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Title: The Arbiter - A Novel
Author: Bell, Florence Eveleen Eleanore Olliffe, Lady, 1851-1930
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Arbiter - A Novel" ***

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THE ARBITER

A NOVEL

BY

LADY F. E. E. BELL

AUTHOR OF THE "STORY OF URSULA," "MISS TOD AND THE PROPHETS,"
"FAIRY-TALE PLAYS," ETC., ETC.


LONDON
EDWARD ARNOLD
37 BEDFORD STREET, STRAND
1901


       *       *       *       *       *


THE ARBITER



CHAPTER I


"It is a great mistake," said Miss Martin emphatically, "for any
sensible woman to show a husband she adores him."

"Even her own, Aunt Anna?" said Lady Gore, with a contented smile which
Aunt Anna felt to be ignoble.

"Of course I meant her own," she said stiffly. "I should hardly have
thought, Elinor, that after being married so many years you would have
made jokes of that sort."

"That is just it," said Lady Gore, still annoyingly pleased with
herself. "After adoring my husband for twenty-four years, it seems to me
that I am an authority on the subject."

"Well, it is a great mistake," repeated Miss Martin firmly, as she got
up, feeling that the repetition notably strengthened her position. "As I
said before, no sensible woman should do it."

Lady Gore began to feel a little annoyed. It is fatiguing to hear one's
aunt say the same thing twice. The burden of conversation is unequally
distributed if one has to think of two answers to each one remark of
one's interlocutor.

"And you are bringing up Rachel to do the same thing, you know," the old
lady went on, roused to fresh indignation at the thought of her
great-niece, and she pulled her little cloth jacket down, and generally
shook herself together. Crabbed age and jackets should not live
together. Age should be wrapped in the ample and tolerant cloak, hider
of frailties. It was not Aunt Anna's fault, however, if her garments
were uncompromising and scanty of outline. Predestination reigns nowhere
more strongly than in clothes, and it would have been inconceivable that
either Miss Martin's body or her mind should have assimilated the
harmonious fluid adaptability of the draperies that framed and
surrounded Lady Gore as she lay on her couch.

"I don't think it does her much harm," said Lady Gore, a good deal
understating her conviction of her daughter's perfections.

"That's as may be," said Miss Martin encouragingly. "Where is she
to-day, by the way?" she said, stopping on her way to the door.

"For a wonder she is not at home," Lady Gore said. "She has gone to stay
away from me for the first time in her life; she is at Mrs. Feversham's,
at Maidenhead, for the night."

"How girls do gad nowadays, to be sure!" said Miss Martin.

"I hardly think that can be said of Rachel," said Lady Gore.

"Whether Rachel does or not, my dear Elinor, girls do gad--there is no
doubt about that. I'm sorry I have not seen William. He is too busy, I
suppose," with a slightly ironical intonation. "Goodbye!"

"Can you find your way out?" said Lady Gore, ringing a hand-bell.

"Oh dear, yes," said Miss Martin. "Goodbye," and out she went.

Lady Gore leant back with a sigh of relief. A companion like Miss Martin
makes a most excellent foil to solitude, and after she had departed,
Lady Gore lay for a while in a state of pleasant quiescence. Why, she
wondered, even supposing she herself did think too well of her husband,
should Miss Martin object? Why do onlookers appear to resent the
spectacle of a too united family? There is, no doubt, something
exasperating in an excess of indiscriminating kindliness. But it is an
amiable fault after all; and, besides, more discrimination may sometimes
be required to discover the hidden good lurking in a fellow-creature
than to perceive and deride his more obvious absurdities and defects. It
would no doubt be a very great misfortune to see our belongings as they
appear to the world at large, and the fay who should "gie us that
giftie" ought indeed to be banished from every christening. Let us
console ourselves: she commonly is.

But poor Miss Martin had no adoring belongings to shed the genial light
of affection on her doings, to give her even mistaken admiration,
better than none at all. Life had dealt but bleakly with her; she had
always been in the shadow: small wonder then if her nature was blighted
and her view of life soured. Lady Gore smiled to herself, a little
wistfully perhaps, as she tried to put herself in Miss Martin's
place--of all mental operations one of the most difficult to achieve
successfully. Lady Gore's sheer power of sympathy might enable her to
get nearer to it than many people, but still she inevitably reckoned up
the balance, after the fashion of our kind, seeing only one side of the
scale and not knowing what was in the other, and as she did so, it
seemed to her still possible that Miss Martin might have the best of it,
or at any rate might not fall so short of the best as at first appeared.
For in spite of her age she still had the great inestimable boon of
health; she was well, she was independent, she could, when it seemed
good to her, get up and go out and join in the life of other people.
While as for herself ... and again the feeling of impotent misery, of
rebellion against her own destiny, came over Lady Gore like a wave whose
strength she was powerless to resist. For since the rheumatic fever
which five years ago had left her practically an incurable invalid, the
effort to accept her fate still needed to be constantly renewed; an
effort that had to be made alone, for the acceptance of such a fate by
those who surround the sufferer is generally made, more or less, once
for all in a moment of emotion, and then gradually becomes part of the
habitual circumstance of daily life. Mercifully she did not realise all
at once the thing that had happened to her. In the first days when she
was returning to health--she who up to the time of her illness had been
so full of life and energy--the mere pleasure in existence, the mere joy
of the summer's day in which she could lie near an open window, look out
on the world and the people in it, was enough; she was too languid to
want to do more. Then her strength slowly returned, and with it the
desire to resume her ordinary life. But weeks passed in which she still
remained at the same stage, they lengthened into months, and brought her
gradually a horrible misgiving. Then, at last, despairingly she faced
the truth, and knew that from all she had been in the habit of doing,
from all that she had meant to do, she was cut off for ever. She began
to realise then, as people do who, unable to carry their treasures with
them, look over them despairingly before they cast them away one by one,
all that her ambitions had been. She smiled bitterly to herself during
the hours in which she lay there looking her fate in the face and trying
to encounter it with becoming courage, as she realised how, with more
than half of her life, at the best, behind her, she had up to this
moment been spending the rest of it still looking onward, still living
in the future. She had dreamt of the time when, helped by her, her
husband should go forward in his career, when, steered under her
guidance, Rachel would go along the smiling path to happiness. And now,
instead, she was to be to husband and daughter but the constant object
of care and solicitude and pity. Yes, pity--that was the worst of it.
"An invalid," she repeated to herself, and felt that at last she knew
what that word meant that she had heard all her life, that she had
applied unconcernedly to one fellow-creature or another without
realising all that it means of tragedy, of startled, growing dread,
followed by hopeless and despairing acceptance. Then there came a day
when, calling all her courage to her help, she made up her mind bravely
to begin life afresh, to sketch her destiny from another point of view,
and yet to make a success of the picture. The battle had to be fought
out alone. Sir William, after the agony of thinking he was going to lose
her, after the rapture of joy at knowing that the parting was not to be
yet, had insensibly become accustomed, as one does become accustomed to
the trials of another, to the altered conditions of their lives, and it
was even unconsciously a sort of agreeable certainty that whatever the
weather, whatever the claims of the day, she would every afternoon be
found in the same place, never away, never occupied about the house,
always ready to listen, to sympathise. She had made up her mind that
since now she was debarred from active participation in the lives of her
husband and daughter, she would by unceasing, strenuous daily effort
keep abreast of their daily interests, and be by her sympathy as much a
part of their existence as though she had been, as before, their
constant companion.

The smallness of such a family circle may act in two ways: it may either
send the members of it in different directions, or it may draw them
together in an intense concentration of interests and sympathy. This
latter was happily the condition of the Gores. The varying degrees of
their strength and weaknesses had been so mercifully adjusted by destiny
that each could find in the other some support--whether real or fancied
does not matter. For illusions, if they last, form as good a working
basis for life as reality, and in the Gore household, whether by
imagination or not, the equipoise of life had been most skilfully
adjusted. The amount of shining phantasies that had interwoven
themselves into the woof of the family destiny had become so much a part
of the real fabric that they were indistinguishable from it.

As far as Sir William's career, if we may give it that name, was
concerned, the calamity which had fallen upon his wife had in some
strange manner explained and justified it. The younger son of a country
gentleman of good family, he had, by the death of his elder brother,
come into the title, the estate, and the sufficient means bequeathed by
his father. Elinor Calthorpe, the daughter of a neighbouring squire, had
been ever since her childhood on terms of intimate friendship with the
Gore boys; as far back as she could remember, William Gore, big, strong,
full of life and spirits, a striking contrast to his delicate elder
brother, had been her ideal of everything that was manly and splendid:
and when after his brother's death he asked her to marry him, she felt
that life had nothing more to offer. In that belief she had never
wavered. Sir William, by nature estimable and from circumstances
irreproachable, made an excellent husband; that is to say, that during
nearly a quarter of a century of marriage he had never wavered either in
his allegiance to his wife or in his undivided acceptance of her
allegiance, and hers alone. She on her side had never once during all
those years realised that the light which shone round her idol came from
the lamp she herself kept alive before the shrine, nor even that it was
her more acute intelligence, blind in one direction only, which
suggested the opinion or course of action that he quite unconsciously
afterwards offered to the world as his own. It was she who infused into
his life every possibility beyond the obvious. It was her keenness, her
ardent interest in those possibilities, that urged him on. When she
finally persuaded him to stand for Parliament as member for their county
town, it was in a great measure her popularity that won him the seat.

He was in the House without making any special mark for two years, with
a comfortable sense, not clearly stated perhaps even to himself, that
there was time before him. Men go long in harness in these days; some
day for certain that mark would be made. Then his party went out, and in
spite of another unsuccessful attempt in his own constituency, and then
in one further afield, he was left by the roadside, while the tide of
politics swept on. His wife consoled herself by thinking that at the
next opportunity he would surely get in. But when the opportunity came,
she was so ill that he could not leave her, and the moment passed. Then
when they began to realise what her ultimate condition might be, and she
was recommended to take some special German waters which might work a
cure, he and Rachel went with her. Sir William, when the necessity of
going abroad first presented itself to him--a heroic necessity for the
ordinary stay-at-home Englishman--had felt the not unpleasant stimulus,
the tightening of the threads of life, which the need for a given
unexpected course of action presents to the not very much occupied
person. Then came those months away from his own country and his own
surroundings--months in which he acquired the habit of reading an
English newspaper two days old and being quite satisfied with it, when
everything else also had two days' less importance than it would at
home, and gradually he tasted the delights of the detached onlooker who
need do nothing but warn, criticise, prophesy, protest. With absolute
sincerity to himself he attributed this attitude which Fate had assigned
to him as entirely owing to his having had to leave England on his
wife's account. He had quite easily, quite calmly drifted into a
conviction that for his wife's sake he had chivalrously renounced his
chances of distinction. Lady Gore on her side--it was another bitterness
added to the rest--did not for a moment doubt that it was her condition
and the sacrifice that her husband had made of his life to her which had
ruined his political career. And they both of them gradually succeeded
in forgetting that the alternative had not been a certainty. They
believed, they knew, they even said openly, that if it had not been for
his incessant attendance on her he would have gone into the House, he
would have taken office, and eventually have been one of the shapers of
his country's destiny. The phraseology of their current talk to one
another and to outsiders reflected this belief. "If I had continued in
the House," Sir William would say, with a manner and inflection which
conveyed that he had left it of his own free will and not attempted to
return to it, "I should have----" or, "If I had taken office----" or
even sometimes, "If I were leading the Liberal party----" and no one,
indeed, was in a position to affirm that these things might not have
been. If a man's capacities are hinted at or even stated by himself to
his fellow-creatures with a certain amount of discretion, and if he does
not court failure by putting them to the proof, it does not occur to
most people to contradict him, and the possible truth of the
contradiction soon sinks out of sight. So Sir William sat on the brink
of the river and watched the others plunging into the waves, diving,
rising, breasting the current, and was agreeably supported by the
consciousness that if Fate had so ordained it, he himself would have
been capable of performing all these feats just as creditably. No need
now to stifle a misgiving that in the old days would occasionally
obtrude itself into the glowing views of the future, that he was
possibly not of a stature to play the great parts for which he might be
cast. On the contrary, what now remained was the blessed peace brought
by renunciation, the calm renunciation of prospects that in the light of
ceasing to try to attain them seemed absolutely certain. No one now
could ever say that he had failed. He had been prevented by
circumstances from achieving any success of a definite and conspicuous
kind, although the position he had attained, the consideration nearly
always accorded to the ordinary prosperous middle-aged Englishman of the
upper classes who has done nothing to forfeit his claim to it, and more
than all, the plenitude of assurance which he received of his deserts
from his immediate surroundings, might well have been considered success
enough. And on his return to England, after eighteen months of
wandering, although he was no longer in Parliament and had no actual
voice in deciding the politics of his country, it pleased him to think
that if he chose he could still take an active line, that he could
belong to the volunteer army of orators who make speeches at other
people's elections and who write letters to the newspaper that the world
may know their views on a given situation.

At the time of which we speak political parties in England were trying
in vain to re-adjust an equable balance. Conservatives and Unionists,
almost indistinguishable, were waving the Imperialist banner in the
face of the world. The Liberals, once the advanced and subversive party,
were now raising their voices in protest, tentatively advocating the
claims of what they considered the oppressed races. Derisive epithets
were hurled at them by their enemies; the Pro-Boers, the Little
Englanders took the place of the Home Rulers of the past. Sir William
was by tradition a Liberal. Inspired by that tradition he wrote an
article on the "Attitude of England," which appeared in a Liberal
Review. Thrilled by the sight of his utterances in print, he determined
in his secret soul to expand that article into a book. The secret was of
course shared by his wife, who fervently believed in the yet unwritten
masterpiece. The fact that in spite of the dearth of prominent men in
his party, of men who had in them the stuff of a leader, that party had
not turned to Gore in its need, aroused no surprise, no misgiving, in
either his mind or that of his wife. It was simply in their eyes another
step in that path of voluntary renunciation which he was treading for
her sake.

With this possible interpretation of all missed opportunities entirely
taken for granted, Sir William's existence flowed peacefully and
prosperously on. It was with an agreeable consciousness of his dignity
and prestige that he sat once or twice in the week at the board meetings
of one or two governing bodies to which he belonged. They figured in his
scheme of existence as his hours of work, the sterner, more serious
occupation which justified his hours of leisure. The rest of that
leisure was spent in happy, congenial uniformity: a morning ride,
followed by some time in his comfortable study, during which he might be
supposed to be writing his book; an hour or two at his club; a game or
two of chess, a pastime in which he excelled; and behind all this a
beautiful background, the deep and enduring affection of his wife, whose
companionship, and needs, and admiration for himself filled up all the
vacant spaces in his life. He would, however, have been genuinely
surprised if he had realised that it was by a constant, deliberate
intention that she succeeded in entertaining him, in amusing him, as
much as she did her friends and acquaintances; if he had thought that
she had made up her mind that never, while she had power to prevent it,
should he come into his own house and find it dull. And he never did.



CHAPTER II


To be a popular invalid is in itself a career: it blesses those that
call and those that receive. The visitors who used day by day to go and
see Lady Gore used to congratulate themselves as they stood on her
doorstep on the knowledge that they would find her within, and glad--or
so each one individually thought--to see them. She was an attractive
person, certainly, as she lay on her sofa. Her hair had turned white
prematurely early, it enhanced the effect of the delicate faded
colouring and the soft brown eyes. The sweet brightness of her manner
was mingled with dignity, with the comprehensive sympathy and pliability
of a woman of the world; an innate distinction of mind and person
radiated from her looks. Those who watched the general grace and repose
of her demeanour and surroundings involuntarily felt that there might be
advantages in a condition of life which prevented the mere thought of
being hot, untidy, hurried, like some of the ardent ladies who used to
rush into her room between a committee meeting and a tea-party and tell
her breathlessly of their flustered doings. Rachel had inherited
something of her mother's dainty charm. She had the same brown eyes and
delicate features, framed by bright brown hair. It was certainly
encouraging to those who looked upon the daughter to see in the mother
what effect the course of the years was likely to have on such a
personality. There was not much dread in the future when confronted with
such a picture. But in truth, as far as most of the spectators who
frequented the house were concerned, Rachel's personality had been
merged in her mother's, and any comparison between the two was perhaps
more likely to be in the direction of wondering whether Rachel in the
course of years would, as time went on, become so absolutely delightful
a human product as Lady Gore. Rachel's own attitude on this score was
entirely consonant with that of others. Her mother was the centre of her
life, the object of her passionate devotion, her guide, her ideal. It
was when Rachel was seventeen that Lady Gore became helpless and
dependent, and the girl suddenly found that their positions were in some
ways reversed; it was she who had to take care of her mother, to
inculcate prudence upon her, to minister incessantly to her daily wants;
there was added to the daughter's love the yearning care that a loving
woman feels for a helpless charge, and there was hardly room for
anything else in her life. Rachel, fortunately for herself and for
others, had no startling originality; no burning desire, arrived at
womanhood, to strike out a path for herself. She was unmoved by the
conviction which possesses most of her young contemporaries that the
obvious road cannot be the one to follow. Lady Gore's perceptions, far
more acute as regarded her daughter than her husband, and rendered more
vivid still by the whole concentration of her maternal being in Rachel,
had entirely realised, while she wondered at it, the complete lack in
her child of the modern ferment that seethes in the female mind of our
days. But she had finally come to see that if Rachel was entirely happy
and contented with her life it was a result to rejoice over rather than
be discontented with, even though her horizon did not extend much beyond
her own home. Besides, it is always well to rejoice over a result we
cannot modify. Needless to say that the girl, who blindly accepted her
mother's opinion even on indifferent subjects, was, biassed by her own
affection, more than ready to endow her father with all the qualities
Lady Gore believed him to possess. She had arrived at the age of
twenty-two without realising that there could be for her any claims in
the world that would be paramount to these, anything that could possibly
come before her allegiance to her parents.

One of the bitterest pangs of Lady Gore's bitter renunciation was the
moment when she realised that she could not be the one to guide Rachel's
first steps in a wider world than that of her home, that all her plans
and theories about the moment when the girl should grow up, when her
mother would accompany her, steer her, help her at every step, must
necessarily be brought to nought. And this mother, alas! had been so
full of plans; she had so anxiously watched other people and their
daughters, so carefully accumulated from her observation the many
warnings and the few examples which constitute what is called the
teaching of experience. But when the time came the lesson had been
learnt in vain. Rachel's eighteenth and nineteenth years were spent in
anxious preoccupations about her mother's health, in solicitous care of
her father and the household, and the girl had glided gently from
childhood into womanhood with nothing but increased responsibility,
instead of more numerous pleasures, to mark the passage. But the result
was something very attractively unlike the ordinary product of the age.
She had had, from the conditions of her life, no very intimate and
confidential girl friends by whose point of view to readjust and
possibly lower her own, and with whom to compare every fleeting
manifestation of thought and feeling. She remained unconsciously
surrounded by an atmosphere of reticence and reserve, a certain shy
aloofness, mingled with a direct simple dignity, that gave to her
bearing an ineffable grace and charm. The mothers of more dashing
damsels were wont to say that she was not "effective" in a ballroom. It
was true that she had nothing particularly accentuated in demeanour or
appearance which would at once arrest attention, an inadequate
equipment, perhaps, in the opinion of those who hold that it is better
to produce a bad effect than none at all.

Mrs. Feversham, of Bruton Street, was an old friend of Lady Gore's,
whose junior she was by a few years. She had no daughters of her own,
and had in consequence an immense amount of undisciplined energy at the
service of those of other people. She was not a lady whose views were
apt to be matured in silence; she was ardently concerned about Rachel's
future, and she was constantly imparting new projects to Lady Gore, who
received them with smiling equanimity.

It was at an "At Home" given by Mrs. Feversham one evening early in the
season, when the rooms were full of hot people talking at the top of
their voices, that the hostess, looking round her with a comprehensive
glance, saw Rachel standing alone. There was, however, in the girl's
demeanour none of that air of aggressive solitude sometimes assumed by
the neglected. The eye fell upon Rachel with a sense of rest, looking on
one who did not wish to go anywhere or to do anything, who was standing
with unconscious grace an entirely contented spectator of what was
passing before her. Mrs. Feversham's one idea, however, as she perceived
her was instantly to suggest that she should do something else, that at
any price some one should take her to have some tea, or make her eat or
walk, or do anything, in fact, but stand still. Rachel, however, at the
moment she was swooped down upon, was well amused; a smile was
unconsciously playing on her lips as she listened to an absurd
conversation going on between a young man and a girl just in front of
her.

"By George!" said the boy, "it is hot. Let's go and have ices."

"Ices? Right you are," the girl replied, and attempted to follow her
gallant cavalier, who had started off, trying to make for himself a path
through the serried hot crowd, leaving the lady he was supposed to be
convoying to follow him as near as she might.

"Hallo!" he said suddenly. "There's Billy Crowther. Do you mind if I go
and slap him on the back?"

"All right, buck up, then, and slap him on the back," replied the fair
one. "I'll go on." Thus gracefully encouraged, the youth flung himself
in another direction, and almost overturned his hostess, who was coming
towards Rachel.

"Sorry," he said, apparently not at all discomposed, and continued his
wild career.

"Well! the young men of the present day!..." said Mrs. Feversham, as she
joined Rachel; then suddenly remembering that a wholesale condemnation
was not the attitude she wished to inculcate in her present hearer, she
went on: "Not that they are all alike, of course; some of them are--are
different," she supplemented luminously. "Now, my child, have you had
anything to eat?"

"I don't think I want anything, thank you," said Rachel.

"Oh, nonsense!" said Mrs. Feversham. "You must." And, looking round for
the necessary escort, she saw a new arrival coming up the stairs. "The
very man!" she said to herself, but fortunately not aloud, as "Mr.
Rendel!" was announced. A young man of apparently a little over thirty,
with deep-set, far-apart eyes and clear-cut features, came up and took
her outstretched hand with a little air of formal politeness refreshing
after the manifestations she had been deploring.

"I am so glad to see you," she said cordially. Rendel greeted her with a
smile. "Do you know Miss Gore?" Rendel and Rachel bowed.

"I have met Sir William Gore more than once," he said.

"She is dying for something to eat," said Mrs. Feversham, to Rachel's
great astonishment. "Do take her downstairs, Mr. Rendel." The young
people obediently went down together.

"I am not really dying for something to eat," Rachel said, as soon as
they were out of hearing of their hostess. "In fact, I am not sure that
I want anything."

"Oh, don't you?" said Rendel.

"Two hours ago I was still dining, you see."

"Of course," said Rendel, "so was I." They both laughed. They went on
nevertheless to the door of the room from whence the clatter of glass
and china was heard.

"Now, are you sure you won't be 'tempted,' according to the received
expression?" said Rendel, as a hot waiter hurried past them with some
dirty plates and glasses on a tray.

"No, I am afraid I am not at all tempted," said Rachel.

"Well, let us look for a cooler place," said Rendel. What a soothing
companion this was he had found, who did not want him to fight for an
ice or a sandwich! They went up again to a little recess on the landing
by an open window. The roar of tongues came down to them from the
drawing-room.

"Just listen to those people," said Rendel. A sort of wild, continuous
howl filled the air, as though bursting from a company of the condemned
immured in an eternal prison, instead of from a gathering of peaceable
citizens met together for their diversion. "Isn't it dreadful to realise
what our natural note is like?" he added. "It is hideous."

"It isn't pretty, certainly," said Rachel, unable to help smiling at his
face of disgust. The roar seemed to grow louder as it went on.

"It is a pity we can't chirp and twitter like birds," said Rendel.

"I don't know that that would be very much better," said Rachel. "Have
you ever been in a room with a canary singing? Think of a room with as
many canaries in it as this."

"Yes, I daresay--it might have been nearly as bad," Rendel said; "though
if we were canaries we should be nicer to look at perhaps," and his eye
fell on an unprepossessing elderly couple who were descending the stairs
with none of the winsomeness of singing birds. "Have you read
Maeterlinck's 'Life of the Bees'?"

"No," Rachel answered simply.

"I agree with him," Rendel said, "that it would be just as difficult to
get any idea of what human beings are about by looking down on them from
a height, as it is for us to discover what insects are doing when we
look down on them."

"Yes, imagine looking at that," said Rachel, pointing towards the
drawing-room. "You would see people walking up and down and in and out
for no reason, and jostling each other round and round."

"Yes," said Rendel. "How aimless it would look! Not more aimless than it
is, after all," he added.

"It amuses me, all the same," said Rachel, rather deprecatingly. "I
mean, to come to a party of this kind every now and then; perhaps
because I don't do it very often."

"Why, don't you go out every night of your life in the season?" said
Rendel; "I thought all young ladies did."

"I don't," she said. "It isn't quite the same for me as it is for other
people--at least, I mean that I have only my father to go out with;" and
then, seeing in his face the interpretation he put on her words, she
added, "my mother is an invalid, and we do not like to leave her too
often."

"Ah! but she is alive still," said Rendel, with a tone that sounded as
if he understood what the contrary might have meant.

"Oh yes," said Rachel quickly. "Yes, yes, indeed she is alive," in a
voice that told the proportion that fact assumed in existence.

"My mother died long years ago," said Rendel, in a lower voice. "Not so
long, though, that I did not understand." Rachel looked at him with a
soft light of pity flooding her face, and drawing the words out of him,
he knew not how. "My father married again," he said, "while I was still
a child--while I needed looking after, at least."

"Oh," said Rachel, "you had a stepmother?"

"Yes," he said, "I had a stepmother," and his face involuntarily became
harder as he recalled that long stretch of loveless years--the father
had never quite understood the shy and sensitive child--during which he
had been neglected, suppressed, lonely, with no one to care that he did
well at school and college, and that later he was getting on in the
world, with no place in the world that was really his home. Then he went
on after a moment: "And now my father is dead, too, so I am pretty much
alone, you see."

"How terrible it must be!" said Rachel softly. "How extraordinary! I
can't quite imagine what it is like."

"Well, it is not very pleasant," said Rendel looking up, and again
penetrated by the sweet compassion in Rachel's face. "You can't think
how strange it is----" He broke off and got up as Sir William Gore came
downstairs towards them. Sir William, with the true instinct of a
father, had chosen this moment to wonder whether Rachel was being
sufficiently amused, and was bearing down upon her and her companion
with an air of cheerful virtue which proclaimed that her conversation
with Rendel was at an end. Sir William's political principles did not
permit him to think very much of Rendel, since he was private secretary
to a man whose policy Sir William cordially detested, Lord Stamfordham,
the Foreign Minister, whose acute and wide-reaching sagacity inspired
his followers with a blind confidence to himself and his methods. Lord
Stamfordham had soon discovered the practical aptitude, the political
capacity, the determined, honourable ambition that lay behind Francis
Rendel's grave exterior, and had made up his mind, as indeed had others,
that the young man had a distinguished future before him.

"Ah, Rendel, how are you?" said Gore. "What is your Chief going to do
next, eh?"

"I am afraid I can't tell you, Sir William," said Rendel with a half
smile.

"Well, the people round him ought to put the brake on," said Gore, "or I
don't know where the country will be."

"I am afraid it is a brake I am not strong enough to work," said Rendel;
"like Archimedes, I have not a lever powerful enough to move the
universe."

"H'm!" said Sir William, with a sort of snort. There are fortunately
still some sounds left in our vocabulary which convey primeval emotions
without the limitations of words. "Come, Rachel, it is time for us to be
going."

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Feversham's watchful eye had managed to observe what appeared to
be the sufficiently satisfactory sequel to the introduction she had
made. She was not a woman to let such a seed die for want of planting
and watering. She asked Rendel to dinner to meet the Gores, she talked
to Lady Gore about him, she it was who somehow arranged that he should
go to call at Prince's Gate, and he finally grew into a habit of finding
his way there with a frequency that surprised himself. Lady Gore
subjugated him entirely by her sweet kindly welcome, and the interest
with which she listened to him, until he found himself to his own
astonishment telling her, as he sat by her sofa, of his hopes and fears
and plans for the future.

Gradually new possibilities seemed to come into his life, or rather the
old possibilities were seen in a new light shed by the womanly sympathy
which up to now he had never known. He came away from each visit with
some fresh spurt of purpose, some new impulse to achievement. Lady Gore,
on her side, had been more favourably impressed by Rendel than by any of
the young men she had seen, until she realised that here at last was a
possible husband who might be worthy of Rachel. But with her customary
wisdom she tried not to formulate it even to herself: she did not
believe in these things being helped on otherwise than by opportunity
for intercourse being given. But where Mrs. Feversham was, opportunity
was sure to follow. Lady Gore one morning had an eager letter from her
friend saying, "I know that you and Rachel make it a rule of life that
she can never go away from home. But you must let her come to me next
Thursday for the night. I shall have"--and she underlined this
significantly without going into more details--"_just the right people
to meet her_." And for once, as Lady Gore folded up the letter, she too
was seized with an ardour of matchmaking. She had a real affection for
Rendel, and the devotion of the young man to herself touched and pleased
her. His probably brilliant future and comfortable means were not the
principal factors in the situation, but there was no doubt that they
helped to make everything else easy. So it was that, to Rachel's great
surprise, the day after the party at Bruton Street, her mother having
told her without showing her the letter of Mrs. Feversham's invitation,
advised her to accept it, and, to the mother's still greater surprise,
the daughter, in her turn, after a slight protest, agreed to do so,
stipulating, however, that she should not be away more than twenty-four
hours. The accusation that Rachel "gadded" as much as other girls of her
age was obviously an unmerited one.



CHAPTER III


"Alone?" said Sir William, as he came into the room. "Thank Heaven! Have
you had no one?"

"Aunt Anna," Lady Gore replied, in a tone which was comment on the
statement.

"Aunt Anna? What did she come again for?" said Sir William.

"I really don't know," Lady Gore said. "I think to-day it was to tell me
that Rachel and I ought not to worship you as we do."

"I don't know what she means," said Sir William, standing from force of
habit comfortably in front of the fireplace as though there were a fire
in the grate. "I should have thought it was Rachel and I who adored
you."

"She would like that better," Lady Gore replied. "But, oh dear, what a
weary woman she is!"

"She has tired you out," Sir William said. "It really is not a good plan
that your door should be open to every bore who chooses to come and call
upon you. One ought to be able to keep people of that sort, at any rate,
out of one's house."

Lady Gore heaved a sigh.

"Well, it is rather difficult and invidious too," she said, "to try to
keep certain people out when one is not sure who is coming--and it is
rather dull not to see any one," with a little quiver of the lip which
Sir William did not perceive. Then speaking more lightly, "It is a pity
we can't have some kind of automatic arrangement at our front doors,
like the thing for testing sovereigns at the Mint, by which the heavy,
tiresome people would be shot back into the street, and the light,
amusing ones shot into the hall."

"I am quite agreeable," said Sir William, "as long as Aunt Anna is shot
back into the street."

"Ah, how delightful it would be!" said Lady Gore longingly.

"And Miss Tarlton too, please," said Sir William.

"My dear William," Lady Gore said, "Miss Tarlton is quite harmless."

"Harmless?" repeated Sir William; "I don't know what you call harmless.
The very thought of her fills me with impotent rage. A woman who talks
of nothing but photography and bicycling, and goes about with her
fingers pea-green and her legs in gaiters! It's an outrage on society. I
am thankful that Rachel has never gone in for any nonsense of that
sort--nor ever shall, while I can prevent it."

"My good friend," said Lady Gore, "you may not find that so easy."

"I will prevent it as long as she is under my roof," replied Sir
William. "I suppose if she marries a husband with any fads of that sort,
she will have to share them."

"But"--Lady Gore checked herself on the verge of saying, "I don't think
he has," as she suddenly realised what image was called up by the
mention of Rachel's possible husband--"but she might marry some one who
hasn't," she ended lamely.

"Oh dear me, yes," said Sir William, "there is time enough for that; she
is very young after all."

"She is twenty-two," said Lady Gore. "Perhaps that is young in these
days when women don't seem to marry until they are nearly thirty. But I
don't think it is a good plan to wait so long."

"I don't think it's a bad one," said Sir William; "they know their own
minds at any rate."

"They have known half a dozen of their own minds," said Lady Gore. "I
think it is much better for a girl to marry before she knows that there
is an alternative to the mind she has got, such as it is."

Sir William smiled, but did not think it worth while to argue the point.
It was not his province, but her mother's, to guide Rachel's career, and
he was content to remain in comfortable ignorance of the complications
of the female heart of a younger generation. However, he was not allowed
to remain in that detached attitude, for Lady Gore, with the subject
uppermost in her mind preoccupying her to the exclusion of everything
else, could not help adding, "You often see Mr. Rendel at parties, when
you and Rachel go out, I mean?"

"Rendel? Yes," said Gore indifferently. "Why?"

Lady Gore did not explain. "I like him," she said.

"Oh yes, so do I," said Gore, without enthusiasm. "I don't agree with
him, of course. I asked him one day what his Chief was about, and told
him he ought to put the brake on."

"Did he seem pleased at that?" said Lady Gore, smiling.

"He will have to hear it, I'm afraid," said Gore, "whether it pleases
him or not."

"I must say," said Lady Gore, "I can't help admiring Lord Stamfordham. I
do like a man who is strong, and this man is head and shoulders above
other people."

"Head and shoulders above little people perhaps," said Sir William.

"Mr. Rendel says that when once one is caught up in Lord Stamfordham's
train, it is impossible not to follow him."

"Rendel!" said Sir William. "Oh, of course, if you're going to listen to
what Stamfordham's hangers-on say...."

"Oh, William, please!" said Lady Gore. "Don't say that sort of thing
about Mr. Rendel."

"Why?" said Sir William, amazed. "Why am I to speak of Rendel with bated
breath?"

"Because ... suppose--suppose he were to be your son-in-law some day?"

"Oh," said Sir William, staring at her, "is that what you are thinking
of?"

"Mind--mind you don't say it," cried Lady Gore.

"_I_ shan't say it, certainly," cried Sir William, still bewildered;
"but has he said it? That's more to the point."

"He hasn't yet," she admitted.

"Well, he never struck me in that light, I must say," said Sir William.
"I always thought it was you he adored."

"_Cela n'empêche pas_," said Lady Gore, laughing.

"I daresay he would do very well," said Sir William, who, as he further
considered the question, was by no means insensible to the advantages of
the suggestion put before him; "it is only his politics that are against
him."

"I am afraid," said Lady Gore, "that Rachel would always think her
father knew best."

"Afraid!" said Sir William, "what more would you have?"

"My dear William," said his wife, smiling at him, "she might think her
husband knew best, that is what some people do."

"Quite right," said Sir William, looking at her fondly, but believing
with entire conviction in the truth of what he was lightly saying.

At this moment the door opened and a footman came in.

"Young Mr. Anderson is downstairs, Sir William."

"Young Mr. Anderson?" said Sir William, looking at him with some
surprise.

"Yes, Sir William--Mr. Fred," the man replied, evidently somewhat
doubtful as to whether he was right in using the honorific.

"Fred Anderson back again!" said Sir William to his wife. "All right,
James, I'll come directly." "I wonder if his rushing back to England so
soon," he said, as the door closed upon the servant, "means that that
boy has come to grief."

"Let us hope that it means the reverse," said his wife, "and that he has
come back to ask you to be chairman of his company--as you promised, do
you remember, when he went away?"

"So I did, yes, to be sure," said Sir William, laughing at the
recollection. "Upon my word, that lad won't fail for want of assurance.
We shall see what he has got to say." And he went out.

The Andersons had been small farmers on the Gore estate for some
generations. Fred Anderson, the second son of the present farmer, a
youth of energy and enterprise, had determined to seek his fortune
further afield. Mainly by the kind offices of the Gores, he had been
started in life as a mining engineer, and had, eighteen months before
his present reappearance, been sent with some others to examine and
report on a large mine lately discovered on British territory near the
Equator. The result of their investigations proved that it was actually
and most unexpectedly a gold mine, promising untold treasure, but at the
same time, from its geographical situation, almost valueless, since it
was so far from any lines of communication as to make the working of it
practically impossible. The young, however, are sanguine; undaunted by
difficulties, Fred Anderson, in spite of the discouragement and dropping
off of his companions, remained full of faith in the future of the mine,
and of something turning up which would make it possible to work it; in
fact, he had actually gone so far as to obtain for himself a grant of
the mining rights from the British Government. It was for this purpose
that, giving a brief outline of the situation, he had written to Sir
William some time before to ask him for the sum necessary to obtain the
concession. Sir William had advanced it to him. It was when, two years
before, the boy of nineteen was leaving home for the first time that he
had half jestingly asked Sir William whether, if he and his companions
found a gold mine and started a company to work it, he would be their
chairman, and Sir William, to whom it had seemed about as likely that
Fred Anderson would become Prime Minister as succeed in such an
undertaking, had given him his hand on the bargain.

"Well, my boy," said Sir William, and the very sound of his voice seemed
to Fred Anderson to put him back two years--the two years that appeared
to him to contain his life. "How is it you have hurried back to England
so quickly?"

"I will tell you all about it, Sir William," said the boy. "I thought it
best to come over and get everything into shape myself."

"You seem to be embarking on very adventurous schemes," said Sir
William, feeling as he looked at the boy's bright, open face, full of
alert intelligence, that it was not impossible that the schemes might be
carried through.

"I think you will say so, sir, when you have heard what I have to tell
you," said Anderson, resolutely keeping down his excitement in a way
that boded well for his powers of self-control.

"I shall be much interested," said Sir William. "Now, what about those
mining rights? Do I understand that you are the proprietor of a mine on
the Equator, a thousand miles from anywhere?"

"Yes, and no," said Anderson. "At least, yes to the first question; no
to the second."

"What," said Sir William, still speaking lightly, "has the mine come
nearer since we first heard of it?"

"Yes, practically it has," said Anderson, looking Gore in the face.
Then, unrolling the paper which he held in his hand and rolling it the
other way that it might remain open, he laid it carefully out on the
table before Sir William. "I have brought you the map with all the
indications on it, that you may see for yourself." Sir William adjusted
an eyeglass and bent over the map, roused to more curiosity than he
showed.

"This," said the young man, pointing to a large tract in pink, "is
British territory; that is Uganda; here is the Congo Free State. There,
you see, are the Germans where the map is marked in orange. There is
the Equator, and _there_ is the mine. Look, marked in blue."

"That is a pretty God-forsaken place, I must say," remarked Sir William.

"One moment," said Fred. "That thin, dotted ink line running north and
south from the top of Africa to the bottom is the Cape to Cairo Railway,
of which the route has now been determined on, and this," with a ringing
accent of triumph, bringing his hand down on to the map, "is the place
where the railway will pass within a few miles of us."

"What?" said Sir William, starting.

"Yes, there it is, quite close," Anderson answered. "When once it is
there, all our difficulties of transport are over."

Sir William recovered himself.

"Cape to Cairo!" he said. "You had better wait till you see the line
made, my boy."

"That won't be so very long, Sir William, I assure you," said the young
man. "This cross in ink marks where the line has got to from the
northern end, and this one," pointing to another, "from the south, and
they have already got telegraph poles a good bit further."

"Before the two ends have joined hands," said Sir William, "another
Government may be in which won't be so keen on that mad enterprise. As
if we hadn't railways enough on our hands already."

"Not many railways like this one," said the young man. "Did you see an
article in the _Arbiter_ about it this morning? It is going to be the
most tremendous thing that ever was done."

"Oh, of course, yes," said Sir William with an accent of scorn in his
tone. "Just the kind of thing that the _Arbiter_ would have a good
flare-up about. I have no doubt that the scheme is magnificent on paper.
However, time will show," he added, with a kinder note in his voice. He
liked the boy and his faith in achieving the impossible.

"It will indeed," said Anderson. "Only, you see, we can't afford to wait
till time shows--we must take it by the forelock now, I'm afraid."

"Then what do you propose to do next?" said Sir William.

"We are going to form a company," said the boy, his colour rising. "We
are going to have everything ready, and the moment the railway is
finished we are ready to work the mine, and our fortune is made."

"You are going to form a company?" said Sir William, incredulously.

"Yes," Anderson replied. "In a week we shall have the whole thing in
shape, and I hope that when the mine and its possibilities are made
public, we shan't have any difficulty in getting the shares taken up."

"Well, I am sure I hope you won't," said Sir William. "I'll take some
shares in it if you can show me a reasonable prospect of its coming to
anything. But I should like to hear something more about it first."

"You shall, of course," said Anderson, as he took up his map again. "But
it was not about taking shares I came to ask you, Sir William."

"What was it, then?" said Sir William.

"You said," the boy replied, with an embarrassed little laugh, looking
him straight in the face, "that you would be the chairman of the first
company I floated."

"By Jove, so I did!" said Sir William. "Upon my word, it was rather a
rash promise to make."

"I don't think it was, I assure you," the boy said earnestly; "this
thing really is going to turn up trumps."

"Well, let's hope it is, for all concerned," said Sir William. "And what
are you going to call it?"

"Oh, we are going to call it," said Fred, "simply 'The Equator,
Limited.'"

"The Equator! Upon my word! Why not the Universe?" said Sir William.

"That will come next," said the boy, with a happy laugh of sheer
jubilation. "Then, Sir William, will you--you will be our chairman?"

"Oh yes," said Sir William. "A promise is a promise. But mind, I shall
be a very inefficient one. I don't suppose you could find any one who
knew less about that sort of thing than I do."

"Oh, that will be all right, Sir William," the boy said quickly. "There
will be lots of people concerned who know all about it. Now that the
mine is going to be accessible, the right people will be more than ready
to take it up. I just wanted to have you there as the nominal head to
it, because you have always been so good to me, and you have brought me
luck since the beginning."

"Nonsense!" said Sir William. "You'll have only yourself to thank, my
boy, when you get on."

"Oh, I know better than that," said Anderson. Something very like tears
came into his eyes as he took the hand Sir William held out to him, and
then left the room as happy a youth of twenty-one as could be found in
London that day.



