MoboReader> Literature > An Unpardonable Liar

   Chapter 2 THE MEETING.

An Unpardonable Liar By Gilbert Parker Characters: 41089

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


The next morning George Hagar was early at the pump-room. He found it amusing to watch the crowds coming and going-earnest invalids and that most numerous body of middle aged, middle class people who have no particular reason for drinking the waters, and whose only regimen is getting even with their appetites. He could pick out every order at a glance-he did not need to wait until he saw the tumblers at their lips. Now and then a dashing girl came gliding in, and, though the draft was noxious to her, drank the stuff off with a neutral look and well bred indifference to the distress about her. Or in strode the private secretary of some distinguished being in London, S.W. He invariably carried his glass to the door, drank it off in languid sips as he leaned indolently against the masonry, and capped the event by purchasing a rose for his buttonhole, so making a ceremony which smacked of federating the world at a common public drinking trough into a little fete. Or there were the good priests from a turbulent larruping island, who with cheeks blushing with health and plump waistcoats came ambling, smiling, to their thirty ounces of noisome liquor. Then, there was Baron, the bronzed, idling, comfortable trader from Zanzibar, who, after fifteen years of hide and seek with fever and Arabs and sudden death-wherewith were all manner of accident and sundry profane dealings not intended for The Times or Exeter hall, comes back to sojourn in quiet "Christom" places, a lamb in temper, a lion at heart, an honest soul who minds his own business, is enemy to none but the malicious, and lives in daily wonder that the wine he drank the night before gets into trouble with the waters drunk in the morning. And the days, weeks and months go on, but Baron remains, having seen population after population of water drinkers come and go. He was there years ago. He is there still, coming every year, and he does not know that George Hagar has hung him at Burlington House more than once, and he remembers very well the pretty girl he did not marry, who also, on one occasion, joined the aristocratic company "on the line."

This young and pretty girl-Miss Mildred Margrave-came and went this morning, and a peculiar, meditative look on her face, suggesting some recent experience, caused the artist to transfer her to his notebook. Her step was sprightly, her face warm and cheerful in hue, her figure excellent, her walk the most admirable thing about her-swaying, graceful, lissom-like perfect dancing with the whole body. Her walk was immediately merged into somebody else's-merged melodiously, if one may say so. A man came from the pump-room looking after the girl, and Hagar remarked a similar swaying impulsion in the walk of both. He walked as far as the gate of the pump-room, then sauntered back, unfolded a newspaper, closed it up again, lit a cigar, and, like Hagar, stood watching the crowd abstractedly. He was an outstanding figure. Ladies, as they waited, occasionally looked at him through their glasses, and the Duchess of Brevoort thought he would make a picturesque figure for a reception-she was not less sure because his manner was neither savage nor suburban. George Hagar was known to some people as "the fellow who looks back of you." Mark Telford might have been spoken of as "the man who looks through you," for, when he did glance at a man or woman, it was with keen directness, affecting the person looked at like a flash of light to the eye. It is easy to write such things, not so easy to verify them, but any one that has seen the sleuthlike eyes of men accustomed to dealing with danger in the shape of wild beasts or treacherous tribes or still more treacherous companions, and whose lives depend upon their feeling for peril and their unerring vigilance can see what George Hagar saw in Mark Telford's looks.

Telford's glance went round the crowd, appearing to rest for an instant on every person, and for a longer time on Hagar. The eyes of the two men met. Both were immediately puzzled, for each had a sensation of some subterranean origin. Telford immediately afterward passed out of the gate and went toward the St. Cloud gardens, where the band was playing. For a time Hagar did not stir, but idled with his pencil and notebook. Suddenly he started, and hurried out in the direction Telford had gone.

"I was an ass," he said to himself, "not to think of that at first."

He entered the St. Cloud gardens and walked round the promenade a few times, but without finding him. Presently, however, Alpheus Richmond, whose beautiful and brilliant waistcoat and brass buttons with monogram adorned showed advantageously in the morning sunshine, said to him: "I say, Hagar, who's that chap up there filling the door of the summer house? Lord, rather!"

