MoboReader> Literature > December Love

   Chapter 16 No.16

December Love By Robert Hichens Characters: 36110

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


Francis Braybrooke was pleased. Young Craven and Beryl were evidently "drawing together" now Adela Sellingworth was happily out of the way. He heard of them dining together at the Bella Napoli, playing golf together at Beaconsfield-or was it Chorley Wood? He was not quite sure. He heard of young Craven being seen at Claridge's going up in the lift to Miss Van Tuyn's floor. All this was very encouraging. Braybrooke's former fears were swept away and his confidence in his social sense was re-established upon its throne. Evidently he had been quite mistaken, and there had been nothing in that odd friendship with Adela Sellingworth. This would teach him not to let himself go to suspicion in the future.

He still did not know where Lady Sellingworth was. Nothing had appeared in the Morning Post about her movements. Nobody seemed to know anything about her. He met various members of the "old guard" and made inquiry, but "Haven't an idea" was the invariable reply. Even, and this was strangest of all, Seymour Portman did not know where she was. Braybrooke met him one day at the Marlborough and spoke of the matter, and Seymour Portman, with his most self-contained and reserved manner, replied that he believed Lady Sellingworth had gone abroad to "take a rest," but that he was not sure where she was "at the moment." She was probably moving about.

Why should she take a rest? She never did anything specially laborious. It really was quite mysterious. One day Braybrooke inquired discreetly in Berkeley Square, alleging a desire to communicate with Lady Sellingworth about a charity bazaar in which he was interested; but the footman did not know where her ladyship was or when she was coming back to town. And still letters were not being forwarded.

Meanwhile Fanny Cronin felt that Paris was drifting quite out of her ken. The autumn was deepening. The first fogs of winter had made a premature appearance, and the spell of the Wallace Collection was evidently as strong as ever on Beryl. But was it the Wallace Collection? Miss Cronin never knew much about what Beryl was doing. Still, she was a woman and had her instincts, rudimentary though they were. Mr. Braybrooke must certainly have received his conge. Mrs. Clem Hodson quite agreed with Miss Cronin on that point. Beryl had probably refused the poor foolish old man that day at the Ritz when there had been that unpleasant dispute about the plum cake. But now there was this Mr. Craven! Miss Cronin had found him once with Beryl in the latter's sitting-room; she had reason to believe they had played golf together. The young man was certainly handsome. And then Beryl had seemed quite altered just lately. Her temper was decidedly uncertain. She was unusually restless and preoccupied. Twice she had been exceedingly cross about Bourget. And she looked different, too; even Suzanne Hodson had noticed it. There was something in her face-"a sort of look," Miss Cronin called it, with an apt feeling for the choice of words-which was new and alarming. Mrs. Clem declared that Beryl had the expression of a woman who was crazy about a man.

"It's the eyes and the cheek-bones that tell the tale, Fanny!" she had observed. "They can't deceive a woman. Don't talk to me about the Wallace Collection."

Poor Miss Cronin was very uneasy. The future looked almost as dark as the London days. As she lay upon the French bed, or reclined upon the sofa, or sat deep in her arm-chair, she envisaged an awful change, when the Avenue Henri Martin would know her no more, when she might have to return to the lair in Philadelphia from which Miss Van Tuyn had summoned her to take charge of Beryl.

One day, when she was almost brooding over the fire, between five and six o'clock in the afternoon, the door opened and Beryl appeared. She had been out since eleven in the morning. But that was nothing new. She went out very often about half-past ten and scarcely ever came back to lunch.

"Fanny!" she said. "I want you."

"What is it, dear?" said Miss Cronin, sitting forward a little in her chair and laying aside her book.

"I've brought back a friend, and I want you to know him. Come into my sitting-room."

Miss Cronin got up obediently and remembering Mrs. Clem's words, looked at Beryl's cheek-bones and eyes.

"Is it Mr. Craven?" she asked in a quavering voice.

"Mr. Craven-no! You know him already."

"I have seen him once, dear."

"Come along!"

Miss Cronin followed her into the lobby. The door of the sitting-room was open, and by the fire was standing a stalwart-looking man in a dark blue overcoat. As Miss Cronin came in he gazed at her, and she thought she had never before seen such a pair of matching brown eyes. Beryl introduced him as Mr. Arabian.

