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Title: Emily Fox-Seton - Being "The Making of a Marchioness" and "The Methods of Lady Walderhurst"
Author: Burnett, Frances Hodgson, 1849-1924
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 "Emily Fox-Seton - Being "The Making of a Marchioness" and "The Methods of Lady Walderhurst"" ***

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[Illustration: Emily Fox-Seton]


    EMILY FOX-SETON


BEING "THE MAKING OF A
 MARCHIONESS" AND "THE
    METHODS OF LADY
      WALDERHURST"


          By
Frances Hodgson Burnett


    ILLUSTRATED BY
     C.D. WILLIAMS


      NEW YORK
  GROSSET & DUNLAP
     PUBLISHERS



Copyright, 1901, by The Century Company

Copyright, 1901, by Mrs. Frances Hodgson Burnett

Copyright, 1901, by Frederick A. Stokes Company

September, 1909


[** Transcriber's note: I have corrected a few obvious printers' errors.
Details are AFTER the text so as not to interrupt the flow of what was
intended to be an enjoyable read and not a scholarly work. **]



PART ONE



Chapter One


When Miss Fox-Seton descended from the twopenny bus as it drew up, she
gathered her trim tailor-made skirt about her with neatness and decorum,
being well used to getting in and out of twopenny buses and to making
her way across muddy London streets. A woman whose tailor-made suit must
last two or three years soon learns how to protect it from splashes, and
how to aid it to retain the freshness of its folds. During her trudging
about this morning in the wet, Emily Fox-Seton had been very careful,
and, in fact, was returning to Mortimer Street as unspotted as she had
left it. She had been thinking a good deal about her dress--this
particular faithful one which she had already worn through a
twelvemonth. Skirts had made one of their appalling changes, and as she
walked down Regent Street and Bond Street she had stopped at the windows
of more than one shop bearing the sign "Ladies' Tailor and Habit-Maker,"
and had looked at the tautly attired, preternaturally slim models, her
large, honest hazel eyes wearing an anxious expression. She was trying
to discover _where_ seams were to be placed and how gathers were to be
hung; or if there were to be gathers at all; or if one had to be bereft
of every seam in a style so unrelenting as to forbid the possibility of
the honest and semi-penniless struggling with the problem of remodelling
last season's skirt at all. "As it is only quite an ordinary brown," she
had murmured to herself, "I might be able to buy a yard or so to match
it, and I _might_ be able to join the gore near the pleats at the back
so that it would not be seen."

She quite beamed as she reached the happy conclusion. She was such a
simple, normal-minded creature that it took but little to brighten the
aspect of life for her and to cause her to break into her good-natured,
childlike smile. A little kindness from any one, a little pleasure or a
little comfort, made her glow with nice-tempered enjoyment. As she got
out of the bus, and picked up her rough brown skirt, prepared to tramp
bravely through the mud of Mortimer Street to her lodgings, she was
positively radiant. It was not only her smile which was childlike, her
face itself was childlike for a woman of her age and size. She was
thirty-four and a well-set-up creature, with fine square shoulders and a
long small waist and good hips. She was a big woman, but carried herself
well, and having solved the problem of obtaining, through marvels of
energy and management, one good dress a year, wore it so well, and
changed her old ones so dexterously, that she always looked rather
smartly dressed. She had nice, round, fresh cheeks and nice, big, honest
eyes, plenty of mouse-brown hair and a short, straight nose. She was
striking and well-bred-looking, and her plenitude of good-natured
interest in everybody, and her pleasure in everything out of which
pleasure could be wrested, gave her big eyes a fresh look which made her
seem rather like a nice overgrown girl than a mature woman whose life
was a continuous struggle with the narrowest of mean fortunes.

She was a woman of good blood and of good education, as the education of
such women goes. She had few relatives, and none of them had any
intention of burdening themselves with her pennilessness. They were
people of excellent family, but had quite enough to do to keep their
sons in the army or navy and find husbands for their daughters. When
Emily's mother had died and her small annuity had died with her, none of
them had wanted the care of a big raw-boned girl, and Emily had had the
situation frankly explained to her. At eighteen she had begun to work as
assistant teacher in a small school; the year following she had taken a
place as nursery-governess; then she had been reading-companion to an
unpleasant old woman in Northumberland. The old woman had lived in the
country, and her relatives had hovered over her like vultures awaiting
her decease. The household had been gloomy and gruesome enough to have
driven into melancholy madness any girl not of the sanest and most
matter-of-fact temperament. Emily Fox-Seton had endured it with an
unfailing good nature, which at last had actually awakened in the breast
of her mistress a ray of human feeling. When the old woman at length
died, and Emily was to be turned out into the world, it was revealed
that she had been left a legacy of a few hundred pounds, and a letter
containing some rather practical, if harshly expressed, advice.

Go back to London [Mrs. Maytham had written in her feeble, crabbed
hand]. You are not clever enough to do anything remarkable in the way of
earning your living, but you are so good-natured that you can make
yourself useful to a lot of helpless creatures who will pay you a trifle
for looking after them and the affairs they are too lazy or too foolish
to manage for themselves. You might get on to one of the second-class
fashion-papers to answer ridiculous questions about house-keeping or
wall-papers or freckles. You know the kind of thing I mean. You might
write notes or do accounts and shopping for some lazy woman. You are a
practical, honest creature, and you have good manners. I have often
thought that you had just the kind of commonplace gifts that a host of
commonplace people want to find at their service. An old servant of mine
who lives in Mortimer Street would probably give you cheap, decent
lodgings, and behave well to you for my sake. She has reason to be fond
of me. Tell her I sent you to her, and that she must take you in for ten
shillings a week.

Emily wept for gratitude, and ever afterward enthroned old Mrs. Maytham
on an altar as a princely and sainted benefactor, though after she had
invested her legacy she got only twenty pounds a year from it.

"It was so _kind_ of her," she used to say with heartfelt humbleness of
spirit. "I never _dreamed_ of her doing such a generous thing. I hadn't
a _shadow_ of a claim upon her--not a _shadow_." It was her way to
express her honest emotions with emphasis which italicised, as it were,
her outpourings of pleasure or appreciation.

She returned to London and presented herself to the ex-serving-woman.
Mrs. Cupp had indeed reason to remember her mistress gratefully. At a
time when youth and indiscreet affection had betrayed her disastrously,
she had been saved from open disgrace and taken care of by Mrs. Maytham.

The old lady, who had then been a vigorous, sharp-tongued, middle-aged
woman, had made the soldier lover marry his despairing sweetheart, and
when he had promptly drunk himself to death, she had set her up in a
lodging-house which had thriven and enabled her to support herself and
her daughter decently.

In the second story of her respectable, dingy house there was a small
room which she went to some trouble to furnish up for her dead
mistress's friend. It was made into a bed-sitting-room with the aid of a
cot which Emily herself bought and disguised decently as a couch during
the daytime, by means of a red and blue Como blanket. The one window of
the room looked out upon a black little back-yard and a sooty wall on
which thin cats crept stealthily or sat and mournfully gazed at fate.
The Como rug played a large part in the decoration of the apartment. One
of them, with a piece of tape run through a hem, hung over the door in
the character of a _portière_; another covered a corner which was Miss
Fox-Seton's sole wardrobe. As she began to get work, the cheerful,
aspiring creature bought herself a Kensington carpet-square, as red as
Kensington art would permit it to be. She covered her chairs with
Turkey-red cotton, frilling them round the seats. Over her cheap white
muslin curtains (eight and eleven a pair at Robson's) she hung
Turkey-red draperies. She bought a cheap cushion at one of Liberty's
sales, and some bits of twopenny-halfpenny art china for her narrow
mantelpiece. A lacquered tea-tray and a tea-set of a single cup and
saucer, a plate and a teapot, made her feel herself almost sumptuous.
After a day spent in trudging about in the wet or cold of the streets,
doing other people's shopping, or searching for dressmakers or servants'
characters for her patrons, she used to think of her bed-sitting-room
with joyful anticipation. Mrs. Cupp always had a bright fire glowing in
her tiny grate when she came in, and when her lamp was lighted under its
home-made shade of crimson Japanese paper, its cheerful air, combining
itself with the singing of her little, fat, black kettle on the hob,
seemed absolute luxury to a tired, damp woman.

Mrs. Cupp and Jane Cupp were very kind and attentive to her. No one who
lived in the same house with her could have helped liking her. She gave
so little trouble, and was so expansively pleased by any attention, that
the Cupps,--who were sometimes rather bullied and snubbed by the
"professionals" who generally occupied their other rooms,--quite loved
her. Sometimes the "professionals," extremely smart ladies and gentlemen
who did turns at the balls or played small parts at theatres, were
irregular in their payments or went away leaving bills behind them; but
Miss Fox-Seton's payments were as regular as Saturday night, and, in
fact, there had been times when, luck being against her, Emily had gone
extremely hungry during a whole week rather than buy her lunches at the
ladies' tea-shops with the money that would pay her rent. In the honest
minds of the Cupps, she had become a sort of possession of which they
were proud. She seemed to bring into their dingy lodging-house a touch
of the great world,--that world whose people lived in Mayfair and had
country-houses where they entertained parties for the shooting and the
hunting, and in which also existed the maids and matrons who on cold
spring mornings sat, amid billows of satin and tulle and lace,
surrounded with nodding plumes, waiting, shivering, for hours in their
carriages that they might at last enter Buckingham Palace and be
admitted to the Drawing-room. Mrs. Cupp knew that Miss Fox-Seton was
"well connected;" she knew that she possessed an aunt with a title,
though her ladyship never took the slightest notice of her niece. Jane
Cupp took "Modern Society," and now and then had the pleasure of reading
aloud to her young man little incidents concerning some castle or manor
in which Miss Fox-Seton's aunt, Lady Malfry, was staying with earls and
special favorites of the Prince's. Jane also knew that Miss Fox-Seton
occasionally sent letters addressed "To the Right Honourable the
Countess of So-and-so," and received replies stamped with coronets. Once
even a letter had arrived adorned with strawberry-leaves, an incident
which Mrs. Cupp and Jane had discussed with deep interest over their hot
buttered-toast and tea.

Emily Fox-Seton, however, was far from making any professions of
grandeur. As time went on she had become fond enough of the Cupps to be
quite frank with them about her connections with these grand people. The
countess had heard from a friend that Miss Fox-Seton had once found her
an excellent governess, and she had commissioned her to find for her a
reliable young ladies' serving-maid. She had done some secretarial work
for a charity of which the duchess was patroness. In fact, these people
knew her only as a well-bred woman who for a modest remuneration would
make herself extremely useful in numberless practical ways. She knew
much more of them than they knew of her, and, in her affectionate
admiration for those who treated her with human kindness, sometimes
spoke to Mrs. Cupp or Jane of their beauty or charity with a very nice,
ingenuous feeling. Naturally some of her patrons grew fond of her, and
as she was a fine, handsome young woman with a perfectly correct
bearing, they gave her little pleasures, inviting her to tea or
luncheon, or taking her to the theatre.

Her enjoyment of these things was so frank and grateful that the Cupps
counted them among their own joys. Jane Cupp--who knew something of
dressmaking--felt it a brilliant thing to be called upon to renovate an
old dress or help in the making of a new one for some festivity. The
Cupps thought their tall, well-built lodger something of a beauty, and
when they had helped her to dress for the evening, baring her fine, big
white neck and arms, and adorning her thick braids of hair with some
sparkling, trembling ornaments, after putting her in her four-wheeled
cab, they used to go back to their kitchen and talk about her, and
wonder that some gentleman who wanted a handsome, stylish woman at the
head of his table, did not lay himself and his fortune at her feet.

"In the photograph-shops in Regent Street you see many a lady in a
coronet that hasn't half the good looks she has," Mrs. Cupp remarked
frequently. "She's got a nice complexion and a fine head of hair,
and--if you ask _me_--she's got as nice a pair of clear eyes as a lady
could have. Then look at her figure--her neck and her waist! That kind
of big long throat of hers would set off rows of pearls or diamonds
beautiful! She's a lady born, too, for all her simple, every-day way;
and she's a sweet creature, if ever there was one. For kind-heartedness
and good-nature I never saw her equal."

Miss Fox-Seton had middle-class patrons as well as noble ones,--in fact,
those of the middle class were far more numerous than the duchesses,--so
it had been possible for her to do more than one good turn for the Cupp
household. She had got sewing in Maida Vale and Bloomsbury for Jane Cupp
many a time, and Mrs. Cupp's dining-room floor had been occupied for
years by a young man Emily had been able to recommend. Her own
appreciation of good turns made her eager to do them for others. She
never let slip a chance to help any one in any way.

It was a good-natured thing done by one of her patrons who liked her,
which made her so radiant as she walked through the mud this morning.
She was inordinately fond of the country, and having had what she called
"a bad winter," she had not seen the remotest chance of getting out of
town at all during the summer months. The weather was beginning to be
unusually hot, and her small red room, which seemed so cosy in winter,
was shut in by a high wall from all chance of breezes. Occasionally she
lay and panted a little in her cot, and felt that when all the private
omnibuses, loaded with trunks and servants, had rattled away and
deposited their burdens at the various stations, life in town would be
rather lonely. Every one she knew would have gone somewhere, and
Mortimer Street in August was a melancholy thing.

And Lady Maria had actually invited her to Mallowe. What a piece of good
fortune-what an extraordinary piece of kindness!

She did not know what a source of entertainment she was to Lady Maria,
and how the shrewd, worldly old thing liked her. Lady Maria Bayne was
the cleverest, sharpest-tongued, smartest old woman in London. She knew
everybody and had done everything in her youth, a good many things not
considered highly proper. A certain royal duke had been much pleased
with her and people had said some very nasty things about it. But this
had not hurt Lady Maria. She knew how to say nasty things herself, and
as she said them wittily they were usually listened to and repeated.

Emily Fox-Seton had gone to her first to write notes for an hour every
evening. She had sent, declined, and accepted invitations, and put off
charities and dull people. She wrote a fine, dashing hand, and had a
matter-of-fact intelligence and knowledge of things. Lady Maria began to
depend on her and to find that she could be sent on errands and depended
on to do a number of things. Consequently, she was often at South Audley
Street, and once, when Lady Maria was suddenly taken ill and was
horribly frightened about herself, Emily was such a comfort to her that
she kept her for three weeks.

"The creature is so cheerful and perfectly free from vice that she's a
relief," her ladyship said to her nephew afterward. "So many women are
affected cats. She'll go out and buy you a box of pills or a porous
plaster, but at the same time she has a kind of simplicity and freedom
from spites and envies which might be the natural thing for a princess."

So it happened that occasionally Emily put on her best dress and most
carefully built hat and went to South Audley Street to tea. (Sometimes
she had previously gone in buses to some remote place in the City to buy
a special tea of which there had been rumours.) She met some very smart
people and rarely any stupid ones, Lady Maria being incased in a
perfect, frank armour of good-humoured selfishness, which would have
been capable of burning dulness at the stake.

"I won't have dull people," she used to say. "I'm dull myself."

When Emily Fox-Seton went to her on the morning in which this story
opens, she found her consulting her visiting-book and making lists.

"I'm arranging my parties for Mallowe," she said rather crossly. "How
tiresome it is! The people one wants at the same time are always nailed
to the opposite ends of the earth. And then things are found out about
people, and one can't have them till it's blown over. Those ridiculous
Dexters! They were the nicest possible pair--both of them good-looking
and both of them ready to flirt with anybody. But there was too much
flirting, I suppose. Good heavens! if I couldn't have a scandal and keep
it quiet, I wouldn't have a scandal at all. Come and help me, Emily."

Emily sat down beside her.

"You see, it is my early August party," said her ladyship, rubbing her
delicate little old nose with her pencil, "and Walderhurst is coming to
me. It always amuses me to have Walderhurst. The moment a man like that
comes into a room the women begin to frisk about and swim and languish,
except those who try to get up interesting conversations they think
likely to attract his attention. They all think it is possible that he
may marry them. If he were a Mormon he might have marchionesses of
Walderhurst of all shapes and sizes."

"I suppose," said Emily, "that he was very much in love with his first
wife and will never marry again."

"He wasn't in love with her any more than he was in love with his
housemaid. He knew he must marry, and thought it very annoying. As the
child died, I believe he thinks it his duty to marry again. But he hates
it. He's rather dull, and he can't bear women fussing about and wanting
to be made love to."

They went over the visiting-book and discussed people and dates
seriously. The list was made and the notes written before Emily left the
house. It was not until she had got up and was buttoning her coat that
Lady Maria bestowed her boon.

"Emily," she said, "I am going to ask you to Mallowe on the 2d. I want
you to help me to take care of people and keep them from boring me and
one another, though I don't mind their boring one another half so much
as I mind their boring me. I want to be able to go off and take my nap
at any hour I choose. I will _not_ entertain people. What you can do is
to lead them off to gather things of look at church towers. I hope
you'll come."

Emily Fox-Seton's face flushed rosily, and her eyes opened and sparkled.

"O Lady Maria, you _are_ kind!" she said. "You know how I should enjoy
it. I have heard so much of Mallowe. Every one says it is so beautiful
and that there are no such gardens in England."

"They are good gardens. My husband was rather mad about roses. The best
train for you to take is the 2:30 from Paddington. That will bring you
to the Court just in time for tea on the lawn."

Emily could have kissed Lady Maria if they had been on the terms which
lead people to make demonstrations of affection. But she would have been
quite as likely to kiss the butler when he bent over her at dinner and
murmured in dignified confidence, "Port or sherry, miss?" Bibsworth
would have been no more astonished than Lady Maria would, and Bibsworth
certainly would have expired of disgust and horror.

She was so happy when she hailed the twopenny bus that when she got into
it her face was beaming with the delight which adds freshness and good
looks to any woman. To think that such good luck had come to her! To
think of leaving her hot little room behind her and going as a guest to
one of the most beautiful old houses in England! How delightful it would
be to live for a while quite naturally the life the fortunate people
lived year after year--to be a part of the beautiful order and
picturesqueness and dignity of it! To sleep in a lovely bedroom, to be
called in the morning by a perfect housemaid, to have one's early tea
served in a delicate cup, and to listen as one drank it to the birds
singing in the trees in the park! She had an ingenuous appreciation of
the simplest material joys, and the fact that she would wear her nicest
clothes every day, and dress for dinner every evening, was a delightful
thing to reflect upon. She got so much more out of life than most
people, though she was not aware of it.

She opened the front door of the house in Mortimer Street with her
latch-key, and went upstairs, almost unconscious that the damp heat was
dreadful. She met Jane Cupp coming down, and smiled at her happily.

"Jane," she said, "if you are not busy, I should like to have a little
talk with you. Will you come into my room?"

"Yes, miss," Jane replied, with her usual respectful lady's maid's air.
It was in truth Jane's highest ambition to become some day maid to a
great lady, and she privately felt that her association with Miss
Fox-Seton was the best possible training. She used to ask to be allowed
to dress her when she went out, and had felt it a privilege to be
permitted to "do" her hair.

She helped Emily to remove her walking dress, and neatly folded away her
gloves and veil. She knelt down before her as soon as she saw her seat
herself to take off her muddy boots.

"Oh, _thank_ you, Jane," Emily exclaimed, with her kind italicised
manner. "That _is_ good of you. I _am_ tired, really. But such a nice
thing has happened. I have had such a delightful invi-tation for the
first week in August."

"I'm sure you'll enjoy it, miss," said Jane. "It's so hot in August."

"Lady Maria Bayne has been kind enough to invite me to Mallowe Court,"
explained Emily, smiling down at the cheap slipper Jane was putting on
her large, well-shaped foot. She was built on a large scale, and her
foot was of no Cinderella-like proportions.

"O miss!" exclaimed Jane. "How beautiful! I was reading about Mallowe in
'Modern Society' the other day, and it said it was lovely and her
ladyship's parties were wonderful for smartness. The paragraph was about
the Marquis of Walderhurst."

"He is Lady Maria's cousin," said Emily, "and he will be there when I
am."

She was a friendly creature, and lived a life so really isolated from
any ordinary companionship that her simple little talks with Jane and
Mrs. Cupp were a pleasure to her. The Cupps were neither gossiping nor
intrusive, and she felt as if they were her friends. Once when she had
been ill for a week she remembered suddenly realising that she had no
intimates at all, and that if she died Mrs. Cupp's and Jane's would
certainly be the last faces--and the only ones--she would see. She had
cried a little the night she thought of it, but then, as she told
herself, she was feverish and weak, and it made her morbid.

"It was because of this invitation that I wanted to talk to you, Jane,"
she went on. "You see, we shall have to begin to contrive about
dresses."

"Yes, indeed, miss. It's fortunate that the summer sales are on, isn't
it? I saw some beautiful colored linens yesterday. They were so cheap,
and they do make up so smart for the country. Then you've got your new
Tussore with the blue collar and waistband. It does become you."

"I must say I think that a Tussore always looks fresh," said Emily, "and
I saw a really nice little tan toque--one of those soft straw ones--for
three and eleven. And just a twist of blue chiffon and a wing would make
it look quite _good_."

She was very clever with her fingers, and often did excellent things
with a bit of chiffon and a wing, or a few yards of linen or muslin and
a remnant of lace picked up at a sale. She and Jane spent quite a happy
afternoon in careful united contemplation of the resources of her
limited wardrobe. They found that the brown skirt _could_ be altered,
and, with the addition of new _revers_ and collar and a _jabot_ of
string-coloured lace at the neck, would look quite fresh. A black net
evening dress, which a patron had good-naturedly given her the year
before, could be remodelled and touched up delightfully. Her fresh face
and her square white shoulders were particularly adorned by black. There
was a white dress which could be sent to the cleaner's, and an old pink
one whose superfluous breadths could be combined with lace and achieve
wonders.

"Indeed, I think I shall be very well off for dinner-dresses," said
Emily. "Nobody expects me to change often. Every one knows--if they
notice at all." She did not know she was humble-minded and of an angelic
contentedness of spirit. In fact, she did not find herself interested in
contemplation of her own qualities, but in contemplation and admiration
of those of other people. It was necessary to provide Emily Fox-Seton
with food and lodging and such a wardrobe as would be just sufficient
credit to her more fortunate acquaintances. She worked hard to attain
this modest end and was quite satisfied. She found at the shops where
the summer sales were being held a couple of cotton frocks to which her
height and her small, long waist gave an air of actual elegance. A
sailor hat, with a smart ribbon and well-set quill, a few new trifles
for her neck, a bow, a silk handkerchief daringly knotted, and some
fresh gloves, made her feel that she was sufficiently equipped.

During her last expedition to the sales she came upon a nice white duck
coat and skirt which she contrived to buy as a present for Jane. It was
necessary to count over the contents of her purse very carefully and to
give up the purchase of a slim umbrella she wanted, but she did it
cheerfully. If she had been a rich woman she would have given presents
to every one she knew, and it was actually a luxury to her to be able to
do something for the Cupps, who, she always felt, were continually
giving her more than she paid for. The care they took of her small room,
the fresh hot tea they managed to have ready when she came in, the penny
bunch of daffodils they sometimes put on her table, were kindnesses, and
she was grateful for them. "I am very much obliged to you, Jane," she
said to the girl, when she got into the four-wheeled cab on the eventful
day of her journey to Mallowe. "I don't know what I should have done
without you, I'm sure. I feel so smart in my dress now that you have
altered it. If Lady Maria's maid ever thinks of leaving her, I am sure I
could recommend you for her place."



Chapter Two


There were other visitors to Mallowe Court travelling by the 2:30 from
Paddington, but they were much smarter people than Miss Fox-Seton, and
they were put into a first-class carriage by a footman with a cockade
and a long drab coat. Emily, who traveled third with some workmen with
bundles, looked out of her window as they passed, and might possibly
have breathed a faint sigh if she had not felt in such buoyant spirits.
She had put on her revived brown skirt and a white linen blouse with a
brown dot on it. A soft brown silk tie was knotted smartly under her
fresh collar, and she wore her new sailor hat. Her gloves were brown,
and so was her parasol. She looked nice and taut and fresh, but notably
inexpensive. The people who went to sales and bought things at three and
eleven or "four-three" a yard would have been able add her up and work
out her total. But there would be no people capable of the calculation
at Mallowe. Even the servants' hall was likely to know less of prices
than this one guest did. The people the drab-coated footman escorted to
the first-class carriage were a mother and daughter. The mother had
regular little features, and would have been pretty if she had not been
much too plump. She wore an extremely smart travelling-dress and a
wonderful dust-cloak of cool, pale, thin silk. She was not an elegant
person, but her appointments were luxurious and self-indulgent. Her
daughter was pretty, and had a slim, swaying waist, soft pink cheeks,
and a pouting mouth. Her large picture-hat of pale-blue straw, with its
big gauze bow and crushed roses, had a slightly exaggerated Parisian
air.

"It is a little too picturesque," Emily thought; "but how lovely she
looks in it! I suppose it was so becoming she could not help buying it.
I'm sure it's Virot."

As she was looking at the girl admiringly, a man passed her window. He
was a tall man with a square face. As he passed close to Emily, he
stared through her head as if she had been transparent or invisible. He
got into the smoking-carriage next to her.

When the train arrived at Mallowe station, he was one of the first
persons who got out. Two of Lady Maria's men were waiting on the
platform. Emily recognised their liveries. One met the tall man,
touching his hat, and followed him to a high cart, in the shafts of
which a splendid iron-gray mare was fretting and dancing. In a few
moments the arrival was on the high seat, the footman behind, and the
mare speeding up the road. Miss Fox-Seton found herself following the
second footman and the mother and daughter, who were being taken to the
landau waiting outside the station. The footman piloted them, merely
touching his hat quickly to Emily, being fully aware that she could take
care of herself.

This she did promptly, looking after her box, and seeing it safe in the
Mallowe omnibus. When she reached the landau, the two other visitors
were in it. She got in, and in entire contentment sat down with her back
to the horses.

The mother and daughter wore for a few minutes a somewhat uneasy air.
They were evidently sociable persons, but were not quite sure how to
begin a conversation with an as yet unintroduced lady who was going to
stay at the country house to which they were themselves invited.

Emily herself solved the problem, producing her commonplace with a
friendly tentative smile.

"Isn't it a lovely country?" she said.

"It's perfect," answered the mother. "I've never visited Europe before,
and the English country seems to me just exquisite. We have a summer
place in America, but the country is quite different."

She was good-natured and disposed to talk, and, with Emily Fox-Seton's
genial assistance, conversation flowed. Before they were half-way to
Mallowe, it had revealed itself that they were from Cincinnati, and
after a winter spent in Paris, largely devoted to visits to Paquin,
Doucet, and Virot, they had taken a house in Mayfair for the season.
Their name was Brooke. Emily thought she remembered hearing of them as
people who spent a great deal of money and went incessantly to parties,
always in new and lovely clothes. The girl had been presented by the
American minister, and had had a sort of success because she dressed and
danced exquisitely. She was the kind of American girl who ended by
marrying a title. She had sparkling eyes and a delicate tip-tilted nose.
But even Emily guessed that she was an astute little person.

"Have you ever been to Mallowe Court before?" she inquired.

"No; and I am _so_ looking forward to it. It is so beautiful."

"Do you know Lady Maria very well?"

"I've known her about three years. She has been very kind to me."

"Well, I shouldn't have taken her for a particularly kind person. She's
too sharp."

Emily amiably smiled. "She's so clever," she replied.

"Do you know the Marquis of Walderhurst?" asked Mrs. Brooke.

"No," answered Miss Fox-Seton. She had no part in that portion of Lady
Maria's life which was illumined by cousins who were marquises. Lord
Walderhurst did not drop in to afternoon tea. He kept himself for
special dinner-parties.

"Did you see the man who drove away in the high cart?" Mrs. Brooke
continued, with a touch of fevered interest. "Cora thought it must be
the marquis. The servant who met him wore the same livery as the man up
there"--with a nod toward the box.

"It was one of Lady Maria's servants," said Emily; "I have seen him in
South Audley Street. And Lord Walderhurst was to be at Mallowe. Lady
Maria mentioned it."

"There, mother!" exclaimed Cora.

"Well, of course if he is to be there, it will make it interesting,"
returned her mother, in a tone in which lurked an admission of relief.
Emily wondered if she had wanted to go somewhere else and had been
firmly directed toward Mallowe by her daughter.

"We heard a great deal of him in London this season," Mrs. Brooks went
on.

Miss Cora Brooke laughed.

"We heard that at least half a dozen people were determined to marry
him," she remarked with pretty scorn. "I should think that to meet a
girl who was indifferent might be good for him."

"Don't be too indifferent, Cora," said her mother, with ingenuous
ineptness.

It was a very stupid bit of revelation, and Miss Brooke's eyes flashed.
If Emily Fox-Seton had been a sharp woman, she would have observed that,
if the _rôle_ of indifferent and piquant young person could be made
dangerous to Lord Walderhurst, it would be made so during this visit.
The man was in peril from this beauty from Cincinnati and her rather
indiscreet mother, though upon the whole, the indiscreet maternal parent
might unconsciously form his protection.

But Emily only laughed amiably, as at a humorous remark. She was ready
to accept almost anything as humour.

"Well, he _would_ be a great match for any girl," she said. "He is so
rich, you know. He is very rich."

When they reached Mallowe, and were led out upon the lawn, where the tea
was being served under embowering trees, they found a group of guests
eating little hot cakes and holding teacups in their hands. There were
several young women, and one of them--a very tall, very fair girl, with
large eyes as blue as forget-me-nots, and with a lovely, limp, and long
blue frock of the same shade--had been one of the beauties of the past
season. She was a Lady Agatha Slade, and Emily began to admire her at
once. She felt her to be a sort of added boon bestowed by kind Fate upon
herself. It was so delightful that she should be of this particular
house-party--this lovely creature, whom she had only known previously
through pictures in ladies' illustrated papers. If it should occur to
her to wish to become the Marchioness of Walderhurst, what could
possibly prevent the consummation of her desire? Surely not Lord
Walderhurst himself, if he was human. She was standing, leaning lightly
against the trunk of an ilex-tree, and a snow-white Borzoi was standing
close to her, resting his long, delicate head against her gown,
encouraging the caresses of her fair, stroking hand. She was in this
attractive pose when Lady Maria turned in her seat and said:

"There's Walderhurst."

The man who had driven himself over from the station in the cart was
coming towards them across the grass. He was past middle life and plain,
but was of good height and had an air. It was perhaps, on the whole,
rather an air of knowing what he wanted.

Emily Fox-Seton, who by that time was comfortably seated in a cushioned
basket-chair, sipping her own cup of tea, gave him the benefit of the
doubt when she wondered if he was not really distinguished and
aristocratic-looking. He was really neither, but was well-built and
well-dressed, and had good grayish-brown eyes, about the colour of his
grayish-brown hair. Among these amiably worldly people, who were not in
the least moved by an altruistic prompting, Emily's greatest capital
consisted in the fact that she did not expect to be taken the least
notice of. She was not aware that it was her capital, because the fact
was so wholly a part of the simple contentedness of her nature that she
had not thought about it at all. The truth was that she found all her
entertainment and occupation in being an audience or a spectator. It did
not occur to her to notice that, when the guests were presented to him,
Lord Walderhurst barely glanced at her surface as he bowed, and could
scarcely be said to forget her existence the next second, because he had
hardly gone to the length of recognising it. As she enjoyed her
extremely nice cup of tea and little buttered scone, she also enjoyed
looking at his Lordship discreetly, and trying to make an innocent
summing up of his mental attitudes.

Lady Maria seemed to like him and to be pleased to see him. He himself
seemed, in an undemonstrative way, to like Lady Maria. He also was
evidently glad to get his tea, and enjoyed it as he sat at his cousin's
side. He did not pay very much attention to any one else. Emily was
slightly disappointed to see that he did not glance at the beauty and
the Borzoi more than twice, and then that his examination seemed as much
for the Borzoi as for the beauty. She could not help also observing that
since he had joined the circle it had become more animated, so far at
least as the female members were concerned. She could not help
remembering Lady Maria's remark about the effect he produced on women
when he entered a room. Several interesting or sparkling speeches had
already been made. There was a little more laughter and chattiness,
which somehow it seemed to be quite open to Lord Walderhurst to enjoy,
though it was not exactly addressed to him. Miss Cora Brooke, however,
devoted herself to a young man in white flannels with an air of tennis
about him. She sat a little apart and talked to him in a voice soft
enough to even exclude Lord Walderhurst. Presently she and her companion
got up and sauntered away. They went down the broad flight of ancient
stone steps which led to the tennis-court, lying in full view below the
lawn. There they began to play tennis. Miss Brooke skimmed and darted
about like a swallow. The swirl of her lace petticoats was most
attractive.

"That girl ought not to play tennis in shoes with ridiculous heels,"
remarked Lord Walderhurst. "She will spoil the court."

Lady Maria broke into a little chuckle.

"She wanted to play at this particular moment," she said. "And as she
has only just arrived, it did not occur to her to come out to tea in
tennis-shoes."

"She'll spoil the court all the same," said the marquis. "What clothes!
It's amazing how girls dress now."

"I wish I had such clothes," answered Lady Maria, and she chuckled
again. "She's got beautiful feet."

"She's got Louis Quinze heels," returned his Lordship.

At all events, Emily Fox-Seton thought Miss Brooke seemed to intend to
rather keep out of his way and to practise no delicate allurements. When
her tennis-playing was at an end, she sauntered about the lawn and
terraces with her companion, tilting her parasol prettily over her
shoulder, so that it formed an entrancing background to her face and
head. She seemed to be entertaining the young man. His big laugh and the
silver music of her own lighter merriment rang out a little
tantalisingly.

"I wonder what Cora is saying," said Mrs. Brooke to the group at large.
"She always makes men laugh so."

Emily Fox-Seton felt an interest herself, the merriment sounded so
attractive. She wondered if perhaps to a man who had been so much run
after a girl who took no notice of his presence and amused other men so
much might not assume an agreeable aspect.

But he took more notice of Lady Agatha Slade than of any one else that
evening. She was placed next to him at dinner, and she really was
radiant to look upon in palest green chiffon. She had an exquisite
little head, with soft hair piled with wondrous lightness upon it, and
her long little neck swayed like the stem of a flower. She was lovely
enough to arouse in the beholder's mind the anticipation of her being
silly, but she was not silly at all.

Lady Maria commented upon that fact to Miss Fox-Seton when they met in
her bedroom late that night. Lady Maria liked to talk and be talked to
for half an hour after the day was over, and Emily Fox-Seton's admiring
interest in all she said she found at once stimulating and soothing. Her
Ladyship was an old woman who indulged and inspired herself with an
Epicurean wisdom. Though she would not have stupid people about her, she
did not always want very clever ones.

"They give me too much exercise," she said. "The epigrammatic ones keep
me always jumping over fences. Besides, I like to make all the epigrams
myself."

Emily Fox-Seton struck a happy mean, and she was a genuine admirer. She
was intelligent enough not to spoil the point of an epigram when she
repeated it, and she might be relied upon to repeat it and give all the
glory to its originator. Lady Maria knew there were people who, hearing
your good things, appropriated them without a scruple. To-night she said
a number of good things to Emily in summing up her guests and their
characteristics.

"Walderhurst has been to me three times when I made sure that he would
not escape without a new marchioness attached to him. I should think he
would take one to put an end to the annoyance of dangling unplucked upon
the bough. A man in his position, if he has character enough to choose,
can prevent even his wife's being a nuisance. He can give her a good
house, hang the family diamonds on her, supply a decent elderly woman as
a sort of lady-in-waiting and turn her into the paddock to kick up her
heels within the limits of decorum. His own rooms can be sacred to him.
He has his clubs and his personal interests. Husbands and wives annoy
each other very little in these days. Married life has become
comparatively decent."

"I should think his wife might be very happy," commented Emily. "He
looks very kind."

"I don't know whether he is kind or not. It has never been necessary for
me to borrow money from him."

Lady Maria was capable of saying odd things in her refined little
drawling voice.

"He's more respectable than most men of his age. The diamonds are
magnificent, and he not only has three superb places, but has money
enough to keep them up. Now, there are three aspirants at Mallowe in the
present party. Of course you can guess who they are, Emily?"

Emily Fox-Seton almost blushed. She felt a little indelicate.

"Lady Agatha would be very suitable," she said. "And Mrs. Ralph is very
clever, of course. And Miss Brooke is really pretty."

Lady Maria gave vent to her small chuckle.

"Mrs. Ralph is the kind of woman who means business. She'll corner
Walderhurst and talk literature and roll her eyes at him until he hates
her. These writing women, who are intensely pleased with themselves, if
they have some good looks into the bargain, believe themselves capable
of marrying any one. Mrs. Ralph has fine eyes and rolls them.
Walderhurst won't be ogled. The Brooke girl is sharper than Ralph. She
was very sharp this afternoon. She began at once."

"I--I didn't see her"--wondering.

"Yes, you did; but you didn't understand. The tennis, and the laughing
with young Heriot on the terrace! She is going to be the piquant young
woman who aggravates by indifference, and disdains rank and splendour;
the kind of girl who has her innings in novelettes--but not out of them.
The successful women are those who know how to toady in the right way
and not obviously. Walderhurst has far too good an opinion of himself to
be attracted by a girl who is making up to another man: he's not
five-and-twenty."

Emily Fox-Seton was reminded, in spite of herself, of Mrs. Brooke's
plaint: "Don't be too indifferent, Cora." She did not want to recall it
exactly, because she thought the Brookes agreeable and would have
preferred to think them disinterested. But, after all, she reflected,
how natural that a girl who was so pretty should feel that the Marquis
of Walderhurst represented prospects. Chiefly, however, she was filled
with admiration at Lady Maria's cleverness.

"How wonderfully you observe everything, Lady Maria!" she exclaimed.
"How wonderfully!"

"I have had forty-seven seasons in London. That's a good many, you know.
Forty-seven seasons of débutantes and mothers tend toward enlightenment.
Now there is Agatha Slade, poor girl! She's of a kind I know by heart.
With birth and beauty, she is perfectly helpless. Her people are poor
enough to be entitled to aid from the Charity Organisation, and they
have had the indecency to present themselves with six daughters--six!
All with delicate skins and delicate little noses and heavenly eyes.
Most men can't afford them, and they can't afford most men. As soon as
Agatha begins to go off a little, she will have to step aside, if she
has not married. The others must be allowed their chance. Agatha has had
the advertising of the illustrated papers this season, and she has gone
well. In these days a new beauty is advertised like a new soap. They
haven't given them sandwich-men in the streets, but that is about all
that has been denied them. But Agatha has not had any special offer, and
I know both she and her mother are a little frightened. Alix must come
out next season, and they can't afford frocks for two. Agatha will have
to be sent to their place in Ireland, and to be sent to Castle Clare is
almost like being sent to the Bastille. She'll never get out alive.
She'll have to stay there and see herself grow thin instead of slim, and
colourless instead of fair. Her little nose will grow sharp, and she
will lose her hair by degrees."

"Oh!" Emily Fox-Seton gave forth sympathetically. "What a pity that
would be! I thought--I really thought--Lord Walderhurst seemed to admire
her."