CHAPTER IV


There was another young creature, at that moment driving across London
to Prince's Gate, to whom the world looked very beautiful that day.
Rachel was still in a sort of rapturous bewilderment. The wonderful new
experience that had come to her, that she was contemplating for the
first time, seemed, as she saw it in the company of familiar
surroundings, more marvellous yet. At Maidenhead everything had been
unwonted. The new experience of going away alone, the enchanting repose
of the hot sunny days on the river, the look of the boughs as they
dipped lazily into the water, and the light dancing and dazzling on the
ripples of the stream--all had been part of the setting of the new
aspect of things, part of that great secret that she was beginning to
learn. Yet all the time she had had a feeling that when the setting was
altered, when she left this mysterious region of romance, life would
become ordinary again, the strange golden light with which it was
flooded would turn into the ordinary light of day, and she would find
herself where she had been before. But it was not so. Here she was back
again in the town she knew so well, driving towards her home--but the
new, strange possession had not left her, the secret was hers still. It
had all come so quickly that she had not realised what she felt. Was she
"in love," the thing that she had taken for granted would happen to her
some day, but that she had not yet longed for? Rachel, it must be
confessed, had not been entirely given up to romance; she had not been
waiting, watching for the fairy prince who should ride within her ken
and transform existence for her. Her life had been too full of love of
another kind. But now she had a sudden feeling of experience having been
completed, something had come to her that she had wished for, longed
for--how much, she had not known until it came. What would they say at
home? What would her mother say? And gradually she realised, as she
always ended by realising, that whatever the picture of life she was
contemplating her mother was in the foreground of it. There was no doubt
about that; her mother came first, her mother must come first. But
nothing was quite clear in her mind at this moment. The past forty-eight
hours, the sudden change of scene and of companionship, a possible
alternative path suddenly presenting itself in an existence which had
been peacefully following the same road, all this had been disturbing,
bewildering even--and when the hansom drew up in Prince's Gate, Rachel
felt an intense satisfaction at being back again in the haven, at the
thought of the welcome she was going to find. And as on a summer's day
to people sitting in a shaded room, the world beyond shut out, the
opening of a door into the sunshine may reveal a sudden vista of light,
of flowers shining in the sun, so to the two people who were awaiting
Rachel's arrival she brought a sudden vision of youth, brightness,
colour, hope, as she came swiftly in, smiling and confident, with the
face and expression of one who had never come into the presence of
either of these two companions without seeing her gladness reflected in
the light of welcome that shone in their eyes.

"Well, gadabout!" said her father as she turned to him after embracing
her mother fondly.

"I am very sorry," said Rachel, "I won't do it again."

"And how did you enjoy yourself, my darling?" said Lady Gore.

"Oh, very much," Rachel said. "It was delightful." The mother looked at
her and tried to read into her face all that the words might mean.
Rachel was in happy unconsciousness of how entirely the ground was
prepared to receive her confidence.

"Was there a large party?" said Sir William.

"No," said Rachel, "a very small one." She was leaning back comfortably
in the armchair, and deliberately taking off her gloves. "In fact, there
were only two people beside myself, Sir Charles Miniver, and--Mr.
Rendel." There was a pause.

"Miniver!" said Sir William, "Still staying about! He appeared to me an
old man when I was twenty-five." Rachel opened her eyes.

"Did he?" she said. "That explains it. He is quite terribly old now,
much, much older than other old people one sees," she said, with the
conviction of her age, to which sixty and eighty appear pretty much the
same. "You didn't mind," she went on to her mother hastily, somewhat
transparently trying to avoid a discussion of the rest of the house
party, "my staying till the afternoon train? Mrs. Feversham suggested
boating this morning, and the day was so lovely, it was too tempting to
refuse."

"I didn't mind at all," said Lady Gore. "It must have been lovely in the
boat. Did you all go?"

"N--no, not all," replied Rachel. "Mrs. Feversham would have come, but
she had some things to do at home, and Sir Charles Miniver was----"

"Too old?" Lady Gore suggested.

"I suppose so," said Rachel, "though he called it busy."

"As you say," remarked Sir William, "that does not leave many people to
go in the boat." Rachel looked at her father quickly, but with a
pliability surprising in the male mind he managed to look unconscious.
"Well, Elinor," he continued, "I think as you have a companion now, I
shall go off for a bit. I shall be back presently. Let me implore you
not to let me find too many bores at tea."

"If Miss Tarlton comes," said Lady Gore, "I will have her automatically
ejected." Sir William went out, smiling at her. The mother and
daughter, both unconsciously to themselves, watched the door close, then
Rachel got up, went to the glass over the chimneypiece and began
deliberately taking off her veil.

"I do look a sight," she said. "It is astonishing how dirty one's face
gets in London, even in a drive across the Park."

"Rachel!" her mother said. Rachel turned round and looked at her. Then
she went quickly across the room and knelt down by her mother's couch.

"Mother!" she said, "Mother dear! it is such a comfort that if I don't
tell you things you don't mind. And why should you? It doesn't matter.
It is just as if I had told you--you always know, you always
understand."

"Yes," said Lady Gore, "I think I understand. And you know," she added
after a moment, "that I never want you to tell me more than you wish to
tell. Only, very often"--and she tried to choose her words with anxious
care, that not one of them might mean more, less, or other than she
intended, "it sometimes helps younger people, if they talk to people who
are older. You see, the mere fact of having been in the world longer,
brings one something like more wisdom, one can judge of the proportion
of things somehow, nothing seems quite so surprising, so
extraordinary--or so impossible," she added with a faint smile, with the
intuition of the point that Rachel had arrived at. And Rachel was ready
to take perfectly for granted that she should have been so followed. Her
absolute reliance on the wise and tender confidante by her side, the
habit of placing her first and referring everything to her was stronger
unconsciously to herself, than even the natural desire of her age to hug
the secret she was carrying, to keep it jealously from any eyes but her
own.

"Of course, of course, I know that," she said without looking up, "and
my first thought always is that I will tell you. In fact," she went on
with a little laugh, "I never know what I think myself until I have told
you, and heard what it sounds like when I am saying it to you, and seen
what you look like when you listen--only----" she stopped again.

"Darling," said Lady Gore, "never feel that you must tell me a word more
than you wish to say."

"Well," said Rachel hesitating, "the only thing is that to-day I
must--perhaps--you would know something about it presently in any
case...." And she stopped again.

"Presently? why?" said Lady Gore. Rachel made no answer.

"Is Mr. Rendel coming here to-day?" said Lady Gore, trying to speak in
her ordinary voice.

"Yes," said Rachel, "he is coming to see you."

"I shall be very glad to see him," said Lady Gore. "I always am."

"I know, yes," said Rachel. Then with a sudden effort, "It is no use,
mother, I must tell you; you must know first." Then she paused again.
"This morning we went out in the boat----" she stopped.

"Yes," said Lady Gore, "and Sir Charles Miniver was unfortunately too
old to go with you--or fortunately, perhaps?"

"I am not sure which," said Rachel. "I am not sure," she repeated
slowly.

"Rachel, did Francis Rendel...."

"Yes," said Rachel, "he asked me to marry him."

Lady Gore laid her hand on her daughter's. "What did you say to him?"

Rachel looked up quickly. "Surely you know. I told him it would be
impossible."

"Impossible?" her mother repeated.

"Of course, impossible," Rachel said. "We needn't discuss it, mother
dear," she went on with an effort. "You know I could not go away from
you; you could not do without me. You could not, could you?" she went on
imploringly. "I should be dreadfully saddened if you could."

"I should have to do without you," Lady Gore said. "I could not let you
give up your happiness to mine."

"It would not be giving up my happiness to stay with you, you know that
quite well," Rachel said. "On the contrary, I simply could not be happy
if I felt that you needed me and that I had left you."

"Rachel, do you care for him?"

"Do I, I wonder?" Rachel said, half thinking aloud and letting herself
go as one does who, having overcome the first difficulty of speech,
welcomes the rapturous belief of pouring out her heart to the right
listener. "I believe," she said, "that I care for him as much as I could
for any one, in that way, but"--and she shook her head--"I know all the
time that you come first, and that you always, always will."

"Oh, but that is not right," said Lady Gore. "That is not natural."

"Not natural," Rachel said, "that I should care for my mother most?"

"No," Lady Gore said, "not in the long run. Of course," she went on with
a smile, "to say a thing is not 'natural' is simply begging the
question, and sounds as if one were dismissing a very complicated
problem with a commonplace formula, but it has truth in it all the same.
It is difficult enough to fashion existence in the right way, even with
the help of others, but to do it single-handed is a task few people are
qualified to achieve. I am quite sure that a woman has more chance of
happiness if she marries than if she remains alone. It is right that
people should renew their stock of affection, should see that their hold
on the world, on life, is renewed, should feel that fresh claims, for
that is a part, and a great part, of happiness, are ready at hand when
the old ones disappear. All this is what means happiness, and you know
that the one thing I want in the world is that you should be happy. I
was thinking to-day," she went on, with a slight tremor in her voice,
"that if I were quite sure that your life were happily settled, that you
were beginning one of your own not wholly dependent on those behind
you, I should not mind very much if mine were to come to an end."

"To an end?" said Rachel, startled. "Don't say that--don't talk about
that."

"I do not talk about it often," Lady Gore said; "but this is a moment
when it must be said, because, remember, when you talk of sacrificing
your life to me----"

"Sacrificing!" interjected Rachel.

"Well, of devoting it to me," Lady Gore went on; "and putting aside
those things that might make a beautiful life of your own, you must
remember one thing, that I may not be there always. In fact," she
corrected herself with a smile, "to say _may_ not is taking a
rose-coloured view, that I _shall_ not be there always. And who knows?
The moment of our separation may not be so far off."

Rachel looked up hurriedly, much perturbed.

"Why are you saying this now?" she said. "You have seemed so much better
lately. You are very well, aren't you, mother? You are looking very
well."

Lady Gore had a moment of wondering whether she should tell her daughter
what she knew, what she expected herself, but she looked at Rachel's
anxious, quivering face and refrained.

"It is something that ought to be said at this moment," she answered.
"You have come to a parting of the ways. This is the moment to show you
the signposts, to help you to choose the best road."

"Listen, mother," said Rachel earnestly. "In this case I am sure I know
by myself which is the best road to choose. I am perfectly clear that as
long as I have you I shall stay with you. That I mean to do," she
continued with unwonted decision. "And besides, if--if you were no
longer there, how could I leave my father?"

"Ah," said Lady Gore, "I wanted to say that to you. Now, as we are
speaking of it, let us talk it out, let us look at it in the face.
Consider the possibility, Rachel, the probability that I may be taken
from you; my dream would be that you should make your own life with some
one that you care about, and yet not part it entirely from your
father's, that while he is there he should not be left. If I thought
that, do you know, it would be a very great help to me," she said,
forcing herself to speak steadily, but unable to hide entirely the
wistful anxiety in her tone.

"I will never, never leave him," Rachel said. "I promise you that I
never will."

"Then I can look forward," her mother said, "as peacefully, I don't say
as joyfully, as I look back. Twenty-four years, nearly twenty-five," she
went on, half to herself and looking dreamily upwards, "we have been
married. You don't know what those years mean, but some day I hope you
will. I pray that you may know how the lives and souls of two people who
care for one another absolutely grow together during such a time."

"It is beautiful," Rachel said softly, "to know that there is such
happiness in the world," and her own new happiness leapt to meet the
assurance of the years.

"It is beautiful indeed," Lady Gore said. "It means a constant abiding
sense of a strange other self sharing one's own interests--of a close
companionship, an unquestioning approval which makes one almost
independent of opinions outside."

"Some people," said Rachel, pressing her mother's hand, "have the
outside affection and approval too."

"Yes, the world has been very kind to me," Lady Gore said, "and all that
is delightful. But it is the big thing that matters. Do you remember
that there was some famous Greek who said when his chosen friend and
companion died, 'The theatre of my actions has fallen'?" Rachel's face
lighted up in quick response. "When I am gone," her mother went on,
"don't let your father feel that the theatre of _his_ actions has
fallen--take my place, surround him with love and sympathy."

"I will, indeed I will," said Rachel.

"What a man needs," said Lady Gore, "is some one to believe in him."

"My father will never be in want of that," said Rachel, with heartfelt
conviction. "Mother," she added, "I never will forget what I am saying
now, and you may believe it and you may be happy about it. I won't leave
my father; he shall come first, I promise, whatever happens."

"First?" said Lady Gore gently. "No, Rachel, not that; it is right that
your husband should come first."

"The people," said Rachel smiling, "whose husbands come first have not
had a father and mother like mine."

There was a knock at the house door. Rachel sprang hurriedly to her
feet, the colour flying into her cheeks. Lady Gore looked at her. She
had never before seen in Rachel's face what she saw there now.

"I must take off my things," the girl said, catching up her gloves and
veil.

"Don't be very long," said her mother.

"I'll--I'll--see," Rachel said, and she suddenly bent over her mother
and kissed her, then went quickly out by one door as the other was
thrown open to admit a visitor.



CHAPTER V


Francis Rendel came into the room with his usual air of ceremony,
amounting almost to stiffness. Then, as he realised that his hostess was
alone, his face lighted up and he came eagerly towards her.

"This _is_ a piece of good fortune, to find you alone," he said. "I was
afraid I should find you surrounded."

"It is early yet," Lady Gore said, with a smile.

"I know, yes," Rendel said. "I must apologise for coming at this time,
but I wanted very much to see you----" He paused.

"I am delighted to see you at any time," Lady Gore said.

"It is so good of you," he answered, in the tone of one who is thinking
of the next thing he is going to say. There was a silence.

"I hope you enjoyed yourself at Maidenhead?" said Lady Gore.

"Very, very much," Rendel answered with an air of penetrated conviction.
There was another pause. Then he suddenly said, "Lady Gore----" and
stopped.

She waited a moment, then said gently, "Yes, I know. Rachel has been
telling me."

"She has! Oh, I am so glad," Rendel said. Then he added, finding
apparently an extreme difficulty in speaking at all, "And--and--do you
mind?"

"That is a modest way of putting it," said Lady Gore, smiling. "No, I
don't mind. I am glad."

"Are you really?" said Rendel, looking as if his life depended on the
answer. "Do you mean that you really think you--you--could be on my
side? Then it will come all right."

"I will be on your side, certainly," said Lady Gore; "but I don't know
that that is the essential thing. I am not, after all, the person whose
consent matters most."

"Do you know, I believe you are," Rendel said. "I verily believe that at
this moment you come before any one else in the world." There was no
need to say in whose estimation, or to mention Rachel's name.

"Well, perhaps at this moment, as you say," said Lady Gore, "it is
possible, but there is no reason why it should go on always."

"She is absolutely devoted to you," Rendel said.

"Rachel has a fund," her mother said, "of loyal devotion, of unswerving
affection, which makes her a very precious possession."

"I have seen it," said Rendel. "Her devotion to you and her father is
one of the most beautiful things in the world, even though...."

"Even...?" said Lady Gore, with a smile.

"Did she tell you what she said to me this morning?"

"I gathered, yes," Lady Gore replied, "both what you had said and her
answer."

"I didn't take it as an answer," said Rendel. "I thought that I would
come straight to you and ask you to help me, and that you would
understand, as you always do, in the way that nobody else does."

"Take care," said Lady Gore smiling, "that you don't blindly accept
Rachel's view of her surroundings."

"Oh, it is not only Rachel who has taught me that," said Rendel, his
heart very full. "It is you yourself, and your sympathy. I wonder," he
went on quickly, "if you know what it has meant to me? You see, it is
not as if I had ever known anything of the sort before. To have had it
all one's life, as your daughter has, must be something very wonderful.
I don't wonder she does not want to give it up."

Lady Gore tried to speak more lightly than she felt. "She need not give
it up," she said, with a somewhat quivering smile. "And you need not
thank me any more," she went on. "I should like you to know what a great
interest and a great pleasure it has been to me that you should have
cared to come and see me as you have done, and to take me into your
life." Rendel was going to speak, but she went on. "I have never had a
son of my own. It was a great disappointment to me at first; I was very
anxious to have one. I used to think how he and I would have planned out
his life together, and that he might perhaps do some of the things in
the world that are worth doing. You see how foolish I was," she ended,
with a tremulous little smile.

Rendel, in spite of his gravity, experience and intuitive understanding,
had a sudden and almost bewildering sense of a change of mental focus as
he heard the wise, gentle adviser confiding in her turn, and confessing
to foolish and unfulfilled illusions. He felt a passionate desire to be
of use to her.

"I should have been quite content if he had been like you," she said,
and she held out her hand, which he instinctively raised to his lips.

"You make me very happy," he said. "You make me hope."

"But," she said, trying to speak in her ordinary voice, "--perhaps I
ought to have begun by saying this--I wonder if Rachel is the right sort
of wife for a rising politician?"

"She is the right sort of wife for me," said Rendel. "That is all that
matters."

"I'm afraid," Lady Gore said, "she isn't ambitious."

"Afraid!" said Rendel.

"She has no ardent political convictions."

"I have enough for both," said Rendel.

"And--and--such as she has are naturally her father's, and therefore
opposed to yours."

"Then we won't talk about politics," Rendel said, "and that will be a
welcome relief."

"I'm afraid also," the mother went on, smiling, "that she is not abreast
of the age--that she doesn't write, doesn't belong to a club, doesn't
even bicycle, and can't take photographs."

"Oh, what a perfect woman!" ejaculated Rendel.

"In fact I must admit that she has no bread-winning talent, and that in
case of need she could not earn her own livelihood."

"If she had anything to do with me," said Rendel, "I should be ashamed
if she tried."

"She is not as clever as you are."

"But even supposing that to be true," said Rendel, "isn't that a state
of things that makes for happiness?"

"Well," replied Lady Gore, "I believe that as far as women are concerned
you are behind the age too."

"I am quite certain of it," Rendel said, "and it is therefore to be
rejoiced over that the only woman I have ever thought of wanting should
not insist on being in front of it."

"The only woman? Is that so?" Lady Gore asked.

"It is indeed," he said, with conviction.

"And you are--how old?"

"Thirty-two."

"It sounds as if this were the real thing, I must say," she said, with a
smile.

"There is not much doubt of that," said he quietly. "There never was any
one more certain than I am of what I want."

"That is a step towards getting it," Lady Gore said.

"I believe it is," he said fervently. "You have told me all the things
your daughter has not--that I am thankful she hasn't--but I know,
besides, the things she has that go to make her the only woman I want to
pass my life with--she is everything a woman ought to be--she really
is."

"My dear young friend," said Lady Gore, with a shallow pretence of
laughing at his enthusiasm, "you really are rather far gone!"

"Yes," said Rendel, "there is no doubt about that. I have not, by the
way, attempted to tell you about things that are supposed to matter more
than those we have been talking about, but that don't matter really
nearly so much--I mean my income and prospects, and all that sort of
thing. But perhaps I had better tell Sir William all that."

"You can tell him about your income," said Lady Gore, "if you like."

"I have enough to live upon," the young man said. "I don't think that on
that score Sir William can raise any objection."

"Let us hope he won't on any other," she replied. "We must tell him what
he is to think."

"And my chances of getting on, though it sounds absurd to say so, are
rather good," he went on. "Lord Stamfordham will, I know, help me
whenever he can; and I mean to go into the House, and then--oh, then it
will be all right, really."

At this moment the door opened and Sir William came in.

"You are the very person we wanted," his wife said.

"You want to apologise to me for the conduct of your party, I suppose,"
said Gore to Rendel, half in jest, half in earnest, as he shook hands.

"I'm very sorry, Sir William," said Rendel, "if we've displeased you.
Pray don't hold me responsible."

"Oh yes," said Lady Gore lightly, to give Rendel time, "one always holds
one's political adversary responsible for anything that happens to
displease one in the conduct of the universe."

"I hope," said Rendel, trying to hide his real anxiety, "that Sir
William will try to forgive me for the action of my party, and
everything else. Pray feel kindly towards me to-day."

Sir William looked at him inquiringly, affecting perhaps a more
unsuspecting innocence than he was feeling. Rendel went on, speaking
quickly and feeling suddenly unaccountably nervous.

"I have come here to tell you--to ask you----" He stopped, then went on
abruptly, "This morning, at Maidenhead, I asked your daughter to marry
me."

"What, already?" said Sir William involuntarily. "That was very prompt.
And what did she say?"

"She said it was impossible," Rendel answered, encouraged more by
Gore's manner and his general reception of the news than by his actual
words.

"Impossible, did she say?" said Sir William. "And what did you say to
that?"

"That I should come here this afternoon," Rendel replied.

Sir William smiled.

"That was prompter still," he said. "It looks as if you knew your own
mind at any rate."

"I do indeed, if ever a man did," said Rendel confidently. "And I really
do believe that it was because she was a good daughter she said it was
impossible."

"Well, if it was, that's the kind that often makes an uncommonly good
wife," Sir William said.

"I don't doubt it," Rendel said, with conviction. "And I feel that if
only you and Lady Gore----"

He stopped, as the door opened gently, and Rachel appeared, in a fresh
white summer gown. She stood looking from one to the other, arrested on
the threshold by that strange consciousness of being under discussion
which is transmitted to one as through a material medium. Then what
seemed to her the full horror of being so discussed swept over her. Was
it possible that already the beautiful dream that had surrounded her,
that wonderful secret that she had hardly yet whispered to herself, was
having the light of day let in upon it, was being handled, discussed, as
though it were possible that others might share in it too?

Rendel read in her face what she was going through. He went forward
quickly to meet her.

"I am afraid," he said, putting his thoughts into words more literally
than he meant, "that I have come too soon. I hope you will forgive me?"

"It is rather soon," Rachel answered, not quite knowing what she was
saying.

"But you don't say whether you forgive him or not, Rachel," said Sir
William, whose idea of carrying off the situation was to indulge in the
time-honoured banter suitable to those about to become engaged.

"Don't ask her to say too much at once," Lady Gore said quickly,
realising far better than Rachel's father did what was passing in the
girl's mind.

"I'm afraid I can't say very much yet," Rachel said hesitatingly.

"I don't want you to say very much," said Rendel, "or indeed anything if
you don't want to," he ended somewhat lamely and entreatingly.

"Miss Tarlton!" announced the servant, throwing the door open.

The four people in the room looked at each other in consternation.
Events had succeeded each other so quickly that no one had thought of
providing against the contingency of inopportune visitors by saying Lady
Gore was not at home. It was too late to do anything now. Miss Tarlton
happily had no misgivings about her reception. It never crossed her mind
that she could be unwelcome, especially to-day that she had brought with
her some photographs taken from the Gores' own balcony some weeks
before, on the occasion of some troops having passed along Prince's
Gate. She had half suggested on that occasion that she should come, in
order that she might have a post of vantage from which to take some of
the worst photographs in London, and the Gores had not had the heart to
refuse her. If she had had any doubt, however--which she had not--about
her hosts' feelings in the matter, she would have felt that she had now
made up for everything by bringing them the result of her labours, and
that nothing could be more opportune or more agreeable than her entrance
on this particular occasion.

Miss Tarlton was a single woman of independent means living alone, a
destiny which makes it almost inevitable that there should be a
luxuriant growth of individual peculiarities which have never needed to
accommodate themselves to the pressure of circumstances or of
companionship. She was perfectly content with her life, and none the
less so although those to whom she recounted the various phases of it
were not so content at second hand with hearing the recital of it. She
was one of those fortunate persons who have a hobby which takes the
place of parents, husband, children, relations--a hobby, moreover, which
appears to afford a delight quite independent of the varying degrees of
success with which it is pursued. Unhappily the joy of those who thus
pursue a much-loved occupation is bound to overflow in words; and if
they have no daily auditor within their own four walls, they are driven
by circumstances to choose their confidants haphazard when they go out.
Miss Tarlton's confidences, however, were all of an optimistic
character: she inflicted on her hearers no grievances against destiny.
She recorded her vote, so to speak, in favour of content, and thereby
established a claim to be heard.

To see her starting on one of her photographing expeditions was to be
convinced that she considered the scheme of the universe satisfactory,
as she went off with her felt hat jammed on to her head, with an air,
not of radiant pleasure perhaps, but of faith in her occupation of
unflinching purpose. With her camera slung on to her bicycle and her fat
little feet working the pedals, she had the air of being the forerunner
of a corps of small cyclist photographers. Life appealed to Miss Tarlton
according to its adaptability to photography. For this reason she was
not preoccupied with the complications of sentiment or of the softer
emotions which not even the Röntgen rays have yet been able to reproduce
with a camera.

"How do you do, Lady Gore?" she said as she came in. "I am later than I
meant to be. I was so afraid I should not get here to-day, but I knew
how anxious you would be to see the photographs."

"How kind of you!" Lady Gore said vaguely, for the moment entirely
forgetting what the photographs were.

Miss Tarlton, after greeting the other members of the party, and making
acquaintance with Rendel, all on her part with the demeanour of one who
quickly despatches preliminaries before proceeding to really important
business, drew off her gloves, displaying strangely variegated fingers,
and proceeded to take from the case she was carrying photographs in
various stages of their existence.

"I have brought you the negatives of one or two," she said, holding one
after another up to the light, "as I didn't wait to print them all. Ah,
here is one. This is how you must hold it, look."

Lady Gore tried to look at it as though it were really the photograph,
and not the equilibrium of a most difficult situation, that she was
trying to poise. Sir William was about to propose to Rendel to come down
with him to his study, but Miss Tarlton obligingly included everybody at
once in the concentration upon her photographs which she felt the
situation demanded.

"Look, Sir William," she said. "I am sure you will be interested in this
one. That is Lord X. He is a little blurred, perhaps; still, when one
knows who it is, it is a very interesting memento, really. Look, Miss
Gore, this is the one I did when we were standing together. Do you
remember?"

"Oh! yes, of course," Rachel said. She did, as a matter of fact, very
well remember the occasion, the length of time that had been necessary
to adjust the legs of the camera, which appeared to have a miraculous
power of interweaving themselves into the legs of the spectators; the
piercing cry from Miss Tarlton at the feather of another lady's hat
coming across the field of vision just as the troops came within focus;
and a general sense of agitation which had prevented any one in the
photographer's immediate surroundings from contemplating with a detached
mind the military spectacle passing at their feet.

"These plates are really too small," said Miss Tarlton; "I have been
wishing ever since that I had brought my larger machine that day." Her
hearers did not find it in their hearts to echo this wish. "Of course,
though, a small machine is most delightfully convenient. It is so
portable, one need never be without it. I am told there is quite a tiny
one to be had now. Have you seen it, Sir William?"

"No, I haven't," said Sir William, in an entirely final and decided
manner. Miss Tarlton turned to Rendel as though to ask him, but saw that
he was standing apart with Rachel, apparently deep in conversation. She
felt that it was rather hard on Rachel to be called away when she might
have been enjoying the photographs.

"Do you know whether Mr. Rendel photographs?" she said to Lady Gore, in
a more subdued tone.

"I really don't know; I think not," Lady Gore said, amused in spite of
herself at her husband's rising exasperation, although she was conscious
of sharing it.

"Rendel," said Sir William, obliged to let his feelings find vent in
speech at the expense of his discretion, "Miss Tarlton is asking whether
you photograph?"

"I'm afraid I don't," said Rendel.

"Ah, I thought not," said Sir William, giving a sort of grunt of
satisfaction.

"It is only..." said Miss Tarlton, who had relapsed into her photographs
again, and was therefore constrained to speak in the sort of absent,
maundering tone of people who try to frame consecutive sentences while
they are looking over photographs or reading letters--"ah--this is the
one I wanted you to see, Lady Gore----"

"Oh! yes, I see," said Lady Gore, mendaciously as to the spirit, if not
to the letter, for she certainly did not see in the negative held up by
Miss Tarlton, which appeared to the untutored mind a square piece of
grey dirty glass with confused black smudges on it, all that Miss
Tarlton wished her to behold there. Then she became aware of a welcome
interruption.

"How do you do, Mr. Wentworth?" she said, putting down the photograph
with inward relief, as a tall young man with a fair moustache and merry
blue eyes came into the room.

"Photographs?" he said, after exchanging greetings with his host and
hostess, nodding to Rendel and bowing to Rachel.

"Yes," said Lady Gore. "Now you shall give your opinion."

"I shall be delighted," he said. "I have got heaps of opinions."

"Do you photograph?" said Miss Tarlton, with a spark of renewed hope.

"I am sorry to say I don't," answered Wentworth. "I believe it is a
charming pursuit."

"It is an inexhaustible pleasure," said Miss Tarlton, with conviction.

"I congratulate you," said Wentworth, "on possessing it."

"Yes," said Miss Tarlton solemnly, "I lead an extremely happy life. I
take out my camera every day on my bicycle, and I photograph. When I get
home I develop the photographs. I spend hours in my dark room."

"It is indeed a happy temperament," said Wentworth, "that can find
pleasure in spending hours in a dark room."

"Have you ever tried it?" said Miss Tarlton.

"Certainly," said Wentworth. "In London in the winter, when it is foggy,
you know."

"Oh," said Miss Tarlton, again with unflinching gravity. "I don't think
you quite understand what I mean. I mean in a photographic dark room,
developing, you know."

"I see," said Wentworth. "When I am in a dark room in the winter I
generally develop theories."

"Develop what?" said Miss Tarlton.

"Theories, about smuts and smoke, you know; things people write to the
papers about in the winter," said Wentworth, whose idea of conversation
was to endeavour to coruscate the whole time. It is not to be wondered
at, therefore, if the spark was less powerful on some occasions than on
others.

"Oh," said Miss Tarlton, not in the least entertained.

Wentworth, a little discomfited, could for once think of nothing to say.

"I suppose," said Miss Tarlton, still patiently pursuing her
investigations in the same hopeless quarter, "you don't know the name of
that quite, quite new and tiny machine?"

"Machine? What sort of machine?" said Wentworth.

"A camera," said Miss Tarlton, with an inflection in her tone which
entirely eliminated any other possibility.

"No, I'm afraid I don't," said Wentworth. "I don't know the name of any
cameras, except that their family name is legion."

"What?" said Miss Tarlton.

"Legion," said Wentworth again, crestfallen.

"Oh," said Miss Tarlton.

"Pateley would be the man to ask," said Wentworth, desperately trying to
put his head above the surface.

"Pateley? Is that a shop?" said Miss Tarlton eagerly. "Where?"

"A shop!" said Sir William, laughing. "I should like to see Pateley's
face"--but the door opened before he completed his sentence, and his
wish, presumably not formed upon æsthetic grounds, was fulfilled.



CHAPTER VI


Robert Pateley was a journalist, and a successful man. Some people
succeed in life because they have certain qualities which enlist the
sympathy and co-operation of their fellow-creatures; others, without
such qualities, yet succeed by having a dogged determination and power
of push which make them independent of that sympathy and co-operation.
Robert Pateley was one of the latter. When he was discussed by two
people who felt they ought to like him, they said to one another, "What
is it about Pateley that puts people off, I wonder? Why can't one like
him more?" and then they would think it over and come to no conclusion.
Perhaps it was that his journalism was of the very newest kind. He was
certainly extremely able, although his somewhat boisterous personality
and entirely non-committal conversation did not give at the first
meeting with him the impression of his being the sagacious and
keen-witted politician that he really was. Was it his laugh that people
disliked? Was it his voice? It could not have been his intelligence,
which was excellent, nor yet his moral character, which was blameless.
In fact, in a quiet way, Pateley had been a hero, for he had been left,
through his father's mismanagement of the family affairs, with two
sisters absolutely on his hands, and he had never, since undertaking the
whole charge of them, for one instant put his own welfare, advancement
or interest before theirs. Absorbed in his resolute purpose, he had
coolness of head and determination enough to govern his ambitions
instead of letting himself be governed by them. The son of a solicitor
in a country town, he had made up his mind that, as he put it to
himself, he would be "somebody" some day. He had got to the top of the
local grammar school, and tasted the delights of success, and he
determined that he would continue them in a larger sphere. It is not
always easy to draw the line between conspicuousness and distinction.
Pateley, who went along the path of life like a metaphorical
fire-engine, had very early become conspicuous; he had gone steadily on,
calling to his fellow-creatures to get out of his way, until now, as
steerer of the _Arbiter_, a dashing little paper that under his guidance
had made a sudden leap into fame and influence, he was a personage to be
reckoned with, and it was evident enough in his bearing that he was
conscious of the fact.

Such was the person who, almost as his name was on Sir William Gore's
lips, came cheerfully, loudly, briskly into the room, including
everybody in the heartiest of greetings, stepping at once into the
foreground of the picture, and filling it up.

"Did I hear you say that you would like to see my face, Gore? How very
polite of you! most gratifying!" he said with a loud laugh, which seemed
to correspond to his big and burly person.

"You did," said Sir William. "Wentworth says you know everything about
photography."

"Ah! now, that," said Pateley, galvanised into real eagerness and
interest as he turned round after shaking hands with Lady Gore, "I
really do know at this moment, as I have just come from the Photographic
Exhibition."

"Oh!" said Miss Tarlton with an irrepressible cry, the ordinary
conventions of society abrogated by the enormous importance of the
information which she felt was coming.

"Let me introduce you to Miss Tarlton," said Sir William. Miss Tarlton
bowed quickly, and then proceeded at once to business.

"Do you know the name of a quite tiny camera?" she said; "the very
newest?"

"I do," said Pateley. "It is the 'Viator,' and I have just seen it." A
sort of audible murmur of relief ran through the company at this burning
question having been answered at last. "And it is only by a special
grace of Providence," Pateley went on, "assisted by my high principles,
that that machine is not in my pocket at this moment."

"Oh! I wish it were!" said Miss Tarlton.

"I'm afraid it may be before many days are over," said Pateley. "I
never saw anything so perfect. And do you know, it takes a snapshot in a
room even just as well as in the open air. If I had it in my hand I
could snap any one of you here, at this moment, almost without your
knowing anything about it."

"I am so glad you haven't," Lady Gore couldn't help ejaculating.

"The man who was showing it took one of me as I turned to look at it. It
is perfectly wonderful."

"And that in a room?" Miss Tarlton said, more and more awestruck. "And
simply a snapshot, not a time exposure at all?"

"Precisely," Pateley said.

"I shall go and see it," Miss Tarlton said, and, notebook in hand, she
continued with a businesslike air to write down the particulars
communicated by Pateley.

"I am quite out of my depth," Lady Gore said to Wentworth. "What does a
'time exposure' mean?"

"Heaven knows," said Wentworth. "Something about seconds and things, I
suppose."

"I can never judge of how many seconds a thing takes," said Lady Gore.

"I'm sure I can't," Wentworth replied. "The other day I thought we had
been three-quarters of an hour in a tunnel and we had only been two
minutes and a half."

"Now then," Pateley said with a satisfied air, turning to Sir William,
"I have cheered Miss Tarlton on to a piece of extravagance." Sir
William felt a distinct sense of pleasure. "I have persuaded her to buy
a new machine."

"The thing that amuses me," said Sir William with some scorn, having
apparently forgotten which of his pet aversions had been the subject of
the conversation, "is people's theory that when once you have bought a
bicycle it costs you nothing afterwards."

"It is not a bicycle, Sir William, it is a camera," said Miss Tarlton,
with some asperity.

"Oh, well, it is the same thing," Sir William said.

"_The same thing?_" Miss Tarlton repeated, with the accent of one who
feels an immeasurable mental gulf between herself and her interlocutor.

"As to results, I mean," he said. Arrived at this point Miss Tarlton
felt she need no longer listen, she simply noted with pitying tolerance
the random utterance. "A camera costs very nearly as much to keep as a
horse, what with films and bottles of stuff, and all the other
accessories. And as for a bicycle, I am quite sure that you have to
count as much for mending it as you do for a horse's keep."

"The really expensive thing, though, is a motor," said Wentworth. "Lots
of men nowadays don't marry because they can't afford to keep a wife as
well as a motor."

Rendel, who was standing by Rachel's side at the tea-table, caught this
sentence. He looked up at her with a smile. She blushed.

"I have no intention of keeping a motor," he said. Rachel said nothing.

"Are you very angry with me?" Rendel said.

"I am not sure," she answered. "I think I am."

"You mustn't be--after saving my life, too, this morning, in the boat."

"Saving your life?" said Rachel, surprised.

"Yes," Rendel said. "By not steering me into any of the things we met on
the Thames."

"Oh!" said Rachel, smiling, "I am afraid even that was more your doing
than mine, as you kept calling out to me which string to pull."

"Perhaps. But the extraordinary thing was that when you were told you
did pull it," said Rendel.

"Oh, any one can do that," replied Rachel.

"I beg your pardon, it is not so simple," Rendel answered, thinking to
himself, though he had the good sense at that moment not to formulate
it, what an adorable quality it would be in a wife that she should
always pull exactly the string she was told to pull.

"I've been asking Sir William if I may come and speak to him...." he
said in a lower tone. "He said I might." Rachel was silent. "You don't
mind, do you?" he said, looking at her anxiously.

"I--I--don't know," Rachel said. "I feel as if I were not sure about
anything--you have done it all so quickly--I can't realise----"

"Yes," he said penitently, "I have done it all very quickly, I know, but
I won't hurry you to give me any answer. My chief's going away
to-morrow for ten days, and I am afraid I must go too, but may I come as
soon as I am back again?"

"Yes," said Rachel shyly.

"And perhaps by that time," he said, "you will know the answer. Do you
think you will?" Rachel looked at him as her hand lay in his.

"Yes, by that time I shall know," she said.

As Rendel went out a few minutes later he was dimly conscious of meeting
an agitated little figure which hurried past him into the room. Miss
Judd was a lady who contrived to reduce as many of her fellow-creatures
to a state of mild exasperation during the day as any female enthusiast
in London, by her constant haste to overtake her manifold duties towards
the human race. Those duties were still further complicated by the fact
that she had a special gift for forgetting more things in one afternoon
than most people are capable of remembering in a week.

"My dear Jane, how do you do?" said Lady Gore. "We have not seen you for
an age."

"No, Cousin Elinor, no," said Miss Judd, who always spoke in little
gasps as if she had run all the way from her last stopping-place. "I
have been so frightfully busy. Oh, thank you, William, thank you; but do
you know, that tea looks dreadfully strong. In fact, I think I had
really better not have any. I wonder if I might have some hot water
instead? Thank you so much. Thank you, dear Rachel--simply water,
nothing else."

"That doesn't sound a very reviving beverage," said Lady Gore.

"Oh, but it is, I assure you," said Miss Judd. "It is wonderful. And,
you see, I had tea for luncheon, and I don't like to have it too often."

"Tea for luncheon?" said Sir William.

"Yes, at an Aërated Bread place," she replied, "near Victoria. I have
been leaving the canvassing papers for the School Board election, and I
had not time to go home."

"What it is to be such a pillar of the country!" said Lady Gore
laughing.

"You may laugh, Cousin Elinor," Miss Judd said, drinking her hot water
in quick, hurried sips, "but I assure you it is very hard work. You see,
whatever the question is that I am canvassing for, I always feel bound
to explain it to the voters at every place I go to, for fear they should
vote the wrong way: and sometimes that is very hard work. At the last
General Election, for instance, I lunched off buns and tea for a
fortnight."

"Good Lord!" said Sir William to Pateley as they stood a little apart.
"Imagine public opinion being expounded by people who lunch off buns!"

"And the awful thing, do you know," said Pateley laughing, "is that I
believe those people do make a difference."

"It is horrible to reflect upon," said Sir William.

"By the way," said Pateley, with a laugh, "your side is going in for the
sex too, I see. Is it true that you are going to have a Women's Peace
Crusade?"

"Yes," said Sir William with an expression of disgust, "I believe that
it is so. _My_ womenkind are not going to have anything to do with it, I
am thankful to say."

"Oh, yes, I saw about that Crusade," said Wentworth, joining them, "in
the _Torch_."

"Don't believe too firmly what the _Torch_ says--or indeed any
newspaper--ha, ha!" said Pateley.

"I should be glad not to believe all that I see in the _Arbiter_, this
morning," Sir William said. "Upon my word, Pateley, that paper of yours
is becoming incendiary."

"I don't know that we are being particularly incendiary," said Pateley,
with the comfortable air of one disposing of the subject. "It is only
that the world is rather inflammable at this moment."

"Well, we have had conflagrations enough at the present," said Sir
William. "We want the country to quiet down a bit."

"Oh! it will do that all in good time," said Pateley. "I am bound to say
things are rather jumpy just now. By the way, Sir William, I wonder if
you know of any investment you could recommend?"

Wentworth discreetly turned away and strolled back to Lady Gore's sofa.

"I rather want to know of a good thing for my two sisters who are living
together at Lowbridge. I have got a modest sum to invest that my father
left them, and I should like to put it into something that is pretty
certain, but, if possible, that will give them more than 2-1/2 per
cent."

"Why," said Sir William, "I believe I may know of the very thing. Only
it is a dead secret as yet."

"Hullo!" said Pateley, pricking up his ears. "That sounds promising. For
how long?"

"Just for the moment," said Sir William. "But of necessity the whole
world must know of it before very long."

"Well, if it really is a good thing let us have a day or two's start,"
said Pateley laughing.

"All right, you shall," said Sir William. "You shall hear from me in a
day or two."



CHAPTER VII


The days had passed. The great scheme of "The Equator, Ltd.," was before
the world, which had received it in a manner exceeding Fred Anderson's
most sanguine expectations. The possibilities and chances of the mine,
as set forth by the experts, appeared to be such as to rouse the hopes
of even the wary and experienced, and Anderson had no difficulty of
forming a Board of Directors most eminently calculated to inspire
confidence in the public--none the less that they were presided over by
a man who, if not possessed of special business qualifications, was of
good social position and bore an honourable name. Sir William Gore, the
Chairman of the company, was well pleased. He invested largely in the
undertaking. The savings of the Miss Pateleys, under the direction of
their brother, had gone the same way. The _Arbiter_ had indeed reason to
cheer on the Cape to Cairo railway, which day by day seemed more likely
of accomplishment.

Sir William, on the afternoon of the day when the success of the company
was absolutely an assured fact, came back to his house from the city,
satisfied with the prospects of the "Equator," with himself, and with
the world at large. He put his latchkey into the door and looked round
him a moment before he went in with a sense of well-being, of rejoicing
in the summer day. Then as he stepped into the house he became conscious
that Rachel was standing in the hall waiting for him, with an expression
of dread anxiety on her face. The transition of feeling was so sudden
that for a moment he hardly realised what he saw--then quick as
lightning his thoughts flew to meet that one misfortune that of all
others would assail them both most cruelly.

"Rachel!" he said. "Is your mother ill?"

"Yes," the girl answered. "Oh, father, wait," she said, as Sir William
was rushing past her, and she tried to steady her quivering lips. "Dr.
Morgan is there."

"Morgan--you sent for him...." said Gore, pausing, hardly knowing what
he was saying. "Rachel... tell me...?"

"She fainted," the girl said, "an hour ago. And we couldn't get her
round again. I sent--ah! there he is coming down." And a steady, slow
step, sounding to the two listeners like the footfall of Fate, was heard
coming down from above. Sir William went to meet the doctor, knowing
already what he was going to hear.