The stranger bowed, and then pressed Miss Cronin's freckled right hand gently, but strongly too.

"I have been hoping to meet you," he said, in a strong but gentle voice which had, Miss Cronin thought, almost caressing inflexions.

"Very glad to meet you, indeed!" said the companion.

"Yes. Miss Van Tuyn has told me what you are to her."

"Forgive me for a minute!" said Miss Van Tuyn. "I must take off my things. They all feel as if they were full of fog. Fanny, entertain Mr. Arabian until I come back. But don't talk about Bourget. He's never read Bourget, I'm sure."

She looked at Fanny Cronin and went out of the room. And in that look old Fanny, slow in the uptake though she undoubtedly was, read a tremendous piece of news.

This must be the Wallace Collection!

That was how her mind put it. This must be the great reason of Beryl's lingering in London, this total stranger of whom she had never heard till this moment. Her instinct had not deceived her. Beryl had at last fallen in love. And probably Mr. Braybrooke had been aware of it when he had called that afternoon and talked so persistently about the changes and chances of life. In that case Miss Cronin had wronged him. And he had perhaps come to plead the cause of another.

"The weather-it is really terrible, is it not? You are wise to stay in the warm."

So the conversation began between Miss Cronin and Arabian, and it continued for quite a quarter of an hour. Then Miss Van Tuyn came back in a tea gown, looking lovely with her uncovered hair and her shining, excited eyes, and some twenty minutes later Arabian went away.

When he had gone Miss Van Tuyn said carelessly:

"Fanny, darling, what do you think of him?"

Fanny, darling! That was not Beryl's usual way of putting things. Miss Cronin was much shaken. She felt the ground of her life, as it were, rocking beneath her feet, and yet she answered-she could not help it:

"I think Mr. Arabian is the most-the most-he is fascinating. He is a charming man. And how very good-looking!"

"Yes, he's a handsome fellow. And so you liked him?"

"No one has ever been so charming to me as he was-that I can remember. He must have a most sympathetic make-up. Who is he?"

"A friend of Dick Garstin, the painter. And so he attracted you?"

"I think him certainly most attractive. I should imagine he must have a very kind heart. There is something almost childlike about him, so simple!"

"So-so you find nothing repellent in him?"

"Repellent!" said Miss Cronin, almost with fear. "Do you mean to say-then don't you like him?"

"I like him well enough. But, as you ought to know, I'm not given to raving about men."

"Well," said Miss Cronin almost severely, "Mr. Arabian-Is that his true name?"

"Yes. I told you so."

"It's such an odd name! Mr. Arabian is a most kind and warm-hearted man. I am certain of that. And he is not above being charming and thoughtful to an ordinary old woman like me. He understands me, and that shows he has sympathy. I am sure Suzanne would like him too."

"Really, you quite rave about him!" said Miss Van Tuyn, with a light touch of sarcasm.

But her eyes looked pleased, and that evening she was exceptionally kind to old Fanny.

She had not yet brought Arabian and Alick Craven together. Somehow she shrank from that far more than she had shrunk from the test with Fanny. Craven was very English, and Englishmen are apt to be intolerant about men of other nations. And Craven was a man, and apparently was beginning to like her very much. He would not be a fair judge. Undoubtedly he would be prejudiced.

And at this point in her mental communings Miss Van Tuyn realized that she was losing her independence of mind. What did it matter if Fanny thought this and Alick Craven that? What did it matter what anyone thought but herself?

But she was surely confused, was walking in the clouds. Dick Garstin had given her a lead that night of the meeting of the Georgians. She had certainly been affected by his words. Perhaps he had even infected her with his thought. Thought can infect, and Garstin had a powerful mind. And now she was seeking to oppose to Garstin's thought the opinion of others. How terribly weak that was! And she had always prided herself on her strength. She was startled, even angered, by the change in herself.

Her connexion with Craven was peculiar.

Ever since Lady Sellingworth's abrupt departure from England he had persistently sought her out, had shown a sort of almost obstinate desire to be in her company. Remembering what had happened when Lady Sellingworth was still in Berkeley Square, Miss Van Tuyn had been on her guard. Craven had hurt her vanity once. She did not quite understand him. She suspected him of peculiarity. She even wondered whether he had had a quarrel with Adela which had been concealed from her, and which might account for Adela's departure and for Craven's present assiduity. Possibly, but for one reason, her injured vanity would have kept Craven at a distance-at any rate, for a time. It would have been pleasant to deal out suitable punishment to one who certainly deserved it. But there was the reason for the taking of the other course-Arabian.