"Oh, every one admires her, for that matter; but if they go no further
that will not save her from the Bastille, poor thing. There, Emily; we
must go to bed. We have talked enough."



Chapter Three


To awaken in a still, delicious room, with the summer morning sunshine
breaking softly into it through leafy greenness, was a delightful thing
to Miss Fox-Seton, who was accustomed to opening her eyes upon four
walls covered with cheap paper, to the sound of outside hammerings, and
the rattle and heavy roll of wheels. In a building at the back of her
bed-sitting-room there lived a man whose occupation, beginning early in
the morning, involved banging of a persistent nature.

She awakened to her first day at Mallowe, stretching herself
luxuriously, with the smile of a child. She was so thankful for the
softness of her lavender-fragrant bed, and so delighted with the lovely
freshness of her chintz-hung room. As she lay upon her pillow, she could
see the boughs of the trees, and hear the chatter of darting starlings.
When her morning tea was brought, it seemed like nectar to her. She was
a perfectly healthy woman, with a palate as unspoiled as that of a
six-year-old child in the nursery. Her enjoyment of all things was so
normal as to be in her day and time an absolute abnormality.

She rose and dressed at once, eager for the open air and sunshine. She
was out upon the lawn before any one else but the Borzoi, which rose
from beneath a tree and came with stately walk toward her. The air was
exquisite, the broad, beautiful stretch of view lay warm in the sun, the
masses of flowers on the herbaceous borders showed leaves and
flower-cups adorned with glittering drops of dew. She walked across the
spacious sweep of short-cropped sod, and gazed enraptured at the country
spread out below. She could have kissed the soft white sheep dotting the
fields and lying in gentle, huddled groups under the trees.

"The darlings!" she said, in a little, effusive outburst.

She talked to the dog and fondled him. He seemed to understand her mood,
and pressed close against her gown when she stopped. They walked
together about the gardens, and presently picked up an exuberant
retriever, which bounded and wriggled and at once settled into a steady
trot beside them. Emily adored the flowers as she walked by their beds,
and at intervals stopped to bury her face in bunches of spicy things.
She was so happy that the joy in her hazel eyes was pathetic.

She was startled, as she turned into a rather narrow rose-walk, to see
Lord Walderhurst coming toward her. He looked exceedingly clean in his
fresh light knickerbocker suit, which was rather becoming to him. A
gardener was walking behind, evidently gathering roses for him, which he
put into a shallow basket. Emily Fox-Seton cast about for a suitable
remark to make, if he should chance to stop to speak to her. She
consoled herself with the thought that there were things she really
_wanted_ to say about the beauty of the gardens, and certain clumps of
heavenly-blue campanulas, which seemed made a feature of in the
herbaceous borders. It was so much nicer not to be obliged to invent
observations. But his lordship did not stop to speak to her. He was
interested in his roses (which, she heard afterward, were to be sent to
town to an invalid friend), and as she drew near, he turned aside to
speak to the gardener. As Emily was just passing him when he turned
again, and as the passage was narrow, he found himself unexpectedly
gazing into her face.

Being nearly the same height, they were so near each other that it was a
little awkward.

"I beg pardon," he said, stepping back a pace and lifting his straw hat.

But he did not say, "I beg pardon, Miss Fox-Seton," and Emily knew that
he had not recognised her again, and had not the remotest idea who she
was or where she came from.

She passed him with her agreeable, friendly smile, and there returned to
her mind Lady Maria's remarks of the night before.

"To think that if he married poor pretty Lady Agatha she will be
mistress of three places quite as beautiful as Mallowe, three lovely old
houses, three sets of gardens, with thousands of flowers to bloom every
year! How nice it would be for her! She is so lovely that it seems as if
he _must_ fall in love with her. Then, if she was Marchioness of
Walderhurst, she could do so much for her sisters."

After breakfast she spent her morning in doing a hundred things for Lady
Maria. She wrote notes for her, and helped her to arrange plans for the
entertainment of her visitors. She was very busy and happy. In the
afternoon she drove across the moor to Maundell, a village on the other
side of it. She really went on an errand for her hostess, but as she was
fond of driving and the brown cob was a beauty, she felt that she was
being given a treat on a level with the rest of her ladyship's generous
hospitalities. She drove well, and her straight, strong figure showed to
much advantage on the high seat of the cart. Lord Walderhurst himself
commented on her as he saw her drive away.

"She has a nice, flat, straight back, that woman," he remarked to Lady
Maria. "What is her name? One never hears people's names when one is
introduced."

"Her name is Emily Fox-Seton," her ladyship answered, "and she's a nice
creature."

"That would be an inhuman thing to say to most men, but if one is a
thoroughly selfish being, and has some knowledge of one's own character,
one sees that a nice creature might be a nice companion."

"You are quite right," was Lady Maria's reply, as she held up her
lorgnette and watched the cart spin down the avenue. "I am selfish
myself, and I realise that is the reason why Emily Fox-Seton is becoming
the lodestar of my existence. There is such comfort in being pandered to
by a person who is not even aware that she is pandering. She doesn't
suspect that she is entitled to thanks for it."

That evening Mrs. Ralph came shining to dinner in amber satin, which
seemed to possess some quality of stimulating her to brilliance. She was
witty enough to collect an audience, and Lord Walderhurst was drawn
within it. This was Mrs. Ralph's evening. When the men returned to the
drawing-room, she secured his lordship at once and managed to keep him.
She was a woman who could talk pretty well, and perhaps Lord Walderhurst
was amused. Emily Fox-Seton was not quite sure that he was, but at least
he listened. Lady Agatha Slade looked a little listless and pale. Lovely
as she was, she did not always collect an audience, and this evening she
said she had a headache. She actually crossed the room, and taking a
seat by Miss Emily Fox-Seton, began to talk to her about Lady Maria's
charity-knitting which she had taken up. Emily was so gratified that she
found conversation easy. She did not realise that at that particular
moment she was a most agreeable and comforting companion for Agatha
Slade. She had heard so much of her beauty during the season, and
remembered so many little things that a girl who was a thought depressed
might like to hear referred to again. Sometimes to Agatha the balls
where people had collected in groups to watch her dancing, the
flattering speeches she had heard, the dazzling hopes which had been
raised, seemed a little unreal, as if, after all, they could have been
only dreams. This was particularly so, of course, when life had dulled
for a while and the atmosphere of unpaid bills became heavy at home. It
was so to-day, because the girl had received a long, anxious letter from
her mother, in which much was said of the importance of an early
preparation for the presentation of Alix, who had really been kept back
a year, and was in fact nearer twenty than nineteen.

"If we were not in Debrett and Burke, one might be reserved about such
matters," poor Lady Claraway wrote; "but what is one to do when all the
world can buy one's daughters' ages at the book-sellers'?"

Miss Fox-Seton had seen Lady Agatha's portrait at the Academy and the
way in which people had crowded about it. She had chanced to hear
comments also, and she agreed with a number of persons who had not
thought the picture did the original justice.

"Sir Bruce Norman was standing by me with an elderly lady the first time
I saw it," she said, as she turned a new row of the big white-wool scarf
her hostess was knitting for a Deep-Sea Fisherman's Charity. "He really
looked quite annoyed. I heard him say: 'It is not good at all. She is
far, far lovelier. Her eyes are like blue flowers.' The moment I saw
you, I found myself looking at your eyes. I hope I didn't seem rude."

Lady Agatha smiled. She had flushed delicately, and took up in her slim
hand a skein of the white wool.

"There are some people who are never rude," she sweetly said, "and you
are one of them, I am sure. That knitting looks nice. I wonder if I
could make a comforter for a deep-sea fisherman."

"If it would amuse you to try," Emily answered, "I will begin one for
you. Lady Maria has several pairs of wooden needles. Shall I?"

"Do, please. How kind of you!"

In a pause of her conversation, Mrs. Ralph, a little later, looked
across the room at Emily Fox-Seton bending over Lady Agatha and the
knitting, as she gave her instructions.

"What a good-natured creature that is!" she said.

Lord Walderhurst lifted his monocle and inserted it in his unillumined
eye. He also looked across the room. Emily wore the black evening dress
which gave such opportunities to her square white shoulders and firm
column of throat; the country air and sun had deepened the colour on her
cheek, and the light of the nearest lamp fell kindly on the big twist of
her nut-brown hair, and burnished it. She looked soft and warm, and so
generously interested in her pupil's progress that she was rather sweet.

Lord Walderhurst simply looked at her. He was a man of but few words.
Women who were sprightly found him somewhat unresponsive. In fact, he
was aware that a man in his position need not exert himself. The women
themselves would talk. They wanted to talk because they wanted him to
hear them.

Mrs. Ralph talked.

"She is the most primeval person I know. She accepts her fate without a
trace of resentment; she simply accepts it."

"What is her fate?" asked Lord Walderhurst, still gazing in his
unbiassed manner through his monocle, and not turning his head as he
spoke.

"It is her fate to be a woman who is perfectly well born, and who is as
penniless as a charwoman, and works like one. She is at the beck and
call of any one who will give her an odd job to earn a meal with. That
is one of the new ways women have found of making a living."

"Good skin," remarked Lord Walderhurst, irrelevantly. "Good hair--quite
a lot."

"She has some of the nicest blood in England in her veins, and she
engaged my last cook for me," said Mrs. Ralph.

"Hope she was a good cook."

"Very. Emily Fox-Seton has a faculty of finding decent people. I believe
it is because she is so decent herself"--with a little laugh.

"Looks quite decent," commented Walderhurst. The knitting was getting on
famously.

"It was odd you should see Sir Bruce Norman that day," Agatha Slade was
saying. "It must have been just before he was called away to India."

"It was. He sailed the next day. I happen to know, because some friends
of mine met me only a few yards from your picture and began to talk
about him. I had not known before that he was so rich. I had not heard
about his collieries in Lancashire. Oh!"--opening her big eyes in
heart-felt yearning,--"how I wish I owned a colliery! It must be so
_nice_ to be rich!"

"I never was rich," answered Lady Agatha, with a bitter little sigh. "I
know it is hideous to be poor."

"_I_ never was rich," said Emily, "and I never shall be. You"--a little
shyly--"are so different."

Lady Agatha flushed delicately again.

Emily Fox-Seton made a gentle joke. "You have eyes like blue flowers,"
she said. Lady Agatha lifted the eyes like blue flowers, and they were
pathetic.

"Oh!" she gave forth almost impetuously, "sometimes it seems as if it
does not matter whether one has eyes or not."

It was a pleasure to Emily Fox-Seton to realise that after this the
beauty seemed to be rather drawn toward her. Their acquaintance became
almost a sort of intimacy over the wool scarf for the deep-sea
fisherman, which was taken up and laid down, and even carried out on the
lawn and left under the trees for the footmen to restore when they
brought in the rugs and cushions. Lady Maria was amusing herself with
the making of knitted scarfs and helmets just now, and bits of white or
gray knitting were the fashion at Mallowe. Once Agatha brought hers to
Emily's room in the afternoon to ask that a dropped stitch might be
taken up, and this established a sort of precedent. Afterward they began
to exchange visits.

The strenuousness of things was becoming, in fact, almost too much for
Lady Agatha. Most unpleasant things were happening at home, and
occasionally Castle Clare loomed up grayly in the distance like a
spectre. Certain tradespeople who ought, in Lady Claraway's opinion, to
have kept quiet and waited in patience until things became better, were
becoming hideously persistent. In view of the fact that Alix's next
season must be provided for, it was most awkward. A girl could not be
presented and properly launched in the world, in a way which would give
her a proper chance, without expenditure. To the Claraways expenditure
meant credit, and there were blots as of tears on the letters in which
Lady Claraway reiterated that the tradespeople were behaving horribly.
Sometimes, she said once in desperation, things looked as if they would
all be obliged to shut themselves up in Castle Clare to retrench; and
then what was to become of Alix and her season? And there were Millicent
and Hilda and Eve.

More than once there was the mist of tears in the flower-blue eyes when
Lady Agatha came to talk. Confidence between two women establishes
itself through processes at once subtle and simple. Emily Fox-Seton
could not have told when she first began to know that the beauty was
troubled and distressed; Lady Agatha did not know when she first slipped
into making little frank speeches about herself; but these things came
about. Agatha found something like comfort in her acquaintance with the
big, normal, artless creature--something which actually raised her
spirits when she was depressed. Emily Fox-Seton paid constant kindly
tribute to her charms, and helped her to believe in them. When she was
with her, Agatha always felt that she really was lovely, after all, and
that loveliness was a great capital. Emily admired and revered it so,
and evidently never dreamed of doubting its omnipotence. She used to
talk as if any girl who was a beauty was a potential duchess. In fact,
this was a thing she quite ingenuously believed. She had not lived in a
world where marriage was a thing of romance, and, for that matter,
neither had Agatha. It was nice if a girl liked the man who married her,
but if he was a well-behaved, agreeable person, of good means, it was
natural that she would end by liking him sufficiently; and to be
provided for comfortably or luxuriously for life, and not left upon
one's own hands or one's parents', was a thing to be thankful for in any
case. It was such a relief to everybody to know that a girl was
"settled," and especially it was such a relief to the girl herself. Even
novels and plays were no longer fairy-stories of entrancing young men
and captivating young women who fell in love with each other in the
first chapter, and after increasingly picturesque incidents were married
in the last one in the absolute surety of being blissfully happy
forevermore. Neither Lady Agatha nor Emily had been brought up on this
order of literature, nor in an atmosphere in which it was accepted
without reservation.

They had both had hard lives, and knew what lay before them. Agatha knew
she must make a marriage or fade out of existence in prosaic and
narrowed dulness. Emily knew that there was no prospect for her of
desirable marriage at all. She was too poor, too entirely unsupported by
social surroundings, and not sufficiently radiant to catch the roving
eye. To be able to maintain herself decently, to be given an occasional
treat by her more fortunate friends, and to be allowed by fortune to
present to the face of the world the appearance of a woman who was not a
pauper, was all she could expect. But she felt that Lady Agatha had the
right to more. She did not reason the matter out and ask herself why she
had the right to more, but she accepted the proposition as a fact. She
was ingenuously interested in her fate, and affectionately sympathetic.
She used to look at Lord Walderhurst quite anxiously at times when he
was talking to the girl. An anxious mother could scarcely have regarded
him with a greater desire to analyse his sentiments. The match would be
such a fitting one. He would make such an excellent husband--and there
were three places, and the diamonds were magnificent. Lady Maria had
described to her a certain tiara which she frequently pictured to
herself as glittering above Agatha's exquisite low brow. It would be
infinitely more becoming to her than to Miss Brooke or Mrs. Ralph,
though either of them would have worn it with spirit. She could not help
feeling that both Mrs. Ralph's brilliancy and Miss Brooke's insouciant
prettiness were not unworthy of being counted in the running, but Lady
Agatha seemed somehow so much more completely the thing wanted. She was
anxious that she should always look her best, and when she knew that
disturbing letters were fretting her, and saw that they made her look
pale and less luminous, she tried to raise her spirits.

"Suppose we take a brisk walk," she would say, "and then you might try a
little nap. You look a little tired."

"Oh," said Agatha one day, "how kind you are to me! I believe you
actually care about my complexion--about my looking well."

"Lord Walderhurst said to me the other day," was Emily's angelically
tactful answer, "that you were the only woman he had ever seen who
_always_ looked lovely."

"Did he?" exclaimed Lady Agatha, and flushed sweetly. "Once Sir Bruce
Norman actually said that to me. I told him it was the nicest thing that
could be said to a woman. It is all the nicer"--with a sigh--"because it
isn't _really_ true."

"I am sure Lord Walderhurst believed it true," Emily said. "He is not a
man who talks, you know. He is very serious and dignified." She had
herself a reverence and admiration for Lord Walderhurst bordering on
tender awe. He was indeed a well-mannered person, of whom painful things
were not said. He also conducted himself well toward his tenantry, and
was patron of several notable charities. To the unexacting and
innocently respectful mind of Emily Fox-Seton this was at once
impressive and attractive. She knew, though not intimately, many noble
personages quite unlike him. She was rather early Victorian and
touchingly respectable.

"I have been crying," confessed Lady Agatha.

"I was afraid so, Lady Agatha," said Emily.

"Things are getting hopeless in Curzon Street. I had a letter from
Millicent this morning. She is next in age to Alix, and she says--oh, a
number of things. When girls see everything passing by them, it makes
them irritable. Millicent is seventeen, and she is too lovely. Her hair
is like a red-gold cloak, and her eyelashes are twice as long as mine."
She sighed again, and her lips, which were like curved rose-petals,
unconcealedly quivered. "They were _all_ so cross about Sir Bruce Norman
going to India," she added.

"He will come back," said Emily, benignly; "but he may be too late. Has
he"--ingenuously--"seen Alix?"

Agatha flushed oddly this time. Her delicate skin registered every
emotion exquisitely. "He has seen her, but she was in the school-room,
and--I don't think--"

She did not finish, but stopped uneasily, and sat and gazed out of the
open window into the park. She did not look happy.

The episode of Sir Bruce Norman was brief and even vague. It had begun
well. Sir Bruce had met the beauty at a ball, and they had danced
together more than once. Sir Bruce had attractions other than his old
baronetcy and his coal-mines. He was a good-looking person, with a
laughing brown eye and a nice wit. He had danced charmingly and paid gay
compliments. He would have done immensely well. Agatha had liked him.
Emily sometimes thought she had liked him very much. Her mother had
liked him and had thought he was attracted. But after a number of
occasions of agreeable meetings, they had encountered each other on the
lawn at Goodwood, and he had announced that he was going to India.
Forthwith he had gone, and Emily had gathered that somehow Lady Agatha
had been considered somewhat to blame. Her people were not vulgar enough
to express this frankly, but she had felt it. Her younger sisters had,
upon the whole, made her feel it most. It had been borne in upon her
that if Alix, or Millicent with the red-gold cloak, or even Eve, who was
a gipsy, had been given such a season and such Doucet frocks, they would
have combined them with their wonderful complexions and lovely little
chins and noses in such a manner as would at least have prevented
desirable acquaintances from feeling free to take P. and O. steamers to
Bombay.

In her letter of this morning, Millicent's temper had indeed got
somewhat the better of her taste and breeding, and lovely Agatha had
cried large tears. So it was comforting to be told that Lord Walderhurst
had said such an extremely amiable thing. If he was not young, he was
really _very_ nice, and there were exalted persons who absolutely had
rather a fad for him. It would be exceptionally brilliant.

The brisk walk was taken, and Lady Agatha returned from it blooming. She
was adorable at dinner, and in the evening gathered an actual court
about her. She was all in pink, and a wreath of little pink wild roses
lay close about her head, making her, with her tall young slimness, look
like a Botticelli nymph. Emily saw that Lord Walderhurst looked at her a
great deal. He sat on an extraordinarily comfortable corner seat, and
stared through his monocle.

Lady Maria always gave her Emily plenty to do. She had a nice taste in
floral arrangement, and early in her visit it had fallen into her hands
as a duty to "do" the flowers.

The next morning she was in the gardens early, gathering roses with the
dew on them, and was in the act of cutting some adorable "Mrs. Sharman
Crawfords," when she found it behoved her to let down her carefully
tucked up petticoats, as the Marquis of Walderhurst was walking straight
toward her. An instinct told her that he wanted to talk to her about
Lady Agatha Slade.

"You get up earlier than Lady Agatha," he remarked, after he had wished
her "Good-morning."

"She is oftener invited to the country than I am," she answered. "When I
have a country holiday, I want to spend every moment of it out of doors.
And the mornings are so lovely. They are not like this in Mortimer
Street."

"Do you live in Mortimer Street?"

"Yes."

"Do you like it?"

"I am very comfortable. I am fortunate in having a nice landlady. She
and her daughter are very kind to me."

The morning was indeed heavenly. The masses of flowers were drenched
with dew, and the already hot sun was drawing fragrance from them and
filling the warm air with it. The marquis, with hia monocle fixed,
looked up into the cobalt-blue sky and among the trees, where a
wood-dove or two cooed with musical softness.

"Yes," he observed, with a glance which swept the scene, "it is
different from Mortimer Street, I suppose. Are you fond of the country?"

"Oh, yes," sighed Emily; "oh, yes!"

She was not a specially articulate person. She could not have conveyed
in words all that her "Oh, yes!" really meant of simple love for and joy
in rural sights and sounds and scents. But when she lifted her big kind
hazel eyes to him, the earnestness of her emotion made them pathetic, as
the unspeakableness of her pleasures often did.

Lord Walderhurst gazed at her through the monocle with an air he
sometimes had of taking her measure without either unkindliness or
particular interest.

"Is Lady Agatha fond of the country?" he inquired.

"She is fond of everything that is beautiful," she replied. "Her nature
is as lovely as her face, I think."

"Is it?"

Emily walked a step or two away to a rose climbing up the gray-red wall,
and began to clip off blossoms, which tumbled sweetly into her basket.

"She seems lovely in everything," she said, "in disposition and manner
and--everything. She never seems to disappoint one or make mistakes."

"You are fond of her?"

"She has been so kind to me."

"You often say people are kind to you."

Emily paused and felt a trifle confused. Realising that she was not a
clever person, and being a modest one, she began to wonder if she was
given to a parrot-phrase which made her tiresome. She blushed up to her
ears.

"People are kind," she said hesitatingly. "I--you see, I have nothing to
give, and I always seem to be receiving."

"What luck!" remarked his lordship, calmly gazing at her.

He made her feel rather awkward, and she was at once relieved and sorry
when he walked away to join another early riser who had come out upon
the lawn. For some mysterious reason Emily Fox-Seton liked him. Perhaps
his magnificence and the constant talk she had heard of him had warmed
her imagination. He had never said anything particularly intelligent to
her, but she felt as if he had. He was a rather silent man, but never
looked stupid. He had made some good speeches in the House of Lords, not
brilliant, but sound and of a dignified respectability. He had also
written two pamphlets. Emily had an enormous respect for intellect, and
frequently, it must be admitted, for the thing which passed for it. She
was not exacting.

During her stay at Mallowe in the summer, Lady Maria always gave a
village treat. She had given it for forty years, and it was a lively
function. Several hundred wildly joyous village children were fed to
repletion with exhilarating buns and cake, and tea in mugs, after which
they ran races for prizes, and were entertained in various ways, with
the aid of such of the house-party as were benevolently inclined to make
themselves useful.

Everybody was not so inclined, though people always thought the thing
amusing. Nobody objected to looking on, and some were agreeably
stimulated by the general sense of festivity. But Emily Fox-Seton was
found by Lady Maria to be invaluable on this occasion. It was so easy,
without the least sense of ill-feeling, to give her all the drudgery to
do. There was plenty of drudgery, though it did not present itself to
Emily Fox-Seton in that light. She no more realised that she was giving
Lady Maria a good deal for her money, so to speak, than she realised
that her ladyship, though an amusing and delightful, was an absolutely
selfish and inconsiderate old woman. So long as Emily Fox-Seton did not
seem obviously tired, it would not have occurred to Lady Maria that she
could be so; that, after all, her legs and arms were mere human flesh
and blood, that her substantial feet were subject to the fatigue
unending trudging to and fro induces. Her ladyship was simply delighted
that the preparations went so well, that she could turn to Emily for
service and always find her ready. Emily made lists and calculations,
she worked out plans and made purchases. She interviewed the village
matrons who made the cake and buns, and boiled the tea in bags in a
copper; she found the women who could be engaged to assist in cutting
cake and bread-and-butter and helping to serve it; she ordered the
putting up of tents and forms and tables; the innumerable things to be
remembered she called to mind.

"Really, Emily," said Lady Maria, "I don't know how I have done this
thing for forty years without you. I must always have you at Mallowe for
the treat."

Emily was of the genial nature which rejoices upon even small occasions,
and is invariably stimulated to pleasure by the festivities of others.
The festal atmosphere was a delight to her. In her numberless errands to
the village, the sight of the excitement in the faces of the children
she passed on her way to this cottage and that filled her eyes with
friendly glee and wreathed her face with smiles. When she went into the
cottage where the cake was being baked, children hovered about in groups
and nudged each other, giggling. They hung about, partly through
thrilled interest, and partly because their joy made them eager to
courtesy to her as she came out, the obeisance seeming to identify them
even more closely with the coming treat. They grinned and beamed rosily,
and Emily smiled at them and nodded, uplifted by a pleasure almost as
infantile as their own. She was really enjoying herself so honestly that
she did not realise how hard she worked during the days before the
festivity. She was really ingenious, and invented a number of new
methods of entertainment. It was she who, with the aid of a couple of
gardeners, transformed the tents into bowers of green boughs and
arranged the decorations of the tables and the park gates.

"What a lot of walking you do!" Lord Walderhurst said to her once, as
she passed the group on the lawn. "Do you know how many hours you have
been on your feet to-day?"

"I like it," she answered, and, as she hurried by, she saw that he was
sitting a shade nearer to Lady Agatha than she had ever seen him sit
before, and that Agatha, under a large hat of white gauze frills, was
looking like a seraph, so sweet and shining were her eyes, so
flower-fair her face. She looked actually happy.

"Perhaps he has been saying things," Emily thought. "How happy she will
be! He has such a nice pair of eyes. He would make a woman very happy."
A faint sigh fluttered from her lips. She was beginning to be physically
tired, and was not yet quite aware of it. If she had not been physically
tired, she would not even vaguely have had, at this moment, recalled to
her mind the fact that she was not of the women to whom "things" are
said and to whom things happen.

"Emily Fox-Seton," remarked Lady Maria, fanning herself, as it was
frightfully hot, "has the most admirable effect on me. She makes me feel
generous. I should like to present her with the smartest things from the
wardrobes of all my relations."

"Do you give her clothes?" asked Walderhurst.

"I haven't any to spare. But I know they would be useful to her. The
things she wears are touching; they are so well contrived, and produce
such a decent effect with so little."

Lord Walderhurst inserted his monocle and gazed after the straight,
well-set-up back of the disappearing Miss Fox-Seton.

"I think," said Lady Agatha, gently, "that she is really handsome."

"So she is," admitted Walderhurst--"quite a good-looking woman."

That night Lady Agatha repeated the amiability to Emily, whose grateful
amazement really made her blush.

"Lord Walderhurst knows Sir Bruce Norman," said Agatha. "Isn't it
strange? He spoke of him to me to-day. He says he is clever."

"You had a nice talk this afternoon, hadn't you?" said Emily. "You both
looked so--so--as if you were enjoying yourselves when I passed."

"Did he look as if he were enjoying himself? He was very agreeable. I
did not know he could be so agreeable."

"I have never seen him look as much pleased," answered Emily Fox-Seton.
"Though he always looks as if he liked talking to you, Lady Agatha. That
large white gauze garden-hat"--reflectively--"is so _very_ becoming."

"It was very expensive," sighed lovely Agatha. "And they last such a
short time. Mamma said it really seemed almost criminal to buy it."

"How delightful it will be," remarked cheering Emily, "when--when you
need not think of things like that!"

"Oh!"--with another sigh, this time a catch of the breath,--"it would be
like Heaven! People don't know; they think girls are frivolous when they
care, and that it isn't serious. But when one knows one _must_ have
things,--that they are like bread,--it is awful!"

"The things you wear really matter." Emily was bringing all her powers
to bear upon the subject, and with an anxious kindness which was quite
angelic. "Each dress makes you look like another sort of picture. Have
you,"--contemplatively--"anything _quite_ different to wear to-night and
to-morrow?"

"I have two evening dresses I have not worn here yet"--a little
hesitatingly. "I--well I saved them. One is a very thin black one with
silver on it. It has a trembling silver butterfly for the shoulder, and
one for the hair."

"Oh, put that on to-night!" said Emily, eagerly. "When you come down to
dinner you will look so--so new! I always think that to see a fair
person suddenly for the first time all in black gives one a kind of
delighted start--though start isn't the word, quite. Do put it on."

Lady Agatha put it on. Emily Fox-Seton came into her room to help to add
the last touches to her beauty before she went down to dinner. She
suggested that the fair hair should be dressed even higher and more
lightly than usual, so that the silver butterfly should poise the more
airily over the knot, with its quivering, outstretched wings. She
herself poised the butterfly high upon the shoulder.

"Oh, it is lovely!" she exclaimed, drawing back to gaze at the girl. "Do
let me go down a moment or so before you do, so that I can see you come
into the room."

She was sitting in a chair quite near Lord Walderhurst when her charge
entered. She saw him really give something quite like a start when
Agatha appeared. His monocle, which had been in his eye, fell out of it,
and he picked it up by its thin cord and replaced it.

"Psyche!" she heard him say in his odd voice, which seemed merely to
make a statement without committing him to an opinion--"Psyche!"

He did not say it to her or to any one else. It was simply a kind of
exclamation,--appreciative and perceptive without being
enthusiastic,--and it was curious. He talked to Agatha nearly all the
evening.

Emily came to Lady Agatha before she retired, looking even a little
flushed.

"What are you going to wear at the treat to-morrow?" she asked.

"A white muslin, with _entre-deux_ of lace, and the gauze garden-hat,
and a white parasol and shoes."

Lady Agatha looked a little nervous; her pink fluttered in her cheek.

"And to-morrow night?" said Emily.

"I have a very pale blue. Won't you sit down, dear Miss Fox-Seton?"

"We must both go to bed and sleep. You must not get tired."

But she sat down for a few minutes, because she saw the girl's eyes
asking her to do it.

The afternoon post had brought a more than usually depressing letter
from Curzon Street. Lady Claraway was at her motherly wits' ends, and
was really quite touching in her distraction. A dressmaker was entering
a suit. The thing would get into the papers, of course.

"Unless something happens, something to save us by staving off things,
we shall have to go to Castle Clare at once. It will be all over. No
girl could be presented with such a thing in the air. They don't like
it."

"They," of course, meant persons whose opinions made London's society's
law.

"To go to Castle Clare," faltered Agatha, "will be like being sentenced
to starve to death. Alix and Hilda and Millicent and Eve and I will be
starved, quite slowly, for the want of the things that make girls' lives
bearable when they have been born in a certain class. And even if the
most splendid thing happened in three or four years, it would be too
late for us four--almost too late for Eve. If you are out of London, of
course you are forgotten. People can't help forgetting. Why shouldn't
they, when there are such crowds of new girls every year?"

Emily Fox-Seton was sweet. She was quite sure that they would not be
obliged to go to Castle Clare. Without being indelicate, she was really
able to bring hope to the fore. She said a good deal of the black gauze
dress and the lovely effect of the silver butterflies.

"I suppose it was the butterflies which made Lord Walderhurst say
'Psyche! Psyche!' when he first saw you," she added, _en passant_.

"Did he say that?" And immediately Lady Agatha looked as if she had not
intended to say the words.

"Yes," answered Emily, hurrying on with a casual air which had a good
deal of tact in it. "And black makes you so wonderfully fair and aërial.
You scarcely look quite real in it; you might float away. But you must
go to sleep now."

Lady Agatha went with her to the door of the room to bid her good-night.
Her eyes looked like those of a child who might presently cry a little.
"Oh, Miss Fox-Seton," she said, in a very young voice, "you are so
kind!"



Chapter Four


The parts of the park nearest to the house already presented a busy
aspect when Miss Fox-Seton passed through the gardens the following
morning. Tables were being put up, and baskets of bread and cake and
groceries were being carried into the tent where the tea was to be
prepared. The workers looked interested and good-humoured; the men
touched their hats as Emily appeared, and the women courtesied
smilingly. They had all discovered that she was amiable and to be relied
on in her capacity of her ladyship's representative.

"She's a worker, that Miss Fox-Seton," one said to the other. "I never
seen one that was a lady fall to as she does. Ladies, even when they
means well, has a way of standing about and telling you to do things
without seeming to know quite how they ought to be done. She's coming to
help with the bread-and-butter-cutting herself this morning, and she put
up all them packages of sweets yesterday with her own hands. She did 'em
up in different-coloured papers, and tied 'em with bits of ribbon,
because she said she knowed children was prouder of coloured things than
plain--they was like that. And so they are: a bit of red or blue goes a
long way with a child."

Emily cut bread-and-butter and cake, and placed seats and arranged toys
on tables all the morning. The day was hot, though beautiful, and she
was so busy that she had scarcely time for her breakfast. The household
party was in the gayest spirits. Lady Maria was in her most amusing
mood. She had planned a drive to some interesting ruins for the
afternoon of the next day, and a dinner-party for the evening. Her
favourite neighbours had just returned to their country-seat five miles
away, and they were coming to the dinner, to her great satisfaction.
Most of her neighbours bored her, and she took them in doses at her
dinners, as she would have taken medicine. But the Lockyers were young
and good-looking and clever, and she was always glad when they came to
Loche during her stay at Mallowe.

"There is not a frump or a bore among them," she said. "In the country
people are usually frumps when they are not bores, and bores when they
are not frumps, and I am in danger of becoming both myself. Six weeks of
unalloyed dinner-parties, composed of certain people I know, would make
me begin to wear moreen petticoats and talk about the deplorable
condition of London society."

She led all her flock out on to the lawn under the ilex-trees after
breakfast.

"Let us go and encourage industry," she said. "We will watch Emily
Fox-Seton working. She is an example."

Curiously enough, this was Miss Cora Brooke's day. She found herself
actually walking across the lawn with Lord Walderhurst by her side. She
did not know how it happened, but it seemed to occur accidentally.

"We never talk to each other," he said.

"Well," answered Cora, "we have talked to other people a great deal--at
least I have."

"Yes, you have talked a good deal," said the marquis.

"Does that mean I have talked too much?"

He surveyed her prettiness through his glass. Perhaps the holiday stir
in the air gave him a festive moment.

"It means that you haven't talked enough to me. You have devoted
yourself too much to the laying low of young Heriot."

She laughed a trifle saucily.

"You are a very independent young lady," remarked Walderhurst, with a
lighter manner than usual. "You ought to say something deprecatory or--a
little coy, perhaps."

"I shan't," said Cora, composedly.

"Shan't or won't?" he inquired. "They are both bad words for little
girls--or young ladies--to use to their elders."

"Both," said Miss Cora Brooke, with a slightly pleased flush. "Let us go
over to the tents and see what poor Emily Fox-Seton is doing."

"Poor Emily Fox-Seton," said the marquis, non-committally.

They went, but they did not stay long. The treat was taking form. Emily
Fox-Seton was hot and deeply engaged. People were coming to her for
orders. She had a thousand things to do and to superintend the doing of.
The prizes for the races and the presents for the children must be
arranged in order: things for boys and things for girls, presents for
little children and presents for big ones. Nobody must be missed, and no
one must be given the wrong thing.

"It would be dreadful, you know," Emily said to the two when they came
into her tent and began to ask questions, "if a big boy should get a
small wooden horse, or a little baby should be given a cricket bat and
ball. Then it would be so disappointing if a tiny girl got a work-box
and a big one got a doll. One has to get things in order. They look
forward to this so, and it's heart-breaking to a child to be
disappointed, isn't it?"

Walderhurst gazed uninspiringly.

"Who did this for Lady Maria when you were not here?" he inquired.

"Oh, other people. But she says it was tiresome." Then with an illumined
smile; "She has asked me to Mallowe for the next twenty years for the
treats. She is so kind."

"Maria is a kind woman"--with what seemed to Emily delightful
amiability. "She is kind to her treats and she is kind to Maria Bayne."

"She is kind to _me_," said Emily. "You don't know how I am enjoying
this."

"That woman enjoys everything," Lord Walderhurst said when he walked
away with Cora. "What a temperament to have! I would give ten thousand a
year for it."

"She has so little," said Cora, "that everything seems beautiful to her.
One doesn't wonder, either. She's very nice. Mother and I quite admire
her. We are thinking of inviting her to New York and giving her a real
good time."

"She would enjoy New York."

"Have you ever been there, Lord Walderhurst?"

"No."

"You ought to come, really. So many Englishmen come now, and they all
seem to like it."

"Perhaps I will come," said Walderhurst. "I have been thinking of it.
One is tired of the Continent and one knows India. One doesn't know
Fifth Avenue, and Central Park, and the Rocky Mountains."

"One might try them," suggested pretty Miss Cora.

This certainly was her day. Lord Walderhurst took her and her mother out
in his own particular high phaeton before lunch. He was fond of driving,
and his own phaeton and horses had come to Mallowe with him. He took
only his favourites out, and though he bore himself on this occasion
with a calm air, the event caused a little smiling flurry on the lawn.
At least, when the phaeton spun down the avenue with Miss Brooke and her
mother looking slightly flushed and thrilled in their high seats of
honour, several people exchanged glances and raised eye-brows.

Lady Agatha went to her room and wrote a long letter to Curzon Street.
Mrs. Ralph talked about the problem-play to young Heriot and a group of
others.

The afternoon, brilliant and blazing, brought new visitors to assist by
their presence at the treat. Lady Maria always had a large house-party,
and added guests from the neighbourhood to make for gaiety. At two
o'clock a procession of village children and their friends and parents,
headed by the village band, marched up the avenue and passed before the
house on their way to their special part of the park. Lady Maria and her
guests stood upon the broad steps and welcomed the jocund crowd, as it
moved by, with hospitable bows and nods and becks and wreathed smiles.
Everybody was in a delighted good-humour.

As the villagers gathered in the park, the house-party joined them by
way of the gardens. A conjurer from London gave an entertainment under a
huge tree, and children found white rabbits taken from their pockets and
oranges from their caps, with squeals of joy and shouts of laughter.
Lady Maria's guests walked about and looked on, laughing with the
children.

The great affair of tea followed the performance. No treat is fairly
under way until the children are filled to the brim with tea and buns
and cake, principally cake in plummy wedges.

Lady Agatha and Mrs. Ralph handed cake along rows of children seated on
the grass. Miss Brooke was talking to Lord Walderhurst when the work
began. She had poppies in her hat and carried a poppy-coloured parasol,
and sat under a tree, looking very alluring.

"I ought to go and help to hand cake," she said.

"My cousin Maria ought to do it," remarked Lord Walderhurst, "but she
will not--neither shall I. Tell me something about the elevated railroad
and Five-Hundred-and-Fifty-Thousandth Street." He had a slightly rude,
gracefully languid air, which Cora Brooke found somewhat impressive,
after all.

Emily Fox-Seton handed cake and regulated supplies with cheerful tact
and good spirits. When the older people were given their tea, she moved
about their tables, attending to every one. She was too heart-whole in
her interest in her hospitalities to find time to join Lady Maria and
her party at the table under the ilex-trees. She ate some
bread-and-butter and drank a cup of tea while she talked to some old
women she had made friends with. She was really enjoying herself
immensely, though occasionally she was obliged to sit down for a few
moments just to rest her tired feet. The children came to her as to an
omnipotent and benign being. She knew where the toys were kept and what
prizes were to be given for the races. She represented law and order and
bestowal. The other ladies walked about in wonderful dresses, smiling
and exalted, the gentlemen aided the sports in an amateurish way and
made patrician jokes among themselves, but this one lady seemed to be
part of the treat itself. She was not so grandly dressed as the
others,--her dress was only blue linen with white bands on it,--and she
had only a sailor hat with a buckle and bow, but she was of her
ladyship's world of London people, nevertheless, and they liked her more
than they had ever liked a lady before. It was a fine treat, and she
seemed to have made it so. There had never been quite such a varied and
jovial treat at Mallowe before.

