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   Chapter 14 No.14

Moth and Rust; Together with Geoffrey's Wife and The Pitfall By Mary Cholmondeley Characters: 100153

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


"My river runs to thee:

Blue sea, wilt welcome me?"

-Emily Dickinson.

The winter, that dealt so sternly with Janet, smiled on Anne. She spent Christmas in London, for the Duke was, or at least he said he was, in too delicate a state of health to go to his ancestral halls in the country, where the Duchess had repaired alone, believing herself to be but the herald of the rest of her family; and where she was expending her fearful energy on Christmas trees, magic-lanterns, ventriloquists, entertainments of all kinds for children and adults, tenants, inmates of workhouses, country neighbours, Sunday School teachers, Mothers' Unions, Ladies' Working Guilds, Bands of Hope, etc., etc. She was in her element.

Anne and her father were in theirs. The Duke did not shirk the constant inevitable duties of his position, but by nature he was a recluse, and at Christmas-time he yielded to his natural bias. Anne also lived too much on the highway of life. She knew too many people, her sympathy had drawn towards her too many insolvent natures. She was glad to be for a time out of the pressure of the crowd. She and her father spent a peaceful Christmas and New Year together, only momentarily disturbed by the frantic telegrams of the Duchess, commanding Anne to despatch five hundred presents at one shilling suitable for schoolgirls, or forty ditto at half-a-crown for young catechists.

The New Year came in in snow and fog. But it was none the worse for that. On this particular morning Anne stood a long time at the window of her sitting-room, looking out at the impenetrable blanket of the fog. The newsboys were crying something in the streets, but she could hear nothing distinctive except the word "city."

Presently she took out of her pocket two letters, and read them slowly. There was no need for her to read them. Not only did she know them by heart, but she knew exactly where each word came on the paper. "Martial law" was on the left-hand corner of the top line of the second sheet. "Dependent on Kaffir labour" was in the middle of the third page. They were dilapidated-looking letters, possibly owing to the fact that they were read last thing every night and first thing every morning, and that they were kept under Anne's pillow at night, so that if she waked she could touch them. It is hardly necessary to add that they were in Stephen's small, cramped, mercantile handwriting.

Stephen had been recalled to South Africa on urgent business early in the autumn. He had been there for nearly three months. During that time, after intense cogitation, he had written twice to Anne. I am under the impression that he was under the impression that those two documents were love letters. At any rate, they were the only two letters which Stephen ever composed which could possibly be classed under that heading. And their composition cost him much thought. In them he was so good as to inform Anne of the population of the town he wrote from, its principal industries, its present distress under martial law. He also described the climate. His nearest approach to an impulsive outburst was a polite expression of hope that she and her parents were well, and that he expected to be in England again by Christmas. Anne kissed the signature, and then laughed till she cried over the letter. Stephen did, as a matter of fact, indite a third letter, but it was of so bold a nature-it expressed a wish to see her again-that, after reading it over about twenty times, he decided not to risk sending it.

When Anne was an old woman she still remembered the population of two distracted little towns in South Africa, and their respective industries.

Stephen was as good as his word. His large foot was once more planted on English soil a day or two before Christmas. In spite of an overwhelming pressure of business, he had found time to dine with Anne and her father several times since he arrived. The Duke had met him at a directors' meeting, and quite oblivious of Anne's refusal of him, had pressed him to come back with him to dinner. The Duke asked him constantly to dine after that. The old attraction between the two men renewed its hold.

These quiet evenings round the fire seemed to Stephen to contain the pith of life. The Duke talked well, but on occasion Stephen talked better. Anne listened. The kitchen cat, now alas! grown large and vulgar, with an unmodulated purr, was allowed to make a fourth in these peaceful gatherings, and had coffee out of Anne's saucer, sugared by Stephen, every evening.

Then, for no apparent reason, Stephen ceased to come.

Anne, who had endured so much suspense about him, could surely endure a little more. But it seemed she could not. For a week he did not come. In that one week she aged perceptibly. The old pain took her again, the old anger and resentment at being made to suffer, the old fierceness, "which from tenderness is never far." She had thought that she had conquered these enemies so often, that she had routed them so entirely, that they could never confront her again. But they did. In the ranks of her old foes a new one had enlisted-Hope; and Hope, if he forces his way into the heart where he has been long a stranger, knows how to reopen many a deep and barely healed wound, which will bleed long after he is gone.

And where were Anne's patience, her old steadfastness and fortitude? Could they be worn out?

As she stood by the window, trying to summon her faithless allies to her aid, her father came in, with a newspaper in his hand.

"This is serious," he said, "about Vanbrunt."

She turned upon him like lightning.

The Duke tapped the paper.

"I knew Vanbrunt was in difficulties," he said. "A week ago, when he was last here, he advised me sell out certain shares. It seems he would not sell out himself. He said he would see it through, and now the smash has come. I'm afraid he's ruined."

A beautiful colour rose to Anne's face. Her eyes shone. She felt a sudden inrush of life. She became young, strong, alert.

Her father was too much preoccupied to notice her.

"Vanbrunt is a fine man," he said. "He had ample time to get out. But he stuck to the ship, and he has gone down with it. I'm sorry. I liked him."

"Are you sure he is really ruined?"

"The papers say so. They also say he can meet his liabilities." The Duke read aloud a paragraph which Anne did not understand. "That spells ruin even for him," he said.

He took several turns across the room.

"He has been working day and night for the last week," he said, "to avoid this crash. It might have been avoided. He told me a little when he was last here, but in confidence. He is straight, but others weren't. He has not been backed. He has been let in by his partners."

The Duke sighed, and went back to his study on the ground floor.

Anne opened the window with a trembling hand, and peered out into the fog.

* * *

Stephen was sitting in his inner room at his office in the City, biting an already sufficiently bitten little finger. His face bore the mark of the incessant toil of the last week. His eyes were fixed absently on the electric light. His mind was concentrated with unabated strength on his affairs, as a magnifying glass may focus its light into flame on a given point. He had fought strenuously, and he had been beaten-not by fair means. He could meet the claims upon him. He could, in his own language, "stand the racket;" but in the eyes of the financial world he was ruined. In his own eyes he was on the verge of ruin. But a man with an iron nerve can find a foothold on precipices where another turns giddy and loses his head. Stephen's courage rose to the occasion. He felt equal to it. His strong, acute, alert mind worked indefatigably hour after hour, while he sat apparently idle. He was not perturbed. He saw his way through.

He heard the newsboys in the streets crying out his bankruptcy, and smiled. At last he drew a sheet of paper towards him, and became absorbed in figures.

He was never visible to anyone when he was in this inner chamber. His head clerk knew that he must not on any pretext be disturbed. And those who knew Stephen discovered that he was not to be disturbed with impunity.

He looked up at last, and rose to his feet, shaking himself like a dog.

"I can carry through," he said. "They think I can't, but I can. But if the worst comes to the worst-which it shall not-I doubt if I shall have a shilling left."

He took a turn in the room.

"Wait a bit, you fools," he said half aloud; "if your cowardice does ruin me, wait a bit. I have made money not once, nor twice,-and I can make it again."

A tap came to the door.

He reddened with sudden anger. Did not Jones know that he was not to be interrupted till two, when he must meet, and, if possible, pacify certain half frantic, stampeding shareholders?

The door opened with decision, and Anne came in. For a moment Stephen saw the aghast face of his head clerk behind her. Then Anne shut the door and confronted him.

The image of Anne was so constantly with Stephen, her every little trick of manner, from the way she turned her head, to the way she folded her hands, was all so carefully registered in his memory, had become so entirely a part of himself, that it was no surprise to him to see her. Did he not see her always! Nevertheless, as he looked at her, all power of going forward to meet her, of speaking to her, left him. The blood seemed to ebb slowly from his heart, and his grim face blanched.

"How did you come here?" he stammered at last, his voice sounding harsh and unfamiliar.

"On foot."

"In this fog?"

"Yes."

"Who came with you?"

"I came alone. I wished to speak to you. I hear you are ruined."

"I can meet my liabilities," he said proudly.

"Is it true that you have lost two millions?"

"It is-possibly more."

A moment of terror seemed to pass over Anne. The lovely colour in her cheek faded suddenly. She supported herself against the table, with a shaking gloved hand. Then she drew herself up, and said in a firm voice:

"Do you remember that night in Hamilton Gardens when you asked me to marry you?"

Stephen bowed. He could not speak. Even his great strength was only just enough.

"I refused you because I saw you were convinced that I did not care for you. If I had told you I loved you then you would not have believed it."

Stephen's hand gripped the mantelpiece. He was trembling from head to foot. His eyes never left her.

"But now the money is gone," she said, becoming paler than ever, "perhaps, now the dreadful money is gone, you will believe me if I tell you that I love you."

And so Stephen and Anne came home to each other at last-at last.

* * *

"My dear," said the Duke to Anne the following day, "this is a very extraordinary proceeding of yours. You refuse Vanbrunt when he is rich, and accept him when he is tottering on the verge of ruin. It seems a reversal of the usual order of things. What will your mother say?"

"I have already had a letter from her, thanking Heaven that I was not engaged to him. She says a good deal about how there is a Higher Power which rules things for the best."

"I wish you would allow it freer scope," said the Duke. "All the same, I should be thankful if she were here. It will be my horrid, vulgar duty to ask Vanbrunt what he has got; what small remains there are of his enormous fortune. I hear on good authority that he is almost penniless. One is not a parent for nothing. I wish to goodness your mother were in town. She always did this sort of thing herself with a dreadful relish on previous occasions. You must push him into my study, my dear, after his interview with you. I will endeavour to act the heavy father. That is his bell. I will depart. I have letters to write."