It was Telford. Hagar wished for the slightest pretext to go up the unfrequented side path and speak to him, but his mind was too excited to do the thing naturally without a stout pretext. Besides, though he admired the man's proportions and his uses from an artistic standpoint, he did not like him personally, and he said that he never could. He had instinctive likes and dislikes. What had startled him at the pump-room and had made him come to the gardens was the conviction that this was the man to play the part in the scene which, described by Mrs. Detlor, had been arranging itself in a hundred ways in his brain during the night-the central figures always the same, the details, light, tone, coloring, expression, fusing, resolving. Then came another and still more significant thought. On this he had acted.

When he had got rid of Richmond, who begged that he would teach him how to arrange a tie as he did-for which an hour was appointed-he determined, at all hazards, to speak. He had a cigar in his pocket, and though to smoke in the morning was pain and grief to him, he determined to ask for a match, and started. He was stopped by Baron, whose thoughts being much with the little vices of man, anticipated his wishes and offered him a light. In despair Hagar took it, and asked if he chanced to know who the stranger was. Baron did know, assuring Hagar that he sat on the gentleman's right at the same table in his hotel, and was qualified to introduce him. Before they started he told the artist of the occurrence of the evening before, and further assured him of the graces of Miss Mildred Margrave. "A pearl," he said, "not to be reckoned by loads of ivory, nor jolly bricks of gold, nor caravans of Arab steeds, nor-come and have dinner with me to-night, and you shall see. There, what do you say?"

Hagar, who loved the man's unique and spontaneous character as only an artist can love a subject in which he sees royal possibilities, consented gladly, and dropped a cordial hand on the other's shoulder. The hand was dragged down and wrenched back and forth with a sturdy clasp, in time to a roll of round, unctuous laughter. Then Baron took him up hurriedly, and introduced him to Telford with the words: "You two ought to know each other. Telford, traveler, officer of the Hudson's Bay company, et cetera; Hagar, artist, good fellow, et cetera."

Then he drew back and smiled as the two men, not shaking hands as he expected, bowed, and said they were happy to meet. The talk began with the remark by Hagar on the panorama below them, "that the thing was amusing if not seen too often, but the eternal paddling round the band stand was too much like marionettes."

"You prefer a Punch and Judy to marionettes?" asked Telford.

"Yes, you get a human element in a Punch and Judy tragedy. Besides, it has surprises, according to the idiosyncrasy of the man in the greenroom." He smiled immediately, remembering that his last words plagiarized Mr. Alpheus Richmond.

"I never miss a Punch and Judy if I'm near it," said Telford. "I enjoy the sardonic humor with which Punch hustles off his victims. His light-heartedness when doing bloody deeds is the true temper."

"That is, if it must be done, to do it with a grin is-"

"Is the most absolute tragedy."

Hagar was astonished, for even the trader's information that Telford spoke excellent French, and had certainly been a deal on red carpet in his time, did not prepare him for the sharply incisive words just uttered. Yet it was not incongruous with. Telford's appearance-not even with the red sash peeping at the edge of his waistcoat.

They came down among the promenaders, and Baron being accosted by some one, he left the two together, exacting anew the promise from Hagar regarding dinner.

Presently Hagar looked up, and said abruptly, "You were singing outside my window last night."

Telford's face was turned away from him when he began. It came slowly toward him. The eyes closed steadily with his, there was no excitement, only cold alertness.

"Indeed? What was I singing?"

"For one thing, the chant of the negro woodcutters of Louisiana."

"What part of Louisiana?"

"The county of Tellavie chiefly."

Telford drew a long breath, as though some suspense was over, and then said, "How did you know it was I?"

"I could scarcely tell you. I got the impression-besides, you are the only man I've seen in Herridon who looks likely to know it and the song which you prompted."

"Do I look like a southerner-still? You see I've been in an arctic country five years."

"It is not quite that. I confess I cannot explain it."

"I hope you did not think the thing too boorish to be pardoned. On the face of it it was rude to you-and the lady also."

"The circumstance-the coincidence-was so unusual that I did not stop to think of manners."

"The coincidence-what coincidence?" said Telford, watching intently.

But Hagar had himself well in hand. He showed nothing of his suspicions. "That you should be there listening, and that the song should be one which no two people, meeting casually, were likely to know."

"We did not meet," said Telford dryly.

They watched the crowd for a minute. Presently he added, "May I ask the name of the lady who was singing?"

There was a slight pause, then, "Certainly-Mrs. Fairfax Detlor."