An obscure instinct drove her into intimacy with Craven because of Arabian. She was not sure that she wanted Craven just now, but she might want him, perhaps very much, later. She knew he was not really in love with her, but they were beginning to get on well together. He admired her; she held out a hand to his youth. There was something of comradeship in their association. And their minds understood each other rather well, she thought. For they were both genuinely interested in the arts, though neither of them was an artist. And she felt very safe with Alick Craven. So she forgave Craven for his behaviour with Adela Sellingworth. She let him off his punishment. She relied upon him as her friend. And she needed to rely upon someone. For the calm self-possession of her nature was beginning to be seriously affected. She was losing some of her hitherto immense self-assurance. Her faith in the coolness and dominating strength of her own temperament was shaken.

Arabian troubled her increasingly.

That night at the restaurant in Conduit Street she had felt that she hated him, and when she had left Garstin she had realized something, that the measure of her nervous hatred was the measure of something else. Why should she mind what Arabian did? What was his way of life to her? Other men could do what they chose and her well-poised, well-disciplined brain retained its normal calm. So long as they gave her the admiration which her vanity needed, she was not persecuted by any undue anxieties about the secret conduct of their lives. But she was tormented by the memory of that girl in the restaurant. And she remembered the conversation about jealousy round the dinner table at the Carlton. She was jealous now. That was why she had been so angry with Garstin. That was why she had lain awake that night.

And yet the next morning she had gone to the studio in Glebe Place. She had greeted Arabian as usual. She had never let him know that she had seen him in the restaurant, and she had persuaded Dick Garstin to say nothing about it. No doubt Arabian supposed that he had been too quick for them, and that they did not know he was with the woman who had come in and had almost immediately gone out.

But since that night Miss Van Tuyn had been persecuted by a secret jealousy such as she had never known till now.

Let him sink back to the depths! She had said that, but she did not want him to disappear out of her life. She had said, too, that he was horrible. The words were spoken in a moment of intense nervous irritation. But were they true? She thought of him as a night bird. Yet she brought him to Claridge's and introduced him to Fanny, and sought Fanny's opinion of him, and been pleased that it was favourable. And she saw him almost daily. And she knew she would go on seeing him till-what?

She could not foresee the end of this adventure brought about by her own audacious wilfulness. Some day she supposed Dick Garstin would be satisfied with his work. A successful portrait of Arabian would stand on the easel in Glebe Place. Garstin was not at all satisfied yet. She knew that. He had put aside two more beginnings angrily, had started again, had paused, taken up other work, taken a rest, sent for Arabian once more. But this strange impotence of Garstin to satisfy himself would surely not last for ever. Either he would succeed, or he would abandon the attempt to succeed, or-a third possibility presented itself to Miss Van Tuyn's mind-his model would get tired of the conflict and refuse to "sit" any more.

And then-the depths?

Till now Arabian's patience had been remarkable. Evidently Garstin's obstinacy was matched by an obstinacy in him. Although he had once perhaps been secretly reluctant to sit, had been tempted to become Garstin's model by the promise of the finished picture, he now seemed determined to do his part, endured Garstin's irritability, dissatisfaction, abandoned and renewed attempts to "make a first-rate job of him" with remarkable good temper. He was evidently resolved not to give up this enterprise without his reward. There was fixed purpose in his patience.

"By God he's a stayer!" Garstin had said of him in a puffing breath one day when the palette knife had been angrily used once more. "Either he's waiting for the money value of a portrait by me like a cat for a mouse, or he's afraid of the finish."

"Why?" Miss Van Tuyn had asked.

"Well, you're in the thing! Perhaps he's afraid that when he says good-bye to my studio he says good-bye to you too. Or perhaps the two reasons govern him-love of money, love of woman. Anyhow he's a sticker!"

"He only wants the picture," she had said.