The Duke left the room, and then put his head in again.

"It may interest you to know, Anne," he said, "that I've seen handsomer men, and I've seen better dressed men, and I've even seen men of rather lighter build, but I've not seen any man I like better than your ex-millionaire."

Two hours later, after Stephen's departure, the Duke returned to his daughter's sitting-room, and sank exhausted into a chair.

"Really I can't do this sort of thing twice in a lifetime," he said faintly. "Have you any salts handy? No-you-need not fetch them. I'm not seriously indisposed. How heartlessly blooming you are looking, Anne, while your parent is suffering. Now remember, if ever you want to marry again, don't send your second husband to interview me, for I won't have it."

"Come, come, father. Didn't you tell me to push him into your study? And I thought you looked so impressive and dignified when I brought him in. Quite a model father."

"I took a firm attitude with him," continued the Duke. "I saw he was nervous. That made it easier for me. Vanbrunt is a shy man. I was in the superior position. Hateful thing to ask a man for his daughter. I said, 'Now look here, Vanbrunt, I understand you wish to marry my daughter. I don't wish it myself, but--'"

"Oh! father, you never said that?"

"Well, not exactly. I owned to him that I could put up with him better than with most, but that I could not let you marry to poverty. He asked me what I considered poverty. That rather stumped me. In fact, I did not know what to say. It was not his place to ask questions."

"Father, you did promise me you would let me marry him on eight hundred a year."

"Well, yes, I did. I don't like it, but I did say so. In short, I told him you had worked me up to that point."

"And what did he say?"

"He said he did not think in that case that any real difficulty about money need arise; that at one moment he had stood to lose all he had, and he had lost two millions, but that his affairs had taken an unexpected turn during the last twenty-four hours, and he believed he could count on an odd million or so, certainly on half a million. I collapsed, Anne. My attitude fell to pieces. It was Vanbrunt who scored. He had had a perfectly grave face till then. Then he smiled grimly, and we shook hands. He did not say much, but what he did say was to the point. I think, my dear, that while Vanbrunt lasts, his love for you will last. He has got it very firmly screwed into him. But these interviews annihilate me."

The Duke raised the kitchen cat to his knee, and rubbed it behind the ears.

"I made the match, Anne," he said; "you owe it all to me. I asked him to dinner when I met him at that first directors' meeting a fortnight ago. I had it in my mind then."

"Father! You know you had not."

"Well, no. I had not. I did not think of it! I can't say I did. But still, I was a sort of bulwark to the whole thing. You had my moral support. I shall tell your mother so."

* * *

CONCLUSION

"So passes, all confusedly

As lights that hurry, shapes that flee

About some brink we dimly see,

The trivial, great,

Squalid, majestic tragedy

Of human fate."

-William Watson

I wish life were more like the stories one reads, the beautiful stories, which, whether they are grave or gay, still have picturesque endings. The hero marries the heroine, after insuperable difficulties, which in real life he would never have overcome: or the heroine creeps down into a romantic grave, watered by our scalding tears. At any rate, the story is gracefully wound up. There is an ornamental conclusion to it. But life, for some inexplicable reason, does not lend itself with docility to the requirements of the lending libraries, and only too frequently fails to grasp the dramatic moment for an impressive close. None of us reach middle age without having watched several violent melodramas, whose main interest lies further apart from their moral than we were led, in our tender youth, to anticipate. We have seen better plays off the stage than even Shakespeare ever put on. But Shakespeare finished his, and pulled down the curtain on them; while, with those we watch in life, we have time to grow grey between the acts; and we only know the end has come, when at last it does come, because the lights have been going out all the time, one by one, and we find ourselves at last alone in the dark.

Janet's sweet melancholy face rises up before me as I think of these things, and I could almost feel impatient with her, when I remember how the one dramatic incident in her uneventful life never seemed to get itself wound up. The consequences went on, and on, and on, till all novelty and interest dropped inevitably from them and from her.

Some of us come to turning-points in life, and don't turn. We become warped instead. It was so with Janet.

Is there any turning-point in life like our first real encounter with anguish, loneliness, despair?

I do not pity those who meet open-eyed these stern angels of God, and wrestle with them through the night, until the day breaks, extorting from them the blessings that they waylaid us to bestow. But is it possible to withhold awed compassion for those who, like Janet, go down blind into Hades, and struggle impotently with God's angels as with enemies? Janet endured with dumb, uncomplaining dignity she knew not what, she knew not why; and came up out of her agony, as she had gone down into it-with clenched empty hands. The greater hope, the deeper love, the wider faith, the tenderer sympathy-these she brought not back with her. She returned gradually to her normal life with her conventional ideas crystallised, her small crude beliefs in love and her fellow-creatures withered.

That was all George did for her.

The virtues of narrow natures such as George's seem of no use to anyone except possibly to their owner. They are as great a stumbling-block to their weaker brethren, they cause as much pain, they choke the spiritual life as mercilessly, they engender as much scepticism in unreasoning minds, as certain gross vices. If we are unjust, it matters little to our victim what makes us so, or whether we have prayed to see aright, if for long years we have closed our eyes to unpalatable truths.

George's disbelief in Janet's rectitude, which grew out of a deep sense of rectitude, had the same effect on her mind as if he had deliberately seduced and deserted her. The executioner reached the gallows of his victim by a clean path. That was the only difference. So much the better for him. The running noose for her was the same. Unreasoning belief in love and her fellow-creatures was followed by an equally unreasoning disbelief in both.

Janet kept her promise. She held firm. Amid all the promises of the world, made only to be broken, kept only till the temptation to break them punctually arrived, amid all that débris one foolish promise remained intact, Janet's promise to Cuckoo.

George married. Then, shortly afterwards, Fred married the eldest Miss Ford, and found great happiness. His bliss was at first painfully streaked with total abstinence, but he gradually eradicated this depressing element from his new home life. And in time his slight insolvent nature reached a kind of stability, through the love of the virtuous female prig, the "perfect lady," to whom he was all in all. Fred changed greatly for the better after his marriage, and in the end he actually repaid Stephen part of the money the latter had advanced to Monkey Brand, for Janet's sake.

Janet lived with the young couple at first, but Mrs Fred did not like her. She knew vaguely, as did half the neighbourhood, that Janet had been mixed up in something discreditable, and that her engagement had been broken off on that account. Mrs Fred was, as we know, a person of the highest principles; and high principles naturally shrink from contact with any less exalted. Several months after the situation between the two women had become untenable, Janet decided to leave home. She had nowhere to go, and no money; so, like thousands of other women in a similar predicament, she decided to support herself by education. She had received no education herself, but that was not in her mind any bar to imparting it. Anne, who had kept in touch with her, interfered peremptorily at this point, and when Janet did finally leave home, it was to go to Anne's house in London, till "something turned up."

It was a sunny day in June when Janet arrived in London, for the first time since her ill-fated visit there a year ago. She looked up at Lowndes Mansions, as her four-wheeler plodded past them, towards Anne's house in Park Lane. Even now, a year after the great fire, scaffoldings were still pricking up against the central tower of the larger block of building. The damage caused by the fire was not even yet quite repaired. Perhaps some of it would never be repaired.

Mrs Trefusis was sitting with Anne on this particular afternoon, confiding to her some discomfortable characteristics of her new daughter-in-law, the wife whom she had herself chosen for her son.

"I am an old woman," said Mrs Trefusis, "and of course I don't march with the times, the world is for the young, I know that very well; but I must own, Anne, I had imagined that affection still counted for something in marriage."

"I wonder what makes you think that."

"Well, not the marriages I see around me, my dear, that is just what I say, though what has made you so cynical all at once, I don't know. But I ask you-look at Gertrude. She does not know what the word 'love' means."

"I'm not so sure of that."

"I am. She has been married to George three months, and it might be thirty years by the way they behave. And she seemed such a particularly nice girl, and exceedingly sensible, and well brought up. I should have thought she would at any rate try to make my boy happy, after all the sorrow he has gone through. But they don't seem to have any real link to each other. It isn't that they don't get on. They do in a way. She is sharp enough for that. She does her duty by him. She is nice to him, but all her interests, and she has interests, seem to lie apart from anything to do with him."

"Does he mind?"

"I never really know what George minds or doesn't mind," said Mrs Trefusis. "It has been the heaviest cross of the many crosses I have had to bear in life, that he never confides in me. George has always been extremely reticent. Thoughtful natures often are. He will sit for hours without saying a word, looking--"

"Glum is the word she wants," said Anne to herself, as Mrs Trefusis hesitated.

"Reserved," said Mrs Trefusis. "He does not seem to care to be with Gertrude. And yet you know Gertrude is very taking, and there is no doubt she is good-looking. And she sings charmingly. Unfortunately George does not care for music."

"She is really musical."

"They make a very handsome couple," said Mrs Trefusis plaintively. "When I saw them come down the aisle together I felt happier about him than I had done for years. It seemed as if I had been rewarded at last. And I never saw a bride smile and look as bright as she did. But somehow it all seems to have fallen flat. She didn't even care to see the photographs of George when he was a child, when I got them out the other day. She said she would like to see them, and then forgot to look at them."

Anne was silent.

"Well," said Mrs Trefusis, rising slowly, "I suppose the truth is that in these days young people don't fall in love as they did in my time. I must own Gertrude has disappointed me."

"I daresay she will make him a good wife."

"Oh! my dear, she does. She is an extremely practical woman, but one wants more for one's son than a person who will make him a good wife. If she were a less good wife, and cared a little more about him, I should feel less miserable about the whole affair."

Mrs Trefusis sighed heavily.

"I must go," she said, in the voice of one who might be persuaded to remain.