Though Telford did not stir a muscle the bronze of his face went grayish, and he looked straight before him without speaking. At last he said in a clear, steady voice, "I knew her once, I think."

"I guessed so."

"Indeed? May I ask if Mrs. Detlor recognized my voice?"

"That I do not know, but the chances are she did not; if you failed to recognize hers."

There was an almost malicious desire on Hagar's part to play upon this man-this scoundrel, as he believed him to be-and make him wince still more. A score of things to say or do flashed through his mind, but he gave them up instantly, remembering that it was his duty to consider Mrs. Detlor before all. But he did say, "If you were old friends, you will wish to meet her, of course."

"Yes. I have not seen her in many years. Where is she staying?"

"At the Tempe hotel. I do not know whether you intend to call, but I would suggest your not doing so to-day-that is, if you wish to see her and not merely leave your card-because she has an engagement this morning, and this afternoon she is going on an excursion."

"Thank you for the generous information." There was cool irony in the tone. "You are tolerably well posted as to Mrs. Detlor's movements."

"Oh, yes," was the equally cool reply. "In this case I happen to know, because Mrs. Detlor sits for a picture at my studio this morning, and I am one of the party for the excursion."

"Just so. Then will you please say nothing to Mrs. Detlor about having met me? I should prefer surprising her."

"I'm afraid I can make no promise. The reason is not sufficient. Surprises, as you remarked about Punch and Judy, are amusing, but they may also be tragical."

Telford flashed a dark, inquiring look at his companion, and then said: "Excuse me, I did not say that, though it was said. However, it is no matter. We meet at dinner, I I suppose, this evening. Till then!"

He raised his hat with a slight sweeping motion-a little mocking excess in the courtesy-and walked away.

As he went Hagar said after him between his teeth, "By Heaven, you are that man!"

These two hated each other at this moment, and they were men of might after their kind. The hatred of the better man was the greater. Not from a sense of personal wrong, but-

Three hours later Hagar was hard at work in his studio. Only those who knew him intimately could understand him in his present mood. His pale, brooding, yet masculine face was flushed, the blue of his eyes was almost black, his hair, usually in a Roman regularity about his strong brow, was disorderly. He did not know the passage of time. He had had no breakfast. He had read none of his letters-they lay in a little heap on his mantelpiece-he was sketching upon the canvas the scene which had possessed him for the past ten or eleven hours. An idea was being born, and it was giving him the distress of bringing forth. Paper after paper he had thrown away, but at last he had shaped the idea to please his severe critical instinct, and was now sketching in the expression of the girl's face. His brain was hot, his face looked tired, but his hand was steady, accurate and cool-a shapely hand which the sun never browned, and he was a man who loved the sun.

He drew back at last. "Yes, that's it," he said. "It's right, right. His face shall come in later. But the heart of the thing is there."

The last sentence was spoken in a louder tone, so that some one behind him heard. It was Mrs. Detlor. She had, with the young girl who had sat at her feet the evening before, been shown into the outer room, had playfully parted the curtains between the rooms and entered. She stood for a moment looking at the sketch, fascinated, thrilled. Her yes filled with tears, then went dry and hot, as she said in a loud whisper, "Yes, the heart of the thing is there."

Hagar turned on her quickly, astonished, eager, his face shining with a look superadded to his artistic excitement.

She put her finger to her lip, and nodded backward to the other room. He understood. "Yes, I know," he said, "the light comedy manner." He waved his hand toward the drawing. "But is it not in the right vein?"

"It is painfully, horribly true," she said. She looked from him to the canvas, from the canvas to him, and then made a little pathetic gesture with her hands. "What a jest life is!"

"A game-a wonderful game," he replied, "and a wicked one, when there is gambling with human hearts."

Then he turned with her toward the other room. As he passed her to draw aside the curtain she touched his arm with the tips of her fingers so lightly-as she intended-that he did not feel it. There was a mute, confiding tenderness in the action more telling than any speech. The woman had had a brilliant, varied, but lonely life. It must still be lonely, though now the pleasant vista of a new career kept opening and closing before her, rendering her days fascinating yet troubled, her nights full of joyful but uneasy hours. The game thus far had gone against her. Yet she was popular, merry and amiable!