Lady Gore died that night, without regaining consciousness. Hers had
been the unspeakable privilege of leaving life swiftly and painlessly
without knowing that the moment had come. She had passed unconsciously
into that awful gulf, without having had to stand for a moment
shuddering on the brink. She had never dreaded death itself, but she had
dreaded intensely the thought of old age, of a lingering illness and its
attendant horrors. But none of these she had been called upon to endure:
even while those around her were looking at the beautiful aspect of life
that she presented to them the darkness fell, leaving them the memory
only of that bright image. Her daughter's last recollection of her had
been the caressing endearment with which Lady Gore had deprecated
Rachel's remaining with her till Sir William's return--how thankful the
girl was to have remained!--her husband's last vision of her, the
smiling farewell with which she had sped him on his way in the morning,
with a caution as to prudence in his undertakings. As he came back he
had found himself telling her already in his mind, before he was
actually in her presence, of what he had done. That was the thing which
gave an edge to every action, to each fresh development of existence.
Life was lived through again for her, and acquired a fresh aspect from
her interest and sympathy, from her keen, humorous insight and
far-seeing wisdom. But now, what would his life be without that light
that had always shone on his path? He did not, he could not, begin to
think about the future. He knew only that the present had crumbled into
ruins around him. That, he realised the next morning when, after some
snatches of uneasy sleep, he suddenly wakened with a sense of absolute
horror upon him, before he remembered shuddering what that horror was.
He had wanted to tell her about yesterday, about the "Equator," he said
to himself with a dull aching pain almost like resentment--he wanted to
have her approval, to have the sense that for her what he did was right,
was wise. But he knew now in his heart, as he really had known all the
time, that it was she who had been the wise one. And part of the horror,
as the time went on, would be to realise that when she had gone out of
the world something had gone out of himself too, which she had told him
was there. And he had dreamt that it was true. But that would come when
the details of misery were realised by him one by one, as after some
hideous explosion it is not possible to see at once in the wreck made by
the catastrophe all the ghastly confirmations of disaster that come to
light with the days. The first days were not the worst, either for him
or for Rachel, as each one of them afterwards secretly found. For though
life had come to a standstill, had stopped dead, with a sudden shock
that had thrown everything in it out of gear, there were at first new
and strange duties to be accomplished that filled up the hours and kept
the standards of ordinary existence at bay. There were letters of
condolence to be answered, tributes of flowers to be acknowledged, sent
by well-meaning friends moved by some impotent impulse of consolation,
until the air became heavy with the scent of camellias and lilies.
Rachel moved about in the darkened rooms, feeling as if the faint,
sweet, overpowering perfume were a kind of anodyne, that was mercifully,
during those early days, lulling her senses into lethargy. To the end of
her days the scent of the white lily would bring back to her the feeling
of actually living again through that first time of numbing grief. How
many hours, how many days and nights she and her father had lived within
that quiet sanctuary they could not have told--lived in the dark
stillness, with one room, the stillest of all, containing the beloved
something strangely aloof all that was left of the thing that had been
their very life. Then out of that quiet hallowed darkness they came one
dreadful day into the brilliant sunlight, a day that was lived through
with the acutest pain of all, of which every detail seemed to have been
arranged by a horrible cruel convention of custom in order to intensify
the pangs of it. They drove at a foot's pace through the crowded, sunlit
streets, with a shrinking agony of self-consciousness as one and another
passer-by looked up for a moment at what was passing. "Look, Jim, 'ere's
a funeral!" one small boy called to another--and Rachel, shuddering,
buried her face in her hands and could have cried out aloud. Some men,
not all, lifted their hats; two gaily-dressed women who were just going
to cross stopped as a matter of course on the pavement and waited
indifferently, hardly seeing what it was, until the obstruction had gone
by, as they would have done had it been anything else. Rachel, leaning
back by her father, trying to hide herself, yet felt as if she could
not help seeing everything they met. Every step of the way was a slow
torture. And oh, the return home! that drive, at a brisk trot this time,
through the same crowded, unfeeling streets, which still retained the
association of the former progress through them, the sense that now, as
the coachman whipped up his horses, for every one save for the two
desolate people who sat silently together inside the carriage, life
might--indeed, would--throw off that aspect of gloom and go on as
before! And then the worst moment of all, the finding on their return
that the house had taken on a ghastly semblance of its usual aspect,
that the blinds were up, the windows open, the sun streaming in
everywhere--the hard, cruel light, as it seemed to Rachel, shining into
the rooms that were for evermore to be different.

Then followed the time which is incomparably the worst after a great
loss, the time when, ordinary life being taken up again, the sufferer
has the additional trial of too large an amount of leisure on his
hands--the horror of all those new spare hours that used to be passed in
a companionship that is gone, that must be filled up with something
fresh unless they are to stand in wide, horrible emptiness, to assail
recollection with unendurable grief. And especially in that house were
they empty, where the existence of both father and daughter had revolved
round that of another to a greater extent than that of most people. The
problem of how to readjust the daily conditions was a hard, hard one to
solve, harder obviously for Sir William than it was for Rachel. The
girl was uplifted in those days by the sense that, however difficult she
might find it to carry out in detail, the general scheme of her life lay
clear before her. She was going to devote it to her father, she was
going to carry out that unmade promise, which she now considered more
binding on her than ever, although her mother had warned her against
making it, the promise that her father should come first. But the
warning at the moment it was made had not been accepted by Rachel, and
in the exaltation of her self-sacrifice it was forgotten now. She saw
her way, as she conceived, plainly in front of her. Rendel, with his
usual understanding and wisdom, did not obtrude himself on her during
those days. He had quite made up his mind not to ask for her decision
until there might be some hope of its being made in his favour. He had
felt Lady Gore's death as acutely as though he had the right of kinship
to grieve for her. He was miserably conscious that something inestimably
precious had gone out of his life, almost before he had had time to
realise his happiness in possessing it. But neither he nor Rachel
understood what Lady Gore's death had meant to Sir William. And the poor
little Rachel, rudderless, bewildered, tried to do the best she could
for her father's life by planning her own with absolute reference to it,
by putting at his disposal all the bare, empty hours available for
companionship which up to now had been so straitly, so tenderly, so
happily filled. And he on his side, conscious of some of her purpose,
but unaware of the extent to which she carried her deliberate intention
of consecrating herself to him, of bearing the burden of his destiny,
believed that he had to bear the overwhelming burthen of guiding hers.
Instead of going in the late afternoon hours of those summer days to his
club, where he would have found some companionship that was not
associated with his grief, and passing an hour agreeably, he wistfully
went home, feeling that Rachel would be expecting him. And Rachel on her
side felt it a duty to put away any regular occupation that might have
proved engrossing, and so to ordain her life that she should be always
ready and at her father's orders if he should appear. And, thus
deliberately cutting themselves loose from such minor anchorages as they
might have had, they tried to delude themselves into the belief that not
only was such makeshift companionship a solace, but that it actually was
able to replace that other all-satisfying companionship they had lost.
But they knew in their hearts, each of them, that it was not so. And Sir
William realised, more perhaps than Rachel did, that it never could be.
The relation between a father and daughter, when most successful, is
formed of delightful discrepancies and differences, supplementing one
another in the things that are not of each age. It means a protecting
care on the side of the father, an amused tender pride in seeing the
younger creature developing an individuality which, however, is hardly
in the secret soul of the elder one quite realised or believed in. The
experience of the man in such a relation has mainly been derived from
women of his own standing; his judgment of his daughter is apt to be a
good deal guesswork. The daughter, on the other hand, brings to the
relation elements necessarily and absolutely absent on the other side.
If she cares for her father as he does for her, she looks up to him, she
admires him, she accepts from him numberless prejudices and rules about
the government of life, and acts upon them, taking for granted all the
time that he cannot understand her own point of view. And yet, even so
constituted, it can be one of the most beautiful and even satisfying
combinations of affection the world has to show, provided the father has
not known what it is to have the fulness of joy in his companionship
with his wife, in that equal experience, mutual reliance, understanding
of hopes and fears, which is impossible when the understanding is being
interpreted through the imagination only, by one standing on a different
plane of life. Neither Rachel nor her father had realised all this; but
the mother with her acuter sensibilities had known, and had so
deliberately set herself to fulfil her task that they had all these
years been interpreted to one another, as it were, by that other
influence that had surrounded them, that atmosphere through which
everything was seen aright and in its most beautiful aspect. And the
time came when Sir William suddenly grasped with a burning, startling
vividness the fact that his life could not be the same again, that he
must henceforth take it on a lower plane. The day was fine and
bright--too warm, too bright; the hopeful light of spring had given
place to the steady glare of summer. He had been used before to go out
riding with Rachel in the early morning, in order to be back by the time
Lady Gore was ready to begin her day. They had tacitly abandoned this
habit now. Then one day it occurred to Sir William that it might be a
good thing for Rachel to resume it. He proposed to her that they should
go out as they used. She, in her inmost heart shrinking from it, but
thinking it would be a satisfaction to him, agreed. He, shrinking from
it as much as she did, thought to please her. And so they went out and
rode silently side by side, overpowered by mute comparison of this day
with days that had been. And when they got home they went each their own
way, and made no attempt at exchanging words. Sir William went miserably
to his study, his heart aching with a rush of almost unbearable sorrow
as he thought of the bright little room upstairs to which he had been
wont to hurry for the welcome that always awaited him. What should he do
with his life? How should he fill it? he asked himself in a burst of
grief, as he shut himself in. And so much had the theory, firmly
believed in by himself and his wife, that he had by his own free will,
and in order to devote his life to her, abandoned any quest of a public
career become an absolute conviction in his mind, that he felt a dull
resentment at having been so noble. He recognised now that it had been
quixotic. He had let the time pass. Fifty-five! To be sure, in these
days it is not old age; it may, indeed, under certain circumstances be
the prime of life, for a man who has begun his career early, political
or otherwise. Had this been Sir William's lot he could have sought some
consolation, or at any rate alleviation, in his misfortune, by turning
at once to his work and plunging into it more strenuously than before.
But even that mitigation, for so much as it might be worth, was denied
to him. And he sat there, trying to face the fact that seemed almost
incredible to a man of what seemed to him his aptitudes and capacity,
the awful fact that he had not enough to do to fill up his life. He did
not state this pitiless truth to himself explicitly, but it was
beginning to loom from behind a veil, and he would some day be forced to
look at it. He could not start anything fresh. He had not the requisite
impulse. He could have continued, he could not begin; the theatre of his
actions, as Lady Gore had foreseen, had indeed fallen when she fell, and
without it he could initiate no fresh achievements. Oh, to have had
something definite to turn to in those days, something that called for
instant completion! To have had some inexorable daily task, some duty
for which he was paid, in a government office, or in some private
undertaking of his own, for which he would have been obliged, like so
many other men, to leave his house at a fixed hour, and to be absorbed
in other preoccupations till his return. What a physical, material
relief he would have found in such a claim! Round most men of his age
life has woven many interests, many ties, many calls, on their time and
energies from outside as well as from those near to them, but all those
spare, available energies of his had been absorbed and appropriated,
filled up, nearer home, and so completely that he had never needed
anything else. And now, whither should he turn? What should he do? Then
he remembered his Book, the Book his wife and he had been accustomed to
talk of with such confidence, such certainty--he now realised how
very little there was of it done, or how much of what might be fruitful
in the conception was owing to the way that she, in their talking over
it, had held it up to him, so that now one light played round it, now
another. Well he remembered how, only two days before she was taken ill,
they had talked of it for a long time until she, with an enthusiasm that
made it seem already a completed masterpiece, had said with a smile,
"Now then, all that remains is to write it!" And he had almost believed,
as he left her, that it would spring into life some day, that it would
not only hold the place in his life of the Great Possibility that is
necessary to us all, but that he would actually put his fate to the
proof by carrying it into execution. He took out the portfolio in which
were the notes he had made about it now and again. They bore the seared
outward aspect of an entirely different mental condition from that with
which they came in contact now. What is that subtle, mocking change that
comes over even the inanimate things that we have not seen since we
were happy, and now meet again in grief? It is like a horrible inversion
of the golden touch given to Midas. To Gore, during those days, the
darkness fell upon every fresh thing to which he went back. The
impression was so strong on him as he turned over the manuscript, that
he shuddered. What was the use of all this? What was it worth? He knew
in his heart that the person of all others to whom it had been of most
worth was gone--he would not be doing good to himself or to any one else
by going on with it. He would be defrauding no one by letting the
darkness cover it for ever. And another reason yet lay like cold lead at
the bottom of his heart--the real, cruel, crushing reason--he could not
write the book, he was not capable of writing it. That was the truth.
And he desperately thrust the stray leaves into the cover, and the whole
thing away from him, hopelessly, finally; there was nothing that would
help him. That curtain would never lift again. And he covered his face
with his hands as though trying to shut out the deadly knowledge.

But of all this Rachel, as she sat waiting for her father at breakfast,
was utterly unconscious. She did not realise the unendurable
complications that had piled one misery on another to him. To her the
wound had been terrible, but clean. The greatest loss she could conceive
had stricken her life, but there were no secondary personal problems to
add to it, no preoccupations of self apart from the one great
desolation.

Sir William turned over his letters listlessly as he sat down, opened
them, and looked through them.

"What am I to say to that?" he said, throwing one over to Rachel.

The colour came into her cheeks as she saw that it was from Rendel.

"I have one from him too," she said.

"Oh! well, I don't ask to see that," Sir William said, with an attempt
at cheerfulness. "I know better."

"I would rather you saw it, really, father," and she handed him Rendel's
letter to herself--a straightforward, dignified, considerate letter, in
which he assured her that he did not mean to intrude himself upon her
until she allowed him to come, and that all he asked was that she should
understand that he was waiting, and would be content to wait, as long as
there was a chance of hope.

"Well, when am I to tell him to come?" Sir William said.

"Father, what he wants cannot be," Rachel said.

"Cannot be?" said Sir William. "Why not?"

"Oh!" Rachel said, trying to command her voice, "I could not at this
moment think of anything of that kind."

"At this moment, perhaps," Sir William said. "But you see he is not in a
hurry. He says so, at any rate, though I am not sure that it is very
convincing."

"How would it be possible," said Rachel, "that I should go away? What
would you do if I left you alone?"

"Well, as to that," Sir William replied, speaking slowly in order that
he might appear to be speaking calmly, "I don't know, in any case, what
I shall do." And his face looked grey and worn, conveying to Rachel, as
she looked across at him, an impression of helpless old age in the
father who had hitherto been to her a type of everything that was
capable and well preserved. She sprang up and went to him.

"Father, dear father," she cried amidst her sobs, as she hid her face on
his shoulder. "You know that you are more to me than any one else in the
world. Let me help you--let me try, do let me try." And at the sound of
the words Gore became again conscious of the immeasurable, dark gulf
there was between what one human being had been able to do for him and
what any other in the world could try to do. And his own sorrow rose
darkly before him and swept away everything else--even the sorrow of his
child. It was almost bitterly that he said, as if the words were wrung
from him involuntarily--

"Nobody can help me now."

"Oh, father!" Rachel cried again miserably. "Let me try."

"Darling, I know," he said, recollecting himself at the sight of her
distress, "and you know what my little girl is to me; but there are some
things that even a daughter cannot do. And," he went on, "it would
really be a comfort to me, I think, if"--he was going to say, "if you
were married," but he altered it as he saw a swift change pass over
Rachel's face--"if I knew you were happy; if you had a home of your own
and were provided for."

"Do you think that would be a comfort to you?" asked Rachel, trying to
speak in an almost indifferent tone. "That you would be glad if I were
to go away from you to a home of my own?"

"Yes," he said, "I think it would." And as he spoke he felt that the
burden of giving Rachel companionship and trying to help her to bear her
grief would be removed from him. "Besides," he went on, with an attempt
at a smile, "it is not as if you would go far away from me altogether;
you will only be a few streets off, after all. I could come to you
whenever I wanted, and even--who knows?--I might sometimes ask you for
your hospitality."

"If I thought _that_----" Rachel said, and caught herself up.

"You know," her father said more seriously, "we have been discussing
this from one point of view only, from mine; but you are the person most
concerned, and I am taking for granted that, from your point of view, it
would be the best thing to do--that you would be happy."

"If I only thought," Rachel said, her face answering his last question,
if her words did not, "that you would come to me--that you would be
with me altogether----"

"I have no doubt that you would find that I came to you very often,"
said Sir William, with again a desolate sense of having no definite
reason for being anywhere.

There was a pause before he said, "Then I'll tell him to come and see
me, and perhaps he can see you afterwards."

"Oh," said Rachel, shrinking, "it is not possible yet."

"Well," said Sir William, "I will tell him so. We will explain to him
that, since he is willing to wait, for the moment he must wait."



CHAPTER VIII


And Rendel waited--through the autumn, through the winter--but not
without seeing Rachel again. On the contrary, every week that passed
during that time was bringing him nearer to his goal. After the first
visit was over, that first meeting under the now maimed and altered
conditions of life, the insensible relief afforded to both father and
daughter by his companionship, his unselfish devotion and helpfulness,
his unfailing readiness to be a companion to Sir William, to come and
play chess with him, or to sit up and do intricate patiences through the
small hours of the morning, all this gradually made him insensibly slide
into the position of a son of the house. And Rachel, convinced that she
was doing the best thing for her father and admitting in her secret
heart that for herself she was doing the thing that of all others would
make her happy, yielded at last. They were married in April, and went
away for a fortnight to a shooting-box lent them by Lord Stamfordham in
the West of Scotland, leaving Sir William for the first time alone in
the big, empty house. It was with many, many misgivings that Rachel had
agreed to go; but her father had insisted on her doing so. He had
vaguely thought that perhaps it would be a relief to him to be alone,
but he found the solitude unbearable. Those acquaintances of Gore's who
saw him at the club expressed in suitably tempered tones their pleasure
at seeing him again, and, thinking he would rather be left alone,
discreetly refrained from thrusting their society upon him when in
reality he most needed it, remarking to one another that poor old Gore
had gone to pieces dreadfully since his wife died. A great many people
knew him, and liked him well enough, but he had no intimate friends.
Pateley occasionally dropped in; but Pateley was too full of business to
have leisure to help to fill up anybody else's time, and Sir William
found the blank in his own house, the unchanging loneliness, almost
unbearable.

In the meantime Rendel and his wife were beginning that page of the book
of life which Sir William had closed for ever. At last, that vision of
the future to which Rendel had clung with such steadfast hope, with such
unswerving purpose, had been fulfilled: Rachel was his wife. It was an
unending joy to him to remember that she was there; to watch for her
coming and going; to see the dainty grace of movement and demeanour, the
sweet, soft smile--her mother's smile--with which she listened as he
talked. And during those days he poured himself out in speech as he had
never been able to do before. It was a relief that was almost ecstasy to
the man who had been made reserved by loneliness to have such a
listener, and the sense of exquisite joy and repose which he felt in her
society deepened as the days went on. To Rachel, too, when once she had
made up her mind to leave her father, these days were filled with an
undreamt-of happiness. She was beginning to recover from the actual
shock of her mother's death, although, even as her life opened to all
the new impressions that surrounded her, she felt daily afresh the want
of the tender sympathy and guidance that had been her stay; but another
great love had happily come into her life at the moment she needed it
most, and a love that was far from wishing to supplant the other. The
memory of Lady Gore was almost as hallowed to Rendel as it was to his
wife: it was another bond between them. They talked of her constantly,
their reverent recollection kept alive the sense of her abiding,
gracious influence.

It was a new and wonderful experience to Rachel to have the burden of
daily life lifted from her. She had been loved in her home, it is true,
as much as the most exacting heart might demand, but since she was
seventeen it was she who had had to take thought for others, to surround
them with loving care and protection; she had always been conscious,
even though not feeling its weight, of bearing the burden of some one
else's responsibilities. And now it was all different. In the first
rebound of her youth she seemed to be discovering for the first time
during those days how young she was, in the companionship of one whose
tender care and loving protection smoothed every difficulty, every
obstacle out of her path. And all too fast the perfumed days of spring
glided away, a spring which, on that side of Scotland, was balmy and
caressing. Day after day the sun shone, the mist remained in the
distance, making that distance more beautiful still; and everything
within and without was irradiated, and like motes in the sunshine Rendel
saw the golden possibilities of his life dancing in the light of his
hopes and illuminating the path that lay before him.

Rachel wrote to her father constantly, tenderly, solicitously; and Sir
William, reading of her happiness, did not write back to tell her what
those same days meant to him. For in London the sky was grey and heavy,
and it was through a haze the colour of lead that he saw the years to
come. The dark and cheerless winter had given place to a cold and
cheerless spring.

It was a rainy afternoon that the young couple returned to London; but
the gloomy look of the streets outside did but enhance the brightness of
the little house in Cosmo Place, Knightsbridge, with its open, square
hall, in which a bright fire was blazing. Light and warmth shone
everywhere. Rachel drew a long breath of satisfaction, then her eyes
filled with tears. The very sight of London brought back the past. Could
it be possible that her mother was not there to welcome her? She had
thought her father might be awaiting her at Cosmo Place; but as he was
not, she went off instantly to Prince's Gate. How big and lonely the
house looked with its gaunt, ugly portico, its tall, narrow hall and
endless stairs! The drawing-rooms were closed: Sir William was sitting
in his study, a chess-board in front of him, on which he was working out
a problem.

Rachel was terribly perturbed at the change in his appearance--a
something, she did not quite know in what it lay, that betokened some
absolute change of outlook, of attitude. He had the listless,
indifferent air of one who lets himself be drifted here and there rather
than of one who moves securely along, strong enough to hold his own way
in spite of any opposing elements. This fortnight of solitude, in which
he had been face to face with his own life and his prospects, had
suddenly, roughly, pitilessly graven on his face the lines that with
other men successive experiences accumulate there gently and almost
insensibly. He had taken a sudden leap into old age, as sometimes
happens to men of his standing, who, as long as their life is smooth,
uneventful, and prosperous, succeed in keeping an aspect of youth.
Rachel's heart smote her at having left him; it reproached her with
having known something like happiness in these days, and her old sense
of troubled, anxious responsibility came back. She begged him to come
and dine with them that evening. He demurred at first at making a third
on their first night in their own house. Rachel protested, and overruled
all his objections. She arrived at home just in time to dress for
dinner, finding her husband surprised and somewhat discomfited at her
prolonged absence. He had wanted to go proudly all over the house with
her, and see their new domain. But as he saw her come up the stairs, he
realised that black care had sprung up behind her again, that this was
not the confiding, naïvely happy Rachel who had walked with him on the
moors.

"There you are!" he said. "I was just wondering what had become of you."

"I was with my father," Rachel said, in a tone in which there was a
tinge of unconscious surprise at what his tone had conveyed. "And,
Francis, he looks so dreadfully ill!"

"Does he?" said Rendel, concerned. "I am sorry."

"He looks really broken down," she said, "and oh, so much older. I am
sure it has been bad for him being alone all this time. I ought not to
have stayed away so long."

"Well, it has not been very long," said Rendel with a natural feeling
that two weeks had not been an unreasonable extension of their wedding
tour.

"He looks as if he had felt it so," she answered. "But at any rate, I
have persuaded him to come to dinner with us to-night; I am sure it will
be good for him."

"To-night?" said Rendel, again with a lurking surprise that for this
first night their privacy should not have been respected.

"Yes," said Rachel. "You don't mind, do you?"

"Oh, of course not," he replied, again stifling a misgiving.

"You see," said Rachel, "I thought it might amuse him, and be a change
for him, and then you might play a game of chess with him after dinner,
perhaps."

"Of course, of course," Rendel answered. But the misgiving remained.

When, however, Sir William appeared, Rendel's heart almost smote him as
Rachel's had done, he seemed so curiously broken down and dispirited.
They talked of their Scotch experiences, they spoke a little of the
affairs of the day, but, as Rendel knew of old, this was a dangerous
topic, which, hitherto, he had succeeded either in avoiding altogether
or in treating with a studied moderation which might so far as possible
prevent Sir William's susceptibilities from being offended. Rachel sat
with them after dinner while they smoked, then they all went upstairs.

"Now then, father dear, where would you like to be?" she said, looking
round the room for the most comfortable chair. "Here, this looks a very
special corner," and she drew forward an armchair that certainly was in
a most delightful place, looking as if it were destined for the master
of the house, or, at any rate, the most privileged person in it, a
comfortable armchair, with the slanting back that a man loves, and by
it a table with a lamp at exactly the right height. "There," she said,
pushing her father gently into it, "isn't that a comfortable corner?"

"Very," Sir William said, looking up at her with a smile. It truly was a
delight to be tended and fussed over again.

"And now you must have a table in front of you," she said, looking
round. "Let me see--Frank, which shall the chess-table be? Is there a
folding table? Yes, of course there is--that little one that we bought
at Guildford. That one!"--and she clapped her hands with childish
delight as she pointed to it.

Rendel brought forward the little table and opened it.

"Oh, that is exactly the thing," she cried. "See, father, it will just
hold the chess-board. Now then, this is where it shall always
stand--your own table, and your own chair by it."



CHAPTER IX


It is difficult to judge of any course of conduct entirely on its own
merits, when it has a reflex action on ourselves. When Rendel before his
marriage used to go to Prince's Gate and to see Rachel, absolutely
oblivious of herself, hovering tenderly round her mother, watching to
see that her father's wishes were fulfilled, that unselfish devotion and
absorption in filial duty seemed to him the most entirely beautiful
thing on this earth. But when, instead of being the spectator of the
situation, he became an active participator in it, when the stream of
Rachel's filial devotion was diverted from that of her conjugal duties,
it unconsciously assumed another aspect in his eyes. But not for worlds
would he have put into words the annoyance he could not help feeling,
and Rachel was entirely unconscious of his attitude. The devoted,
uncritical affection for her father which had grown up with her life was
in her mind so absolutely taken for granted as one of the foundations of
existence, that it did not even occur to her that Rendel might possibly
not look at it in the same light. She took for granted that he would
share her attitude towards her father as he had shared her adoration for
her mother. It was all part of her entire trust in Rendel, and the
simple directness with which she approached the problems of life. She
had, before her marriage, expressed an earnest wish, which Rendel
understood as a condition, that even if her father did not wish to live
with them, she might share in his life and watch over him, and Rendel
had accepted the condition and promised that it should be as she wished.
But it is obviously not the actual making of a promise that is the
difficulty. If it were possible when we pledge ourselves to a given
course for our imagination to show us in a vision of the future the
innumerable occasions on which we should be called upon to redeem, each
time by a conscious separate effort, that lightly given pledge of an
instant, the stoutest-hearted of us would quail at the prospect. Rendel
looked back with a sigh to those days, that seemed already to have
receded into a luminous distance, when Rachel, alone with him in
Scotland, with no divided allegiance, had given herself up, heart and
mind, to the new happiness, the new existence, that was opening before
her.

The danger of pouring life while it is still fluid into the wrong mould,
of letting it drift and harden into the wrong shape, is an insidious
peril which is not sufficiently guarded against. It is easy enough to
say, Begin as you mean to go on; but the difficulty is to know exactly
the moment when you begin, and when the point of going on has been
arrived at; and of drifting gradually into some irremediable course of
action from which it is almost impossible to turn back without
difficulty and struggle. There had been a feeling that everything was
somehow temporary during those first days at Cosmo Place, which extended
into the weeks. Sir William held as a principle, and was quite genuine
in his intention when he said it, that young people ought to be left to
themselves. He would not, therefore, take up his abode under their roof,
but still that he should do so eventually was felt by all concerned as a
vague possibility which prevented in the young household a sense of
having finally and comfortably settled down. Indeed, as it was, it was
perhaps more unsettling to Rachel, and therefore to her husband, to have
Sir William coming and going than it would have been to have him
actually under the same roof. If he had been living with them his
presence would have been a matter of course, and less constant
companionship and diversion would probably have been considered
necessary for him than they were when he dropped in at odd times. The
advancing season and the grey dark mornings made the early rides
impossible. Rachel in her secret soul did not regret them. Sir William
had taken the habit of looking in at Cosmo Place on his way to Pall Mall
and further eastward, and it always gave Rachel a pang of remorse if she
found that by an unlucky chance she had been out of the way when he
came. He would also sometimes come in on his way back, as has been
said, in the obvious expectation of having a game of chess, of which
Rendel, if he were at home, had not the heart to disappoint him. In
these days there was not much occupation for him in the City. The
excitement of starting and floating the "Equator" Company and the
allotting of the shares to the eager band of subscribers had been
accomplished some time since. The "Equator's" hour, however, had not
come yet. The outlook in the City was not encouraging for those who knew
how to read the weather chart of the coming days. The heart of the
country was still beating fast and tumultuously after the emotions of
the past two years; it needed a period of assured quiet to regain its
normal condition. In the meantime the storm seemed to be subsiding. The
great railway laying its iron grip on the heart of Africa was advancing
steadily from the north as well as from the south: it was nearing the
Equator. The country, its imagination profoundly stirred by the
enterprise, watched it in suspense. But until the meeting of the two
giant highways was effected, everything depended upon an equable balance
of forces, of which a touch might destroy the equilibrium. German
possessions and German forces lay perilously near the meeting of the two
lines. At any moment a spark from some other part of the world might be
wafted to Africa and set the fierce flame of war ablaze in the centre of
the continent.

The General Election was coming within measurable distance; the Liberal
Peace Crusade was strenuously canvassing the country in favour of
coming to a definite understanding with certain foreign powers.

At the house in Cosmo Place it was no longer always possible, as on that
first evening, to avoid the subject of politics.

"I must say," said Rendel one night with enthusiasm--Stamfordham had
made a big speech the day before of which the papers were
full--"Stamfordham is a great speaker, and a great man to boot."

"A great speaker, perhaps," Sir William said. "I don't know that that is
entirely what you want from the man at the helm."

"Well, proverbially it isn't," said Rendel, with a smile, determined to
be good-humoured.

"As to being a great man," continued Sir William, "anybody who knocks
down everything that comes in his way and stands upon it looks rather
big."

"Even admitting that," said Rendel, "it seems to me that the
determination and courage necessary to knock down what is in your way,
when it can't be got out by any other method, is part of what makes a
great statesman."

"You speak," said Sir William, "as if he were a savage potentate."

"In some respects," said Rendel, "the savage potentate and civilised
ruler are inevitably alike. The ultimate ground, the ultimate arbiter of
their empire, is force."

"Empire!" said Sir William. "That is the cry! In your greed for empire
you lose sight of everything but the aggrandisement of a dominion
already so immense as to be unwieldy."

"Still," said Rendel, "as we have this big thing in our hands, it is
better to keep it there than let it drop and break to pieces."

"I don't wish to let it drop," said Gore. "I wish to be content to
increase it by friendly intercourse with the world, by the arts of peace
and civilisation, and not by destruction and bloodshed."

"I am afraid," said Rendel, "that the savage, which, as you say too
truly, still lurks in the majority of civilised beings, will not be
content to see the world governed on those amiable lines."

"There I must beg leave to differ from you," said Sir William, "I
believe that the majority of civilised human beings will, when it has
been put before them, be on the side of peace."

"We shall see," Rendel said, with a smile which was perhaps not as
conciliatory as he intended it to be.

"Yes, you will see when the General Election comes," said Gore. "And if
it goes for us, and we have a Cabinet composed of men who are not the
mere puppets in the hands of an autocrat, the destinies of the world
will be altered."

"Father," said Rachel, "do you really think that is how the General
Election will go?"

"Quite possibly," Gore said, with decision. Rendel said nothing.

"Oh, father!" said Rachel. "I wish that you were in Parliament! Suppose
you were in the Government!"

"Ah, well, my life as you know, was otherwise filled up," said Sir
William, with a sigh; "but in that case the Imperialists perhaps might
not have found everything such plain sailing." And so much had he
penetrated himself with the conviction of what he was saying, that he
felt himself, as he sat there opposite Rendel, whose wisdom and sagacity
in reality so far exceeded his own, to be in the position of the older,
wiser man of great influence and many opportunities condescending to
explain his own career to an obscure novice.

Rendel looked across at Rachel sitting opposite to him, listening to
what her father said with her customary air of sweet and gentle
deference, and then smiling at himself; and again he inwardly vowed
that, for her sake, he would endure the daily pinpricks that are almost
as difficult to bear in the end as one good sword-thrust.

"I must say it will be interesting to see who goes out as Governor of
British Zambesiland," he said presently, looking up from the paper.
"That will be a big job if you like."

"Let's hope they will find a big man to do it," said Sir William.

"I heard to-day," said Rendel, "that it would probably be Belmont."

"Well, he'll be a firebrand Governor after Stamfordham's own heart,"
said Gore. "It's absurd sending all these young men out to these
important posts."

"That is rather Stamfordham's theory," said Rendel--"to have youngish
men, I mean."

"If he would confine himself to theories," said Sir William, "it would
be better for England at this moment."

"It might, however, interfere with his practical use as a Foreign
Secretary," Rendel was about to say, but he checked the words on his
tongue.

After dinner that evening he remained downstairs under pretext of
writing some letters, while Rachel proposed to her father to give her a
lesson in chess.

Rendel turned on the electric light in his study, shut the door, stood
in front of the fire and looked round him with a delightful sense of
possession, of privacy, of well-being. His new house--indeed, one might
almost have said his new life--was still so recent a possession as to
have lost none of its preciousness. He still felt a childish joy in all
its details. The house was one of those built within the last decade
which seem to have made a struggle to escape the uniformity of the older
streets. The front door opened into a square hall, from the left side of
which opened the dining-room, from the right the study, both of these
rooms having bow windows, built with that broad sweep of curve which
makes for beauty instead of vulgarity. The house, Rendel had told his
wife with a smile when they came to it, he had furnished for her, with
the exception of one room in it; the study he had arranged for himself.
And it certainly was a room in which, to judge by appearances, a worker
need never be stopped in his work by the paltry need of any necessary
tool. Rendel was a man of almost exaggerated precision and order.
Everything lay ready to his hand in the place where he expected to find
it. A glance at his well-appointed writing-table gave evidence of it.
The back wall of the study, opposite the window, was lined with books.
On the wall over the fireplace hung a large map of Africa. Rendel looked
intently at it as he thought of the stirring pages of history that were
in the making on that huge, misshapen continent, of the field that it
was going to be for the statesmen and administrators of the future: he
thought of Lord Belmont, only two years older than himself, with whom he
had been at Eton and at Oxford, and wondered what it felt like to be in
his place and have the ball at one's feet. For Rendel in his heart was
burning with ambition of no ignoble kind. He was burning to do, to act,
and not to watch only; to take his part in shaping the destinies of his
fellow-men, to help the world into what he believed to be the right
path; and he would do it yet. In his mind that evening, as he stood
upright, intent, looking on into the future, there was not the shadow of
a doubt that he would carry out his purpose. He had come downstairs
smarting under the impression of Sir William's last words when they were
discussing the new Governor. Then he recovered, and reminded himself of
the obvious truism that the man occupied with politics must school
himself to have his opinions contradicted by his opponents, and must
make up his mind that there are as many people opposed to his way of
thinking in the world as agreeing with it. But it is one thing to engage
in a free fight in the open field, and another to keep parrying the
petty blows dealt by a persecuting antagonist. Day by day, hour by hour,
as the time went on, Rendel had to make a conscious effort to keep to
the line he had traced out for himself; he had to tighten his
resolution, to readjust his burden. The yoke of even a beloved
companionship may be willingly borne, but it is a yoke and a restraint
for all that. But Rendel would not have forgotten it. He accepted the
lot he had chosen, unspeakably grateful to Rachel for having bestowed
such happiness on him, ready and determined to fulfil his part of the
compact, to carry out, even at the cost of a daily and hourly sacrifice,
the bargain he had made. And, after all, as long as he made up his mind
that it did not signify, he could well afford, in the great happiness
that had fallen to his lot, to disregard the minor annoyances. His life,
his standards, should be arranged on a scale that would enable him to
disregard them. If one is only moving along swiftly enough, one has
impetus to glide over minor impediments without being stopped or turned
aside by them. For Rachel's sake all would be possible, it would be
almost easy. At any rate, it should be done. Rendel's will felt braced
and strengthened by his resolve, and he knew that he would be master of
his fate. There are certain moments in our lives when we stop at a
turning, it may be, to take stock of our situation, when we look back
along the road we have come--how interminable it seemed as we began
it!--and look along the one we are going to travel, prepared to start
onward again with a fresh impulse of purpose and energy. That night, as
Rendel looked on into the future, he felt like the knight who, lance in
rest but ready to his hand, rides out into the world ready to embrace
the opportunity that shall come to him.



CHAPTER X


The opportunity that came that night was ushered in somewhat
prosaically, not by the sound of a foeman's horn being wound in the
distance, but by the postman's knock. There was only one letter, but
that was an important looking one addressed to Rendel, in a big, square
envelope with an official signature in the corner. It was, however,
marked "private and confidential," and was not written in an official
capacity. Rendel as he looked at it, saw that the signature was
"Belmont." In an instant as he unfolded the page his hopes leapt to meet
the words he would find there. Yes, Lord Belmont was going to be
Governor of Zambesiland; that was the beginning. And what was this that
followed? He asked Rendel whether, if offered the post of Governor's
Secretary, practically the second in command, he would accept it and go
out to Africa with him. The offer, which meant a five years'
appointment, was flatteringly worded, with a mention of Lord
Stamfordham's strong recommendation which had prompted it, and wound up
with an earnestly expressed hope that Rendel would not at any rate
refuse without having deeply considered it. Belmont, however, asked for
a reply as soon as was consistent with the serious reflection necessary
before taking the step. Rendel looked at the clock. It was half-past
nine. He need not write by post that night, he would send round the
first thing in the morning. That would do as well. At this particular
moment he need do nothing but look the thing in the face. Serious
consideration it should have, undoubtedly, though that was not needed in
order to come to a decision. He was not afraid of gazing at this new
possibility that had just swum into his ken. The moment that comes to
those who are going to achieve, when the door in the wall, showing that
glorious vista beyond, suddenly opens to them, is fraught with an
excited joy which partakes at once of anticipation and of fulfilment,
and is probably never surpassed when in the fulness of time the
opportunities come even too fast on each other's heels, and it has
become a foregone conclusion to take advantage of them. There is no
moment of outlook that has the charm of that first gaze from afar, when
the deep blue distances cloak what is lovely and unlovely alike and
merge them all into one harmonious and inviting mystery. Rendel was in
no hurry for that curtain of mysterious distance to lift: possibility
and success lay behind it. He relished with an exquisite pleasure the
sense of having a dream fulfilled. The crucial moment that comes to
nearly all of us of having to compare the place that others assign to
us in life with that which we imagined we were entitled to occupy, is to
some fraught with the bitterest disappointment. The sense of having
cleared successfully that great gulf which lies between one's own
appreciation of oneself and that of other people is one of rapture.
Rendel had been so short a time married, and had had so few
opportunities during that time of being called upon for any decision,
that it was an entirely new sensation to him to remember suddenly that
this was a thing which concerned somebody else as well as it did
himself. But the thought was nothing but sweet; it meant that there was
somebody now by his side, there always would be, to care for the things
that happened to him; and Rachel, too, would be borne up on the wave of
excitement and rejoicing that was shaking Rendel, to his own surprise,
so strangely out of his usual reserved composure. He sat down
mechanically at his writing-table and drew a sheet of writing-paper idly
towards him, wondering how he should formulate his reply. To his great
surprise and somewhat shamefaced amusement, he found that his hand was
shaking so that he could not control the pen. He would go up before
writing and tell Rachel. Then, as he went upstairs, he was conscious of
a secret annoyance that a third person should just at this moment be
between them.

A profound silence reigned as he opened the drawing-room door. Rachel
and her father were poring intently over the chess-board. Rachel looked
up eagerly as her husband came in.

"Oh, Francis," she said, "I am so glad. Do come and tell me what to do."

"Yes, I wish you would," Sir William said, with some impatience. "Look
what she is doing with her queen."

"Is that a letter you want to show me?" said Rachel, looking at the
envelope in Rendel's hand.

"All right. It will keep," he said quietly, putting it back in his
breast pocket.

Sir William kept his eyes intently fixed upon the board. He would not
countenance any diversion of fixed and rigid attention from the game in
hand.

"That is what I should do," said Rendel, moving one of Rachel's pawns on
to the back line.

"Oh! how splendid!" said Rachel. "I believe I have a chance after all."

Sir William gave a grunt of satisfaction. "That's more like it," he
said. "If you had come up a little sooner we might have had a decent
game."

Rendel made no comment. The game ended in the most auspicious way
possible. Rachel, backed by Rendel's advice, showed fight a little
longer and left the victory to Sir William in the end after a desperate
struggle. The hour of departure came. Rachel and her husband both went
downstairs with Sir William. They opened the door. It was a bright,
starlight night. Sir William announced his intention of walking to a
cab, and with his coat buttoned up against the east wind, started off
along the pavement. Rachel turned back into the house with a sigh as she
saw him go.

"He is getting to look much older, isn't he?" she said. "Poor dear, it
is hard on him to have to turn out at this time of night."

Rendel vaguely heard and barely took in the meaning of what she was
saying. His one idea was that now he would be able to tell her his news.

"Come in here," he said, drawing her into the study. "I want to tell you
something." And he made her sit down in his own comfortable chair. "I
have had a letter this evening," he said.

"Have you?" said Rachel, looking up at him in surprise at the unusual
note of joyousness, almost of exultation, in his tone. "What is it
about?"

"You shall read it," he said, giving it to her. Her colour rose as she
read on.

"Oh, what an opportunity!" she said, and a tinge of regret crept
strangely into her voice. "What a pity!"

"A pity?" said Rendel, looking at her.

"Yes," she said. "It would have been so delightful."

"Would have been?" said Rendel, still amazed. "Why don't you say 'will
be'? Do you mean to say you don't want to go?"

"I don't think _I_ could go," Rachel said, with a slight surprise in her
voice. "How could I?"

Rendel said nothing, but still looked at her as though finding it
difficult to realise her point of view.

"How could I leave my father?" she said, putting into words the thing
that seemed to her so absolutely obvious that she had hardly thought it
necessary to speak it.

"Do you think you couldn't?" Rendel said slowly.

"Oh, Frank, how would it be possible?" she said. "We could not leave him
alone here, and it would be much, much too far for him to go."

"Of course. I had not thought of his attempting it," said Rendel,
truthfully enough, with a sinking dread at his heart that perhaps after
all the fair prospect he had been gazing upon was going to prove nothing
but a mirage.

"You do agree, don't you?" she said, looking at him anxiously. "You do
see?"