But that remark had been made for the benefit of Garstin. By this time she knew that Arabian had a further purpose, and that it was connected with herself. She was sure that he was intent on her. And she wondered very much what he would do when at last the picture was finished. Surely then something definite must happen. She both longed for and dreaded that moment. She knew Garstin, and she knew that once he had achieved what he was trying-"sweating blood," he called it-to achieve his interest in Arabian would almost certainly cease. Arabian would then be nothing but used material of no more value in Garstin's life. The picture would be exhibited, and then handed over to Arabian, and Garstin would be off on some other track.

She had now been with Arabian probably as many times as she had been with Craven. Yet she thoroughly understood the essential qualities of the Englishman, or believed that she did, and she still knew very little about Arabian. She did not even know what race he belonged to. He had evidently travelled a great deal. Sometimes he casually mentioned having been here or there. He spoke of America as one who had often been in New York. Once he had mentioned San Francisco as if he were very familiar with it. Miss Van Tuyn had relatives there, and had asked him if he knew them. But he had not known them. Whom did he know? She often wondered. He must know somebody besides that horrible girl she had seen for a moment in the restaurant in Conduit Street. But she did not like to ask him direct questions. To do that would be to show too much interest in him. And something else, too, prevented her from questioning him. She had no faith in his word. She felt that he was a man who would say anything which suited his purpose. She had never caught him out in a direct lie, but she was quite certain he would not mind telling one. Of course she had often known men about whom she knew really very little. But she could not remember ever having known a man about whose character, position, education and former life she was so ignorant as she was about Arabian's.

He was still a vague sort of Cosmopolitan to her, a floating foreign man whom she could not place. He was still the magnificent mongrel belonging to no known breed.

Certain things about him she did know, however. She knew he was at present living at the Charing Cross Hotel, though he said he was looking for a flat in the West End. He spoke several languages; certainly English, French, German and Spanish. He had some knowledge of horseflesh, and evidently took an interest in racing. He seemed interested, too, in finance. And he played the piano and sang.

That gift of his had surprised her. One day in the studio, when Garstin had finished painting, and they had lingered smoking and talking, the conversation had turned on music, and Garstin, who had some knowledge of all the arts, had spoken about Stravinsky, whom he knew, and whose music he professed to understand. Miss Van Tuyn had joined in, and had given her view on Le Sacre du Printemps, The Nightingale, and other works. Arabian had sat smoking in discreet silence, till she had said to him bluntly:

"Do you care about music?"

And then Arabian had said that he was very fond of music, and played and sang a little himself, but that he had been too lazy to study seriously and had an

uneducated ear.

Garstin had told him bluntly to go to the piano and show them what he could do. And Arabian had surprised Miss Van Tuyn by at once complying with this request, which had sounded like an order.

His performance had been the sort of thing she, having "advanced" views on musical matters, was generally inclined to sneer at or avoid. He had played two or three coon songs and a tango. But there had been in his playing a sheer "musicalness," as she had called it afterwards, which had enticed her almost against her will. And when he had sung some little Spanish songs she had been conquered, though she had not said so.

His voice was a warm and soft tenor, and he had sung very naturally, carelessly almost. But everything had been just right. When he had stolen time, when he had given it back, the stealing and repayment had been right. His expression had been charming and not overdone. There had been at moments a delightful impudence in his singing. The touches of tenderness had been light as a feather, but they had had real meaning. Through his last song he had kept a cigarette alight in his mouth. He had merely hummed the melody, but it had been quite delicious. Even Garstin had approved, and had said: "The stuff was sheer rot, but it was like a palm tree singing."

And then Arabian had given them a piece of information.

"I was brought up among palm trees."

"Florida?" Garstin had said.

But somehow the question had not been answered. Perhaps she-Beryl-had spoken just then. She was not sure. But she had been "got at" by the music. And at that moment she had realized why Arabian was dangerous to her. Not only his looks appealed to her. He had other, more secret weapons. Charm, suppleness of temperament, heat and desire were his. Otherwise he could not have sung and played that rubbish as he had done.

That day, later on, he had not actually said, but had implied that some Spanish blood ran in his veins.

"But I belong to no country," he had added quickly. "I am a gamin of the world."

"Not a citizen?" she had said.

"No; I am the eternal gamin. I shall never be anything else."

All very well! But at moments she was convinced that there was a very hard and a very wary man in Arabian.

Perhaps sitting under the singing palm tree there was a savage!