The afternoon waxed and waned. The children played games and raced and
rejoiced until their young limbs began to fail them. The older people
sauntered about or sat in groups to talk and listen to the village band.
Lady Maria's visitors, having had enough of rural festivities, went back
to the gardens in excellent spirits, to talk and to watch a game of
tennis which had taken form on the court.

Emily Fox-Seton's pleasure had not abated, but her colour had done so.
Her limbs ached and her still-smiling face was pale, as she stood under
the beech-tree regarding the final ceremonies of the festal day, to
preside over which Lady Maria and her party returned from their seats
under the ilex-trees. The National Anthem was sung loudly, and there
were three tremendous cheers given for her ladyship. They were such
joyous and hearty cheers that Emily was stirred almost to emotional
tears. At all events, her hazel eyes looked nice and moistly bright. She
was an easily moved creature.

Lord Walderhurst stood near Lady Maria and looked pleased also. Emily
saw him speak to her ladyship and saw Lady Maria smile. Then he stepped
forward, with his non-committal air and his monocle glaring calmly in
his eye.

"Boys and girls," he said in a clear, far-reaching voice, "I want you to
give three of the biggest cheers you are capable of for the lady who has
worked to make your treat the success it has been. Her ladyship tells me
she has never had such a treat before. Three cheers for Miss Fox-Seton."

Emily gave a gasp and felt a lump rise in her throat. She felt as if she
had been without warning suddenly changed into a royal personage, and
she scarcely knew what to do.

The whole treat, juvenile and adult, male and female, burst into three
cheers which were roars and bellows. Hats and caps were waved and tossed
into the air, and every creature turned toward her as she blushed and
bowed in tremulous gratitude and delight.

"Oh, Lady Maria! oh, Lord Walderhurst!" she said, when she managed to
get to them, "how _kind_ you are to me!"



Chapter Five


After she had taken her early tea in the morning, Emily Fox-Seton lay
upon her pillows and gazed out upon the tree-branches near her window,
in a state of bliss. She was tired, but happy. How well everything had
"gone off"! How pleased Lady Maria had been, and how kind of Lord
Walderhurst to ask the villagers to give three cheers for herself! She
had never dreamed of such a thing. It was the kind of attention not
usually offered to her. She smiled her childlike smile and blushed at
the memory of it. Her impression of the world was that people were
really very amiable, as a rule. They were always good to her, at least,
she thought, and it did not occur to her that if she had not paid her
way so remarkably well by being useful they might have been less
agreeable. Never once had she doubted that Lady Maria was the most
admirable and generous of human beings. She was not aware in the least
that her ladyship got a good deal out of her. In justice to her
ladyship, it may be said that she was not wholly aware of it herself,
and that Emily absolutely enjoyed being made use of.

This morning, however, when she got up, she found herself more tired
than she ever remembered being before, and it may be easily argued that
a woman who runs about London on other people's errands often knows what
it is to be aware of aching limbs. She laughed a little when she
discovered that her feet were actually rather swollen, and that she must
wear a pair of her easiest slippers. "I must sit down as much as I can
to-day," she thought. "And yet, with the dinner-party and the excursion
this morning, there may be a number of little things Lady Maria would
like me to do."

There were, indeed, numbers of things Lady Maria was extremely glad to
ask her to do. The drive to the ruins was to be made before lunch,
because some of the guests felt that an afternoon jaunt would leave them
rather fagged for the dinner-party in the evening. Lady Maria was not
going, and, as presently became apparent, the carriages would be rather
crowded if Miss Fox-Seton joined the party. On the whole, Emily was not
sorry to have an excuse for remaining at home, and so the carriages
drove away comfortably filled, and Lady Maria and Miss Fox-Seton watched
their departure.

"I have no intention of having my venerable bones rattled over hill and
dale the day I give a dinner-party," said her ladyship. "Please ring the
bell, Emily. I want to make sure of the fish. Fish is one of the
problems of country life. Fishmongers are demons, and when they live
five miles from one they can arouse the most powerful human emotions."

Mallowe Court was at a distance from the country town delightful in its
effects upon the rusticity of the neighbourhood, but appalling when
considered in connection with fish. One could not dine Without fish; the
town was small and barren of resources, and the one fishmonger of weak
mind and unreliable nature.

The footman who obeyed the summons of the bell informed her ladyship
that the cook was rather anxious about the fish, as usual. The
fishmonger had been a little doubtful as to whether he could supply her
needs, and his cart never arrived until half-past twelve.

"Great goodness!" exclaimed her ladyship when the man retired. "What a
situation if we found ourselves without fish! Old General Barnes is the
most ferocious old gourmand in England, and he loathes people who give
him bad dinners. We are all rather afraid of him, the fact is, and I
will own that I am vain about my dinners. That is the last charm nature
leaves a woman, the power to give decent dinners. I shall be fearfully
annoyed if any ridiculous thing happens."

They sat in the morning-room together writing notes and talking, and as
half-past twelve drew near, watching for the fishmonger's cart. Once or
twice Lady Maria spoke of Lord Walderhurst.

"He is an interesting creature, to my mind," she said. "I have always
rather liked him. He has original ideas, though he is not in the least
brilliant. I believe he talks more freely to me, on the whole, than to
most people, though I can't say he has a particularly good opinion of
me. He stuck his glass in his eye and stared at me last night, in that
weird way of his, and said to me, 'Maria, in an ingenuous fashion of
your own, you are the most abominably selfish woman I ever beheld.'
Still, I know he rather likes me. I said to him: 'That isn't quite true,
James. I am selfish, but I'm not _abominably_ selfish. Abominably
selfish people always have nasty tempers, and no one can accuse me of
having a nasty temper. I have the disposition of a bowl of bread and
milk."

"Emily,"--as wheels rattled up the avenue,--"_is_ that the fishmonger's
cart?"

"No," answered Emily at the window; "it is the butcher."

"His attitude toward the women here has made my joy," Lady Maria
proceeded, smiling over the deep-sea fishermen's knitted helmet she had
taken up. "He behaves beautifully to them all, but not one of them has
really a leg to stand on as far as he is responsible for it. But I will
tell you something, Emily." She paused.

Miss Fox-Seton waited with interested eyes.

"He is thinking of bringing the thing to an end and marrying _some_
woman. I feel it in my bones."

"Do you think so?" exclaimed Emily. "Oh, I can't help hoping--" But she
paused also.

"You hope it will be Agatha Slade," Lady Maria ended for her. "Well,
perhaps it will be. I sometimes think it is Agatha, if it's any one. And
yet I'm not sure. One never could be sure with Walderhurst. He has
always had a trick of keeping more than his mouth shut. I wonder if he
could have any other woman up his sleeve?"

"Why do you think--" began Emily.

Lady Maria laughed.

"For an odd reason. The Walderhursts have a ridiculously splendid ring
in the family, which they have a way of giving to the women they become
engaged to. It's ridiculous because--well, because a ruby as big as a
trouser's button _is_ ridiculous. You can't get over that. There is a
story connected with this one--centuries and things, and something about
the woman the first Walderhurst had it made for. She was a Dame
Something or Other who had snubbed the King for being forward, and the
snubbing was so good for him that he thought she was a saint and gave
the ruby for her betrothal. Well, by the merest accident I found
Walderhurst had sent his man to town for it. It came two days ago."

"Oh, how interesting!" said Emily, thrilled. "It _must_ mean something."

"It is rather a joke. Wheels again, Emily. Is _that_ the fishmonger?"

Emily went to the window once more. "Yes," she answered, "if his name is
Buggle."

"His name _is_ Buggle," said Lady Maria, "and we are saved."

But five minutes later the cook herself appeared at the morning-room
door. She was a stout person, who panted, and respectfully removed beads
of perspiration from her brow with a clean handkerchief.

She was as nearly pale as a heated person of her weight may be.

"And what has happened now, cook?" asked Lady Maria.

"That Buggle, your ladyship," said cook, "says your ladyship can't be no
sorrier than he is, but when fish goes bad in a night it can't be made
fresh in the morning. He brought it that I might see it for myself, and
it is in a state as could not be used by any one. I was that upset, your
ladyship, that I felt like I must come and explain myself."

"What _can_ be done?" exclaimed Lady Maria. "Emily, _do_ suggest
something."

"We can't even be sure," said the cook, "that Batch has what would suit
us. Batch sometimes has it, but he is the fishmonger at Maundell, and
that is four miles away, and we are short-'anded, your ladyship, now the
'ouse is so full, and not a servant that could be spared."

"Dear me!" said Lady Maria. "Emily, this is really enough to drive one
quite mad. If everything was not out of the stables, I know you would
drive over to Maundell. You are such a good walker,"--catching a gleam
of hope,--"do you think you could walk?"

Emily tried to look cheerful. Lady Maria's situation was really an awful
one for a hostess. It would not have mattered in the least if her
strong, healthy body had not been so tired. She was an excellent walker,
and ordinarily eight miles would have meant nothing in the way of
fatigue. She was kept in good training by her walking in town, Springy
moorland swept by fresh breezes was not like London streets.

"I think I can manage it," she said nice-temperedly. "If I had not run
about so much yesterday it would be a mere nothing. You must have the
fish, of course. I will walk over the moor to Maundell and tell Batch it
must be sent at once. Then I will come back slowly. I can rest on the
heather by the way. The moor is lovely in the afternoon."

"You dear soul!" Lady Maria broke forth. "What a boon you are to a
woman!"

She felt quite grateful. There arose in her mind an impulse to invite
Emily Fox-Seton to remain the rest of her life with her, but she was too
experienced an elderly lady to give way to impulses. She privately
resolved, however, that she would have her a good deal in South Audley
Street, and would make her some decent presents.

When Emily Fox-Seton, attired for her walk in her shortest brown linen
frock and shadiest hat, passed through the hall, the post-boy was just
delivering the midday letters to a footman. The servant presented his
salver to her with a letter for herself lying upon the top of one
addressed in Lady Claraway's handwriting "To the Lady Agatha Slade."
Emily recognised it as one of the epistles of many sheets which so often
made poor Agatha shed slow and depressed tears. Her own letter was
directed in the well-known hand of Mrs. Cupp, and she wondered what it
could contain.

"I hope the poor things are not in any trouble," she thought. "They were
afraid the young man in the sitting-room was engaged. If he got married
and left them, I don't know what they would do; he has been so regular."

Though the day was hot, the weather was perfect, and Emily, having
exchanged her easy slippers for an almost equally easy pair of tan
shoes, found her tired feet might still be used. Her disposition to make
the very best of things inspired her to regard even an eight-mile walk
with courage. The moorland air was so sweet, the sound of the bees
droning as they stumbled about in the heather was such a comfortable,
peaceful thing, that she convinced herself that she should find the four
miles to Maundell quite agreeable.

She had so many nice things to think of that she temporarily forgot that
she had put Mrs. Cupp's letter in her pocket, and was half-way across
the moor before she remembered it.

"Dear me!" she exclaimed when she recalled it. "I must see what has
happened."

She opened the envelope and began to read as she walked; but she had not
taken many steps before she uttered an exclamation and stopped.

"How very nice for them!" she said, but she turned rather pale.

From a worldly point of view the news the letter contained was indeed
very nice for the Cupps, but it put a painful aspect upon the simple
affairs of poor Miss Fox-Seton.

"It is a great piece of news, in one way," wrote Mrs. Cupp, "and yet me
and Jane can't help feeling a bit low at the thought of the changes it
will make, and us living where you won't be with us, if I may take the
liberty, miss. My brother William made a good bit of money in Australia,
but he has always been homesick for the old country, as he always calls
England. His wife was a Colonial, and when she died a year ago he made
up his mind to come home to settle in Chichester, where he was born. He
says there's nothing like the feeling of a Cathedral town. He's bought
such a nice house a bit out, with a big garden, and he wants me and Jane
to come and make a home with him. He says he has worked hard all his
life, and now he means to be comfortable, and he can't be bothered with
housekeeping. He promises to provide well for us both, and he wants us
to sell up Mortimer Street, and come as quick as possible. But we
_shall_ miss you, miss, and though her Uncle William keeps a trap and
everything according, and Jane is grateful for his kindness, she broke
down and cried hard last night, and says to me: 'Oh, mother, if Miss
Fox-Seton could just manage to take me as a maid, I would rather be it
than anything. Traps don't feed the heart, mother, and I've a feeling
for Miss Fox-Seton as is perhaps unbecoming to my station.' But we've
got the men in the house ticketing things, miss, and we want to know
what we shall do with the articles in your bed-sitting-room."

The friendliness of the two faithful Cupps and the humble Turkey-red
comforts of the bed-sitting-room had meant home to Emily Fox-Seton. When
she had turned her face and her tired feet away from discouraging
errands and small humiliations and discomforts, she had turned them
toward the bed-sitting-room, the hot little fire, the small, fat black
kettle singing on the hob, and the two-and-eleven-penny tea-set. Not
being given to crossing bridges before she reached them, she had never
contemplated the dreary possibility that her refuge might be taken away
from her. She had not dwelt upon the fact that she had no other real
refuge on earth.

As she walked among the sun-heated heather and the luxuriously droning
bees, she dwelt upon it now with a suddenly realising sense. As it came
home to her soul, her eyes filled with big tears, which brimmed over and
rolled down her cheeks. They dropped upon the breast of her linen blouse
and left marks.

"I shall have to find a new bed-sitting-room somewhere," she said, the
breast of the linen blouse lifting itself sharply. "It will be so
different to be in a house with strangers. Mrs. Cupp and Jane--" She was
obliged to take out her handkerchief at that moment. "I am afraid I
can't get anything respectable for ten shillings a week. It Was very
cheap--and they were so nice!"

All her fatigue of the early morning had returned. Her feet began to
burn and ache, and the sun felt almost unbearably hot. The mist in her
eyes prevented her seeing the path before her. Once or twice she
stumbled over something.

"It seems as if it must be farther than four miles," she said. "And then
there is the walk back. I _am_ tired. But I must get on, really."



Chapter Six


The drive to the ruins had been a great success. It was a drive of just
sufficient length to put people in spirits without fatiguing them. The
party came back to lunch with delightful appetities. Lady Agatha and
Miss Cora Brooke had pink cheeks. The Marquis of Walderhurst had behaved
charmingly to both of them. He had helped each of them to climb about
among the ruins, and had taken them both up the steep, dark stairway of
one of the towers, and stood with them looking over the turrets into the
courtyard and the moat. He knew the history of the castle and could
point out the banquet-hall and the chapel and the serving-places, and
knew legends about the dungeons.

"He gives us all a turn, mother," said Miss Cora Brooke. "He even gave a
turn yesterday to poor Emily Fox-Seton. He's rather nice."

There was a great deal of laughter at lunch after their return. Miss
Cora Brooke was quite brilliant in her gay little sallies. But though
she was more talkative than Lady Agatha, she did not look more
brilliant.

The letter from Curzon Street had not made the beauty shed tears. Her
face had fallen when it had been handed to her on her return, and she
had taken it upstairs to her room with rather a flagging step. But when
she came down to lunch she walked with the movement of a nymph. Her
lovely little face wore a sort of tremulous radiance. She laughed like a
child at every amusing thing that was said. She might have been ten
years old instead of twenty-two, her colour, her eyes, her spirits
seemed of a freshness so infantine.

She was leaning back in her chair laughing enchantingly at one of Miss
Brooke's sparkling remarks when Lord Walderhurst, who sat next to her,
said suddenly, glancing round the table:

"But where is Miss Fox-Seton?"

It was perhaps a significant fact that up to this moment nobody had
observed her absence. It was Lady Maria who replied.

"I am almost ashamed to answer," she said. "As I have said before, Emily
Fox-Seton has become the lodestar of my existence. I cannot live without
her. She has walked over to Maundell to make sure that we do not have a
dinner-party without fish to-night."

"She has _walked_ over to Maundell," said Lord Walderhurst--"after
yesterday?"

"There was not a pair of wheels left in the stable," answered Lady
Maria. "It is disgraceful, of course, but she is a splendid walker, and
she said she was not too tired to do it. It is the kind of thing she
ought to be given the Victoria Cross for--saving one from a dinner-party
without fish."

The Marquis of Walderhurst took up the cord of his monocle and fixed the
glass rigidly in his eye.

"It is not only four miles to Maundell," he remarked, staring at the
table-cloth, not at Lady Maria, "but it is four miles back."

"By a singular coincidence," said Lady Maria.

The talk and laughter went on, and the lunch also, but Lord Walderhurst,
for some reason best known to himself, did not finish his. For a few
seconds he stared at the table-cloth, then he pushed aside his nearly
disposed-of cutlet, then he got up from his chair quietly.

"Excuse me, Maria," he said, and without further ado went out of the
room, and walked toward the stables.


There was excellent fish at Maundell; Batch produced it at once, fresh,
sound, and desirable. Had she been in heir normal spirits, Emily would
have rejoiced at the sight of it, and have retraced her four miles to
Mallowe in absolute jubilation. She would have shortened and beguiled
her return journey by depicting to herself Lady Maria's pleasure and
relief.

But the letter from Mrs. Cupp lay like a weight of lead in her pocket.
It had given her such things to think of as she walked that she had been
oblivious to heather and bees and fleece-bedecked summer-blue sky, and
had felt more tired than in any tramp through London streets that she
could call to mind. Each step she took seemed to be carrying her farther
away from the few square yards of home the bed-sitting-room had
represented under the dominion of the Cupps. Every moment she recalled
more strongly that it had been home--home. Of course it had not been the
third-floor back room so much as it had been the Cupps who made it so,
who had regarded her as a sort of possession, who had liked to serve
her, and had done it with actual affection.

"I shall have to find a new place," she kept saying. "I shall have to go
among quite strange people."

She had suddenly a new sense of being without resource. That was one of
the proofs of the curious heaviness of the blow the simple occurrence
was to her. She felt temporarily almost as if there were no other
lodging-houses in London, though she knew that really there were tens of
thousands. The fact was that though there might be other Cupps, or their
counterparts, she could not make herself believe such a good thing
possible. She had been physically worn out before she had read the
letter, and its effect had been proportionate to her fatigue and lack of
power to rebound. She was vaguely surprised to feel that the tears kept
filling her eyes and falling on her cheeks in big heavy drops. She was
obliged to use her handkerchief frequently, as if she was suddenly
developing a cold in her head.

"I must take care," she said once, quite prosaically, but with more
pathos in her voice than she was aware of, "or I shall make my nose
quite red."

[Illustration: The Marquis of Walderhurst]

Though Batch was able to supply fish, he was unfortunately not able to
send it to Mallowe. His cart had gone out on a round just before Miss
Fox-Seton's arrival, and there was no knowing when it would return.

"Then I must carry the fish myself," said Emily. "You can put it in a
neat basket."

"I'm very sorry, miss; I am, indeed, miss," said Batch, looking hot and
pained.

"It will not be heavy," returned Emily; "and her ladyship must be sure
of it for the dinner-party."

So she turned back to recross the moor with a basket of fish on her arm.
And she was so pathetically unhappy that she felt that so long as she
lived the odour of fresh fish would make her feel sorrowful. She had
heard of people who were made sorrowful by the odour of a flower or the
sound of a melody but in her case it would be the smell of fresh fish
that would make her sad. If she had been a person with a sense of
humour, she might have seen that this was thing to laugh at a little.
But she was not a humorous woman, and just now----

"Oh, I shall have to find a new place," she was thinking, "and I have
lived in that little room for years."

The sun got hotter and hotter, and her feet became so tired that she
could scarcely drag one of them after another. She had forgotten that
she had left Mallowe before lunch, and that she ought to have got a cup
of tea, at least, at Maundell. Before she had walked a mile on her way
back, she realised that she was frightfully hungry and rather faint.

"There is not even a cottage where I could get a glass of water," she
thought.

The basket, which was really comparatively light, began to feel heavy on
her arm, and at length she felt sure that a certain burning spot on her
left heel must be a blister which was being rubbed by her shoe. How it
hurt her, and how tired she was--how tired! And when she left
Mallowe--lovely, luxurious Mallowe--she would not go back to her little
room all fresh from the Cupps' autumn house-cleaning, which included the
washing and ironing of her Turkey-red hangings and chair-covers; she
would be obliged to huddle into any poor place she could find. And Mrs.
Cupp and Jane would be in Chichester.

"But what good fortune it is for them!" she murmured. "They need never
be anxious about the future again. How--how wonderful it must be to know
that one need not be afraid of the future! I--indeed, I think I really
must sit down."

She sat down upon the sun-warmed heather and actually let her tear-wet
face drop upon her hands.

"Oh, dear! Oh, dear! Oh, dear!" she said helplessly. "I must not let
myself do this. I mustn't, Oh, dear! Oh, dear! Oh, dear!"

She was so overpowered by her sense of her own weakness that she was
conscious of nothing but the fact that she must control it. Upon the
elastic moorland road wheels stole upon one without sound. So the wheels
of a rapidly driven high cart approached her and were almost at her side
before she lifted her head, startled by a sudden consciousness that a
vehicle was near her.

It was Lord Walderhurst's cart, and even as she gazed at him with
alarmed wet eyes, his lordship descended from it and made a sign to his
groom, who at once impassively drove on.

Emily's lips tried to tremble into a smile; she put out her hand
fumblingly toward the fish-basket, and having secured it, began to rise.

"I--sat down to rest," she faltered, even apologetically. "I walked to
Maundell, and it was so hot."

Just at that moment a little breeze sprang up and swept across her
cheek. She was so grateful that her smile became less difficult.

"I got what Lady Maria wanted," she added, and the childlike dimple in
her cheek endeavoured to defy her eyes.

The Marquis of Walderhurst looked rather odd. Emily had never seen him
look like this before. He took a silver flask out of his pocket in a
matter-of-fact way, and filled its cup with something.

"That is sherry," he said. "Please drink it. You are absolutely faint."

She held out her hand eagerly. She could not help it.

"Oh, thank you--thank you!" she said. "I am _so_ thirsty!" And she drank
it as if it were the nectar of the gods.

"Now, Miss Fox-Seton," he said, "please sit down again. I came here to
drive you back to Mallowe, and the cart will not come back for a quarter
of an hour."

"You came on purpose!" she exclaimed, feeling, in truth, somewhat
awe-struck. "But how kind of you, Lord Walderhurst--how good!"

It was the most unforeseen and amazing experience of her life, and at
once she sought for some reason which could connect with his coming some
more interesting person than mere Emily Fox-Seton. Oh,--the thought
flashed upon her,--he had come for some reason connected with Lady
Agatha. He made her sit down on the heather again, and he took a seat
beside her. He looked straight into her eyes.

"You have been crying," he remarked.

There was no use denying it. And what was there in the good gray-brown
eye, gazing through the monocle, which so moved her by its suggestion of
kindness and--and some new feeling?

"Yes, I have," she admitted. "I don't often--but--well, yes, I have."

"What was it?"

It was the most extraordinary thump her heart gave at this moment. She
had never felt such an absolute thump. It was perhaps because she was
tired. His voice had lowered itself. No man had ever spoken to her
before like that. It made one feel as if he was not an exalted person at
all; only a kind, kind one. She must not presume upon his kindness and
make much of her prosaic troubles. She tried to smile in a proper casual
way.

"Oh, it was a small thing, really," was her effort at treating the
matter lightly; "but it seems more important to me than it would to any
one with--with a family. The people I live with--who have been so kind
to me--are going away."

"The Cupps?" he asked.

She turned quite round to look at him.

"How," she faltered, "did you know about them?"

"Maria told me," he answered, "I asked her."

It seemed such a human sort of interest to have taken in her. She could
not understand. And she had thought he scarcely realised her existence.
She said to herself that was so often the case--people were so much
kinder than one knew.

She felt the moisture welling in her eyes, and stared steadily at the
heather, trying to wink it away.

"I am really glad," she explained hastily. "It is such good fortune for
them. Mrs. Cupp's brother has offered them such a nice home. They need
never be anxious again."

"But they will leave Mortimer Street--and you will have to give up your
room."

"Yes. I must find another." A big drop got the better of her, and
flashed on its way down her cheek. "I can find a room, perhaps, but--I
can't find----" She was obliged to clear her throat.

"That was why you cried?"

"Yes." After which she sat still.

"You don't know where you will live?"

"No."

She was looking so straight before her and trying so hard to behave
discreetly that she did not see that he had drawn nearer to her. But a
moment later she realised it, because he took hold of her hand. His own
closed over it firmly.

"Will you," he said--"I came here, in fact, to ask you if you will come
and live with me?"

Her heart stood still, quite still. London was so full of ugly stories
about things done by men of his rank--stories of transgressions, of
follies, of cruelties. So many were open secrets. There were men, who,
even while keeping up an outward aspect of respectability, were held
accountable for painful things. The lives of well-born struggling women
were so hard. Sometimes such nice ones went under because temptation was
so great. But she had not thought, she could not have dreamed----

She got on her feet and stood upright before him. He rose with her, and
because she was a tall woman their eyes were on a level. Her own big and
honest ones were wide and full of crystal tears.

"Oh!" she said in helpless woe. "Oh!"

It was perhaps the most effective thing a woman ever did. It was so
simple that it was heartbreaking. She could not have uttered a word, he
was such a powerful and great person, and she was so without help or
stay.

Since the occurring of this incident, she has often been spoken of as a
beauty, and she has, without doubt, had her fine hours; but Walderhurst
has never told her that the most beautiful moment of her life was
undoubtedly that in which she stood upon the heather, tall and straight
and simple, her hands hanging by her sides, her large, tear-filled hazel
eyes gazing straight into his. In the femininity of her frank
defencelessness there was an appeal to nature's self in man which was
not quite of earth. And for several seconds they stood so and gazed into
each other's souls--the usually unilluminated nobleman and the prosaic
young woman who lodged on a third floor back in Mortimer Street.

Then, quite quickly, something was lighted in his eyes, and he took a
step toward her.

"Good heavens!" he demanded. "What do you suppose I am asking of you?"

"I don't--know," she answered; "I don't--know."

"My good girl," he said, even with some irritation, "I am asking you to
be my wife. I am asking you to come and live with me in an entirely
respectable manner, as the Marchioness of Walderhurst."

Emily touched the breast of her brown linen blouse with the tips of her
fingers.

"You--are--asking--_me_?" she said.

"Yes," he answered. His glass had dropped out of his eye, and he picked
it up and replaced it. "There is Black with the cart," he said. "I will
explain myself with greater clearness as we drive back to Mallowe."

The basket of fish was put in the cart, and Emily Fox-Seton was put in.
Then the marquis got in himself, and took the reins from his groom.

"You will walk back, Black," he said, "by that path," with a wave of the
hand in a diverging direction.

As they drove across the heather, Emily was trembling softly from head
to foot. She could have told no human being what she felt. Only a woman
who had lived as she had lived and who had been trained as she had been
trained could have felt it. The brilliance of the thing which had
happened to her was so unheard of and so undeserved, she told herself.
It was so incredible that, even with the splendid gray mare's high-held
head before her and Lord Walderhurst by her side, she felt that she was
only part of a dream. Men had never said "things" to her, and a man was
saying them--the Marquis of Walderhurst was saying them. They were not
the kind of things every man says or said in every man's way, but they
so moved her soul that she quaked with joy.

"I am not a marrying man," said his lordship, "but I must marry, and I
like you better than any woman I have ever known. I do not generally
like women. I am a selfish man, and I want an unselfish woman. Most
women are as selfish as I am myself. I used to like you when I heard
Maria speak of you. I have watched you and thought of you ever since I
came here. You are necessary to every one, and you are so modest that
you know nothing about it. You are a handsome woman, and you are always
thinking of other women's good looks."

Emily gave a soft little gasp.

"But Lady Agatha," she said. "I was sure it was Lady Agatha."

"I don't want a girl," returned his lordship. "A girl would bore me to
death. I am not going to dry-nurse a girl at the age of fifty-four. I
want a companion."

"But I am so _far_ from clever," faltered Emily.

The marquis turned in his driving-seat to look at her. It was really a
very nice look he gave her. It made Emily's cheeks grow pink and her
simple heart beat.

"You are the woman I want," he said. "You make me feel quite
sentimental."

When they reached Mallowe, Emily had upon her finger the ruby which Lady
Maria had graphically described as being "as big as a trouser button."
It was, indeed, so big that she could scarcely wear her glove over it.
She was still incredible, but she was blooming like a large rose. Lord
Walderhurst had said so many "things" to her that she seemed to behold a
new heaven and a new earth. She had been so swept off her feet that she
had not really been allowed time to think, after that first gasp, of
Lady Agatha.

When she reached her bedroom she almost returned to earth as she
remembered it. Neither of them had dreamed of this--neither of them.
What could she say to Lady Agatha? What would Lady Agatha say to her,
though it had not been her fault? She had not dreamed that such a thing
could be possible. How could she, oh, how could she?

She was standing in the middle of her room with clasped hands. There was
a knock upon the door, and Lady Agatha herself came to her.

What had occurred? Something. It was to be seen in the girl's eyes, and
in a certain delicate shyness in her manner.

"Something very nice has happened," she said.

"Something nice?" repeated Emily.

Lady Agatha sat down. The letter from Curzon Street was in her hand half
unfolded.

"I have had a letter from mamma. It seems almost bad taste to speak of
it so soon, but we have talked to each other so much, and you are so
kind, that I want to tell you myself. Sir Bruce Norman has been to talk
to papa about--about me."

Emily felt that her cup filled to the brim at the moment.

"He is in England again?"

Agatha nodded gently.

"He only went away to--well, to test his own feelings before he spoke.
Mamma is delighted with him. I am going home to-morrow."

Emily made a little swoop forward.

"You always liked him?" she said.

Lady Agatha's delicate mounting colour was adorable.

"I was quite _unhappy_," she owned, and hid her lovely face in her
hands.

In the morning-room Lord Walderhurst was talking to Lady Maria.

"You need not give Emily Fox-Seton any more clothes, Maria," he said. "I
am going to supply her in future. I have asked her to marry me."

Lady Maria lightly gasped, and then began to laugh.

"Well, James," she said, "you have certainly much more sense than most
men of your rank and age."



PART TWO



Chapter Seven


When Miss Emily Fox-Seton was preparing for the extraordinary change in
her life which transformed her from a very poor, hardworking woman into
one of the richest marchionesses in England, Lord Walderhurst's cousin,
Lady Maria Bayne, was extremely good to her. She gave her advice, and
though advice is a cheap present as far as the giver is concerned, there
are occasions when it may be a very valuable one to the recipient. Lady
Maria's was valuable to Emily Fox-Seton, who had but one difficulty,
which was to adjust herself to the marvellous fortune which had befallen
her.

There was a certain thing Emily found herself continually saying. It
used to break from her lips when she was alone in her room, when she was
on her way to her dressmaker's, and in spite of herself, sometimes when
she was with her whilom patroness.

"I can't believe it is true! I can't believe it!"

"I don't wonder, my dear girl," Lady Maria answered the second time she
heard it. "But what circumstances demand of you is that you should learn
to."

"Yes," said Emily, "I know I must. But it seems like a dream.
Sometimes," passing her hand over her forehead with a little laugh, "I
feel as if I should suddenly find myself wakened in the room in Mortimer
Street by Jane Cupp bringing in my morning tea. And I can see the
wallpaper and the Turkey-red cotton curtains. One of them was an inch or
so too short. I never could afford to buy the new bit, though I always
intended to."

"How much was the stuff a yard?" Lady Maria inquired.

"Sevenpence."

"How many yards did you need?"

"Two. It would have cost one and twopence, you see. And I really could
get on without it."

Lady Maria put up her lorgnette and looked at her protégée with an
interest which bordered on affection, it was so enjoyable to her
epicurean old mind.

"I didn't suspect it was as bad as that, Emily," she said. "I should
never have dreamed it. You managed to do yourself with such astonishing
decency. You were actually nice--always."

"I was very much poorer than anyone knew," said Emily. "People don't
like one's troubles. And when one is earning one's living as I was, one
must be agreeable, you know. It would never do to seem tiresome."

"There's cleverness in realising that fact," said Lady Maria. "You were
always the most cheerful creature. That was one of the reasons
Walderhurst admired you."

The future marchioness blushed all over. Lady Maria saw even her neck
itself blush, and it amused her ladyship greatly. She was intensely
edified by the fact that Emily could be made to blush by the mere
mention of her mature fiancé's name.

"She's in such a state of mind about the man that she's delightful," was
the old woman's internal reflection; "I believe she's in love with him,
as if she was a nurse-maid and he was a butcher's boy."

"You see," Emily went on in her nice, confiding way (one of the most
surprising privileges of her new position was that it made it possible
for her to confide in old Lady Maria), "it was not only the living from
day to day that made one anxious, it was the Future!" (Lady Maria knew
that the word began in this case with a capital letter.) "No one knows
what the Future is to poor women. One knows that one must get older, and
one may not keep well, and if one could not be active and in good
spirits, if one could not run about on errands, and things fell off,
_what_ could one do? It takes hard work, Lady Maria, to keep up even the
tiniest nice little room and the plainest presentable wardrobe, if one
isn't clever. If I had been clever it would have been quite different, I
dare say. I have been so frightened sometimes in the middle of the
night, when I wakened and thought about living to be sixty-five, that I
have lain and shaken all over. You see," her blush had so far
disappeared that she looked for the moment pale at the memory, "I had
nobody--nobody."

"And now you are going to be the Marchioness of Walderhurst," remarked
Lady Maria.

Emily's hands, which rested on her knee, wrung themselves together.

"That is what it seems impossible to believe," she said, "or to be
grateful enough for to--to--" and she blushed all over again.

"Say 'James'," put in Lady Maria, with a sinful if amiable sense of
comedy; "you will have to get accustomed to thinking of him as 'James'
sometimes, at all events."

But Emily did not say "James." There was something interesting in the
innocent fineness of her feeling for Lord Walderhurst. In the midst of
her bewildered awe and pleasure at the material splendours looming up in
her horizon, her soul was filled with a tenderness as exquisite as the
religion of a child. It was a combination of intense gratitude and the
guileless passion of a hitherto wholly unawakened woman--a woman who had
not hoped for love or allowed her thoughts to dwell upon it, and who
therefore had no clear understanding of its full meaning. She could not
have explained her feeling if she had tried, and she did not dream of
trying. If a person less inarticulate than herself had translated it to
her she would have been amazed and abashed. So would Lord Walderhurst
have been amazed, so would Lady Maria; but her ladyship's amazement
would have expressed itself after its first opening of the eyes, with a
faint elderly chuckle.

When Miss Fox-Seton had returned to town she had returned with Lady
Maria to South Audley Street. The Mortimer Street episode was closed, as
was the Cupps' house. Mrs. Cupp and Jane had gone to Chichester, Jane
leaving behind her a letter the really meritorious neatness of which was
blotted by two or three distinct tears. Jane respectfully expressed her
affectionate rapture at the wondrous news which "Modern Society" had
revealed to her before Miss Fox-Seton herself had time to do so.

"I am afraid, miss," she ended her epistle, "that I am not experienced
enough to serve a lady in a grand position, but hoping it is not a
liberty to ask it, if at any time your own maid should be wanting a
young woman to work under her, I should be grateful to be remembered.
Perhaps having learned your ways, and being a good needlewoman and fond
of it, might be a little recommendation for me."

"I _should_ like to take Jane for my maid," Emily had said to Lady
Maria. "Do you think I might make her do?"

"She would probably be worth half a dozen French minxes who would amuse
themselves by getting up intrigues with your footmen," was Lady Maria's
astute observation. "I would pay an extra ten pounds a year myself for
slavish affection, if it was to be obtained at agency offices. Send her
to a French hairdresser to take a course of lessons, and she will be
worth anything. To turn you out perfectly will be her life's ambition."

To Jane Cupp's rapture the next post brought her the following letter:--

DEAR JANE,--It is just like you to write such a nice letter to me, and I
can assure you I appreciated all your good wishes very much. I feel that
I have been most fortunate, and am, of course, very happy. I have spoken
to Lady Maria Bayne about you, and she thinks that you might make me a
useful maid if I gave you the advantage of a course of lessons in
hairdressing. I myself know that you would be faithful and interested
and that I could not have a more trustworthy young woman. If your mother
is willing to spare you, I will engage you. The wages would be
thirty-five pounds a year (and beer, of course) to begin with, and an
increase later as you became more accustomed to your duties. I am glad
to hear that your mother is so well and comfortable. Remember me to her
kindly.

Yours truly,

EMILY FOX-SETON

Jane Cupp trembled and turned pale with joy as she read her letter.

"Oh, mother!" she said, breathless with happiness. "And to think she is
almost a marchioness this very minute. I wonder if I shall go with her
to Oswyth Castle first, or to Mowbray, or to Hurst?"

"My word!" said Mrs. Cupp, "you are in luck, Jane, being as you'd rather
be a lady's maid than live private in Chichester. You needn't go out to
service, you know. Your uncle's always ready to provide for you."

"I know he is," answered Jane, a little nervous lest obstacles might be
put in the way of her achieving her long-cherished ambition. "And it's
kind of him, and I'm sure I'm grateful. But--though I wouldn't hurt his
feelings by mentioning it--it is more independent to be earning your own
living, and there's more _life_, you see, in waiting on a titled lady
and dressing her for drawing-rooms and parties and races and things, and
travelling about with her to the grand places she lives in and visits.
Why, mother, I've heard tell that the society in the servants' halls is
almost like high life. Butlers and footmen and maids to high people has
seen so much of the world and get such manners. Do you remember how
quiet and elegant Susan Hill was that was maid to Lady Cosbourne? And
she'd been to Greece and to India. If Miss Fox-Seton likes travel and
his lordship likes it, I may be taken to all sorts of wonderful places.
Just think!"

She gave Mrs. Cupp a little clutch in her excitement. She had always
lived in the basement kitchen of a house in Mortimer Street and had
never had reason to hope she might leave it. And now!

"You're right, Jane!" her mother said, shaking her head. "There's a
great deal in it, particular when you're young. There's a great deal in
it."

When the engagement of the Marquis of Walderhurst had been announced, to
the consternation of many, Lady Maria had been in her element. She was
really fine at times in her attitude towards the indiscreetly or
tactlessly inquiring. Her management of Lady Malfry in particular had
been a delightful thing. On hearing of her niece's engagement, Lady
Malfry had naturally awakened to a proper and well-behaved if belated
interest in her. She did not fling herself upon her breast after the
manner of worldly aunts in ancient comedies in which Cinderella attains
fortune. She wrote a letter of congratulation, after which she called at
South Audley Street, and with not too great obviousness placed herself
and her house at the disposal of such female relatives as required
protection during the period of their preparation for becoming
marchionesses. She herself could not have explained exactly how it was
that, without being put through any particular process, she understood,
before her call was half over, that Emily's intention was to remain with
Lady Maria Bayne and that Lady Maria's intention was to keep her. The
scene between the three was far too subtle to be of the least use upon
the stage, but it was a good scene, nevertheless. Its expression was
chiefly, perhaps, a matter of inclusion and exclusion, and may also have
been largely telepathic; but after it was over, Lady Maria chuckled
several times softly to herself, like an elderly bird of much humour,
and Lady Malfry went home feeling exceedingly cross.