She passed composedly into the other room. Hagar greeted the young girl, gave her books and papers, opened the piano, called for some refreshments and presented both with a rose from a bunch upon the table. The young girl was perfectly happy to be allowed to sit in the courts without and amuse herself while the artist and his model should have their hour with pencil and canvas.

The two then went to the studio again, and, leaving the curtain drawn back, Hagar arranged Mrs. Detlor in position and began his task. He stood looking at the canvas for a time, as though to enter into the spirit of it again; then turned to his model. She was no longer Mrs. Detlor, but his subject, near to him as his canvas and the creatures of his imagination, but as a mere woman in whom he was profoundly interested (that at least) an immeasurable distance from him. He was the artist only now.

It was strange. There grew upon the canvas Mrs. Detlor's face, all the woman of it, just breaking through sweet, awesomely beautiful, girlish features; and though the work was but begun there was already that luminous tone which artists labor so hard to get, giving to the face a weird, yet charming expression.

For an hour he worked, then he paused. "Would you like to see it?" he said.

She rose eagerly, and a little pale. He had now sketched in more distinctly the figure of the man, changed it purposely to look more like Telford. She saw her own face first. It shone out of the canvas. She gave a gasp of pain and admiration. Then she caught sight of Telford's figure, with the face blurred and indistinct.

"Oh!" she said with a shudder. That-that is like him. How could you know?"

"If that is the man," he said, "I saw him this morning. Is his name Mark Telford?"

"Yes," she said, and sank into a chair. Presently she sprang to her feet, caught up a brush and put it into his hand. "Paint in his face. Quick! Paint in his face. Put all his wickedness there."

Hagar came close to her. "You hate him?" he said, and took the brush.

She did not answer by word, but shook her head wearily, as to some one far off, expressing neither yes nor no.

"Why?" he said quietly-all their words had been in low tones, that they might not be heard-"why, do you wear that ring, then?"

She looked at her hand with a bitter, pitiful smile. "I wear it in memory of that girl who died very young"-she pointed to the picture-"and to remind me not to care for anything too much lest it should prove to be a lie." She nodded softly to the picture. "He and she are both dead; other people wear their faces now."

"Poor woman!" he said in a whisper. Then he turned to the canvas and, after a moment, filled in from memory the face of Mark Telford, she watching him breathlessly, yet sitting very still.

After some minutes he drew back and looked at it.

She rose and said: "Yes, he was like that; only you have added what I saw at another time. Will you hear the sequel now?"

He turned and motioned her to a seat, then sat down opposite to her.

She spoke sadly. "Why should I tell you? I do not know, except that it seemed to me you would understand. Yet I hope men like you forget what is best forgotten; and I feel-oh, do you really care to hear it?"

"I love to listen to you."

"That girl was fatherless, brotherless. There was no man with any right to stand her friend at the time-to avenge her-though, God knows, she wished for no revenge-except a distant cousin who had come from England to see her mother and herself; to marry her if he could. She did not know his motives; she believed that he really cared for her; she was young, and she was sorry for his disappointment. When that thing happened"-her eyes were on the picture, dry and hard-"he came forward, determined-so he said-to make the deceiver pay for his deceit with his life. It seemed brave, and what a man would do, what a southerner would do. He was an Englishman, and so it looked still more brave in him. He went to the man's rooms and offered him a chance for his life by a duel. He had brought revolvers. He turned the key in the door and then laid the pistols he had brought on the table. Without warning the other snatched up a small sword and stabbed him with it. He managed to get one of the revolvers, fired, and brought the man down. The man was not killed, but it was a long time before he-Mark Telford there-was well again. When he got up, the girl"-

"Poor girl!"

"When he got up the girl was married to the cousin who had periled his life for her. It was madness, but it was so."

Here she paused. The silence seemed oppressive. Hagar, divining her thought, got up, went to the archway between the rooms and asked the young girl to play something. It helped him, he said, when he was thinking how to paint. He went back.

Mrs. Detlor continued. "But it was a terrible mistake. There was a valuable property in England which the cousin knew she could get by proving certain things. The marriage was to him a speculation. When she waked to that-it was a dreadful awakening-she refused to move in the matter. Is there anything more shameful than speculation in flesh and blood-the heart and life of a child?-he was so much older than she! Life to her was an hourly pain-you see she was wild with ind

ignation and shame, and alive with a kind of gratitude and reaction when she married him. And her life? Maternity was to her an agony such as comes to few women who suffer and live. If her child-her beautiful, noble child-had lived, she would, perhaps, one day have claimed the property for its sake. This child was her second love and it died-it died."