But Anne did not try to detain her, for she was expecting Janet every moment, though she did not warn Mrs Trefusis of the fact, for the name of Janet was never mentioned between Anne and Mrs Trefusis. Mrs Trefusis had once diffidently endeavoured to reopen the subject with Anne, but found it instantly and decisively closed. If Janet had existed in a novel, she would certainly have been coming up Anne's wide white staircase at the exact moment that Mrs Trefusis was going down them, but, as a matter of fact, Mrs Trefusis was packed into her carriage, and drove away, quite half a minute before Janet's four-wheeler came round the corner.

Anne's heart ached for Janet when she appeared in the doorway. She almost wished that Mrs Trefusis had been confronted with the worn white face of the only woman who had loved her son.

Janet and Anne kissed each other.

Then Janet looked at the wedding ring on Anne's finger, and smiled at her in silence.

Anne looked down tremulously, for fear lest the joy in her eyes should make Janet's heart ache, as her own heart had ached one little year ago, when she had seen Janet and George together in the rose garden.

"I am so glad," said Janet. "I did so wish that time at Easthope-do you remember?-that you could be happy too. It's just a year ago."

"Just a year," said Anne.

"I suppose you cared for him then," said Janet. "But I expect it was in a more sensible way than I did. You were always so much wiser than me. One lives and learns."

"I cared for him then," said Anne, busying herself making tea for her friend. When she had made it she went to a side table, and took from it a splendid satin tea cosy, which she placed over the teapot. It had been Janet's wedding present to her.

Janet's eyes lighted on it with pleasure.

"I am glad you use it every day," she said. "I was so afraid you would only use it when you had company."

Anne stroked it with her slender white hand. There was a kind of tender radiance about her which Janet had never observed in her before.

"It makes me happy that you are happy," said Janet. "I only hope it will last. I felt last year that you were in trouble. Since then it has been my turn."

"I wish happiness could have come to both of us," said Anne.

"Do you remember our talk together," said Janet, spreading out a clean pocket-handkerchief on her knee, and stirring her tea, "and how sentimental I was? I daresay you thought at the time how silly I was about George. I see now what a fool I was."

Anne did not answer. She was looking earnestly at Janet, and there was no need for her now to veil the still gladness in her eyes. They held only pained love and surprise.

"And do you remember how the clergyman preached about not laying up our treasure on earth?"

"I remember everything."

"I've often thought of that since," said Janet, with a quiver in her voice, which brought back once more to Anne the childlike innocent creature of a year ago, whom she now almost failed to recognise, in her new ill-fitting array of cheap cynicism.

"I did lay up my treasure upon earth," continued Janet, drawn momentarily back into her old simplicity by the presence of Anne. "I didn't seem able to help it. George was my treasure. I mustn't think of him any more because he's married. But I cared too much. That was where I was wrong."

"One cannot love too much," said Anne, her fingers closing over her wedding ring.

"Perhaps not," said Janet, "but then the other person must love too. George did not love me enough to carry through. When the other person cares, but doesn't care strong enough, I think that's the worst. It's like what the Bible says. The moth and rust corrupting. George did care, but not enough. Men are like that."

"Some one else cares," said Anne diffidently-"poor Mr de Rivaz. He cares enough."

"Yes," said Janet apathetically. "I daresay he does. We've all got to fall in love some time or other. But I don't care for him. I told him so months ago. I don't mean to care for any one again. I've thought a great deal about things this winter, Anne. It's all very well for you to believe in love. I did once, but I don't now."

Janet got up, and, as she turned, her eyes fixed suddenly.

"Why, that's the cabinet," she said below her breath. "Cuckoo's cabinet!" Her face quivered. She saw again the scorched room, the pile of smoking papers on the hearth, the flame which had burnt up her happiness with them.

Anne did not understand.

"Stephen gave me that cabinet a few days ago," she said.

"It was Cuckoo's. It used to stand under her picture."

"Don't you think it may be a replica?"

"No, it is the same," said Janet, passing her hand over the mermaid and her whale. "There is the little chip out of the dolphin's tail."

Then she shrank suddenly away from it, as if its touch scorched her.

* * *

"Where did you get the Italian cabinet?" said Anne to Stephen that evening, as he and De Rivaz joined her and Janet after dinner in her sitting-room.

"At Brand's sale. He sold some of his things when he gave up his flat in Lowndes Mansions. He has gone to South Africa for his boy's health."

Stephen opened it. Janet drew near.

"I had to have a new key made for it," he said, letting the front fall forward on his careful hand. "Look, Anne! how beautifully the drawers are inlaid."

He pulled out one or two of them.

Janet slowly put out her hand, and pulled out the lowest drawer on the left-hand side. It stuck, and then came out. It was empty like all the rest.

Stephen closed it, and then drew it forward again.

"Why does it stick?" he said.

He got the drawer entirely out, and looked into the aperture. Then he put in his hand, and pulled out something wedged against the slip of wood which supported the upper drawer, without reaching quite to the back of the cabinet. It was a crumpled, dirty sheet of paper. He tore it as he forced it out.

"It must have been in the lowest drawer but one," he said, "and fallen between the drawer and its support."

Janet was the first to see her brother's signature, and she pointed to it with a cry.

It was the missing I O U.

"I always said it would turn up," said Stephen gently.

"But it's too late," said Janet hoarsely, "too late! too late! Oh! why didn't George believe in me!"

"He will believe now."

"It doesn't matter what he believes now. Why didn't he know I had not burnt it?"

"I believed in you," said De Rivaz, his voice shaking. "I knew you had not burnt it, though I saw you burning papers. Though I saw you with my own eyes, I did not believe."

There was a moment's pause. Her three faithful friends looked at Janet.

"I burnt nothing," she said.

* * *

Janet married De Rivaz at last, but not until she had nearly worn him out. It was after their marriage that he painted his marvellous portrait of her, a picture that was the outcome of a deep love, wed with genius.

She made him a good wife, as wives go, and bore him beautiful children, but she never cared for him as she had done for George. Later on her daughters carried their love affairs, not to their mother, but-to Anne.

* * *

GEOFFREY'S WIFE

* * *

GEOFFREY'S WIFE

"Oh, how this spring of love resembleth

Th' uncertain glory of an April day."

Every one felt an interest in them. The mob-capped servants hung over the banisters to watch them go downstairs. Alphonse reserved for them the little round table in the window, which commanded the best view of the court, with its dusty flower-pots grouped round an intermittent squirt of water. Even the landlord, Monsieur Leroux, found himself often in the gateway when they passed in or out, in order to bow and receive a merry word and glance.

Even the concierge, who dwelt retired, aloof from the contact of the outer world in his narrow, key-adorned shrine, even he unbent to them and smiled back when they smiled. It was a queer little old-fashioned hotel, rather out of the way. Nevertheless, young married couples had stayed there before. Their name, indeed, at certain periods of the year was Legion. There were other young married couples staying there at that very moment, but everybody felt that a peculiar interest attached to this young married couple. For one thing, they were so absurdly, so overwhelmingly happy. People, Monsieur Leroux himself, and others, had been happy in an early portion of their married lives, but not like this couple. People had had honeymoons before, but never one like this couple. Although they were English, they were so handsome and so sunny. And he was so well made and devoted, the chambermaids whispered. And, ah! how she was piquante, the waiters agreed.

They had a little sitting-room. It was not the best sitting-room, because they were not very rich; but Geoffrey (she considered Geoffrey such a lovely name, and so uncommon) thought it the most delightful little sitting-room in the world when she was in it. And Mrs Geoffrey also liked it very much; oh! very much indeed.

He had had hard work to win her. Sometimes, when he watched her tangling many-coloured wools over the mahogany back of one of the tight horsehair chairs, he could hardly believe that she was really his wife, that they were actually on that honeymoon for which he had toiled and waited so long. Beneath the gaiety and the elastic spirit of youth there was a depth of earnestness in Geoffrey which his little wife vaguely wondered at and valued as something beyond her ken, but infinitely heroic. He looked upon her with reverence and thanked God for her. He had never had much to do with womankind, and he felt a respectful tenderness for everything of hers, from her prim maid to her foolish little shoelace, which was never tired of coming undone, and which he was never tired of doing up. The awful responsibility of guarding such a treasure, and an overpowering sense of its fragility, were ever before his mind. He laughed and was gay with her, but in his heart of hearts there was an acute joy nigh to pain-a wonder that he should have been singled out from among the sons of men to have the one pearl of great price bestowed upon him.

They had come to Paris, and to Paris only, partly because it was the year of the Exhibition, and partly because she was not very strong, and was not to be dragged through snow and shaken in diligences like other ordinary brides. The bare idea of Eva in a diligence, or tramping in Switzerland, was not to be thought of. No; Geoffrey knew better than that. A quiet fortnight in Paris, the Opera, the Exhibition, Versailles, St Cloud, Notre Dame-these were dissipations calculated not to disturb the exquisite poise of a health of such inestimable value. He knew Paris well. He had seen it all in those foolish bachelor days, when he had rushed across the water with men companions, knowing no better, and enjoying himself in a way even then.

And so he took her to St Cloud, and showed her the wrecked palace; and they wandered by the fountains and bought gaufre cake, which he told her was called "plaisir," only he was wrong-but what did that matter? And they went down to Versailles, and saw everything that every one else had seen, only they saw it glorified-at least he did. And they sat very quietly in Notre Dame, and listened to a half divine organ and a wholly divine choir, and Geoffrey looked at the sweet, awed face beside him, and wondered whether he could ever in all his life prove himself worthy of her. And though of course, being a Protestant, he did not like to pray in a Roman Catholic Church, still he came very near it, and was perhaps none the worse.