"I am trying to see," Rendel said quietly. For a moment neither spoke.

"Oh, I couldn't," Rachel said. "I simply couldn't!" in a heartfelt tone
that told of the unalterable conviction that lay behind it. There was
another silence. Rendel stood looking straight before him, Rachel
watching him timidly. Rendel made as though to speak, then he checked
himself.

"Oh, isn't it a pity it was suggested!" Rachel cried involuntarily.
Rendel gave a little laugh. It was deplorable, truly, that such an
opportunity should have come to a man who was not going to use it.

"But could not _you_----" she began, then stopped. "How long would it be
for?"

"Oh, about five years, I suppose," said Rendel, with a sort of aloofness
of tone with which people on such occasions consent to diverge for the
moment from the main issue.

"Five years," she repeated. "That would be too long."

"Yes, five years seems a long time, I daresay," said Rendel, "as one
looks on to it."

"I was wondering," she said hesitatingly, "if it wouldn't have been
better that you should have gone."

"I? Without you, do you mean?" Rendel said. "No, certainly not. That I
am quite clear about."

"Oh, Frank, I should not like it if you did," she said, looking up at
him.

"I need not say that I should not." There was another silence.

"Should you like it very, very much?" she said.

"Like what?" said Rendel, coming back with an effort.

"Going to Africa."

There had been a moment when Rendel had told Lady Gore how glad he was
that Rachel had no ambitions, as producing the ideal character. No doubt
that lack has its advantages--but the world we live in is not, alas,
exclusively a world of ideals.

"Yes, I should like it," he replied quietly. "If you went too, that
is--I should not like it without you."

"Oh, Frank, it _is_ a pity," she said, looking up at him wistfully. But
there was evidently not in her mind the shadow of a possibility that the
question could be decided other than in one way.

"Come, it is getting late," Rendel said. And they left the room with the
outward air of having postponed the decision till the morning. But the
decision was not postponed; that Rachel took for granted, and Rendel had
made up his mind. This was, after all, not a new sacrifice he was called
upon to make: it was part of the same, of that sacrifice which he had
recognised that he was willing to make in order to marry Rachel, and
which was so much less than that other great and impossible sacrifice of
giving her up.

He came down early the next morning and wrote to Lord Belmont, meaning
when Rachel came down to breakfast to show her the letter, in which he
had most gratefully but quite decisively declined the honour that had
been done him. He read the letter over feeling as if he were in a dream,
and almost smiled to himself at the incredible thought that here was the
first big opportunity of his life and that he was calmly putting it away
from him. Perhaps when he came to talk it over with Rachel again she
might see it differently. Might she? No. He knew in his heart that she
would not. It was probable that Rendel's ambition, his determined
purpose, would always be hampered by his old-fashioned, almost quixotic
ideas of loyalty, his conception of the seemliness, the dignity of the
relations between husband and wife. In a matter that he felt was a
question of right or wrong he would probably without hesitation have
used his authority and decided inflexibly that such and such a course
was the one to pursue; but here he felt it was impossible. It would not
be consistent with his dignity to use his authority to insist upon a
course which, though it might be to his own advantage, was undeniably an
infringement of the tacit compact that he had accepted when he married.
With the letter in his hand he went slowly out of the study. Rachel was
coming swiftly down the stairs into the hall, dressed for walking,
looking perturbed and anxious.

"Frank," she said hurriedly, "I have just had a message from Prince's
Gate, my father is ill."

"I am very sorry," Rendel said with concern.

"I must go there directly," she said.

"Have you breakfasted?" asked Rendel.

"Yes," she said. "At least I have had a cup of tea--quite enough."

"No," said Rendel, "that isn't enough. Come, it's absurd that you should
go out without breakfasting."

"I couldn't really," Rachel said entreatingly. "I must go."

"Nonsense!" Rendel said decidedly. "You are not to go till you have had
some breakfast." And he took her into the dining-room and made her eat.
But this, as he felt, was not the moment for further discussion of his
own plans. He saw how absolutely they had faded away from her view.

"I shall follow you shortly," he said, "to know how Sir William is."

"Oh, do," she said. "You can't come now, I suppose?"

"I have a letter to write first. I must write to Lord Belmont."

"Oh yes, of course," she said, with a sympathetic inflection in her
voice. "Oh, Frank, how terrible it would have been if you had been going
away now!" And she drew close to him as though seeking shelter against
the anxieties and troubles of the world.

"But I am not," said Rendel quietly. And she looked back at him as she
drove off with a smile flickering over her troubled face.

Rendel turned back into the house. There was nothing more to do, that
was quite evident. He fastened up the letter to Belmont and sent it
round to his house, also writing to Stamfordham a brief letter of thanks
for his good offices and regrets at not being able to avail himself of
them.

Later he went to Prince's Gate. Sir William was a little better. It was
a sharp, feverish attack brought on by a chill the night before. It
lasted several days, during which time Rachel was constantly backwards
and forwards at Prince's Gate, and at the end of which she proposed to
Rendel that her father should, for the moment, as she put it, come to
them to Cosmo Place.

In the meantime Stamfordham, surprised at Rendel's refusal of the
opportunity he had put in his way, had sent for him to urge him to
re-consider his decision while there was yet time. Rendel found it very
hard to explain his reasons in such a way that they should seem in the
least valid to his interlocutor. Stamfordham, although he was well aware
that Rendel had married during the spring, had but dimly realised the
practical difference that this change of condition might bring into the
young man's life and into the code by which his actions were governed.
He himself had not married. He had had, report said, one passing fancy
and then another, but they had never amounted to more than an impulse
which had set him further on his way; there had never been an attraction
strong enough to deflect him from his orbit. With such, he was quite
clear, the statesman should have nothing to do.

"Of course," he said, after listening to what Rendel had to say, "I
should be the last person to wish to persuade you to take a course
contrary to Mrs. Rendel's wishes, but still such an opportunity as this
does not come to every man."

"I know," said Rendel.

"I never was married," Stamfordham went on, "but I have not understood
that matrimony need necessarily be a bar to a successful career."

"Nor have I," Rendel said, with a smile.

"Let's see. How long have you been married?"

"Four months," Rendel replied.

"As I told you, I am inexperienced in these matters," Stamfordham said,
"but perhaps while one still counts by months it is more difficult to
assert one's authority."

"My wife," said Rendel, "does not wish to leave her father, who is in
delicate health. Sir William Gore, you know."

"Oh, Sir William Gore, yes," said Stamfordham, with an inflection which
implied that Sir William Gore was not worth sacrificing any possible
advantages for.

"I am very, very sorry," Rendel said gravely. "I would have given a
great deal to have been going to Africa just now."

"Yes, indeed. There will be infinite possibilities over there as soon as
things have settled down," said Stamfordham. And he looked at a table
that was covered with papers of different kinds, among them some notes
in his own handwriting, and said, "Pity my unfortunate secretaries! I
don't think I have ever had any one who knew how to read those
impossible hieroglyphics as you did."

"I don't know whether I ought to say I am glad or sorry to hear that,"
said Rendel, as he went towards the door.

"What are you going to do if you don't go to Africa?" Stamfordham said.

"Something else, I hope," said Rendel, with a look and an accent that
carried conviction.

"Shan't you go into the House?" said Stamfordham.

"I mean to try," Rendel said. Then as he went out he turned round and
said, "I daresay, sir, there are still possibilities in Europe, after
all."

"Very likely," said Stamfordham; and they parted.

One of the most difficult tasks of the philosopher is not to regret his
decisions. The mind that has been disciplined to determine quickly and
to abide by its determination is one of the most valuable instruments of
human equipment. But it certainly needed some philosophy on Rendel's
part, during the period that elapsed between his refusal of Lord
Belmont's offer and the departure of the newly appointed governor, not
to regret that he himself was remaining behind. Day by day the papers
were full of the administrators who were going out, of their
qualifications, of their responsibilities. Day by day Rendel looked at
the map hanging in his study and wondered what transformations the
shifting of circumstances would bring to it.

Sir William Gore, in the meantime, had got better. He had slowly thrown
off the fever that had prostrated him, although he was not able to
resume his ordinary life. He had demurred a little at first to the
proposal that he should take up his abode at Cosmo Place, then, not
unwillingly, had yielded. In his ordinary state of health he would have
been alive to the proverbial drawbacks of a joint household, but in his
present state of weakness and depression he felt he could not be alone,
and in his secret heart it was almost a relief to be away from Prince's
Gate, its memories and associations. It had been in one of these moments
of insight, of revelation almost, that suddenly, like a blinding flash
of light shows us in pitiless details the conditions that surround us,
that with intense self-pity he had said to himself that there was
actually no one in this whole world with whom he was entitled to come
first. Rachel's solicitude certainly went far to persuade him of the
contrary; but in his secret soul he bitterly resented the fact that
there should now be someone to share Rachel's allegiance, although
Rendel might well have contended that he was divided in Sir William's
favour.



CHAPTER XI


The Miss Pateleys, sisters of Robert Pateley, lived together. The death
of their parents, as we have said, had taken place when their brother
was already launched on his successful career as a journalist. They had
at first gone on living in the little country town in which their father
had been a solicitor. It had not occurred to them to do anything else.
They were surrounded there by people who knew them, who considered them,
towards whom their social position needed no explaining and by whom it
was taken for granted. When they went shopping, the tradespeople would
reply in a friendly way, "Yes, Miss Pateley,--No, Miss Jane. This is the
stocking you generally prefer"; or, "These were the pens you had last
time," with an intimate understanding of the needs of their customers,
forming a most pleasing contrast to the detached attitude of the staff
of big shops. The sisters had a very small income between them, eked out
by skilful management, and also, it must be said, by constant help from
their brother, who represented to them the moving principle of the
universe embodied in a visible form. He it was who knew things the
female mind cannot grasp, how to read the gas meter, what to do when the
cistern was blocked, or when the landlord said it was not his business
to mend the roof. These things which appeared so preoccupying to Anna
and Jane seemed to sit very lightly on their brother Robert, and when
they saw him shoulder each detail and deal with it with instant and
consummate ease they admired him as much as they did when they saw him
carrying upstairs his own big portmanteau which the united female
strength of the house was powerless to deal with. After a time Robert,
devoted brother though he was, found that it complicated existence to
have to settle these matters by correspondence, still more to have
suddenly to take a journey of several hours from London in order to deal
with them on the spot. He proposed to his sisters that they should come
and live in London. With many misgivings, and yet not without some
secret excitement, they assented, and for a few months before our story
begins they had been established in the same house as their brother, on
the floor above the lodgings he inhabited in Vernon Street, Bloomsbury.
Vernon Street, Bloomsbury, was perhaps a fortunate place for them to
begin their London life in, if London life, except as a geographical
term, it can be called, for two poor little ladies living more
absolutely outside what is commonly described by that name it would be
hard to find. Indeed, if it had not been for the courage and
adventurous spirit of Jane, the younger of the two, their hearts might
well have failed them during those first months in which the autumn days
shortened over the district of Bloomsbury. Since they knew no one, they
had nobody to visit, and nobody came to see them. They were still not a
little bewildered by London. There were, it was true, a great many
sights of an inanimate kind; but how to get at them? They did not
consider themselves justified in taking cabs, and omnibuses were at
first, to two people who had lived all their lives in a tramless town, a
disconcerting and complicated means of locomotion. However, as the time
went on they shook down, they found their little niche in existence;
they made acquaintance with the clergyman's wife and some of the
district visitors, and when the first summer of their London life came
round, the summer following Rachel's marriage, everything seemed to them
more possible. London was bright, sunshiny, and welcoming, instead of
being austere and repellent. Pateley had succeeded in obtaining a key of
the square close to which they lived, and they sat there and revelled in
the summer weather. The mere fact of having him so near them, of knowing
that at any moment in the day he might come in with the loud voice and
heartiness of manner which always cheered and uplifted them, albeit some
of his acquaintances ventured to find it too audible, gave them a fresh
sense of being in touch with all the great things happening in the
world. Then came a moment in which, indeed, the larger issues of life
seemed to present themselves to be dealt with. Pateley, under whose
auspices the _Arbiter_ had prospered exceedingly, and who had an
interest in it from the point of view of a commercial enterprise as well
as of a political organ, found himself one day the possessor of a larger
sum of ready money than he had expected. He made up his mind that some
of it should be given to his sisters, and that the rest should join
their own savings invested in the "Equator," which seemed to present
every prospect of succeeding when once the moment should come to work
it. Pateley was altogether in a high state of jubilation in those days.
The Cape to Cairo railway was actually on the verge of being completed.
In a week more the gigantic scheme would be an accomplished fact. The
excitement in London respecting it was immense. A small piece of German
territory still remained to be crossed, but if no unforeseen incident
arose to jeopardise the situation at the last moment all would yet be
well. The rejoicings of Englishmen commonly take a sturdy and obvious
form, and two days after the great junction was expected to take place,
the _Arbiter_ was to give a dinner at the Colossus Hotel in the Strand
to the representatives of the Cape to Cairo Railway in London, after
which the Hotel would be illuminated on all sides, and fireworks over
the river were to proclaim to the whole town that Africa had been
spanned. Pateley was to take the chair at the dinner. He had some shares
in the railway himself, although the rush upon it had been too great
for him to secure any large amount of them. He had golden hopes,
however, in the future of the "Equator," when once the railway was at
its doors. Anderson had gone back again to Africa, this time with an
eager staff of companions, and was only waiting for his time to come.

"Now then," Pateley said jovially, one evening, as he went into the
lodgings in Vernon Street and found his sisters sitting over their
somewhat inadequate evening meal, "Times are looking up, I must tell
you. I shouldn't wonder if you were better off before long. When the
railway's finished, and if the "Equator" mine is all we believe it to
be, you ought to get something handsome out of it--and I have got
something for you to go on with which will keep you going in the
meantime. So now I hope you will think yourselves justified in sitting
down to a decent dinner every evening, instead of that kind of thing,"
and he pointed, with his loud, jovial laugh, to the cocoa and eggs on
the rather dingily appointed table.

Jane's eyes sparkled and her cheeks flushed with an incredulous joy.
Anna's breath came quickly. What a fairy prince of a brother this was!

"But, Robert, we had better not make much difference in our way of
living at first, had we?" Anna said, timidly, calling to mind the
instances in fiction of imprudent persons who had launched out wildly on
an accession of fortune and then been overtaken by ruin.

"Well, I don't suppose you are either of you likely to want to cut a big
dash," he said with another loud laugh. "At least, I don't see you doing
it."

"It is a great responsibility," Anna said timidly. "I hope we shall use
it the right way."

"Right way!" said Pateley. "Of course you will. Go to the play with it,
get yourself a fur cloak, have a fire in your bedroom----"

"Oh!" said Jane.

"But, Robert," Anna said, "I don't feel it is sent to us for that."

"Sent!" said Pateley. "Well, that is one way of putting it."

But he did not enlarge upon the point. He accepted his sisters just as
they were, with their limitations, their principles, and everything. He
was not particularly susceptible to beauty and distinction, in the sense
of these qualities being necessary to his belongings, and perhaps it was
as well. Anna and Jane, though they looked undeniably like gentlewomen,
had nothing else about them that was particularly agreeable to look
upon. Nor were they either of them very strikingly ugly, or, indeed,
strikingly anything. Jane was the better looking of the two. It was,
perhaps, a rather heartless freak of destiny that life should have
ordained her to live with somebody who was like a parody of herself,
older, rounder, thicker, plainer. Living apart they might each have
passed muster; living together they somehow made their ugliness, like
their income, go further. But in the composite photograph it was Anna
who predominated. It was a pity, for she was the stumpier of the two.

Long and earnest were the discussions the little sisters had that night
after their splendid brother had departed, until by the time they went
to bed they were prepared, or so it seemed to them, to launch their
existence on a dizzy career of extravagance. They were going, as they
expressed it, to put their establishment on another footing, which meant
that instead of being attended by an inexperienced young person of
eighteen they were to have an arrogant one of twenty-five. Their own
elderly servant had declined to face the temptations of London, and had
remained behind, living close to their old home. And, greatest event of
all, they had at length--it was now summer, but that didn't matter, furs
were cheaper--yielded to the thought which they had been alternately
caressing and dismissing for months, and they were each going to buy a
Fur Cloak. The days in which this all important purchase was being
considered were to the Miss Pateleys days of pure enjoyment. Days of
walks along Oxford Street, no longer so bewildered by the noise of
London traffic, the discovery of some shop in an out of the way place
whose wares were about half the price of the more fashionable quarters.
The days were full of glorious possibilities.

It was two days after that evening visit of Pateley's to his sisters,
which had so gilded and transformed their existence, that sinister
rumours began to float over London, bringing deadly anxiety in their
wake. Telegrams kept pouring in, and were posted all over the town,
becoming more and more serious as the day went on: "Disturbances in
South Africa. Hostile encounter between English and Germans. Cape to
Cairo Railway stopped. Collapse of the 'Equator, Ltd.,'" until by
nightfall the whole of England knew the pitifully unimportant incidents
from which such tragic consequences were springing--that a group of
travelling missionaries, halting unawares on German territory and
chanting their evening hymns, had been disturbed by a rough fellow who
came jeering into their midst, that one of the devout group had finally
ejected him, with such force that he had rolled over with his head on a
stone and died then and there; and that the Germans were insisting upon
having vengeance. As for the "Equator, Ltd.," nobody knew exactly in
what the collapse consisted. The wildest reports were circulated
respecting it; one saying that it was in the hands of the Germans,
another that they had destroyed the plant that was ready to work it,
another again, and it was the one that gained the most credence, that
there was no gold in the mine at all, and that the whole thing was a
swindle. The offices of the "Equator" were closed for the night. They
would probably be besieged the next morning by an angry crowd eager to
sell out, but the shares would now be hardly worth the paper they were
written upon. Pateley, in a frenzy of anxiety, in whichever direction
he looked--for his sisters, for himself, for his party, for the Cape to
Cairo Railway--spent the night at his office to see which way events
were going to turn. In his unreasoning anger, as the day of misfortune
dawned next morning, against destiny, against the far-away unknown
missionaries, against all the adverse forces that were standing in the
way of his wishes, there was one concrete figure in the foreground upon
whom he could justifiably pour out his wrath: Sir William Gore, the
Chairman of the "Equator," who, in the public opinion, was responsible
for the undertaking. He would go to see Sir William that very day as
soon as it was possible. In the meantime he would go round to his
sisters to try to prepare them for the unfavourable turn that their
circumstances after all might possibly take. As, sorely troubled at what
he had to say, he came up into their little sitting-room, he found it
bright with flowers; the fragrance of sweet peas filled the air. Anna,
who had longed for flowers all her life and had welcomed with tremulous
gratitude the rare opportunities that had come in her way of receiving
any, had suddenly realised that it might not be sinful to buy them. The
joy that she had in the handful bought from a street vendor was cheap,
after all, at the price that might have seemed exorbitant if it had been
spent on the flowers alone.

"Robert," said Jane, almost before he was inside the room, "guess what
we are going to do?"

"Something very naughty, I'm afraid," Anna said, excited and shy at the
same time. She was generally less able than Jane to overcome the awe
that they both felt of a relation so great and so beneficent, so
altogether perfect, as their brother Robert, but at this moment she was
intoxicated by the possession of wealth, by the sense of luxury, of
well-being, by that fragrance of the spirit her imagination added to the
fragrance of the flowers that stood near her. "We're each going to buy a
fur cloak like that, look!" And she held out to him proudly the picture
in the inside cover of the _Realm of Fashion_, representing a tall,
slender, undulating lady, about as unlike herself as could well have
been imagined, wrapped in a beautiful clinging garment of which the
lining, turned back, displayed an exquisite fur. Pateley, as we have
said, was not as a rule given to an excess of sensibility. He did not
ridicule sentiment in others, but neither did he share it; that point of
view was simply not visible to him. Suddenly, however, on this evening
he had a moment of what felt to himself a most inconvenient access of
emotion. There was a plain and obvious pathos in this particular
situation that it needed no very fine sensibilities to grasp, in the
sight of his sister, her small, thickset little figure encased in her
ugly little gown, looking up appealingly to him over her spectacles with
the joy of a child in the toy she was going to buy. It was probably the
first, the very first time in her life, that she had had that particular
experience. Added to the joy of getting the thing she coveted was the
sense of having looked a conscientious scruple in the face, and seen it
fly before her like an evil spirit before a spell. She had routed the
enemy, pushed aside the obstacle in front of her, and, excited, and
flushed with victory, was looking round on a bigger world and a fairer
view. Pateley, to his own surprise, found himself absolutely incapable
of putting into words what he had come to say, not a thing that often
happened to him. In wonder at his not answering at once, Anna,
misinterpreting his very slight pause, caught herself up quickly and
said anxiously--

"That is what you suggested, isn't it, Robert? You are quite sure you
approve of it?"

"Yes, yes, I approve," he said heartily, recovering himself. "Of course.
Go ahead."

"You must not think," she went on, reassured, "that we mean to spend all
our money in things like this, but of course a fur cloak is useful; it
is a possession, isn't it? and it is, after all, one's duty to keep
one's health."

"Of course it is," Pateley said. "No need of any further argument."

"I am so glad," she said, "so glad you approve!" and she smiled again
with delight.

Again Pateley felt an unreasoning fury rising in his mind that people
who were so easily satisfied should not be allowed to have their heart's
desire. Perhaps after all, it was not true about the "Equator"; perhaps
things might be better than they seemed. At any rate, he would not say
anything to his sisters until he had seen Gore. And with some hurried
explanation of the number of engagements that obliged him to leave them,
he strode out.



CHAPTER XII


In the meantime Lord Stamfordham, watching the situation, felt there was
not a single instant to lose. There is one moment in the life of a
conflagration when it can be stamped out: that moment passed, no power
can stop it. Stamfordham, his head clear, his determination strong and
ready, resolved to act without hesitating on his own responsibility. He
sent a letter round to Prince Bergowitz, the German Ambassador, begging
him to come and see him. Prince Bergowitz was laid up with an attack of
gout which unfortunately prevented his coming, but he would be glad to
receive Lord Stamfordham if he would come to see him.

It was a little later in the same day that Rendel, alone in his study,
was standing, newspaper in hand, in front of the map of Africa looking
to see the exact localities where the events were happening which might
have such dire consequences. At that moment Wentworth, passing through
Cosmo Place, looked through the window and saw him thus engaged. He
knocked at the hall door, and, after being admitted, walked into the
study without waiting to be announced.

"Looking at the map of Africa, and I don't wonder," he said. "Isn't it
awful?"

"It's terrible," said Rendel, "about as bad as it can be."

"Look here, why aren't you over there to help to settle it?" said
Wentworth.

"Well, I should not have been there, in any case," said Rendel. "That is
where I should have been--look," with something like a sigh.

"You would have been nearer than you are now," said Wentworth. "Upon my
word, I haven't patience with you. The idea of throwing up such a chance
as you have had!"

"How do you know about it?" Rendel said.

"How do I know?" said Wentworth. "Everybody knows that you were offered
it and refused."

"After all," said Rendel, "there are some things one leaves undone in
this world. It does not follow that because people are offered a thing
they must necessarily accept it."

"I don't say I am not in favour of leaving things undone," Wentworth
said, "on occasion."

"So I have observed," said Rendel.

"But really, you know," Wentworth went on, "this is too much. What do
you intend to do?"

"What do I intend to do?" Rendel said, with a half smile, then
unconsciously imparting a greater steadfastness into his expression,
"broadly speaking, I intend to do--everything."

"Oh! well, there's hope for you still," Wentworth said, "if that is your
intention. It's rather a large order, though."

"Well, as I have told you before," Rendel said, "I don't see why there
should be any limit to one's intentions. The man who intends little is
not likely to achieve much."

"That's all very well, and plausible enough, I dare say," said
Wentworth, "but the way to achieve is not to begin by refusing all your
chances."

"This is too delightful from you," said Rendel, "who never do anything
at all."

"Not at all," said Wentworth. "It is on principle that I do nothing, in
order to protest against other people doing too much. I wish to have an
eight hours' day of elegant leisure, and to go about the world as an
example of it. It would be just as inconsistent of me to accept a
regular occupation as it is of you to refuse it."

"I have a very simple reason for refusing this," said Rendel more
seriously, and he paused. "I am a married man."

"To be sure, my dear fellow," said Wentworth, "I have noticed it."

"My wife didn't want to go to Africa," said Rendel, "and there was an
end of it."

"Oh, that was the end of it?" said Wentworth.

"Absolutely," said Rendel. "She did not want to leave her father."

"Ah, is that it?" said Wentworth, feeling that he could not decently
advance an urgent plea against Sir William. "Poor old man! I know he's
gone to pieces frightfully since his wife died--still, couldn't some one
have been found to take care of him?"

"Hardly any one like Rachel," Rendel said.

"Naturally," said Wentworth.

"You know he is living with us?" Rendel said.

"Is he?" said Wentworth surprised. "Upon my word, Frank, you are a good
son-in-law."

Rendel ignored the tone of Wentworth's last remark and said quite
simply--

"Oh! well, there was nothing else to be done. He's been ill, you know,
really rather bad; first he had a chill, and then influenza on the top
of it. He's frightfully low altogether."

"But I rather wonder," said Wentworth, "as Mrs. Rendel had her father
with her, that you didn't go to Africa without her. Wouldn't that have
been possible?"

"No," said Rendel decidedly. "Quite impossible."

"I should have thought," said Wentworth, "that in these enlightened days
a husband who could not do without his wife was rather a mistake."

"That may be," said Rendel. "But I think on the whole that the husband
who can do without her is a greater mistake still."

"It is a great pity you were not born five hundred years ago," said
Wentworth.

"I should have disliked it particularly," said Rendel. "I should have
been fighting at Flodden, or Crécy, or somewhere, and I should have
been too old to marry Rachel, even in these days of well-preserved
centenarians. It is no good, Jack; I am afraid you must leave me to my
folly."

"Well, well," said Wentworth, agreeing with the word, and thinking to
himself that even the wisest of men looks foolish at times when he has
the yoke of matrimony across his shoulders; "after all there is to be
said--if we are going to have another war on our hands in Africa, which
Heaven forfend, the time of the statesmen over there is hardly come
yet."

At this moment the door opened and the two men turned round quickly as
Rachel came in.

"Frank," said Rachel. "Should you mind----" Then she stopped as she saw
Wentworth. "Oh, how do you do, Mr. Wentworth? I didn't know you were
here. Don't let me interrupt you."

"On the contrary," said Wentworth, "it is I who am interrupting your
husband."

"I only came to see, Frank, if you were very busy," she said.

"I am not at this moment. Do you want me to do anything?"

"Well, presently, would you play one game of chess with my father? I am
not really good enough to be of much use; it doesn't amuse him to play
with me."

"Yes," said Rendel. "I have just got one or two letters to write and
then I'll come."

"I think it would really be better," said Rachel, "if he came in here.
It is rather a change for him, you know, to come into a different room
after having been in the house all day."

"Just as you like," said Rendel, without much enthusiasm, but also
without any noticeable want of it.

"Well," said Wentworth, "I'm not going to keep you any longer, Frank. I
just came in to--give you my views about things in general."

"Thank you," said Rendel, with a smile. "I am much beholden to you for
them."

"Perhaps you would come up and see my father, Mr. Wentworth," said
Rachel, "before you go away?"

"I shall be delighted," Wentworth said. His feeling towards Sir William
Gore was kindly on the whole, and the kindliness was intensified at this
moment by compassion, although he could not help resenting a little that
Gore should have been an indirect cause of Rendel's refusing what
Wentworth considered was the chance of his friend's life. He shook hands
with Rendel and prepared to follow Rachel. At this moment a loud, double
knock resounded upon the hall door with a peremptoriness which must have
induced an unusual and startling rapidity in the movements of Thacker,
Rendel's butler, for almost instantly afterwards he threw open the study
door with a visible perturbation and excitement in his demeanour,
saying--

"It's Lord Stamfordham, sir, who wants particularly to see you." And to
Rendel's amazement Lord Stamfordham appeared in the doorway. He bowed
to Wentworth, whom he knew slightly, and shook hands with Rachel. She
then went straight out, followed by Wentworth. As the door closed behind
them, Stamfordham, answering Rendel's look of inquiry and without
waiting for any interchange of greetings, said hurriedly--

"Rendel, I want you to do me a service."

"Please command me," Rendel said quickly, looking straight at him. He
felt his heart beat as Stamfordham paused, put his hat down on the
table, took his pocket-book out of his breast pocket and a folded paper
out of it.

"I want you," he said, "to transcribe some pencil notes of mine."

"You want _me_ to transcribe them?" said Rendel, with an involuntary
inflection of surprise in his tone.

"Yes, if you will," said Stamfordham. "The fact is, Marchmont, the only
man I have had since you left me who can read my writing when I take
rough pencil notes in a hurry, has collapsed just to-day, out of sheer
excitement I believe, and because he sat up for one night writing."

"Poor fellow!" said Rendel, half to himself.

"Yes," said Stamfordham drily; and then he went on, as one who knows
that he must leave the sick and wounded behind without waiting to pity
them. "These," unfolding the paper, "are notes of a conversation that I
have just had at the German Embassy with Bergowitz." Rendel's quick
movement as he heard the name showed that he realised what that
juxtaposition meant at such a moment. "Every moment is precious,"
Stamfordham went on, "and it suddenly dawned on me as I left the Embassy
that you were close at hand and might be willing to do it."

The German Embassy was at the moment, during some building operations,
occupying temporary premises near Belgrave Square.

"I should think so indeed," Rendel said eagerly.

"The notes are very short, as you see," said Stamfordham. "You know, of
course, what has been happening. I needn't go into that." And as he
spoke a boy passed under the windows crying the evening papers, and they
distinctly heard "Panic on the Stock Exchange." The two men's eyes met.

"Yes, there is a panic on the Stock Exchange," Stamfordham said,
"because every one thinks there will be war--but there probably won't."

"Not?" said Rendel. "Can it be stopped?"

Stamfordham answered him by unfolding the piece of paper and laying it
down before him on the table. It was a map of Africa, roughly outlined,
but still clearly enough to show unmistakably what it was intended to
convey, for all down the map from north to south there was a thick line
drawn to the west of the Cape to Cairo Railway--the latter being
indicated, but more faintly, in pencil--starting at Alexandria and
running down through the whole of the continent, bending slightly to the
southward between Bechuanaland and Namaqualand, and ending at the
Orange River. East of that line was written ENGLAND, west of it GERMANY,
and below it some lines of almost illegible writing in pencil.

Rendel almost gasped.

"What?" he said; "a partition of Africa?"

"Yes," said Stamfordham. Then he said with a sort of half smile, "The
partition, that is to say, so far as it is in our own hands. But,"
speaking rapidly, "I will just put you in possession of the facts of the
case and give you the clue. We abandon to Germany everything that we
have a claim to west of this line. It does not come to very much," in
answer to an involuntary movement on Rendel's part; and he swept his
hand across the coast of the Gulf of Guinea as though wiping out of
existence the Gold Coast, Ashanti, Sierra Leone, and all that had
mattered before. "Germany abandons to us everything that she lays claim
to on the east of it, including therefore the whole course of the Cape
to Cairo Railway."

"But has Germany agreed?" said Rendel, stupefied with surprise.

"Germany has agreed," said Stamfordham. "We have just heard from
Berlin."

Rendel felt as if his breath were taken away by the rapid motion of the
events.

"That means peace, then?" he said.

"Yes," Stamfordham said; "peace."

"Then when is this going to be given to the world?" said Rendel.

"Some of it possibly to-morrow," said Stamfordham. "The Cabinet Council
will meet this evening, and the King's formal sanction obtained. Of
course," he went on, "the broad outlines only will be published--the
fact of the understanding at any rate, not necessarily the terms of the
partition. But it is important for financial reasons that the country
should know as soon as possible that war is averted."

"Of course, of course," said Rendel. "Immeasurably important."

Stamfordham took up his hat and held out his hand with his air of
courtly politeness as he turned towards the door.

"I may count upon you to do this for me immediately?"

"This instant," said Rendel, taking up the papers. "Shall I take them to
your house as soon as they are done?"

"Please," said Stamfordham. "No, stay--I am going back to the German
Embassy now, then probably to the Foreign Office. You had better simply
send a messenger you can rely upon, and tell him to wait at my house to
give them into my own hand, as I am not sure where I shall be for the
next hour. Rendel, I must ask you by all you hold sacred to take care of
those papers. If that map were to be caught sight of before the
time----"

Rendel involuntarily held it tighter at the thought of such a
catastrophe.

"Good Heavens!--yes," he said. "But that shan't happen. Look," and he
dropped the paper through the slit in the closed revolving corner of
his large writing-table, a cover that was solidly locked with his own
key so that, though papers could be put in through the slit, it was
impossible to take them out again without unlocking the cover and
lifting it up. "This is the only key," he said, showing his bunch. "Now
then, they are perfectly safe while I go across the hall with you."

Stamfordham nodded.

"By the way," he said, pausing, "you are married now, Rendel...."

"I am, yes, I am glad to say," Rendel replied.

"To be sure," said Stamfordham, with a little bow conveying discreet
congratulation. "But--remember that a married man sometimes tells
secrets to his wife."

"Does he, sir?" said Rendel, with an air of assumed innocence.

"I believe I have heard so," said Stamfordham.

"On the other hand," said Rendel, "I also have heard that a married man
sometimes keeps secrets from his wife."

"Oh well, that is better," said Stamfordham.

"From some points of view, perhaps," said Rendel. Then he added more
seriously, "You may be quite sure, sir, that no one--_no one_--in this
house shall know about those papers. I would give you my word of honour,
but I don't suppose it would make my assertion any stronger."

"If you said nothing," said Stamfordham, "it would be enough;" and
Rendel's heart glowed within him as their eyes met and the compact was
ratified. "By the way, Rendel, there was one thing more I wanted to say
to you. There will probably be a vacancy at Stoke Newton before long;
aren't you going into the House?"

"Some time," said Rendel. "When I get a chance."

"Well, there is going to be a chance now," said Stamfordham. "Old
Crawley is going to resign. I hear it from private sources; the world
doesn't know it yet. It is a safe Imperialist seat, and in our part of
the world."

"I should like very much to try," said Rendel, forcing himself to speak
quietly.

"Suppose you write to our committee down there?" said Stamfordham. "That
is, when you have done your more pressing business--I mean mine."

"That shall come before everything else," Rendel said. "I will do it at
this moment."

He turned quickly back into his study after Stamfordham had left him,
and unlocked and threw up the revolving cover of the writing-table
hastily, for fear that something should have happened to the paper on
which the destinies of the civilised world were hanging. There it was,
safe in his keeping, his and nobody else's. He took it in his hand and
for a moment walked up and down the room, unable to control himself,
trying to realise the tremendous change in the aspect of his fortunes
that had taken place in the last half-hour. Then he had seemed to
himself in the backwater, out of the throng of existence. He had been
trying to reconcile himself to the idea that he was "out of it," as he
had put it to himself--left behind. And now he shared with the two great
potentates of the world the knowledge of what was going to take place;
it was his hand that should transcribe the words that had decided it; he
was a witness, and so far the only one. Then with an effort he forced
himself to be calm. Every minute was of importance. He sat down at the
writing-table, took up the paper, and pored over it to try to
disentangle the strange dots, scratches, and lines which, flowing from
Stamfordham's pen, took the place of handwriting. Some ill-natured
people said that Stamfordham was quite conscious of the advantage of
having writing which could not be read without a close scrutiny. It was
no doubt possible. However, having the clue to what the contents of the
paper were, Rendel, to his immense relief, found that he could decipher
it. As he was writing the first word of the fair copy the door of the
study opened slowly, and Sir William Gore appeared on the threshold, a
newspaper in his hand.



CHAPTER XIII


Sir William, who had not been able to come downstairs for a month, may
be forgiven for unconsciously feeling that the occasion was one which
demanded from his son-in-law a semblance of cordial welcome at any rate,
if not of glad surprise. It is an extraordinarily difficult thing to
learn that we are not looking each of us at the same aspect of life as
our neighbour, especially our neighbour of a different time of life from
ourselves. We appeal to him as a matter of course, and say, "Look! see
how life appears to me to-day! see what existence is like in relation to
myself!" But unfortunately the neighbour, who is standing on the outside
of that particular circle, and not in its centre, does not see what we
mean. Sir William had been shut up for a month in the room that he
inhabited on the drawing-room floor of the house in Cosmo Place. He had
simply not had mental energy to care about what was happening beyond the
four walls of that room. If he had been asked at that moment what the
universe was, he would have said that it was a succession of days and
nights in which the important things of life were the hours and
compositions of his meals, the probable hour of the doctor's visit, and
the steps to be made each day towards recovery and the resumption of
ordinary habits.

Rachel had of course devoted herself to him. It was she who went up with
his breakfast, who read to him during the morning, who tried to remember
everything that happened out of doors to tell him on her return; it was
she who had done many hundreds of patiences in the days when he was not
well enough to play at chess. He was hardly well enough now, but he had
set his heart upon the first day when he should come down and play chess
with Rendel as a sort of pivot in his miserable existence. And now the
moment had come. How should he know that for all practical purposes his
son-in-law was a different being from the young man who had come
upstairs to see him the day before? For yesterday Rendel had come up and
talked to him about indifferent things, not telling him, lest he should
be excited, of the evil rumours that were filling the air, and had gone
downstairs again himself with a miserably unoccupied day in front of
him--a day in which to remember and overcome the fact that, instead of
being in the arena of which the echoes reached him, he was doomed to be
a spectator from afar, who could take no part in the fray. But so much
Sir William had not known. How should we any of us know what the inward
counterpart is to the outward manifestation? know that the person who
comes into the room may be, although appearing the same, different from
the one who went out? He knew only that the Rendel of this morning had
said with a smile, "I am looking forward to the moment when you will
checkmate me again." And Sir William had a right to expect that, that
moment having come, Rendel should feel the importance and pleasure of it
as much as he did himself. But it was not the same Rendel who sat there,
it was not the unoccupied spectator ready to join his leisure to that of
another; it was a resolute combatant who had been suddenly called into a
front post, and for whom the whole aspect of the world had changed. It
was an absolute physical effort to Rendel, as the door opened and he saw
Sir William, to bring his mind back to the conditions of a few hours
before. The fact of any one coming in at that moment called him back to
earth again, turned him violently about to face the commonplace
importunities of existence. Sir William had probably not formulated to
himself what he had vaguely expected, but it certainly was not the
puzzled, half-questioning look, the indescribable air of being taken
aback, altered at once by a quick impulse into something that tried not
to look forbidding, and more strange and tell-tale than all the quick
movement by which Rendel drew a large sheet of blotting-paper over what
he was writing. Sir William's whole being was jarred, his rejoicing in
the small occasion of being on another stage towards recovery was gone;
nobody cared, not one. Rachel was not in the house, and who else was
there to care? Nobody: there never would be again. Could it be possible
that for the rest of his life he was doomed to be in a world so arranged
that his comings and goings were not the most important of all? He stood
still a moment, then tried to speak in his usual voice.

"I am not in your way, am I, Rendel?"

Rendel also made a conscious effort as he replied, rising from his chair
as he spoke--

"Oh no, Sir William, please come in. I have some writing to finish, if
you don't mind."

"Pray go on," said Sir William; "I won't disturb you. I'll sit down here
and read the paper till you are ready"; and he sat down with his back to
the writing-table and the window, in the big chair which Rendel drew
forward.

"Thank you," Sir William said. "I took the liberty of bringing in your
afternoon paper which was outside."

"Certainly," Rendel replied, too absorbed for the moment in the thing
his own attention was concentrated upon to realise the bearing of what
Gore was saying. "Of course," and went back to his writing.

Gore leant back, idly turning over the pages of the _Mayfair Gazette_;
then he started as his eye fell on the alarmist announcements. What was
this? What incredible things were these that he saw? The letters were
swimming before him; he could only vaguely distinguish the black
capitals and the headlines; the rest was a blur. All that stood out
clearly was: "Cape to Cairo Railway in Danger," and then beneath it:
"Sinister Rumours about the 'Equator, Ltd.'"

"Rendel!" he said, half starting up. Rendel turned round with a start,
dragging his mind from the thing it was bent upon. "How awful this is!"
said Sir William, holding up the paper with a shaking hand. Rendel began
to understand. But, that he should have to look up for one moment, for
the fraction of a second, from those words that he was transcribing!

"Yes, yes, it is terrible," he said, and bent over his writing again.
Sir William tried to go on reading. What was this about Germany? War
would mean the collapse of everything--private schemes as well as all
others.

"War! Do you think it can possibly mean war?" he said. "Can't Germany be
squared?"

"War!" said Rendel without looking up. "Who can tell?" And again he felt
the supreme excitement of standing unseen at the right hand of the man
who was driving the ship through the storm. Sir William laid down the
paper on his knee and tried to think, but all he could do was to close
his eyes and keep perfectly still. Everything was vague ... and the
worst of it--or was it the best of it?--was that nothing seemed to
matter.

At the same moment a brief colloquy was being exchanged outside the hall
door. Stamfordham's brougham had drawn up again, and Thacker, who was
standing hanging about the hall with a secret intention of being on the
spot if tremendous things were going to happen, had instantly rushed
out.

"Is Mr. Rendel in?" said Lord Stamfordham hurriedly as Thacker stood at
the door of the brougham.

"Yes, my lord."

"Ask him to come and speak to me."

Thacker was shaken into unwonted excitement; he opened the door of the
study quickly and went in. Sir William started violently. Any sudden
noise in the present state of his nerves threw him completely off his
balance.

"Can you come and speak to Lord Stamfordham, sir?"

Rendel sprang up; then with a sudden thought turned back and pulled down
the top of his writing-table, which shut with a spring, and rushed out
without seeing that Sir William had begun raising himself laboriously
from his chair as he said--

"Don't let me be in your way, Rendel."

"His lordship is not coming in, Sir William," said Thacker.

Sir William sank back into his chair. Thacker, after waiting an instant
as though to see whether Gore had any orders for him, went quietly out,
closing the door after him.