She drew from her breast a miniature. He reached out and, first hesitating, she presently gave it into his hand. It was warm-it had lain on her bosom. His hand, generally so steady, trembled. He raised the miniature to his own lips. She reached out her hand, flushing greatly.

"Oh, please, you must not!" she said.

"Go on, tell me all," he urged, but still held the miniature in his hand for a moment.

"There is little more to tell. He played a part. She came to know how coarse and brutal he was, how utterly depraved.

"At last he went away to Africa-that was three years ago. Word came that he was drowned off the coast of Madagascar, but there is nothing sure, and the woman would not believe that he was dead unless she saw him so or some one she could trust had seen him buried. Yet people call her a widow-who wears no mourning" (she smiled bitterly) "nor can until"-

Hagar came to his feet. "You have trusted me," he said, "and I will honor your confidence. To the world the story I tell on this canvas shall be my own."

"I like to try and believe," she said, "that there are good men in the world. But I have not done so these many years. Who would think that of me?-I who sing merry songs, and have danced and am gay-how well we wear the mask, some of us!"

"I am sure," he said, "that there are better days coming for you. On my soul I think it."

"But he is here," she said. "What for? I cannot think there will be anything but misery when he crosses my path."

"That duel," he rejoined, the instinct of fairness natural to an honorable man roused in him; "did you ever hear more than one side of it?"

"No; yet sometimes I have thought there might be more than one side. Fairfax Detlor was a coward; and whatever that other was,"-she nodded to the picture-"he feared no man."

"A minute!" he said "Let me make a sketch of it."

He got to work immediately. After the first strong outlines she rose, came to him and said, "You know as much of it as I do-I will not stay any longer."

He caught her fingers in his and held them for an instant. "It is brutal of me. I did not stop to think what all this might cost you."

"If you paint a notable picture and gain honor by it, that is enough," she said. "It may make you famous." She smiled a little wistfully. "You are very ambitious. You needed, you said to me once, a simple but powerful subject which you could paint in with some one's life' blood-that sounds more dreadful than it is * * * well? * * * You said you had been successful, but had never had an inspiration"-

"I have one!"

She shook her head. "Never an inspiration which had possessed you as you ought to be to move the public * * * well? * * * do you think I have helped you at all? I wanted so much to do something for you."

To Hagar's mind there came the remembrance of the pure woman who, to help an artist, as poverty stricken as he was talented, engaged on the "Capture of Cassandra," came into his presence as Lady Godiva passed through the streets of Coventry, as hushed and as solemn. A sob shook in his throat-he was of few but strong emotions; he reached out, took her wrists in his hands, and held them hard. "I have my inspiration now," he said; "I know that I can paint my one great picture. I shall owe all to you. And for my gratitude, it seems little to say that I love you-I love you, Marion."

She drew her hands away, turned her head aside, her face both white and red. "Oh, hush, you must not say it!" she said. "You forget; do not make me fear you and hate myself. * * * I wanted to be your friend-from the first, to help you, as I said; be, then, a friend to me, that I may forgive myself."

"Forgive yourself-for what? I wish to God I had the right to proclaim my love-if you would have it, dear-to all the world. * * * And I will know the truth, for I will find your husband, or his grave."

She looked up at him gravely, a great confidence in her eyes. "I wish you knew how much in earnest I am-in wishing to help you. Believe me, that is the first thought. For the rest I am-shall I say it?-the derelict of a life; and I can only drift. You are young, as young almost as I in years, much younger every other way, for I began with tragedy too soon."

At that moment there came a loud knock at the outer door, then a ring, followed by a cheerful voice calling through the window-"I say, Hagar, are you there? Shall I come in or wait on the mat till the slavey arrives. * * * Oh, here she is-Salaam! Talofa! Aloha!-which is heathen for How do you do, God bless you, and All hail!"

These remarks were made in the passage from the door through the hallway into the room. As Baron entered, Hagar and Mrs. Detlor were just coming from the studio. Both had ruled their features into stillness.