And now the fortnight was nearly over. Geoffrey reflected with pride that Eva was still quite well. Her mother, of whom he stood in great awe-her mother, who had an avowed disbelief in the moral qualities of second sons-even her mother would not be able to find any fault. Why, James himself, his eldest brother, whom she had always openly preferred, could not have done better than he had done. He who had so longed to take her away was now almost longing to take her back home, just for five minutes, to show her family how blooming she was, how trustworthy he had proved himself to be.

The fortnight was over on Saturday, but at the last moment they decided to stay till Monday. Was it not Sunday, the night of the great illuminations? suggested Alphonse reproachfully. Were not the Champs Elysées to present a spectacle? Were not fires of joy and artifice to mount from the Bois de Boulogne? Surely Monsieur and Madame would stay for the illuminations! Was not the stranger coming from unknown distances to witness the illuminations? Were not the illuminations in honour of the Exhibition? It could not be that Monsieur would suffer Madame to miss the illuminations.

Eva was all eagerness to stay. Two more nights in Paris. To go out in the summer evening, and see Paris en fête! Delightful! Geoffrey was not to say a single word! He did not want to! Well, never mind, he was not to say one; and she was going instantly, that very moment, to stop Grabham packing up, and he was to go instantly, that very moment, to let Monsieur Leroux know they intended to stay on.

And they both went instantly, that very moment, and they stayed on. And he was very severe in consequence, and refused to allow her to tire herself on Saturday, and insisted on her resting all Sunday afternoon, as a preparation for the dissipation of the evening. They had met some English friends on Sunday morning, who had invited them to their house in the Champ Elysées in the course of the evening to see the illuminations from their balcony. And then towards night Geoffrey became more autocratic than ever, and insisted on a woollen gown instead of a muslin, because he felt certain that it would not be so hot towards the middle of the night as it then was. She said a great many very unkind things to him, and they sallied forth together at nine o'clock as happy as two pleasure-seeking children.

"You will not be of return till the early morning. I see it well," said Monsieur Leroux, bowing to them. "Monsieur does well to take the little chale for Madame for fear later she should feel herself fresh. But as for rain, will not Madame leave her umbrella with the concierge? No? Monsieur prefers? Eh bien! Bon soir!"

It was a perfect night. It had been fiercely hot all day, but it was cooler now. The streets were already full of people, all bearing the same way toward the Champ Elysées. With some difficulty Geoffrey procured a little carriage, and in a few minutes they were swept into the chattering, idle, busy throng, and slowly making their way toward the Langtons' house. Every building was gay with coloured lanterns. The Place de la Concorde shone afar like a belt of jewelled light. The great stone lions glowed upon their pedestals. Clear as in noonday sunshine, the rocking sea of merry faces met Eva's delighted gaze; she beaming with the rest.

And now they were driving down the Champs Elysées. The fountains leaped in coloured flame. The Palais de l'Industrie gleamed from roof to basement, built in fire. The Arc de Triomphe, crowned with light, stood out against the dark of the moonless sky, flecked by its insignificant stars.

"Beautiful! Beautiful!" and Eva clapped her hands and laughed.

And now it was the painful, the desolating duty of the driver to tell them he could take them no further. Carriages were not allowed beyond a certain hour, and either he must take them back or put them down. Geoffrey demurred. Not so Mrs Geoffrey. In a moment she had sprung out of the carriage, and was laughing at the novel idea of walking in a crowd. Geoffrey paid his man and followed. There was plenty of room to walk in comfort, and Eva, on her husband's arm, wished the Langtons' house miles away, instead of a few hundred yards. She said she must and would walk home. Geoffrey must relent a little, or she on her side might not be so agreeable as she had hitherto shown herself. She was quite certain that she should catch a cold if she drove home in the night air in an open carriage. What was that he was mumbling? That if he had known that he would not have brought her? But she was equally certain that it would not hurt her to walk home. Walking was a very different thing from driving in open carriages late at night. An ignorant creature like him might not think so, but her mother would not have allowed her to do such a thing for an instant. Geoffrey quailed, and gave utterance to that sure forerunner of masculine defeat, that "he would see."

It was very delightful on the Langtons' balcony, with its constellation of swinging Chinese lanterns. Eva leaned over and watched the people, and chatted to her friends, and was altogether enchanting-at least Geoffrey thought so.

The night is darkening now. The streets blaze bright and brighter. The crowd below rocks and thickens and shifts without ceasing. Long lines of flame burn red along the Seine, and mark its windings as with a hand of fire. The great electric light from the Trocadéro casts heavy shadows against the sky. Jets of fire and wild vagaries of leaping stars rush up out of the Bois de Boulogne.

And now there is a contrary motion in the crowd, and a low murmur swells, and echoes, and dies, and rises again. The torchlight procession is coming. That square of fire, moving slowly down from the Arc de Triomphe through the heart of the crowd, is a troop of mounted soldiers carrying torches. Hark! Listen to the low, sullen growl of the multitude, like a wild beast half aroused.

The army is very unpopular in Paris just now. See, as the soldiers come nearer, how the crowd sweeps and presses round them, tossing like an angry sea. Look how the soldiers rear their horses against the people to keep them back. Hark again to that fierce roar that rises to the balcony and makes little Eva tremble; the inarticulate voice of a great multitude raised in anger.

They have passed now, and the crowd moves with them. Look down the Champs Elysées, right down to the cobweb of light which is the Place de la Concorde. One moving mass of heads! Look up toward the Arc de Triomphe. They are pouring down from it on their way back from the Bois in one continuous black stream, good-humoured and light-hearted again as ever, now the soldiers have passed.

It is long past midnight. Ices and lemonade and sugared cakes have played their part. It is time to go home. The summer night is soft and warm, without a touch of chill. The other guests on the Langtons' balcony are beginning to disperse. The Langtons look as if they would like to go to bed. The crowd below is melting away every moment. The play is over.

Eva is charmed when she hears that a carriage is not to be had in all Paris for love or money. To walk home through the lighted streets with Geoffrey! Delightful! A few cheerful leave-takings, and they are in the street again, with another English couple who are going part of the way with them.

"Come, wife, arm-in-arm," says the elder man; adding to Geoffrey, "I advise you to do the same. The crowd is as harmless as an infant, but it will probably have a little animal spirits to get rid of, and it won't do to be separated."

So arm-in-arm they went, walking with the multitude, which was not dense enough to hamper them. From time to time little groups of gamins would wave their hats in front of magisterial buildings and sing the prohibited Marseillaise, while other bands of gamins, equally good-humoured, but more hot-headed, would charge through the crowd with Chinese lanterns and drums and whistles.

"Not tired?" asked Geoffrey regularly every five minutes, drawing the little hand further through his arm.

Not a bit tired, and Geoffrey was a foolish, tiresome creature to be always thinking of such things. She should say she was tired next time if he did not take care. In fact, now she came to think of it, she was rather tired by having to walk in such a heavy woollen gown.

"Don't say that, for Heaven's sake, if it is not true!" said the long-suffering husband, "for we have a mile in front of us yet."

The other couple wished them good-night and turned off down a side street. Everywhere the houses were putting out their lights. Night was gaining the upper hand at last. As they entered the Place de la Concorde, Geoffrey saw a small body of mounted soldiers crossing the Place. Instantly there was a hastening and pushing in the crowd, and the low, deep growl arose again, more ominous than ever. Geoffrey caught a glimpse of a sudden upraised arm, he heard a cry of defiance, and then-in a moment there was a roar and shout from a thousand tongues, and an infuriated mob was pressing in from every quarter, was elbowing past, was struggling to the front. In another second the whole Place de la Concorde was one seething mass of excited people, one hoarse jangle of tongues, one frantic effort to push in the direction the soldiers had taken.

Geoffrey, a tall, athletic Englishman, looked over the surging sea of French heads, and looked in vain for a quarter to which he could beat a retreat. He had not room to put his arm round his wife. She had given a little laugh, but she was frightened, he knew, for she trembled in the grasp he tightened on her arm. One rapid glance showed him there was no escape. The very lions at the corners were covered with human figures. They were in the heart of the crowd. Its faint, sickening smell was in their nostrils.

"No, Eva," he said, answering her imploring glance, "we can't get out of this yet. We must just move quietly, with the rest, and wait till we get a chance of edging off. Lean on me as much as you can."

She was frightened and silent, and nestled close to him, being very small and slight of stature, and by nature timid.

Another deep roar, and a sudden rush from behind, which sent them all forward. How the people pushed and elbowed! Bah! The smell of a crowd! Who that has been in one has ever forgotten it?

This was a dreadful ordeal for his hothouse flower.

"How are you getting on?" he asked with a sharp anxiety, which he vainly imagined did not betray itself in his voice.

She was getting on very well, only-only could not they get out?

Geoffrey looked round yet again in despair. Would it be possible to edge a little to the left, to the right, anywhere? He looked in vain. A vague, undefined fear took hold on him. "We must have patience, little one," he said. "Lean on me, and be brave."

His voice was cheerful, but he felt a sudden horrible sinking of the heart. How should he ever get her out of this jostling, angry crowd before she was quite tired out? What mad folly it had been to think of walking home! Poor Geoffrey forgot that there had been no other way of getting home, and that even his mother-in-law could not hold him responsible for a disagreement between the soldiers and the citizens.

Another ten minutes! Geoffrey cursed within himself the illumination and the soldiers and his own folly, and the rough men and rougher women, whom, do what he would, he could not prevent pressing upon her.

She did not speak again for some time, only held fast by his arm. Suddenly her little hands tightened convulsively on it, and a face pale to the lips was raised to his.