She was in so perturbed a humour that she dropped her eyelids and looked
rather coldly down the bridge of her nose when her stupidly cheery
little elderly husband said to her,--

"Well, Geraldine?"

"I beg pardon," she replied. "I don't quite understand."

"Of course you do. How about Emily Fox-Seton?"

"She seems very well, and of course she is well satisfied. It would not
be possible for her to be otherwise. Lady Maria Bayne has taken her up."

"She is Walderhurst's cousin. Well, well! It will be an immense position
for the girl."

"Immense," granted Lady Malfry, with a little flush. A certain tone in
her voice conveyed that discussion was terminated. Sir George knew that
her niece was not coming to them and that the immense position would
include themselves but slightly.

Emily was established temporarily at South Audley Street with Jane Cupp
as her maid. She was to be married from Lady Maria's lean old arms, so
to speak. Her ladyship derived her usual epicurean enjoyment from the
whole thing,--from too obviously thwarted mothers and daughters; from
Walderhurst, who received congratulations with a civilly inexpressive
countenance which usually baffled the observer; from Emily, who was
overwhelmed by her emotions, and who was of a candour in action such as
might have appealed to any heart not adapted by the flintiness of its
nature to the macadamising of roads.

If she had not been of the most unpretentious nice breeding and
unaffected taste, Emily might have been ingenuously funny in her process
of transformation.

"I keep forgetting that I can afford things," she said to Lady Maria.
"Yesterday I walked such a long way to match a piece of silk, and when I
was tired I got into a penny bus. I did not remember until it was too
late that I ought to have called a hansom. Do you think," a shade
anxiously, "that Lord Walderhurst would mind?"

"Just for the present, perhaps, it would be as well that I should see
that you shop in the carriage," her ladyship answered with a small grin.
"When you are a marchioness you may make penny buses a feature of the
distinguished _insouciance_ of your character if you like. I shouldn't
myself, because they jolt and stop to pick up people, but you can, with
originality and distinction, if it amuses you."

"It doesn't," said Emily. "I hate them. I have longed to be able to take
hansoms. Oh! how I have _longed_--when I was tired."

The legacy left her by old Mrs. Maytham had been realised and deposited
as a solid sum in a bank. Since she need no longer hoard the income of
twenty pounds a year, it was safe to draw upon her capital for her
present needs. The fact made her feel comfortable. She could make her
preparations for the change in her life with a decent independence. She
would have been definitely unhappy if she had been obliged to accept
favours at this juncture. She felt as if she could scarcely have borne
it. It seemed as if everything conspired to make her comfortable as well
as blissfully happy in these days.

Lord Walderhurst found an interest in watching her and her methods. He
was a man who, in certain respects, knew himself very well and had few
illusions respecting his own character. He had always been rather given
to matter-of-fact analysis of his own emotions; and at Mallowe he had
once or twice asked himself if it was not disagreeably possible that the
first moderate glow of his St. Martin's summer might die away and leave
him feeling slightly fatigued and embarrassed by the new aspect of his
previously regular and entirely self-absorbed existence. You might think
that you would like to marry a woman and then you might realise that
there were objections--that even the woman herself, with all her
desirable qualities, might be an objection in the end, that any woman
might be an objection; in fact, that it required an effort to reconcile
oneself to the fact of a woman's being continually about. Of course the
arriving at such a conclusion, after one had committed oneself, would be
annoying. Walderhurst had, in fact, only reflected upon this possible
aspect of affairs _before_ he had driven over the heath to pick Emily
up. Afterwards he had, in some remote portion of his mentality, vaguely
awaited developments.

When he saw Emily day by day at South Audley Street, he found he
continued to like her. He was not clever enough to analyse her; he could
only watch her, and he always looked on at her with curiosity and a
novel sensation rather like pleasure. She wakened up at sight of him,
when he called, in a way that was attractive even to an unimaginative
man. Her eyes seemed to warm, and she often looked flushed and softly
appealing. He began to note vaguely that her dresses were better, and
oftener changed, than they had been at Mallowe. A more observant man
might have been touched by the suggestion that she was unfolding petal
by petal like a flower, and that each carefully chosen costume was a new
petal. He did not in the least suspect the reverent eagerness of her
care of herself as an object hoping to render itself worthy of his
qualities and tastes.

His qualities and tastes were of no exalted importance in themselves,
but they seemed so to Emily. It is that which by one chance or another
so commends itself to a creature as to incite it to the emotion called
love, which is really of importance, and which, not speaking in figures,
holds the power of life and death. Personality sometimes achieves this,
circumstances always aid it; but in all cases the result is the same and
sways the world it exists in--during its existence. Emily Fox-Seton had
fallen deeply and touchingly in love with this particular prosaic,
well-behaved nobleman, and her whole feminine being was absorbed in her
adoration of him. Her tender fancy described him by adjectives such as
no other human being would have assented to. She felt that he had
condescended to her with a generosity which justified worship. This was
not true, but it was true for her. As a consequence of this she thought
out and purchased her wardrobe with a solemnity of purpose such as might
well have been part of a religious ceremonial. When she consulted
fashion plates and Lady Maria, or when she ordered a gown at her
ladyship's dressmaker's, she had always before her mind, not herself,
but the Marchioness of Walderhurst--a Marchioness of Walderhurst whom
the Marquis would approve of and be pleased with. She did not expect
from him what Sir Bruce Norman gave to Lady Agatha.

Agatha and her lover were of a different world. She saw them
occasionally, not often, because the simple selfishness of young love so
absorbed them that they could scarcely realise the existence of other
persons than themselves. They were to be married, and to depart for
fairyland as soon as possible. Both were fond of travel, and when they
took ship together their intention was to girdle the world at leisure,
if they felt so inclined. They could do anything they chose, and were so
blissfully sufficient for each other that there was no reason why they
should not follow their every errant fancy.

The lines which had been increasing in Lady Claraway's face had
disappeared, and left her blooming with the beauty her daughters had
reproduced. This delightful marriage had smoothed away every difficulty.
Sir Bruce was the "most charming fellow in England." That fact acted as
a charm in itself, it seemed. It was not necessary to go into details as
to the mollifying of tradespeople and rearranging of the entire aspect
of life at Curzon Street. When Agatha and Emily Fox-Seton met in town
for the first time--it was in the drawing room at South Audley
Street--they clasped each other's hands with an exchange of entirely new
looks.

"You look so--so _well_, Miss Fox-Seton," said Agatha, with actual
tenderness.

If she had not been afraid of seeming a little rudely effusive she would
have said "handsome" instead of "well," for Emily was sweetly blooming.

"Happiness is becoming to you," she added. "May I say how _glad_ I am?"

"Thank you, thank you!" Emily answered. "Everything in the world seems
changed, doesn't it?"

"Yes, everything."

They stood and gazed into each other's eyes a few seconds, and then
loosed hands with a little laugh and sat down to talk.

It was, in fact, Lady Agatha who talked most, because Emily Fox-Seton
led her on and aided her to delicate expansion by her delight in all
that in these days made up her existence of pure bliss. It was as if an
old-time fairy story were being enacted before Emily's eyes. Agatha
without doubt had grown lovelier, she thought; she seemed even fairer,
more willowy, the forget-me-not eyes were of a happier blue, as
forget-me-nots growing by clear water-sides are bluer than those grown
in a mere garden. She appeared, perhaps, even a little taller, and her
small head had, if such a thing were possible, a prettier flower-like
poise. This, at least, Emily thought, and found her own happiness added
to by her belief in her fancy. She felt that nothing was to be wondered
at when she heard Agatha speak of Sir Bruce. She could not utter his
name or refer to any act of his without a sound in her voice which had
its parallel in the light floating haze of blush on her cheeks. In her
intercourse with the world in general she would have been able to
preserve her customary sweet composure, but Emily Fox-Seton was not the
world. She represented a something which was so primitively of the
emotions that one's heart spoke and listened to her. Agatha was
conscious that Miss Fox-Seton had seen at Mallowe--she could never quite
understand how it had seemed so naturally to happen--a phase of her
feelings which no one else had seen before. Bruce had seen it since, but
only Bruce. There had actually been a sort of confidence between them--a
confidence which had been like intimacy, though neither of them had been
effusive.

"Mamma is so happy," the girl said. "It is quite wonderful. And Alix and
Hilda and Millicent and Eve--oh! it makes such a difference to them. I
shall be able," with a blush which expressed a world of relieved
affection, "to give them so much pleasure. Any girl who marries happily
and--and well--can alter everything for her sisters, if she _remembers_.
You see, I shall have reason to remember. I know things from experience.
And Bruce is so kind, and gay, and proud of their prettiness. Just
imagine their excitement at all being bridesmaids! Bruce says we shall
be like a garden of spring flowers. I am so glad," her eyes suddenly
quite heavenly in their joyful relief, "that he is _young_!"

The next second the heavenly relieved look died away. The exclamation
had been involuntary. It had sprung from her memory of the days when she
had dutifully accepted, as her portion, the possibility of being smiled
upon by Walderhurst, who was two years older than her father, and her
swift realisation of this fact troubled her. It was indelicate to have
referred to the mental image even ever so vaguely.

But Emily Fox-Seton was glad too that Sir Bruce was young, that they
were all young, and that happiness had come before they had had time to
tire of waiting for it. She was so happy herself that she questioned
nothing.

"Yes. It is nice," she answered, and glowed with honest sympathy. "You
will want to do the same things. It is so agreeable when people who are
married like to do the same things. Perhaps you will want to go out a
great deal and to travel, and you could not enjoy it if Sir Bruce did
not."

She was not reflecting in the least upon domestic circles whose male
heads are capable of making themselves extremely nasty under stress of
invitations it bores them to accept, and the inclination of wives and
daughters to desire acceptance. She was not contemplating with any
premonitory regrets a future in which, when Walderhurst did not wish to
go out to dinner or disdained a ball, she should stay at home. Far from
it. She simply rejoiced with Lady Agatha, who was twenty-two marrying
twenty-eight.

"You are not like me," she explained further. "I have had to work so
hard and contrive so closely that _everything_ will be a pleasure to me.
Just to know that I _never_ need starve to death or go into the
workhouse is such a relief that--"

"Oh!" exclaimed Lady Agatha, quickly and involuntarily laying a hand on
hers, startled by the fact that she spoke as if referring to a wholly
matter-of-fact possibility.

Emily smiled, realising her feeling.

"Perhaps I ought not to have said that. I forgot. But such things are
possible when one is too old to work and has nothing to depend on. You
could scarcely understand. When one is very poor one is frightened,
because occasionally one cannot help thinking of it."

"But now--now! Oh! how different!" exclaimed Agatha, with heartfelt
earnestness.

"Yes. Now I need never be afraid. It makes me so grateful to--Lord
Walderhurst."

Her neck grew pink as she said it, just as Lady Maria had seen it grow
pink on previous occasions. Moderate as the words were, they expressed
ardour.

Lord Walderhurst came in half an hour later and found her standing
smiling by the window.

"You look particularly well, Emily. It's that white frock, I suppose.
You ought to wear a good deal of white," he said.

"I will," Emily answered. He observed that she wore the nice flush and
the soft appealing look, as well as the white frock. "I wish--"

Here she stopped, feeling a little foolish.

"What do you wish?"

"I wish I could do more to please you than wear white--or black--when
you like."

He gazed at her, always through the single eyeglass. Even the vaguest
approach to emotion or sentiment invariably made him feel stiff and shy.
Realising this, he did not quite understand why he rather liked it in
the case of Emily Fox-Seton, though he only liked it remotely and felt
his own inaptness a shade absurd.

"Wear yellow or pink occasionally," he said with a brief, awkward laugh.

What large, honest eyes the creature had, like a fine retriever's or
those of some nice animal one saw in the Zoo!

"I will wear anything you like," she said, the nice eyes meeting his,
not the least stupidly, he reflected, though women who were affectionate
often looked stupid. "I will do anything you like; you don't know what
you have done for me, Lord Walderhurst."

They moved a trifle nearer to each other, this inarticulate pair. He
dropped his eyeglass and patted her shoulder.

"Say 'Walderhurst' or 'James'--or--or 'my dear,'" he said. "We are going
to be married, you know." And he found himself going to the length of
kissing her cheek with some warmth.

"I sometimes wish," she said feelingly, "that it was the fashion to say
'my lord' as Lady Castlewood used to do in 'Esmond.' I always thought it
nice."

"Women are not so respectful to their husbands in these days," he
answered, with his short laugh. "And men are not so dignified."

"Lord Castlewood was not very dignified, was he?"

He chuckled a little.

"No. But his rank was, in the reign of Queen Anne. These are democratic
days. I'll call you 'my lady' if you like."

"Oh! No--no!" with fervour, "I wasn't thinking of anything like that."

"I know you were not," he reassured her. "You are not that kind of
woman."

"Oh! how _could_ I be?"

"_You_ couldn't," good-naturedly. "That's why I like you."

Then he began to tell her his reason for calling at this particular
hour. He came to prepare her for a visit from the Osborns, who had
actually just returned from India. Captain Osborn had chosen, or chance
had chosen for him, this particular time for a long leave. As soon as
she heard the name of Osborn, Emily's heart beat a little quickly. She
had naturally learned a good deal of detail from Lady Maria since her
engagement. Alec Osborn was the man who, since Lord Walderhurst's
becoming a widower, had lived in the gradually strengthening belief that
the chances were that it would be his enormous luck to inherit the title
and estates of the present Marquis of Walderhurst. He was not a very
near relation, but he was the next of kin. He was a young man and a
strong one, and Walderhurst was fifty-four and could not be called
robust. His medical man did not consider him a particularly good life,
though he was not often ill.

"He's not the kind of chap who lives to be a hundred and fifty. I'll say
that for him," Alec Osborn had said at mess after dinner had made him
careless of speech, and he had grinned not too pleasantly when he
uttered the words. "The only thing that would completely wipe my eye
isn't as likely to happen to him as to most men. He's unsentimental and
level headed, and doesn't like marriage. You can imagine how he's
chivied by women. A fellow in his position couldn't be let alone. But he
doesn't like marriage, and he's a man who knows jolly well what he likes
and what he doesn't. The only child died, and if he doesn't marry again,
I'm in a safe place. Good Lord! the difference it would make!" and his
grin extended itself.

It was three months after this that the Marquis of Walderhurst followed
Emily Fox-Seton out upon the heath, and finding her sitting footsore and
depressed in spirit beside the basket of Lady Maria's fish, asked her to
marry him.

When the news reached him, Alec Osborn went and shut himself up in his
quarters and blasphemed until his face was purple and big drops of sweat
ran down it. It was black bad luck--it was black bad luck, and it called
for black curses. What the articles of furniture in the room in the
bungalow heard was rather awful, but Captain Osborn did not feel that it
did justice to the occasion.

When her husband strode by her to his apartment, Mrs. Osborn did not
attempt to follow him. She had only been married two years, but she knew
his face too well; and she also knew too well all the meaning of the
fury contained in the words he flung at her as he hurled himself past
her.

"Walderhurst is going to be married!" Mrs. Osborn ran into her own room
and sat down clutching at her hair as she dropped her face in her little
dark hands. She was an Anglo-Indian girl who had never been home, and
had not had much luck in life at any time, and her worst luck had been
in being handed over by her people to this particular man, chiefly
because he was the next of kin to Lord Walderhurst. She was a curious,
passionate creature, and had been in love with him in her way. Her
family had been poor and barely decently disreputable. She had lived on
the outskirts of things, full of intense girlish vanity and yearnings
for social recognition, poorly dressed, passed over and snubbed by
people she aspired to know socially, seeing other girls with less beauty
and temperament enjoying flirtations with smart young officers, biting
her tongue out with envy and bitterness of thwarted spirit. So when
Captain Osborn cast an eye on her and actually began a sentimental
episode, her relief and excitement at finding herself counting as other
girls did wrought itself up into a passion. Her people were prompt and
sharp enough to manage the rest, and Osborn was married before he knew
exactly whither he was tending. He was not pleased with himself when he
wakened to face facts. He could only console himself for having been
cleverly led and driven into doing the thing he did not want to do, by
the facts that the girl was interesting and clever and had a good deal
of odd un-English beauty.

It was a beauty so un-English that it would perhaps appear to its
greatest advantage in the contrasts afforded by life in England. She was
so dark, of heavy hair and drooping-lidded eyes and fine grained skin,
and so sinuous of lithe, slim body, that among native beauties she
seemed not to be sufficiently separated by marks of race. She had
tumbled up from childhood among native servants, who were almost her
sole companions, and who had taught her curious things. She knew their
stories and songs, and believed in more of their occult beliefs than any
but herself knew.

She knew things which made her interesting to Alec Osborn, who had a
bullet head and a cruel lower jaw, despite a degree of the ordinary good
looks. The fact that his chances were good for becoming Marquis of
Walderhurst and taking her home to a life of English luxury and
splendour was a thing she never forgot. It haunted her in her sleep. She
had often dreamed of Oswyth Castle and of standing amidst great people
on the broad lawns her husband had described feelingly during tropical
days when they had sat together panting for breath. When there had been
mention made of the remote, awful possibility that Walderhurst might
surrender to the siege laid to him, she had turned sick at the thought.
It made her clench her hands until the nails almost pressed into the
skin of her palms. She could not bear it. She had made Osborn burst into
a big, harsh laugh one day when she had hinted to him that there were
occult things to be done which might prevent ill luck. He had laughed
first and scowled afterwards, cynically saying that she might as well be
working them up.

He had not come out to India followed by regrets and affection. He had
been a black sheep at home, and had rather been hustled away than
otherwise. If he had been a more admirable kind of fellow, Walderhurst
would certainly have made him an allowance; but his manner of life had
been such as the Marquis had no patience with in men of any class, and
especially abhorred in men whom the accident of birth connected with
good names. He had not been lavish in his demonstrations of interest in
the bullet-headed young man. Osborn's personableness was not of a kind
attractive to the unbiassed male observer. Men saw his cruel young jowl
and low forehead, and noticed that his eyes were small. He had a good,
swaggering military figure to which uniform was becoming, and a kind of
animal good looks which would deteriorate early. His colour would fix
and deepen with the aid of steady daily drinking, and his features would
coarsen and blur, until by the time he was forty the young jowl would
have grown heavy and would end by being his most prominent feature.

While he had remained in England, Walderhurst had seen him occasionally,
and had only remarked and heard unpleasant things of him,--a tendency to
selfish bad manners, reckless living, and low flirtation. He once saw
him on the top of a bus with his arm round the waist of an awful,
giggling shop-girl kind of person, who was adorned with tremendous
feathers and a thick fringe coming unfrizzled with the heat and sticking
out here and there in straight locks on her moist forehead. Osborn
thought that the arm business had been cleverly managed with such
furtiveness that no one could see it, but Walderhurst was driving
solemnly by in his respectable barouche, and he found himself gazing
through his monocle directly at his relative, and seeing, from the
street below, the point at which the young man's arm lost itself under
the profusely beaded short cape. A dull flush rose to his countenance,
and he turned away without showing any sign of recognition; but he was
annoyed and disgusted, because this particular kind of blatantly vulgar
bad taste was the sort of thing he loathed. It was the sort of thing
which made duchesses of women who did alluring "turns" at music halls or
sang suggestive songs in comic opera, and transformed into the
chatelaines of ancient castles young persons who had presided at the
ribbon counter. He saw as little as possible of his heir presumptive
after this, and if the truth were told, Captain Alec Osborn was
something of a factor in the affair of Miss Emily Fox-Seton. If
Walderhurst's infant son had lived, or if Osborn had been a refined,
even if dull, fellow, there are ten chances to one his lordship would
have chosen no second marchioness.

Captain Osborn's life in India had not ended in his making no further
debts. He was not a man to put the brake on in the matter of
self-indulgence. He got into debt so long as a shred of credit remained
to him, and afterwards he tried to add to his resources by cards and
betting at races. He made and lost by turn, and was in a desperate state
when he got his leave. He applied for it because he had conceived the
idea that his going home as a married man might be a good thing for him.
Hester, it seemed not at all improbable, might accomplish something with
Walderhurst. If she talked to him in her interesting semi-Oriental way,
and was fervid and picturesque in her storytelling, he might be
attracted by her. She had her charm, and when she lifted the heavy lids
of her long black eyes and fixed her gaze upon her hearer as she talked
about the inner side of native life, of which she knew such curious,
intimate things, people always listened, even in India, where the thing
was not so much of a novelty, and in England she might be a sort of
sensation.

Osborn managed to convey to her gradually, by a process of his own, a
great deal of what he wanted her to do. During the months before the
matter of the leave was quite decided, he dropped a word here and there
which carried a good deal of suggestion to a mind used to seizing on
passing intimations. The woman who had been Hester's Ayah when she was a
child had become her maid. She was a woman with a wide, silent
acquaintance with her own people. She was seldom seen talking to anyone
and seldom seemed to leave the house, but she always knew everything.
Her mistress was aware that if at any time she chose to ask her a
question about the secret side of things concerning black or white
peoples, she would receive information to be relied upon. She felt that
she could have heard from her many things concerning her husband's past,
present, and future, and that the matter of the probable succession was
fully comprehended by her.

When she called her into the room after recovering outwardly from her
hour of desperation, she saw that the woman was already aware of the
blow that had fallen upon the household. What they said to each other
need not be recorded here, but there was more in the conversation than
the mere words uttered, and it was one of several talks held before Mrs.
Osborn sailed for England with her husband.

"He may be led into taking into consideration the fact that he has cut
the ground from under a fellow's feet and left him dangling in the air,"
said Osborn to his wife. "Best thing will be to make friends with the
woman, hang her!"

"Yes, Alec, yes," Hester Osborn answered, just a little feverishly. "We
must make friends with her. They say she is a good sort and was
frightfully poor herself."

"She won't be poor now, hang her!" remarked Captain Osborn with added
fervour. "I should like to break her neck! I wonder if she rides?"

"I'm sure she has not been well enough off to do anything like that."

"Good idea to begin to teach her." And he laughed as he turned on his
heel and began to walk the deck with a fellow passenger.

It was these people Lord Walderhurst had come to prepare her for.

"Maria has told you about them, I know," he said. "I dare say she has
been definite enough to explain that I consider Osborn altogether
undesirable. Under the veneer of his knowledge of decent customs he is a
cad. I am obliged to behave civilly to the man, but I dislike him. If he
had been born in a low class of life, he would have been a criminal."

"Oh!" Emily exclaimed.

"Any number of people would be criminals if circumstances did not
interfere. It depends a good deal on the shape of one's skull."

"Oh!" exclaimed Emily again, "do you think so?"

She believed that people who were bad were bad from preference, though
she did not at all understand the preference. She had accepted from her
childhood everything she had ever heard said in a pulpit. That
Walderhurst should propound ideas such as ministers of the Church of
England might regard as heretical startled her, but he could have said
nothing startling enough to shake her affectionate allegiance.

"Yes, I do," he answered. "Osborn's skull is quite the wrong shape."

But when, a short time after, Captain Osborn brought the skull in
question into the room, covered in the usual manner with neatly brushed,
close-cropped hair, Emily thought it a very nice shape indeed. Perhaps a
trifle hard and round-looking and low of forehead, but not shelving or
bulging as the heads of murderers in illustrated papers generally did.
She owned to herself that she did not see what Lord Walderhurst
evidently saw, but then she did not expect of herself an intelligence
profound enough to follow his superior mental flights.

Captain Osborn was well groomed and well mannered, and his demeanour
towards herself was all that the most conventional could have demanded.
When she reflected that she herself represented in a way the possible
destruction of his hopes of magnificent fortune, she felt almost
tenderly towards him, and thought his easy politeness wonderful. Mrs.
Osborn, too! How interesting and how beautiful in an odd way Mrs. Osborn
was! Every movement of her exceeding slimness was curiously graceful.
Emily remembered having read novels whose heroines were described as
"undulating." Mrs. Osborn was undulating. Her long, drooping, and dense
black eyes were quite unlike other girls' eyes. Emily had never seen
anything like them. And she had such a lonely, slow, shy way of lifting
them to look at people. She was obliged to look up at tall Emily. She
seemed a schoolgirl as she stood near her. Emily was the kind of
mistaken creature whose conscience, awakening to unnecessary remorses,
causes its owner at once to assume all the burdens which Fate has laid
upon the shoulders of others. She began to feel like a criminal herself,
irrespective of the shape of her skull. Her own inordinate happiness and
fortune had robbed this unoffending young couple. She wished that it had
not been so, and vaguely reproached herself without reasoning the matter
out to a conclusion. At all events, she was remorsefully sympathetic in
her mental attitude towards Mrs. Osborn, and being sure that she was
frightened of her husband's august relative, felt nervous herself
because Lord Walderhurst bore himself with undated courtesy and kept his
monocle fixed in his eye throughout the interview. If he had let it drop
and allowed it to dangle in an unbiassed manner from its cord, Emily
would have felt more comfortable, because she was sure his demeanour
would have appeared a degree more encouraging to the Osborns.

"Are you glad to be in England again?" she asked Mrs. Osborn.

"I never was here before," answered the young woman. "I have never been
anywhere but in India."

In the course of the conversation she explained that she had not been a
delicate child, and also conveyed that even if she had been one, her
people could not have afforded to send her home. Instinct revealed to
Emily that she had not had many of the good things of life, and that she
was not a creature of buoyant spirits. The fact that she had spent a
good many hours of most of her young days in reflecting on her ill-luck
had left its traces on her face, particularly in the depths of her
slow-moving, black eyes.

They had come, it appeared, in the course of duty, to pay their respects
to the woman who was to be their destruction. To have neglected to do so
would have made them seem to assume an indiscreet attitude towards the
marriage.

"They can't like it, of course," Lady Maria summed them up afterwards,
"but they have made up their minds to lump it as respectably as
possible."

"I am _so_ sorry for them," said Emily.

"Of course you are. And you will probably show them all sorts of
indiscreet kindnesses, but don't be too altruistic, my good Emily. The
man is odious, and the girl looks like a native beauty. She rather
frightens me."

"I don't think Captain Osborn is odious," Emily answered. "And she _is_
pretty, you know. She is frightened of us, really."

Remembering days when she herself had been at a disadvantage with people
who were fortunate enough to be of importance, and recalling what her
secret tremor before them had been, Emily was very nice indeed to little
Mrs. Osborn. She knew from experience things which would be of use to
her--things about lodgings and things about shops. Osborn had taken
lodgings in Duke Street, and Emily knew the quarter thoroughly.
Walderhurst watched her being nice, through his fixed eyeglass, and he
decided that she had really a very good manner. Its goodness consisted
largely in its directness. While she never brought forth unnecessarily
recollections of the days when she had done other people's shopping and
had purchased for herself articles at sales marked 11-3/4_d_, she was
interestingly free from any embarrassment in connection with the facts.
Walderhurst, who had been much bored by himself and other people in time
past, actually found that it gave a fillip to existence to look on at a
woman who, having been one of the hardest worked of the genteel
labouring classes, was adapting herself to the role of marchioness by
the simplest of processes, and making a very nice figure at it too, in
her entirely unbrilliant way. If she had been an immensely clever woman,
there would have been nothing special in it. She was not clever at all,
yet Walderhurst had seen her produce effects such as a clever woman
might have laboured for and only attained by a stroke of genius. As, for
instance, when she had met for the first time after her engagement, a
certain particularly detestable woman of rank, to whom her relation to
Walderhurst was peculiarly bitter. The Duchess of Merwold had counted
the Marquis as her own, considering him fitted by nature to be the
spouse of her eldest girl, a fine young woman with projecting teeth, who
had hung fire. She felt Emily Fox-Seton's incomprehensible success to be
a piece of impudent presumption, and she had no reason to restrain the
expression of her sentiments so long as she conveyed them by methods of
inference and inclusion.

"You must let me congratulate you very warmly, Miss Fox-Seton," she
said, pressing her hand with maternal patronage. "Your life has changed
greatly since we last saw each other."

"Very greatly indeed," Emily flushed frankly in innocent gratitude as
she answered. "You are very kind. Thank you, thank you."

"Yes, a great change." Walderhurst saw that her smile was feline and
asked himself what the woman was going to say next. "The last time we
met you called to ask me about the shopping you were to do for me. Do
you remember? Stockings and gloves, I think."

Walderhurst observed that she expected Emily to turn red and show
herself at a loss before the difficulties of the situation. He was on
the point of cutting into the conversation and disposing of the matter
himself when he realised that Emily was neither gaining colour nor
losing it, but was looking honestly into her Grace's eyes with just a
touch of ingenuous regret.

"It was stockings," she said. "There were some marked down to one and
elevenpence halfpenny at Barratt's. They were really _quite_ good for
the price. And you wanted four pairs. And when I got there they were all
gone, and those at two and three were not the least bit better. I was so
disappointed. It was too bad!"

Walderhurst fixed his monocle firmly to conceal the fact that he was
verging upon a cynical grin. The woman was known to be the stingiest of
small great persons in London, her economies were noted, and this
incident was even better than many others society had already rejoiced
over. The picture raised in the minds of the hearers of her Grace foiled
in the purchase of stockings marked down to 1_s_. 11-1/2_d_. would be a
source of rapture for some time to come. And Emily's face! The regretful
kindness of it, the retrospective sympathy and candid feeling! It was
incredibly good!

"And she did it quite by accident!" he repeated to himself in his inward
glee. "She did it quite by accident! She's not clever enough to have
done it on purpose. What a brilliantly witty creature she would be if
she had invented it!"

As she had been able unreluctantly to recall her past upon this
occasion, so she was able to draw for Mrs. Osborn's benefit from the
experience it had afforded her. She wanted to make up to her, in such
ways as she could, for the ill turn she had inadvertently done her. As
she had at once ranged herself as an aid on the side of Lady Agatha, so
she ranged herself entirely without obtrusiveness on the side of the
Osborns.

"It's true that she's a good sort," Hester said when they went away.
"Her days of being hard up are not far enough away to be forgotten. She
hasn't any affectation, at any rate. It makes it easier to stand her."

"She looks like a strong woman," said Osborn. "Walderhurst got a good
deal for his money. She'll make a strapping British matron."

Hester winced and a dusky red shot up in her cheek. "So she will," she
sighed.

It was quite true, and the truer it was the worse for people who
despairingly hung on and were foolish enough to hope against hope.



Chapter Eight


The marriage of Lady Agatha came first, and was a sort of pageant. The
female writers for fashion papers lived upon it for weeks before it
occurred and for some time after. There were numberless things to be
written about it. Each flower of the garden of girls was to be
described, with her bridesmaid's dress, and the exquisite skin and eyes
and hair which would stamp her as the beauty of her season when she came
out. There yet remained five beauties in Lady Claraway's possession, and
the fifth was a baby thing of six, who ravished all beholders as she
toddled into church carrying her sister's train, aided by a little boy
page in white velvet and point lace.

The wedding was the most radiant of the year. It was indeed a fairy
pageant, of youth and beauty, and happiness and hope.

One of the most interesting features of the occasion was the presence of
the future Marchioness of Walderhurst, "the beautiful Miss Fox-Seton."
The fashion papers were very strenuous on the subject of Emily's beauty.
One of them mentioned that the height and pose of her majestic figure
and the cut of her profile suggested the Venus of Milo. Jane Cupp cut
out every paragraph she could find and, after reading them aloud to her
young man, sent them in a large envelope to Chichester. Emily,
faithfully endeavouring to adjust herself to the demands of her
approaching magnificence, was several times alarmed by descriptions of
her charms and accomplishments which she came upon accidentally in the
course of her reading of various periodicals.

The Walderhurst wedding was dignified and distinguished, but not
radiant. The emotions Emily passed through during the day--from her
awakening almost at dawn to the silence of her bedroom at South Audley
Street, until evening closed in upon her sitting in the private parlour
of an hotel in the company of the Marquis of Walderhurst--it would
require too many pages to describe.

Her first realisation of the day brought with it the physical
consciousness that her heart was thumping--steadily thumping, which is
quite a different matter from the ordinary beating--at the realisation
of what had come at last. An event which a year ago the wildest dream
could not have depicted for her was to-day an actual fact; a fortune
such as she would have thought of with awe if it had befallen another
woman, had befallen her unpretending self. She passed her hand over her
forehead and gasped as she thought of it.

"I hope I shall be able to get accustomed to it and not be a--a
disappointment," she said. "Oh!" with a great rising wave of a blush,
"how good of him! How can I _ever_--"

She lived through the events of the day in a sort of dream within a
dream. When Jane Cupp brought her tea, she found herself involuntarily
making a mental effort to try to look as if she was really awake. Jane,
who was an emotional creature, was inwardly so shaken by her feelings
that she herself had stood outside the door a few moments biting her
lips to keep them from trembling, before she dared entirely trust
herself to come in. Her hand was far from steady as she set down the
tray.

"Good morning, Jane," Emily said, by way of trying the sound of her
voice.

"Good morning, miss," Jane answered. "It's a beautiful morning, miss. I
hope--you are very well?"

And then the day had begun.

Afterwards it marched on with solemn thrill and stately movement through
hours of wondrous preparation for an imposing function, through the
splendid gravity of the function itself, accompanied by brilliant crowds
collected and looking on in a fashionable church, and motley crowds
collected to look on outside the edifice, the latter pushing and
jostling each other and commenting in more or less respectful if excited
undertones, but throughout devouring with awe-struck or envious eyes.
Great people whom Emily had only known through the frequent mention of
their names in newspapers or through their relationship or intimacy with
her patrons, came to congratulate her in her rôle of bride. She seemed
to be for hours the centre of a surging, changing crowd, and her one
thought was to bear herself with an outward semblance of composure. No
one but herself could know that she was saying internally over and over
again, to steady herself, making it all seem real, "I am being married.
This is my wedding. I am Emily Fox-Seton being married to the Marquis of
Walderhurst. For his sake I must not look stupid or excited. I am not in
a dream."

How often she said this after the ceremony was over and they returned to
South Audley Street, for the wedding breakfast could scarcely be
computed. When Lord Walderhurst helped her from the carriage and she
stepped on to the strip of red carpet and saw the crowd on each side of
it and the coachman and footmen with their big white wedding favours and
the line of other equipages coming up, her head whirled.

"That's the Marchioness," a young woman with a bandbox exclaimed,
nudging her companion. "That's 'er! Looks a bit pale, doesn't she?"

"But, oh Gawd! look at them di-monds an' pearls--jess look at 'em!"
cried the other. "Wish it was me."

The breakfast seemed splendid and glittering and long; people seemed
splendid and glittering and far off; and by the time Emily went to
change her bridal magnificence for her travelling costume she had borne
as much strain as she was equal to. She was devoutly grateful for the
relief of finding herself alone in her bedroom with Jane Cupp.

"Jane," she said, "you know exactly how many minutes I can dress in and
just when I must get into the carriage. Can you give me five minutes to
lie down quite flat and dab my forehead with eau de cologne? Five
minutes, Jane. But be quite sure."

"Yes, miss--I do beg pardon--my lady. You can have five--safe."

She took no more,--Jane went into the dressing-room and stood near its
door, holding the watch in her hand,--but even five minutes did her
good.

She felt less delirious when she descended the stairs and passed through
the crowds again on Lord Walderhurst's arm. She seemed to walk through a
garden in resplendent bloom. Then there were the red carpet once more,
and the street people, and the crowd of carriages and liveries, and big,
white favours.

Inside the carriage, and moving away to the echo of the street people's
cheer, she tried to turn and look at Lord Walderhurst with an unalarmed,
if faint, smile.

"Well," he said, with the originality which marked him, "it is really
over!"

"Yes," Emily agreed with him. "And I never can forget Lady Maria's
goodness."

Walderhurst gazed at her with a dawning inquiry in his mind. He himself
did not know what the inquiry was. But it was something a trifle
stimulating. It had something to do with the way in which she had
carried herself throughout the whole thing. Really few women could have
done it as well. The pale violet of her travelling costume which was
touched with sable was becoming to her fine, straight figure. And at the
moment her eyes rested on his with the suggestion of trustful appeal.
Despite the inelasticity of his mind, he vaguely realised his bridegroom
honours.

"I can begin now," he said with stiff lightness, if such a paradox can
be, "to address you as the man in Esmond addressed his wife. I can call
you 'my lady.'"

"Oh!" she said, still trying to smile, but quivering.

"You look very nice," he said. "Upon my word you do."

And kissed her trembling honest mouth almost as if he had been a
man--not quite--but almost.



Chapter Nine


They began the new life at Palstrey Manor, which was ancient and most
beautiful. Nothing Walderhurst owned was as perfect an example of olden
time beauty, and as wonderful for that reason. Emily almost wept before
the loveliness of it, though it would not have been possible for her to
explain or particularise the grounds for her emotion. She knew nothing
whatever of the venerable wonders of the architecture. To her the place
looked like an immense, low-built, rambling fairy palace--the palace of
some sleeping beauty during whose hundred years of slumber rich
dark-green creepers had climbed and overgrown its walls and towers,
enfolding and festooning them with leaves and tendrils and actual
branches. The huge park held an enchanted forest of trees; the long
avenue of giant limes, their writhen limbs arching and interlocking,
their writhen roots deep in velvet moss, was an approach suited to a
fairy story.

       *       *       *       *       *

During her first month at Palstrey Emily went about still in her dream.
It became more a dream every day. The old house was part of it, the
endless rooms, the wonderful corridors, the gardens with their
revelations of winding walks, labyrinths of evergreens, and grass paths
leading into beautiful unexpected places, where one suddenly came upon
deep, clear pools where water plants grew and slow carp had dreamed
centuries away. The gardens caused Emily to disbelieve in the existence
of Mortimer Street, but the house at times caused her to disbelieve in
herself. The picture gallery especially had this effect upon her. The
men and women, once as alive as her everyday self, now gazing down at
her from their picture frames sometimes made her heart beat as if she
stood in the presence of things eerie. Their strange, rich, ugly, or
beautiful garments, their stolid or fervid, ugly or beautiful, faces,
seemed to demand something of her; at least she had just enough
imagination to feel somewhat as if they did. Walderhurst was very kind
to her, but she was afraid she might bore him by the exceeding ignorance
of her questions about people whom he had known from his childhood as
his own kith and kin. It was not unlikely that one might have become so
familiar with a man in armour or a woman in a farthingale that questions
connected with them might seem silly. Persons whose ancestors had always
gazed intimately at them from walls might not unnaturally forget that
there were other people to whom they might wear only the far-away aspect
of numbers in catalogues of the Academy, or exhibitions of that order.

There was a very interesting catalogue of the Palstrey pictures, and
Emily found and studied it with deep interest. She cherished a touching
secret desire to know what might be discoverable concerning the women
who had been Marchionesses of Walderhurst before. None of them but
herself, she gathered, had come to their husbands from bed-sitting rooms
in obscure streets. There had been noble Hyrsts in the reign of Henry
I., and the period since then elapsed had afforded time for numerous
bridals. Lady Walderhurst was overcome at moments by her reflections
upon what lay behind and before her, but not being a complex person or
of fervid imagination, she was spared by nature the fevers of complex
emotions.