Baron stopped short, open mouthed, confused, when he saw Mrs. Detlor. Hagar, for an instant, attributed this to a reason not in Baron's mind, and was immediately angry. For the man to show embarrassment was an ill compliment to Mrs. Detlor. However, he carried off the situation, and welcomed the Afrikander genially, determining to have the matter out with him in some sarcastic moment later. Baron's hesitation, however, continued. He stammered, and was evidently trying to account for his call by giving some other reason than the real one, which was undoubtedly held back because of Mrs. Detlor's presence. Presently he brightened up and said, with an attempt to be convincing, "You know that excursion this afternoon, Hagar? Well, don't you think we might ask the chap we met this morning-first rate fellow-no pleb-picturesque for the box seat-go down with the ladies-all like him-eh?"

"I don't see how we can," replied Hagar coolly. Mrs. Detlor turned to the mantelpiece. "We are full up; every seat is occupied-unless I give up my seat to him."

Mrs. Detlor half turned toward them again, listening acutely. She caught Hagar's eyes in the mirror and saw, to her relief, that he had no intention of giving up his seat to Mark Telford. She knew that she must meet this man whom she had not seen for twelve years. She felt that he would seek her, though why she could not tell; but this day she wanted to forget her past, all things but one, though she might have to put it away from her ever after. Women have been known to live a lifetime on the joy of one day. Her eyes fell again on the mantelpiece, on Hagar's unopened letters. At first her eyes wandered over the writing on the uppermost envelope mechanically, then a painful recognition came into them. She had seen that writing before, that slow sliding scrawl unlike any other, never to be mistaken. It turned her sick. Her fingers ran up to the envelope, then drew back. She felt for an instant that she must take it and open it as she stood there. What had the writer of that letter to do with George Hagar? She glanced at the postmark. It was South Hampstead. She knew that he lived in South Hampstead. The voices behind her grew indistinct; she forgot where she was. She did not know how long she stood there so, nor that Baron, feeling, without reason, the necessity for making conversation, had suddenly turned the talk upon a collision, just reported, between two vessels in the Channel. He had forgotten their names and where they hailed from-he had only heard of it, hadn't read it; but there was great loss of life. She raised her eyes from the letter to the mirror and caught sight of her own face. It was deadly pale. It suddenly began to waver before her and to grow black. She felt herself swaying, and reached out to save herself. One hand caught the side of the mirror. It was lightly hung. It loosened from the wall, and came away upon her as she wavered. Hagar had seen the action. He sprang forward, caught her, and pushed the mirror back. Her head dropped on his arm.

The young girl ran forward with some water as Hagar placed Mrs. Detlor on the sofa. It was only a sudden faintness. The water revived her. Baron stood dumbfounded, a picture of helpless anxiety.

"I oughtn't to have driveled about that accident," he said. "I always was a fool."

Mrs. Detlor sat up, pale, but smiling in a wan fashion. "I am all right now," she said. "It was silly of me-let us go, dear," she added to the young girl; "I shall be better for the open air-I have had a headache all morning. * * * No, please, don't accuse yourself, Mr. Baron, you are not at all to blame."

"I wish that was all the bad news I have," said Baron to himself as Hagar showed Mrs. Detlor to a landau. Mrs. Detlor asked to be driven to her hotel.

"I shall see you this afternoon at the excursion if you are well enough to go," Hagar said to her.

"Perhaps," she said with a strange smile. Then, as she drove away, "You have not read your letters this morning." He looked after her for a moment, puzzled by what she said and by the expression on her face.

He went back to the house abstractedly. Baron was sitting in a chair, smoking hard. Neither men spoke at first. Hagar went over to the mantel and adjusted the mirror, thinking the while of Mrs. Detlor's last words. "You haven't read your letters this morning," he repeated to himself. He glanced down and saw the letter which had so startled Mrs. Detlor.

"From Mrs. Gladney!" he said to himself. He glanced at the other letters. They were obviously business letters. He was certain Mrs. Detlor had not touched them and had, therefore, only seen this one which lay on top. "Could she have meant anything to do with this?" He tapped it upward with his thumb. "But why, in the name of heaven, should this affect her? What had she to do with Mrs. Gladney, or Mrs. Gladney with her?"

With this inquiry showing in his eyes he turned round and looked at Baron meditatively but unconsciously. Baron, understanding the look, said, "Oh, don't mind me. Read your letters. My business'll keep."