"Geoffrey, I'm very sorry," with a half sob, "but I'm afraid I'm going to faint."

The words came like a blow, and drove the blood from his face. The vague undefined fear had suddenly become a hideous reality. He steadied his voice and spoke quietly, almost sternly.

"Listen to me, Eva," he said. "Make an effort and attend, and do as I tell you. The crowd will move again in a moment. I see a movement in front already. Directly the move comes the press will loosen for an instant. I shall push in front of you and stoop down. You will instantly get on my back. I insist upon it. I will do my best to help you up, but I can't get hold of you in any other way. The faintness will pass off directly you are higher up and can get a breath of air. Now do you understand?"

She did not answer, but nodded.

There was a moment's pause, and the movement came. Geoffrey flung down his stick, drew his wife firmly behind him, and pressing suddenly with all his might upon those in front, made room to stoop down. Two nervous hands were laid on his coat. Good God! she hesitated. A moment more, and the crowd behind would force him down, and they would both be lost. "Quick! Quick!" he shouted; but before the words had left his lips the trembling arms were clasped convulsively round his neck, and with a supreme effort he was on his legs again, shaking like a leaf with the long horror of that moment's suspense.

But the tight clasp of the hands round his neck, the burden on his strong shoulders, nerved him afresh. He felt all his vitality and resolution return tenfold. He could endure anything which he had to endure alone, now that horrible anxiety for her was over. He could no longer tell where he was. He was bent too much to endeavour to do anything except keep on his feet. A long wait! Would the crowd never disperse? Moving, stopping, pushing, pressing, stopping again. Another pause, which seemed as if it would never end. A contrary motion now, and he had not room to turn! No. Thank Heaven! A tremor through the crowd, and then a fierce snarl and a rush. A violent push from behind. A plunge. Down on one knee. Good God! A blow on the mouth from some one's elbow. A wild struggle. A foot on his hand. Another blow. Up again. Up, only to strike his foot against a curbstone, and to throw all his weight away from a sudden pool of water on his left, into which he is being edged.

The great drops are on his brow, and his breath comes short and thick. He staggers again. The weight on him and his fall are beginning to tell. But as his strength wanes a dogged determination takes its place. He steels his nerves and pulls himself together. It is only a question of

time. He will and must hold out. His whole soul is centred on one thing, to keep his feet. Once down-and-he clenches his teeth. He will not suffer himself to think. He is bruised and aching in every limb with the friction of the crowd. Drums begin to beat in his temples, and his mouth is bleeding. There is a mist of blood and dust before his eyes. But he holds on with the fierce energy of despair. Another push. God in Heaven! almost down again! He can see nothing. A frantic struggle in the dark. The arms round his neck tremble, and he hears a sharp-drawn gasp of terror. Hands from out of the darkness clutch him up, and he regains his footing once more. "Courage, Monsieur," says a kind voice, and the hands are swept out of his. He tries to move his lips in thanks, but no words come. There is a noise in the crowd, but it is as a feeble murmur to the roar and sweep and tumult of many waters that is sounding in his ears. He cannot last much longer now. He is spent. But the crowd is thinning. If he can only keep his feet a few minutes more! The crowd is thinning. He catches a glimpse of ground in front of him. But it sways before him like the waves of the sea. One moment more. He stumbles aside where he feels there is space about him.

There is a sudden hush and absence of pressure. He is out of the crowd. He is faintly conscious that the tramp of many feet is passing but not following him. The pavement suddenly rises up and strikes him down upon it. He cannot rise again. But it matters little, it matters little. It is all over. The fight is won, and she is safe. He tries to lift his leaden hand to unloose the locked fingers that hurt his neck. At his touch they unclasp, trembling. She has not fainted then. He almost thought she had. He raises himself on his elbow, and tries to wipe the red mist from his eyes that he may see her the more clearly. She slips to the ground, and he draws her to him with his nerveless arms. The street lamps gleam dull and yellow in the first wan light of dawn, and as his haggard eyes look into hers, her face becomes clear even to his darkening vision-and-it is another woman! Another woman! A poor creature with a tawdry hat and paint upon her cheek, who tries to laugh, and then, dimly conscious of the sudden agony of the gray, blood-stained face, whimpers for mercy, and limps away into a doorway, to shiver and hide her worn face from the growing light.

* * *

It was one of the English acquaintances of the night before who found him later in the day, still seeking, still wandering from street to street.

His old friend Langton came to him and took him away from the hotel to his own house. Alphonse wept and the concierge could not restrain a tear.

"And have they found her yet?" asked Mrs Langton that night of her husband when he came in late.

His face was very white.

"Yes," he said, and turned his head away. "I've been to-I've seen-no one could have told-you would not have known who it was. And all her little things, her watch and rings-they were all gone. But the maid knew by the dress. And-and I wanted to save a lock of hair, but"-his voice broke down.-"So I got one of the little gloves for him. It was the only thing I could."

He pulled out a half-worn tan glove, cut and dusty with the tramp of many feet, which the new wedding ring had worn ever so slightly on the third finger. He laid it reverently on the table and hid his face in his hands.

"If he could only break down," he said at last. "He sits and sits, and never speaks or looks up."

"Take him the little glove," said his wife softly. And Langton took it.

The sharpness of death had cut too deep for tears, but Geoffrey kept the little glove, and-he has it still.

* * *

THE PITFALL

* * *

THE PITFALL

PART I

"Oh Thou who didst with Pitfall and with Gin

Beset the Road I was to wander in."

-Omar Khayyám.

Lady Mary Carden sat near the open window of her blue and white boudoir looking out intently, fixedly across Park Lane at the shimmer of the trees in Hyde Park. It was June. It was sunny. The false gaiety of the season was all around her; flickering swiftly past her in the crush of carriages below her window; dawdling past her in the walking and riding crowds in the park. She looked at it without seeing it. Perhaps she had had enough of it, this strange conglomeration of alien elements and foreign bodies, this bouille-à-baisse which is called "The Season." She had seen it all year after year for twelve years, varying as little as the bedding out of the flowers behind the railings. Perhaps she was as weary of society as most people become who take it seriously. She certainly often said that it was rotten to the core.

She hardly moved. She sat with an open letter in her hand, thinking, thinking.

The house was very still. Her aunt, with whom she lived, had gone early into the country for the day. The only sound, the monotonous whirr of the great machine of London, came from without.

Mary was thirty, an age at which many women are still young, an age at which some who have heads under their hair are still rising towards the zenith of their charm. But Mary was not one of these. Her youth was clearly on the wane. She bore the imprint of that which ages-because if unduly prolonged it enfeebles-the sheltered life, a life centred in conventional ideas, dwarfed by a conventional religious code, a life feebly nourished on cut and dried charities sandwiched between petty interests and pettier pleasures. She showed the mark of her twelve seasons, and of what she had made of life, in the slight fading of her delicate complexion, the fatigued discontent of her blue eyes, the faint dignified dejection of her manner, which was the reflection of an unconscious veiled surprise that she of all women-she the gentle, the good, the religious, the pretty Mary Carden was still-in short was still Mary Carden.

The onlooker would perhaps have shared that surprise. She was indubitably pretty, indubitably well bred, graceful, slender, with a delicate manicured hand, and fair waved hair. Her fringe, which seemed inclined to grow somewhat larger with the years, was nearly all her own. She possessed the art of dress to perfection. You could catalogue her good points. But somehow she remained without attraction. She lacked vitality, and those who lack vitality seldom seem to get or keep what they want, at any rate in this world.

She was the kind of woman whom a man marries to please his mother, or because she is an heiress, or because he has been jilted and wishes to show how little he feels it. She was not a first choice.

She was one of that legion of perfectly appointed women who at seventeen deplore the rapacity of the older girls in ruthlessly clutching up all the attention of the simpler sex; and who at thirty acidly remark that men care only for a pink cheek and a baby face.

Poor Mary was thinking of a man now, of a certain light-hearted simpleton of a soldier with a slashed scar across his hand, which a Dervish had given him at Omdurman, the man as commonplace as herself, on whom for no particular reason she had glued her demure, obstinate, adhesive affections twelve years ago.

Our touching faithfulness to an early love is often only owing to the fact that we have never had an adequate temptation to be unfaithful. Certainly with Mary it was so. The temptations had been pitiably inadequate. She had never swerved from that long-ago mild flirtation of a boy and girl in their teens, studiously thrown together by their parents. She had taken an unwearying interest in him. She had petitioned Heaven that he might pass for the Army, and he did just squeeze in. By the aid of fervent prayer she had drawn him safely through the Egyptian campaign, while other women's husbands and lovers fell right and left. He had not said anything definite before he went out, but Mary had found ample reasons for his silence. He could not bear to overshadow her life in case, etc., etc. But now he had been safely back a year, two years, and still he had said nothing. This was more difficult to account for. He was fond of her. There was no doubt about that. They had always been fond of each other. Every one had expected them to marry. His parents had wished it. Her aunt had favoured the idea with heavy-footed zeal. Her brother, Lord Rollington, when he had a moment to spare from his training-stable, had jovially opined that "Maimie" would be wise to book Jos Carstairs while she could, as if she was not careful she might outstand her market.

Mary, who had for many years dreamed of gracefully yielding to Jos's repeated and urgent entreaties, had even begun to wonder whether it would not be advisable if one of her men relations were to "speak to Jos." Such things were done. As she had said to her aunt with dignity, "This sort of thing can't go on for ever," when her aunt-who yearned for the rest which, according to their own account, seems to elude stout persons-pleaded that difficulties clustered round such a course.