Rendel had madly caught up a hat as he passed, and flown down the steps,
not seeing in his haste a burly personage who was coming along the
pavement dressed in the ordinary garb of the English citizen, with
nothing about him to show that his glowing right hand held the
thunderbolts which he was going to hurl at the head of Gore. It is
unnecessary to say that Robert Pateley knew Stamfordham's carriage well
by sight; and it was with pleasure and satisfaction that he found that
Providence had brought him on to the pavement at Cosmo Place in time to
see one of the moves in the great game which the world was playing that
day. It was better on the whole that he should not accost Rendel. There
was no need at that moment for Stamfordham to be aware of his presence,
although, after all, there was no reason why he should not be. But
seeing Rendel standing speaking to Stamfordham at the door of the
brougham he conceived that he was probably coming in again directly, and
made up his mind to go in and see Gore at any rate if possible. He went
up the steps, therefore, and into the house, the front door being open.
It happened neither Rendel nor Stamfordham saw him enter, the former
having his back turned and blocking the view of the latter. Thacker,
with intense interest, was watching the development of affairs from the
dining-room window, and did not see Pateley go in either.

"Have you done the thing?" said Stamfordham quickly.

"All but," Rendel said.

"Well, I want you to add this," said Stamfordham. "Get in and drive back
with me, will you? I have so little time."

Rendel jumped in, and the brougham moved past the window just as Sir
William Gore, who had painfully pulled himself out of his chair, looked
out, petrified with surprise at the unexplained crisis that seemed to
have come upon the household. "Stamfordham!" he said to himself, "and
Frank! What are the Imperialists hatching now, I wonder?" and he
mechanically looked round him at Rendel's writing-table. It was,
however, closed and forbidding, save for a little corner of white paper
that was sticking out under the revolving flap. By one of those strange,
almost unconscious impulses which may suddenly overtake the best of us
at times, Gore put out his hand and pulled out the paper. It was quite
loose and came away in his hand. What was it? He looked at it vaguely.
Then gradually it became clear. A map?... yes, it was a rough map, with
a thick line drawn from the top to the bottom down the middle of it;
names to the right and the left. England? Germany? And what were those
words written underneath? _What?_ Was that how Germany was going to be
'squared?' And sheer excitement gave him strength to grasp more or less
the meaning of what he saw. If Africa were going to be divided, if
Germany and England were agreeing to that division, it meant Peace.
There was no doubt of it. But had the Imperialists suddenly gone on to
the side of peace? Had they snatched that trump card from their
adversaries and were they going to play it? Sir William stood gazing at
the paper. Then as he heard some one at the door of the room he
suddenly realised what he had done. He instinctively clutched the paper
in the hand which held the _Mayfair Gazette_, the newspaper concealing
it. As he turned and looked towards the door an unexpected sight greeted
his eyes--no other than Pateley, who, finding himself in the hall
unheralded, had made up his mind to come into Rendel's study and there
ring the bell for some one who should bring word to Sir William Gore of
his presence. But he was surprised to find Sir William downstairs
instead of in his room as he had expected. He paused for a moment,
shocked at the change in Gore's appearance. He looked thin, listless,
bent: his upright figure, his spring, his energy were gone. Pateley's
heart smote him for a moment. Would it be possible to call this feeble,
suffering creature to account? Then his heart hardened again as he
thought of his sisters.

"Pateley!" said Gore, advancing with the remains of his usual manner,
but curiously shaken for the moment, as Pateley said to himself, out of
his usual self-confidence.

The state of nervousness of the older man was painfully perceptible.
Added to his general weakness, which made the mere fact of seeing some
one unexpectedly a sudden shock to him, he had besides at that moment an
additional and very definite reason for uneasiness in the thing which he
held in his hand. He endeavoured, however, to pull himself together as
he shook hands with Pateley.

"I have not seen you for a long time," he said, pointing to a chair and
sinking back into his own.

"No," Pateley replied. "I was very sorry to hear that you had been ill.
You are looking rather bad still."

"And feeling so," Sir William said wearily. "The worst of influenza is
that one feels just as bad when one is supposed to be getting better as
when one is supposed to be getting worse. It is a most annoying form of
complaint."

"So I have understood," said Pateley, "though I have not learnt it by
personal experience."

"No, you don't look as though you suffered from weakness," said Sir
William, with a faint smile and a consciousness that this was not a
person from whom it would be very easy to extract sympathy for his own
condition.

Pateley paused. He felt curiously uncomfortable and hesitating, a
sensation somewhat novel to him. Sir William leant back in his chair,
trying to control the trembling of his hands, of which one held the
_Mayfair Gazette_, the smaller paper still concealed underneath it.

"I see," Pateley said, "you are reading the evening paper. Not very good
reading, is it? Things look pretty bad."

"They do indeed," said Sir William.

"It looks uncommonly like war with Germany," Pateley said; "prices are
tumbling down headlong on the Stock Exchange. I believe there is going
to be something very like a panic."

"Is there?" said Gore uneasily; "that's bad."

"Yes, it is very bad," Pateley went on. "I suppose you have heard that
there are ugly rumours about the 'Equator.'"

"I saw something," Sir William said, forcing himself to speak. "What is
it exactly that they say?"

"Well, the last thing they say," Pateley replied with a harder ring in
his voice, "is that it is not a gold mine at all."

"What?" said Sir William, grasping the arms of his chair.

"And that the whole thing, therefore, is going to pieces with every
penny invested in it."

"Is it--is it as bad as that?" said the other, tremulously. "No, no, it
can't be. Surely it can't be."

"Do you mean to say you don't know?" said Pateley.

"I know nothing," said Sir William. "I have heard nothing about it, up
to this moment."

"One can't help wondering," said Pateley, "that a man in your
responsible position towards it," the words struck Sir William like a
blow, "should not have known, should not have inquired----"

"I have been ill, you know," Sir William said nervously, "I have not
been able to look into or understand anything. I have not been out of
the house yet. I could not go to the City or do any business."

"Yes, I see that," said Pateley, "and I am sorry to be obliged to
thrust a business discussion upon you now----"

Sir William looked up at him quickly, anxiously.

"But the fact is, at this moment the business won't wait. If you
remember, when the 'Equator' Company was first started, I, like many
others, invested in it, having asked your opinion of it first, and
having heard from you that you were going to be the Chairman of the
Board of Directors."

"I believed in it, you know," Sir William said, with eagerness; "I put a
lot of money into it myself."

"I know you did, yes," said Pateley, "but _you_ fortunately had a lot to
do it with, and also a lot of money to keep out of it. Every one is not
so happily situated. I blame myself, I need not say, acutely, as well as
others." And as Sir William looked at him sitting there in his
relentless strength, he felt that there was small mercy to be expected
at his hands.

"I don't know," Sir William said, trying to speak with dignity, "that I
was to blame. I believed in it, as others did."

"No doubt," Pateley said. "But I am afraid that will hardly be a
satisfactory explanation for the shareholders. The shares at this moment
are absolutely worthless."

"But what can I do?" said Sir William. "What would you have me do?"

"It seems to me there is a rather obvious thing to be done," said
Pateley. "It is to help to make good the losses of the people who,
through you, will be"--and he paused--"ruined."

"Ruined!" Sir William repeated, "No, no--it cannot be as bad as that. It
is terrible," he muttered to himself. "It is terrible."

"Yes, it is terrible," said Pateley, "and even something uglier."

"But," Sir William said miserably, "I don't know that I can be blamed
for it. Anderson, who is absolutely honest, reported on the thing, and
believed in it to the extent of spending all he had in getting the
rights to work it."

"That is possible," Pateley said, "but Anderson was not the chairman of
the company. You are."

"Worse luck," Sir William said bitterly.

"Yes, worse luck," Pateley said. "Your name up to now has been an
honourable one." Sir William started and looked at him again. "I am
afraid," Pateley went on, "after this it may have," and he spoke as if
weighing his words, "a different reputation."

Sir William cleared his throat and spoke with an effort.

"Pateley," he said, "you won't let _that_ happen? You will make it
clear...? You have influence in the Press----"

"I am afraid," Pateley said, "that my influence, such as it is, must on
this occasion be exerted the other way. Of course there is a good deal
at stake for me here," he went on, in a matter of fact tone which
carried more conviction than an outburst of emotion would have done. "I
care for my sisters, and I am afraid I can't sit down and see
them--swindled, or something very like it."

"Not, swindled!" said Gore angrily.

"Well," Pateley said, "that is really what it looks like to the
outsider, and that is what, as a matter of fact, it comes to."

"Heaven knows I would make it right if I could," said Sir William, "but
how can I?"

"Well, of course, on occasions of this kind," Pateley said, still in the
same everyday manner, as though judicially dealing with a fact which did
not specially concern him, "it is sometimes done by the simple process
of the person responsible for the losses making them good--making
restitution, in fact."

"I have told you," said Sir William, "that I'm afraid that is
impossible."

"Ah then, I am sorry," Pateley said, in the tone of one determining, as
Sir William dimly felt, on some course of action. "I thought some
possible course might have suggested itself to you."

"No, I can suggest nothing," Sir William said, leaning back in his
chair, and feeling that neither mind nor body could respond at that
moment to anything that called for fresh initiative.

"I thought that you might have other possibilities on the Stock Exchange
even," said Pateley, "though I must say I don't see in what direction.
There is bound to be a panic the moment war is declared."

There was a pause. Sir William lay back in his chair looking vaguely in
front of him. Pateley sat waiting. Then Gore felt a strange flutter at
his heart as the full bearing of Pateley's last sentence dawned upon
him.

"Supposing," he said, trying to speak steadily, "there were no war?"

"That is hardly worth discussing," said Pateley briefly, as he got up.
"War, I am afraid, is practically certain. Then do I understand, Sir
William," he continued, "that you can do nothing to help me in this
matter? If so, I am sorry. I had hoped I might have spared you some
discomfort, but since you can do nothing----" He broke off and looked
quickly out of the window, then said in explanation, "It is only a
hansom stopping next door; I thought it might be Rendel coming back. But
I was mistaken."

Sir William realised that every instant was precious.

"Pateley," he said, "look here. If you could wait a day or two
longer...."

"Do you mean," said Pateley, "that if I were to wait there would be a
chance of your being able to do something?"

"I don't know," said Sir William, "I am not sure, but there might be a
turn in public affairs; the panic might be over, there might be a chance
of peace."

"If that is all," Pateley said quite definitely, "I am afraid that
prospect is not enough to build upon. I can't afford to wait on that
security."

Sir William got up and spoke quickly with a visible effort.

"Look here, listen... I have a reason for thinking that is the way
things may be turning."

"A reason?" said Pateley, turning round upon him.

"Yes," said Sir William.

"What is it?" said Pateley.

Sir William felt his courage failing him in the desperate game he had
begun to play. It was no good pausing now. He stood facing Pateley,
holding a folded paper in his hand, no longer hidden by the newspaper
which had slid from his grasp on to the ground. He looked at the paper
in his hand mechanically. Mechanically Pateley's eye followed his. The
conviction suddenly came to him that Gore was not speaking at random.

"Sir William," he said, "time presses," and unconsciously they both
looked towards the window into the street. At any moment Rendel might
draw up again. "If you have any reason for what you are saying, tell
me--if not, I must leave you to see what can be done."

"I have a reason," said Sir William, "the strongest, for believing that
there will be peace."

Pateley looked at him. "Give me a proof?" he said, with the accent of a
man who is wasting no words, no intentions.

Sir William's hand tightened over the paper. "If I gave you a proof," he
said, "would you swear not to take any proceedings against the 'Equator'
Company?"

"If you gave me a proof, yes--I would swear," said Pateley.

"And you will keep the things out of the papers," Sir William went on
hurriedly, "till I have had time to see my way?"

"Yes," said Pateley again.

"And my name shall not appear in the matter?"

"No--no," Pateley said, in spite of himself breathlessly and hurriedly,
more excited than he wished to show. Sir William paused and looked
towards the window. "All right," said Pateley, "you have time. Quick!
What is it?"

"There is going," Sir William said, "I am almost certain, to be an
understanding, an agreement between England and Germany about this
business in Africa."

"Impossible!" said Pateley.

"Yes," said Sir William, hardly audibly.

"Give me the proof," Pateley said, coming close to him and in his
excitement making a movement as though to take the paper out of Gore's
hand.

"Wait, wait!" Sir William said. "No, you mustn't do that!" and he
staggered and leant back against the chimneypiece. Pateley had no time
to waste in sympathy.

"Look here, if you don't give it to me, show me what it is."

"Yes, yes, I will show it you," Sir William said, "only you are not to
take it, you are not to touch it."

Pateley signed assent, and Sir William unfolded the map of Africa and
held it up with a trembling hand.

"What!" said Pateley, at first hardly grasping what he saw. Then its
full significance began to dawn upon him. "Africa--a partition of Africa
between Germany and England! Do you mean to say that is it?"

"Yes," Sir William said. "But for Heaven's sake don't touch it, don't
take it out of my hand," he said again, nervously conscious that his own
strength was ebbing at every moment, and that if the resolute, dominant
figure before him had chosen to seize on the paper, nothing could have
prevented his doing so.

"Well, at any rate, let me have a good look at it," Pateley said, "the
coast is still clear," and as he went to the window to give another look
out, he took something out of his breast pocket. "Now then," he said,
turning back to Sir William, "hold it up in the light so that I can have
a good look at it;" and as Sir William held it in the light of the
window, Pateley, as quick as lightning, drew his tiny camera out of his
pocket. There was a click, and the map of Africa had been photographed.
Pateley unconsciously drew a quick breath of relief as he put the
machine back. Sir William, as white as a sheet, dropped his hands in
dismay.

"Good Heavens! What have you done? Have you photographed it?"

"Yes," said Pateley, trying to control his own excitement, and
recovering his usual tone with an effort. "That's all, thank you. It is
much the simplest form of illustration."

"Illustration! What are you going to do with it?" Sir William said,
aghast.

"That depends," said Pateley. "I must see how and when I can use it to
the best advantage."

"You have sworn," Sir William said tremulously, "that you won't say
where you got it from."

"Of course I won't," Pateley said, gradually returning to his usual
burly heartiness. "Now, may I ask where _you_ got it from?"

"I got it out of there," Sir William said, pointing to the table. "A
corner of it was sticking out."

"Might I suggest that you should put it back again?" said Pateley.

"Good Heavens, yes!" said Gore. "I had forgotten." And he nervously
folded it up and dropped it through the slit of the table.

"Ha, that's safer," said Pateley, with a short laugh. "You should not
lose your head over these things," and he gave a swift look down the
street again. "Now I must go. I am going straight to the City, and I'll
tell you what I shall do," and his manner became more emphatic as he
went on, as though answering some objection. "I'm going to buy up the
whole of the 'Equator' shares on the chance of a rise, and perhaps some
Cape to Cairo too, and then we'll see. Now, can't I do something for you
too? Won't you buy something on the chance of a rise?"

Sir William had sunk into a chair. He shook his head.

"I am too tired to think," he said. "I don't know."

"Well, you leave it to me," Pateley said, "and I'll do something for
you--and if things go as we think, by next week you will be in a
position to make good the losses of all London two or three times over.
I'll let you know what happens, and what I've been able to do."

"Thank you," Sir William said again feebly.

"The news will soon pick you up," said Pateley heartily, as he shook him
by the hand. "No, don't get up; I can find my way out. Goodbye." And a
moment later he passed the window, striding away towards Knightsbridge.



CHAPTER XIV


Sir William remained lying back in his chair, looking up at the ceiling,
too much exhausted by the excitement of the last few minutes to realise
entirely what had happened, but with a vague, agonised consciousness
that he had done something irrevocable, something that mattered
supremely. But to try even to conceive what might be the consequence of
it so made his heart throb and his head whirl that all he could do was
to put it away from him with as much effort as he had strength to make.
It was so that Rachel found him, when she came gaily in a few minutes
later from a shopping expedition in Sloane Street, eager to tell him of
all her little doings, and of some acquaintances she had met in the
street. He looked at her and tried to smile.

"Father--father--dear father!" she said in consternation. "What is it?
Are you not so well?"

"Yes, yes," he said nervously, trying to speak in something like his
ordinary voice. "I am--tired, that's all."

"You have been up too long," she said anxiously.

"I don't think it's that," he said.

"But where is Frank?" asked Rachel. "I thought, of course, that he was
with you. That was why I went out. I had no idea you would be alone."

"Lord Stamfordham came," said Sir William, feeling like one who is
forced to approach something that horrifies him, and who dares not look
it in the face. "Frank went out with him."

"Lord Stamfordham! Again!" said Rachel amazed.

"Yes," said Sir William, leaning back with his eyes closed, as though
unable to expend any of his feeble strength on surprise or wonder, much
less on attempts at explanation. And as Rachel looked at him her
solicitude overcame every other thought.

"Darling," she said, "do come back to your own room. Let's go upstairs
now."

"No, no," said Sir William quickly, feeling, even though he thought of
Rendel's return with absolute terror, that it would be better to know
the worst at once without waiting in suspense for the blow to fall.
"I'll wait till Rendel comes in."

"But he shall go up to you at once," Rachel urged. "Do come up now, dear
father."

At that moment, however, the question of whether they should wait or not
for Rendel's return was settled for them, for his latchkey was heard
turning in the front door. He came into the room with such an air as a
winged messenger of victory might wear, unconscious of his surroundings
and of the road he traverses as he speeds along. Rachel looked at him,
and forbore to utter either the inquiry that sprang to her lips or any
appeal for sympathy about her father's condition.

"I've got to finish some writing," Rendel said, bringing back his
thoughts with visible effort. And he went quickly to the writing-table,
opening it with the key of his watch-chain. Sir William dared not look.
He tried to remember what had happened when he so hurriedly put the
paper back; he wondered whether it had stuck in the slit, or if it had
gone properly through and fallen straight among the others. There was a
pause during which he sat up and gripped the arms of his chair,
listening as if for life. Nothing had happened apparently. Rendel had
drawn up his chair and was writing again busily. Sir William fell back
again and closed his eyes as a flood of relief swept over him, Rachel
sitting by him quietly, her hand laid gently on his. Rendel went on
writing, transcribing from some more rough pencil notes he had brought
in in his hand, then, having quickly rung the bell, he proceeded to do
the whole thing up in a packet and seal it securely.

"I want this taken to Lord Stamfordham at once," he said, as the servant
came into the room. "And, Thacker, I should like you to go with it
yourself, please. It's very important, and I want it to be given into
his own hand. If he isn't in, please wait."

"Yes, sir," said Thacker, taking the precious packet and departing, with
a secret thrill of wondering excitement.

Rendel pulled down the lid of the table, drawing a sort of long breath
as he did so, like one who has cleared the big fence immediately in
front of him, and is ready for the next. Sir William's breath was coming
and going quickly.

"I'm afraid you don't look very fit for chess, Sir William," he said
kindly, struck with his father-in-law's look of haggard anxiety and
illness.

"No," Sir William said feebly, "not to-day, I'm afraid."

"I'm sorry to see you like this," Rendel said. "Let me help you
upstairs. What have you been doing with yourself since I left you? You
don't look nearly so well as when you came down."

"I feel a little faint," Sir William said. "It would be better for me to
go and rest now, perhaps." And leaning on Rendel's arm, and followed
solicitously by Rachel, he went upstairs.



CHAPTER XV


The night passed slowly and restlessly for Sir William Gore, although he
slept from sheer exhaustion, and even when he was not sleeping was in a
state of semi-coma, without any clear perception of what had happened.
But in his dreams he lived through one quarter of an hour of the day
before, over and over and over again, always with the same result,
always with the same sense of some unexpected, horrible, shameful
catastrophe, that was to lead to his utter humiliation. That was the
impression that still remained when at last the morning came, and he
finally awoke to the life of another day. Over and over again he went
over the situation as he lay there, Pateley's words ringing in his ears,
his looks present before him. Again he felt the sensation of absolute
sickness at his heart that had gripped him at the moment he had realised
that the map had been photographed, passing as much out of his own power
as though he had given it to a man in the street. Does any one really
acknowledge in his inmost soul that he has on a given occasion done
"wrong," without an immeasurable qualifying of that word, without a
covert resentment at the way other people may label his action? There is
but one person in the world who even approximates to knowing the history
of any given deed. The very fact of snatching it from its context puts
it into the wrong proportion, the fact of contemplating it as though it
were something deliberate, separate, complete in itself, apart from all
that has led up to it, apart from the complication and pressure of
circumstance. Sir William went over and over again in his mind all that
had happened the day before, trying to realise under what aspect his
actions would appear to others--over and over again, until everything
became blurred and he hardly knew under what aspect they appeared to
himself. He felt helplessly indignant with Fate, with Chance, that had
with such dire results made him the plaything of a passing impulse. Then
with the necessity of finding an object for his anger, his thoughts
turned first to Rendel, who had primarily put him in the position of
gaining the knowledge he had used to such disastrous effect, and then to
Pateley, who had taken it from him.

It is unpleasant enough for a child, at a time of life generally
familiar with humiliation and chastisement, to see the moment nearing
when his guilt will be discovered: but it is horrible for a man who is
approaching old age, who is dignified and respected, suddenly to find
himself in the position of having something to conceal, of being
actually afraid of facing the judgment and incurring the censure of a
younger man. And at that moment Gore felt as if he almost hated the man
whose hand could hurl such a thunderbolt. Then his thoughts turned to
Pateley, to the probable result of his operations in the City. In the
other greater anxiety which he himself had suddenly imported into his
life, that first care, which yet was important enough, of the "Equator,"
had almost sunk out of sight. Would the mine turn out to be a gold mine
after all? What would Pateley be able to do? Would he be able to make
enough to cover his liabilities? and his head swam as he tried to
remember what these might amount to.

In the meantime Rendel, in a very different frame of mind from that of
his father-in-law, or, indeed, from that of his own of the night before,
filled with a buoyant thrill of expectation, with the sense that
something was going to happen, that everything might be going to happen,
was looking out into life as one who looks from a watch tower waiting on
fortune and circumstances, waiting confident and well-equipped without a
misgiving. The day was big with fate: a day on which new developments
might continue for himself, the thrill of excitement of the night
before, the sense of being in the foreground, of being actually hurried
along in the front between the two giants who were leading the way. The
dining-room was ablaze with sunshine as he came into it, and in the
morning light sat Rachel, looking up at him with a smile when he came
into the room.

"What an excellent world it is, truly!" said Rendel, as he came across
the room.

"I am glad it is to your liking," she answered.

"You look very well this morning," said Rendel, looking at her, "which
means very pretty."

"I don't feel so especially pretty," said Rachel, with something between
a smile and a sigh.

"Don't you? Don't have any illusions about your appearance," said
Rendel. "Don't suppose yourself to be plain, please."

"I am not so sure," said Rachel, as she began pouring out the tea.

"What is the matter with you?" said Rendel. "What fault do you find with
the world, and your appearance?"

"I am perturbed about my father," she said, her voice telling of the
very real anxiety that lay behind the words. "I don't think he is as
well as he was yesterday."

"Don't you?" said Rendel, more gravely. "I am very sorry. What is the
matter?"

"I can't think," Rachel answered. "He may have done too much yesterday
afternoon."

"He certainly looked terribly tired," said Rendel.

"Terribly," said Rachel, "but I can't imagine why. He had been so
absolutely quiet all the afternoon."

"Well, you take care of him to-day," said Rendel, unable to eliminate
the cheerful confidence from his voice.

"I shall indeed," said Rachel.

"Oh, he'll come all right again, never fear," said Rendel. "You mustn't
take too gloomy a view."

"You certainly seem inclined to take a cheerful one this morning," said
Rachel, half convinced in spite of herself that all was well.

"Well, I do," said Rendel. "I must say that in spite of the prevalent
opinion to the contrary, I feel inclined this morning to say that the
scheme of the universe is entirely right; it is just to my liking. The
sunshine, and my breakfast, and my wife----"

"I am glad I am included," she said.

"And the day to live through. What can a man wish for more?"

"It sounds as though you had everything you could possibly want,
certainly," said Rachel, smiling at him.

"I don't know," said Rendel, reflecting, "if it is that quite. The real
happiness is to want everything you can possibly get. That is the best
thing of all."

"And not so difficult, I should think," said Rachel.

"I am not sure," said Rendel. "I am not sure that it is quite an easy
thing to have an ardent hold on life. Some people keep letting it down
with a flop. But I feel as if I could hold it tight this morning at any
rate. I do not believe there is a creature in the wide world that I
would change places with at this moment," he went on, the force of his
ardent hope and purpose breaking down his usual reserve.

"You are very enthusiastic to-day, Frank," she said.

"Well, one can't do much without enthusiasm," said Rendel, continuing
his breakfast with a satisfied air, "but with it one can move the
world."

"Is that what you are going to do?" said Rachel.

"Yes," said Rendel nodding.

"Frank, I wonder if you will be a great man?"

"Can you doubt it?" said Rendel.

"Supposing," she said, "some day you were a sort of Lord Stamfordham."

"That is rather a far cry," he replied. "By the way, I wonder where the
papers are this morning? Why are they so late?"

"They will come directly," Rachel said. "It is a very good thing they're
late, you can eat your breakfast in peace for once without knowing what
has happened."

"That is not the proper spirit," said Rendel smiling, "for the wife of a
future great man."

"The only thing is," said Rachel, "that if you did become a great man, I
don't think I should be the sort of wife for you. I am very stupid about
politics, don't you think so? I don't understand things properly."

"I think you are exactly the sort of wife I want," said Rendel, "and
that is enough for me. That is the only thing necessary for you to
understand. I don't believe you do understand it really."

"Then are you quite sure," she said, half laughing and half in earnest,
"that you don't like politics better than you do me?"

"Absolutely certain," said Rendel, with a slight change of tone that
told his passionate conviction. "I wish you could grasp that in
comparison with you, nothing matters to me."

"Nothing?" she repeated.

"There is nothing," said Rendel, looking at her, "that I would not
sacrifice to you--my career, my ambitions, anything you asked for."

"I am glad," she said, "that you like me so much, but I don't want you
to make sacrifices," and she spoke in all unconsciousness of the number
of small sacrifices, of an unheroic aspect perhaps, that Rendel was
daily called upon to make for her sake.

At this moment Thacker came in with the morning papers, which he laid on
the table at Rendel's elbow.

"Now then you are happy," said Rachel lightly. "Now you can bury
yourself in the papers and not listen to anything I say."

"I wonder if there is anything about Stoke Newton and old Crawley's
resignation," said Rendel, quite prepared to follow her advice. "I don't
suppose he takes a very jovial view of life just now, poor old boy. Oh,
how I should hate to be on the shelf!"

"I don't think you are likely to be, for the present," said Rachel.

And then Rendel, pushing his chair a little away from the table, opened
the papers wide, and began scanning them one after another, with the
mild and pleasurable excitement of the man who feels confidently abreast
of circumstances. Then, as he took up the _Arbiter_, his eye suddenly
fell upon a heading that took his breath away. What was this? He dropped
the paper with a cry.

"What is it, Frank?" said Rachel startled.

"Good Heavens! what have they done that for?" he said, springing to his
feet in uncontrollable excitement.

"Done what?" said Rachel.

"Why, they have announced--they have put in something that Lord
Stamfordham----" He snatched up the paper again and looked at it
eagerly. "It is incredible! and the map too, the very map, at this
stage! Well, upon my word, he has made a mistake this time, I do
believe." And he still gazed at the paper as though trying to fathom the
whole hearing of what he saw.

At this moment the door opened, and Thacker came in.

"Sir William wished me to ask you for some foolscap paper, ma'am,
please," he said, "with lines on it."

"Foolscap paper? What is he doing?" said Rachel anxiously.

"He is writing, ma'am," said Thacker. "He seems to be doing accounts."

"Oh, I wish he wouldn't!" Rachel said. "I must go and see. I'll bring
the foolscap paper myself, Thacker. Frank, there is some in your study,
isn't there?"

"What?" said Rendel, who, still absorbed in what he had just seen, had
only dimly heard their colloquy.

"Some foolscap paper," she repeated. "There is some in your study?"

"Yes, yes, in my writing-table," he said absently.

Rachel went quickly out of the room. At that moment the hall door bell
rang violently. Rendel started and went to the window. In the phase of
acute tension in which he found himself, every unexpected sound carried
an untold significance, but he was not prepared for what this one
betokened: Lord Stamfordham in the street, dismounting from his horse.
Stamfordham was accustomed to ride every morning from eight till nine,
alone and unattended. Thacker hurried out to hold the horse. Rendel
followed him and met Stamfordham on the doorstep. He led the way quickly
across the hall into his study and shut the door. They both felt
instinctively that greetings were superfluous.

"Have you seen the _Arbiter_?" Stamfordham said.

"Yes," said Rendel, looking him straight in the face with eager
expectation.

"So have I," said Stamfordham, "at the German Embassy. I had not seen it
before leaving home, but I saw a poster at the corner, and I went
straight to Bergowitz to ask him what it meant; he is as much in the
dark as I am."

"In the dark!" said Rendel, looking at him amazed. "What! but--was it
not you who published it?"

"_I_ publish it?" said Stamfordham. "Do you mean to say you thought I
had?"

"Of course I did! who else?" said Rendel.

"Who else?" Stamfordham repeated. "I have come here to ask you that."

"To ask _me_?" said Rendel, bewildered. "How should I know? I have not
seen those papers since I gave the packet sealed to Thacker to take it
to you."

"And I received it," said Stamfordham, "sealed and untampered with, and
opened it myself, and it has not been out of my keeping since."

"But at the German Embassy," said Rendel, "since it was telegraphed...?"

"The substance of the interview was telegraphed," said Stamfordham, "but
not the map--_not the map_," he said emphatically. "That map no one has
seen besides Bergowitz, you, and myself. Bergowitz it would be quite
absurd to suspect, he is as genuinely taken back as I am--I know that it
didn't get out through me, and therefore----" he paused and looked
Rendel in the face.

"What!" said Rendel, with a sort of cry. A horrible light, an incredible
interpretation was beginning to dawn upon him. "You can't think it was
through _me_?"

"What else can I think?" said Stamfordham--Rendel still looked at him
aghast--"since the papers after I gave them into your keeping were
apparently not out of it until they passed into mine again? I brought
them to you here myself. Of course I see now I ought not to have done
so, but how could I have imagined----"

Rendel hurriedly interrupted him.

"Lord Stamfordham, not a soul but myself can have had access to those
papers. I went out of the room, it is true," and he went rapidly over in
his mind the sequence of events the day before, "for a short half-hour
perhaps, when you came back here and I went out with you, but before
leaving the room I remember distinctly that I shut the cover of my
writing-table down with the spring, and tried it to see that it was
shut, and then unlocked it myself when I came back."

"Was any one else in the room?" said Stamfordham.

"Yes," said Rendel, and a sudden idea occurred to him, to be dismissed
as soon as entertained, "Sir William Gore."

"Gore?" said Stamfordham, looking at Rendel, but forbearing any comment
on his father-in-law.

"It was quite impossible," Rendel said decidedly, answering
Stamfordham's unspoken words, "that he could have got at the papers;
for, as I told you, when I came back again they were exactly where I had
left them, and the thing locked with this very complicated key, and he
showed it hanging on his chain."

"It is evident," Stamfordham repeated inflexibly, "that some one must
have got hold of it with or without your knowledge. I warned you
yesterday, you remember, about taking your--any one in your household
into your confidence."

"And I did not," Rendel said, grasping his meaning. "My wife did not
even know that I had the papers to transcribe. She does not know it
now."

Stamfordham paused a moment. He could not in words accuse Rendel's wife,
whatever his silence might imply. Then he spoke with emphatic sternness.

"Rendel," he said, "by whatever means the thing happened, we must know
how. I must have an explanation."

Rendel was powerless to speak.

"For you must see," Stamfordham went on, "what a terrible catastrophe
this might have been--the danger is not over yet, in fact, although I
may be strong enough for my colleagues to condone the fact that the
public has been told of this before themselves, and the country may be
strong enough for foreign Powers to do the same. But, as a personal
matter, I must know how it got out, and I repeat, I must have an
explanation. For your own sake you must explain."

Rendel felt as if the ground were reeling under his feet.

"I will try," he said, still feeling as if he were in some wild dream.

"When you have made inquiries," Stamfordham said, still speaking in a
brief tone of command, "you had better come and tell me the result. I
shall be at the Foreign Office till twelve."

"Till twelve. Very well," said Rendel, feeling as if there was a dark
chasm between himself and that moment. Mechanically he let Lord
Stamfordham out, and stood as the latter mounted and rode away. Then he
turned back into the house.



CHAPTER XVI


He went into the dining-room first--Rachel was still upstairs--and
picked up the _Arbiter_ again, looking at it with this new, terrible
interpretation of what he saw in it. There it was, as damning evidence
as ever a man was convicted upon, the map that no one but himself and
the two principals had seen, reproduced, roughly it is true, but still
unmistakably, from the paper that he alone in the house had had in his
possession. He turned hurriedly to the brief but guarded commentary
evolved at a venture by Pateley, but nevertheless very near the truth.
Pateley had played a bold game indeed, but he was playing it as
skilfully and watchfully as was his wont. Rendel threw down the paper
with a gesture of despair, then clenched his hands. If he had been a
woman he would have wept from sheer misery and agitation. But it was of
no good to clench his hands in despair; every moment that passed ought
to be used to find out the truth of what had happened, to clear himself
from that nightmare of suspicion.

He went hurriedly across the hall to his study with the instinct of one
who feels that on the spot itself there may be some suggestion to help
discovery. His writing-table was locked. He tried it, shook it. The key,
one of a peculiar make, hung always on his watch-chain. It was quite
impossible that, save by one who had the key, the table should have been
opened. What had he done yesterday? What had happened? And he sat down
and buried his face in his hands, concentrating his thoughts, trying to
recall every incident. The first time that Stamfordham had come in and
given him the rough notes and the map, he, Rendel, had been alone. There
was no doubt of that. After that who came in? Rachel? No, Rachel had not
been in the room with the papers except just at the end when Rendel was
sealing up the packet. Besides, if Rachel had had a hundred secrets in
her possession, they would have been as safe as in his own. Then he
caught himself up--in his own! after all, he was suspected--so the
impossible idea, apparently, could be entertained. Then the thought of
Sir William Gore came into his mind, but only to be instantly dismissed,
for since the papers were locked up in Rendel's writing-table they must
have been as inaccessible to Sir William as though they had been
separated from him by the walls of several apartments. And there was one
thing pretty certain: Gore, supposing him to be capable of using it, had
not got a duplicate key. "Even he," Rendel found himself thinking,
"would not do that." He heard Rachel's step swiftly descend the stairs
and go into the dining-room, then she came quickly across the hall to
the study.

"Oh, there you are, Frank," she said. "My father is----" then she broke
off as she saw that he was apparently buried in painful thought from
which he roused himself with a start as she spoke. "Is anything the
matter?"

"I will tell you," said Rendel, speaking with an effort.

"May I just ask you something first?" said Rachel hurriedly. "I want
some foolscap paper for my father. He is so restless this morning, so
impatient."

"It is in there--I told you, didn't I?" said Rendel, turning round and
pointing to one of the drawers at the side of his table.

"In that drawer!" said Rachel. "How very stupid of me! I didn't think of
that. I thought it was in the top part, and I could only get one sheet
out of there."

"The top? Wasn't the top locked?" said Rendel quickly, his whole thought
concentrated on the problem before him, and the part of the table must
have played in the drama that affected him so nearly.

"Yes, it was," said Rachel smiling, "and I couldn't open it, but there
was a little tiny corner of ruled paper sticking out, so I pulled it,
and out it came."

Rendel started and looked at her.

"It is sweetly simple," she added.

"Yes," said Rendel, with an energy that surprised her. "It would come
out quite easily, of course."

"Frank," she said, surprised, "what is it? You didn't mind my pulling it
out, did you?"

"Of course not; I don't mind your doing anything--only--I didn't realise
that things could be got out of my writing-table in that way."

"Well, you must be sure to poke them in further next time," Rachel said
lightly, shutting again the side drawer to which she had been directed,
and out of which she had got some sheets of foolscap. "I will be back
directly."

"Wait one moment," said Rendel. "Lord Stamfordham has been here."

"Lord Stamfordham! Since I went upstairs?" said Rachel, standing still
in sheer surprise.

"Yes," said Rendel. "Some secret information that--I knew about, has got
into the paper and is published this morning."

"Oh, Frank, how terrible!" said Rachel. "How did it happen? Do they
mind?"

"Yes, they mind," Rendel said.

"Was that what you saw in the paper," Rachel said, "that excited you so
much?"

"Yes," said Rendel.

"I don't wonder," Rachel said, standing with her hand on the handle of
the door, an attitude of all others least inviting of confidence. "Who
let it out?"

"That is what we want to know," said Rendel. "That is what Lord
Stamfordham came here to ask."

"Well, he doesn't think it was you, I suppose," said Rachel, smiling at
the absurd suggestion.

"It is quite possible," Rendel said, with a dim idea that he would lead
up to the statement, "that he might--that he does."

"What!" said Rachel, opening her eyes wide. "Frank! how absurd!"

"So it seems to me," said Rendel sombrely.

"Too ridiculous!--I'll come down in one moment," Rachel said
apologetically. "I don't want to keep my father waiting."

"Don't say anything to him," said Rendel, "of what I have just been
saying to you."

"Oh, no, I won't indeed," Rachel said. "He ought not to have anything to
excite him to-day," and she went rapidly upstairs.

Rendel, as the door closed behind her, felt for the moment like a man
who, shipwrecked alone, has seen a vessel draw near to him and then pass
gaily on its way without bringing him help. What was to be done? Again
he took hold of the situation and looked it in the face. But now a new
light had been thrown upon it by Rachel. If a paper could be taken out
in the way that she had shown him, it was possible that Gore might have
obtained the map in the same way, though it still seemed to Rendel
exceedingly unlikely that, granted he had done so, he would have been
able, given the condition he was in, to act upon it soon enough for it
to appear this morning. He hesitated a moment, then he made up his mind
to wait no longer. He took up the _Arbiter_ and went upstairs to Sir
William's room. He met Rachel coming out.

"Oh, thank you," she said, as she saw the paper. "I was just coming down
to fetch that. Father would like to see it."

"I thought I would bring it up," Rendel said. "I want to speak to him a
moment."

Rachel looked alarmed.

"Frank, you will be careful, won't you?" she said. "He really is not in
a fit state to discuss anything this morning."

"I am afraid what I have to say won't wait," Rendel said. "I think I had
better speak to him alone." And he quite unmistakably waited for Rachel
to go her way before he went into Sir William's room and shut the door.
Sir William, wrapped in his dressing-gown, was sitting up in an easy
chair. On the table near him were sheets of foolscap paper covered with
figures, and lying beside them a letter with a bold, splotchy writing,
which he quickly moved out of sight as Rendel came in, a letter that had
told him of certain successful financial operations undertaken in the
City on his behalf. His face was pale and haggard. He looked up, as he
saw Rendel come into the room, with an expression almost of terror,
dashed however with resentment. In his mind at that moment, his
son-in-law was the embodiment of the fate that, in some incredible way,
had, as it were, turned him, Sir William Gore, who had hitherto spent
his life in the sunshine of position, of dignity, of the deserved
respect of his fellow-creatures, out into a chill storm of
circumstances, absolutely alone, into some terrible world where, instead
of walking upright among his fellow-men, he was, by no fault of his own,
he kept repeating to himself, hurrying along with a burden on his back,
crouching, fearing observation, fearing detection. That burden was
almost intolerable. He had been trying to distract his thoughts and seek
some cold comfort by making calculations based upon the letter he had
received from Pateley, but all the time, behind it lay ice-cold and
immovable the thought of the price at which Pateley's co-operation had
been bought, of the moment of reckoning with Rendel that must come when
the sands should have run out their appointed time. So much had he
suffered, so much had he been dominated by this thought, that when the
door opened and Rendel finally came in, the moment brought a sort of
relief. Rendel, on the other hand, when he saw Sir William looking so
old, so white and feeble, suddenly felt his purpose arrested. It was
impossible, surely, that this old man, with the worn, handsome face and
pathetically anxious expression, could have had a hand in a diabolical
machination, and the thought that it was unlikely came to him with a
gleam of comfort. Then as quick as lightning came a reaction of
wonderment as to what hypothesis was to take the place of this one. At
any rate, there was only one thing to be done: to tell Gore the story
without a moment's further delay.

"Good morning, Sir William," he said. "I am sorry to hear you are not
well this morning."

"Not very," Gore said, trying to speak calmly, and involuntarily looking
at the newspaper in Rendel's hand.

"I hear you were asking for the _Arbiter_," Rendel said.

"Yes, I should like to see it," Gore replied, "when you have done with
it."

"I want you to see it," Rendel said. "There is something in it which
matters a great deal." Gore felt a sudden grip at his heart. He said
nothing. "Here it is," said Rendel, and he handed him the paper, folded
so as to show the startling headings in big letters and the rough
facsimile of the map. Gore looked at it. The whole thing swam before his
eyes; he held it for a moment, trying desperately to think what he had
better say, but he could find no anchorage anywhere.

"That is very surprising," he said finally. "As far as I can see,
it's--it's a partition of Africa between England and Germany? Is that
it? I can't see very well this morning."

"That is it," said Rendel.

"Yes, that is very important," Gore said, leaning back and letting the
paper slide from his grasp. "Most important," and he was silent again,
waiting in an agony of suspense for what Rendel's next words would be.
Rendel, scarcely less agitated, was trying to choose them carefully.

"I am very sorry," he began, "to have to tire and worry you about this
when you are not well, but I have a particular reason for talking to you
about it."

"Pray go on," Gore managed to say under his breath.

"I have a special reason," said Rendel, "for wanting to remember what
happened in my study yesterday afternoon."

"Yesterday afternoon?" said Gore. "Did anything particular happen?"

"That is what I want to know," said Rendel, trying to speak calmly and
quietly. "You will oblige me very much if you will try to remember
exactly what happened all the time, from the moment you came into the
room until you left it."

Gore made an effort to pull himself together. There was no difficulty,
alas! for him in remembering every single thing that had taken
place--the difficulty was not to show that he remembered too well.

"When I came in," he said, endeavouring to speak in an ordinary tone,
"you were at your writing-table."

"I was," said Rendel, watching him.

"And then I sat down in an armchair and read the _Mayfair Gazette_----"
and he stopped.

"Yes. All that," Rendel said, "I remember, of course. Thacker came in
telling me Lord Stamfordham was there, and I rushed out, shutting the
roller top of my writing-table, which closes with a spring. I was
especially careful to shut it, as it had valuable papers in it."

"Indeed?" said Sir William, almost inaudibly.

"Yes, and among them," Rendel said, watching the effect of his words, "a
map--that map of Africa which is reproduced this morning in the
_Arbiter_."

"In your writing-table?" Gore said, with quivering lips.

"Yes, in my writing-table, out of which it must have been taken."

"That is very serious," Gore forced himself to say.

"It is very serious," said Rendel, "as you will see. When I came back
and had finished my work on the papers I did them up myself in a packet
and sent them to Lord Stamfordham."