She wanted to know what Arabian was. She began to feel that she must know. For, in spite of her ignorance, their intimacy was deepening. And now people were beginning to talk. Although she had been so careful not to show herself with Arabian in any smart restaurants, not to walk with him in the more frequented parts of the West End, they had been seen together. On the day when she had brought him to Claridge's some American friends had seen them pass through the hall, and afterwards had asked her who he was. Another day, when she was coming away with him from the studio, she had met Lady Archie Brooke at the corner of Glebe Place. She had not stopped to speak. But Lady Archie had stared at Arabian. And Miss Van Tuyn knew what that meant. The "old guard" would be told of Beryl's wonderful new man.

She felt nervously sensitive about Arabian. And yet she had been about Paris with all sorts of men, and had not cared what people had thought or said. But those men had been clever, workers in the arts, men with names that were known, or that would be known presently. Arabian was different. She felt oddly shy about being seen with him. Her audacity seemed fading away in her. She realized that and felt alarmed. If only she knew something definite about Arabian, who he was, what his people were, where he came from, she would feel much easier. She began to worry about the matter. She lay awake at night. At moments a sort of desperation came upon her like a wave. Sometimes she said to herself, "I wish I had never met him." And yet she knew that she did not want to get rid of him. But she wished no one to know of her friendship; with this man-if it were a friendship.

Garstin was watching her through it all. She hated his eyes. He did not care what was happening to her. He only cared what appearance it caused; how it affected her eyes, her manner, her expression, the line of her mouth, the movements of her hands. He had said that she was waking up. But-to what?

All this time she seemed to be aware of an almost fatal growing intention in Arabian. Nevertheless, he waited. She had never been able to forget the article she had read in the Westminster Gazette. When she had read about the woman in the play she had instinctively compared herself with that woman. And then something in her revolted. She had thought of it as her Americanism, which loathed the idea of slavery in any form. But nevertheless, she had been aware of alarming possibilities within her. She was able to understand the woman in the play. And that must surely be because she was obscurely akin to her. And she knew that when she had read the article the man in the play had made her think of Arabian. That, of course, was absurd. But she understood why it was. That woman had been attracted by a man of whom she knew nothing. She, Beryl Van Tuyn, was in the same situation. But of course she did not compare poor Arabian in her mind with a homicidal maniac.

He was gentle and charming. Old Fanny liked him immensely, said he had a kind heart. And Fanny was sensitive.

Yet again she thought of the savage sitting under the palm tree and of Dick Garstin's allusion to a king in the underworld.

She resented being worried. She resented having her nerves on edge. She was angry with Dick Garstin, and even angry with herself. In bed at night, when she could not sleep, she read books on New Thought, and tried to learn how to govern her mind and to control her thought processes. But she was not successful in the attempt. Her mind continually went to Arabian, and then she was filled with anxiety, with suspicion, with jealousy, and with a strange sort of longing mysteriously combined with repulsion and dread. And underneath all her feelings and thoughts there was a basic excitement which troubled her and which she could not get rid of.

One morning she got up full of restlessness. That day Dick Garstin was not painting. It was a Sunday, and he had gone into the country to stay with some friends. Miss Van Tuyn had made no arrangement to see Arabian. Indeed, she never saw him except on the painting days, for she still kept up the pretence that he was merely an acquaintance, and that she only met him because of her interest in Garstin's work and her wish to learn more of the technique of painting. The day was free before her. She went to the telephone and called up Alick Craven.

It was a fine morning, cold and crisp, with a pale sun. She longed to be out of town, and she suggested to Craven to join her in hiring a Daimler car, to run down to Rye, and to have a round of golf on the difficult course by the sea. She had a friend close to Rye who would introduce them as visiting players. They would take a hamper and lunch in the car on the way down.

Craven agreed with apparent eagerness. By ten they were off. Soon after one they were on the links. They played the full round, eighteen holes, and Craven beat her. Then they had tea in the house below the club-house on the left-hand side of the road as you go towards Camber Sands.

After tea Miss Van Tuyn suggested running a little farther on in the car and taking a walk on the sands before starting on the journey back to London.

"I love hard sands and the wind and the lines upon lines of surf!" she said. "The wind blows away some of my civilization."

"I know!" said Craven, looking at her with admiration.

He liked her strength and energy, the indefatigable youth of her.

