so. She threw the hatchet on the carpet and walked away, the discreet man-servant opening the door for her with unchanged countenance, as if the deplorable incident had not happened at all.

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