"Your messenger was not trustworthy, apparently," said Gore, recovering
himself.

"My messenger was Thacker," Rendel said, "who is absolutely trustworthy.
Lord Stamfordham himself told me that he had received the packet with my
seal intact."

"Still," said Gore, "servants have been known to sell State secrets
before now."

"But not Thacker," said Rendel. "However, of course I shall ask him; I
must ask every one in the house, for it must have been by some one here
that the thing was done, that the map was got out."

"I thought you said the table was locked?"

"It was locked, yes," said Rendel, "but I have learnt this morning that
papers can be pulled out from under the lid. Rachel got a piece of
foolscap paper for you in that way."

"Did she?" said Gore, feeling that he had unwittingly supplied one link
in the chain of evidence.

"There was only one person, so far as I know," said Rendel, "in the room
while that paper was in my desk, who could have pulled it out and looked
at it, and apparently made an unwarrantable use of it." The question
that he expected to hear from Gore did not follow. Rendel waited, then
he went on, "That person was--you."

"What do you mean?" said Gore, sitting up, his colour going and coming
quickly.

"My words, I think, are quite plain," Rendel said. "I mean that all the
evidence, circumstantial, I grant, points--you must forgive me if I am
wronging you--to your having taken out the map."

"Will you please give me your reasons for this extraordinary
accusation?" said Gore.

"Yes," said Rendel, "I will." And he spoke more and more rapidly as, his
self-control at length utterly broken down, and his emotion having
gained entire possession of him, he felt the fierce joy of those who,
habitually watchful of their words, yield once or twice in their lives
to the impulse of letting them flow out unchecked in an overwhelming
flood. "You alone were in the room with the papers; your prepossessions
are all against us; you spoke yourself just now of the value of a State
secret sold in the proper quarter; things are looking ugly about the
'Equator.'"

"Do you mean to hint----" said Gore.

Rendel interrupted him quickly. "No, not to hint," he said; "hinting is
not in my line. I dare to say it out. I dare to say that in one of those
moments of aberration, of deviation, whatever you choose to call it,
that sometimes descend upon the most unlikely people, you pulled that
paper out, from idle curiosity, I daresay, and finding out what it was
you sent it to the _Arbiter_."

"You did well," said Gore bitterly, "to keep your wife out of the room
while you were accusing me. I am old and defenceless," he said, with
lips trembling, and again an immense self-pity rushing over him. "I
can't answer; I can't reply to a young man's violence."

"I have no intention," Rendel said, still speaking with a passion which
intoxicated him, "of being violent, but I must go on with this, for Lord
Stamfordham won't rest until it is sifted to the bottom, and he is not a
man to be trifled with. And as to your being defenceless, good God! your
best defence is Rachel's trust in you and devotion to you. It is because
of it that I wanted to spare her the knowledge of what we have been
saying. Her faith in your infallibility has always seemed to me so
touching that for her sake I have respected it. I have tried--Heaven
knows I have tried!--all this time to be to you what she wished me to
be." Gore stirred; he was quite incapable of speaking. "This is not the
moment," Rendel went on, almost unconscious of his words, which poured
out in a flood, "to keep up a hollow mockery of trust and friendship,
and it is more honest to tell you fairly that I have not entirely
shared her faith in you. I have always thought that, like the rest of us
after all, you were neither better nor worse than most other fallible
people in this world, and that you may be, as I daresay we all are,
fashioned by circumstances, or even by temptation. And I tell you
frankly that I believe that you did this thing that I accuse you of.
How, I demand to know. That, at any rate, is not more than one man may
ask of another."

Sir William winced and writhed helplessly under Rendel's words. The
intolerable discomfort and misery that he felt as the moment of
discovery drew near had given place gradually to a furious resentment at
what he was being made to endure at the hands of one who ought not to
have presumed to criticise him. As Rendel stood there, his clearly cut
face hard and stern, pouring out accusations and reproach, Gore felt as
if the younger man embodied all the adverse influences of his own life.
It was through Rendel that the fatal opportunity had come of his getting
himself into this terrible strait, Rendel: who, most unjustly in the
scheme of things, was daring to tax Gore with it. It was too horrible to
bear longer. He too felt that the time had come when that with which his
heart and soul were overflowing must find vent in speech. As he heard
Rendel's words of stern impeachment ringing in his ears, "I tell you
frankly that I believe that you did this thing," he rose desperately to
his feet.

"Well," he said, casting with a kind of horrible relief all restraints
and prudence to the winds, "what if I had?"

Rendel turned pale.

"If you had?" he said. "You did it, then?"

"If I had," Gore went on quickly, "it wouldn't have been a crime. You
can't know how easy it was for the thing to happen. I am not going to
tell you--I am not going to justify myself----" And he went on with a
passionate need of self-vindication, drawing from his own words the
conviction that he had hardly been at fault.

"Sir William," Rendel said hurriedly, "tell me----"

"It is easy enough," said Gore, "for you to talk of faith and trust. You
need not grudge my child's faith in me. I have nothing else left now."
And as the two men looked at each other each in his soul had a vision of
the gracious presence that had always been by Sir William's side: of one
who would have believed in him, justified him, if the whole world had
accused him. Rendel suddenly paused as he was going to speak.

"Life is very easy for you," Gore went on in a rapid, trembling voice.
Oh, the relief of saying it all!

"It is all quite plain sailing for you, you with whom everything
succeeds, you who are young and have your life before you. You have time
for the things that happen to you to be made right."

"Don't let us discuss all that now," said Rendel, with an effort. "We
are talking of something else that matters more than I can say. You
only can tell me----"

"I will tell you nothing," said Gore loudly, excited and breathless,
speaking in gasps. "One day when you are old and alone--and both of
these things may come to you as well as to other people--you will
understand what all this means to me."

"Father, dear father!" cried Rachel, coming in hurriedly. Anxious and
wretched at Rendel's interview with her father being so unduly
prolonged, she had wandered upstairs again, and when she heard the
excited and angry voices she could bear the suspense no longer. "What is
it?"

Gore sank back trembling into his chair as she came in, making signs to
her that for the moment he was unable to speak. A glance at him was
enough to show that it actually was so.

"Oh, Frank!" she cried, "what have you done? I asked you not to excite
him."

"Wait, Rachel, wait!" said Rendel, trying to speak calmly, feeling that
everything was at stake. "Sir William, can you not tell me----?"

Gore feebly shook his head.

"Frank!" cried Rachel, amazed at his persistence. "Oh, don't! Let me
implore you not to ask him anything more. Frank! do you mind leaving him
now? Oh, you must, you must, really. Look at him!"

Sir William, white and exhausted, was leaning back in his chair with his
eyes closed. Rendel looked at her face of quivering anxiety as it bent
over her father, then turned slowly and left the room.



CHAPTER XVII


Rendel came downstairs, hardly conscious of what he was doing, a wild
conflict of emotion raging in his mind. He shut himself into his study,
and tried to distinguish clearly the threads of motive and conduct that
had become so hideously entangled. It sounds a simple thing, doubtless,
as well as a praiseworthy one, to discover the doer of an evil deed, to
convict him, to bring home to him what he has done, and to prove the
innocence of any other who may be suspected. Such a course, when spoken
of in general terms, gives a praiseworthy and sustaining sense of a duty
accomplished towards society. But it is in reality a much more
complicated operation than we are apt to think. The evildoer,
unfortunately for our sense of righteousness in prosecuting him, is not
always one who has unmixed evil instincts, and nearly every contingency
of human conduct becomes, as we contemplate it, many-sided enough to be
very confusing. And it was beginning to dawn upon Rendel that, although
it may fulfil the ends of abstract justice that the guilty should be
exposed and the innocent acquitted, such an act takes an ugly aspect
when the eager pursuer is himself the innocent man who is to be
vindicated, and the guilty one a weaker and defenceless person who is to
be put in his place. "And yet," he said to himself bitterly, as he tried
to think of it impartially, "if it were a question of any one else's
reputation and not of my own I should be bound to say who the guilty man
was." What was he to do? What could he do? He did not know how long he
had been sitting there when Rachel came quickly in.

"Oh! Frank," she said, with a face of alarm, "he's very ill. I'm sure he
is. I've sent for Dr. Morgan to come at once. He fainted after you left,
and he's only just come round again. Oh! I am terribly anxious," and she
looked at him, her lips quivering, then put her hands before her eyes
and burst into tears.

Rendel's heart smote him. Everything else, as he looked at her, faded
into the background. The thing that mattered was Rachel was the woman he
loved. It was he who had brought this grief upon her.

"Darling," he said, "I'm so sorry."

She shook her head and tried to smile.

"Oh," she said, trying to suppress her tears, "I ought not to have left
him. I daresay you didn't know, but it has done him the most terrible
harm. Did you tell him, then, about--about--the thing you told me of,
that you had been suspected--of telling something--what was it?" and she
passed her hand over her forehead as if unable to think.

"No," said Rendel, "I didn't tell him that _I_ had been accused of it. I
daresay he guessed I had. I told him it had happened."

"But, Frank, why did you?" she said. "I implored you not."

"Rachel," he said, "do you realise what it means to me that I should be
accused of a thing like this?"

"Of course, yes, of course," she said, evidently still listening for any
sound from upstairs. "But still a thing like that, that can be put right
in a few minutes, cannot matter so much as life and death...."

And again her voice became almost inaudible.

"There are some things," said Rendel in a low voice, "that matter more
to a man than life and death."

"Do you mean to say," said Rachel, "that it matters more that you should
be supposed to have done something that you have not done, than that my
father should not get well?"

"Supposing your father had been wrongfully accused of something
underhand and dishonourable," said Rendel, "would not that matter more
to him than--than--anything else?"

Rachel put up her hands with a cry as if to ward off a blow.

"My father!" she said, drawing away from Rendel. "You must not say such
a thing. How could it be said?"

"You endure," said Rendel, "that it should be said about me."

"About you! That is different," she said, unable in the tension of her
overwrought nerves to choose her words. "You are young, you can defend
yourself; but it is cruel, cruel of you to say that it might happen to
my father. You don't realise what my father is to me or you couldn't say
such things even without meaning them. No, you can't know, you can't
understand, or you couldn't, just for your own sake, have gone to him
to-day when he is so ill and told him things that excited him."

"I think I do understand," Rendel said, forcing himself to speak calmly.
"Of course I know, I have always known, perhaps not quite so clearly as
to-day, that--that--he must come first with you."

"Oh! in some ways he must, he must," Rachel said, half entreatingly, yet
with a ring of determination in her voice. "I promised my mother that I
would, as far as I could, take her place, and while he lives I must.
Frank, I would give up my life to save him suffering, as she would have
done. Ah! there is Doctor Morgan," and she left the room hastily as a
doctor's brougham stopped at the door.

Rendel stood perfectly still, looking straight before him, seeing
nothing, but gazing with his mind's eye on a universe absolutely
transformed--the bright, dancing lights had gone, it was overspread by a
dark, settled gloom. There were sounds outside. He was mechanically
conscious of Rachel's hurried colloquy with the doctor in the hall, of
their footsteps going upstairs. Then he roused himself. What would the
doctor's verdict be? But he could not remain now, he must hear it on his
return from the Foreign Office, he must now go as agreed to Lord
Stamfordham. But first, for form's sake, he rang for Thacker and
questioned him, and through him the rest of the household, without
result, except renewed and somewhat offended assurances from Thacker
that the packet had been given by himself into Stamfordham's own hands
and that, to his knowledge, no one but Sir William Gore had been in the
study during Rendel's absence. But Rendel knew in his heart that there
was no need to question any one further, and no advantage in doing so,
since he knew also that he could not use his knowledge.

He drove rapidly along in a hansom, unconscious of the streets he passed
through. Wherever he went he saw only Rachel's face of misery, heard the
words, "just for your own sake," that had cut into him as deeply as his
own into Gore. Was that it? he asked himself, was it just for his own
sake, to clear himself, that he had accused Gore? Well, why else? Once
Stamfordham knew that the thing had been done, the secret revealed, the
name of the actual culprit would make no real difference. It would make
things neither easier nor more difficult for Stamfordham to know that it
had been done, not by himself, but by Sir William Gore. But there was
one person besides himself and Gore for whom everything hung in the
balance, and it was still with Rachel's face before him and her words in
his ears, that he went into Lord Stamfordham's private room.

Lord Stamfordham had been writing with a secretary, who got up and went
out as Rendel came in. How familiar the room was to Rendel! how
incredible it was that day after day he should have come there--was it
in some former state of existence?--valued, welcome.

"Well, what have you to tell me?" Stamfordham said quickly.

Rendel's lips felt dry and parched; he spoke with an effort.

"I am afraid," he said in a voice that sounded to him strangely unlike
his own, "that I have ... nothing."

"What?" said Stamfordham. "Have you not made any inquiries? Haven't you
asked every one in your house?"

"I have made inquiries, yes," said Rendel.

"And do you mean to say that there is nothing that can throw any light
upon it, no possible solution?"

"I can throw no light," said Rendel.

"But...." said Stamfordham. "Is this all you are going to say? Have you
thought of no possibility? Have you no suggestion to offer?"

"I am afraid," said Rendel again, "that I can offer none."

Lord Stamfordham sat silent for a moment, absolutely bewildered. Part of
his exceptional administrative ability was the almost unerring judgment
he displayed in choosing those he employed about him, and it was an
entirely new experience to him to have to suspect one of them, or to
impugn the ordinary code of honourable conduct. He found it extremely
difficult, autocrat as he was, to put it into words. He was sore and
angry at the grave indiscretion, if not something worse, that had been
committed, most of all that it should have been himself, the great
officer of state, in whom it was unpardonable to choose the wrong tool,
who had put that immeasurably important secret into the hands of a man
who had somehow or other let it escape from them; so much could not be
denied. It certainly seemed difficult to conceive that it should be
Rendel himself who had betrayed it, or that if he had betrayed it he
would not admit the fact. And yet--could it be?--there was something in
Rendel's demeanour now that made it more possible than it had been an
hour ago to credit him with the shameful possibility. The pause during
which all this had rushed through Stamfordham's mind seemed to Rendel to
have lasted through untold ages of time, when Stamfordham at last spoke
again.

"Rendel," he said, "I have a right to demand that you should give me
more satisfaction than this. You say you have learnt nothing, and can
tell me nothing, but this I find impossible to believe." Rendel made a
movement. "I am sorry, but I say this advisedly, since this disclosure
_must_ have taken place in your house," and he underlined the words
emphatically. "I can't think it possible that a man of your intelligence
should not have found some clue, some possible suggestion."

"I am very sorry," said Rendel. "I'm afraid I have not."

"Then, of course, it is obvious what conclusion I must come to," said
Lord Stamfordham. "That it is not that you cannot give any explanation,
but that you decline to give it."

Rendel, to his intense mortification, felt that he was changing colour.
Stamfordham, looking at him earnestly, felt absolutely certain that he
knew.

"Rendel," he said, gravely, "take my advice before it is too late. Don't
let a wish to screen some one else prevent you from speaking. If you
have had the misfortune to--let the secret escape you, don't, to shelter
the person who published it, withhold the truth now. But I must remind
you also," and his words fell like strokes from a hammer, "that I am
asking it for my own sake as well as yours. When I brought you those
papers, I trusted you fully and unreservedly, and now that this
catastrophe has happened in consequence of my confidence in you I am
entitled to know what has happened."

"Yes," Rendel said. "I quite see your position, and I know that you have
a right to resent mine, but all I can say is that--" he stopped, then
went on again with firmer accents, "I don't suppose I can expect you to
believe me, but as a matter of fact I can't begin to conceive the
possibility of knowingly handing on to some one else such a secret as
that."

"Knowingly," said Stamfordham, "perhaps not," and he waited, to give
Rendel one more chance of speaking. But Rendel was silent. Then
Stamfordham went on in a different tone and with a perceptibly harsher
note in his voice. "My time is so precious that I am afraid if you have
nothing further to tell me there is no good in prolonging the
interview."

"Perhaps not," said Rendel, who was deadly white, and he made a motion
as though to go.

"Do you realise," said Stamfordham, "what this will mean to you?"

"Yes," said Rendel, "I do."

"Of course," said Stamfordham, "what I ought to do is to insist on the
inquiry being continued until the matter is cleared up and brought to
light."

A strange expression passed over Rendel's face as there rose in his mind
a feeling that he instantly thrust out of sight again, that
supposing--supposing--Stamfordham himself investigated to the bottom all
that had happened, and that without any doing of his, Rendel's, the
truth were discovered? Then with horror he put the idea away. Rachel! it
would give Rachel just as great a pang, of course, whoever found it out.
The flash of impulse and recoil had passed swiftly through his mind
before he woke up, as it were, to find Stamfordham continuing--

"But I am willing for your sake to stop here."

Rendel tried to make some acknowledgment, but no words that he could
speak came to his lips.

"It might, as I told you before," Stamfordham went on, standing up as
though to show that the interview was over, "have been a national
disaster. That, however, has, I hope, been averted, and we shall simply
have done now something we meant to do a few days hence. But that does
not affect the point we have been discussing," and he looked at Rendel
as though with a forlorn hope that at the last moment he might speak.
But Rendel was silent still. "You understand, then," Stamfordham said,
looking him straight in the face, an embodiment of inexorable justice,
"what this means to a man in your position?"

"Yes," said Rendel again.

"I owe my colleagues an explanation," said Stamfordham. "Since one is
not to be had, I must repeat to them what has passed between us."

"Of course," said Rendel. And he went towards the door.

"There is another thing I must ask you," Stamfordham said, speaking with
cold courtesy. "I have a letter here about Stoke Newton. It will have to
be settled." And he waited for Rendel to answer the question which had
not been explicitly asked.

"I shall not stand," said Rendel.

"That is best," said Stamfordham quietly. "Will you telegraph to the
Committee, then?"

"I will," said Rendel, and with an inclination of the head, to which
Lord Stamfordham responded, he went out.



CHAPTER XVIII


Rendel up to this moment had been accustomed, unconsciously to himself
perhaps, to live, as most men of keen intelligence and aspirations do
live, in the future. The possibilities of to-day had always had an added
zest from the sense of there being a long, magnificent expanse
stretching away indefinitely in front of him, in which to achieve what
he would. In his moments of despondency he had been able to conceive
disaster possible, but it was always, after all, such disaster as a man
might encounter, and then, surmounting, turn afresh to life. But of all
possible forms of disaster that would have occurred to him as being
likely to come near himself, there was one that he would have known
could not approach him: there was one form of misery from which, so far
as human probabilities could be gauged, he was safe. He had never
imagined that he could in his own experience learn what it meant,
according to the customary phrase, to "go under" because he could not
hold his head up: to disappear from among the honourable and the
strenuous, to be dragged down by the weight of some shameful deed which
would make him unfit to consort with people of his own kind. As he
walked home he was not conscious, perhaps, of trying to look his
situation in the face, of trying to adjust himself to it. And yet
insensibly things began falling into shape, as particles of sand
gradually subside after a whirlwind and settle into a definite form.
Then Stamfordham's words rang in his ears: "I must tell my colleagues."
It was a small fraction of the world in number, perhaps, that would thus
know how it happened, but they were, to Rendel, the only people who
mattered--the people, practically, in whose hands his own future lay. He
realised now as he had never done before in what calm confidence he had
in his inmost heart looked on that future, and most of all how much, how
entirely he had always counted on Lord Stamfordham's good opinion of his
integrity and worth. It was all gone. What should he do? How should he
take hold of life now?

As he waited at a corner to cross the road, he saw big newspaper boards
stuck up. The second edition of the other morning papers was coming out
with the news eagerly caught up from the _Arbiter_. There it was in big
letters, people stopping to read it as they passed: "Startling
Disclosure. Unexpected Action of the Government." No power on earth
could stop that knowledge from spreading now. How it would turn the
country upside down--what a fever of conjecture, what storms of
disapproval from some, of jubilation from others. What frantic
excitement was in store for the few who, with vigilance strained to the
utmost, were steering warily through such a storm! Rendel involuntarily
stopped and read with the others.

Some people he knew drove by in a victoria, two exquisitely dressed
women who smiled and bowed to him as they passed--chance acquaintances
whom he met in society, and to whom under ordinary circumstances he
would have been profoundly indifferent.

Rendel could almost have stood still in sheer terror at realising some
numbing sense that was stealing over him, some horrible change in his
view of things that was already beginning. For as they bowed to him with
unimpaired friendliness, he felt conscious of a distinct sensation of
relief, almost of gratitude, that in spite of what had happened they
should still be willing to greet him. Good God! was _that_ what his view
of life, and of his relations with his kind was going to be? No! no!
anything but that. He would go away somewhere, he would disappear...
yes, of course, that was what "they" all did. He remembered with a
shudder a man he had known, Bob Galloway, who, beginning life under the
most prosperous auspices, had been convicted of cheating at cards. He
recalled the look of the man who knew his company would be tolerated
only by those beneath him. He realised now part of what Galloway must
have gone through before he went out of England and took to frequenting
second-rate people abroad.

He looked up and found that he had mechanically walked back to Cosmo
Place. He was recalled from his absorption to a more pressing calamity,
as he recognised, with an acute pang of self-reproach, the doctor's
brougham still standing before the door. He entered the house quickly.
There was a sense of that strange emptiness, of the ordinary living
rooms of the house being deserted, that gives one an almost physical
sense that life is being lived through with stress and terrible
earnestness somewhere else. He heard some words being exchanged in a low
tone on the upper landing, and then a door shutting as Rachel turned
back into her father's room. Rendel met Doctor Morgan as he came down
the stairs. Morgan's face assumed an air of grave concern as he saw Sir
William's son-in-law coming towards him, and Rendel read in his face
what he had to tell. There are moments in which the intensity of nervous
strain seems to make every sense trebly acute, in which, without knowing
it, we are aware of every detail of sight and sound that forms the
material setting for a moment of great emotion. As he looked at Doctor
Morgan coming towards him, Rendel, without knowing it, was conscious of
every detail that formed the background to that figure of foreboding: of
the sunlight glancing on the glass of a picture, of its reflection in
the brass of a loose stair rod that had escaped from its fastenings, and
of which, even in that moment, Rendel's methodical mind automatically
made a note.

"I am afraid I can't give you a very good account," he said in answer
to Rendel's hurried inquiries. "He has had another and more prolonged
fainting fit, and I think it possible that his heart may be affected."

"Do you mean, then," said Rendel, "that--that--you are really anxious
about the ultimate issue?" and he tried to veil the thing he was
designating, as men instinctively do when it is near at hand.

"Yes, I am," Doctor Morgan answered. "Unless there is a great change in
the next few hours, there certainly will be cause for the gravest
anxiety."

Rendel was silent, his thoughts chasing each other tumultuously through
his brain.

"Does my wife know?" he said.

"I think she does," Morgan said. "I have not told her quite as clearly
as I have said it to you, but she knows how much care he needs and how
absolutely essential it is that he should be quiet. It is his one
chance. No talk, no news, no excitement."

"What has brought on this attack, do you think?" said Rendel, feeling as
if he were driven to ask the question.

"I can't tell," said Morgan. "He looked to me like a man who had been
excited about something. Do you know whether that is so?"

"Yes," said Rendel; "he got excited this morning about something that
was in the paper."

"Ah! by the way, yes, I don't wonder," said Morgan, who was an ardent
politician. "It was a most astonishing piece of news, certainly."

"It was, indeed," said Rendel, brought back for a moment to the
unendurable burthen he had been carrying about with him.

"The Imperialists are safe now to get in," said Morgan. "We look to you
to do great things some day," and without waiting for the polite
disclaimer which he took for granted would be Rendel's reply to his
remark, without seeing the swift look of keen suffering that swept over
Rendel's face, he hurried away.

Rendel was bowed down by an intolerable self-reproach. He could have
smiled at the thought that he had actually been seeking solace in the
idea that he had, at any rate, done a fine, a noble thing, that he had
done it for Rachel, that, if she ever knew it, she would know he had
sacrificed everything for her. And now, instead, how did his conduct
appear? How would it appear to her, since she knew but the outward
aspect of it? To her? Why, to himself, even, it almost appeared that
wishing to insist on screening himself at the expense of some one else,
he had, in defiance of her entreaties, appealed to her father, and
brought on an attack that might probably cause his death.

He stood for a moment as the door closed behind Morgan, and waited
irresolutely, with a half hope that Rachel would come downstairs to him.
But all was silent, desolate, forlorn; it was behind the shut door
upstairs that the strenuous issues were being fought out which were to
decide, in all probability, other fates than that of the chief sufferer
who lay there waiting for death. The chief sufferer? No. Rendel, as he
turned back sick at heart, after a moment, into his own study, thought
bitterly within himself that death to the man who has so little to
expect from life is surely a less trial than dying to all that is worth
having while one is still alive. That was how he saw his own life as he
looked on into the future, or rather, as he contemplated it in the
present--for the future was gone, it was blotted out. That was the
thought that ever and anon would come to the surface, would come in
spite of his efforts to the contrary, before every other. Then the
thought of Rachel's face of misery rose before him, haunted him with an
additional anguish. With an effort he pulled himself together, sat down
to the table, and wrote a letter to the committee of Stoke Newton,
stating briefly that he had relinquished his intention of standing,
directed it, and closed the envelope with a heavy sigh. One by one he
was throwing overboard his most precious possessions to appease the
Fates that were pursuing him. Where would it end? What would be left to
him? The one precious possession, the turning-point of his existence
still remained: Rachel, his love for her, their life together. But,
after all, those great goods he had meant to have in any case, and the
rest besides. The door opened. It was the servant come to tell him that
luncheon was ready; the ordinary bell was not rung for fear of
disturbing Sir William. Luncheon? Could the routine of life be going on
just in the same way? Was it possible that a morning had been enough to
do all this? He went listlessly into the dining-room. Rachel was not
there. He went upstairs, and as he went up met her coming out of her
father's room. Her startled and almost alarmed look, as at the first
moment she thought that he was going back into her father's room, smote
him to the heart.

"You had better not go in, Frank," she said hurriedly. "The doctor said
he was to be quite quiet. Please don't go in again," and the intonation
of the words told him how much lay at his door already.

"I was not going in," he said quietly. "I was coming to fetch you to
have some luncheon."

"I don't think I could eat anything," she said.

"You must try, darling," he said gently. "It is no good your being
knocked up at this stage. You look pretty well worn out already."

And indeed she did. The last twenty-four hours had made her look as
though she herself had been through an illness, and the nervous strain
added to her own condition made her appear, Rendel felt as he looked at
her, quite alarmingly ill. She suffered herself to be persuaded to eat
something, then wandered wretchedly back to her father's room to remain
there for the rest of the day.

Rendel did not leave the house again. He sat downstairs alone, trying to
realise what this world was that he was contemplating, this landscape
painted in shades of black and grey. Was this the prospect flooded with
sunshine that he had looked upon that very morning? The afternoon went
on: the streets of London were full of a gay and hurrying crowd. Was it
Rendel's imagination, the tense state of his nerves, that made him feel
in the very air as it streamed in at his window the electric disturbance
that was agitating the destinies of the country? Everyone looked as they
passed as though something had happened; men were talking eagerly and
intently. The afternoon papers were being hawked in the streets. One of
them actually had the map, all had the news, given with the same
comments of amazement, and, on the part of the Imperialists, of
admiration at the feat that had been so cleverly performed. So the day
wore on, the long summer's day, till all London had grasped what had
happened--while the man through whom London knew was sitting alone, an
outcast, with Grief and Anxiety hovering by him.

These two same dread companions, seen under another aspect, were with
Rachel as she sat through the afternoon hours in her father's darkened
room, listening to his breathing, with all her senses on the alert for
any sound, for any movement.

Sir William moved and opened his eyes; then, looking at Rachel, who was
anxiously bending over him, he rapidly poured out a succession of words
and phrases of which only a word here and there was intelligible.
"Frank," he said once or twice, then "Pateley," but Rachel had not the
clue that would have told her what the words meant. She tried in vain to
quiet him: he was not conscious of her presence. Then suddenly his
voice subsided to a whisper, and a strange look came over his face. An
uncontrollable terror seized upon Rachel. She ran out on to the stairs;
and as, unsteady, quivering, she rushed down, meaning to call her
husband, she caught her foot on the loose stair-rod and fell forward,
striking her head with violence as she reached the bottom. It was there
that Rendel, aghast, found her lying unconscious as he hurried out of
his study to see what had happened. The sickening horror of that first
moment, when he believed she was dead, swallowed up every other thought.
It made the time that followed, when Doctor Morgan, instantly sent for,
had pronounced that she had concussion of the brain, from which she
would recover if kept absolutely quiet, a period almost of relief.

And so Rachel was spared the actual moment of the parting she had been
trying to face. For though Sir William rallied again from the crisis
which had so alarmed her, he sank gradually into a state of coma from
which he was destined never to wake, and from which, almost
imperceptibly, he passed during the evening of the next day.

Rendel, tossed on a wild storm of clashing emotions, the great anxiety
caused by Rachel's accident and possible peril added to all he had gone
through, had in truth little actual sorrow to spare for the loss of Sir
William Gore. But Gore's death meant in one direction the death of all
his own remaining hopes. When he knew the end had come, and that he
would have to tell Rachel, when she was able to bear it, that her father
was dead, he then began to realise how, unconsciously to himself almost,
he had built upon some possibility of Sir William doing something to put
things right. What, he had not formulated to himself; but he had had
vague visions of a possible admission of some sort, of an attempted
reconciliation, atonement, confession, such as he had read of in
fiction, by which means the truth would have come out, and he would have
been absolved without any effort on his own part. But those
half-formulated dreams had vanished almost before he had realised them.
Sir William Gore had gone to his eternal rest, and, as far as Rendel
knew, no one but himself knew exactly what had happened. And now there
was nothing in front of him but that miserable blank.

Rachel was not told of what had happened until two days after her
father's funeral. She received the news as though stunned, bewildered;
as if it were too terrible for her to grasp. Gradually she came back to
life again, but she was not the same as before. Her recovery would be,
the doctor explained, a question of time. The accident that had befallen
her, following the great strain and anxiety she had gone through, had
completely upset her nervous system, and appeared--a not uncommon result
after such an accident--to have completely obliterated the time
immediately preceding her fall. The moment when Rendel, seeing her
gradually recovering, first ventured on some allusion to Stamfordham
and to what had taken place the day her father was taken ill, he saw a
puzzled, bewildered look in her face, as though she had no idea of what
he was saying, and he was seized by a fear almost too ghastly to be
endurable.

"Lord Stamfordham?" she said, puzzled. "When? I don't know about it."

But the doctor reassured him, and told him that all would come right:
she would be herself again, even if she never regained the memory of
what had happened before her fall.

"It is a common result of an accident of this kind," he said, "and need
give you no special cause for anxiety. I have known two or three cases
in which men who have completely recovered in other respects have never
regained the memory of what immediately preceded the accident. That girl
who was thrown in the Park a month ago, you remember--her horse ran away
and threw her over the railings--although she got absolutely right, does
not remember what she did that morning, or even the night before. And
after all," he added, "it does not seem to me so very desirable that
Mrs. Rendel should remember those two particular days she may have
lost."

Rendel gave an inward shudder. If he could but have forgotten them too!

"They were full, as I understand, of anxiety and grief about her
father's condition."

"They were," said Rendel. "It would be much better if she did not
remember them."

"That's right, keep your heart up, then," said Morgan, all
unconsciously; "and above all, no excitement for her, no anxiety, no
irritation. Change of scene would be good for her, perhaps, and seeing
one or two people. If I were you, I should take her to some German
baths. On every ground I should think that would be the best thing for
her."

See people? Rendel felt, with the sense of having received a blow, what
sort of aspect social intercourse presented to him now. But as the days
went on Doctor Morgan insisted more strongly on the necessity that
Rachel should go for a definite 'cure' somewhere, and recommended a
special place, Bad-Schleppenheim.

"Bad-Schleppenheim," he said, "is on the whole as good a place as you
could go to."

"But isn't it thronged with English people?" said Rendel.

"Not unduly," said Morgan. "At any rate, I think it is worth trying."

"I wonder if my wife would like it," said Rendel doubtfully.

"I wouldn't tell her," said the doctor, "till it's all settled. That's
the way to deal with wives, I assure you."

And with a cheery laugh, Dr. Morgan, who had no wife, went out.



CHAPTER XIX


Rachel, however, even after the move abroad so strongly recommended by
her doctor had been made, did not all at once regain her normal
condition. She appeared to be better in health; she was calmer, her
nerves seemed quieter; but a strange dull veil still hung between her
mind and the days immediately preceding the great catastrophe. To what
had happened the day before her father's death she never referred; she
had not asked Rendel anything more about the accusation brought against
him. Once or twice she had spoken of her father as if he were still
there, then caught herself up, realising that he was gone. Was this how
it was always going to be? Rendel asked himself. Would he not again be
able to share with her, as far as one human being can share with
another, his hopes and his fears, or rather his renunciations? Would she
never be able to take part in his life with the sweet, smiling sympathy
which had always been so ineffably precious to him? Those days that she
had lost were just those that had branded themselves indelibly into his
consciousness: the afternoon that Stamfordham had come with the map,
the morning following when it had appeared in the newspaper, the scenes
with Gore, with Stamfordham,--all those days he lived over and over
again, and lived them alone. There was some solace in the thought that
if that time were to be to Rachel for ever blurred, she would never be
able to recall what had passed between herself and her husband after
Rendel had brought on Gore's illness by taxing him with what he had
done. And while he struggled with his memories--would he always have to
live in the past now instead of in the future?--Rachel, who had been
told to be a great deal in the fresh air, passed her time quietly,
peacefully, languidly, lying out of doors. They had deemed themselves
fortunate in securing in the overcrowded town a somewhat primitive
little pavilion belonging to one of the big hotels, of which the charm
to Rachel was that it had a shady garden. Rendel, whose time even during
the period in which he had had no regular occupation had always been
fully occupied, reading several hours a day, making notes on certain
subjects about which he meant to write later, became conscious for the
first time in his life that the hours hung heavy on his hands. It was
with a blank surprise that he realised that such a misfortune, which he
had always thought vaguely could befall only the idlers and desultory of
this world, should attack himself. Life is always laying these snares
for us, putting in our way suddenly and unexpectedly some form of
unpleasantness by which we may have seen others attacked, but from
which unconsciously we have felt that we ourselves should be preserved
by our own merits,--just as when we are in good health we hear of
sciatica, lumbago, or gout, and accept them without concern as part of
the composition of the universe, until one day one of these
disagreeables attacks ourselves, and stands out quite disproportionately
as something that after all is of more consequence than we thought. It
unfortunately nearly always happens that we have to face the mental
crises of life inadequately prepared. We think we have pictured them
beforehand, and according to that picture we are ready, in imagination,
with a sufficient equipment of fortitude and decision to enable us to
encounter them. In reality we mostly do no better than a traveller who
going to an unknown land and climate, guesses for himself beforehand
what his outfit had better be, and then finds it deplorably inadequate
when he gets there. Rendel, during those days of lonely agony in London
that followed the revelations sprung on the public by the _Arbiter_, had
endeavoured to school himself to face what the future might have in
store for him; but he had thought that while he was abroad, at any rate,
the horror that pursued him now would be in abeyance. He had never been
to German baths, he had never been to a fashionable resort of the kind;
he had no idea what it meant. All that he had vaguely pictured was that
it would be some sort of respite from the thing that dogged him now, the
fear--for there was no doubt that as the days went on it grew into a
fear--of coming suddenly upon some one he knew, who would look him in
the face and then turn away. And now that they were at the term of their
journey, installed in their little foreign pavilion, he had become aware
that at a stone's throw from him was a numerous cosmopolitan society,
among whom was probably a large contingent from London. He did not try
to learn their names; he would jealously keep aloof from them. Rachel
had been advised to stay here for four weeks at least. Four weeks, no
doubt, is not very long under ordinary circumstances: he had not
imagined that it might seem almost unendurably long to a man who had
been married less than a year to a wife that he loved. And yet, before
he had been there three days, he was conscious that each separate hour
had to be encountered, wrestled with, conquered, before going on to the
next. He had meant to write: there was a point of administration upon
which he had intended to say his say in one of the Reviews. But somehow
in that sitting-room, with the windows opening down to the garden, the
steady work, which in his own study would have been a matter of course,
seemed almost impossible. Then he thought he would read. He read aloud
to Rachel for part of the day; but he did not dare to choose anything
that was much good to himself, as he had been told that the more
inactive her mind was the better. Something he would have to do; he
would have to organise his daily life in some way that would make the
burden of it endurable. He made up his mind to take long walks--the
hotel and pavilion lay on the outskirts of the town--to go into the
outlying country and explore it on foot. But in the evenings when Rachel
was gone to bed, and when, alone at last, he would try to concentrate
his mind on the study or the writing to which he had been used so
eagerly to turn, another thought that he had been keeping at bay by a
conscious effort would rush at him again and overwhelm him.

In the meantime, at the other side of Bad-Schleppenheim, the hours were
flying fast and gaily. From the moment when the visitors met together at
an early hour in the morning to drink their glasses of Schleppenheim
water, and onwards through the luncheon parties, excursions, walking up
and down, listening to the band, seeing theatricals, or playing Bridge
in the evening, there was never a moment in which they were not
industriously engaged in the pursuit of something. It was mostly
pleasure, though many of them imagined it was health. Many of the people
who in London constituted Society were here, in an inner and hallowed
circle, in the centre of which were many minor and a few major royalties
out of every country in Europe; and revolving round them in wider
circles outside, many other people who, at home just on the verge of
being in Society, revelled in the thought that here, under altered
conditions, and in the enforced juxtapositions of life in a
watering-place, a special talent for tennis, a gift for Bridge, better
clothes than other people, or a talent for private theatricals, would
help them to be on the right side of the line they were so anxious to
cross. Add to these, numbers of pretty girls anxious only to enjoy
themselves, and swarms of young men who had come for the same reason,
and it will be imagined that the atmosphere reigning in the brilliantly
lighted Casino, in and around which the joyous spent their evenings
singing, dancing, wandering in the grounds, was singularly different
from that of the little isolated pavilion where Rendel sat trying to
fashion the picture of his life into something that he could look upon
without a shudder.



CHAPTER XX


The walls of the little town were placarded with the announcement of a
great bazaar to be held for the benefit of the English Church in
Bad-Schleppenheim. The economics of a fashionable bazaar are evidently
governed by certain obscure laws, of which the knowledge is yet in
infancy; for the ordinary laws of commerce are on these occasions
completely suspended. That of supply and demand becomes inverted, since
the vendors are seemingly eager to sell all that the buyers least want:
the cost of production, of which statistics are not obtainable, the
expenditure of money, time, and energy required to furnish the stalls is
not taken into account at all. Loss and profit appear to be inextricably
mingled; however much unsold merchandise remains on the stall at the end
of the bazaar the seller is expected to hand over a substantial sum to
the good object for which she is supposed to have been working. And yet
there must be some advantage in this method of raising money, or even
the female mind would presumably not at once turn to it as the simplest
and most obvious way of obtaining funds for a given purpose.

These problems, however, did not exist for Lady Chaloner, one of the
leaders of English Society in Schleppenheim. She took bazaars for
granted, as she did everything else. She was one of the very pillars of
the social fabric of her country. She was of noble blood, she was
portly, she was decidedly middle-aged. She had been recommended to diet
herself and to drink the waters of Schleppenheim, and as she did so in
company with half the distinguished people in Europe, she was quite
content to follow the course prescribed. In these days when everything
is called into question, when social codes alter, and an undesirable
fusion of human beings takes place in so many directions, it was
positively refreshing to turn to Lady Chaloner, who not only did not
know, but could not conceive that it mattered, what other people did in
any layer of existence beneath her own. She had not at any time a keen
eye to discrimination of character. Her judgment of those
fellow-creatures whom she naturally frequented was based in the first
instance on their degree of blood relationship with herself, then on
their social standing: but she was but vaguely aware of the difference
between the men and women, especially the women, who did not belong to
that inner circle, and knew as little about them as a looker-on leaning
from a window in a foreign town knows about the people who pass beneath
him in the street. But there were times when she entirely recognised
the usefulness in the scheme of creation of those motley crowds of
well-dressed persons, even though they bore names she had never heard
before. During her preparation for the bazaar, for instance, which she
was getting up in the single-minded conviction that nothing better could
be done for the institution she was trying to befriend, she had been
more than willing to co-operate with Mrs. Birkett, the wife of the
chaplain, and even to ask some of Mrs. Birkett's friends for their help.
Mrs. Birkett, who approached the bazaar from the point of view from
which she had artlessly imagined it was being undertaken, that of
ensuring some sort of provision for the expenses of the chaplain who
undertook the summer duty of Schleppenheim, received a series of shocks
as she came face to face with the different points of view of the
various stall-holders with whom she was successively brought into
contact. Lady Chaloner--she looked on this as a great achievement--had
succeeded in enrolling among the bazaar-workers the young Princess
Hohenschreien, on the ground of her being a staunch Protestant. The
Princess was half-English, half-German. Her mother had been a distant
connection of Lady Chaloner. This relationship in some strange way
entirely condoned in Lady Chaloner's eyes the fact that the Princess
Hohenschreien had a good deal of paint on her face, and a good deal of
paint in her manner, and that the loudness of her laugh and the boldness
of her bearing were more pronounced than would have been permitted of
the well-behaved ladies brought up within the walls of Castle Chaloner.
However, Lady Chaloner's daughters were married to husbands of an
excellent and irreproachable kind, and were out in the world; and Lady
Chaloner felt no kind of responsibility about Madeline Hohenschreien,
"Maddy," as she was called by her intimates. She expressed distinct
approval of her, in fact, in the words, "Maddy has such a lot of go
about her, hasn't she? It does one good to hear her laughin'." So when
"Maddy" instantly and light-heartedly undertook to help the bazaar by
performing at the Café Chantant, that was to go on at stated times all
through the evening, Lady Chaloner felt that she was doing a distinctly
good work. It was no small undertaking, however, marshalling her forces
and trying to arrange that every one of the stallholders should not be
selling exactly the same thing--namely, the small carved wooden objects,
the staple commodity of Schleppenheim, made by the surrounding
peasantry.