"En route!"

Soon the car stopped. They got out, and over the sandy hill, with its rough sea-grasses, they made their way to the sands.

The tide was low. There was room and to spare on the hard, level expanse. Lines of white surf stretched to right and left far as the eyes could see. The piercing cries of the gulls floating on the eddying wind were relieved against the blooming diapason of the sea. And the solitude was as the solitude of some lost island of the main. They descended, sinking in the loose, fine sand of the banks, and the soft, pale sand that edged them, and made their way to the yellow and vast sands that extended to the calling monster, whose voice filled their ears, and seemed to be summoning them persistently, with an almost tragic arrogance, away from all they knew, from all that was trying to hold and keep them, to the unknown, to the big things that lie always far off over the edge of the horizon.

"Let us turn our backs on Rye!" said the girl.

They swung round with the wind behind them, and walked on easily side by side, helped by the firm and delicate floor under their feet.

She was wearing a wine-coloured "jumper," a short skirt of a rough heathery material, a small brown hat pinned low on her head, pressed down on her smooth forehead. Her cheeks were glowing. The wind sent the red to them. She stepped along with a free, strongly athletic movement. There was a hint of the Amazon in her. On her white neck some wisps of light yellow hair, loosened by the wind's fingers, quivered as if separately alive and wilful with energy.

Craven, striding along in knickerbockers beside her, felt the animal charm of her as he had never felt it in London. She had thrust her gloves away in some hidden pocket. Her right hand grasped a stick firmly. The white showed at the knuckles. He felt through her silence that she was giving herself heart and soul to the spirit of the place, to the sweeping touch of the wind, to the eternal sound in the voice of the sea.

They walked on for a long time into the far away. There was a dull lemon light over the sea pushing through the grey, hinting at sunset. A flock of gulls tripped jauntily on some wet sand near to them, in which radiance from the sky was mysteriously retained. A film of moving moisture from the sea spread from the nearest surf edge, herald of the turning tide. Miss Van Tuyn raised her arms, shook them, cried out with all her force. And the gulls rose, easily, strongly, and flew insolently towards their element.

"Let us turn!" she said.

"All right!"

Those were the first words they had spoken.

"Let us go and sit down in a sand-bank and see the twilight come."

"Yes."

They sat down presently among the spear-like blades of the spiky grass, facing the tides and the evening sky, and Craven, with some difficulty, lit his pipe and persuaded it to draw, while she looked at his long-fingered brown hands.

"I couldn't sit here with some people I know," she said. "Desolation like this needs the right companion. Isn't it odd how some people are only for certain places?"

"And I suppose the one person is for all places."

"Do you feel at home with me here?" she asked him, rather abruptly and with a searching look at him.

"Yes, quite-since our game. A good game is a link, isn't it?"

"For bodies."

"Well, that means a good deal. We live in the body."

"Some people marry through games, or hunting. They're the bodily people. Others marry through the arts. Music pulls them together, or painting, or literature. They are mental."

"Bodies-minds! And what about hearts?" asked Craven.

"The tide's coming in. Hearts? They work in mystery, I believe. I expect when you love someone who hasn't a taste in common with you your heart must be hard at work. Perhaps it is only opposites who can really love, those who don't understand why. If you understand why you are on the ground, you have no need of wings. Have you ever been afraid of anyone?"

Craven looked at her with a dawning of surprise.

"Do you mean of a German soldier, for instance?" he said.

"No, no! Of course not. Of anyone you have known personally; afraid of anyone as an individual? That's what I mean."

"I can't remember that I ever have."

"Do you think it possible to love someone who inspires you at moments with unreasoning dread?"

"No; candidly I don't."

"I think there can be attraction in repulsion."

"I should be very sorry for myself if I yielded to such an attraction."

"Why?"

"Because I think it would probably lead to disaster."

"How soberly you speak!" said Miss Van Tuyn, almost with an air of distaste.

After a moment of silence she added:

"I don't believe an Englishman has the power to lose his head."

Craven sat a little nearer to her.

"Would you like to see me lose mine?" he asked.

"I don't say that. But I should like you to be able to."

"And you? You are an American girl. Don't you pride yourself on your coolness, your self-control, your power to deal with any situation? If Englishmen are sober minded, what about American women? Do they lose their heads easily?"