The course was not taken, for Jos suddenly engaged himself to a girl of seventeen, a new girl whom London knew not, the only child of one of those ruinous unions which had been swallowed up in a flame of scandal seventeen years ago, which had been forgotten for seventeen years all but nine days.

It was sedulously raked up again now. People whispered that Elsa Grey came of a bad stock; that Jos Carstairs was a bold man to marry a woman with such antecedents; a woman whose mother had slipped away out of her intolerable home years ago for another where apparently life had not been more tolerable.

Jos brought his Elsa to see Mary, for he was only fit to wave his sword and say, "Come on, boys." He did not understand anything about anything. He only remembered that Mary was a tender, loving soul. Had she not shown herself so to him for years? So he actually besought Mary to be a friend to the beautiful young sombre creature whom he had elected to marry.

Mary behaved admirably according to her code, touched Elsa's hand, civilly offered the address of a good dressmaker (not her best one), and hoped they should meet frequently. The girl looked at her once, wistfully, intently, with unfathomable lustrous eyes, as of some untamed, prisoned, woodland creature, and then took no further notice of her.

That was a fortnight ago. They were to be married in three weeks.

Mary sighed, and looked once again for the twentieth time at the letter in her hand. It was a long epistle from her bosom friend, Lady Francis Bethune, the electric tramways heiress, joylessly married to the handsomest man in London, the notorious Lord Francis Bethune.

"My dear," said the letter, "men are always like that. They are brutes, and it is no good thinking otherwise. They will throw over the woman they have loved for years for a flower-girl. You are too good for him. I have always thought so. (So had Mary.) But the game is not up yet. I could tell him things about his Elsa that would surprise him, not that he ought to be surprised at anything in her mother's daughter. He is coming to me this afternoon to tea. He said he was busy; but I told him he must come as it was on urgent business, and so it is. He is my trustee, you know, and there really is something wrong. Francis has been at it again. After the business is over I shall tell him a few things very nicely about that girl. Now, my advice to you is-chuck the Lestrange's water-party this afternoon, and come in as if casually to see me. I shall leave you alone together, and you must do the rest yourself. You may pull it off yet, after what I shall say about Elsa, for Jos has a great idea of you. Wire your reply by code before midday."

Mary got up slowly, and walked to the writing-table. Should she go and meet him? Should she not? She would go. She wrote a telegram quickly in code form. She knew the code so well that she did not stop to refer to it. She and Jos had played at code telegrams when he was cramming for the Army. She rang for the servant and sent out the telegram. Then she sat down and took up a book. It was nearly midday, and too hot to go out.

But after a few minutes she cast it suddenly aside, and began to move restlessly about the room. What was the use of going, after all? What could she say to Jos if she did see him? How could she touch his heart? Like many another woman when she thinks of a man, Mary stopped before a small mirror, and looked fixedly at herself. Was she not pretty? Had she not gentle, appealing eyes? See her little hand raised to put back a strand of fair hair. Was not everything about her pretty, and refined, and good? The vision of Elsa rose suddenly before her, with her dark, mysterious beauty and her formidable youth. Mary's heart contracted painfully. "I love him, and she doesn't," she said to herself, with bitterness. But Jos would never give up Elsa. She would make him miserable, but-he would marry her. Oh! what was the use of going to waylay him to-day? Why had she lent herself to Lady Francis's idiotic plan? Why had she accepted from her help that was no help? She would telegraph again to say she would not come after all. No. She would follow up her own telegram, and tell her friend that on second thoughts she did not care to see Jos.

She ran upstairs, put on her hat, and in a few minutes was driving in a hansom to Bruton Street. The Bethunes' footman knew her and admitted her, though Lady Francis was technically "not at home."

Yes, her ladyship was in, but she was engaged with the doctor at the moment in the drawing-room. The footman hesitated. "They were a-tuning of the piano in her ladyship's boudoir," he said, and he tentatively opened the door of a room on the ground floor. It was Lord Francis' sitting-room.

"Was his lordship in?"

"No, his lordship had gone out early."

"Then I will wait here," said Mary, "if you will let her ladyship know that I am here."

The man withdrew.

Mary's face reddened with annoyance. She disliked the idea of telling Lady Francis she had changed her mind, and the discussion of the subject. Oh! why had she ever spoken of the subject at all? Why had she telegraphed that she would come?

The painful, reiterated stammering of the piano came to her from above. It seemed of a piece with her own indecision, her own monotonous jealousy.

Suddenly the front door bell rang, and an instant later the footman came in with a telegram, put it on the writing-table, and went out again.

Her telegram! Then she was not too late to stop it. She need not explain after all.

The drawing-room door opened, and Lady Francis' high metallic voice sounded on the landing.

Mary seized up the pink envelope and crushed it in her hand! What? The drawing-room door closed again. The conference with the doctor was not quite over after all. She tore open the telegram and looked again at her foolish words before destroying them.

Then her colour faded, and the room went round with her. Who had changed what she had said? Why was it signed "Elsa"?

She looked at the envelope. It was plainly addressed-"Lord Francis Bethune." She had never glanced at the address till this moment. The contents were in code as hers had been, but it was the same code, and before she knew she had done so, she had read it.

What did it mean? What could it mean? Why should Elsa promise to meet him after the Speaker's Stairs-to-day-at Waterloo main entrance?

Mary was not quick-witted, but after a few dazed moments she suddenly understood. Elsa was about to go away with Lord Francis. But what Elsa? Her heart beat so hard that she could hardly breathe. Could it be Elsa Grey?

As we piece together all at once a puzzle that has been too simple for us, so Mary remembered in a flash Elsa's enigmatical face, and a certain ball where she had seen-only for a moment as she passed-- Lord Francis and Elsa sitting out together. Elsa had looked quite different then. It was Elsa Grey. She knew it. Degraded creature, not fit to be an honest man's wife.

Mary shook from head to foot under a climbing, devastating emotion, which seemed to rend her whole being. The rival was gone from her path. Jos would come back to her.

As she stood stunned, half blind, trembling, a hansom dashed up to the door, and in a moment Lord Francis' voice was in the hall speaking to the footman.

"Any letters or telegrams?"

"One telegram on your writing-table, my lord."

The servant went on to explain something, Lady Mary Carden, etc., but his master did not hear him. He was in the room in a second, and had closed the door behind him. Lord Francis' beautiful, thin, reckless face was pinched and haggard. He seemed possessed by some fierce passion which had hold of him and drove him before it as a storm holds and spins a leaf.

Mary was frightened, paralysed. She had not known that men could be so moved. He did not even see her. He rushed to the writing-table, and swept his eye over it. Then he gave a sharp, low, hardly human cry of rage and anguish, and turned to ring the bell. As he turned he saw her.

"I beg your pardon. I don't understand," he said hoarsely. "Why did my fool of a servant bring you in here?"

Then he saw the open telegram in her hand, and his face changed. It became alert, cold, implacable. There was a deadly pause. From the room above came the acute, persistent stammer of the piano.

He took the telegram from her nerveless hand, read it, and put it in his pocket. He picked up the envelope from the floor, and threw it into the waste-paper basket. Then he came close up to her, and looked her in the eyes. There was murder in his.

"It was in cypher," he said.

She was incapable of speech.

"But you understood it? Answer me. By-did you understand it, or did you not?"

"I did not." She got the words out.

"You are lying. You did, you paid spy. Now listen to me. If you dare to say one word of this to any living soul I'll--"

The door suddenly opened, and Lady Francis hurried in.

"Sorry to keep you, my dear," said the high, unmodulated voice. "Old Carr was such a time. What! You here, Francis? I thought you had gone out."

"I have been doing my best to entertain Lady Mary till you appeared," he said.

"I came to say I'm engaged this afternoon," said Mary. "I can't go with you to your concert."

The footman appeared with another telegram.

Lord Francis opened it before it could reach his wife, and then tossed it to her.

"For you," he said, and left the room.

"Well, my dear," said Lady Francis, "in this you say you will come, and now you say you won't, or am I reading it wrong? I don't understand."

"I have changed my mind," said Mary feebly. "I mean I can't throw over the Lestranges. I only ran in to explain. I must be going back now."

Lord Francis, who was in the hall, put her into her hansom and closed the doors. As he did so he leaned forward and said:

"If you dare to interfere with me you will pay for it."

* * *

PART II

"Ah! woe that youth should love to be

Like this swift Thames that speeds so fast,

And is so fain to find the sea,-

That leaves this maze of shadow and sleep,

These creeks down which blown blossoms creep,

For breakers of the homeless deep."

-Edmund Gosse.

The little river steamer, with its gay awning, was hitched up to the Speaker's Stairs. The Lestranges were standing at the gangway welcoming their guests. There was a crowd watching along the parapet of Westminster Bridge just above.

"Are we all here? It is past four," said Captain Lestrange to his wife.

Mrs Lestrange looked round. "Eighteen, twenty, twenty-four. Ah! Here is Lady Mary Carden, late as usual. She is the last. No. There is one more to come. Miss Grey."

"Which Miss Grey?"

"Why, the one Jos Carstairs is to marry. She is coming under my wing. And now she isn't here. What on earth am I to do? We can't wait for ever."

A tall white figure was advancing slowly, as if dragged step by step, through the shadow of the great grey building.

"She does not hurry herself," said Mrs Lestrange indignantly, and she did not welcome Elsa very cordially as she came on board. The youngest of the party had made all the rest of that distinguished gathering wait for her.

Mary, in a gown of immaculate white serge stitched with black, was sitting under the awning when Elsa passed her on her way towards a vacant seat lower down. The two women looked fixedly at each other for a moment, and in that moment Mary saw that Elsa knew that she knew. Even in that short time Lord Francis had evidently warned the girl against her.