In fact, after a few weeks had passed she came out of her dream and
found her happiness enduring and endurable. Each day's awakening was a
delight to her, and would probably be so to the end of her existence,
absolutely because she was so sane and uncomplex a creature. To be
deftly assisted in her dressing by Jane Cupp, and to know that each
morning she might be fittingly and becomingly attired without anxiety as
to where her next gown was to come from, was a lovely thing. To enjoy
the silent, perfect workings of the great household, to drive herself or
be driven, to walk and read, to loiter through walled gardens and
hothouses at will,--such things to a healthy woman with an unobscured
power of enjoyment were luxuries which could not pall.

Walderhust found her an actual addition to his comfort. She was never in
the way. She seemed to have discovered the trick of coming and going
undisturbingly. She was docile and affectionate, but not in the least
sentimental. He had known men whose first years of marriage, not to
speak of the first months, had been rendered unbearable by the fact that
their wives were constantly demanding or expecting the expression of
sentiments which unsentimental males had not at their fingers' ends. So
the men had been annoyed or bored, and the women had been dissatisfied.
Emily demanded nothing of the sort, and was certainly not dissatisfied.
She looked very handsome and happy. Her looks positively improved, and
when people began to call and she to pay visits, she was very much
liked. He had certainly been quite right in deciding to ask her to marry
him. If she had a son, he should congratulate himself greatly. The more
he saw of Osborn the more he disliked him. It appeared that there was a
prospect of a child there.

This last was indeed true, and Emily had been much touched and awakened
to sympathy. It had gradually become revealed to her that the Osborns
were poorer than they could decently admit. Emily had discovered that
they could not even remain in the lodgings in Duke Street, though she
did not know the reason, which was that Captain Osborn had been obliged
to pay certain moneys to stave off a scandal not entirely unconnected
with the young woman his arm had encircled the day Walderhurst had seen
him on the top of the bus. He was very well aware that if he was to
obtain anything from Lord Walderhurst, there were several things which
must be kept entirely dark. Even a scandal belonging to the past could
be made as unpleasant as an error of to-day. Also the young woman of the
bead cape knew how to manage him. But they must remove to cheaper
lodgings, and the rooms in Duke Street had been far from desirable.

Lady Walderhurst came in one morning from a walk, with a fresh colour
and bright eyes, and before taking off her hat went to her husband's
study.

"May I come in?"

Walderhurst had been writing some uninteresting letters and looked up
with a smile.

"Certainly," he answered. "What a colour you have! Exercise agrees with
you. You ought to ride."

"That was what Captain Osborn said. If you don't mind, I should like to
ask you something."

"I don't mind. You are a reasonable woman, Emily. One's safe with you."

"It is something connected with the Osborns."

"Indeed!" chilling slightly. "I don't care about them, you know."

"You don't dislike her, do you?"

"No-o, not exactly."

"She's--the truth is, she is not at all well," with a trifle of
hesitance; "she ought to be better taken care of than she is in
lodgings, and they are obliged to take very cheap ones."

"If he had been a more respectable fellow his circumstances would have
been different," rather stiffly.

Emily felt alarmed. She had not dreamed of the temerity of any remark
suggestive of criticism.

"Yes," hastily, "of course. I am sure you know best; but--I thought
perhaps--"

Walderhurst liked her timidity. To see a fine, tall, upstanding creature
colour in that way was not disagreeable when one realised that she
coloured because she feared she might offend one.

"What did you think 'perhaps'?" was his lenient response.

Her colour grew warmer, but this time from a sense of relief, because he
was evidently not as displeased as he might have been.

"I took a long walk this morning," she said. "I went through the High
Wood and came out by the place called The Kennel Farm. I was thinking a
good deal of poor Mrs. Osborn because I had heard from her this morning,
and she seemed so unhappy. I was looking at her letter again when I
turned into the lane leading to the house. Then I saw that no one was
living there, and I could not help going in to look--it is such a
delightful old building, with its queer windows and chimneys, and the
ivy which seems never to have been clipped. The house is so roomy and
comfortable--I peeped in at windows and saw big fireplaces with benches
inside them. It seems a pity that such a place should not be lived in
and--well, I thought how _kind_ it would be of you to lend it to the
Osborns while they are in England."

"It would indeed be kind," remarked his lordship, without fervour.

Her momentary excitement led Emily to take the liberty of putting out
her hand to touch his. She always felt as if connubial familiarities
were rather a liberty; at least she had not, so far, been able to
overcome a feeling rather of that order. And this was another thing
Walderhurst by no means disliked. He himself was not aware that he was a
man with a good deal of internal vanity which enjoyed soothing food. In
fact, he had not a sufficiently large brain to know very much about
himself or to be able to analyse his reasons for liking or disliking
people or things. He thought he knew his reasons for his likes and
dislikes, but he was frequently very far away from the clear, impersonal
truth about them. Only the brilliant logic and sensitiveness of genius
really approaches knowledge of itself, and as a result it is usually
extremely unhappy. Walderhurst was never unhappy. He was sometimes
dissatisfied or annoyed, but that was as far as his emotions went.

Being pleased by the warm touch of Emily's hand, he patted her wrist and
looked agreeably marital.

"The place was built originally for a family huntsman, and the pack was
kept there. That is why it is called The Kennel Farm. When the last
lease fell out it remained unlet because I don't care for an ordinary
tenant. It's the kind of house that is becoming rare, and the bumpkin
farmer and his family don't value antiquities."

"If it were furnished as it _could_ be furnished," said Emily, "it would
be _beautiful_. One _can_ get old things in London if one can afford
them. I've seen them when I've been shopping. They are not cheap, but
you can get them if you really search."

"Would you like to furnish it?" Walderhurst inquired. The consciousness
that he could, if he chose, do the utmost thing of its kind in this way,
at the moment assumed a certain proportion of interest to him under the
stimulation of the wonder and delight which leaped into Emily's eyes as
the possibility confronted her. Having been born without imagination,
his wealth had not done for him anything out of the ordinary every-day
order.

"Would I _like_ to do it? Oh, _dear_!" she exclaimed. "Why, in all my
life I have never _dreamed_ of being able to do such things."

That, of course, was true, he reflected, and the fact added to his
appreciation of the moment. There were, of course, many people to whom
it would be impossible to contemplate the spending of a sum of money of
any importance in the indulgence of a wish founded on mere taste. He had
not thought of the thing particularly in detail before, and now that he
realised the significance of the fact as a fact, Emily had afforded him
a new sensation.

"You may do it now, if you wish," he said. "I once went over the place
with an architect, and he said the whole thing could be made comfortable
and the atmosphere of the period wholly retained for about a thousand
pounds. It is not really dilapidated and it is worth saving. The gables
and chimneys are very fine. I will attend to that, and you can do the
rest in your own way."

"It may take a good deal of money to buy the old things," gasped Emily.
"They are not cheap in these days. People have found out that they are
wanted."

"It won't cost twenty thousand pounds," Walderhurst answered. "It is a
farm-house after all, and you are a practical woman. Restore it. You
have my permission."

Emily put her hands over her eyes. This was being the Marchioness of
Walderhurst, and made Mortimer Street a thing still more incredible.
When she dropped her hands, she laughed even a trifle hysterically.

"I _couldn't_ thank you," she said. "It is as I said. I never quite
believed there were people who were able to think of doing such things."

"There are such people," he said. "You are one of them."

"And--and--" She put it to him with a sudden recollection of the thing
her emotions had momentarily swept away. "Oh! I must not forget, because
I am so pleased. When it is furnished--"

"Oh! the Osborns? Well, we will let them have it for a few months, at
any rate."

"They will be so _thankful_," emotionally. "You will be doing them
_such_ a favour."

"I am doing it for you, not for them. I like to see you pleased."

She went to take off her hat with moisture in her eyes, being
overpowered by his munificence. When she reached her room she walked
about a little, because she was excited, and then sat down to think of
the relief her next letter would carry to Mrs. Osborn. Suddenly she got
up, and, going to her bedside, knelt down. She respectfully poured forth
devout thanks to the Deity she appealed to when she aided in the
intoning of the Litany on Sundays. Her conception of this Power was of
the simplest conventional nature. She would have been astonished and
frightened if she had been told that she regarded the Omnipotent Being
as possessing many of the attributes of the Marquis of Walderhurst. This
was, in fact, true without detracting from her reverence in either case.



Chapter Ten

The Osborns were breakfasting in their unpleasant sitting-room in Duke
Street when Lady Walderhurst's letter arrived. The toast was tough and
smoked, and the eggs were of the variety labelled "18 a shilling" in the
shops; the apartment was also redolent of kippered herring, and Captain
Osborn was scowling over the landlady's weekly bill when Hester opened
the envelope stamped with a coronet. (Each time Emily wrote a note and
found herself confronting the coronet on the paper, she blushed a little
and felt that she must presently awake from her dream.) Mrs. Osborn
herself was looking far from amiable. She was ill and nervous and
irritable, and had, in fact, just been crying and wishing that she was
dead, which had given rise to unpleasantness between herself and her
husband, who was not in the mood to feel patient with nerves.

"Here's one from the Marchioness," she remarked slightingly.

"I have had none from the Marquis," sneered Osborn. "He might have
condescended a reply--the cold-blooded beggar!"

Hester was reading her letter. As she turned the first page her
expression changed. As has previously been suggested, the epistolary
methods of Lady Walderhurst were neither brilliant nor literary, and yet
Mrs. Osborn seemed to be pleased by what she read. During the reading of
a line or so she wore an expression of slowly questioning wonder, which,
a little later on, settled into relief.

"I can only say I think it's very decent of them," she ejaculated at
last; "really decent!"

Alec Osborn looked up, still scowlingly.

"I don't see any cheque," he observed. "That would be the most decent
thing. It's the thing we want most, with this damned woman sending in
bills like this for the fourth-rate things we live on, and for her
confounded tenth-rate rooms."

"This is better than cheques. It means our having something we couldn't
hope for cheques enough to pay for. They are offering to lend us a
beautiful old place to live in for the rest of our stay."

"What!" Osborn exclaimed. "Where?"

"Near Palstrey Manor, where they are staying now."

"Near Palstrey! How near?" He had been slouching in his chair and now
sat up and leaned forward on the table. He was eager.

Hester referred to the letter again.

"She doesn't say. It is a sort of antiquity, I gather. It's called The
Kennel Farm. Have you ever been to Palstrey?"

"Not as a guest." He was generally somewhat sardonic when he spoke of
anything connected with Walderhurst. "But once I was in the nearest
county town by chance and rode over. By Jove!" starting a little, "I
wonder if it can be a rum old place I passed and reined in to have a
look at. I hope it is."

"Why?"

"It's near enough to the Manor to be convenient."

"Do you think," hesitating, "that we shall see much of them?"

"We shall if we manage things decently. She likes you, and she's the
kind of woman to be sympathising and make a fuss over another
woman--particularly one who is under the weather and can be
sentimentalised over."

Hester was pushing crumbs about on the tablecloth with her knife, and a
dull red showed itself on her cheek.

"I am not going to make capital of--circumstances," she said sullenly.
"I won't."

She was not a woman easily managed, and Osborn had had reason on more
than one occasion to realise a certain wicked stubbornness in her. There
was a look in her eye now which frightened him. It was desperately
necessary that she should be kept in a tractable mood. As she was a girl
with affections, and he was a man without any, he knew what to do.

He got up and went to her side, putting his arm round her shoulders as
he sat in a chair near her. "Now, little woman," he said. "Now! For
God's sake don't take it that way. Don't think I don't understand how
you feel."

"I don't believe you know anything about the way I feel," she said,
setting her narrow white teeth and looking more like a native woman than
he had ever seen her. A thing which did not aid his affection for her,
such as it was, happened to be that in certain moods she suggested a
Hindoo beauty to him in a way which brought back to him memories of the
past he did not care to have awakened.

"Yes I do, yes I do," he protested, getting hold of her hand and trying
to make her look at him. "There are things such a woman as you can't
help feeling. It's because you feel them that you must be on your
mettle--Lord knows you've got pluck enough--and stand by a fellow now.
What shall I do, my God, if you don't?"

He was, in fact, in such straits that the ring of emotion in his voice
was not by any means assumed.

"My God!" he repeated, "what shall we all do if you won't?"

She lifted her eyes then to look at him. She was in a sufficiently
nervous condition to be conscious that tears were always near.

"Are there worse things than you have told me?" she faltered.

"Yes, worse things than it would be fair to bother you with. I don't
want you to be tormented. I was a deuced fool before I met you and began
to run straight. Things pile in now that would have lain quiet enough if
Walderhurst had not married. Hang it all! he ought to do the decent
thing by me. He owes something to the man who may stand in his shoes,
after all."

Hester lifted her slow eyes again.

"You've not much of a chance now," she said. "She's a fine healthy
woman."

Osborn sprang up and paced the floor, set upon by a sudden spasm of
impotent rage. He snapped his teeth rather like a dog.

"Oh! curse her!" he gave forth. "The great, fresh-coloured lumping
brute! What did she come into it for? Of all the devilish things that
can happen to a man, the worst is to be born to the thing I was born to.
To know through your whole life that you're just a stone's-throw from
rank and wealth and splendour, and to have to live and look on as an
outsider. Upon my word, I've felt more of an outsider just because of
it. There's a dream I've had every month or so for years. It's a dream
of opening a letter that tells me he's dead, or of a man coming into the
room or meeting me in the street and saying suddenly, 'Walderhurst died
last night, Walderhurst died last night!' They're always the same words,
'Walderhurst died last night!' And I wake up shaking and in a cold sweat
for joy at the gorgeous luck that's come at last."

Hester gave a low cry like a little howl, and dropped her head on her
arms on the table among the cups and saucers.

"She'll have a son! She'll have a son!" she cried. "And then it won't
matter whether _he_ dies or not."

"Ough!" was the sound wrenched from Osborn's fury. "And our son might
have been in it. Ours might have had it all! Damn--damn!"

"He won't,--he won't now, even if he lives to be born," she sobbed, and
clutched at the dingy tablecloth with her lean little hands.

It was hard on her. She had had a thousand feverish dreams he had never
heard of. She had lain awake hours at night and stared with wide-open
eyes at the darkness, picturing to her inner soul the dream of splendour
that she would be part of, the solace for past miseries, the high
revenges for past slights that would be hers after the hour in which she
heard the words Osborn had just quoted, "Walderhurst died last night!"
Oh! if luck had only helped them! if the spells her Ayah had taught her
in secret had only worked as they would have worked if she had been a
native woman and had really used them properly! There was a spell she
had wrought once which Ameerah had sworn to her was to be relied on. It
took ten weeks to accomplish its end. In secret she had known of a man
on whom it had been worked. She had found out about it partly from the
remote hints which had aided her half knowledge of strange things and by
keeping a close watch. The man had died--he had died. She herself, and
with her own eyes had seen him begin to ail, had heard of his fevers and
pains and final death. He had died. She knew that. And she had tried the
thing herself in dead secrecy. And at the fifth week, just as with the
native who had died, she heard that Walderhurst was ill. During the next
four weeks she was sick with the tension of combined horror and delight.
But he did not die in the tenth week. They heard that he had gone to
Tangiers with a party of notable people, and that his "slight"
indisposition had passed, leaving him in admirable health and spirits.

Her husband had known nothing of her frenzy. She would not have dared to
tell him. There were many things she did not tell him. He used to laugh
at her native stories of occult powers, though she knew that he had seen
some strange things done, as most foreigners had. He always explained
such things contemptuously on grounds which presupposed in the
performers of the mysteries powers of agility, dexterity, and universal
knowledge quite as marvellous as anything occult could have been. He did
not like her to show belief in the "tricks of the natives," as he called
them. It made a woman look a fool, he said, to be so credulous.

During the last few months a new fever had tormented her. Feelings had
awakened in her which were new. She thought things she had never thought
before. She had never cared for children or suspected herself of being
the maternal woman. But Nature worked in her after her weird fashion.
She began to care less for some things and more for others. She cared
less for Osborn's moods and was better able to defy them. He began to be
afraid of her temper, and she began to like at times to defy his. There
had been some fierce scenes between them in which he had found her meet
with a flare of fury words she would once have been cowed by. He had
spoken one day with the coarse slightingness of a selfish, irritable
brute, of the domestic event which was before them. He did not speak
twice.

She sprang up before him and shook her clenched fist in his face, so
near that he started back.

"Don't say a word!" she cried. "Don't dare--don't dare. I tell you--look
out, if you don't want to be killed."

During the outpouring of her frenzy he saw her in an entirely new light
and made discoveries. She would fight for her young, as a tigress fights
for hers. She was nursing a passion of secret feeling of which he had
known nothing. He had not for a moment suspected her of it. She had not
seemed that kind of girl. She had been of the kind that cares for finery
and social importance and the world's favour, not for sentiments.

On this morning of the letter's arrival he watched her sobbing and
clutching the tablecloth, and reflected. He walked up and down and
pondered. There were a lot of things to be thought over.

"We may as well accept the invitation at once," he said. "Grovel as much
as you choose. The more the better. They'll like it."



Chapter Eleven


The Osborns arrived at The Kennel Farm on a lovely rainy morning. The
green of the fields and trees and hedges was sweetly drenched, and the
flowers held drops which sparkled when the fitful sun broke forth and
searched for the hidden light in them. A Palstrey carriage comfortably
met them and took them to their destination.

As they turned into the lane, Osborn looked out at the red gables and
chimneys showing themselves among the trees.

"It's the old place I looked at," he said, "and a jolly old place it
is."

Hester was drinking in the pure sweetness of the fresh air and filling
her soul with the beauty of such things as she had never seen before. In
London she had grown hopeless and sick of spirit. The lodgings in Duke
Street, the perpetual morning haddock and questionable eggs and unpaid
bills, had been evil things for her. She had reached a point at which
she had felt she could bear them no longer. Here, at all events, there
would be green trees and clear air, and no landlady. With no rent to
pay, there would be freedom from one torment at least.

She had not expected much more than this freedom, however. It had seemed
highly probable that there might be discomforts in an ancient farmhouse
of the kind likely to be lent to impecunious relatives.

But before they crossed the threshold it was plain to her that, for some
reason, they had been given more. The old garden had been put in
order--a picturesque and sweet disorderly order, which had allowed
creepers to luxuriate and toss, and flowers to spring out of crannies,
and clumps of things to mass themselves without restraint.

The girl's wretched heart lifted itself as they drove up to the
venerable brick porch which had somewhat the air of a little church
vestibule. Through the opened door she saw a quaint comfort she had not
dreamed of. She had not the knowledge of things which would have told
her what wonders Emily had done with the place, but she could see that
its quaint furnishings were oddly beautiful in their harmony. The heavy
chairs and benches and settles seemed to have been part of centuries of
farm-house life, and to belong to the place as much as the massive beams
and doors.

Hester stood in the middle of the hall and looked about her. Part of it
was oak panelled and part was whitewashed. There were deep, low windows
cut in the thick walls.

"I never saw anything the least like it," she said.

"You wouldn't expect to see anything like it in India," her husband
answered. "And you won't find many places like it in England. I should
like a look at the stables."

He went out almost immediately and took the look in question, finding
the result unexpectedly satisfactory. Walderhurst had lent him a decent
horse to ride, and there was a respectable little cart for Hester.
Palstrey Manor had "done them" very well. This was a good deal more than
he had expected. He knew such hospitality would not have been shown him
if he had come to England unmarried. Consequently his good luck was
partly a result of Hester's existence in his life. At the same time
there awakened in him a consciousness that Hester would not have been
likely to produce such results unless in combination with another
element in the situation,--the element of another woman who was
sympathetic and had some power,--the new Lady Walderhurst, in fact.

"And yet, confound her--confound her!" he thought, as he walked into the
loose box to look the mare over and pat her sleekness.

The relations which established themselves between Palstrey and The
Kennel Farm were marked by two characteristic features. One of these was
that Lord Walderhurst did not develop any warmer interest in the
Osborns, and that Lady Walderhurst did. Having acceded to Emily's
wishes, and really behaved generously in the matter of providing for his
heir presumptive and his wife, Lord Walderhurst felt impelled to no
further demonstration of feeling.

"I don't like him any better than I did," he remarked to Emily. "And I
cannot say that Mrs. Osborn attracts me. Of course there is a reason why
a kind-hearted woman like yourself should be specially good to her just
now. Do anything you wish for them while they are in the neighbourhood.
But as for me, the fact that a man is one's heir presumptive is not
enough in itself alone to endear him to one, rather the contrary."

Between these two it is to be confessed there existed that rancour which
is not weakened by the fact that it remains unexpressed and lurks in the
deeps of the inward being. Walderhurst would not have been capable of
explaining to himself that the thing he chiefly disliked in this robust,
warm-blooded young man was that when he met him striding about with his
gun over his shoulder and a keeper behind him, the almost unconscious
realisation of the unpleasant truth that he was striding over what might
prove to be his own acres, and shooting birds which in the future he
would himself possess the right to preserve, to invite other people to
shoot, to keep less favoured persons from shooting, as lord of the
Manor. This was a truth sufficiently irritating to accentuate all his
faults of character and breeding.

Emily, whose understanding of his nature developed with every day of her
life, grew into a comprehension of this by degrees. Perhaps her greatest
leap forward was taken on the day when, as he was driving her in the
cart which had picked her up on the moor, they saw Osborn tramping
through a cover with his gun. He did not see them, and a shade of
irritation swept Walderhurst's face.

"He seems to feel very much at home," he commented.

Then he was silent for a space during which he did not look pleased.

"If he were my son," he said, "it would be a different matter. If
Audrey's child had lived--"

He stopped and gave the tall mare a light cut with his whip. He was
evidently annoyed with himself for having spoken.

A hot wave of colour submerged Emily. She felt it rush over her whole
body. She turned her face away, hoping Walderhurst would not observe
her. This was the first time she had heard him utter his dead wife's
name. She had never heard anyone speak it. Audrey had evidently not been
a much-beloved or regretted person. But she had had a son.

Her primitive soul had scarcely dared to approach, even with awe, the
thought of such a possibility for herself. As in the past she had not
had the temerity to dream of herself as a woman who possessed
attractions likely to lead to marriage, so she was mentally restrained
in these days. There was something spinster-like in the tenor of her
thoughts. But she would have laid down her life for this dull man's
happiness. And of late she had more than once blamed herself for
accepting so much, unthinkingly.

"I did not realise things properly," she had said to herself in humble
pain. "I ought to have been a girl, young and strong and beautiful. His
sacrifice was too great, it was immense."

It had been nothing of the sort. He had pleased himself and done what
was likely to tend, and had tended, altogether to his own ease and
comfort. In any case Emily Fox-Seton was a fine creature, and only
thirty-four, and with Alec Osborn at the other side of the globe the
question of leaving an heir had been less present and consequently had
dwindled in importance.

The nearness of the Osborns fretted him just now. If their child was a
son, he would be more fretted still. He was rather glad of a
possibility, just looming, of his being called away from England through
affairs of importance.

He had spoken to Emily of this possibility, and she had understood that,
as his movements and the length of his stay would be uncertain, she
would not accompany him.

"There is one drawback to our marriage," he said.

"Is it--is it anything I can remove?" Emily asked.

"No, though you are responsible for it. People seldom can remove the
drawbacks they are responsible for. You have taught me to miss you.",

"Have I--have I?" cried Emily. "Oh! I _am_ happy!"

She was so happy that she felt that she must pass on some of her good
fortune to those who had less. She was beautifully kind to Hester
Osborn. Few days passed without the stopping of a Walderhurst carriage
before the door of The Kennel Farm. Sometimes Emily came herself to take
Mrs. Osborn to drive, sometimes she sent for her to come to lunch and
spend the day or night at Palstrey. She felt an interest in the young
woman which became an affection. She would have felt interested in her
if there had not existed a special reason to call forth sympathy. Hester
had many curious and new subjects for conversation. Emily liked her
descriptions of Indian life and her weird little stories of the natives.
She was charmed with Ameerah, whose nose rings and native dress,
combining themselves with her dark mystic face, rare speech, and
gliding, silent movements, awakened awe in the rustics and mingled
distrust and respect in the servants' hall at Palstrey.

"She's most respectably behaved, my lady, though foreign and strange in
her manners," was Jane Cupp's comment. "But she has a way of looking at
a person--almost stealthy--that's upset me many a time when I've noticed
it suddenly. They say that she knows things, like fortune-telling and
spells and love potions. But she will only speak of them quite secret."

Emily gathered that Jane Cupp was afraid of the woman, and kept a
cautious eye upon her.

"She is a very faithful servant, Jane," she answered. "She is devoted to
Mrs. Osborn."

"I am sure she is, my lady. I've read in books about the faithfulness of
black people. They say they're more faithful than white ones."

"Not more faithful than _some_ white ones," said Lady Walderhurst with
her good smile. "Ameerah is not more faithful than you, I'm very sure."

"Oh, my lady!" ejaculated Jane, turning red with pleasure. "I do hope
not. I shouldn't like to think she could be."

In fact the tropic suggestion of the Ayah's personality had warmed the
imagination of the servants' hall, and there had been much talk of many
things, of the Osborns as well as of their servants, and thrilling
stories of East Indian life had been related by Walderhurst's man, who
was a travelled person. Captain Osborn had good sport on these days, and
sport was the thing he best loved. He was of the breed of man who can
fish, hunt, or shoot all day, eat robust meals and sleep heavily all
night; who can do this every day of a year, and in so doing reach his
highest point of desire in existence. He knew no other aspirations in
life than such as the fortunes of a man like Walderhurst could put him
in possession of. Nature herself had built him after the model of the
primeval type of English country land-owner. India with her blasting and
stifling hot seasons and her steaming rains gave him nothing that he
desired, and filled him with revolt against Fate every hour of his life.
His sanguine body loathed and grew restive under heat. At The Kennel
Farm, when he sprang out of his bed in the fresh sweetness of the
morning and plunged into his tub, he drew every breath with a physical
rapture. The air which swept in through the diamond-paned, ivy-hung
casements was a joy.

"Good Lord!" he would cry out to Hester through her half-opened door,
"what mornings! how a man _lives_ and feels the blood rushing through
his veins! Rain or shine, it's all the same to me. I can't stay indoors.
Just to tramp through wet or dry heather, or under dripping or shining
trees, is enough. How can one believe one has ever lain sweating with
one's tongue lolling out, and listened to the whining creak of the
punkah through nights too deadly hot to sleep in! It's like remembering
hell while one lives in Paradise."

"We shan't live in Paradise long," Hester said once with some
bitterness. "Hell is waiting for us."

"Damn it! don't remind a man. There are times when I don't believe it."
He almost snarled the answer. It was true that his habit was to enhance
the pleasure of his days by thrusting into the background all
recollections of the reality of any other existence than that of the
hour. As he tramped through fern and heather he would remember nothing
but that there was a chance--there was chance, good Lord! After a man
not over strong reached fifty-four or five, there were more chances than
there had been earlier.

After hours spent in such moods, it was not pleasant to come by accident
upon Walderhurst riding his fine chestnut, erect and staid, and be
saluted by the grave raising of his whip to his hat. Or to return to the
Farm just as the Palstrey barouche turned in at the gate with Lady
Walderhurst sitting in it glowing with health and that enjoyable
interest in all things which gave her a kind of radiance of eye and
colour.

She came at length in a time when she did not look quite so radiant.
This, it appeared, was from a reason which might be regarded as natural
under the circumstances. A more ardent man than Lord Walderhurst might
have felt that he could not undertake a journey to foreign lands which
would separate him from a wife comparatively new. But Lord Walderhurst
was not ardent, and he had married a woman who felt that he did all
things well--that, in fact, a thing must be well because it was his
choice to do it. His journey to India might, it was true, be a matter of
a few months, and involved diplomatic business for which a certain
unimpeachable respectability was required. A more brilliant man, who had
been less respectable in the most decorous British sense, would not have
served the purpose of the government.

Emily's skin had lost a shade of its healthful freshness, it struck
Hester, when she saw her. There was a suggestion of fulness under her
eyes. Yet with the bright patience of her smile she defied the remote
suspicion that she had shed a tear or so before leaving home. She
explained the situation with an affectionally reverent dwelling upon the
dignity of the mission which would temporarily bereave her of her mate.
Her belief in Walderhurst's intellectual importance to the welfare of
the government was a complete and touching thing.

"It will not be for very long," she said, "and you and I must see a
great deal of each other. I am so glad you are here. You know how one
misses--" breaking off with an admirable air of determined cheer--"I
must not think of that."

Walderhurst congratulated himself seriously during the days before his
departure. She was so exactly what he liked a woman to be. She might
have made difficulties, or have been sentimental. If she had been a
girl, it would have been necessary to set up a sort of nursery for her,
but this fine amenable, sensible creature could take perfect care of
herself. It was only necessary to express a wish, and she not only knew
how to carry it out, but was ready to do so without question. As far as
he was concerned, he was willing to leave all to her own taste. It was
such decent taste. She had no modern ideas which might lead during his
absence to any action likely to disturb or annoy him. What she would
like best to do would be to stay at Palstrey and enjoy the beauty of it.
She would spend her days in strolling through the gardens, talking to
the gardeners, who had all grown fond of her, or paying little visits to
old people or young ones in the village. She would help the vicar's wife
in her charities, she would appear in the Manor pew at church regularly,
make the necessary dull calls, and go to the unavoidable dull dinners
with a faultless amiability and decorum.

"As I remarked when you told me you had asked her to marry you," said
Lady Maria on the occasion of his lunching with her on running up to
town for a day's business, "you showed a great deal more sense than most
men of your age and rank. If people _will_ marry, they should choose the
persons least likely to interfere with them. Emily will never interfere
with you. She cares a great deal more about your pleasure than her own.
And as to that, she's so much like a big, healthy, good child that she
would find pleasure wheresoever you dropped her."

This was true, yet the healthy, childish creature had, in deep privacy,
cried a little, and was pathetically glad to feel that the Osborns were
to be near her, and that she would have Hester to think of and take care
of during the summer.

It was pathetic that she should cherish an affection so ingenuous for
the Osborns, for one of them at least had no patience with her. To
Captain Osborn her existence and presence in the near neighbourhood were
offences. He told himself that she was of the particular type of woman
he most disliked. She was a big, blundering fool, he said, and her size
and very good nature itself got on his nerves and irritated him.

"She looks so deucedly prosperous with her first-rate clothes and her
bouncing health," he said.

"The tread of her big feet makes me mad when I hear it."

Hester answered with a shrill little laugh.

"Her big feet are a better shape than mine," she said. "I ought to hate
her, and I would if I could, but I can't."

"I can," muttered Osborn between his teeth as he turned to the mantel
and scratched a match to light his pipe.



Chapter Twelve


When Lord Walderhurst took his departure for India, his wife began to
order her daily existence as he had imagined she would. Before he had
left her she had appeared at the first Drawing-room, and had spent a few
weeks at the town house, where they had given several imposing and
serious dinner parties, more remarkable for dignity and good taste than
liveliness. The duties of social existence in town would have been
unbearable for Emily without her husband. Dressed by Jane Cupp with a
passion of fervour, fine folds sweeping from her small, long waist,
diamonds strung round her neck, and a tiara or a big star in her full
brown hair, Emily was rather superb when supported by the consciousness
that Walderhurst's well-carried maturity and long accustomedness were
near her. With him she could enjoy even the unlively splendour of a
function, but without him she would have been very unhappy. At Palstrey
she was ceasing to feel new, and had begun to realise that she belonged
to the world she lived in. She was becoming accustomed to her
surroundings, and enjoyed them to the utmost. Her easily roused
affections were warmed by the patriarchal atmosphere of village life.
Most of the Palstrey villagers had touched their forelocks or curtsied
to Walderhursts for generations. Emily liked to remember this, and had
at once conceived a fondness for the simple folk, who seemed somehow
related so closely to the man she worshipped.

Walderhurst had not the faintest conception of what this worship
represented. He did not even reach the length of realising its
existence. He saw her ingenuous reverence for and belief in him, and was
naturally rather pleased by them. He was also vaguely aware that if she
had been a more brilliant woman she would have been a more exacting one,
and less easily impressed. If she had been a stupid woman or a clumsy
one, he would have detested her and bitterly regretted his marriage. But
she was only innocent and gratefully admiring, which qualities,
combining themselves with good looks, good health, and good manners,
made of a woman something he liked immensely. Really she had looked very
nice and attractive when she had bidden him good-by, with her emotional
flush and softness of expression and the dewy brightness of her eyes.
There was something actually moving in the way her strong hand had wrung
his at the last moment.

"I only _wish_," she had said, "I only do so _wish_ that there was
something I could _do_ for you while you are away--something you could
leave me to _do_."

"Keep well and enjoy yourself," he had answered. "That will really
please me."

Nature had not so built him that he could suspect that she went home and
spent the rest of the morning in his rooms, putting away his belongings
with her own hands, just for the mere passion of comfort she felt in
touching the things he had worn, the books he had handled, the cushions
his head had rested against. She had indeed mentioned to the housekeeper
at Berkeley Square that she wished his lordship's apartments to remain
untouched until she herself had looked over them. The obsession which is
called Love is an emotion past all explanation. The persons susceptible
to its power are as things beneath a spell. They see, hear, and feel
that of which the rest of their world is unaware, and will remain
unaware for ever. To the endearing and passion-inspiring qualities Emily
Walderhurst saw in this more than middle-aged gentleman an unstirred
world would remain blind, deaf, and imperceptive until its end
transpired. This, however, made not the slightest difference in the
reality of these things as she saw and felt and was moved to her soul's
centre by them. Bright youth in Agatha Norman, at present joyously
girdling the globe with her bridegroom, was moved much less deeply,
despite its laughter and love.

A large lump swelled in Emily's throat as she walked about the
comfortable, deserted apartments of her James. Large tears dropped on
the breast of her dress as they had dropped upon her linen blouse when
she walked across the moor to Maundell. But she bravely smiled as she
tenderly brushed away with her hand two drops which fell upon a tweed
waistcoat she had picked up. Having done this, she suddenly stooped and
kissed the rough cloth fervently, burying her face in it with a sob.

"I do _love_ him so!" she whispered, hysterically. "I do so _love_ him,
and I shall so _miss_ him!" with the italicised feelingness of old.

The outburst was in fact so strongly italicised that she felt the next
moment almost as if she had been a little indecent. She had never been
called upon by the strenuousness of any occasion to mention baldly to
Lord Walderhurst that she "loved" him. It had not been necessary, and
she was too little used to it not to be abashed by finding herself
proclaiming the fact to his very waistcoat itself. She sat down holding
the garment in her hands and let her tears fall.

She looked about her at the room and across the corridor through the
open door at his study which adjoined it. They were fine rooms, and
every book and bust and chair looked singularly suggestive of his
personality. The whole house was beautiful and imposing in Emily's eyes.
"He has made all my life beautiful and full of comfort and happiness,"
she said, trembling. "He has saved me from everything I was afraid of,
and there is nothing I can _do_. Oh!" suddenly dropping a hot face on
her hands, "if I were only Hester Osborn. I should be glad to suffer
anything, or die in any way. I should have paid him back--just a
little--if I might."

For there was one thing she had learned through her yearning fervour,
not through any speech of his. All the desire and pride in him would be
fed full and satisfied if he could pass his name on to a creature of his
own flesh and blood. All the heat his cold nature held had concentrated
itself in a secret passion centred on this thing. She had begun to
awaken to a suspicion of this early in their marriage, and afterwards by
processes of inclusion and exclusion she had realised the proud
intensity of his feeling despite his reserve and silence. As for her,
she would have gone to the stake, or have allowed her flesh to be cut
into pieces to form that which would have given him reason for
exultation and pride. Such was the helpless, tragic, kindly love and
yearning of her.

       *       *       *       *       *

The thing filled her with a passion of tenderness for Hester Osborn. She
yearned over her, too. Her spinster life had never brought her near to
the mystery of birth. She was very ignorant and deeply awed by the mere
thought of it. At the outset Hester had been coldly shy and reticent,
but as they saw each other more she began to melt before the unselfish
warmth of the other woman's overtures of friendship. She was very lonely
and totally inexperienced. As Agatha Slade had gradually fallen into
intimacy of speech, so did she. She longed so desperately for
companionship that the very intensity of her feelings impelled her to
greater openness than she had at first intended.

"I suppose men don't know," she said to herself sullenly, in thinking of
Osborn, who spent his days out of doors. "At any rate, they don't care."

Emily cared greatly, and was so full of interest and sympathy that there
was something like physical relief in talking to her.

"You two have become great pals," Alec said, on an afternoon when he
stood at a window watching Lady Walderhurst's carriage drive away. "You
spend hours together talking. What is it all about?"

"She talks a good deal about her husband. It is a comfort to her to find
someone to listen. She thinks he is a god. But we principally talk
about--me."

"Don't discourage her," laughed Osborn. "Perhaps she will get so fond of
you that she will not be willing to part with us, as she will be obliged
to take both to keep one."

"I wish she would, I wish she would!" sighed Hester, tossing up her
hands in a languid, yet fretted gesture.

The contrast between herself and this woman was very often too great to
be equably borne. Even her kindness could not palliate it. The simple
perfection of her country clothes, the shining skins of her horses, the
smooth roll of her carriage, the automatic servants who attended her,
were suggestive of that ease and completeness in all things, only to be
compassed by long-possessed wealth. To see every day the evidences of it
while one lived on charitable sufferance on the crumbs which fell from
the master's table was a galling enough thing, after all. It would
always have been galling. But it mattered so much more now--so much more
to Hester than she had known it could matter even in those days when as
a girl she had thirstily longed for it. In those days she had not lived
near enough to it all to know the full meaning and value of it--the
beauty and luxury, the stateliness and good taste. To have known it in
this way, to have been almost part of it and then to leave it, to go
back to a hugger-mugger existence in a wretched bungalow hounded by
debt, pinched and bound hard and fast by poverty, which offered no
future prospect of bettering itself into decent good luck! Who could
bear it?

Both were thinking the same thing as their eyes met.

"How are we to stand it, after this?" she cried out sharply.

"We can't stand it," he answered. "Confound it all, something _must_
happen."

"Nothing will," she said; "nothing but that we shall go back worse off
than before."

       *       *       *       *       *

At this period Lady Walderhurst went to London again to shop, and spent
two entire happy days in buying beautiful things of various kinds, which
were all to be sent to Mrs. Osborn at The Kennel Farm, Palstrey. She had
never enjoyed herself so much in her life as she did during those two
days when she sat for hours at one counter after another looking at
exquisite linen and flannel and lace. The days she had spent with Lady
Maria in purchasing her trousseau had not compared with these two. She
looked actually lovely as she almost fondled the fine fabrics, smiling
with warm softness at the pretty things shown her. She spent, in fact,
good deal of money, and luxuriated in so doing as she tfould never have
luxuriated in spending it in finery for herself. Nothing indeed seemed
too fairy-like in its fineness, no quantity of lace seemed in excess.
Her heart positively trembled in her breast sometimes, and she found
strange tears rising in her eyes.

"They are so sweet," she said plaintively to the silence of her own
bedroom as she looked some of her purchases over. "I don't know why they
give me such a feeling. They look so little and--helpless, and as if
they were made to hold in one's arms. It's absurd of me, I daresay."