"No. That's why-"

She stopped abruptly.

"What is it you want to say to me? What are you trying to say?"

"Nothing!" she answered.

And her voice sounded almost sulky.

The bar of lemon light over the sea narrowed. Clouds, with gold tinted edges, were encroaching upon it. The tide had turned, and, because they knew it, the voice of the sea sounded louder to them. Already they could imagine those sands by night, could imagine their bleak desolation, could almost feel the cold thrill of their loneliness.

Craven stretched out his hand and took one of hers and held it.

"Why do you do that?" she said. "You don't care for me really."

He pressed her hand. He wanted to kiss her at that moment. His youth, the game they had played together, this isolation and nearness, the oncoming night-they all seemed to be working together, pushing him towards her mysteriously. But just at that moment on the sands close to them two dark figures appeared, a fisherman in his Sunday best walking with his girl. They did not see Miss Van Tuyn and Craven on the sandbank. With their arms spread round each other's waists, and slightly lurching in the wind, they walked slowly on, sinking at each step a little in the sand. Their red faces looked bovine in the twilight.

Almost mechanically Craven's fingers loosened on Miss Van Tuyn's hand. She, too, was chilled by this vision of Sunday love, and her hand came away from his.

"They are having their Sunday out," she said, with a slight, cold laugh. "And we have had ours!"

And she got up and shook the sand grains from her rough skirt.

"And that's happiness!" she added, almost with a sneer.

Like him she felt angry and almost tricked, hostile to the working of sex, vulgarized by the sight of that other drawing together of two human beings. Oh! the ineptitude of the echoes we are! Now she was irritated with Craven because he had taken her hand. And yet she had been on the edge of a great experiment. She knew that Craven did not love her-yet. Perhaps he would never really love her. Certainly she did not love him. And yet that day she had come out from London with a desire to take refuge in him. It almost amounted to that. When they started she had not known exactly what she was going to do. But she had set Craven, the safe man, the man whom she could place, could understand, could certainly trust up to a point, in her mind against Arabian, the unsafe man, whom she could not place, could not understand, could not trust. And, mentally, she had clung to Craven. And if those two bovine sentimentalists had not intruded flat-footed upon the great waste of Camber and the romance of the coming night, and Craven had yielded to his impulse and had kissed her, she might have clung to him in very truth. And then? She might have been protected against Arabian. But evidently it was not to be. At the critical moment Fate had intervened, had sent two human puppets to change the atmosphere.

She had really a sense of Fate upon her as she shook the sand from her skirt. And the voice of the slowly approaching sea sounded in her ears like the voice of the inevitable.

What must be must be.

The lemon in the sky was fast fading. The gold was dying away from the edges of the clouds. The long lines of surf mingled together in a blur of tangled whiteness. She looked for a moment into the gathering dimness, and she felt a menace in it; she heard a menace in the cry of the tides. And within herself she seemed to be aware of a menace.

"It's all there in us, every bit of it!" she said to herself. "That's the horrible thing. It doesn't come upon us. It's in us."

And she said to Craven:

"Come!"

It was rapidly getting dark. The ground was uneven and rough, the sand loose and crumbling.

"Do take my arm!" he said, but rather coldly, with constraint.

She hesitated, then took it. And the feeling of his arm, which was strong and muscular, brought back to her that strange desire to use him as a refuge.

Somewhat as Lady Sellingworth had thought of Seymour Portman, Beryl Van Tuyn thought of Craven, who would certainly not have enjoyed knowledge of it.

When they had scrambled down to the road, and saw the bright eyes of the car staring at them from the edge of the marshes, she dropped his arm.

"How Adela Sellingworth would have enjoyed all this if she had been here to-day instead of me!" she said.

"Lady Sellingworth!" said Craven, as if startled. "What made you think of her just then?"

"I don't know. Stop a moment!"

She stood very still.

"I believe she has come back to London," she said. "Perhaps she sent the thought to me from Berkeley Square. How long has she been away?"

"About five weeks, I should think."

"Would you be glad if she were back?"

"It would make very little difference to me," he said in a casual voice. "Now put on your coat."

He helped her into the car, and they drove away from the sands and the links, from the sea and their mood by the sea.

They drove through the darkness towards London, Lady Sellingworth and Arabian.

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