Do what she would, Mary could not help watching Elsa. This was the less difficult, as no one ever talked for long together to Mary. The seat next her was never resolutely occupied. Her gentle voice was one of those which swell the time-honoured complaint, that in society you hear nothing but the same vapid small talk, the same trivial remarks over and over again. She was not neglected, but she awakened no interest. Her china blue eyes turned more and more frequently towards that tall figure with its lithe, panther-like grace sitting in the sun, regardless of the glare. Mary, whose care for her own soul came second only to her care for her complexion, wondered at her recklessness.

Mrs Lestrange introduced one or two men to Elsa, but they seemed to find but little to say to her. She was distraite, indifferent to what was going on round her. After a time she was left alone, except when Mrs Lestrange came to sit by her for a few minutes. Yet she was a marked feature of the party. Wherever Elsa might be she could not be overlooked. Mysterious involuntary power which some women possess, not necessarily young and beautiful like Elsa, of becoming wherever they go a centre, a focus of attention whether they will or no.

Married men looked furtively at her, and whispered to their approving wives that Carstairs was a bold man, that nothing would have induced them to marry a woman of that stamp. The unmarried men looked at her too, but said nothing.

At seventeen Elsa's beauty was mature. It was not the thin wild-flower beauty of the young English girl who emerges but slowly from her chrysalis. It was the splendid pale perfection of the magnolia which opens in a night. The body had outstripped the embryo spirit. Out of the exquisite face, with its mysterious foreshadowing of latent emotion, looked the grave inscrutable eyes of a child.

Elsa appeared quite unconscious of the interest she excited. She looked fixedly at the gliding dwindling buildings, at the little alert brown-sailed eel-boats, and the solemn low-swimming hay barges, burning yellow in the afternoon sun, and dropping gold into the grey water as they went. Sometimes she looked up at the overhanging bridges, and past them to the sky. Presently a white butterfly came twinkling on toddling, unsteady wings across the water, and settled on the awning. Elsa's eyes followed it. "It is coming with us," she said to Captain Lestrange, who was standing near her. The butterfly left the awning. It settled for a moment on the white rose on Elsa's breast. Now it was off again, a dancing baby fairy between the sunny sky and sunny river. Then all in a moment some gust of air caught its tiny spread sails, and flung it with wings outstretched upon the swift water.

Elsa gave a cry, and tearing the rose out of her breast, leaned far over the railing and flung it towards the butterfly. It fell short. The current engulfed butterfly and rose together.

Captain Lestrange caught her by the arm as she leaned too far, and held her firmly till she recovered her balance.

"That was rather dangerous," he said, releasing her gently.

"I could not stand by and see it drown," said Elsa, shivering, and she turned her eyes back across the river, to where in the distance the white buildings of Greenwich stood almost in the water in the pearl haze.

Who shall say what Elsa's thoughts were as she leaned against the railing, white hand against white rose cheek, and watched the tide which was sweeping them towards the sea? Did she realise that another current was bearing her whither she knew not, was hurrying her little barque, afloat for the first time, towards a surging line of breakers where white sails of maiden innocence and faith and purity might perchance go under? Did she with those wonderful melancholy eyes look across her youth and dimly foresee, what all those who have missed love learn in middle life, how chill is the deepening shadow in which a loveless life stands? Did she dimly see this, and shrink from the loveless marriage before her, which would close the door against love for ever? Did she in her great ignorance mistake the jewelled earthen cup of passion for the wine of love which should have brimmed it? Did she think to allay the thirst of the soul at the dazzling empty cup which was so urgently proffered to her? Who shall say what Elsa's thoughts were as the river widened to the sea.

* * *

They were coming back at last, beating up slowly, slowly against the tide towards London, lying low and dim against an agony of sunset. To Mary it had been an afternoon of slow torture. Ought she to speak to Elsa? "After the Speaker's Stairs" the telegram had said. Then Elsa meant to join Lord Francis on her return this evening. Ought not she, Mary, to go to Elsa now, where she sat apart watching the sunset, and implore her to go home? Ought she not to tell her that Lord Francis was an evil man, who would bring great misery upon her? Ought she not to show her that she was steeping her young soul in sin, ruining herself upon the threshold of life? Something whispered urgently to Mary that she ought at least to try to hold Elsa back from the precipice, whispered urgently that perhaps Elsa, friendless as she was, might listen to her even at the eleventh hour. And Elsa knew she knew.

Was it Mary's soul-dwarfed and starved in the suffocating bandages of her straitened life and narrow religion-which was feebly stirring in its shroud, was striving to speak?

Mary clenched her little blue-veined hands.

No, no. Elsa would never listen to her. Elsa knew very well what she was doing. Any girl younger even than she knew that it was wicked to allow a married man to make love to her. Elsa was a bad woman by temperament and heredity, not fit to be a good man's wife. Even if Mary could persuade her to give up her lover, still Elsa was guilty in thought, and that was as bad as the sin itself. Did not our Saviour say so? Elsa was lost already.

"No, no," whispered the inner voice. "She does not know what she is doing."

She did know very well what she was doing-Mary flushed with anger-she was always doing things for effect, in order to attract attention. Look how she had made eyes at Captain Lestrange about that butterfly. If there is one thing more than another which exasperates a conventional person it is an impulsive action. The episode of the butterfly rankled in Mary's mind. Several silly men had been taken in by it. No. She, Mary, would certainly speak to Elsa; she would be only too glad to save a fellow-creature from deadly sin if it was any use speaking-but it was not. And she did not care to mix herself up with odious, disgraceful subjects unless she could be of use. She had always had a high standard of refinement. She had always kept herself apart from "that sort of thing." Perhaps, in her meagre life, she had also kept herself apart from all that makes our fellow-creatures turn to us.

Lord Francis' last threat, spoken low and distinct across the hansom doors, came back to her ears-"If you dare to interfere with me you will pay for it."

The river was narrowing. The buildings and wharves pushed up close and closer. The fretted outlines and towers of Westminster were detaching themselves in palest violet from the glow in the west.

A river steamer passed them with a band on board. A faint music, tender and gay, came to them across the water, bringing with it the promise of an abiding love, making all things possible, illuminating with sudden distinctness the vague meaning of this mysterious world of sunset sky and sunset water, and ethereal city of amethyst and pearl; and then-as suddenly as it came-passing away down stream, and taking all its promises with it, leaving the twilight empty and desolate.

The sunset burned dim like a spent furnace. The day lost heart and waned all at once. It seemed as if everything had come to an end.

And as, when evening falls, jasmine grows white and whiter in the falling light, so Elsa's face grew pale and paler yet in the dusk.

Once she looked across at Mary, and a faint smile, tremulous, wistful, stole across her lips. Tears shone in her eyes. "Is there any help anywhere?" the sweet troubled eyes seemed to say. But apparently they found none, for they wandered away again to the great buildings of Westminster rising up within a stone's throw over the black arch of Westminster Bridge.

The steamer slowed and stopped once more against the Speaker's Stairs.

The Lestranges put Elsa into a hansom before they hurried away in another themselves. All the guests were in a fever to depart, for there was barely time to dress for dinner-and they disappeared as if by magic. Mary, whose victoria was a moment late, followed hard on the rest. As she was delayed in the traffic she saw the hansom in front of her turn slowly round. She saw Elsa's face inside as it turned. Then the hansom went gaily jingling its bell over Westminster Bridge, and was lost in the crowd.

* * *

PART III

"Thou wilt not with Predestination round

Enmesh me, and impute my Fall to Sin?"

-Omar Khayyám.

The scandal smouldered for a day or two, and then raged across London like a fire. Mary stayed at home. She could not face the glare of it. She said she was ill. Her hand shook. She started at the slightest sound. She felt shattered in mind and body.

"I could not have stopped her," she said stubbornly to herself a hundred times, lying wide-eyed through the long, terrifying nights. She besieged Heaven with prayers for Elsa.

On the fourth day Jos came to her.

She went down to her little sitting-room, and found him standing at the open window with his back to her. She came in softly, trembling a little. She would be very gentle and sympathetic with him. She would imply no reproach. As she entered he turned slowly and faced her. The first moment she did not recognise him. Then she saw it was he.

Jos' face was sunk and pinched, and the grey eyes were red with tears fiercely suppressed by day, red with hard crying by night. Now as they met hers they were fixed, unflinching in their tearless, enduring agony, like those of a man under the surgeon's knife.

"Oh! Jos, don't take it so hard," said Mary, laying her hand on his arm.

She had never dreamed he would feel it like this. She had thought that he would see at once he had had a great escape.

He did not appear to hear her. He looked vacantly at her, and then recollected himself, and sat down by her.

"You saw her last," he said, biting his lips.

Mary's heart turned sick within her.

"The Lestranges saw her last," she said hastily. He made an impatient movement. He knew all that.

"You were with her all the afternoon on the boat?"

"Yes. But, of course, there were numbers of others. I had many friends whom I had to--"

"Did you notice anything? Did you have any talk with her? Was she different to usual?"

"She does not generally talk much. She was rather silent."

"You did not think she looked as if she had anything on her mind."

"I couldn't say. I know her so very slightly." Mary's voice was cold.

"She did not care for me," said Jos. "I knew that all along," and he put his scarred hand over his mouth.

"She was not worthy of you."

He did not hear her. He took away his hand and clenched it heavily on the other.