The bazaar was drawing near, and Lady Chaloner was very busy indeed.
Indefatigably did she send for Mrs. Birkett several times every day,
begging her to bring a pencil and paper that they might make lists. Mrs.
Birkett's experience, however, was limited to sales of work under
somewhat different conditions in England, and she was not of very much
use, except as a moral support and outward material embodiment of the
cause for which the bazaar was being undertaken. She sought comfort in
her inmost soul in the thought of all the money that must surely flow
into the coffers of the Church after this magnificent undertaking; but
she was secretly out of her element and ill at ease, when Lady Chaloner
pounced upon her to talk of the bazaar, at an hour when the most
fashionable people in Europe, with their best clothes on, were walking
up and down while the band was playing, or established at little tables
exchanging intimate pleasantries with one another and greetings with the
people that passed.

She was sitting by Lady Chaloner, in compulsory attendance upon that
benefactress of the Church, a few days before the bazaar was to come
off.

"Now, let me see," said Lady Chaloner, "what are you goin' to have on
your stall?"

"On mine?" said Mrs. Birkett, rather taken aback.

"Yes," said Lady Chaloner, "aren't you goin' to have a stall?"

"You see," said Mrs. Birkett, "I have not any of the things here
that--er--I generally use for the purpose," and she thought regretfully
of a big box at home which contained a sort of rolling stock of hideous
articles that travelled, so to speak, between herself and her friends
from one bazaar to another, and reappeared, a sort of symbolical
merchandise, a currency in a nightmare, at all the fancy sales held in
the neighbourhood of Leighton Ham.

"The only thing is," said Lady Chaloner, "it is rather a pity, because,
bein' for the Church, people will expect you to sell, you know. Perhaps
you could sell at somebody else's stall. Mine's full, I think," she
added prudently. "Let me see," and her ladyship ran quickly over the
names of the half a dozen young women who, in the most beguiling of
costumes, were going to trip about and sell buttonholes to their
partners of the evening before. Lady Chaloner's solid good sense and
long habit of the world kept things that should be separate perfectly
distinct; she did not for a moment contemplate Mrs. Birkett tripping
about and selling buttonholes. "Perhaps Mrs. Samuels hasn't got her
number complete," she said, not realising this time, the thing being a
little more out of her field of vision, that Mrs. Samuels, who had been
spending her time, energy, and even money, in trying to be friends with
Lady Chaloner, might quite possibly be in the same attitude towards Mrs.
Birkett, if thrust upon her, as Lady Chaloner was to herself.

"I daresay, yes," said Mrs. Birkett, with some misgiving, as she saw
Mrs. Samuels further down the alley, standing with a London manager in
the centre of a group who were laughing and talking round them.

"Let me see, Mrs. Samuels is goin' to have the tea, isn't she?"

"Yes, the refreshment stall," said Mrs. Birkett, referring to her list.

"And Lady Adela Prestige the fortune tellin'--and Princess
Hohenschreien, what did she say she would do? Oh! I remember, the Café
Chantant. What has she done about it, I wonder? Do you know anything
about that?"

"I am afraid I don't," said Mrs. Birkett. This, indeed, was quite beyond
her competence.

"I wonder if she has got people enough. Ah! here she is. Madeline!
Maddy!" she called out, as Princess Hohenschreien appeared at the end of
the walk, a parasol lined with pink behind her, and her head thrown back
as she laughed loud and heartily at something her companion had said.

"Yes, dear Lady Chaloner? Were you calling me?"

"I wanted to speak to you about the bazaar," said Lady Chaloner. "How do
you do, M. de Moricourt," to the Princess's companion.

"The bazaar," said the young man in French, as he bowed, "what is that?"

"What is that?" said the Princess, with another burst of laughter. "But,
_mon cher_, you are impossible! We have been talking of nothing else all
the way down the alley."

"How?" said the young man. "I really beg your pardon, Princess, but I
thought we were talking of the comedy we were going to act at the
Casino."

"And what do you suppose that comedy is for," said the Princess, "if not
for the bazaar?"

"How can I tell?" said Moricourt. "It might have been to please the
public, or even to please the Princess Hohenschreien," with a little
bow.

"Of course we shall please both," said the Princess. "And a bazaar
gives us a reason. A charity bazaar, isn't it?"

"Ah! a charity bazaar," said Moricourt, "that is another thing. It
doesn't matter how badly I shall act, then."

"Perhaps that is as well," said the Princess.

"Is it permitted to know the object of the charity we are going to
assist so well?" said Moricourt.

Lady Chaloner, dimly aware that Mrs. Birkett was becoming very
uncomfortable, although she did not clearly distinguish whether the
peculiar expression to be observed on the latter's face came from
irritation or embarrassment, hastily said--

"It is not a charity exactly. It is for the English Church at
Schleppenheim. This is Mrs. Birkett, the wife of the clergyman,"
indicating Mrs. Birkett.

"Ah!" said Moricourt, "the English Church," and he bowed to Mrs. Birkett
as though making the acquaintance of that honoured institution. Princess
Hohenschreien also included herself in the introduction, and bowed with
a good-natured smile of absolute indifference to Mrs. Birkett and to all
that she represented.

"Well, now then, seriously," said Lady Chaloner, "do you undertake the
Café Chantant, Madeline?"

"Not the whole of it, my dear lady," said the Princess. "That really is
too much to ask. M. Moricourt and I will act a play."

"How long does the play last?" said Lady Chaloner.

"How long did we say it took?" said the Princess to her companion. "It
depends upon how often Moricourt forgets his part. When we rehearsed it
last night he waited quite ten minutes in the middle of it."

"I must remind you," said Moricourt, "that I was pausing to admire ...
the beautiful feathers in your hat."

"Oh! well, that is different," said the Princess. "I think that
explanation is satisfactory--but otherwise----" And she filled up the
sentence with a telling glance, to which Moricourt replied with a look
of fervent admiration.

"Well, how long does it take, then?" said Lady Chaloner, with a smile of
strange indulgence, Mrs. Birkett thought, for a lady so highly placed,
and of such solid dignity.

"Oh! about half an hour," said Moricourt; "perhaps three-quarters."

"Is that all?" said Lady Chaloner, in some consternation. "The Café
Chantant goes on for how long did you say, Mrs. Birkett?"

This piece of statistics Mrs. Birkett was able to furnish.

"From six till ten, I think you said, Lady Chaloner," she said, reading
from her list.

"Heavens!" said the Princess, "you don't expect us, I hope, to go on
from six till ten. We had better do the Nibelungen Ring at once. I will
be Brünnhilde--and I tell you what," turning to Moricourt, "you shall be
the big lizard who comes in and says 'bow-wow,' or whatever it is. Mr.
Wentworth!" and she called to Wentworth who was strolling along with an
air of being at peace with himself and the universe. "What is it that
lizards do?"

"If they are small," said Wentworth, "they run up a wall in the sun, or
they run over your feet, and if they are big----"

"You fall over their feet, I suppose," said the Princess.

"But a lizard at a Café Chantant," said Moricourt, "what does he do?"

"At a Café Chantant? He sings, of course," said Wentworth.

"No no," said the Princess, with again her resonant laugh. "I don't know
much about botany, but I am sure lizards don't sing."

"Then in that case," said Moricourt, "Wentworth must. He can sing; I
have heard him."

"Can you, Mr. Wentworth? How well can you sing?" said the Princess with
artless candour.

"Well," said Wentworth, "that is rather difficult to say. I don't sing
quite as well as Mario perhaps, but a little better than ... a lizard."

"Oh, that will do perfectly," said the Princess. "For a charity, people
are not particular."

"By the way, what is all this for?" said Wentworth.

"For the English Church here, you remember," said Lady Chaloner.

"Oh! to be sure, yes," said Wentworth. "I saw the placard."

"This is Mrs. Birkett," said Lady Chaloner.

Wentworth bowed and said politely, "I hope the bazaar will be a great
success."

"I hope so, thank you," Mrs. Birkett said, feeling that if the bazaar
were not a great success, she would have gone through a good deal for a
very little. She longed to be allowed to go away, but she was not quite
sure whether she would not be jeopardising the success of the bazaar by
leaving at this juncture. Visions of having promised to meet her
reverend husband to go for a walk at a given moment were haunting her.
Finally, with a desperate effort, she said--

"I am afraid I have an appointment, Lady Chaloner, and must go now,
unless there is anything more I can do."

"Oh, must you go?" said Lady Chaloner, "we had better meet in the
morning, I think, and make a final list of the stalls."

"Certainly," said Mrs. Birkett, with a sigh of relief, and with a
determined effort she tried to include the circle she was leaving in one
salutation, and made away as fast as she could.

"I hope," said the Princess, "the poor lady is not shocked at having a
Café Chantant in her Church bazaar."

"At any rate," said Wentworth, "she will be consoled when you hand over
the results to her afterwards."

"What is the name of the piece you are going to do?" said Lady Chaloner,
pencil in hand.

"_Une porte qui s'ouvre_," said Moricourt, with a glance at the
Princess.

"Oh! if you think we'll have that one!" said the Princess. "Would you
believe, Lady Chaloner, that he wants me to be the maid in it instead of
the leading lady, because he kisses the maid behind the door!"

"My dear Maddy!" said Lady Chaloner, reprovingly.

"Don't look so shocked at me, dear Lady Chaloner," she said. "I am sure
I am as shocked myself at the suggestion, as----"

"Mrs. Birkett," suggested Wentworth.

"Precisely," said the Princess.

"At any rate we'll put that piece on the list for the present," said
Lady Chaloner. "Then there will be a song from Lady Adela----"

"And a song from Mr. Wentworth," said Moricourt.

"That's splendid," said Lady Chaloner. "The Café Chantant will do. The
only thing I rather regret is about the stalls, that every one is goin'
to sell the same thing."

"And who is going to buy?" said the Princess.

"That's another difficulty," said Lady Chaloner, "they'll all have to
buy from one another."

"We had better have some autographs," said the Princess, "they always
sell."

"Very good," said Lady Chaloner, putting it down on the list. "You had
better get some."

"All right," said the Princess. "We'll have some of all kinds, I think.
I will get some from those people too," nodding her head in the
direction of the London manager.

"Everybody considers himself an autograph in these days," said
Wentworth; "it is terrible what a levelling age we live in."

"We might sell photographs, of course," said the Princess, "instead of
autographs."

"Or both," said Lady Chaloner, earnestly and anxiously, as though
contemplating all sources of revenue. "Signed photographs."

"Excellent," said Wentworth.

"There ought to be people enough to buy, if they would only come," said
Lady Chaloner, taking up a Visitors' List that lay beside her. "People
like the Francis Rendels, for instance," putting her finger on the name,
"or----"

"The Rendels? Are they here?" said Wentworth, with much interest.

"So it says here. What is she like?" said Lady Chaloner. "Would she
help?"

"I am not sure," said Wentworth. "She's in mourning, and very quiet--but
very charming."

"Thank you," said the Princess with a gay laugh. "I am sure that is a
compliment _à mon adresse_. I know what you mean when you say that very
quiet women are charming. Let us go away, Moricourt; we are too noisy
for Mr. Wentworth."

"You are too bad, Maddy, really," said Lady Chaloner, smiling at this
brilliant sally.

"_Ich bitte sehr_," said Wentworth to the Princess, with a little bow,
as he took up the paper and looked for the address of the Rendels.
"Pavillon du Jardin, Hôtel de Londres--I must go and look them up," he
said.

"You might beat them up to come and buy, at any rate," said Lady
Chaloner, "if they can't do anything else."

"I will do what I can," said Wentworth with a smile, reflecting as he
walked off what a strange blurring of the focus of life there is when,
everything being concentrated on to one particular purpose, whether it
be a bazaar, an election, or the giving of a ball, all the human beings
one encounters are considered from the point of view of their fitness to
one particular end--in the aspect of a buyer or seller, as a voter, as a
partner, as the case may be. There was no doubt that at this moment the
whole of mankind were expected to fit somehow into Lady Chaloner's
pattern: to be useful for the bazaar, or to be thrown away as useless.

As Wentworth turned away he exchanged greetings with a jovial
important-looking personage coming in the other direction, no other than
Mr. Pateley, exhaling prosperity as he came. The completion of the Cape
to Cairo railway, and the reinstatement in public opinion of the
'Equator' Mine, proved to be of gold after all--let alone certain
fortunate pecuniary transactions connected with that reinstatement--had
given Pateley both political and material satisfaction. The _Arbiter_
was advancing more triumphantly than ever, and its editor was a person
of increasing consideration and influence.

"You seem very busy, Lady Chaloner," he said, as he looked at the sheets
of paper on the table by her.

"We are gettin' up a bazaar," Lady Chaloner said. "Will you help us?"

"I shall be delighted," said Pateley obviously. "What do you want me to
do?"

"Give us your autograph," said the Princess promptly, "and we will sell
it for large sums of gold."

She had certainly chosen a skilful way of enlisting Pateley's
co-operation. He revelled in the joy of being a political potentate, and
every fresh proof that he received of the fact was another delight to
him.

"I shall be greatly honoured," he said.

"We are going to have autographs of all the distinguished people we can
find," said the Princess, continuing her system of ingratiation.

"I can tell you of an autograph who has just arrived," said Pateley. "I
have just seen him driving up from the station; a very expensive
autograph indeed--Lord Stamfordham."

"Lord Stamfordham?" said Lady Chaloner, the Foreign Secretary, like the
rest of the world, falling instantly into his place in her kaleidescope.
"Certainly, if he would give us a dozen autographs we should do an
excellent business with them."

"You had better make Adela Prestige ask him, then," said the Princess
with a laugh.

"I wonder where Adela is?" said Lady Chaloner, considering the question
entirely on its merits.

"That depends upon where Lord Stamfordham is," murmured the Princess to
her companion. "By the way, Lady Chaloner, before we part, it is
Tuesday, isn't it, that we make our expedition to Waldlust to lunch in
the wood?"

"Tuesday?--let me see, this is Thursday. Yes, I think so," said Lady
Chaloner. Then she gave a cry of dismay. "Oh! no, Maddy, Tuesday is the
bazaar; that will never do."

"Oh, yes," said the Princess, "all the better. The bazaar doesn't open
till half-past five after all, and we can lunch at half-past twelve. It
will do us good to be in the fresh air before our labours begin; we
shall look all the better for it."

"Very well," said Lady Chaloner dubiously. "But then what about the
arrangements?"

"Can't those be made on Monday?" said the Princess; "and if there are
any finishing touches required, Mrs. Birkett and her friends can do them
on Tuesday. They won't want to look their best, I daresay," and she
laughed again.

"Very well," said Lady Chaloner. "Tuesday, then, for Waldlust. I will
ask Lord Stamfordham to come."

"And I will ask Adela," said the Princess.

"Come then, Moricourt," said the Princess, "if you want to rehearse that
play before we act it."

"Pray do," said Lady Chaloner anxiously. "I am sure people who act
always rehearse first."

"I am more than willing," said M. de Moricourt, throwing an infinity of
expression into his voice and glance as he looked at the Princess.

"Some parts especially will require a great deal of rehearsing." And
they departed together.

"She is so amusin'," said Lady Chaloner to Pateley. "I really don't know
anybody that can be more amusin' when she likes."

Pateley gave a round, sonorous laugh of agreement, tantamount to a smile
of assent in any one else. He wisely did not commit himself to any
expression of opinion as to the accomplished wit of the Princess, which
at all events as far as he had had opportunity of observing it, did not
strike him as being of a very subtle character.



CHAPTER XXI


The echoes of the band which was enlivening the promenade we have just
left penetrated to the pavilion where Rachel and her husband were
sitting alone. A little path ran from the back of the pavilion straight
up into the woods. At certain hours, when the fashionable world met to
drink the waters, to listen to the band, or to talk at the Casino, the
woodland path was almost deserted. At no time was it very crowded, as it
was a short and rather steep short cut to a walk through the wood which
could be reached by a more convenient access from the principal street
in the town.

Rendel, although it had not occurred to him to look at a Visitors' List,
and although he did not realise yet how many people he knew were at
Schleppenheim, still had a strange, unpleasant feeling, horribly new to
him, of shrinking from meeting any one he had ever seen before. He had
seen the woodland path, and was wondering if he should go and explore it
at this hour when presumably every one was listening to the band, of
which the incessant strains heard in the distance were beginning to be
maddening. As he looked up vaguely, the little door into the garden
opened, and he saw the familiar figure of Wentworth appear. His heart
stood still. Did Wentworth know? Was he coming out of compassion? And at
the same moment that he thought it, further back somewhere in his mind
he was conscious of the absurdity of Wentworth having become suddenly so
important--Wentworth's opinion, his personality mattering, his
representing one of the instruments of Fate. He stood, therefore, to
Wentworth's surprise, absolutely still, waiting to see what his friend's
attitude would be. But there was no mistake about that, about the
unaffected heartiness and rejoicing with which Wentworth met him, in
absolute unconsciousness of any possible cloud between them, any
possible reason why Rendel should not be as glad to see him as he had
been at any time since they had been at Oxford together.

"Frank!" he said, as he came forward, "what's all this about? Why are
you hiding yourself here?" And he stopped in surprise at seeing as he
spoke the words something in Rendel's whole bearing that made him feel
as if he were speaking the truth in jest, as if the man before him
really were hiding, really had something to conceal.

Then, after that first moment, Rendel realised that Wentworth knew
nothing. That, at any rate, for the moment was to the good, and with an
abounding sense of relief he held out his hand.

"Don't you like these quarters?" he said. "We think they are perfectly
delightful."

"So do I," Wentworth said, "so do I. They are so quiet."

"My wife wants to be quiet," said Rendel, half indicating Rachel, who
was lying back in a garden chair, some knitting in her hands.

"How are you, Mrs. Rendel?" said Wentworth, and he hastened forward to
greet her.

She put out her hand with a smile and shook hands with him, apparently
not surprised at seeing him, or particularly interested.

"You are certainly most delightfully cool here in the shade," he said.
"It is awfully hot in that promenade."

"It must be," said Rachel.

"How long have you been here?" Wentworth went on, sitting down.

"How long is it?" said Rachel, with a slightly puzzled look, looking at
Rendel. "Only a few days, isn't it?"

"Yes, not quite a week. My wife has not been well. We were recommended
here that she might do the cure."

"I see," Wentworth said, somewhat relieved at finding himself on the way
to an explanation. "Well, this is a splendid place, I believe, for the
people that it cures," he added sapiently.

"No doubt," Rendel said.

There was another pause.

"Then that is why we have not seen you at the Casino," Wentworth said.
"One can't avoid running up against people one knows at every turn
here."

"Is that so?" said Rendel, a note of anxiety in his voice. "We have not
run up against any one yet."

"Oh! dear me, yes," said Wentworth, unconscious that each of the names
he might enumerate would represent to Rendel a possible inexorable
judge. "Half London is here: Lady Chaloner, Pateley--all sorts of
people."

"Pateley?" said Rendel, the blood rushing to his face at the association
of ideas called up in his mind by that name.

"Of course," said Wentworth. "Pateley, flourishing like the bay-tree.
They say he is making thousands, and he looks as if he were."

"Out of the _Arbiter_?" asked Rendel.

"The _Arbiter_, I suppose, or something else. But I have no doubt he
would tell you if you asked him. He does not impress me as being one of
the very reserved kind."

"I don't know," said Rendel. "I don't suppose Pateley ever says more
than he means to say, with all his air of hearty communicativeness."

"Well, I daresay not," said Wentworth. "The man's very good company
after all; and as long as none of our secrets are in his keeping, it
doesn't matter particularly."

Rendel said nothing. He felt he could not meet Pateley face to face at
this moment.

"What do you do, then, all day here," said Wentworth, "if you don't
drink the waters, and don't go to the Casino, and don't play Bridge?"

"I don't know. I don't do very much," said Rendel, with an involuntary
accent in the words that made Wentworth ponder over the undesirability
of marrying a wife who is in mourning and depressed.

"You should go into the wood," said Wentworth, "as the Germans do. We
found a lot of them the other day singing part-songs out of little
books. There is a band of them here called the Society of the United
Thrushes, composed of the most respectable and most middle-aged ladies
of the district."

"That sounds charming," said Rendel.

"Look here," said Wentworth, "if you don't care to walk alone, do let's
walk together. One can go up here and along the wood for miles. We'll
have good long stretches as we used to at Oxford. What do you think,
Mrs. Rendel? Don't you think it would be a good thing for him?"

"Very," said Rachel with a smile. "I think he ought to go and walk."

"That's capital," said Wentworth. "Let's do that to-morrow, shall we?"

"I should like it very much," said Rendel.

But the next day the weather broke, and was unsettled for three days. On
the Tuesday morning, happily for the bazaar and the big tent in the
grounds of the Casino, the sun shone out again, and everything was
radiant as before. Wentworth turned up at the pavilion in the forenoon
and persuaded Rendel to make a day of it. The two started off together
through the wood, the scented air floating round them, and bringing to
Rendel, as he strode along with a congenial companion, a sense of mental
and physical relief as though the atmosphere of both kinds that he was
breathing were as different from that which had weighed him down a
fortnight ago as the scent of the aromatic pines was from the air of the
London streets. Wentworth was full of talk, of a kind it must be
confessed which left his hearer at the end without any very distinct
impression of what it had been about, although it passed the time
agreeably and genially. He had his usual detached air, which Rendel had
always been accustomed to find a relief as opposed to his own strenuous
attitude, of standing aloof as an amused spectator of human
contingencies.

"I haven't seen you for ever so long," Wentworth was saying. "What
became of you at the end of the season? You vanished somehow, didn't
you?"

"We were in mourning, you know," Rendel replied.

"Ah, to be sure, yes, Sir William Gore died," said Wentworth, attuning
his voice to what he considered a suitable key, on the assumption that
Rendel would feel still more bound to be loyal to his father-in-law now
than when, as he put it to himself, the "old humbug" was alive. "Poor
Mrs. Rendel, she looks as if it had been a great blow to her."

"Yes," said Rendel, "it was; and she has been ill besides." And he told
Wentworth briefly of what had happened to Rachel, and the condition she
was in, and the reassuring hopes held out by the doctors that she would
almost certainly recover her normal state.

"I am very glad to hear that," said Wentworth cheerily. "Then you must
come to London and start life again, Rendel, now you are free. Sir
William Gore was rather a responsibility, I daresay."

"Yes," said Rendel, "he was."

"Let me see," said Wentworth, "it was just about when he died, I
suppose, that Stamfordham published that sensational agreement with
Germany?"

"Yes," said Rendel, "it was the day before he died."

"Ah," said Wentworth, "the day before? Then of course you didn't realise
the excitement it was. By Jove! of course you know I'm not 'in' all that
sort of thing myself, but I must say I never saw such a fuss and fizz as
it was. The way it was sprung on people too! It was an awfully bold
thing to do, you know; but it turned up trumps after all, that's the
point. Stamfordham isn't like any body else, and that's the fact."

"What's that place we are coming to through the trees?" said Rendel.

"Why, that's it," said Wentworth. "That's where we shall get luncheon.
They always have something ready for people who drop in."

"It isn't crowded, is it?" said Rendel.

"My dear fellow," replied Wentworth, "there is never anybody. I have
been there twice since I came; once there was a German doctor, and once
there was nobody."

"All right," said Rendel.

"You are sure to get veal," Wentworth said. "In Germany, whatever else
is wanting, you can always get a veal cutlet to slake your thirst with,
after the longest and hottest walk."

"I shall be quite content," said Rendel.

They went on across the hollow, and up a slight ascent. They strolled
idly round the woodland house, and saw, as they expected, in the
agreeable little garden behind, a long table all ready for luncheon.

"This is capital," said Wentworth. "You see, as I told you, they always
expect people," and a waiting maid appearing at that moment, Wentworth
proceeded to order luncheon for himself and Rendel in the best German he
could muster. Unfortunately, however, the proprietor of the
establishment was engaged in his cellar on important business, and the
dialect spoken by the red-handed and red-cheeked maiden who received
them was not very intelligible. However, by dint of nodding of heads and
pointing out items on the bill of fare, they came to an understanding,
Wentworth taking for granted that something quite unintelligible that
she had said about the table was an inquiry as to whether they would
sit at it, which indeed it was. But it was further an inquiry as to
whether they were of the party that was coming to sit at it, which he
also quite cheerfully and unsuspectingly answered in the affirmative. He
then pulled out his watch, and pointing to a given time at which he
would return, he and Rendel went further away into the wood.



CHAPTER XXII


When they returned, half an hour later, the little garden was no longer
empty. People were coming and going, the table was covered with food;
Lady Chaloner was seated at it, and at a little distance from her
Princess Hohenschreien, with M. de Moricourt inevitably in her wake.
Lady Chaloner's readiness in the German tongue was not equal at this
moment to her sense of injury. It was Princess Hohenschreien, therefore,
who was charged with the negotiations, and who was discussing in voluble
and amused German with the inn-keeper the heinousness of his crime in
having promised two unknown pedestrians a seat at that very select
table. The inn-keeper was full of apologies. Not having a nice
discrimination of the laws that govern the social relations of our
country, he had thought that if the strangers were English they were
entitled to sit down with the others.

"What does he say, Maddy?" said Lady Chaloner. "Ask him if he can't put
them somewhere else. Good Heavens! here they are!" she said _sotto voce_
as two people came through the trees at the bottom of the garden, and
then stopped in surprise at seeing how populous it had become. Then, as
Lady Chaloner looked at them, she suddenly realised with relief that she
knew them.

"What!" she cried, "is it you? Are you the two people who came in here
and ordered luncheon in the middle of our party?"

"I am afraid we are, do you know," said Wentworth, as he came forward.
"We didn't know how indiscreet we were being. We'll go somewhere else."

"Not at all, not at all," said Lady Chaloner. "How do you do, Mr.
Rendel? I have not seen you for a long time. Of course you must lunch
with us, so it all ends happily. Maddy, this is Mr. Francis
Rendel--Princess Hohenschreien."

Rendel bowed. He had had one moment, as they came up into the garden and
saw there were other people there, before Lady Chaloner had recognised
them, to make up his mind as to what he would do. Then he had said to
himself desperately that he would risk it. After all, he might be
exaggerating the whole thing; Wentworth did not know, and so the others
might not. Rendel had felt during the last hour one of those strange
sudden lightenings of the burden of existence that for some unexplained
reason come to our help without our knowing why. He was almost beginning
to think life would be possible again. At any rate, here, at the present
moment, he would not try to remember or realise what it was going to be,
what it must be. He would sit here on this peerless day with these
pleasant friendly people, and this one hour at any rate the sun should
shine within and without.

"That's right," said Lady Chaloner, pointing to two places some way down
the table at her left; "sit anywhere."

As Wentworth and Rendel stood opposite to the Princess and her attendant
cavalier, the door of the house, which faced them, opened, and Lady
Adela Prestige appeared in the doorway, with some more people behind
her.

"How delightful this is!" Lady Adela cried, as she stepped out into the
garden.

"Isn't it?" said Lady Chaloner. "Look how amusin'," she continued. "Mr.
Wentworth and Mr. Rendel have come to luncheon too, quite by chance."

Lady Adela nodded to Wentworth, whom she was seeing every day, and bowed
to Rendel, whom she knew slightly. Then, as Rendel looked beyond her, he
saw who was coming out of the house in her wake--Lord Stamfordham,
followed by Philip Marchmont. Stamfordham, coming out into the dazzling
sunlight, did not at first see who was there. In that hurried, almost
imperceptible interval, Rendel had time to grasp that here was the
horrible reality upon him in the worst form in which it could have come.
He had wild visions of saying something, doing something, he knew not
what, instantly repressed by the Englishman's repugnance to a scene.
Then he pulled himself together, and simply stood and waited. And as he
waited he saw Stamfordham come up to the table with a pleased smile,
prepared to sit down on Lady Chaloner's right hand, next the seat into
which Lady Adela had dropped. Then Stamfordham suddenly saw the two men
still standing on the other side of the table, and recognised in one of
them Francis Rendel. A swift extraordinary change came over his face.
The genial content of the man who, having deliberately put all his usual
cares and preoccupations behind him was now, under the most favourable
conditions, prepared to enjoy a holiday in genial society, suddenly
disappeared. He involuntarily drew himself up, his face became hard and
stern; he again looked as Rendel had seen him look the last time they
had met. The mental agony of the younger man during that moment was
almost unendurable. What was going to happen next? As in a dream he
heard the comfortable voice of Lady Chaloner, who had never in her life,
probably, spoken with any misgivings, whose calm confidence in the
bending of contingency to her desires nothing had ever occurred to
shake.

"Will you sit down there, Lord Stamfordham? We have two new recruits to
our party, you see. I don't think I need introduce either of them."

Stamfordham remained standing for a moment; then he said quietly, but
very distinctly--

"I am afraid, Lady Chaloner, that I can't sit down at this table."

A sort of electric shock ran through the careless happy people who were
surrounding him. Rendel turned livid. Then he tried to speak. But no
words could come; mentally and physically alike he could not frame them.
He pushed his chair away from the table, and moved out behind it; then
with his hands grasping the back of it, he bowed to Lady Chaloner
without speaking, turned and went away by the little opening in the wood
from which he and Wentworth had come. Wentworth, ready and light-hearted
as he generally was, was for one moment also absolutely paralysed with
amazement and concern, then saying hurriedly, "Forgive me, Lady
Chaloner, I must go and see what has happened," he quickly followed.
Lord Stamfordham drew up his chair to the table and sat down. His
urbane, genial manner had returned, and he spoke as though nothing had
happened; the rest instantly took their cue from him.

"What delightful quarters you have found for us, Lady Chaloner," he
said. "I don't think I made acquaintance with this place when I was at
Schleppenheim last year."

"Charmin', isn't it?" said Lady Chaloner. And quite imperturbably, at
first with an effort, which became easier as the meal went on, the whole
party went on talking and laughing as usual, with, perhaps, if the truth
were known, an added zest of excitement, certainly on the part of some
of its members, at "something" having happened. The two extra places
that had been put were taken away again, and the rank closed up
indifferently and gaily round the table, as ranks do close up when
comrades disappear by the way.

In the meantime Rendel was madly hurrying away through the wood, going
straight in front of him, not knowing what he was doing, what he
proposed to do--his one idea being to get away, away, away from those
smiling, distinguished indifferent people, hitherto his own associates,
who now all knew the horrible fate that had overtaken him, who would
from henceforth turn their backs upon him too. The thought of that
moment when he had been face to face with Stamfordham, of those
distinct, inexorable tones, of the words which judged and for ever
condemned him, burnt like a physical, horrible flame from which he could
not escape. He flung himself down at last, and buried his face in his
hands, trying to shut out everything, as a frightened child pulls the
clothes over its head in the darkness. Then, to his terror, he heard
footsteps in the wood. Who was it? Was this some one else who knew?
Would he have to go through it all over again? And he lifted his head in
anguish as the steps drew nearer. The sight of the newcomer brought him
no relief. It was Wentworth, who, anxious and bewildered, came stumbling
along, having by some strange chance come in the direction that brought
him to the person he was seeking. Rendel looked at him.

"Well?" he said, in a strained voice, as though demanding an explanation
of Wentworth's intrusion.

The sight of his face completely bewildered Wentworth.

"Good God, Rendel!" he said, "what is it? What has happened?"

There was a pause. Then Rendel said, trying with very indifferent
success to speak in a voice that sounded something like his own--

"Didn't you see what happened?"

"I saw that--that--Stamfordham----" Wentworth began, then he stopped.

"Yes," said Rendel curtly, "you saw it--you saw what Stamfordham did?
Well, there's an end of it," and he looked miserably around him as
though hemmed in by the powers of earth and heaven.

"But, Frank," Wentworth said, still feeling as if all this were some
frightful dream, one of those dreams so vivid that they live with the
dreamer for weeks afterwards, and sometimes actually go to make his
waking opinion of the persons who have appeared in them, "tell
me--what----"

"Jack," said Rendel, "it's no good talking about it. I'll tell you
another time, I daresay, if I can. Leave me alone now, there's a good
fellow--that's all I want."

"Look here, Frank," said Wentworth; "if it's anything--anything that
Stamfordham thinks you've done--that--that you oughtn't to have
done--well, I don't believe it, that's all!"

"You are a good friend, old Jack," said Rendel, looking at him. "I might
have known you wouldn't believe it."

"Of course I don't," said Wentworth stoutly. "I don't know what it is,
but I don't believe it all the same."

"Well," said Rendel slowly, "I'll tell you this for your comfort--you
needn't believe it."

"Of course not," said Wentworth heartily, "and I don't care what it is,
of course you didn't do it. And what's more, I know you can't have done
anything to be ashamed of, and of course other people will know it too,"
he said sanguinely, carried along by his zealous friendship.

Rendel's face turned dark red again. "No," he said, "other people won't.
Of course other people will think I have done it. Don't let's talk about
it now. The fact is," mastering his voice with an effort, "I can't,
Jack. Just go away, and leave me alone. I'll come back some time."

"But what are you going to do? You're not going to sit here all day, I
suppose."

"I'll come later," Rendel said. "You must find your way back without me,
there's a good fellow. By the way," he added, "I'm sorry to have spoilt
your day; I'm afraid you've had no luncheon. But you'll be back in
Schleppenheim in time to get some. Look here, would you mind saying to
my wife that--that I've walked a little further than you cared to go, or
something of that sort, and that I'll be back at dinner time?"

"Very well," said Wentworth, hesitatingly. "She is not likely to be
anxious, is she?" he said dubiously. "I mean, at your being away so
long. She won't be alarmed, will she?"

"Oh no," said Rendel. "That is to say, if you don't alarm her." And then
looking up and seeing Wentworth's anxious expression, so very unlike the
usual one, "And you needn't be alarmed yourself, Jack; I'm not going to
do anything desperate," he said, forcing a smile; "that's not in my
line."

"No, no, of course not," Wentworth said, with a sort of air of being
entirely at his ease. And then reading in Rendel's face how the one
thing he longed for was to be alone, he said abruptly, "All right, then,
we shall meet later," and strode off the way he had come.

What a solution it would have been, Rendel felt, if he had indeed been
able to make up his mind to the step that Wentworth evidently thought he
might be contemplating--what an answer to everything! and as again that
burning recollection came over him he felt that, in spite of the courage
required for suicide, it would have required less courage to put himself
out of the world, beyond the possibility of its ever happening again,
than to remain in it and face what other agony of humiliation Fate might
have in store for him. But he was not alone, unfortunately; his own
destiny was not the only one in question. And if his words, his
intention, his faith in the future had meant anything at all when he
told Rachel that there was no sacrifice he would not be ready to make
for her, he was bound to go on doggedly and meet the worst. He walked
aimlessly through the wood, higher and higher, until he reached a sort
of clearing from which he could see, far below him, the white road
winding back again to Schleppenheim, and presently as he looked he saw
driving rapidly back in the direction of the town the open carriages
containing the people he had just left. Stamfordham must be in one of
them. What were they saying about him, those people? Or, if not saying,
what were they thinking? Could he ever look one of them in the face
again? Not one. And again he had a wild moment of thinking that it would
be possible to put the thing right, to establish his innocence, to
insist upon knowing how it was that Sir William Gore had given the
information to the _Arbiter_, on knowing what the arrangement was with
Pateley on which that _coup de théâtre_ had depended, and he sprang to
his feet with the determination that he would go straight back into
Schleppenheim, seek out Pateley and insist upon knowing what had
happened. Then, just as before, the revulsion came. The principal thing,
he had no need to ask Pateley. He knew, and that was the thing other
people might not know. In a little while, he was told, Rachel would be
herself again, and perhaps able to remember: she must not come back to
the knowledge of something that must be such a cruel blow to her faith
in her father, her adoring love for him. And yet as he turned downwards
and strode hurriedly back along the woodland paths, across the shafts of
sunlight which were growing longer as the day wore on, he felt how
absurdly, horribly unequal the two things were that were at stake. On
the one hand his own future, his success, his whole life, all the
possibilities he had dreamt of; on the other, reprobation falling on one
who was beyond the reach of it, one who had no longer any possibilities,
who had nothing to lose, whose hopes and fears of worldly success, whose
agitations had been for ever stilled by the hand of death. And Rachel?
Would the suffering of knowing that her father's memory was attacked, of
being rudely awakened from her illusions to find that in the eyes of the
world he was not, and did not deserve to be, what he had been in hers,
would that suffering be equal to that which he himself was encountering
now? But even as he argued with himself, as he tried to prove that his
own salvation was possible, he knew that when it came to the point he
could do nothing. If it had been a question of another man, whom he
himself could have saved by bringing the accusation home to the right
quarter, he would have done it, he would have felt bound to do it: but
as it was, he knew perfectly well that the thing was impossible. The
fact is that, whether guided by supernatural standards or by those of
instinct and tradition, there are very few of the contingencies in life
in which the man accustomed to act honestly up to his own code is really
in doubt as to what, by that code, he ought to do: and by the time that
Rendel reached the little garden again which he had left in the company
of Wentworth a few hours before, he knew quite well that he was going to
do nothing, that he might do nothing, that he must simply again wait.
Wait for what? There was nothing to come.



CHAPTER XXIII


Two of the occupants of the carriages that Rendel had seen going rapidly
along the road knew the meaning of the scene that had taken place under
their eyes; the others were in a state of simmering curiosity.

"I should be glad," said Stamfordham, as they approached Schleppenheim,
"if nothing could be said about what happened."

He was sitting opposite to Lady Chaloner and Lady Adela in a landau.
There was no need, of course, to explain to what he was referring.

"Of course, of course," said Lady Chaloner, not quite knowing what to
say.

In the meantime Wentworth had got back, had been to see Rachel, and had
told her that Rendel was going to extend his walk a little further and
that he would be back without fail in time for dinner. He himself, he
added, had been obliged to come back for an engagement. Rachel accepted
quite placidly the fact that her husband would return later than she
expected; she thanked Wentworth with the same sweet smile of old, asked
where they had been, said the woods must have been delightful. Then,
feeling that he could do nothing, Wentworth, with some misgiving, left
her.

Rachel still felt the languor which succeeds illness,--not an unpleasant
condition when there is no call for activity,--a physical languor which
made her quite content to sit or lie out of doors most of the day,
sometimes walk a little way, and then come back to rest again. She had
accepted Rendel's unceasing solicitude for her with love and gratitude,
she clung to his presence more than ever now that both her parents being
gone she felt herself entirely alone: but for the rest she was strangely
content to let the days go by in a sort of luxury of sorrow, while she
recalled the happy time passed with those other two beloved ones who had
made up her life. But there was no bitterness in the recollection; there
was a sort of tender mystery over it still. At times she felt as if
there were something more; she had some dim, confused recollection of
her husband being connected with it all, and with Gore's illness; how,
she could not remember. And she did not try. Deep down in her mind was
the feeling that with a great effort it might all come back to her; but
she shrank from making the effort.

After Wentworth left her, it had occurred to her that, since Rendel was
not coming back again, she would venture outside the limits of their
garden and go to where the band was playing. She did not at all realise
what the surroundings of that band would be. The kind of life that she
had led before, when they had come abroad with Lady Gore, had not been
the sort of existence reigning at Schleppenheim. She strolled out,
feeling that everything was very strange and new, in the direction of
the music, following without knowing it a path which brought her into
the very middle of the promenade into the centre of a gaily dressed
throng of people, somewhat bewildering to one accustomed to pass all her
days in solitude. Shrinking back a little she turned out of the stream,
and, finding an unoccupied chair under a tree, sat down, looking timidly
about her. Then finding that no one was paying any attention to her, or
appeared to be conscious of the fact that she was venturing out alone,
she gradually became amused at watching all that was going on round her.
Presently two well-dressed women she did not know, an older and a
younger one, Lady Chaloner and Lady Adela Prestige in fact, on their way
to their bazaar, came along deep in talk, the older one stopping to
speak with some emphasis whenever the interest of the conversation
demanded it. One of these halts was made close by Rachel.

"I should like to know what it was," Lady Adela was saying.

"You may depend upon it," said Lady Chaloner, "that it was something
very bad. He is not the man to do that sort of thing for nothing."

"I am quite sure of it," Lady Adela replied, with a little tremor of
excitement. "One can't help feeling that it's something really bad; that
it was not only that he had run away with his neighbour's wife or
something of that kind. He must have done something that can't be
condoned."

"I am sure of it," Lady Chaloner said seriously. "There is no doubt
about that."

"Poor creature!" said Lady Adela. "Didn't he look awful?"

"Perfectly fearful!" said Lady Chaloner. "He looked like the villain in
a play, who is found out--the man who has cheated at cards, or something
of that sort."

"Perhaps that was it."

"I daresay," said Lady Chaloner. "I wonder if he has been playing
Bridge?"

"Dear me, I wish I knew!" said Lady Adela.

This sounded very interesting, Rachel thought--exactly the kind of thing
that happened in books at smart watering-places.

"Ah, there is Maddy," said Lady Adela. "I do wonder what she thought."

"By the way," said Lady Chaloner, "we must tell her not to say anything
about it."

But the Princess had driven back in the company of M. de Moricourt and
Mr. Marchmont, and had, therefore, not heard the warning given by
Stamfordham to his companions in the other landau.

"Well," said the Princess eagerly, coming up to the others, "what did
you think of that? Wasn't it amazing?"

"Yes," said Lady Adela. "What do you think it was, Maddy?"

"Something awful, you may depend upon it," said the Princess; "and I am
sure little Marchmont knows. We tried to make him tell us on the way
back, but he wouldn't. But I gathered somehow that Lord Stamfordham
couldn't have done anything else."

Lord Stamfordham! Did they say Stamfordham? Rachel thought to herself
wonderingly. Was he here? And she had some kind of queer, puzzled
feeling that he was connected in her mind with something that had
happened lately. What was it?

"And Pateley doesn't know anything about it either," said the Princess.
"I met him just now and asked him."

"Did you?" said Lady Chaloner. "I don't think you ought to have done
that. I was going to tell you that Stamfordham said it was not to be
mentioned."

"Did he?" said the Princess, somewhat taken aback. "I asked Mr. Pateley
because I thought he would be sure to know. But I made him promise not
to tell anybody."

"I believe he did know, though," said Moricourt, who, though he spoke
his own language, understood perfectly everything that was said in
English. "I wonder what the quiet and charming wife that Wentworth
admires so much thinks?"

"Poor thing!" said Lady Chaloner gravely.

"By the way," said Lady Adela with a sudden idea, "Wentworth was with
him. Wentworth must know all about it, of course. He is sure to come to
the bazaar. We'll ask him."

"Wentworth was with him?" said Rachel to herself with an involuntary
movement, rising from her seat. Of whom were they speaking? What was it
all about? She was unconscious that she was standing scrutinising the
faces of the group near her as though trying to gather from them what
their words might mean. They, deep in their conversation, did not notice
her. Then, with a feeling of extraordinary relief--she hardly knew
why--she saw a familiar, substantial person coming along the promenade
with a sort of friendly swagger. She went forward to meet him, still
feeling as though she were walking in her sleep.