Hagar nodded, was about to open the letter, but paused, went over to the archway and drew the curtains. Then he opened the letter. The body of it ran:

DEAR MR. HAGAR-I have just learned on my return from the Continent with the Branscombes that you are at Herridon. My daughter Mildred, whom you have never seen-and that is strange, we having known each other so long-is staying at the View House there with the Margraves, whom, also, I think, you do not know. I am going down to-morrow, and will introduce you all to each other. May I ask you to call on me there? Once or twice you have done me a great service, and I may prove my gratitude by asking you to do another. Will this frighten you out of Herridon before I come? I hope not, indeed. Always gratefully yours,

IDA GLADNEY.

He thoughtfully folded the letter up, and put it in his pocket. Then he said to Baron, "What did you say was the name of the pretty girl at the View House?"

"Mildred, Mildred Margrave-lovely, 'cometh up as a flower,' and all that. You'll see her to-night."

Hagar looked at him debatingly, then said, "You are in love with her, Baron. Isn't it-forgive me-isn't it a pretty mad handicap?"

Baron ran his hand over his face in an embarrassed fashion, then got up, laughed nervously, but with a brave effort, and replied: "Handicap, my son, handicap? Of course, it's all handicap. But what difference does that make when it strikes you? You can't help it, can you? It's like loading yourself with gold, crossing an ugly river, but you do it. Yes, you do it just the same."

He spoke with an affected cheerfulness, and dropped a hand on Hagar's shoulder. It was now Hagar's turn. He drew down the hand and wrung it as Baron had wrung his in the morning. "You're a brick, Baron," he said.

"I tell you what, Hagar. I'd like to talk the thing over once with Mrs. Detlor. She's a wise woman, I believe, if ever there was one; sound as the angels, or I'm a Zulu. I fancy she'd give a fellow good advice, eh?-a woman like her, eh?"

To hear Mrs. Detlor praised was as wine and milk to Hagar. He was about to speak, but Baron, whose foible was hurriedly changing from one subject to another, pulled a letter out of his pocket and said: "But maybe this is of more importance to Mrs. Detlor than my foolishness. I won't ask you to read it. I'll tell you what's in it. But, first, it's supposed, isn't it, that her husband was drowned?"

"Yes, off the coast of Madagascar. But it was never known beyond doubt. The vessel was wrecked and it was said all hands but two sailors were lost."

"Exactly. But my old friend Meneely writes me from Zanzibar telling me of a man who got into trouble with Arabs in the interior-there was a woman in it-and was shot but not killed. Meneely brought him to the coast, and put him into a hospital, and said he was going to ship him to England right away, though he thinks he can't live. Meneely further remarks that the man is a bounder. And his name is Fairfax Detlor. Was that her husband's name?"

Hagar had had a blow. Everything seemed to come at once-happiness and defeat all in a moment. There was grim irony in it. "Yes, that was the name," he said. "Will you leave the telling to me?"

"That's what I came for. You'll do it as it ought to be done; I couldn't."

"All right, Baron."

Hagar leaned against the mantel, outwardly unmoved, save for a numb kind of expression. Baron came awkwardly to him and spoke with a stumbling kind of friendliness. "Hagar, I wish the Arabs had got him, so help me!"

"For God's sake think of what you are saying."

"Of course it doesn't sound right to you, and it wouldn't sound right from you; but I'm a rowdy colonial and I'm damned if I take it back!-and I like you, Hagar!" and, turning, he hurried out of the house.

Mrs. Detlor had not staid at the hotel long; but, as soon as she had recovered, went out for a walk. She made her way to the moor. She wandered about for a half hour or so and at last came to a quiet place where she had been accustomed to sit. As she neared it she saw pieces of an envelope lying on the ground. Something in the writing caught her eye. She stopped, picked up the pieces and put them together. "Oh," she said with misery in her voice, "What does it all mean? Letters everywhere, like the writing on the wall!"