"I knew she didn't care," he said in a level, passionless voice. "But I loved her. From the first go-off I saw she was different to other women. And I thought-I know I'm only a rough fellow-but I thought perhaps in time ... I'm not up to much, but I would have made her a good husband-and at any rate, I would have taken her away from-her father. He said she was willing. I-I tried to believe him. He wanted to get rid of her-and-I wanted to have her. That was the long and the short of it. We settled it between us.... She hadn't a chance in that house. I thought I'd give her another-a home-where she was safe. She had never had a mother to tell her things. She had never had any upbringing at that French school. She had no women friends. She had never known a good woman, except her old nurse, till I brought her to you, Mary. I told her you were good and gentle and loving, and would be a friend to her; and that I had known you all my life, and she might trust you."

"She never liked me," said Mary. It seemed to her that she must defend herself. Against what? Against whom?

"If she had only confided in you," he said. "I knew she was in trouble, but I could not make out what it was. She was such a child, and I seemed a long way off her. I took her to plays and things after I had seen them first, to be sure they were all right; and she would cheer up for a little bit-she liked the performing dogs. I had thought of taking her there again; but she always sank back into low spirits. And I knew that sometimes young girls do feel shy about being married-it's a great step-a lottery-that is what it is, a lottery-so I thought it would all come right in time. I never thought. I never guessed." Jos' voice broke. "I see now I helped to push her into it-but-I didn't know.... If only you had known that last afternoon, and could have pleaded with her ... if only you had known, and could have held her back-my white lamb, my little Elsa."

He ground his heel against the polished floor. There was a long silence.

Then he got up and went away.

* * *

It was not until the end of July that Mary saw him again. She heard nothing of him. She only knew that he had left London. He came in one evening late, and Mary's aunt discreetly disappeared after a few minutes' desultory conversation.

He looked worn and aged, but he spoke calmly, and this time he noticed Mary's existence. "You look pulled down," he said kindly. "Has the season been too much for you?"

"It is not that," she said. "I have been distressed because an old friend of mine is in trouble."

He looked at her and saw that she had suffered. A great compunction seized him. He took her hand and kissed it.

"You are the best woman in the world," he said. "Don't worry your kind heart about me. I'm not worth it." Then he moved restlessly away from her, and began turning over the knick-knacks on the silver table.

"Bethune has been tackled," he said suddenly. "The Duke of -- did it, and he has promised to marry her-if-if--"

"If what?"

"If his wife will divorce him. The Duke has got his promise in black and white."

"I don't think Lady Francis will divorce him."

"N-no. I've been with her to-day for an hour, but I couldn't move her. She doesn't seem to see that it's-life or death-for Elsa."

"You would not expect her under the circumstances to consider Elsa."

"Yes, I should," said the simpleton. "Why should not she help her? There are no children, and she does not care for Bethune. She never did. She ought to release him for the sake of-others."

"I don't think she will."

"I want you to persuade her, Mary." Mary's heart swelled. This then was what he had come about.

"Aren't you her greatest friend? Do put it before her plainly. I'm a blundering idiot, and she seemed to think I had no right to speak to her on the subject. Perhaps I had not. I never thought of that. I only thought of--. But do you go to her, and bring her to a better mind."

"I will try," said Mary.

"I wish there were more women like you, Maimie," he said, using for the first time for years the pet name which he had called her by when they were boy and girl together.

Mary went to Lady Francis next day, but she did not make a superhuman effort to persuade her friend. She considered that it was not desirable that Elsa should be reinstated. If there were no punishment for such misdemeanours, what would society come to? For the sake of others, as a warning, it was necessary that Elsa should suffer.

All she said to Lady Francis was: "Are you going to divorce Lord Francis?"

"No, my dear," said that lady with a harsh little laugh. "I am not. Not that I could not get a divorce. He has been quite brute enough, but if I did it would be forgotten in about a quarter of an hour, whether I had divorced him or he had divorced me. I have a right to his name, and I mean to stick to it. It's about all I've got out of my marriage. I don't intend to go about as a divorced woman under my maiden name of Huggins. The idea does not smile on me. Besides, I know Francis. He will come back to me. He did-before. He has not a shilling, and he is in debt. He can't get on without me. I was a goose to marry him; but still I am the goose that lays the golden eggs."

Jos' parents sent Mary a pressing invitation to stay with them after the season. Mary went, and perhaps she tasted something more like happiness in that quiet old country house than she had known for many years. Jos' father and mother were devoted to her, with that devotion, artificial in its origin, but genuine in its later stages, of parents who have made up their minds that she was "the one woman" for their son. Mary played old Irish melodies in the evenings by the hour, and sang sweetly at prayers. She was always ready to listen to General Carstairs' history of the fauna of Dampshire, and to take an interest in Mrs Carstairs' Sunday School. She had a succession of the simplest white muslin gowns (she could still wear white) and wide-brimmed garden hats. Mary in the country was more rural than those who abide in it all the year round.

Jos was often there. There was no doubt about it. Jos was coming back to his early allegiance. Perhaps his parents, horrified by his single unaided attempt at matrimony, were tenderly pushing him back. Perhaps, in the entire exhaustion and numbness that had succeeded the shock of Elsa's defection, he hardly realised what others were planning round him. Perhaps when a man has been heartlessly slighted he turns unconsciously to the woman of whose undoubted love he is vaguely aware.

Jos sat at Mary's feet, not metaphorically but literally, for hours together by the sundial in the rose-garden; hardly speaking, like a man stunned. Still he sat there, and she did her embroidery, and looked softly down at him now and then. The doors of the narrow, airless prison of her love were open to receive him. They would be married presently, and she should make him give up the Army, and become a magistrate instead. She would never let him out of her sight. A wife's place is beside her husband. She knew, for how many wives compact of experience had assured her during the evening hour of feminine confidence when the back hair is let down, that the perpetual presence of the wife was the only safeguard for the well-being of that mysterious creature of low instincts, that half-tamed wild animal, always liable to break away unless held in by feminine bit and bridle, that irresponsible babe, that slave of impulse-man. She would give him perfect freedom of course. She should encourage him to go into the Yeomanry, and she should certainly allow him to go out without her for the annual training. He would be quite safe in a tent, surrounded by his own tenantry; but, on other occasions, she, his wife, would be ever by his side. That was the only way to keep a man good and happy.

* * *

Early in September Jos went away for a few days' shooting. Mary, who generally paid rounds of visits after the season at dull country houses (she was not greatly in request at the amusing ones), still remained with the Carstairs, who implored her to stay on whenever she suggested that she was paying them "a visitation."

Jos was to return that afternoon, for General Carstairs was depending on him to help to shoot his own partridges on the morrow. But the afternoon passed, and Jos did not come. The next day passed, and still no Jos. And no letter or telegram. His father and mother were silently uneasy. They said, no doubt he had been persuaded to stay on where he was, and had forgotten the shoot at home. Mary said, "No doubt," but a reasonless fear gathered like thin mist across her heart. Where was he? The letters that had been forwarded to his last address all came back. A week passed, and still no Jos, and no answers to autocratic telegrams.

Then suddenly Jos telegraphed from London saying he should return early that afternoon, and asking to be met at the station.

When the time drew near, Mary established herself with a book in the rose-garden. He would come to her there, as he had so often done before. The roses were well-nigh over, but in their place the sweet white faces of the Japanese anemones were crowding up round the old grey sundial. The sunny windless air was full of the cawing of rooks. It was the time and the place where a desultory love might come by chance, and linger awhile, not where a desperate love, brought to bay, would wage one of his pitched battles. Peace and rest were close at hand. Why had she been fearful? Surely all was well, and he was coming back. He was coming back.

She waited as it seemed to her for hours before she heard the faint sound of his dog-cart. She should see him in a moment. He would speak to his parents, and then ask where she was, and come out to her. Oh! how she loved him; but she must appear calm, and not too glad to see him. She heard his step-strong, light, alert, as it used to be of old, not the slow, dragging, aimless step of the last two months.

He came quickly round the yew hedge and stood before her. She raised her eyes slowly from her book to meet his, a smile parting her lips.

He was looking hard at her with burning scorn and contempt in his lightning grey eyes.

The smile froze on her lips.

"I have seen Elsa," he said. "I only came back here for half-an-hour to-speak to you."

A cold hand seemed to be pressed against Mary's heart.

"I found by chance, the merest chance, where she was," he continued. "I went at once. She was alone, for Bethune has gone back to his wife. I suppose you knew he had gone back. I did not. I found her--" He stopped as if the remembrance were too acute, and then went on firmly. "We had a long talk. She was in great trouble. She told me everything, and how he, that devil, had made love to her from the first day she came back from school, and how her father knew of it, and had obliged her to accept me. And she said she knew it was wrong to run away with him, but she thought it was more wrong to marry without love, and that the nearer the day came the more she felt she must escape, and she seemed hemmed in on every side, and she did love Bethune, and he had sworn to her that he would marry her directly he got his divorce, and that his wife did not care for him, and would be glad to be free, and that all that was necessary was a little courage on her part. So she tried to be brave-and-she said she did not think at the time it could be so very wicked to marry the person she really loved, for you knew, and you never said a word to stop her. She said you had many opportunities of speaking to her on the boat, and she knew you were so good, you would certainly have told her if it was really so very wicked."

"I knew it was no use speaking," said Mary, hoarsely.

"You might have tried to save my wife for my sake," said Jos. "You might have tried to save her for her own. But you didn't. I don't care to know your reasons. I only know that-you did not do it. You deliberately-let-her-drown." His eyes flashed. The whole quiet, commonplace man seemed transfigured by some overmastering, ennobling emotion. "And I have come to tell you that I think the bad women are better than the good ones, and that I am going back to Elsa; to Elsa-betrayed, deserted, outcast, my Elsa, who, but for you, might still be like one of these." He touched one of the white anemones with his scarred hand. "I am going back to her-and if-in time she can forget the past and feel kindly towards me-I will marry her."

And he did.

THE END

* * *

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