"Mrs. Rendel!" said Pateley in his usual hearty tone, in which there was
now an inflection of surprise and almost of anxiety.

Pateley had not met either of the Rendels since the day of his last
interview with Sir William Gore, and he had carefully not investigated
further the incident which had been of such great advantage to himself.
But in the last half-hour, since, under the seal of profound secrecy, it
had been confided to him what had happened at the luncheon, and he had
been anxiously asked what was the cloud hanging over Rendel, he had
pieced things together in a way which brought him pretty near the truth.
It was beginning to be clear to him that Stamfordham had somehow visited
upon Rendel the treachery into which he himself had practically led
Gore. Stamfordham had asked Pateley at the time of the disclosure how
the _Arbiter_ had become possessed of the information. Pateley had
apologetically declined to give an explanation. But the ardent support
given by the _Arbiter_ to Stamfordham's action in the matter and to all
his subsequent policy had made it tolerably certain that Stamfordham
would not bear him much malice. And, as a matter of fact, the whole
affair had added to Stamfordham's reputation. The masterly way in which
he had caught up the situation and dealt with it after the premature
disclosure of the Agreement had added a fresh laurel to his crown.

As Pateley uttered the words, "Mrs. Rendel," the whole of the group who
were standing near turned with a common impulse as if a thunderbolt had
fallen into their midst, and he grasped at once that they had been
talking within earshot of her of something she ought not to have heard.
Lady Adela was the first to recover her presence of mind.

"Come," she said; "we must go and take our places. I mean to have some
tea if we can get it before the opening," and she made a move in which
the others joined.

Pateley, remaining by Rachel, lifted his hat to them as they strolled
away. "How long have you been at Schleppenheim?" he asked. "I had no
idea you were here."

"We have been here," said Rachel--"let me see--about a week."

She looked anxious and disturbed.

"And where are you staying?" said Pateley.

"In the little pavilion behind the Hôtel de Londres," and she pointed.

"Charming place," said Pateley. "And how is your husband?"

"He is very well, thank you," said Rachel. "He has been out for a long
walk to-day; he went for an expedition to the woods with Mr. Wentworth."

And she looked as if something else that she did not say were on the tip
of her tongue.

"It must have been delightful in the woods to-day," said Pateley, hardly
knowing what he answered. He also was preoccupied by the story he had
heard and wondering how much she knew of it. "Are you going home now?"
he said, as Rachel turned away from the promenade in the direction she
had pointed out.

"I think so. I am a little tired," said Rachel, holding out her hand.

"May I come and see you?" Pateley said.

"Please do," said Rachel.

"I certainly shall," Pateley said. "It will be delightful to get away
for a little while from this seething mass of humanity."

And he again gave one of his loud laughs as he also went towards the
tent, to plunge with the greatest zest into the seething mass whose
company he had been contemning.



CHAPTER XXIV


Rachel turned in the other direction and walked slowly back to the
pavilion. What had happened? What had she been hearing? The slightest
mental exertion still made her head ache, but she was conscious that if
she once let herself go and made the effort it would be possible for her
to understand. But that moment had not come yet.

She had not been many minutes in her quiet shady garden when the little
gate at the bottom of it was thrown open, and her husband came quickly
in, looking round him with an anxious, hurried glance as though not
knowing what he might find. What had he expected? He could hardly have
told. But as he drew nearer and nearer he had been gradually nerving
himself for the worst. He had been dreading to find he knew not what.
Wentworth might be sitting with Rachel, the faces of both telling that
Wentworth's would-be explanations had been of no avail; or Rachel
herself might have been absent--she might have strolled out into the
crowd and there unawares heard rumours of what he felt convinced must by
this time be in every one's mind, on every one's lips. It was therefore
for the moment an unmeasured relief to find that all seemed as usual,
that Rachel was sitting there quiet and cool before her little
tea-table.

"Ah!" he almost gasped, with a long sigh, as he sank into a chair and
leant his head against the back of it with a weary, hunted look.

"Frank!" said Rachel anxiously, "what is the matter? What has happened?"

"What do you mean?" he said, sitting up, with again the startled,
haggard expression on his face. "What should have happened?"

"I don't know," Rachel said, startled too at his look and manner. "You
look so tired, so ill."

"Oh, I'm all right," he said, taking up and drinking eagerly the cup of
tea that almost mechanically she had poured out and pushed towards him,
and as he did so he realised that he had had no food since the morning.
He ate and drank and then again lay back in his chair and was silent. As
Rachel looked at him the absolute conviction swept over her--she knew
not why--that he had been concerned in the terrible catastrophe of which
she had heard the broken accounts. It began to dawn upon her that in
some inconceivable way the thing had happened to him; that it was of him
those women were speaking. She still heard Lady Adela saying: "Did you
ever see any one look so awful?" And yet what could it be? What horrible
misunderstanding was it? What horrible mistake could have been made?

She sat and waited. Not the least of her charms was that she knew, what
many women do not know, how to sit absolutely quiet. She knew when to
refrain from questioning, how to sit by her companion in so peaceful, so
final a manner, as it were, that he did not feel that she was simply
waiting for what he would do next.

The band blared out again with renewed vigour. Rendel leant his elbows
on his knees, his face between his hands.

"Oh! that miserable noise!" he said. "Will it never leave off? The
hideousness of it all!--those people, that band! Oh! to get away from it
all!" he muttered half to himself.

"Frank," said Rachel entreatingly, touching his arm, "if you don't like
it why shouldn't we go away from it? I think it is horrible, too. I went
out of the garden to-day to where the people were walking."

Rendel looked up quickly.

"Did you? Did you see any one you knew?"

"Yes," said Rachel; "I saw Mr. Pateley."

"Pateley!" said her husband. "Did you have any talk with him? What did
he say?"

"Hardly anything," said Rachel. "He was surprised to see me, and asked
how long we had been here, and if he might come and see us. That was
all."

"That was all," echoed Rendel, again with an inward shiver. "Coming to
see us, is he?"

That encounter for the moment he must at any cost avoid.

"Frank, I wonder if we must go on staying here?" Rachel said.

"Of course we must," Rendel replied, trying to pull himself together
again. "Dr. Morgan said that this was the very best place for you to
come to, and that the waters would do you all the good in the world."

"I wonder if we need," said Rachel. "I am sure it is the kind of thing
you hate."

"It is not for very long, after all," said Rendel, trying to smile.

He was gradually regaining possession of himself, but was still afraid
to trust himself to utter any but the most commonplace and ordinary
sentences.

"The moment I have done the cure," said Rachel, "we'll go back to
London, won't we? And you can begin your work again, and do all the
things you like. And then," she went on with an attempt at lightness of
tone, "you can go back to your beloved politics, and think of nothing
else all day." And she went on talking of their house, of their arrival,
of what they would do, in a forlorn little attempt to show him that she
meant to try to shoulder life valiantly, although it had been so
altered. "You will stand for somewhere. You will go into the House."

Rendel thought of what the life might have been that she was sketching,
and what it was going to be now. What he had gone through that day was
an earnest probably of what awaited him many a time if he should try to
lead his life as he used to lead it, among the people who were congenial
to him.

"No," he said, "I'm not going to stand. I'm not going into the House. I
shan't have anything to do with politics."

"What?" said Rachel, looking at him startled.

"All that, is at an end," he said firmly. Then with the relief of
speaking, came the irresistible desire to go on, to tell her something
at least of what his fate was, although he might not tell the thing that
mattered most.

"Do you remember," he said, "something that I told you had happened----"
he broke off, then began again. "Tell me," he said, impelled to ask,
"how much you remember, if you remember anything, of those days when
your father was so ill, at the end, just before he died, or is it still
a blank to you?"

Rachel shuddered.

"No, I can't remember," she said. "The last thing I remember clearly is
one afternoon when he was beginning to be worse and had to go upstairs
again; and I remember nothing more after that till," and her voice
trembled, "till--a day that I woke up in bed and wanted to go to him,
and you told me that--that he was dead. The rest of that time is a
blank."

"How extraordinary it is!" muttered Rendel to himself.

"I did not even know," said Rachel, "that I had fallen on the stairs,
until the doctor told me days afterwards that I had caught my foot as I
was running downstairs. He told me then it was no use trying to
remember the time just before," she went on in a low, anxious voice,
something stirring uneasily within her: "that it might not come back at
all. It seems it doesn't sometimes to people who have that sort of
accident."

Rendel, his eyes fixed on the ground, had been listening; he took in the
meaning of her words and tried to realise their bearing on himself, but
he was too far gone on the slope to stop. It was clear that she would
not know what had happened, unless she were told by himself... and yet,
who could tell how the awakening would come? it might even be in a worse
form when she was able once more to mix with her kind.

"Rachel," he said. "I want to tell you something that happened the day
before your father became worse, the day before you had that accident,
the last day, in fact, that you remember." She looked at him with
anxious eagerness. "Something tremendously important happened. Lord
Stamfordham brought me some private notes of his own to decipher and
copy."

"Of course," said Rachel, "that I remember. In your study downstairs."

"You remember?" said Rendel eagerly. Then instantly conscious, alas,
that the evidence could do him no kind of good, "that I gave some papers
to Thacker to take to Stamfordham?"

"Stop a minute," said Rachel. "Yes, I remember that too. My father
wanted to play chess afterwards, but he was too tired."

"In those papers," said Rendel, "there was a very important secret,
though it didn't remain a secret," he added, with a bitter little laugh,
"for twenty-four hours. Those papers contained the notes of a
conversation at the German Embassy at which that agreement was decided
upon by which Germany and England divided Africa between them. It was
_I_ copied those papers from Stamfordham's notes. I copied the map of
Africa with a line down the middle of it. The next morning, no one knew
how or why, that map appeared in the _Arbiter_."

Rachel looked at him, still not understanding all that was implied.

"Do you see what that means for me?" Rendel said. "It was not
Stamfordham published it, he did not mean to do so until the moment
should come, and since I was the person who had had the original notes,
he thought that I had published it; that I had let it out, somehow."

"You!" said Rachel, with wide-open eyes.

"Yes," said Rendel shortly. "That I had betrayed the great secret
entrusted to me."

"Frank!" she cried. "But of course you didn't!"

"Of course I didn't," Rendel said quietly.

"And--then----?" said Rachel breathlessly.

"Then," Rendel said, shrinking at the very recollection, "Stamfordham
told me he believed I had done it. Then of course,"--and the words came
with an effort--"there was an end of everything, and I knew that there
was nothing left for me to do but to go under, to throw everything up. I
knew that people would turn their backs upon me, and I didn't see
Stamfordham again until--until to-day. And to-day Wentworth and I went
up to that place in the woods to lunch, and by chance, by the most
horrible, evil fortune, we came upon a luncheon party at which
Stamfordham was, and--and," he said trying to speak calmly, "when he saw
me he refused to sit down at the same table with me." And as he spoke
Rachel felt that things were becoming clear to her and that she was
beginning to understand. The comments of the people who had stood by her
and discussed the scene they had witnessed still rang in her ears, and
she realised what the horror of that scene must have been.

"Frank!" she cried, with her tears falling. And she went to him and took
his hand, then drew his head against her bosom as though to give him
sanctuary. "Imagine believing that you, _you_ of all people..." and the
broken words of comfort and faith in him, of love and belief again gave
him a moment of feeling that rehabilitation might be possible.

"Frank!" Rachel went on, "tell me this. Did my father know?"

"Know what?" Rendel said, starting up, the iron reality again facing
him.

"That you were accused? That they could believe that you had done such a
shameful thing?"

"Yes," said Rendel slowly. "At least he knew what had
happened--and--and--he guessed that the suspicion would fall upon me."

"Oh!" cried Rachel, hiding her face in her hands and trying to steady
her voice. "I am sorry he knew just at the end. I wonder if he
realised?"

Rendel said nothing. Even now was Sir William Gore to stand between
them?

"Perhaps he didn't," Rachel said, almost entreatingly, "as he was so
ill. Because think what it would have been to him! Of course he would
have known it was not true, but he was so fastidious, so terribly
sensitive, the mere thought that you could have been suspected of such a
thing even would have preyed upon him so terribly."

"Well," said Rendel, in a low voice--the last possibility of clearing
himself was put behind him, and the darkness fell again--"he is beyond
reach of it. It is I who must suffer now."

Rachel had walked to the other side of the garden, pressing her
handkerchief to her eyes and trying to control herself. Now she came
swiftly back, a sudden determination in her heart.

"Frank," she cried, "why must you suffer? We must find out who really
did it."

"I can't," said Rendel.

"But have you tried?"

"Yes," he said. "As much as was possible."

"But it must be possible," she cried. And she came to him, her eyes and
face glowing with resolve. "If the whole world came to me and said that
you had done this I should not believe it. I remember so well my mother
saying, the day that I came back from Maidenhead," and their eyes met in
the recollection of that happy, cloudless time, "'what a man needs is
some one to believe in him,' and I thought to myself that when--if--I
married I would believe in my husband as she believed in my father."

At this moment one of the Swiss waiters came quickly through the
pavilion into the garden.

"Monsieur Pateley," he said, "wishes to know if Madame is at home."
Rachel and her husband looked at each other in consternation.

"I can't see him at this moment," Rendel said, going to the gate.

"Can't we send him away?" said Rachel, anxiously.

"Where is he?" addressing the waiter. But it was too late. The question
answered itself, as Pateley's large form appeared behind that of the
waiter, distinctly seen on every side of it. Rachel, trying to control
her face into a smile of welcome, went forward to meet him as Rendel
disappeared amongst the trees, from whence he could get round into the
house another way.



CHAPTER XXV


We do not move unfortunately all in one piece. It would be much simpler
if we did, and if our actions could be accounted for by saying, "He did
this, being a generous man, or a forgiving man, or a curious man, or a
remorseful man." Unhappily, and it makes our actions more difficult to
account for, we are more complicated than this, and Pateley, when he
finally felt impelled to make his way into Rachel's presence so soon
after parting from her in the promenade, could not probably have said
exactly what motive prompted him to seek her. To Rachel he arrived as
the complement, the consolidation, of the resolve that she had made. She
hardly tried to conceal her agitation as she shook hands with him and
looked in his face. Her own wore an expression that had not been there
an hour ago. Something new had come to life in it. So conscious were
they both of something abnormal, overmastering, between them that there
did not seem anything strange in the fact that for a moment, after the
first greeting, they stood without thinking of any of the commonplaces
of intercourse. Then Pateley, more accustomed to overlay the realities
of life by the conventional outside, recovered himself and said in an
ordinary tone, looking round him--

"What a delightful oasis! What charming quarters you are in here!"

"Yes, we like them very much," said Rachel, recovering herself; and they
went towards the little table and sat down.

"No tea for me, thank you," said Pateley. "I have just been made to
drink a liquid distantly resembling it at the bazaar."

"At the bazaar?" said Rachel. "It was German tea, I suppose?"

"I imagine so. It has been well said," said Pateley, "that no nation has
yet been known great enough to produce two equally good forms of
national beverage. We have good tea, but our coffee is abominable: the
Germans have good coffee, but their tea is poison. The Spaniards, I
believe, have good chocolate, but that I have to take on hearsay. I have
never been to Spain. I mean to go some day, though."

"Do you?" Rachel said, dimly hearing his flow of words while she made up
her mind what her own were to be. She had had so little time to form her
plan of action, to piece together all that she had been hearing during
the afternoon, that it was not yet clear to her that from the
circumstances of the case Pateley must necessarily be concerned in it;
and at the moment she began to speak she simply looked upon him as some
one who knew Rendel in London, who had known her father and mother, who
had a general air of bluff and hearty serviceability, and had presented
himself at a moment when she had no one else to turn to.

"Mr. Pateley," she said, and at the sudden ring of resolution in her
tone Pateley's face changed and his smiling flow of chatter about
nothing came to a pause. "There is something I want very much to ask you
about," she went on, "something I want your help in."

"I am at your orders," said Pateley, with a smile and bow that concealed
his surprise.

"It is something that matters very, very much," Rachel went on.
"Something you could find out for me."

Pateley said nothing.

"I don't know if you know," she went on hurriedly--"if you heard, of
what happened to me in London just before my father died? I had an
accident. It seemed a slight one at the time. I fell down on the stairs
one evening that he was worse when I ran down quickly to fetch my
husband, and I had concussion of the brain afterwards and was
unconscious for forty-eight hours. And since, I have not been able to
remember anything of what happened during those days."

Pateley made a sort of sympathetic sound and gesture.

"But," Rachel said, "I have heard to-day--not until to-day--of something
that happened during that time, something terrible. I am going to tell
it to you, in the greatest confidence. You will see when I tell you
that it matters very, very much. First of all,--this I remember--on the
day my father began to be worse, Lord Stamfordham brought my husband
some papers to copy for him in which was the Agreement with Germany, and
told him no one was to know about them, and my husband told no one, and
sent them back, when they were done, to Stamfordham, in a sealed
packet."

Pateley, as he listened, sat absolutely impenetrable, with his eyes
fixed on the ground.

"But somebody got hold of them," she went on--"somebody must have stolen
them, because they were published the next morning in the paper, in the
_Arbiter_." And as the words left her lips she suddenly realised that
the man in front of her was the one of all others in the world who must
know what had happened. The _Arbiter_ was embodied in Pateley, it was
Pateley: that, everybody knew, everybody repeated. Pateley would, he
must, be able to tell her.

"Oh," she cried, "the _Arbiter_ is your paper!"

"Yes," said Pateley, looking at her.

"Then," she said, "you know--you must know."

"Know what?" he said calmly.

"You must know," she said, "who it was told the _Arbiter_ what was in
those papers."

Pateley sat silent a moment. Then he said--

"It can and does happen occasionally that things are brought to the
_Arbiter_ of which I don't know the origin, in fact of which the origin
is purposely kept a secret."

She waited for him to add something to this sentence, to add a _but_ to
it, but he remained silent. Being unversed in diplomatic evasions, she
accepted his words as a disclaimer.

"But still," she said, "even if you don't know this you could find it
out. It matters terribly. I don't want to say to any one else, it is not
a thing to be told, how horribly it matters, but I must tell _you_, that
you may see. Lord Stamfordham thought that my husband had betrayed the
secret--he told him so then. And to-day--it was too terrible!--he was at
a luncheon to which Frank and Mr. Wentworth went, not knowing----" A
sudden involuntary change in Pateley's face made her stop and say, "But
perhaps you were there? Were you at the luncheon?"

"No," said Pateley. "I was not there."

"But you heard about it?" she said.

"Yes," he said after a pause. "I heard about it."

"It's too horrible!" said Rachel, covering her face with her hands. "Of
course you heard about it--everybody will hear about it: how Lord
Stamfordham insulted him and refused to sit down with him, because of
the unjust accusation that was brought against him. Now do you see," she
said excitedly, and Pateley, as he looked at her, was amazed at the fire
that shone from her eyes, at the glow of excitement in her whole
being--"now do you see how much it matters? how if we don't find out the
truth, if we don't get to know who did it, this is the kind of thing
that will happen to him? You see now, don't you? You will help me?"

Pateley had got up and restlessly paced to the end of the garden and
back, his eyes fixed on the ground, Rachel breathlessly watching him. He
was moved at her distress, he felt the stirrings of something like
remorse at the fate that had overtaken Rendel. But in Pateley's
Juggernaut-like progress through the world he did not, as a rule, stop
to see who were the victims that were left gasping by the roadside. As
long as the author of the mischief drives on rapidly enough, the evil he
has left behind him is not brought home to him so acutely as if he is
compelled to stop and bend over the sufferer. But a brief moment of
reflection made him pretty clear that neither himself nor the _Arbiter_
had anything to fear from the disclosure. He had nothing particularly
heroic in his composition; he would not have felt called upon for the
sake of Francis Rendel, or even for the sake of Rendel's wife, to
sacrifice his own destiny and possibilities if it had been a question of
choosing between his own and theirs; but fortunately this choice would
not be thrust upon him. He looked up and met Rachel's eyes fixed upon
him.

"Yes," he said. "I will help you."

"Oh, thank you!" she cried, her heart swelling with relief. "Will you,
can you find out about it?"

"Yes," said Pateley again. He paused a moment, then came back and stood
in front of her. "I have no need to find out," he said slowly. "I know
who did it."

Rachel sprang up.

"What?" she cried, quivering with anxiety. "Do you mean that you know
now, that you can tell Frank, that you can tell Lord Stamfordham? Oh,
why didn't you say so?"

Pateley paused.

"I didn't know," he said, "that Stamfordham had accused your husband of
it, and so I kept--I was rather bound to keep--the other man's secret."

"The other man?" Rachel repeated, looking at him.

"Yes," said Pateley. "The man who did it."

Rachel started. Of course, yes--if her husband had not done it some one
else had, they were shifting the horrible burden on to another. But that
other deserved it, since he was the guilty man.

"Yes," she said lower, "of course I know there is some one else!--it is
very terrible--but--but--it's right, isn't it, that the man who has done
it should be accused and not one who is innocent?"

"Yes," said Pateley, "it is right."

"You must tell me," she said, "you must!--you must tell me everything
now, as I have told you. Is it some one to whom it will matter very
much?"

Pateley waited.

"No," he said at length, "it won't matter to him."

Rachel looked at him, not understanding.

He went on, "Nothing will ever matter to him again. He is dead."

"Dead, is he?" said Rachel, but even in the horror-struck tone there
rang an accent of glad relief. "Then it can't matter to him. And it is
right, after all, that people should know what he did. It is right, it
is justice, isn't it?" she repeated, as though trying to reassure
herself, "not only because of Frank?"

"Yes," said Pateley, "I believe that it is right, that it is justice."
Then as he looked at her he suddenly became conscious of an unwonted
difficulty of speech, of an almost unknown wave of emotion rising within
him, of shrinking from the words he was now clear had to be said.

"Mrs. Rendel," he said at last, "I am afraid it will be very painful to
you to hear what I am going to say."

She looked at him bewildered. He waited one moment, almost hoping that
the truth might dawn upon her before he spoke, but she was a thousand
miles from being anywhere near it. "Those papers which I published in
the _Arbiter_ the next morning were shown to me on the afternoon your
husband had them to copy, by--" again the strange unfamiliar
perturbation stopped him, and he felt he had to make a distinct effort
to bring the name out--"your father, Sir William Gore."

Rachel said absolutely nothing. She looked at him with dilated eyes,
incredulous amazement and then horror in her face, as she saw in his
that he was telling her the truth.

"My father?" she said at last, with trembling lips.

"Yes," Pateley said. The worst was over now, he felt, and he had
recovered possession of himself.

"No, no, it can't be!" she said miserably. "It's not possible...."

"I fear it is," said Pateley. "They were shown to myself, you see, so it
is an absolute certainty."

"But when was it?" said Rachel, bewildered. "When did he have them?"

"They were left," Pateley said, "in the study where he was, when your
husband went down to speak to Lord Stamfordham. During that time I
happened to go in."

And as Rachel listened to his brief account of what had taken place she
knew that there was no longer any doubt as to the culprit. For the
moment, as the idol of her life fell before her in ruins the discovery
she had made swallowed up everything else. Pateley made a move.

"Wait, wait!" she said. "Don't go away. Only wait till I see what I must
do. It is all so horrible! I see nothing clearly yet."

He walked away to the other end of the little garden.

She leant back in her chair, her eyes fixed, seeing nothing, trying to
make up her mind. Gradually what she must do became more and more
distinct to her, more and more inevitable. The sheer force of her
agitation and emotion were carrying her own. If she acted at once,
within the next half-hour, anything, everything might be possible. She
would not wait to think, she would do it now, while it was still
possible to pronounce the name, the dear name that she had hardly been
able to bring to her lips during these last weeks in which every day,
every hour, she had been conscious of her loss. She would go to the
person who must be told, and who alone could remedy the great evil that
had been done. She got up, a despairing determination in her face.

Pateley looked at her, his face asking the question which he did not put
in words.

"I am going to Lord Stamfordham," she said. "I am going to tell him."

"You?" said Pateley. "Are you going to tell him yourself?"

"Yes," she said, "it is I who must tell him. I have quite made up my
mind." She turned to him appealingly as though taking for granted he
would help her. "I want to go now, while I feel I can, and before Frank
knows anything about it. Can you help me--would you help me to find Lord
Stamfordham?"

"Certainly," said Pateley, with a new admiration for Rachel rising
within him, but with some misgivings, however, as to the possibility or
the desirability of running Stamfordham to earth among his present
surroundings.

"Do you know where he is?" Rachel said.

"I should think probably at the bazaar," said Pateley, and as he
reflected on the scene he had just left, Stamfordham surrounded by a
bevy of attractive ladies beseeching him to give them an autograph, to
buy a buttonhole, to drink their tea, to put into their raffles, and to
have his fortune told, he felt still more dubious as to the mission he
was engaged upon. Fortunately Rachel realised none of these things.

"Come, then, let us go," she said, with a vibrating anxiety and
excitement, at strange variance with the usual atmosphere that
surrounded her, and he followed her out of the garden in the direction
of the Casino.



CHAPTER XXVI


Pateley, who had been caught up in some measure into the excitement of
Rachel's emotion, was brought back to earth again with a run, as he
passed with her through the brightly coloured hangings which drooped
over the portals of the bazaar and found themselves in the gay crowd
within. His misgivings grew as he felt more and more the incongruity of
the errand they were bent upon to the preoccupations of the people who
surrounded them. There was no doubt that, whatever the ultimate result
as far as Mrs. Birkett and the needs she represented were concerned, the
bazaar, that subsidiary consideration apart, was being very successful
indeed. The sound of voices and laughter filled the air, and the gloomy
previsions Lady Chaloner had felt as to the lack of buyers were
apparently not realised, since the whole of the available space
surrounded by the stalls was filled with people engaged in some sort of
very active and voluble commercial transactions with one another which,
financial result or not, were of a most enjoyable kind, to judge by the
bursts of laughter they necessitated. Rachel, pale, strung up, with the
look of determination in her face called up in the usually timid by an
unwonted resolve, was making her way, or rather trying to do so, in
Pateley's wake, bewildered by the sights and sounds around her. Pateley
at each step was beset by some laughing vendor from whom he had much ado
to escape, and indeed in most cases did not succeed in doing so without
having paid toll. By the time he had gone half along the room he was the
possessor of three tickets for raffles, for each of which he had paid a
sum he would have grudged for the unneeded article that was being
raffled. He had bought several single flowers, each one on terms which
should have commanded an armful of roses, and he had had three dips into
a bag from which fortunately he had emerged with nothing more permanent
than sawdust. Rachel also had been accosted by a vendor as soon as she
came in, a moment of poignant embarrassment for all parties
concerned--herself, her escort, and the fascinating seller who had
offered her wares, for Rachel, looking at her with startled eyes, felt
in her pocket as though at last seeing what was wanted of her, and then
stammered, "I'm so sorry, I have no money with me." Pateley knew the
vendor; it was no other than Mrs. Samuels, who had emerged from behind
her stall, and was making the round of the bazaar with a basket of most
attractive-looking cakes. His eye met hers in hurried and involuntary
misgiving, mutely telling her that Rachel was not a suitable customer,
and that she had better carry her wares elsewhere. She at once responded
to the unconscious confidence and returned to himself.

"Now, Mr. Pateley," she said ingratiatingly, "you, I know, never refuse
a cake. Look, these are what you had when you came to tea with me the
other day. Now, I'll choose you the very best."

"Of course, if you will choose one for me," said Pateley gallantly.

"Oh, but one is not enough," she said, "you must have two--you really
must. Five marks. Thank you so much!" and she tripped off.

Pateley, who had already, as we have seen, spent a good deal of time and
of the money which is supposed to be its equivalent in the bazaar before
going to see Rachel, began to be conscious that before he got round it
again he would have spent a sum large enough to have kept him another
week in Schleppenheim. "However," he said to himself with a sigh, "it is
all part of the story, I suppose." In his inmost soul he felt the
conviction that he was altogether, in his strange progress through the
joyous crowd with that pale, anxious companion, going through a
sufficient penance to make amends for the misfortune of which he was the
primary cause.

"Where is Lord Stamfordham?" whispered Rachel anxiously. "Do you see
him?"

"Not at this moment," said Pateley, looking vainly in every direction.
The difficulties of his quest, and the still worse difficulties that
would certainly face him when the object of that quest should be
attained, loomed with increased terror before him.

The names of the stallholders, of the performers, waved above their
respective quarters. In the corner of the great tent was a
mysterious-looking enclosure, of which the entrance was closed by a
curtain, and above which hung the legend, "Oriental Fortune-telling.
Lady Adela Prestige." Lady Adela Prestige! That was probably the most
likely place to try for. "I think he may be over there," he said, and
without a word, hardly conscious of the people who were passing through,
Rachel followed him.

"Hallo, Pateley, is that you?" said a cheery voice. He turned round and
saw Wentworth, a packet of tickets in his hand. "Would you like to have
a ticket for the performing dog?" said Wentworth, not seeing who
Pateley's companion was.

"No," said Pateley, almost savagely, thankful to be accosted by some one
whom he need not answer by a smile and a compliment. "I don't want any
fooling of that sort now."

"My dear fellow," said Wentworth, amazed, "what have you come here for,
then?" and as he spoke he saw Rachel behind Pateley, and realised that
something was happening that had no connection with the business of the
bazaar.

"Look here," Pateley said aside to him, "do you know where Stamfordham
is?"

"Over there," said Wentworth, with some inward wonder, pointing towards
Lady Adela's corner. "I saw him there just now."

"Ah!" said Pateley, "all right," hardly knowing if he was relieved or
not, but desperately threading his way in the direction indicated, still
followed by Rachel.

Wentworth looked after them in surprise.

"What is that you are saying, Mr. Wentworth?" said a voice in his ear,
and he turned quickly and found himself face to face with Mrs. Samuels.
"A performing dog? Where? I am quite sure it must be performing better
than Princess Hohenschreien."

Wentworth replied by eagerly offering a ticket.

"Let me offer you a ticket, Mrs. Samuels, and then you shall see for
yourself."

"Well, I will take a ticket," she said, "on condition that you will tell
me honestly what the performance is."

"Certainly," said Wentworth, with a bow, offering the ticket and
receiving a gold piece in exchange. "It is Lady Chaloner's Aberdeen
terrier. He sits up and begs with a piece of biscuit on his nose while
somebody says 'Trust!' and 'Paid for!'"

"That is a most extraordinary and novel trick," said Mrs. Samuels
gravely.

"It is unique," said Wentworth; "and sometimes he tosses the biscuit in
the air when they say 'Trust,' sometimes when they say 'Paid for,' but
generally he drops on all fours and eats it before they have begun."

"Thank you," said Mrs. Samuels. "I am afraid Princess Hohenschreien's
performance will be best after all." Then Wentworth suddenly saw from
her face that some other attraction was approaching from behind him, and
turned quickly round as Mrs. Samuels, with her most beguiling air,
advanced and offered her basket of cakes to Lord Stamfordham.

"Now, milord," she said. "I am sure you must be hungry."

"And what makes you think that?" said Stamfordham, whose air of willing
response and admiration made it quite evident that Mrs. Samuels's
blandishments were not usually exercised in vain. "Do I look pale, or
haggard, or weary?"

"None of these," said Mrs. Samuels; "but I am sure it is a long time
since I had the privilege of offering you a cup of tea at my stall.
Quite half an hour, I should think."

"Quite possible," said Stamfordham. "All I can say is that it seems to
me an eternity since I last had the pleasure of receiving anything at
your hands. Pray give me a bag of those cakes. You baked them yourself,
of course?"

"Of course," Mrs. Samuels said, with a little rippling laugh. And then
in answer to Stamfordham's smile of incredulity, "All is fair in ...
bazaars and war, you know."

In the meantime, Wentworth, enlisted, he himself did not understand how
or why, in the anxious quest in which he saw Pateley and Rachel engaged,
had hurried after Pateley, whose broad back he saw disappearing, to tell
him of Lord Stamfordham's whereabouts. Pateley turned quickly round.
Lord Stamfordham was coming towards them, with Mrs. Samuels, wreathed in
smiles, at his side.

"I think," she was saying, "when you have eaten those cakes you can
drink some more tea, don't you think so?"

"It is not improbable," Stamfordham replied. "But was our bargain that I
was to eat them all myself?"

"Certainly," Mrs. Samuels replied.

"My dear lady," Stamfordham said, "I will engage to eat every one of
them that you have baked, I can't say more. And in the meantime I am
bound on a very foolish errand. I have sworn to go and have my fortune
told," and as Mrs. Samuels's eye, with a careless and ingenuous air,
rested upon Lady Adela's name above the tent, she smiled inwardly at the
thought that what that astute lady might possibly prophesy would also
perhaps come true if, as well as prophesying, she eventually brought her
intelligence to bear upon its accomplishment.

"Wait one moment," Pateley said, almost nervously, to Rachel. "There is
Stamfordham, he is coming this way," and as Stamfordham drew near the
door of the tent Pateley accosted him.

Lady Adela, it may be presumed, had some occult means of discovering
from inside who was drawing near her fateful quarters, or else she had
the simpler methods more usually employed by mortals, of looking to
see. At all events, as Stamfordham came towards her enclosure, she
appeared on the threshold and winningly lifted the mysterious curtain,
burlesquing a low curtsey in reply to Stamfordham's bow.

"Lord Stamfordham!" Pateley said hurriedly. Stamfordham, in some
surprise, looked round. He had been seeing Pateley on and off during the
day. Why did he accost him in this way? But the urgent note in his voice
arrested his attention. Then, as he looked up, he saw an anxious
pale-faced, girlish figure standing by Pateley, looking at him with
large brown eyes filled with indescribable anxiety. It was a face that
he knew, that he had seen somewhere. Who was it? For one puzzled moment
he tried to remember. Pateley took the bull by the horns.

"Lord Stamfordham," he said, "Mrs. Rendel wants to speak to you."

Mrs. Rendel! Of course it was Mrs. Rendel. He had last seen her that day
at Cosmo Place. Again a wave of indignation rushed over him. Rachel
advanced desperately, looking as though she were going to speak.
Stamfordham, involuntarily looking round him at the crowd of observers
and listeners, said quickly in a low voice, "I am very sorry, it is no
good. It is impossible." And then to Pateley, "It is no good, I can't do
anything. You must tell her so," and he passed through the curtain which
Lady Adela let drop behind him. Rachel looked at Pateley, then to his
amazement and also to his involuntary admiration she lifted the curtain
and passed in too.

The two people inside stood aghast at her appearance. She had followed
so quickly upon Stamfordham's steps that he was still standing looking
round him at his strange surroundings, Lady Adela facing him with a
smile of welcome. The apparatus of the fortune-teller apparently
consisted in certain cabalistic properties--wands, dials with signs upon
them, and the like--arranged round a table. Stamfordham spoke first. He
was absolutely convinced that Rachel had come to appeal to him for
mercy, and was as absolutely clear that it was an appeal to which he
could not listen.

"Mrs. Rendel," he said, "I am afraid I am obliged to tell you that I
cannot listen to anything you may have to say. I can guess, of course,
why you have come here, and I am sorry for _you_," he said, leaning on
the pronoun. "But I can do nothing," and he spoke slowly and inexorably,
"I can do nothing for either you or your husband." But Rachel had now
lost all fear, all misgiving.

"I don't think," she said, unconsciously drawing herself up and looking
straight at him, "you know what I have come to say, and I must ask you
to listen for a moment."

"I think I do know," Stamfordham said sternly, and she saw he meant to
go out.

"I have come to tell you," she said, quickly standing between him and
the door, "that my husband was wrongfully accused of the thing that you
believed he did." Stamfordham shook his head: this was what he expected
to hear. "I know who did it, I have found out to-day," and she grew more
and more assured as she went on. Stamfordham started, then looked
incredulous again. "I have come to tell you who did it, that you may
know my husband is innocent." Then she became aware of Lady Adela, who,
having at first been much annoyed at her brusque intrusion, was now
suddenly roused to interest, even to sympathy. Rachel turned to her. "I
must say this," she said. "Don't you see, don't you understand, what it
is to me?"

"Yes, yes, you must," the other woman said, with a sudden impulse of
help and sympathy. "Go on," and she went outside. Stamfordham felt a
slight accession of annoyance as Lady Adela passed out; he felt it was
going to be very difficult for him to deal as cruelly as he was bound to
do with the anxious, quivering wife before him. He stood silent and
absolutely impenetrable. Rachel went on quickly in broken sentences.

"I didn't know about this at the time. I have been ill since. I could
not remember. You brought some papers for my husband to copy, and he
locked them up so that no one should see them, and while he went down to
speak to you they were pulled out of his writing-table from outside, by
somebody else who was there, and who showed them to Mr. Pateley. Mr.
Pateley came in and went out again. Frank didn't know he had been
there." Stamfordham stopped her.

"They were taken out by 'somebody,' you say; do you mean--in fact I must
gather from your words--that it was--do you mean by yourself?"

"Oh no, no," Rachel cried, as it dawned upon her what interpretation
might be put upon her words. "Oh no, not myself! I wish it had been, I
wish it had!"

"You wish it had?" Stamfordham said, surprised. "Who was it, then? Who
was it?" he said again, in the tone of one who must have an answer. "Who
got the paper out and showed it to Pateley?"

Rachel forced herself to speak.

"It was--my father," she said, "Sir William Gore." And with an immense
effort she prevented herself from bursting into tears.

"Sir William Gore!" said Stamfordham, "did _he_ do it?"

"Yes," said Rachel; "I only knew it to-day, and I am telling you to
prove to you that it wasn't my husband."

Stamfordham stood for a moment trying to recall Rendel's attitude at the
time, and then, as he did so, he made up his mind that Rendel must have
known.

"But," he said, after a moment, still somewhat perplexed, "you say you
didn't know about this?"

"No," said Rachel, "I didn't. My father," and again her lips quivered
and told Stamfordham what that father and his good name probably were to
her, "was taken very ill, and I had an accident at the time and did not
know anything that had happened. Frank told me nothing. Then my father
died, and I was ill, and we came here and I did not know it at all till
my husband came in and told me"--and her eyes blazed at the
thought--"told me what had happened to-day..." She stopped. Stamfordham
felt a stab as he thought of it.

"But," he said, "did he know? Did he tell you then? Did he know that it
was Sir William Gore?"

"Oh no, no," Rachel said; "it was Mr. Pateley, and he brought me here to
tell you that you might know." Then Stamfordham began to understand.

"Mrs. Rendel," he said, with a change of voice and manner that made her
heart leap within her. "Where is your husband?"

"He is at our house, the little pavilion behind the Casino garden."

"Will you take me to him?" Stamfordham said.

Rachel looked at him, unable to speak, her face illuminated with
hope--then she covered her face in her hands, saying through the tears
she could no longer restrain, "Oh, thank you, thank you!"

"Come," said Stamfordham gently, but with decision. "You must dry your
tears," he added with a smile, "or people will think I have been
ill-treating you." And to the speechless amazement of Lady Adela, who
was standing outside the curtain waiting until, as she expressed it to
herself, she too should have her "innings," Stamfordham passed out
before her eyes with Rachel, saying to Lady Adela as he passed, "Will
you forgive me? I am going to take Mrs. Rendel back." Then looking round
him at the jostling crowd he said to Rachel, offering her his arm, "Will
you think me very old-fashioned if I ask you to take my arm to get
through the crowd?" And, leaning on his arm, hardly daring to believe
what had happened or might be going to happen, Rachel passed back along
the room through which she had just come with Pateley, the crowd this
time opening before them with some indescribable tacit understanding
that something had happened concerned with the incident which, as Rendel
had foreseen, nearly everybody at the bazaar had heard of. They did not
speak again until they reached the pavilion.

Latchkeys were unknown at Schleppenheim, and the inhabitants of the
little summer abodes walked in by the simple process of turning the
handle of the front door. Rachel and Stamfordham went straight in out of
the sunlight into the cool little room into which, in long low rays, the
setting sun was sending its beams. Rendel had been trying to read: the
book that lay beside him on the floor showed that the attempt had been
in vain. He looked up, still with that strange, hunted expression that
had come into his face since the morning--the expression of the man to
whom every door opening, every figure that comes in may mean some fresh
cause of apprehension. Rachel came into the room without speaking,
something that he could not read in the least in her face, then his
heart stood still within him as he saw Stamfordham behind her. What,
again? What new ordeal awaited him? He made no sign of recognition, but
stood up and looked Stamfordham straight in the face. Stamfordham came
forward and spoke.

"I have come," he said, "to apologise to you for what took place to-day,
to beg you to forgive me." Rendel was so utterly astounded that he
simply looked from one to the other of the people standing before him
without uttering a sound.

"I have just learnt," Stamfordham went on, "the name of the person who
did the thing of which I wrongfully accused you." Rendel made a hurried
movement forward as if to stop him.

"Wait, wait one moment!" he cried, "don't say it before my wife--she
doesn't know." In that moment Rachel realised what he had done for her.

"Do you know?" asked Stamfordham.

"Yes," Rendel answered.

With the old friendliness, and something deeper, in his face and voice,
Stamfordham said--

"Mrs. Rendel knows also. It was she told me."

"Rachel!" cried Rendel, turning to her. "Do you know?"

"Yes," said Rachel, trying to command her voice. "I know--now--that it
was--my father," and the eyes of the two met.

Stamfordham advanced to Rendel.

"Will you forgive me," he said again, "and shake hands?" Rendel held out
his hand and pressed Stamfordham's in a close and tremulous grasp, which
the other returned. "I must see you," he said. "Will you come to my
rooms some time? I shall be here for a week longer." He held out his
hand to Rachel. "Thank you," he said, "for what you have done." And he
went out.

Rendel turned towards Rachel, his arms outstretched, his face
transformed by the knowledge of the great love she had shown him. His
heart was too full for speech: in the closer union of silence that new
precious compact was made. The veil that had hung between them so long
was lifted for ever.


THE END.

       *       *       *       *       *

TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE:

The author's name on the original title page was "Mrs. Hugh Bell".
Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully as
possible, including obsolete and variant spellings and other
inconsistencies. Typographical errors in punctuation (misplaced quotes
and the like) have been fixed. Text that has been changed to correct an
obvious error by the publisher is noted below:

page 125: "Rendal" corrected to "Rendel"

  "Of course," he said, after listening to what Rendal[Rendel] had to say

page 303: "toward's" corrected to "towards"

  Wentworth, with some inward wonder, pointing toward's[towards] Lady
  Adela's corner.





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