The morning the boxes arrived at The Kennel Farm, Emily came too. She
was in the big carriage, and carried with her some special final
purchases she wanted to bring herself. She came because she could not
have kept away. She wanted to see the things again, to be with Hester
when she unpacked them, to help her, to look them all over, to touch
them and hold them in her hands.

She found Hester in the large, low-ceilinged room in which she slept.
The big four-post bed was already snowed over with a heaped-up drift of
whiteness, and open boxes were scattered about. There was an odd
expression in the girl's eyes, and she had a red spot on either cheek.

"I did not expect anything like this," she said. "I thought I should
have to make some plain, little things myself, suited to its station,"
with a wry smile. "They would have been very ugly. I don't know how to
sew in the least. You forget that you were not buying things for a
prince or a princess, but for a little beggar."

"Oh, don't!" cried Emily, taking both her hands. "Let us be _happy_! It
was so _nice_ to buy them. I never liked anything so much in my life."

She went and stood by the bedside, taking up the things one by one,
touching up frills of lace and smoothing out tucks.

"Doesn't it make you happy to look at them?" she said.

"_You_ look at them," said Hester, staring at her, "as if the sight of
them made you hungry, or as if you had bought them for yourself."

Emily turned slightly away. She said nothing. For a few moments there
was a dead silence.

Hester spoke again. What in the world was it in the mere look of the
tall, straight body of the woman to make her feel hot and angered.

"If you had bought them for yourself," she persisted, "they would be
worn by a Marquis of Walderhurst."

Emily laid down the robe she had been holding. She put it on the bed,
and turned round to look at Hester Osborn with serious eyes.

"They _may_ be worn by a Marquis of Walderhurst, you know," she
answered. "They may."

She was remotely hurt and startled, because she felt in the young woman
something she had felt once or twice before, something resentful in her
thoughts of herself, as if for the moment she represented to her an
enemy.

The next moment, however, Hester Osborn fell upon her with embraces.

"You are an angel to me," she cried. "You are an angel, and I can't
thank you. I don't know how."

Emily Walderhurst patted her shoulder as she kindly enfolded her in warm
arms.

"Don't thank me," she half whispered emotionally. "Don't. Just let us
_enjoy_ ourselves."



Chapter Thirteen


Alec Osborn rode a good deal in these days. He also walked a good deal,
sometimes with a gun over his shoulder and followed by a keeper,
sometimes alone. There was scarcely a square yard of the Palstrey Manor
lands he had not tramped over. He had learned the whole estate by heart,
its woods, its farms, its moorlands. A morbid secret interest in its
beauties and resources possessed him. He could not resist the temptation
to ask apparently casual questions of keepers and farmers when he found
himself with them. He managed to give his inquiries as much the air of
accident as possible, but he himself knew that they were made as a
result of a certain fevered curiosity. He found that he had fallen into
the habit of continually making plans connected with the place. He said
to himself, "If it were mine I would do this, or that. If I owned it, I
would make this change or that one. I would discharge this keeper or put
another man on such a farm." He tramped among the heather thinking these
things over, and realising to the full what the pleasure of such powers
would mean to a man such as himself, a man whose vanity had never been
fed, who had a desire to control and a longing for active out-of-door
life.

"If it were mine, if it were mine!" he would say to himself. "Oh! damn
it all, if it were only mine!"

And there were other places as fine, and finer places he had never
seen,--Oswyth, Hurst, and Towers,--all Walderhurst's all belonging to
this one respectable, elderly muff. Thus he summed up the character of
his relative. As for himself he was young, strong, and with veins
swelling with the insistent longing for joyful, exultant life. The
sweating, panting drudgery of existence in India was a thought of hell
to him. But there it was, looming up nearer and nearer with every
heavenly English day that passed. There was nothing for it but to go
back--go back, thrust one's neck into the collar again, and sweat and be
galled to the end. He had no ambitions connected with his profession. He
realised loathingly in these days that he had always been waiting,
waiting.

The big, bright-faced woman who was always hanging about Hester, doing
her favours, he actually began to watch feverishly. She was such a fool;
she always looked so healthy, and she was specially such a fool over
Walderhurst. When she had news of him, it was to be seen shining in her
face.

She had a sentimental school-girl fancy that during his absence she
would apply herself to the task of learning to ride. She had been
intending to do so before he went away; they had indeed spoken of it
together, and Walderhurst had given her a handsome, gentle young mare.
The creature was as kind as she was beautiful. Osborn, who was
celebrated for his horsemanship, had promised to undertake to give the
lessons.

A few days after her return from London with her purchases, she asked
the husband and wife to lunch with her at Palstrey, and during the meal
broached the subject.

"I should like to begin soon, if you can spare the time for me," she
said. "I want to be able to go out with him when he comes back. Do you
think I shall be slow in learning? Perhaps I ought to be lighter to ride
well."

"I think you will be pretty sure to have a first-class seat," Osborn
answered. "You will be likely to look particularly well."

"Do you think I shall? How good you are to encourage me. How soon could
I begin?"

She was quite agreeably excited. In fact, she was delighted by innocent
visions of herself as Walderhurst's equestrian companion. Perhaps if she
sat well, and learned fine control of her horse, he might be pleased,
and turn to look at her, as they rode side by side, with that look of
approval and dawning warmth which brought such secret joy to her soul.

"When may I take my first lesson?" she said quite eagerly to Captain
Osborn, for whom a footman was pouring out a glass of wine.

"As soon," he answered, "as I have taken out the mare two or three times
myself. I want to know her thoroughly. I would not let you mount her
until I had learned her by heart."

They went out to the stables after lunch and visited the mare in her
loose box. She was a fine beast, and seemed as gentle as a child.

Captain Osborn asked questions of the head groom concerning her. She had
a perfect reputation, but nevertheless she was to be taken over to the
Kennel stables a few days before Lady Walderhurst mounted her.

"It is necessary to be more than careful," Osborn said to Hester that
night. "There would be the devil and all to pay if anything went wrong."

The mare was brought over the next morning. She was a shining bay, and
her name was Faustine.

In the afternoon Captain Osborn took her out. He rode her far and
learned her thoroughly before he brought her back. She was as lively as
a kitten, but as kind as a dove. Nothing could have been better tempered
and safer. She would pass anything, even the unexpected appearance of a
road-mending engine turning a corner did not perceptibly disturb her.

"Is she well behaved?" Hester asked at dinner time.

"Yes, apparently," was his answer; "but I shall take her out once or
twice again."

He did take her out again, and had only praise for her on each occasion.
But the riding lessons did not begin at once. In fact he was, for a
number of reasons, in a sullen and unsociable humour which did not
incline him towards the task he had undertaken. He made various excuses
for not beginning the lessons, and took Faustine out almost every day.

But Hester had an idea that he did not enjoy his rides. He used to
return from them with a resentful, sombre look, as if his reflections
had not been pleasant company for him. In truth they were not pleasant
company. He was beset by thoughts he did not exactly care to be beset
by--thoughts which led him farther than he really cared to go, which did
not incline him to the close companionship of Lady Walderhurst. It was
these thoughts which led him on his long rides; it was one of them which
impelled him, one morning, as he was passing a heap of broken stone,
piled for the mending of the ways by the roadside, to touch Faustine
with heel and whip. The astonished young animal sprang aside curvetting.
She did not understand, and to horse-nature the uncomprehended is
alarming. She was more bewildered and also more fretted when, in passing
the next stone heap, she felt the same stinging touches. What did it
mean? Was she to avoid this thing, to leap at sight of it, to do what?
She tossed her delicate head and snorted in her trouble. The country
road was at some distance from Palstrey, and was little frequented. No
one was in sight. Osborn glanced about him to make sure of this fact. A
long stretch of road lay before him, with stone heaps piled at regular
intervals. He had taken a big whiskey and soda at the last wayside inn
he had passed, and drink did not make him drunk so much as mad. He
pushed the mare ahead, feeling in just the humour to try experiments
with her.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Alec is very determined that you shall be safe on Faustine," Hester
said to Emily. "He takes her out every day."

"It is very good of him," answered Emily.

Hester thought she looked a trifle nervous, and wondered why. She did
not say anything about the riding lessons, and in fact had seemed of
late less eager and interested. In the first place, it had been Alec who
had postponed, now it was she. First one trifling thing and then another
seemed to interpose.

"The mare is as safe as a feather-bed," Osborn said to her one afternoon
when they were taking tea on the lawn at Palstrey. "You had better begin
now if you wish to accomplish anything before Lord Walderhurst comes
back. What do you hear from him as to his return?"

Emily had heard that he was likely to be detained longer than he had
expected. It seemed always to be the case that people were detained by
such business. He was annoyed, but it could not be helped. There was a
rather tired look in her eyes and she was paler than usual.

"I am going up to town to-morrow," she said. "The riding lessons might
begin after I come back."

"Are you anxious about anything?" Hester asked her as she was preparing
for the drive back to The Kennel Farm.

"No, no," Emily answered. "Only--"

"Only what?"

"I should be so glad if--if he were not away."

Hester gazed reflectively at her suddenly quivering face.

"I don't think I ever saw a woman so fond of a man," she said.

Emily stood still. She was quite silent. Her eyes slowly filled. She had
never been able to say much about what she felt for Walderhurst. Hers
was a large, dumb, primitive affection.

She sat at her open bedroom window a long time that evening. She rested
her chin upon her hand and looked up at the deeps of blue powdered with
the diamond dust of stars. It seemed to her that she had never looked up
and seen such myriads of stars before. She felt far away from earthly
things and tremulously uplifted. During the last two weeks she had lived
in a tumult of mind, of amazement, of awe, of hope and fear. No wonder
that she looked pale and that her face was full of anxious yearning.
There were such wonders in the world, and she, Emily Fox-Seton, no,
Emily Walderhurst, seemed to have become part of them.

She clasped her hands tight together and leaned forward into the night
with her face turned upwards. Very large drops began to roll fast down
her cheeks, one after the other. The argument of scientific observation
might have said she was hysterical, and whether with or without reason
is immaterial. She did not try to check her tears or wipe them away,
because she did not know that she was crying. She began to pray, and
heard herself saying the Lord's Prayer like a child.

"Our Father who art in Heaven--Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be
Thy name," she murmured imploringly.

She said the prayer to the end, and then began it over again. She said
it three or four times, and her appeal for daily bread and the
forgiveness of trespasses expressed what her inarticulate nature could
not have put into words. Beneath the entire vault of heaven's dark blue
that night there was nowhere lifted to the Unknown a prayer more humbly
passion-full and gratefully imploring than her final whisper.

"For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.
Amen, amen."

When she left her seat at the window and turned towards the room again,
Jane Cupp, who was preparing for the morrow's journey and was just
entering with a dress over her arm, found herself restraining a start at
sight of her.

"I hope you are quite well, my lady," she faltered.

"Yes," Lady Walderhurst answered. "I think I am very well--very well,
Jane. You will be quite ready for the early train to-morrow morning."

"Yes, my lady, quite."

"I have been thinking," said Emily gently, almost in a tone of reverie,
"that if your uncle had not wanted your mother so much it would have
been nice to have her here with us. She is such an experienced person,
and so kind. I never forget how kind she was to me when I had the little
room in Mortimer Street."

"Oh! my lady, you was kind to _us_," cried Jane.

She recalled afterwards, with tears, how her ladyship moved nearer to
her and took her hand with what Jane called "her wonderful _good_ look,"
which always brought a lump to her throat.

"But I always count on you, Jane," she said. "I count on you so much."

"Oh! my lady," Jane cried again, "it's my comfort to believe it. I'd lay
down my life for your ladyship, I would indeed."

Emily sat down, and on her face there was a soft, uplifted smile.

"Yes," she said, and Jane Cupp saw that she was reflective again, and
the words were not addressed exactly, to herself, "one would be quite
ready to lay down one's life for the person one loved. It seems even a
little thing, doesn't it?"



Chapter Fourteen


Lady Walderhurst remained in town a week, and Jane Cupp remained with
her, in the house in Berkeley Square, which threw open its doors to
receive them on their arrival quite as if they had never left it. The
servants' hall brightened temporarily in its hope that livelier doings
might begin to stir the establishment, but Jane Cupp was able to inform
inquirers that the visit was only to be a brief one.

"We are going back to Palstrey next Monday," she explained. "My lady
prefers the country, and she is very fond of Palstrey; and no wonder. It
doesn't seem at all likely she'll come to stay in London until his
lordship gets back."

"We hear," said the head housemaid, "that her ladyship is very kind to
Captain Osborn and his wife, and that Mrs. Osborn's in a delicate state
of health."

"It would be a fine thing for us if it was in our family," remarked an
under housemaid who was pert.

Jane Cupp looked extremely reserved.

"Is it true," the pert housemaid persisted, "that the Osborns can't
abide her?"

"It's true," said Jane, severely, "that she's goodness itself to them,
and they ought to adore her."

"We hear they don't," put in the tallest footman. "And who wonders. If
she was an angel, there's just a chance that she may give Captain Osborn
a wipe in the eye, though she is in her thirties."

"It's not for _us_," said Jane, stiffly, "to discuss thirties or forties
or fifties either, which are no business of ours. There's one gentleman,
and him a marquis, as chose her over the heads of two beauties in their
teens, at least."

"Well, for the matter of that," admitted the tall footman, "I'd have
chose her myself, for she's a fine woman."

Lady Maria was just on the point of leaving South Audley Street to make
some visits in the North, but she came and lunched with Emily, and was
in great form.

She had her own opinion of a number of matters, some of which she
discussed, some of which she kept to herself. She lifted her gold
lorgnette and looked Emily well over.

"Upon my word, Emily," she said, "I am proud of you. You are one of my
successes. Your looks are actually improving. There's something rather
etherealised about your face to-day. I quite agree with Walderhurst in
all the sentimental things he says about you."

She said this last partly because she liked Emily and knew it would
please her to hear that her husband went to the length of dwelling on
her charms in his conversation with other people, partly because it
entertained her to see the large creature's eyelids flutter and a big
blush sweep her cheek.

"He really was in great luck when he discovered you," her ladyship went
on briskly. "As for that, I was in luck myself. Suppose you had been a
girl who could not have been left. As Walderhurst is short of female
relatives, it would have fallen to me to decently dry-nurse you. And
there would have been the complications arising from a girl being baby
enough to want to dance about to places, and married enough to feel
herself entitled to defy her chaperone; she couldn't have been trusted
to chaperone herself. As it is, Walderhurst, can go where duty calls,
etc., and I can make my visits and run about, and you, dear thing, are
quite happy at Palstrey playing Lady Bountiful and helping the little
half-breed woman to expect her baby. I daresay you sit and make dolly
shirts and christening robes hand in hand."

"We enjoy it all very much," Emily answered, adding imploringly, "please
don't call her a little half-breed woman. She's such a dear little
thing, Lady Maria."

Lady Maria indulged in the familiar chuckle and put up her lorgnette to
examine her again.

"There's a certain kind of early Victorian saintliness about you, Emily
Walderhurst, which makes my joy," she said. "You remind me of Lady
Castlewood, Helen Pendennis, and Amelia Sedley, with the spitefulness
and priggishness and catty ways left out. You are as nice as Thackeray
_thought_ they were, poor mistaken man. I am not going to suffuse you
with blushes by explaining to you that there is what my nephew would
call a jolly good reason why, if you were not an early Victorian and
improved Thackerayian saint, you would not be best pleased at finding
yourself called upon to assist at this interesting occasion. Another
kind of woman would probably feel like a cat towards the little Osborn.
But even the mere reason itself, as a reason, has not once risen in your
benign and pellucid mind. You have a pellucid mind, Emily; I should be
rather proud of the word if I had invented it myself to describe you.
But I didn't. It was Walderhurst. You have actually wakened up the man's
intellects, such as they are."

She evidently had a number of opinions of the Osborns. She liked neither
of them, but it was Captain Osborn she especially _dis_liked.

"He is really an underbred person," she explained, "and he hasn't the
sharpness to know that is the reason Walderhurst detests him. He had
vulgar, cheap sort of affairs, and nearly got into the kind of trouble
people don't forgive. What a fool a creature in his position is to
offend the taste of the man he may inherit from, and who, if he were not
antagonistic to him, would regard him as a sort of duty. It wasn't his
immorality particularly. Nobody is either moral or immoral in these
days, but penniless persons must be decent. It's all a matter of taste
and manners. I haven't any morals myself, my dear, but I have beautiful
manners. A woman can have the kind of manners which keep her from
breaking the Commandments. As to the Commandments, they are awfully easy
things _not_ to break. Who wants to break them, good Lord! Thou shall do
no murder. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not commit, etc. Thou shalt
not bear false witness. That's simply gossip and lying, and they are bad
manners. If you have good manners, you _don't_."

She chatted on in her pungent little worldly, good-humoured way through
the making of a very excellent lunch. After which she settled her smart
bonnet with clever touches, kissed Emily on both cheeks, and getting
into her brougham rolled off smiling and nodding.

Emily stood at the drawing-room window and watched her equipage roll
round the square and into Charles Street, and then turned away into the
big, stately empty room, sighing without intending to do so while she
smiled herself.

"She's so witty and so amusing," she said; "but one would no more think
of _telling_ her anything than one would think of catching a butterfly
and holding it while one made it listen. She would be so _bored_ if she
was confided in."

Which was most true. Never in her life had her ladyship allowed herself
the indiscretion of appearing a person in whom confidences might be
reposed. She had always had confidences enough of her own to take care
of, without sharing those of other people.

"Good heavens!" she had exclaimed once, "I should as soon think of
assuming another woman's wrinkles."

On the first visit Lady Walderhurst made to The Kennel Farm the morning
after her return to Palstrey, when Alec Osborn helped her from her
carriage, he was not elated by the fact that he had never seen her look
so beautifully alive and blooming during his knowledge of her. There was
a fine rose on her cheek, and her eyes were large and happily illumined.

"How well you look!" broke from him with an involuntariness he was
alarmed to realise as almost spiteful. The words were an actual
exclamation which he had not meant to utter, and Emily Walderhurst even
started a trifle and looked at him with a moment's question.

"But you look well, too," she answered. "Palstrey agrees with both of
us. You have such a colour."

"I have been riding," he replied. "I told you I meant to know Faustine
thoroughly before I let you mount her. She is ready for you now. Can you
take your first lesson to-morrow?"

"I--I don't quite know," she hesitated. "I will tell you a little later.
Where is Hester?"

Hester was in the drawing-room. She was lying on a sofa before an open
window and looking rather haggard and miserable. She had, in fact, just
had a curious talk with Alec which had ended in something like a scene.
As Hester's health grew more frail, her temper became more fierce, and
of late there had been times when a certain savagery, concealed with
difficulty in her husband's moods, affected her horribly.

This morning she felt a new character in Emily's manner. She was timid
and shy, and a little awkward. Her child-like openness of speech and
humour seemed obscured. She had less to say than usual, and at the same
time there was a suggestion of restless unease about her. Hester Osborn,
after a few minutes, began to have an odd feeling that the woman's eyes
held a question or a desire in them.

She had brought some superb roses from the Manor gardens, and she moved
about arranging them for Hester in vases.

"It is beautiful to come back to the country," she said. "When I get
into the carriage at the station and drive through the sweet air, I
always feel as if I were beginning to live again, and as if in London I
had not been quite alive. It seemed so _heavenly_ in the rose garden at
Palstrey to-day, to walk about among those thousands of blooming lovely
things breathing scent and nodding their heavy, darling heads."

"The roads are in a beautiful condition for riding," Hester said, "and
Alec says that Faustine is perfect. You ought to begin to-morrow
morning. Shall you?"

She spoke the words somewhat slowly, and her face did not look happy.
But, then, it never was a really happy face. The days of her youth had
been too full of the ironies of disappointment.

There was a second's silence, and then she said again:

"Shall you, if it continues fine?"

Emily's hands were full of roses, both hands, and Hester saw both hands
and roses tremble. She turned round slowly and came towards her. She
looked nervous, awkward, abashed, and as if for that moment she was a
big girl of sixteen appealing to her and overwhelmed with queer
feelings, and yet the depths of her eyes held a kind of trembling,
ecstatic light. She came and stood before her, holding the trembling
roses as if she had been called up for confession.

"I--I mustn't," she half whispered. The corners of her lips drooped and
quivered, and her voice was so low that Hester could scarcely hear it.
But she started and half sat up.

"You _mustn't_?" she gasped; yes, really it was gasped.

Emily's hand trembled so that the roses began to fall one by one,
scattering a rain of petals as they dropped.

"I mustn't," she repeated, low and shakily. "I had--reason.--I went to
town to see--somebody. I saw Sir Samuel Brent, and he told me I must
not. He is quite sure."

She tried to calm herself and smile. But the smile quivered and ended in
a pathetic contortion of her face. In the hope of gaining decent
self-control, she bent down to pick up the dropped roses. Before she had
picked up two, she let all the rest fall, and sank kneeling among them,
her face in her hands.

"Oh, Hester, Hester!" she panted, with sweet, stupid unconciousness of
the other woman's heaving chest and glaring eyes. "It has come to me
too, actually, after all."



Chapter Fifteen


The Palstrey Manor carriage had just rolled away carrying Lady
Walderhurst home. The big, low-ceilinged, oak-beamed farm-house parlour
was full of the deep golden sunlight of the late afternoon, the air was
heavy with the scent of roses and sweet-peas and mignonette, the
adorable fragrance of English country-house rooms. Captain Osborn
inhaled it at each breath as he stood and looked out of the
diamond-paned window, watching the landau out of sight. He felt the
scent and the golden glow of the sunset light as intensely as he felt
the dead silence which reigned between himself and Hester almost with
the effect of a physical presence. Hester was lying upon the sofa again,
and he knew she was staring at his back with that sardonic widening of
her long eyes, a thing he hated, and which always foreboded things not
pleasant to face.

He did not turn to face them until the footman's cockade had disappeared
finally behind the tall hedge, and the tramp of the horses' feet was
deadening itself in the lane. When he ceased watching and listening, he
wheeled round suddenly.

"What does it all mean?" he demanded. "Hang her foolish airs and
graces._ Why_ won't she ride, for she evidently does not intend to."

Hester laughed, a hard, short, savage little un-mirthful sound it was.

"No, she doesn't intend to," she answered, "for many a long day, at
least, for many a month. She has Sir Samuel Brent's orders to take the
greatest care of herself."

"Brent's? Brent's?"

Hester struck her lean little hands together and laughed this time with
a hint at hysteric shrillness.

"I told you so, I told you so!" she cried. "I knew it would be so, I
knew it! By the time she reaches her thirty-sixth birthday there will be
a new Marquis of Walderhurst, and he won't be either you or yours." And
as she finished, she rolled over on the sofa, and bit the cushions with
her teeth as she lay face downwards on them. "He won't be you, or belong
to you," she reiterated, and then she struck the cushions with her
clenched fist.

He rushed over to her, and seizing her by the shoulders shook her to and
fro.

"You don't know what you are talking about," he said; "you don't know
what you are saying."

"I do! I do! I do!" she screamed under her breath, and beat the cushions
at every word. "It's true, it's true. She's drivelling about it,
drivelling!"

Alec Osborn threw back his head, drawing in a hard breath which was
almost a snort of fury.

"By God!" he cried, "if she went out on Faustine now, she would not come
back!"

His rage had made him so far beside himself that he had said more than
he intended, far more than he would have felt safe. But the girl was as
far beside herself as he was, and she took him up.

"Serve her right," she cried. "I shouldn't care. I hate her! I hate her!
I told you once I couldn't, but I do. She's the biggest fool that ever
lived. She knew _nothing_ of what I felt. I believe she thought I would
rejoice with her. I didn't know whether I should shriek in her face or
scream out laughing. Her eyes were as big as saucers, and she looked at
me as if she felt like the Virgin Mary after the Annunciation. Oh! the
stupid, _inhuman_ fool!"

Her words rushed forth faster and faster, she caught her breath with
gasps, and her voice grew more shrill at every sentence. Osborn shook
her again.

"Keep quiet," he ordered her. "You are going into hysterics, and it
won't do. Get hold of yourself."

"Go for Ameerah," she gasped, "or I'm afraid I can't. She knows what to
do."

He went for Ameerah, and the silently gliding creature came bringing her
remedies with her. She looked at her mistress with stealthily
questioning but affectionate eyes, and sat down on the floor rubbing her
hands and feet in a sort of soothing massage. Osborn went out of the
room, and the two women were left together. Ameerah knew many ways of
calming her mistress's nerves, and perhaps one of the chief ones was to
lead her by subtle powers to talk out her rages and anxieties. Hester
never knew that she was revealing herself and her moods until after her
interviews with the Ayah were over. Sometimes an hour or so had passed
before she began to realise that she had let out things which she had
meant to keep secret. It was never Ameerah who talked, and Hester was
never conscious that she talked very much herself. But afterwards she
saw that the few sentences she had uttered were such as would satisfy
curiosity if the Ayah felt it. Also she was not, on the whole, at all
sure that the woman felt it. She showed no outward sign of any interest
other than the interest of a deep affection. She loved her young
mistress to-day as passionately as she had loved her as a child when she
had held her in her bosom as if she had been her own. By the time Emily
Walderhurst had reached Palstrey, Ameerah knew many things. She
understood that her mistress was as one who, standing upon the brink of
a precipice, was being slowly but surely pushed over its edge--pushed,
pushed by Fate. This was the thing imaged in her mind when she shut
herself up in her room and stood alone in the midst of the chamber
clenching her dark hands high above her white veiled head, and uttering
curses which were spells, and spells which were curses.

Emily was glad that she had elected to be alone as much as possible, and
had not invited people to come and stay with her. She had not invited
people, in honest truth, because she felt shy of the responsibility of
entertainment while Walderhurst was not with her. It would have been
proper to invite his friends, and his friends were all people she was
too much in awe of, and too desirous to please to be able to enjoy
frankly as society. She had told herself that when she had been married
a few years she would be braver.

And now her gladness was so devout that it was pure rejoicing. How could
she have been calm, how could she have been conversational, while
through her whole being there surged but one thought. She was sure that
while she talked to people she would have been guilty of looking as if
she was thinking of something not in the least connected with
themselves.

If she had been less romantically sentimental in her desire to avoid all
semblance of burdening her husband she would have ordered him home at
once, and demanded as a right the protection of his dignity and
presence. If she had been less humble she would have felt the importance
of her position and the gravity of the claims it gave her to his
consideration, instead of being lost in prayerful gratitude to heaven.

She had been rather stupidly mistaken in not making a confidante of Lady
Maria Bayne, but she had been, in her big girl shyness, entirely like
herself. In some remote part of her nature she had shrunk from a certain
look of delighted amusement which she had known would have betrayed
itself, despite her ladyship's good intentions, in the eyes assisted by
the smart gold lorgnette. She knew she was inclined to be
hyper-emotional on this subject, and she felt that if she had seen the
humour trying to conceal itself behind the eye-glasses, she might have
been hysterical enough to cry even while she tried to laugh, and pass
her feeling off lightly. Oh, no! Oh, no! Somehow she _knew_ that at such
a moment, for some fantastic, if subtle, reason, Lady Maria would only
see her as Emily Fox-Seton, that she would have actually figured before
her for an instant as poor Emily Fox-Seton making an odd confession. She
could not have endured it without doing something foolish, she felt that
she would not, indeed.

So Lady Maria went gaily away to make her round of visits and be the
amusing old life and soul of house-party after house-party, suspecting
nothing of a possibility which would actually have sobered her for a
moment.

Emily passed her days at Palstrey in a state of happy exaltation. For a
week or so they were spent in wondering whether or not she should write
a letter to Lord Walderhurst which should convey the information to him
which even Lady Maria would have regarded as important, but the more she
argued the question with herself, the less she wavered from her first
intention. Lady Maria's frank congratulation of herself and Lord
Walderhurst in his wife's entire unexactingness had indeed been the
outcome of a half-formed intention to dissipate amiably even the vaguest
inclination to verge on expecting things from people. While she thought
Emily unlikely to allow herself to deteriorate into an encumbrance, her
ladyship had seen women in her position before, whose marriages had made
perfect fools of them through causing them to lose their heads
completely and require concessions and attentions from their newly
acquired relations which bored everybody. So she had lightly patted and
praised Emily for the course of action she preferred to "keep her up
to."

"She's the kind of woman ideas sink into if they are well put," she had
remarked in times gone by. "She's not sharp enough to see that things
are being suggested to her, but a suggestion acts upon her
delightfully."

Her suggestions acted upon Emily as she walked about the gardens at
Palstrey, pondering in the sunshine and soothed by the flower scents of
the warmed borders. Such a letter written to Walderhurst might change
his cherished plans, concerning which she knew he held certain
ambitions. He had been so far absorbed in them that he had gone to India
at a time of the year which was not usually chosen for the journey. He
had become further interested and absorbed after he had reached the
country, and he was evidently likely to prolong his stay as he had not
thought of prolonging it. He wrote regularly though not frequently, and
Emily had gathered from the tone of his letters that he was more
interested than he had ever been in his life before.

"I would not interfere with his work for anything in the world," she
said. "He cares more for it than he usually cares for things. I care for
everything--I have that kind of mind; an intellectual person is
different. I am perfectly well and happy here. And it will be so nice to
look forward."

She was not aware how Lady Maria's suggestions had "sunk in." She would
probably have reached the same conclusion without their having been
made, but since they had been made, they had assisted her. There was one
thing of all others she felt she could not possibly bear, which was to
realise that she herself could bring to her James's face an expression
she had once or twice seen others bring there (Captain Osborn
notably),--an expression of silent boredom on the verge of irritation.
Even radiant domestic joy might not be able to overrule this, if just at
this particular juncture he found himself placed in the position of a
man whom decency compelled to take the next steamer to England.

If she had felt tenderly towards Hester Osborn before, the feeling was
now increased tenfold. She went to see her oftener, she began to try to
persuade her to come and stay at Palstrey. She was all the more kind
because Hester seemed less well, and was in desperate ill spirits. Her
small face had grown thin and yellow, she had dark rings under her eyes,
and her little hands were hot and looked like bird's claws. She did not
sleep and had lost her appetite.

"You must come and stay at Palstrey for a few days," Emily said to her.
"The mere change from one house to another may make you sleep better."

But Hester was not inclined to avail herself of the invitation. She made
obstacles and delayed acceptance for one reason and another. She was, in
fact, all the more reluctant because her husband wished her to make the
visit. Their opposed opinions had resulted in one of their scenes.

"I won't go," she had said at first. "I tell you I won't."

"You will," he answered. "It will be better for you."

"Will it be worse for me if I don't?" she laughed feverishly. "And how
will it be better for you if I do? I know you are in it."

He lost his temper and was indiscreet, as his temper continually
betrayed him into being.

"Yes, I am in it," he said through his teeth, "as you might have the
sense to see. Everything is the better for us that throws us with them,
and makes them familiar with the thought of us and our rights."

"Our rights," the words were a shrill taunt.

"What rights have you, likely to be recognised, unless you kill her. Are
you going to kill her?"

He had a moment of insanity.

"I'd kill her and you too if it was safe to do it. You both deserve it!"

He flung across the room, having lost his wits as well as his temper.
But a second later both came back to him as in a revulsion of feeling.

"I talk like a melodramatic fool," he cried. "Oh, Hester, forgive me!"
He knelt on the floor by her side, caressing her imploringly. "We both
take fire in the same way. We are both driven crazy by this damned blow.
We're beaten; we may as well own it and take what we can get. She's a
fool, but she's better than that pompous, stiff brute Walderhurst, and
she has a lot of pull over him he knows nothing about. The smug animal
is falling in love with her in his way. She can make him do the decent
thing. Let us keep friends with her."

"The decent thing would be a thousand a year," wailed Hester, giving in
to his contrition in spite of herself, because she had once been in love
with him, and because she was utterly helpless. "Five hundred a year
wouldn't be indecent."

"Let us keep on her good side," he said, fondling her, with a relieved
countenance. "Tell her you will come and that she is an angel, and that
you are sure a visit to the Manor will save your life."

They went to Palstrey a few days later. Ameerah accompanied them in
attendance upon her mistress, and the three settled down into a life so
regular that it scarcely seemed to wear the aspect of a visit. The
Osborns were given some of the most beautiful and convenient rooms in
the house. No other visitors were impending and the whole big place was
at their disposal. Hester's boudoir overlooked the most perfect nooks of
garden, and its sweet chintz draperies and cushions and books and
flowers made it a luxurious abode of peace.

"What shall I do," she said on the first evening in it as she sat in a
soft chair by the window, looking out at the twilight and talking to
Emily. "What shall I do when I must go away?"

"I don't mean only from here,--I mean away from England, to loathly
India."

"Do you dislike it so?" Emily asked, roused to a new conception of her
feeling by her tone.

"I could never describe to you how much," fiercely. "It is like going to
the place which is the opposite of Heaven."

"I did not know that," pityingly. "Perhaps--I wonder if something might
not be done: I must talk to my husband."

Ameerah seemed to develop an odd fancy for the society of Jane Cupp,
which Jane was obliged to confess to her mistress had a tendency to
produce in her system "the creeps."

"You must try to overcome it, Jane," Lady Walderhurst said. "I'm afraid
it's because of her colour. I've felt a little silly and shy about her
myself, but it isn't nice of us. You ought to read 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,'
and all about that poor religious Uncle Tom, and Legree, and Eliza
crossing the river on the blocks of ice."

"I have read it twice, your ladyship," was Jane's earnestly regretful
response, "and most awful it is, and made me and mother cry beyond
words. And I suppose it is the poor creature's colour that's against
her, and I'm trying to be kind to her, but I must own that she makes me
nervous. She asks me such a lot of questions in her queer way, and
stares at me so quiet. She actually asked me quite sudden the other day
if I loved the big Mem Sahib. I didn't know what she _could_ mean at
first, but after a while I found out it was her Indian way of meaning
your ladyship, and she didn't intend disrespect, because she spoke of
you most humble afterwards, and called his lordship the Heaven born."

"Be as kind as you can to her, Jane," instructed her mistress. "And take
her a nice walk occasionally. I daresay she feels very homesick here."

What Ameerah said to her mistress was that these English servant women
were pigs and devils, and could conceal nothing from those who chose to
find out things from them. If Jane had known that the Ayah could have
told her of every movement she made during the day or night, of her
up-gettings and down-lyings, of the hour and moment of every service
done for the big Mem Sahib, of why and how and when and where each thing
was done, she would have been frightened indeed.

One day, it is true, she came into Lady Walderhurst's sleeping apartment
to find Ameerah standing in the middle of it looking round its contents
with restless, timid, bewildered eyes. She wore, indeed, the manner of
an alarmed creature who did not know how she had got there.

"What are you doing here?" demanded Jane. "You have no right in this
part of the house. You're taking a great liberty, and your mistress will
be angry."

"My Mem Sahib asked for a book," the Ayah quite shivered in her alarmed
confusion. "Your Mem Sahib said it was here. They did not order me, but
I thought I would come to you. I did not know it was forbidden."

"What was the book?" inquired Jane severely. "I will take it to her
ladyship."

But Ameerah was so frightened that she had forgotten the name, and when
Jane knocked at the door of Mrs. Osborn's boudoir, it was empty, both
the ladies having gone into the garden.

But Ameerah's story was quite true, Lady Walderhurst said in the evening
when Jane spoke of the matter as she dressed her for dinner. They had
been speaking of a book containing records of certain historical
Walderhursts. It was one Emily had taken from the library to read in her
bedroom.

"We did not ask her to go for it. In fact I did not know the woman was
within hearing. She moves about so noiselessly one frequently does not
know when she is near. Of course she meant very well, but she does not
know our English ways."

"No, my lady, she does not," said Jane, respectfully but firmly. "I took
the liberty of telling her she must keep to her own part of the house
unless required by your ladyship."

"You mustn't frighten the poor creature," laughed her mistress. She was
rather touched indeed by the slavish desire to please and do service
swiftly which the Ayah's blunder seemed to indicate. She had wished to
save her mistress even the trouble of giving the order. That was her
Oriental way, Emily thought, and it was very affectionate and
child-like.

Being reminded of the book again, she carried it down herself into the
drawing-room. It was a volume she was fond of because it recorded
romantic stories of certain noble dames of Walderhurst lineage.

Her special predilection was a Dame Ellena, who, being left with but few
servitors in attendance during her lord's absence from his castle on a
foraging journey into an enemy's country, had defended the stronghold
boldly against the attack of a second enemy who had adroitly seized the
opportunity to forage for himself. In the cellars had been hidden
treasure recently acquired by the usual means, and knowing this, Dame
Ellena had done splendid deeds, marshalling her small forces in such way
as deceived the attacking party and showing herself in scorn upon the
battlements, a fierce, beauteous woman about to give her lord an heir,
yet fearing naught, and only made more fierce and full of courage by
this fact. The son, born but three weeks later, had been the most
splendid and savage fighter of his name, and a giant in build and
strength.

"I suppose," Emily said when they discussed the legend after dinner, "I
suppose she felt that she could do _anything_," with her italics. "I
daresay _nothing_ could make her afraid, but the thought that something
might go wrong while her husband was away. And strength was given her."

She was so thrilled that she got up and walked across the room with
quite a fine sweep of heroic movement in her momentary excitement. She
held her head up and smiled with widening eyes.

But she saw Captain Osborn drag at his black moustache to hide an
unattractive grin, and she was at once abashed into feeling silly and
shy. She sat down again with awkward self-consciousness.

"I'm afraid I'm making you laugh at me," she apologised, "but that story
always gives me such a romantic feeling. I like her so."

"Oh! not at all, not all," said Osborn. "I was not laughing really; oh
no!"

But he had been, and had been secretly calling her a sentimental,
ramping idiot.

It was a great day for Jane Cupp when her mother arrived at Palstrey
Manor. It was a great day for Mrs. Cupp also. When she descended from
the train at the little country station, warm and somewhat flushed by
her emotions and the bugled splendours of her best bonnet and black silk
mantle, the sight of Jane standing neatly upon the platform almost
overcame her. Being led to his lordship's own private bus, and seeing
her trunk surrounded by the attentions of an obsequious station-master
and a liveried young man, she was conscious of concealing a flutter with
dignified reserve.

"My word, Jane!" she exclaimed after they had taken their seats in the
vehicle. "My word, you look as accustomed to it as if you had been born
in the family."

But it was when, after she had been introduced to the society in the
servants' hall, she was settled in her comfortable room next to Jane's
own that she realised to the full that there were features of her
position which marked it with importance almost startling. As Jane
talked to her, the heat of the genteel bonnet and beaded mantle had
nothing whatever to do with the warmth which moistened her brow.

"I thought I'd keep it till I saw you, mother," said the girl
decorously. "I know what her ladyship feels about being talked over. If
I was a lady myself, I shouldn't like it. And I know how deep you'll
feel it, that when the doctor advised her to get an experienced married
person to be at hand, she said in that dear way of hers, 'Jane, if your
uncle could spare your mother, how I should like to have her. I've never
forgot her kindness in Mortimer Street.'"

Mrs. Cupp fanned her face with a handkerchief of notable freshness.