She recognized the writing as that of Mark Telford. His initials were in the corner. The envelope was addressed to John Earl Gladney at Trinity hospital, New York. She saw a strange tangle of events. John Earl Gladney was the name of the man who had married an actress called Ida Folger, and Ida Folger was the mother of Mark Telford's child! She had seen the mother in London; she had also seen the child with the Margraves, who did not know her origin, but who had taken her once when her mother was ill and had afterward educated her with their own daughter. What had Ida Folger to do with George Hagar, the man who (it was a joy and yet an agony to her) was more to her than she dared to think? Was this woman for the second time to play a part-and what kind of part-in her life? What was Mark Telford to John Gladney? The thing was not pleasant to consider. The lines were crossing and recrossing. Trouble must occur somewhere. She sat down quiet and cold. No one could have guessed her mind. She was disciplining herself for shocks. She fought back everything but her courage. She had always had that, but it was easier to exercise it when she lived her life alone-with an empty heart. Now something had come into her life-but she dared not think of it!

And the people of the hotel at her table, a half hour later, remarked how cheerful and amiable Mrs. Detlor was. But George Hagar saw that through the pretty masquerade there played a curious restlessness.

That afternoon they went on the excursion to Rivers abbey-Mrs. Detlor, Hagar, Baron, Richmond and many others. They were to return by moonlight. Baron did not tell them that a coach from the View hotel had also gone there earlier, and that Mark Telford and Mildred Margrave with her friends were with it. There was no particular reason why he should.

Mark Telford had gone because he hoped to see Mrs. Detlor without (if he should think it best) being seen by her. Mildred Margrave sat in the seat behind him-he was on the box seat-and so far gained the confidence of the driver as to induce him to resign the reins into his hands. There was nothing in the way of horses unfamiliar to Telford. As a child he had ridden like a circus rider and with the fearlessness of an Arab; and his skill had increased with years. This six in hand was, as he said, "nuts to Jacko." Mildred was delighted. From the first moment she had seen this man she had been attracted to him, but in a fashion as to gray headed Mr. Margrave, who sang her praises to everybody-not infrequently to the wide open ears of Baron. At last she hinted very faintly to the military officer who sat on the box seat that she envied him, and he gave her his place. Mark Telford would hardly have driven so coolly that afternoon if he had known that his own child was beside him. He told her, however, amusing stories as they went along. Once or twice he turned to look at her. Something familiar in her laugh caught his attention. He could not trace it. He could not tell that it was like a faint echo of his own.

When they reached the park where the old abbey was, Telford detached himself from the rest of the party and wandered alone through the paths with their many beautiful surprises of water and wood, pretty grottoes, rustic bridges and incomparable turf. He followed the windings of a stream, till, suddenly, he came out into a straight open valley, at the end of which were the massive ruins of the old abbey, with its stern Norman tower. He came on slowly thinking how strange it was that he, who had spent years in the remotest corners of the world, having for his companions men adventurous as himself, and barbarous tribes, should be here. His life, since the day he left his home in the south, had been sometimes as useless as creditable. However, he was not of such stuff as to spend an hour in useless remorse. He had made his bed, and he had lain on it without grumbling, but he was a man who counted his life backward-he had no hope for the future. The thought of what he might have been came on him here in spite of himself, associated with the woman-to him always the girl-whose happiness he had wrecked. For the other woman, the mother of his child, was nothing to him at the time of the discovery. She had accepted the position and was going away forever, even as she did go after all was over.

He expected to see the girl he had loved and wronged this day. He had anticipated it with a kind of fierceness, for, if he had wronged her, he felt that he too had been wronged, though he could never, and would never, justify himself. He came down from the pathway and wandered through the long silent cloisters.

There were no visitors about; it was past the usual hour. He came into the old refectory, and the kitchen with its immense chimney, passed in and out of the little chapels, exploring almost mechanically, yet remembering what he saw, and everything was mingled almost grotesquely with three scenes in his life-two of which we know; the other, when his aged father turned from him dying and would not speak to him. The ancient peace of this place mocked these other scenes and places. He came into the long, unroofed aisle, with its battered sides and floor of soft turf, broken only by some memorial brasses over graves. He looked up and saw upon the walls the carved figures of little grinning demons between complacent angels. The association of these with his own thoughts stirred him to laughter-a low, cold laugh, which shone on his white teeth.

Outside a few people were coming toward the abbey from both parties of excursionists. Hagar and Mrs. Detlor were walking by themselves. Mrs. Detlor was speaking almost breathlessly. "Yes, I recognized the writing. She is nothing, then, to you, nor has ever been?"

"Nothing, on my honor. I did her a service once. She asks me to do another, of which I am as yet ignorant. That is all. Here is her letter."

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