"If she was Her Majesty," she said, "she couldn't be more sacred to me,
nor me more happy to be allowed the privilege."

Jane had begun to put her mother's belongings away. She was folding and
patting a skirt on the bed. She fussed about a little nervously and then
lifted a rather embarrassed face.

"I'm glad you _are_ here, mother," she said. "I'm thankful to _have_
you!"

Mrs. Cupp ceased fanning and stared at her with a change of expression.
She found herself involuntarily asking her next question in a half
whisper.

"Why, Jane, what is it?"

Jane came nearer.

"I don't know," she answered, and her voice also was low. "Perhaps I'm
silly and overanxious, because I _am_ so fond of her. But that Ameerah,
I actually dream about her."

"What! The black woman?",

"If I was to say a word, or if you did, and we was wrong, how should we
feel? I've kept my nerves to myself till I've nearly screamed sometimes.
And my lady would be so hurt if she knew. But--well," in a hurried
outburst, "I do wish his lordship was here, and I do wish the Osborns
wasn't. I do wish it, I tell you that."

"Good Lord!" cried Mrs. Cupp, and after staring with alarmed eyes a
second or so, she wiped a slight dampness from her upper lip.

She was of the order of female likely to take a somewhat melodramatic
view of any case offering her an opening in that direction.

"Jane!" she gasped faintly, "do you think they'd try to take her life?"

"Goodness, no!" ejaculated Jane, with even a trifle of impatience.
"People like them daren't. But suppose they was to try to, well, to
upset her in some way, what a thing for them it would be."

After which the two women talked together for some time in whispers,
Jane bringing a chair to place opposite her mother's. They sat knee to
knee, and now and then Jane shed a tear from pure nervousness. She was
so appalled by the fear of making a mistake which, being revealed by
some chance, would bring confusion upon and pain of mind to her lady.

"At all events," was Mrs. Cupp's weighty observation when their
conference was at an end, "here we both are, and two pairs of eyes and
ears and hands and legs is a fat lot better than one, where there's
things to be looked out for."

Her training in the matter of subtlety had not been such as Ameerah's,
and it may not be regarded as altogether improbable that her observation
of the Ayah was at times not too adroitly concealed, but if the native
woman knew that she was being remarked, she gave no sign of her
knowledge. She performed her duties faithfully and silently, she gave no
trouble, and showed a gentle subservience and humbleness towards the
white servants which won immense approbation. Her manner towards Mrs.
Cupp's self was marked indeed by something like a tinge of awed
deference, which, it must be confessed, mollified the good woman, and
awakened in her a desire to be just and lenient even to the dark of skin
and alien of birth.

"She knows her betters when she sees them, and has pretty enough manners
for a black," the object of her respectful obeisances remarked. "I
wonder if she's ever heard of her Maker, and if a little brown Testament
with good print wouldn't be a good thing to give her?"

This boon was, in fact, bestowed upon her as a gift. Mrs. Cupp bought it
for a shilling at a small shop in the village. Ameerah, in whose dusky
being was incorporated the occult faith of lost centuries, and whose
gods had been gods through mystic ages, received the fat, little brown
book with down-dropped lids and grateful obeisance. These were her words
to her mistress:

"The fat old woman with protruding eyes bestowed it upon me. She says it
is the book of her god. She has but one. She wishes me to worship him.
Am I a babe to worship such a god as would please her. She is old, and
has lost her mind."

Lady Walderhurst's health continued all that could be desired. She arose
smiling in the morning, and bore her smile about with her all day. She
walked much in the gardens, and spent long, happy hours sewing in her
favourite sitting-room. Work which she might have paid other women to
do, she did with her own hands for the mere sentimental bliss of it.
Sometimes she sat with Hester and sewed, and Hester lay on a sofa and
stared at her moving hands.

"You know how to do it, don't you?" she once said.

"I was obliged to sew for myself when I was so poor, and this is
delightful," was Emily's answer.

"But you could buy it all and save yourself the trouble."

Emily stroked her bit of cambric and looked awkward.

"I'd rather not," she said.

Well as she was, she began to think she did not sleep quite so soundly
as had been habitual with her. She started up in bed now and again as if
she had been disturbed by some noise, but when she waited and listened
she heard nothing. At least this happened on two or three occasions. And
then one night, having been lying folded in profound, sweet sleep, she
sprang up in the black darkness, wakened by an actual, physical reality
of sensation, the soft laying of a hand upon her naked side,--that, and
nothing else.

"What is that? Who is there?" she cried. "Someone is in the room!"

Yes, someone was there. A few feet from her bed she heard a sobbing
sigh, then a rustle, then followed silence. She struck a match and,
getting up, lighted candles. Her hand shook, but she remembered that she
must be firm with herself.

"I must not be nervous," she said, and looked the room over from end to
end.

But it contained no living creature, nor any sign that living creature
had entered it since she had lain down to rest. Gradually the fast
beating of her heart had slackened, and she passed her hand over her
face in bewilderment.

"It wasn't like a dream at all," she murmured; "it really wasn't. I
_felt_ it."

Still as absolutely nothing was to be found, the sense of reality
diminished somewhat, and being so healthy a creature, she regained her
composure, and on going back to bed slept well until Jane brought her
early tea.

Under the influence of fresh morning air and sunlight, of ordinary
breakfast and breakfast talk with the Osborns, her first convictions
receded so far that she laughed a little as she related the incident.

"I never had such a real dream in my life," she said; "but it must have
been a dream."

"One's dreams are very real sometimes," said Hester.

"Perhaps it was the Palstrey ghost," Osborn laughed. "It came to you
because you ignore it." He broke off with a slight sudden start and
stared at her a second questioningly. "Did you say it put its hand on
your side?" he asked.

"Don't tell her silly things that will frighten her. How ridiculous of
you," exclaimed Hester sharply. "It's not proper."

Emily looked at both of them wonderingly.

"What do you mean?" she said. "I don't believe in ghosts. It won't
frighten me, Hester. I never even heard of a Palstrey ghost."

"Then I am not going to tell you of one," said Captain Osborn a little
brusquely, and he left his chair and went to the sideboard to cut cold
beef.

He kept his back towards them, and his shoulders looked uncommunicative
and slightly obstinate. Hester's face was sullen. Emily thought it sweet
of her to care so much, and turned upon her with grateful eyes.

"I was only frightened for a few minutes, Hester," she said. "My dreams
are not vivid at all, usually."

But howsoever bravely she ignored the shock she had received, it was not
without its effect, which was that occasionally there drifted into her
mind a recollection of the suggestion that Palstrey had a ghost. She had
never heard of it, and was in fact of an orthodoxy so ingenuously entire
as to make her feel that belief in the existence of such things was a
sort of defiance of ecclesiastical laws. Still, such stories were often
told in connection with old places, and it was natural to wonder what
features marked this particular legend. Did it lay hands on people's
sides when they were asleep? Captain Osborn had asked his question as if
with a sudden sense of recognition. But she would not let herself think
of the matter, and she would not make inquiries.

The result was that she did not sleep well for several nights. She was
annoyed at herself, because she found that she kept lying awake as if
listening or waiting. And it was not a good thing to lose one's sleep
when one wanted particularly to keep strong.

Jane Cupp during this week was, to use her own words, "given quite a
turn" by an incident which, though a small matter, might have proved
untoward in its results.

The house at Palstrey, despite its age, was in a wonderful state of
preservation, the carved oak balustrades of the stairways being
considered particularly fine.

"What but Providence," said Jane piously, in speaking to her mother the
next morning, "made me look down the staircase as I passed through the
upper landing just before my lady was going down to dinner. What but
Providence I couldn't say. It certainly wasn't because I've done it
before that I remember. But just that one evening I was obliged to cross
the landing for something, and my eye just lowered itself by accident,
and there it was!"

"Just where it would have tripped her up. Good Lord! it makes my heart
turn over to hear you tell it. How big a bit of carving was it?" Mrs.
Cupp's opulent chest trimmings heaved.

"Only a small piece that had broken off from old age and worm-eatenness,
I suppose, but it had dropped just where she wouldn't have caught sight
of it, and ten to one would have stepped on it and turned her ankle and
been thrown from the top to the bottom of the whole flight. Suppose I
_hadn't_ seen it in time to pick it up before she went down. Oh, dear!
Oh, dear! Mother!"

"I should say so!" Mrs. Cupp's manner approached the devout. This
incident it was which probably added to Jane's nervous sense of
responsibility. She began to watch her mistress's movements with
hyper-sensitive anxiety. She fell into the habit of going over her
bedroom two or three times a day, giving a sort of examination to its
contents.

"Perhaps I'm so fond of her that it's making me downright silly," she
said to her mother; "but it seems as if I can't help it. I feel as if
I'd like to know everything she does, and go over the ground to make
sure of it before she goes anywhere. I'm so proud of her, mother; I'm
just as proud as if I was some connection of the family, instead of just
her maid. It'll be such a splendid thing if she keeps well and
everything goes as it should. Even people like us can see what it means
to a gentleman that can go back nine hundred years. If I was Lady Maria
Bayne, I'd be here and never leave her. I tell you nothing could drive
me from her."

"You are well taken care of," Hester had said. "That girl is devoted to
you. In her lady's maid's way she'd fight for your life."

"I think she is as faithful to me as Ameerah is to you," Emily answered.
"I feel sure Ameerah would fight for you."

Ameerah's devotion in these days took the form of a deep-seated hatred
of the woman whom she regarded as her mistress's enemy.

"It is an evil thing that she should take this place," she said. "She is
an old woman. What right hath she to think she may bear a son. Ill luck
will come of it. She deserves any ill fortune which may befall her."

"Sometimes," Lady Walderhurst once said to Osborn, "I feel as if Ameerah
disliked me. She looks at me in such a curious, stealthy way."

"She is admiring you," was his answer. "She thinks you are something a
little supernatural, because you are so tall and have such a fresh
colour."

There was in the park at Palstrey Manor a large ornamental pool of
water, deep and dark and beautiful because of the age and hugeness of
the trees which closed around it, and the water plants which encircled
and floated upon it. White and yellow flags and brown velvet rushes grew
thick about its edge, and water-lilies opened and shut upon its surface.
An avenue of wonderful limes led down to a flight of mossy steps, by
which in times gone by people had descended to the boat which rocked
idly in the soft green gloom. There was an island on it, on which roses
had been planted and left to run wild; early in the year daffodils and
other spring flowers burst up through the grass and waved scented heads.
Lady Walderhurst had discovered the place during her honeymoon, and had
loved it fondly ever since. The avenue leading to it was her favourite
walk; a certain seat under a tree on the island her favourite
resting-place.

"It is so still there," she had said to the Osborns. "No one ever goes
there but myself. When I have crossed the little old bridge and sit down
among the greenness with my book or work, I feel as if there was no
world at all. There is no sound but the rustle of the leaves and the
splash of the moor-hens who come to swim about. They don't seem to be
afraid of me, neither do the thrushes and robins. They know I shall only
sit still and watch them. Sometimes they come quite near."

She used, in fact, to take her letter-writing and sewing to the sweet,
secluded place and spend hours of pure, restful bliss. It seemed to her
that her life became more lovely day by day.

[Illustration: Hester Osborn]

Hester did not like the pool. She thought it too lonely and silent. She
preferred her beflowered boudoir or the sunny garden. Sometimes in these
days she feared to follow her own thoughts. She was being pushed--pushed
towards the edge of her precipice, and it was only the working of Nature
that she should lose her breath and snatch at strange things to stay
herself. Between herself and her husband a sort of silence had grown.
There were subjects of which they never spoke, and yet each knew that
the other's mind was given up to thought of them day and night. There
were black midnight hours when Hester, lying awake in her bed, knew that
Alec lay awake in his also. She had heard him many a time turn over with
a caught breath and a smothered curse. She did not ask herself what he
was thinking of. She knew. She knew because she was thinking of the same
things herself. Of big, fresh, kind Emily Walderhurst lost in her dreams
of exultant happiness which never ceased to be amazed and grateful to
prayerfulness; of the broad lands and great, comfortable houses; of all
it implied to be the Marquis of Walderhurst or his son; of the long,
sickening voyage back to India; of the hopeless muddle of life in an
ill-kept bungalow; of wretched native servants, at once servile and
stubborn and given to lies and thefts. More than once she was forced to
turn on her face that she might smother her frenzied sobs in her pillow.

It was on such a night--she had awakened from her sleep to notice such
stillness in Osborn's adjoining room, that she thought him profoundly
asleep--that she arose from her bed to go and sit at her open window.

She had not been seated there many minutes before she became singularly
conscious, she did not know how, of some presence near her among the
bushes in the garden below. It had indeed scarcely seemed to be sound or
movement which had attracted her attention, and yet it must have been
one or both, for she involuntarily turned to a particular spot.

Yes, something, someone, was standing in a corner, hidden by shrubbery.
It was the middle of the night, and people were meeting. She sat still
and almost breathless. She could hear nothing and saw nothing but,
between the leafage, a dim gleam of white. Only Ameerah wore white.
After a few seconds' waiting she began to think a strange thing, though
she presently realised that, taking all things into consideration, it
was not strange at all. She got up very noiselessly and stole into her
husband's room. He was not there; the bed was empty, though he had slept
there earlier in the night.

She went back to her own bed and got into it again. In ten minutes' time
Captain Osborn crept upstairs and returned to bed also. Hester made no
sign and did not ask any questions. She knew he would have told her
nothing, and also she did not wish to hear. She had seen him speaking to
Ameerah in the lane a few days before, and now that he was meeting her
in the night she knew that she need not ask herself what the subject of
their consultation might be. But she looked haggard in the morning.

Lady Walderhurst herself did not look well, For the last two or three
nights she had been starting from her sleep again with that eerie
feeling of being wakened by someone at her bedside, though she had found
no one when she had examined the room on getting up.

"I am sorry to say I am afraid I am getting a little nervous," she had
said to Jane Cupp. "I will begin to take valerian, though it is really
very nasty."

Jane herself had a somewhat harried expression of countenance. She did
not mention to her mistress that for some days she had been faithfully
following a line of conduct she had begun to mark out for herself. She
had obtained a pair of list slippers and had been learning to go about
softly. She had sat up late and risen from her bed early, though she had
not been rewarded by any particularly marked discoveries. She had
thought, however, that she observed that Ameerah did not look at her as
much as had been her habit, and she imagined she rather avoided her. All
she said to Lady Walderhurst was:

"Yes, my lady, mother thinks a great deal of valerian to quiet the
nerves. Will you have a light left in your room to-night, my lady?"

"I am afraid I could not sleep with a light," her mistress answered. "I
am not used to one."

She continued to sleep, disturbedly some nights, in the dark. She was
not aware that on some of the nights Jane Cupp either slept or laid
awake in the room nearest to her. Jane's own bedroom was in another part
of the house, but in her quiet goings about in the list shoes she now
and then saw things which made her nervously determined to be within
immediate call.

"I don't say it isn't nerves, mother," she said, "and that I ain't silly
to feel so suspicious of all sorts of little things, but there's nights
when I couldn't stand it not to be quite near her."



Chapter Sixteen


The Lime Avenue was a dim, if lovely, place at twilight. When the sun
was setting, broad lances of gold slanted through the branches and
glorified the green spaces with mellow depths of light. But later, when
the night was drawing in, the lines of grey tree-trunks, shadowed and
canopied by boughs, suggested to the mind the pillars of some ruined
cathedral, desolate and ghostly.

Jane Cupp, facing the gloom of it during her lady's dinner-hour, and
glancing furtively from side to side as she went, would have been awed
by the grey stillness, even if she had not been in a timorous mood to
begin with. In the first place, the Lime Avenue, which was her
ladyship's own special and favourite walk, was not the usual promenade
of serving-maids. Even the gardeners seldom set foot in it unless to
sweep away dead leaves and fallen wood. Jane herself had never been here
before. This evening she had gone absolutely because she was following
Ameerah.

She was following Ameerah because, during the afternoon tea-hour in the
servants' hall, she had caught a sentence or so in the midst of a
gossiping story, which had made her feel that she should be unhappy if
she did not go down the walk and to the water-side,--see the water, the
boat, the steps, everything.

"My word, mother!" she had said, "it's a queer business for a
respectable girl that's maid in a great place to be feeling as if she
had to watch black people, same as if she was in the police, and not
daring to say a word; for if I did say a word, Captain Osborn's clever
enough to have me sent away from here in a jiffy. And the worst of it
is," twisting her hands together, "there _mayn't_ be _anything_ going on
really. If they were as innocent as lambs they couldn't act any
different; and just the same, things _might_ have happened by accident."

"That's the worst of it," was Mrs. Cupp's fretted rejoinder. "Any old
piece of carving might have dropped out of a balustrade, and any lady
that wasn't well might have nightmare and be disturbed in her sleep."

"Yes," admitted Jane, anxiously, "that is the worst of it. Sometimes I
feel so foolish I'm all upset with myself."

The gossip in servants' halls embraces many topics. In country houses
there is naturally much to be said of village incidents, of the scandals
of cottages and the tragedies of farms. This afternoon, at one end of
the table the talk had been of a cottage scandal which had verged on
tragedy. A handsome, bouncing, flaunting village girl had got into that
"trouble" which had been anticipated for her by both friends and enemies
for some time. Being the girl she was, much venomous village social stir
had resulted. It had been predicted that she would "go up to London," or
that she would drown herself, having an impudent high spirit which
brought upon her much scornful and derisive flouting on her evil day.
The manor servants knew a good deal of her, because she had been for a
while a servant at The Kennel Farm, and had had a great fancy for
Ameerah, whom it had pleased her to make friends with. When she fell
suddenly ill, and for days lay at the point of death, there was a
stealthy general opinion that Ameerah, with her love spells and potions,
could have said much which might have been enlightening, if she had
chosen. The girl had been in appalling danger. The village doctor, who
had been hastily called in, had at one moment declared that life had
left her body. It was, in fact, only Ameerah who had insisted that she
was not dead. After a period of prostration, during which she seemed a
corpse, she had slowly come back to earthly existence. The graphic
descriptions of the scenes by her bedside, of her apparent death, her
cold and bloodless body, her lagging and ghastly revival to
consciousness, aroused in the servants' hall a fevered interest. Ameerah
was asked questions, and gave such answers as satisfied herself if not
her interlocutors. She was perfectly aware of the opinions of her fellow
servitors. She knew all about them while they knew nothing whatsoever
about her. Her limited English could be used as a means of baffling
them. She smiled, and fell into Hindustani when she was pressed.

Jane Cupp heard both questions and answers. Ameerah professed to know
nothing but such things as the whole village knew. Towards the end of
the discussion, however, in a mixture of broken English and Hindustani,
she conveyed that she had believed that the girl would drown herself.
Asked why, she shook her head, then said that she had seen her by the
Mem Sahib's lake at the end of the trees. She had asked if the water was
deep enough, near the bridge, to drown. Ameerah had answered that she
did not know.

There was a general exclamation. They all knew it was deep there. The
women shuddered as they remembered how deep they had been told it was at
that particular spot. It was said that there was no bottom to it.
Everybody rather revelled in the gruesomeness of the idea of a
bottomless piece of water. Someone remembered that there was a story
about it. As much as ninety years ago two young labourers on the place
had quarrelled about a young woman. One day, in the heat of jealous rage
one had seized the other and literally thrown him into the pond. He had
never been found. No drags could reach his body. He had sunk into the
blackness for ever.

Ameerah sat at the table with downcast eyes. She had a habit of sitting
silent with dropped eyes, which Jane could not bear. As she drank her
tea she watched her in spite of herself.

After a few minutes had passed, her appetite for bread and butter
deserted her. She got up and left the hall, looking pale.

The mental phases through which she went during the afternoon ended in
her determination to go down the avenue and to the water's side this
evening. It could be done while her ladyship and her guests were at
dinner. This evening the Vicar and his wife and daughter were dining at
the Manor.

Jane took in emotionally all the mysterious silence and dimness of the
long tree-pillared aisle, and felt a tremor as she walked down it,
trying to hold herself in hand by practical reflections half whispered.

"I'm just going to have a look, to make sure," she said, "silly or not.
I've got upset through not being able to help watching that woman, and
the way to steady my nerves is to make sure I'm just giving in to
foolishness."

She walked as fast as she could towards the water. She could see its
gleam in the dim light, but she must pass a certain tree before she
could see the little bridge itself.

"My goodness! What's that?" she said suddenly. It was something white,
which rose up as if from the ground, as if from the rushes growing at
the water's edge.

Just a second Jane stood, and choked, and then suddenly darted forward,
running as fast as she could. The white figure merely moved slowly away
among the trees. It did not run or seem startled, and as Jane ran she
caught it by its white drapery, and found herself, as she had known she
would, dragging at the garments of Ameerah. But Ameerah only turned
round and greeted her with a welcoming smile, mild enough to damp any
excitement.

"What are you doing here?" Jane demanded. "Why do you come to this
place?"

Ameerah answered her with simple fluency in Hindustani, with her manner
of not realising that she was speaking to a foreigner who could not
understand her. What she explained was that, having heard that Jane's
Mem Sahib came here to meditate on account of the stillness, she herself
had formed the habit of coming to indulge in prayer and meditation when
the place was deserted for the day. She commended the place to Jane, and
to Jane's mother, whom she believed to be holy persons given to
devotional exercises. Jane shook her.

"I don't understand a word you say," she cried. "You know I don't. Speak
in English."

Ameerah shook her head slowly, and smiled again with patience. She
endeavoured to explain in English which Jane was sure was worse than she
had ever heard her use before. Was it forbidden that a servant should
come to the water?

She was far too much for Jane, who was so unnerved that she burst into
tears.

"You are up to some wickedness," she sobbed; "I know you are. You're
past bearing. I'm going to write to people that's got the right to do
what I daren't. I'm going back to that bridge."

Ameerah looked at her with a puzzled amiability for a few seconds. She
entered into further apologies and explanations in Hindustani. In the
midst of them her narrow eyes faintly gleamed, and she raised a hand.

"They come to us. It is your Mem Sahib and her people. Hear them."

She spoke truly. Jane had miscalculated as to her hour, or the time
spent at the dinner-table had been shorter than usual. In fact, Lady
Walderhurst had brought her guests to see the young moon peer through
the lime-trees, as she sometimes did when the evening was warm.

Jane Cupp fled precipitately. Ameerah disappeared also, but without
precipitation or any sign of embarrassment.

       *       *       *       *       *

"You look as if you had not slept well, Jane," Lady Walderhurst remarked
in the morning as her hair was being brushed. She had glanced into the
glass and saw that it reflected a pale face above her own, and that the
pale face had red rims to its eyes.

"I have been a bit troubled by a headache, my lady," Jane answered.

"I have something like a headache myself." Lady Walderhurst's voice had
not its usual cheerful ring. Her own eyes looked heavy. "I did not rest
well. I have not rested well for a week. That habit of starting from my
sleep feeling that some sound has disturbed me is growing on me. Last
night I dreamed again that someone touched my side. I think I shall be
obliged to send for Sir Samuel Brent."

"My lady," exclaimed Jane feverishly, "if you would--if you would."

Lady Walderhurst's look at her was nervous and disturbed.

"Do you--does your mother think I am not as well as I should be, Jane?"
she said.

Jane's hands were actually trembling.

"Oh no, my lady. Oh no! But if Sir Samuel could be sent for, or Lady
Maria Bayne, or--or his lordship--"

The disturbed expression of Lady Walderhurst's face changed to something
verging on alarm. It was true that she began to be horribly frightened.
She turned upon Jane, pallor creeping over her skin.

"Oh!" she cried, a sound of almost child-like fear and entreaty in her
voice. "I am sure you think I am ill, I am sure you do. What--what is
it?"

She leaned forward suddenly and rested her forehead on her hands, her
elbows supported by the dressing-table. She was overcome by a shock of
dread.

"Oh! if anything should go wrong!" in a faint half wail; "if anything
_could_ happen!" She could not bear the mere thought. It would break her
heart. She had been so happy. God had been so good.

Jane was inwardly convulsed with contrition commingled with anger at her
own blundering folly. Now it was she herself who had "upset" her
ladyship, given her a fright that made her pale and trembling. What did
she not deserve for being such a thoughtless fool. She might have known.
She poured forth respectfully affectionate protestations.

"Indeed, I beg your pardon, my lady. Indeed, it's only my silliness!
Mother was saying yesterday that she had never seen a lady so well and
in as good spirits. I have no right to be here if I make such mistakes.
Please, my lady--oh! might mother be allowed to step in a minute to
speak to you?"

Emily's colour came, back gradually. When Jane went to her mother, Mrs.
Cupp almost boxed her ears.

"That's just the way with girls," she said. "No more sense than a pack
of cats. If you can't keep quiet you'd better just give up. Of course
she'd think you meant they was to be sent for because we was certain she
was a dying woman. Oh my! Jane Cupp, get away!"

She enjoyed her little interview with Lady Walderhurst greatly. A woman
whose opinion was of value at such a time had the soundest reasons for
enjoying herself. When she returned to her room, she sat and fanned
herself with a pocket handkerchief and dealt judicially with Jane.

"What we've got to do," she said, "is to think, and think we will. Tell
her things outright we must not, until we've got something sure and
proved. Then we can call on them that's got the power in their hands. We
can't call on them till we can show them a thing no one can't deny. As
to that bridge, it's old enough to be easy managed, and look accidental
if it broke. You say she ain't going there to-day. Well, this very
night, as soon as it's dark enough, you and me will go down and have a
look at it. And what's more, we'll take a man with us. Judd could be
trusted. Worst comes to worst, we're only taking the liberty of making
sure it's safe, because we know it _is_ old and we're over careful."

As Jane had gathered from her, by careful and apparently incidental
inquiry, Emily had had no intention of visiting her retreat. In the
morning she had, in fact, not felt quite well enough. Her nightmare had
shaken her far more on its second occurring. The stealthy hand had
seemed not merely to touch, but to grip at her side, and she had been
physically unable to rise for some minutes after her awakening. This
experience had its physical and mental effects on her.

She did not see Hester until luncheon, and after luncheon she found her
to be in one of her strange humours. She was often in these strange
humours at this time. She wore a nervous and strained look, and
frequently seemed to have been crying. She had new lines on her forehead
between the eyebrows. Emily had tried in vain to rouse and cheer her
with sympathetic feminine talk. There were days when she felt that for
some reason Hester did not care to see her.

She felt it this afternoon, and not being herself at the high-water mark
of cheerfulness, she was conscious of a certain degree of
discouragement. She had liked her so much, she had wanted to be friends
with her and to make her life an easier thing, and yet she appeared
somehow to have failed. It was because she was so far from being a
clever woman. Perhaps she might fail in other things because she was not
clever. Perhaps she was never able to give to people what they wanted,
what they needed. A brilliant woman had such power to gain and hold
love.

After an hour or so spent in trying to raise the mental temperature of
Mrs. Osborn's beflowered boudoir, she rose and picked up her little
work-basket.

"Perhaps you would take a nap if I left you," she said. "I think I will
stroll down to the lake."

She quietly stole away, leaving Hester on her cushions.



Chapter Seventeen

A few minutes later a knock at the door being replied to by Hester's
curt "Come in!" produced the modest entry of Jane Cupp, who had come to
make a necessary inquiry of her mistress. "Her ladyship is not here; she
has gone out." Jane made an altogether involuntary step forward. Her
face became the colour of her clean white apron.

"Out!" she gasped.

Hester turned sharply round.

"To the lake," she said. "What do you mean by staring in that way?"

Jane did not tell her what she meant. She incontinently ran from the
room without any shadow of a pretence at a lady's maid's decorum.

She fled through the rooms, to make a short cut to the door opening on
to the gardens. Through that she darted, and flew across paths and
flowerbeds towards the avenue of limes.

"She shan't get to the bridge before me," she panted. "She shan't, she
shan't. I won't let her. Oh, if my breath will only hold out!"

She did not reflect that gardeners would naturally think she had gone
mad. She thought of nothing whatever but the look in Ameerah's downcast
eyes when the servants had talked of the bottomless water,--the eerie,
satisfied, sly look. Of that, and of the rising of the white figure from
the ground last night she thought, and she clutched her neat side as she
ran.

The Lime Avenue seemed a mile long, and yet when she was running down it
she saw Lady Walderhurst walking slowly under the trees carrying her
touching little basket of sewing in her hand. She was close to the
bridge.

"My lady! my lady!" she gasped out as soon as she dared. She could not
run screaming all the way. "Oh, my lady! if you please!"

Emily heard her and turned round. Never had she been much more amazed in
her life. Her maid, her well-bred Jane Cupp, who had not drawn an
indecorous breath since assuming her duties, was running after her
calling out to her, waving her hands, her face distorted, her voice
hysteric.

Emily had been just on the point of stepping on to the bridge, her hand
had been outstretched towards the rail. She drew back a step in alarm
and stood staring. How strange everything seemed to-day. She began to
feel choked and trembling.

A few seconds and Jane was upon her, clutching at her dress. She had so
lost her breath that she was almost speechless.

"My lady," she panted. "Don't set foot on it; don't--don't, till we're
sure."

"On--on what?"

Then Jane realised how mad she looked, how insane the whole scene was,
and she gave way to her emotions. Partly through physical exhaustion and
breathlessness, and partly through helpless terror, she fell on her
knees.

"The bridge!" she said. "I don't care what happens to me so that no harm
comes to you. There's things being plotted and planned that looks like
accidents. The bridge would look like an accident if part of it broke.
There's no bottom to the water. They were saying so yesterday, and _she_
sat listening. I found her here last night."

"She! Her!" Emily felt as if she was passing through another nightmare.

"Ameerah," wailed poor Jane. "White ones have no chance against black.
Oh, my lady!" her sense of the possibility that she might be making a
fool of herself after all was nearly killing her. "I believe she would
drive you to your death if she could do it, think what you will of me."

The little basket of needlework shook in Lady Walderhurst's hand. She
swallowed hard, and without warning sat down on the roots of a fallen
tree, her cheeks blanching slowly.

"Oh Jane!" she said in simple woe and bewilderment. "I don't understand
any of it. How could--how _could_ they want to hurt me!" Her innocence
was so fatuous that she thought that because she had been kind to them
they could not hate or wish to injure her.

But something for the first time made her begin to quail. She sat, and
tried to recover herself. She put out a shaking hand to the basket of
sewing. She could scarcely see it, because suddenly tears had filled her
eyes.

"Bring one of the men here," she said, after a few moments. "Tell him
that I am a little uncertain about the safety of the bridge."

She sat quite still while Jane was absent in search of the man. She held
her basket on her knee, her hand resting on it. Her kindly, slow-working
mind was wakening to strange thoughts. To her they seemed inhuman and
uncanny. Was it because good, faithful, ignorant Jane had been rather
nervous about Ameerah that she herself had of late got into a habit of
feeling as if the Ayah was watching and following her. She had been
startled more than once by finding her near when she had not been aware
of her presence. She had, of course, heard Hester say that native
servants often startled one by their silent, stealthy-seeming ways. But
the woman's eyes had frightened her. And she had heard the story about
the village girl.

She sat, and thought, and thought. Her eyes were fixed upon the
moss-covered ground, and her breath came quickly and irregularly several
times.

"I don't know what to do," she said. "I am sure--if it is true--I don't
know what to do."

The under-gardener's heavy step and Jane's lighter one roused her. She
lifted her eyes to watch the pair as they came. He was a big, young man
with a simple rustic face and big shoulders and hands.

"The bridge is so slight and old," she said to him, "that it has just
occurred to me that it might not be quite safe. Examine it carefully to
make sure."

The young man touched his forehead and began to look the supports over.
Jane watched him with bated breath when he rose to his feet.

"They're all right on this side, my lady," he said. "I shall have to get
in the boat to make sure of them that rest on the island."

He stamped upon the end nearest and it remained firm.

"Look at the railing well," said Lady Walderhurst. "I often stand and
lean on it and--and watch the sunset."

She faltered at this point, because she had suddenly remembered that
this was a habit of hers, and that she had often spoken of it to the
Osborns. There was a point on the bridge at which, through a gap in the
trees, a beautiful sunset was always particularly beautiful. It was the
right-hand rail facing these special trees she rested on when she
watched the evening sky.

The big, young gardener looked at the left-hand rail and shook it with
his strong hands.

"That's safe enough," he said to Jane.

"Try the other," said Jane.

He tried the other. Something had happened to it. It broke in his big
grasp. His sunburnt skin changed colour by at least three shades.

"Lord A'mighty!" Jane heard him gasp under his breath. He touched his
cap and looked blankly at Lady Walderhurst. Jane's heart seemed to
herself to roll over. She scarcely dared look at her mistress, but when
she took courage to do so, she found her so white that she hurried to
her side.

"Thank you, Jane," she said rather faintly. "The sky is so lovely this
afternoon that I meant to stop and look at it. I should have fallen into
the water, which they say has no bottom. No one would have seen or heard
me if you had not come."

She caught Jane's hand and held it hard. Her eyes wandered over the
avenue of big trees, which no one but herself came near at this hour. It
would have been so lonely, so lonely!

The gardener went away, still looking less ruddy than he had looked when
he arrived on the spot. Lady Walderhurst rose from her seat on the mossy
tree-trunk. She rose quite slowly.

"Don't speak to me yet, Jane," she said. And with Jane following her at
a respectful distance, she returned to the house and went to her room to
lie down.

There was nothing to prove that the whole thing was not mere chance,
mere chance. It was this which turned her cold. It was all impossible.
The little bridge had been entirely unused for so long a time, it had
been so slight a structure from the first; it was old, and she
remembered now that Walderhurst had once said that it must be examined
and strengthened if it was to be used. She had leaned upon the rail
often lately; one evening she had wondered if it seemed quite as steady
as usual. What could she say, whom could she accuse, because a piece of
rotten wood had given away.

She started on her pillow. It was a piece of rotten wood which had
fallen from the balustrade upon the stairs, to be seen and picked up by
Jane just before she would have passed down on her way to dinner. And
yet, what would she appear to her husband, to Lady Maria, to anyone in
the decorous world, if she told them that she believed that in a
dignified English household, an English gentleman, even a deposed heir
presumptive, was working out a subtle plot against her such as might
adorn a melodrama? She held her head in her hands as her mind depicted
to her Lord Walderhurst's countenance, Lady Maria's dubious, amused
smile.

"She would think I was hysterical," she cried, under her breath. "He
would think I was vulgar and stupid, that I was a fussy woman with
foolish ideas, which made him ridiculous. Captain Os-born is of his
family. I should be accusing him of being a criminal. And yet I might
have been in the bottomless pond, in the bottomless pond, and no one
would have known."

If it all had not seemed so incredible to her, if she could have felt
certain herself, she would not have been overwhelmed with this sense of
being baffled, bewildered, lost.

The Ayah who so loved Hester might hate her rival. A jealous native
woman might be capable of playing stealthy tricks, which, to her strange
mind, might seem to serve a proper end. Captain Osborn might not know.
She breathed again as this thought came to her. He could not know; it
would be too insane, too dangerous, too wicked.

And yet, if she had been flung headlong down the staircase, if the fall
had killed her, where would have been the danger for the man who would
only have deplored a fatal accident. If she had leaned upon the rail and
fallen into the black depths of water below, what could have been blamed
but a piece of rotten wood. She touched her forehead with her
handkerchief because it felt cold and damp. There was no way out. Her
teeth chattered.

"They may be as innocent as I am. And they may be murderers in their
hearts. I can prove nothing, I can prevent nothing. Oh! _do_ come home."

There was but one thought which remained clear in her mind. She must
keep herself safe--she must keep herself safe. In the anguish of her
trouble she confessed, by putting it into words, a thing which she had
not confessed before, and even as she spoke she did not realise that her
words contained confession.

"If I were to die now," she said with a touching gravity, "he would care
very much."

A few moments later she said, "It does not matter what happens to me,
how ridiculous or vulgar or foolish I seem, if I can keep myself
safe--until after. I will write to him now and ask him to try to come
back."

It was the letter she wrote after this decision which Osborn saw among
others awaiting postal, and which he stopped to examine.



Chapter Eighteen


Hester sat at the open window of her boudoir in the dark. She had
herself put out the wax candles, because she wanted to feel herself
surrounded by the soft blackness. She had sat through the dinner and
heard her husband's anxious inquiries about the rotten handrail, and had
watched his disturbed face and Emily's pale one. She herself had said
but little, and had been glad when the time came that she could decently
excuse herself and come away.

As she sat in the darkness and felt the night breath of the flowers in
the garden, she was thinking of all the murderers she had ever heard of.
She was reflecting that some of them had been quite respectable people,
and that all of them must have lived through a period in which they
gradually changed from respectable people to persons in whose brains a
thought had worked which once they would have believed impossible to
them, which they might have scouted the idea of their giving room to.
She was sure the change must come about slowly. At first it would seem
too mad and ridiculous, a sort of angry joke. Then the angry joke would
return again and again, until at last they let it stay and did not laugh
at it, but thought it over. Such things always happened because some one
wanted, or did not want, something very much, something it drove them
mad to think of being forced to live without, or with. Men who hated a
woman and could not rid themselves of her, who hated the sight of her
face, her eyes, her hair, the sound of her voice and step, and were
rendered insane by her nearness and the thought that they never could be
free from any of these things, had before now, commonplace or
comparatively agreeable men, by degrees reached the point where a knife
or a shot or a heavy blow seemed not only possible but inevitable.
People who had been ill-treated, people who had faced horrors through
want and desire, had reached the moment in which they took by force what
Fate would not grant them. Her brain so whirled that she wondered if she
was not a little delirious as she sat in the stillness thinking such
strange things.

For weeks she had been living under a strain so intense that her
feelings had seemed to cease to have any connection with what was
normal.

She had known too much; and yet she had been certain of nothing at all.

But she and Alec were like the people who began with a bad joke, and
then were driven and driven. It was impossible not to think of what
might come, and of what might be lost for ever. If the rail had not been
tried this afternoon, if big, foolish Emily Walderhurst had been lying
peacefully among the weeds to-night!

"The end comes to everyone," she said. "It would have been all over in a
few minutes. They say it isn't really painful."

Her lips quivered, and she pressed her hands tightly between her knees.

"That's a murderer's thought," she muttered querulously. "And yet I
wasn't a bad girl to begin with."

She began to see things. The chief thing was a sort of vision of how
Emily would have looked lying in the depths of the water among the
weeds. Her brown hair would have broken loose, and perhaps tangled
itself over her white face. Would her eyes be open and glazed, or half
shut? And her childish smile, the smile that looked so odd on the face
of a full-grown woman, would it have been fixed and seemed to confront
the world of life with a meek question as to what she had done to
people--why she had been drowned? Hester felt sure that was what her
helpless stillness would have expressed.

How happy the woman had been! To see her go about with her unconsciously
joyous eyes had sometimes been maddening. And yet, poor thing! why had
she not the right to be happy? She was always trying to please people
and help them. She was so good that she was almost silly. The day she
had brought the little things from London to The Kennel Farm, Hester
remembered that, despite her own morbid resentment, she had ended by
kissing her with repentant tears. She heard again, in the midst of her
delirious thoughts, the nice, prosaic emotion of her voice as she said:

"_Don't_ thank me--don't. Just let us _enjoy_ ourselves."

And she might have been lying among the long, thick weeds of the pond.
And it would not have been the accident it would have appeared to be. Of
that she felt sure. Brought face to face with this definiteness of
situation, she began to shudder.

She went out into the night feeling that she wanted air. She was not
strong enough to stand the realisation that she had become part of a web
into which she had not meant to be knitted. No; she had had her
passionate and desperate moments, but she had not meant things like
this. She had almost hoped that disaster might befall, she had almost
thought it possible that she would do nothing to prevent it--almost. But
some things were too bad.

She felt small and young and hopelessly evil as she walked in the dark
along a grass path to a seat under a tree. The very stillness of the
night was a horror to her, especially when once an owl called, and again
a dreaming bird cried in its nest.

She sat under the tree in the dark for at least an hour. The thick
shadow of the drooping branches hid her in actual blackness and
seclusion.

She said to herself later that some one of the occult powers she
believed in had made her go out and sit in this particular spot, because
there was a thing which was not to be, and she herself must come
between.

When she at last rose it was with panting breath. She stole back to her
room, and lighted with an unsteady hand a bedroom candle, whose flame
flickered upon a distorted, little dark face. For as she had sat under
the tree she had, after a while, heard whispering begin quite near her;
had caught, even in the darkness, a gleam of white, and had therefore
deliberately sat and listened.

       *       *       *       *       *

There could be, to the purely normal geniality of Emily Walderhurst's
nature, no greater relief than the recognition that a cloud had passed
from the mood of another.

When Hester appeared the next morning at the breakfast-table, she had
emerged from her humour of the day before and was almost affectionate in
her amiability. The meal at an end, she walked with Emily in the garden.

She had never shown such interest in what pertained to her as she
revealed this morning. Something she had always before lacked Emily
recognised in her for the first time,--a desire to ask friendly
questions, to verge on the confidential. They talked long and without
reserve. And how pretty it was of the girl, Emily thought, to care so
much about her health and her spirits, to be so interested in the
details of her every-day life, even in the simple matter of the
preparation and serving of her food, as if the merest trifle was of
consequence. It had been unfair, too, to fancy that she felt no interest
in Walderhurst's absence and return. She had noticed everything closely,
and actually thought he ought to come back at once.

"Send for him," she said quite suddenly; "send for him now."

There was an eagerness expressed in the dark thinness of her face which
moved Emily.

"It is dear of you to care so much, Hester," she said. "I didn't know
you thought it mattered."

"He must come," said Hester. "That's all. Send for him."

"I wrote a letter yesterday," was Lady Walderhurst's meek rejoinder. "I
got nervous."

"So did I get nervous," said Hester; "so did I."

That she was disturbed Emily could see. The little laugh she ended her
words with had an excited ring in it.

During the Osborns' stay at Palstrey the two women had naturally seen a
good deal of each other, but for the next two days they were scarcely
separated at all. Emily, feeling merely cheered and supported by the
fact that Hester made herself so excellent a companion, was not aware of
two or three things. One was that Mrs. Osborn did not lose sight of her
unless at such times as she was in the hands of Jane Cupp.

"I may as well make a clean breast of it," the young woman said. "I have
a sense of responsibility about you that I haven't liked to speak of
before. It's half hysterical, I suppose, but it has got the better of
me."

"You feel responsible for _me_!" exclaimed Emily, with wondering eyes.

"Yes, I do," she almost snapped. "You represent so much. Walderhurst
ought to be here. I'm not fit to take care of you."

"I ought to be taking care of you," said Emily, with gentle gravity. "I
am the older and stronger. You are not nearly so well as I am."

Hester startled her by bursting into tears.

"Then do as I tell you," she said. "Don't go anywhere alone. Take Jane
Cupp with you. You have nearly had two accidents. Make Jane sleep in
your dressing-room."

Emily felt a dreary chill creep over her. That which she had felt in the
air when she had slowly turned an amazed face upon Jane in the Lime
Avenue, that sense of the strangeness of things again closed her in.

"I will do as you wish," she answered.

But before the next day closed all was made plain to her, all the
awfulness, all the cruel, inhuman truth of things which seemed to lose
their possibility in the exaggeration of proportion which made their
incongruous ness almost grotesque.

The very prettiness of the flowered boudoir, the very softness of the
peace in the velvet spread of garden before the windows, made it even
more unreal.

That day, the second one, Emily had begun to note the new thing. Hester
was watching her, Hester was keeping guard. And as she realised this,
the sense of the abnormalness of things grew, and fear grew with it. She
began to feel as if a wall were rising around her, built by unseen
hands.

The afternoon, an afternoon of deeply golden sun, they had spent
together. They had read and talked. Hester had said most. She had told
stories of India,--curious, vivid, interesting stories, which seemed to
excite her.

At the time when the sunlight took its deepest gold the tea-tray was
brought in. Hester had left the room a short time before the footman
appeared with it, carrying it with the air of disproportionate solemnity
with which certain male domestics are able to surround the smallest
service. The tea had been frequently served in Hester's boudoir of late.
During the last week, however, Lady Walderhurst's share of the meal had
been a glass of milk. She had chosen to take it because Mrs. Cupp had
suggested that tea was "nervous." Emily sat down at the table and filled
a cup for Hester. She knew she would return in a few moments, so set the
cup before Mrs. Osborn's place and waited. She heard the young woman's
footsteps outside, and as the door opened she lifted the glass of milk
to her lips.

She was afterwards absolutely unable to describe to herself clearly what
happened the next moment. In fact, it was the next moment that she saw
Hester spring towards her, and the glass of milk had been knocked from
her hand and rolled, emptying itself, upon the floor. Mrs. Osborn stood
before her, clenching and unclenching her hands.

"Have you drunk any of it?" she demanded.

"No," Emily answered. "I have not."

Hester Osborn dropped into a chair and leaned forward, covering her face
with her hands. She looked like a woman on the verge of an outbreak of
hysteria, only to be held in check by a frenzied effort.

Lady Walderhurst, quite slowly, turned the colour of the milk itself.
But she did nothing but sit still and gaze at Hester.

"Wait a minute." The girl was trying to recover her breath. "Wait till I
can hold myself still. I am going to tell you now. I am going to tell
you."

"Yes," Emily answered faintly.

It seemed to her that she waited twenty minutes before another word was
spoken, that she sat quite that long looking at the thin hands which
seemed to clutch the hidden face. This was a mistake arising from the
intensity of the strain upon her nerves. It was scarcely five minutes
before Mrs. Osborn lowered her hands and laid them, pressed tightly palm
to palm, between her knees.

She spoke in a low voice, such a voice as a listener outside could not
have heard.

"Do you know," she demanded, "what you represent to us--to me and to my
husband--as you sit there?"

Emily shook her head. The movement of disclaimer was easier than speech.
She felt a sort of exhaustion.

"I don't believe you do," said Hester. "You don't seem to realise
anything. Perhaps it's because you are so innocent, perhaps it's because
you are so foolish. You represent the thing that we have the right to
_hate_ most on earth."

"Do _you_ hate me?" asked Emily, trying to adjust herself mentally to
the mad extraordinariness of the situation, and at the same time
scarcely understanding why she asked her question.

"Sometimes I do. When I do not I wonder at myself." The girl paused a
second, looked down, as if questioningly, at the carpet, and then,
lifting her eyes again, went on in a dragging, half bewildered voice:
"When I do _not_, I actually believe it is because we are both--women
together. Before, it was different."

The look which Walderhurst had compared to "that of some nice animal in
the Zoo" came into Emily's eyes as two honest drops fell from them.

"Would _you_ hurt me?" she faltered. "Could _you_ let other people hurt
me?"

Hester leaned further forward in her chair, widening upon her such
hysterically insistent, terrible young eyes as made her shudder.

"Don't you _see_?" she cried. "_Can't_ you see? But for _you_ my son
would be what Walderhurst is--my son, not yours."

"I understand," said Emily. "I understand."

"Listen!" Mrs. Osborn went on through her teeth. "Even for that, there
are things I haven't the nerve to stand. I have thought I could stand
them. But I can't. It does not matter why. I am going to tell you the
truth. You represent too much. You have been too great a temptation.
Nobody meant anything or planned anything at first. It all came by
degrees. To see you smiling and enjoying everything and adoring that
stilted prig of a Walderhurst put ideas into people's heads, and they
grew because every chance fed them. If Walderhurst would come home--"

Lady Walderhurst put out her hand to a letter which lay on the table.

"I heard from him this morning," she said. "And he has been sent to the
Hills because he has a little fever. He must be quiet. So you see he
_cannot_ come yet."

She was shivering, though she was determined to keep still.

"What was in the milk?" she asked.

"In the milk there was the Indian root Ameerah gave the village girl.
Last night as I sat under a tree in the dark I heard it talked over.
Only a few native women know it."

There was a singular gravity in the words poor Lady Walderhurst spoke in
reply.

"That," she said, "would have been the cruelest thing of all."

Mrs. Osborn got up and came close to her.

"If you had gone out on Faustine," she said, "you would have met with
_an accident_. It might or might not have killed you. But it would have
been an accident. If you had gone downstairs before Jane Cupp saw the
bit of broken balustrade you might have been killed--by accident again.
If you had leaned upon the rail of the bridge you would have been
drowned, and no human being could have been accused or blamed."

Emily gasped for breath, and lifted her head as if to raise it above the
wall which was being slowly built round her.

"Nothing will be done which can be proved," said Hester Osborn. "I have
lived among native people, and know. If Ameerah hated me and I could not
get rid of her I should die, and it would all seem quite natural."

She bent down and picked up the empty glass from the carpet.

"It is a good thing it did not break," she said, as she put it on the
tray. "Ameerah will think you drank the milk and that nothing will hurt
you. You escape them always. She will be frightened."

As she said it she began to cry a little, like a child.

"Nothing will save _me_," she said. "I shall have to go back, I shall
have to go back!"

"No, no!" cried Emily.

The girl swept away her tears with the back of a clenched hand.

"At first, when I hated you," she was even petulant and plaintively
resentful, "I thought I could let it go on. I watched, and watched, and
bore it. But the strain was too great. I broke down. I think I broke
down one night, when something began to beat like a pulse against my
side."

Emily got up and stood before her. She looked perhaps rather as she had
looked when she rose and stood before the Marquis of Walderhurst on a
memorable occasion, the afternoon on the moor. She felt almost quiet,
and safe.

"What must I do?" she asked, as if she was speaking to a friend. "I am
afraid. Tell me."

Little Mrs. Osborn stood still and stared at her. The most incongruous
thought came to her mind. She found herself, at this weird moment,
observing how well the woman held her stupid head, how finely it was set
on her shoulders, and that in a modern Royal Academy way she was rather
like the Venus of Milo. It is quite out of place to think such things at
such a time. But she found herself confronted with them.

"Go away," she answered. "It is all like a thing in a play, but I know
what I am talking about. Say you are ordered abroad. Be cool and
matter-of-fact. Simply go and hide yourself somewhere, and call your
husband home as soon as he can travel."

Emily Walderhurst passed her hand over her forehead.

"It _is_ like something in a play," she said, with a baffled, wondering
face. "It isn't even respectable."

Hester began to laugh.

"No, it isn't even respectable," she cried. And her laughter was just in
time. The door opened and Alec Osborn came in.

"What isn't respectable?" he asked.

"Something I have been telling Emily," she answered, laughing even a
trifle wildly. "You are too young to hear such things. You must be kept
respectable at any cost."

He grinned, but faintly scowled at the same time.

"You've upset something," he remarked, looking at the carpet.

"I have, indeed," said Hester. "A cup of tea which was half milk. It
will leave a grease spot on the carpet. That won't be respectable."

When she had tumbled about among native servants as a child, she had
learned to lie quickly, and she was very ready of resource.



Chapter Nineteen


As she heard the brougham draw up in the wet street before the door,
Mrs. Warren allowed her book to fall closed upon her lap, and her
attractive face awakened to an expression of agreeable expectation, in
itself denoting the existence of interesting and desirable qualities in
the husband at the moment inserting his latch-key in the front door
preparatory to mounting the stairs and joining her. The man who, after
twenty-five years of marriage, can call, by his return to her side, this
expression to the countenance of an intelligent woman is, without
question or argument, an individual whose life and occupations are as
interesting as his character and points of view.

Dr. Warren was of the mental build of the man whose life would be
interesting and full of outlook if it were spent on a desert island or
in the Bastille. He possessed the temperament which annexes incident and
adventure, and the perceptiveness of imagination which turns a light
upon the merest fragment of event. As a man whose days were filled with
the work attendant upon the exercise of a profession from which can be
withheld few secrets, and to which most mysteries explain themselves,
his brain was the recording machine of impressions which might have
stimulated to vividness of imagination a man duller than himself, and
roused to feeling one of far less warm emotions.

He came into the room smiling. He was a man of fifty, of strong build,
and masculine. He had good shoulders and good colour, and the eyes,
nose, and chin of a man it would be a stupid thing to attempt to deal
with in a blackguardly manner. He sat down in his chair by the fire and
began to chat, as was his habit before he and his wife parted to dress
for dinner. When he was out during the day he often looked forward to
these chats, and made notes of things he would like to tell his Mary.
During her day, which was given to feminine duties and pleasures, she
frequently did the same thing. Between seven and eight in the evening
they had delightful conversational opportunities. He picked up her book
and glanced it over, he asked her a few questions and answered a few;
but she saw it was with a somewhat preoccupied manner. She knew a
certain remote look in his eye, and she waited to see him get up from
his chair and begin to walk to and fro, with his hands in his pockets
and his head thrown back. When, after having done this, he began in
addition to whistle softly and draw his eyebrows together, she broke in
upon him in the manner of merely following an established custom.

"I am perfectly sure," was her remark, "that you have come upon one of
the Extraordinary Cases."

The last two words were spoken as with inverted commas. Of many deep
interests he added to her existence, the Extraordinary Cases were among
the most absorbing. He had begun to discuss them with her during the
first year of their married life. Accident had thrown one of them into
her immediate personal experience, and her clear-headed comprehension
and sympathy in summing up singular evidence had been of such value to
him that he had turned to her in the occurrence of others for the aid
straightforward, mutual logic could give. She had learned to await the
Extraordinary Case with something like eagerness. Sometimes, it was
true, its incidents were painful; but invariably they were absorbing in
their interest, and occasionally illuminating beyond description. Of
names and persons it was not necessary she should hear anything--the
drama, the ethics, were enough. With an absolute respect for his
professional reserves, she asked no questions he could not reply to
freely, and avoided even the innocent following of clues. The
Extraordinary Case was always quite enough as it stood. When she saw the
remotely speculative look in his eye, she suspected one, when he left
his chair and paced the floor with that little air of restlessness, and
ended with unconscious whistling which was scarcely louder than a
breath, she felt that evidence enough had accumulated for her.

He stopped and turned round.

"My good Mary," he owned at once, "its extraordinariness consists in its
baffling me by being so perfectly ordinary."

"Well, at least that is not frequent. What is its nature? Is it awful?
Is it sad? Is it eccentric? Is it mad or sane, criminal or domestic?"

"It is nothing but suggestive, and that it suggests mystery to me makes
me feel as if I myself, instead of a serious practitioner, am a
professional detective."

"Is it a case in which you might need help?"

"It is a case in which I am impelled to give help, if it proves that it
is necessary. She is such an exceedingly nice woman."

"Good, bad, or indifferent?"

"Of a goodness, I should say--of a goodness which might prevent the
brain acting in the manner in which a brutal world requires at present
that the human brain should act in self-defence. Of a goodness which may
possibly have betrayed her into the most pathetic trouble."

"Of the kind--?" was Mrs. Warren's suggestion.

"Of that kind," with a troubled look; "but she is a married woman."

"She _says_ she is a married woman."

"No. She does not say so, but she looks it. That's the chief feature of
the case. Any woman bearing more obviously the stamp of respectable
British matrimony than this one does, it has not fallen to me to look
upon."

Mrs. Warren's expression was _intriguée_ in the extreme. There was a
freshness in this, at least.

"But if she bears the stamp as well as the name--! Do tell me all it is
possible to tell. Come and sit down, Harold."

He sat down and entered into details.

"I was called to a lady who, though not ill, seemed fatigued from a
hurried journey and, as it seemed to me, the effects of anxiety and
repressed excitement. I found her in a third-class lodging-house in a
third-class street. It was a house which had the air of a place hastily
made inhabitable for some special reason. There were evidences that
money had been spent, but that there had been no time to arrange things.
I have seen something of the kind before, and when I was handed into my
patient's sitting-room, thought I knew the type I should find. It is
always more or less the same,--a girl or a very young woman, pretty and
refined and frightened, or pretty and vulgar and 'carrying it off' with
transparent pretences and airs and graces. Anything more remote from
what I expected you absolutely cannot conceive."

"Not young and pretty?"

"About thirty-five or six. A fresh, finely built woman with eyes as
candid as a six-year-old girl's. Quite unexplanatory and with the best
possible manner, only sweetly anxious about her health. Her confidence
in my advice and the earnestness of her desire to obey my least
instructions were moving. Ten minutes' conversation with her revealed to
me depths of long-secreted romance in my nature. I mentally began to
swear fealty to her."

"Did she tell you that her husband was away?"

"What specially struck me was that it did not occur to her that her
husband required stating, which was ingenuously impressive. She did not
explain her mother or her uncles, why her husband? Her mental attitude
had a translucent clearness. She wanted a medical man to take charge of
her, and if she had been an amiable, un-brilliant lady who was a member
of the royal house, she would have conversed with me exactly as she
did."

"She was so respectable?"

"She was even a little Mid-Victorian, dear Mary; a sort of clean,
healthy, Mid-Victorian angel."

"There's an incongruousness in the figure in connection with being
obviously in hiding in a lodging-house street." And Mrs. Warren gave
herself to reflection.

"I cannot make it as incongruous as she was. I have not told you all. I
have saved to the last the feature which marked her most definitely as
an Extraordinary Case. I suppose one does that sort of thing from a
sense of drama."

"What else?" inquired Mrs. Warren, roused from her speculation.

"What respectable conclusion _could_ one deduce from the fact that a
letter lay on the table near her, sealed with an imposing coat of arms.
One's eye having accidentally fallen on it, one could, of course, only
avoid glancing at it again, so I recognised nothing definite. Also, when
I was announced unexpectedly, I saw her quickly withdraw her hand from
her lips. She had been kissing a ring she wore. I could not help seeing
that afterwards. My good Mary, it was a ruby, of a size and colour which
recalled the Arabian Nights."

Mrs. Warren began to resign herself.

"No," she said, "there is no respectable conclusion to be drawn. It is
tragic, but prosaic. She has been governess or companion in some great
house. She may be a well-born woman. It is ten times more hideous for
her than if she were a girl. She has to writhe under knowing that both
her friends and her enemies are saying that she had not the excuse of
not having been old enough to know better."

"That might all be true," he admitted promptly. "It _would_ be true
if--but she is not writhing. She is no more unhappy than you or I. She
is only anxious, and I could swear that she is only anxious about one
thing. The moment in which I swore fealty to her was when she said to
me, 'I want to be quite safe--until after. I do not care for myself. I
will bear anything or do anything. Only one thing matters. I shall be
such a good patient.' Then her eyes grew moist, and she closed her lips
decorously to keep them from trembling.

"They're not usually like that," Mrs. Warren remarked.

"I have not found them so," he replied.

"Perhaps she believes the man will marry her."

There was odd unexpectedness in the manner in which Dr. Warren suddenly
began to laugh.

"My dear wife, if you could see her! It is the incongruity of what we
are saying which makes me laugh. With her ruby and her coronets and her
lodging-house street, she is of an impeccableness! She does not even
know she could be doubted. Fifteen years of matrimony spent in South
Kensington, three girls in the schoolroom and four boys at Eton, could
not have crystallised a more unquestionable serenity. And you are saying
gravely, 'Perhaps she believes the man will marry her.' Whatsoever the
situation is, I am absolutely sure that she has never asked herself
whether he would or not."

"Then," Mrs. Warren answered, "it is the most Extraordinary Case we have
had yet."

"But I have sworn fealty to her," was Warren's conclusion. "And she will
tell me more later." He shook his head with an air of certainty. "Yes,
she will feel it necessary to tell me later."

They went upstairs to dress for dinner, and during the remainder of the
evening which they spent alone they talked almost entirely of the
matter.



Chapter Twenty


Lady Walderhurst's departure from Palstrey, though unexpected, had been
calm and matter-of-fact. All the Osborns knew was that she had been
obliged to go up to London for a day or two, and that when there, her
physician had advised certain German baths. Her letter of explanation
and apology was very nice. She could not return to the country before
beginning her journey. It seemed probable that she would return with her
husband, who might arrive in England during the next two months.

"Has she heard that he is coming back?" Captain Osborn asked his wife.

"She has written to ask him to come."

Osborn grinned.

"He will be obliged to her. He is tremendously pleased with his
importance at this particular time, and he is just the sort of man--as
we both know--to be delighted at being called back to preside over an
affair which is usually a matter for old women."

But the letter he had examined, as it lay with the rest awaiting postal,
he had taken charge of himself. He knew that one, at least, would not
reach Lord Walderhurst. Having heard in time of the broken bridge-rail,
he had been astute enough to guess that the letter written immediately
after the incident might convey such impressions as might lead even his
lordship to feel that it would be well for him to be at home. The woman
had been frightened, and would be sure to lose her head and play the
fool. In a few days she would calm down and the affair would assume
smaller proportions. At any rate, he had chosen to take charge of this
particular letter.

What he did not know, however, was that chance had played into his hands
in the matter of temporarily upsetting Lord Walderhurst's rather
unreliable digestion, and in altering his plans, by a smart, though not
dangerous, attack of fever which had ended in his being ordered to a
part of the hill country not faithfully reached by letters; as a result
of which several communications from his wife went astray and were
unduly delayed. At the time Captain Osborn was discussing him with
Hester, he was taking annoyed care of himself with the aid of a doctor,
irritated by the untoward disturbance of his arrangements, and giving,
it is true, comparatively little thought to his wife, who, being
comfortably installed at Palstrey Manor, was doubtless enjoyably
absorbed in little Mrs. Osborn.

"What German baths does she intend going to?" Alec Osborn inquired.

Hester consulted the letter with a manner denoting but languid interest.

"It's rather like her that she doesn't go to the length of explaining,"
was her reply. "She has a way of telling you a great many things you
don't care to know, and forgetting to mention those you are interested
in. She is very detailed about her health, and her affection and mine.
She evidently expects us to go back to The Kennel Farm, and deplores her
inhospitality, with adjectives."

She did not look as if she was playing a part; but she was playing one,
and doing it well. Her little way was that of a nasty-tempered,
self-centred woman, made spiteful by being called upon to leave a place
which suited her.

"You are not really any fonder of her than I am," commented Osborn,
after regarding her speculatively a few moments. If he had been as sure
of her as he had been of Ameerah--!

"I don't know of any reason for my being particularly fond of her," she
said. "It's easy enough for a rich woman to be good-natured. It doesn't
cost her enough to constitute a claim."

Osborn helped himself to a stiff whiskey and soda. They went back to The
Kennel Farm the next day, and though it was his habit to consume a large
number of "pegs" daily, the habit increased until there were not many
hours in the day when he was normally sure of what he was doing.

The German baths to which Lady Walderhurst had gone were nearer to
Palstrey than any one knew. They were only at a few hours' distance by
rail.

When, after a day spent in a quiet London lodging, Mrs. Cupp returned to
her mistress with the information that she had been to the house in
Mortimer Street and found that the widow who had bought the lease and
furniture was worn out with ill-luck and the uncertainty of lodgers, and
only longed for release which was not ruin, Emily cried a little for
joy.

"Oh, how I should like to be there!" she said. "It was such a dear
house. No one would ever dream of my being in it. And I need have no one
but you and Jane. I should be so safe and quiet. Tell her you have a
friend who will take it, as it is, for a year, and pay her anything."

"I won't tell her quite that, my lady," Mrs. Cupp made sagacious answer.
"I'll make her an offer in ready money down, and no questions asked by
either of us. People in her position sometimes gets a sudden let that
pays them better than lodgers. All classes has their troubles, and
sometimes a decent house is wanted for a few months, where money can be
paid. I'll make her an offer."

The outcome of which was that the widowed householder walked out of her
domicile the next morning with a heavier purse and a lighter mind than
she had known for many months. The same night, ingenuously oblivious of
having been called upon to fill the role of a lady in genteel "trouble,"
good and decorous Emily Walderhurst arrived under the cover of discreet
darkness in a cab, and when she found herself in the "best bedroom,"
which had once been so far beyond her means, she cried a little for joy
again, because the four dull walls, the mahogany dressing-table, and
ugly frilled pincushions looked so unmelodramatically normal and safe.

"It seems so home-like," she said; adding courageously, "it is a very
comfortable place, really."

"We can make it much more cheerful, my lady," Jane said, with grateful
appreciation. "And the relief makes it like Paradise." She was leaving
the room and stopped at the door. "There's not a person, black or white,
can get across the door-mat, past mother and me, until his lordship
comes," she allowed herself the privilege of adding.

Emily felt a little nervous when she pictured to herself Lord
Walderhurst crossing the door-mat of a house in Mortimer Street in
search of his Marchioness. She had not yet had time to tell him the
story of the episode of the glass of milk and Hester Osborn's sudden
outburst. Every moment had been given to carefully managed arrangement
for the journey which was to seem so natural. Hester's cleverness had
suggested every step and had supported her throughout. But for Hester
she was afraid she might have betrayed herself. There had been no time
for writing. But when James received her letter (of late she had more
than once thought of him as "James"), he would know the one thing that
was important. And she had asked him to come to her. She had apologised
for suggesting any alteration of his plans, but she had really asked him
to come to her.

"I think he will come," she said to herself. "I do think he will. I
shall be so glad. Perhaps I have not been sensible, perhaps I have not
done the best thing, but if I keep myself safe until he comes back, that
really seems what is most important."

Two or three days in the familiar rooms, attended only by the two
friendly creatures she knew so well, seemed to restore the balance of
life for her. Existence became comfortable and prosaic again. The best
bedroom and the room in which she spent her days were made quite
cheerful through Jane's enterprise and memories of the appointments of
Palstrey. Jane brought her tea in the morning, Mrs. Cupp presided over
the kitchen. The agreeable doctor, whose reputation they had heard so
much of, came and went, leaving his patient feeling that she might
establish a friendship. He looked so clever and so kind.

She began to smile her childlike smile again. Mrs. Cupp and Jane told
each other in private that if she had not been a married lady, they
would have felt that she was Miss Fox-Seton again. She looked so like
herself, with her fresh colour and her nice, cheerful eyes. And yet to
think of the changes there had been, and what they had gone through!

People in London know nothing--or everything--of their neighbours. The
people who lived in Mortimer Street were of the hard-worked
lodging-house keeping class, and had too many anxieties connected with
butcher's bills, rent, and taxes, to be able to give much time to their
neighbours. The life in the house which had changed hands had nothing
noticeable about it. It looked from the outside as it had always looked.
The door-steps were kept clean, milk was taken in twice a day, and local
tradesmen's carts left things in the ordinary manner. A doctor
occasionally called to see someone, and the only person who had inquired
about the patient (she was a friendly creature, who met Mrs. Cupp at the
grocer's, and exchanged a few neighbourly words) was told that ladies
who lived in furnished apartments, and had nothing to do, seemed to find
an interest in seeing a doctor about things working-women had no time to
bother about. Mrs. Cupp's view seemed to be that doctor's visits and
medicine bottles furnished entertainment. Mrs. Jameson had "as good a
colour and as good an appetite as you or me," but she was one who
"thought she caught cold easy," and she was "afraid of fresh air."

Dr. Warren's interest in the Extraordinary Case increased at each visit
he made. He did not see the ruby ring again. When he had left the house
after his first call, Mrs. Cupp had called Lady Walderhurst's attention
to the fact that the ring was on her hand, and could not be considered
compatible with even a first floor front in Mortimer Street. Emily had
been frightened and had removed it.

"But the thing that upsets me when I hand him in," Jane said to her
mother anxiously in private, "is the way she can't help looking. You
know what I mean, mother,--her nice, free, _good_ look. And we never
_could_ talk to her about it. We should have to let her know that it's
more than likely he thinks she's just what she isn't. It makes me mad to
think of it. But as it had to be, if she only looked a little awkward,
or not such a lady, or a bit uppish and fretful, she would seem so much
more real. And then there's another thing. You know she always _did_
carry her head well, even when she was nothing but poor Miss Fox-Seton
tramping about shopping with muddy feet. And now, having been a
marchioness till she's got used to it, and knowing that she is one,
gives her an innocent, stately look sometimes. It's a thing she doesn't
know of herself, but I do declare that sometimes as she's sat there
talking just as sweet as could be, I've felt as if I ought to say, 'Oh!
if you please, my lady, if you _could_ look not quite so much as if
you'd got on a tiara.'"

"Ah!" and Mrs. Cupp shook her head, "but that's what her Maker did for
her. She was born just what she looks, and she looks just what she was
born,--a respectable female."

Whereby Dr. Warren continued to feel himself baffled.

"She only goes out for exercise after dark, Mary," he said. "Also in the
course of conversation I have discovered that she believes every word of
the Bible literally, and would be alarmed if one could not accept the
Athanasian Creed. She is rather wounded and puzzled by the curses it
contains, but she feels sure that it would be wrong to question anything
in the Church Service. Her extraordinariness is wholly her
incompatibleness."

Gradually they had established the friendship Emily had thought
possible. Once or twice Dr. Warren took tea with her. Her unabashed and
accustomed readiness of hospitality was as incompatible with her
circumstances as all the rest. She had the ease of a woman who had
amiably poured out tea for afternoon callers all her life. Women who
were uncertain of themselves were not amiably at ease with small social
amenities. Her ingenuous talk and her fervent italics were an absolute
delight to the man who was studying her. He, too, had noticed the
carriage of her head Jane Cupp had deplored.

"I should say she was well born," he commented to his wife. "She holds
herself as no common woman could."

"Ah! I haven't a doubt that she is well born, poor soul."

"No, not 'poor soul.' No woman who is as happy as she is needs pity.
Since she has had time to rest, she looks radiant."

In course of time, however, she was less radiant. Most people know
something of waiting for answers to letters written to foreign lands. It
seems impossible to calculate correctly as to what length of time must
elapse before the reply to the letter one sent by the last mail can
reach one. He who waits is always premature in the calculation he makes.
The mail should be due at a certain date, one is so sure. The letter
could be written on such a day and posted at once. But the date
calculated for arrives, passes,--the answer has not come. Who does not
remember?

Emily Walderhurst had passed through the experience and knew it well.
But previously the letters she had sent had been of less vital
importance. When the replies to them had lingered on their way she had,
it is true, watched eagerly ', for the postman, and had lived restlessly
between the arrivals of the mails, but she had taught herself
resignation to the inevitable. Now life had altered its aspect and its
significance. She had tried, with the aid of an untried imagination, to
paint to herself the moments in which her husband would read the letter
which told him what she had told. She had wondered if he would start, if
he would look amazed, if his grey-brown eyes would light with pleasure!
Might he not want to see her? Might he not perhaps write at once? She
never could advance farther in her imagined reading of this reply than
the first lines:

"MY DEAR EMILY,--The unexpected good news your letter contains has given
me the greatest satisfaction. You do not perhaps know how strong my
desire has been--"

She used to sit and flush with happiness when she reached this point.
She so wished that she was capable of depicting to herself what the rest
would be.

She calculated with the utmost care the probable date of the epistle's
arrival. She thought she made sure of allowing plenty of time for all
possible delays. The safety of her letters she had managed, with
Hester's aid, to arrange for. They were forwarded to her bankers and
called for. Only the letters from India were of any importance, and they
were not frequent. She told herself that she must be even more than
usually patient this time. When the letter arrived, if he told her he
felt it proper that he should return, no part of the strange experience
she had passed through would be of moment. When she saw his decorous,
well-bred face and heard his correctly modulated voice, all else would
seem like an unnatural dream.

In her relief at the decent composure of the first floor front in
Mortimer Street the days did not seem at first to pass slowly. But as
the date she had counted on drew near she could not restrain a natural
restlessness. She looked at the clock and walked up and down the room a
good deal. She was also very glad when night came and she could go to
bed. Then she was glad when the morning arrived, because she was a day
nearer to the end.

On a certain evening Dr. Warren said to his wife, "She is not so well
to-day. When I called I found her looking pale and anxious. When I
commented on the fact and asked how she was, she said that she had had a
disappointment. She had been expecting an important letter by a mail
arriving yesterday, and it had not come. She was evidently in low
spirits."

"Perhaps she has kept up her spirits before because she believed the
letter would come," Mrs. Warren speculated.

"She has certainly believed it would come."

"Do _you_ think it will, Harold?"

"She thinks it will yet. She was pathetically anxious not to be
impatient. She said she knew there were so many reasons for delay when
people were in foreign countries and very much occupied."

"There are many reasons, I daresay," said Mrs. Warren with a touch of
bitterness," but they are not usually the ones given to waiting,
desperate women."

Dr. Warren stood upon the hearthrug and gazed into the fire, knitting
his brows.

"She wanted to tell or ask me something this afternoon," he said, "but
she was afraid. She looked like a good child in great trouble. I think
she will speak before long."

She looked more and more like a good child in trouble as time passed.
Mail after mail came in, and she received no letter. She did not
understand, and her fresh colour died away. She spent her time now in
inventing reasons for the non-arrival of her letter. None of them
comprised explanations which could be disparaging in any sense to
Walderhurst. Chiefly she clung to the fact that he had not been well.
Anything could be considered a reason for neglecting letter writing if a
man was not well. If his illness had become serious she would, of
course, have heard from his doctor. She would not allow herself to
contemplate that. But if he was languid and feverish, he might so easily
put off writing from day to day. This was all the more plausible as a
reason, since he had not been a profuse correspondent. He had only
written when he had found he had leisure, with decent irregularity, so
to speak.

At last, however, on a day when she had felt the strain of waiting
greater than she had courage for, and had counted every moment of the
hour which must elapse before Jane could return from her mission of
inquiry, as she rested on the sofa she heard the girl mount the stairs
with a step whose hastened lightness wakened in her an excited
hopefulness.

She sat up with brightened face and eager eyes. How foolish she had been
to fret. Now--now everything would be different. Ah! how thankful she
was to God for being so good to her!

"I think you must have a letter, Jane," she said the moment the door
opened. "I felt it when I heard your footstep."

Jane was touching in her glow of relief and affection.

"Yes, my lady, I have, indeed. And they said at the bank that it had
come by a steamer that was delayed by bad weather."

Emily took the letter. Her hand shook, but it was with pleasure. She
forgot Jane, and actually kissed the envelope before she opened it. It
looked like a beautiful, long letter. It was quite thick.

But when she had opened it, she saw that the letter itself was not very
long. Several extra sheets of notes or instructions, it did not matter
what, seemed to be enclosed. Her hand shook so that she let them fall on
the floor. She looked so agitated that Jane was afraid to do more than
retire discreetly and stand outside the door.

In a few minutes she congratulated herself on the wisdom of not having
gone downstairs. She heard a troubled exclamation of wonder, and then a
call for herself.

"Jane, please, Jane!"

Lady Walderhurst was still sitting upon the sofa, but she looked pale
and unsteady. The letter was in her hand, which rested weakly in her
lap. It seemed as if she was so bewildered that she felt helpless.

She spoke in a tired voice.

"Jane," she said, "I think you will have to get me a glass of wine. I
don't think I am going to faint, but I do feel so--so upset."

Jane was at her side kneeling by her.

"Please, my lady, lie down," she begged. "Please do."

But she did not lie down. She sat trembling and looking at the girl in a
pathetic, puzzled fashion.

"I don't think," she quavered, "that his lordship can have received my
letter. He can't have received it. He doesn't say anything. He doesn't
say one word--"

She had been too healthy a woman to be subject to attacks of nerves. She
had never fainted before in her life, and as she spoke she did not at
all understand why Jane seemed to move up and down, and darkness came on
suddenly in the middle of the morning.

Jane managed by main strength to keep her from falling from the sofa,
and thanked Providence for the power vouchsafed to her. She reached the
bell and rang it violently, and hearing it, Mrs. Cupp came upstairs with
heavy swiftness.



Chapter Twenty one


Naturally a perceptive and closely reasoning woman, Mrs. Warren's close
intellectual intimacy with her husband had, in giving her the benefit of
intercourse with a wide experience, added greatly to her power of
reasoning by deduction. Warren frequently felt that his talk with her
was something like consultation with a specially clever and sympathetic
professional confrère. Her suggestions or conclusions were invariably
worth consideration. More than once his reflection upon them had led him
to excellent results. She made one night a suggestion with regard to the
Extraordinary Case which struck him as being more than usually astute.

"Is she an intellectual woman?" she inquired.

"Not in the least. An unsparingly brilliant person might feel himself
entitled to the right to call her stupid."

"Is she talkative?"

"Far from it. One of her charms is the nice respect she seems to feel
for the remarks of others."

"And she is not excitable?"

"Rather the reverse. If excitability is liveliness, she is dull."

"I see," slowly, "you have not yet thought it possible that she
might--well--be under some delusion."

Warren turned quickly and looked at her.

"It is wonderfully brilliant of you to have thought of it. A delusion?"
He stood and thought it over.

"Do you remember," his wife assisted him with, "the complications which
arose from young Mrs. Jerrold's running away, under similar
circumstances, to Scotland and hiding herself in a shepherd's cottage
under the impression that her husband was shadowing her with detectives?
You recollect what a lovable woman she was, and what horror she felt of
the poor fellow."

"Yes, yes. That was an Extraordinary Case too."

Mrs. Warren warmed with her subject.

"Here is a woman obviously concealing herself from the world in a
lodging-house, plainly possessing money, owning a huge ruby ring,
receiving documents stamped with imposing seals, taking exercise only by
night, heart-wrung over the non-arrival of letters which are due. Every
detail points to one painful, dubious situation. On the other hand, she
presents to you the manner and aspect of a woman who is absolutely not
dubious, and who is merely anxious on the one point a dubious person
would be indifferent to. Isn't it, then, possible that over-wrought
physical condition may have driven her to the belief that she is hiding
from danger."

Dr. Warren was evidently following the thought seriously.

"She said," reflecting, "that all that mattered was that she should be
safe. 'I want to keep safe.' That was it. You are very enlightening,
Mary, always. I will go and see her again to-morrow. But," as the result
of another memory, "how sane she seems!"

       *       *       *       *       *

He was thinking of this possible aspect of the matter as he mounted the
staircase of the house in Mortimer Street the next day. The stairway was
of the ordinary lodging-house type, its dinginess somewhat alleviated by
the fact that the Cupps had covered the worn carpet with clean
warm-coloured felting. The yellowish marbled paper on the walls
depressed the mind as one passed it; the indeterminate dun paint had
defied fog for years. The whole house presented only such features as
would encourage its proprietors to trust to the sufficing of infrequent
re-decoration.

Jane had, however, made efforts in behalf of the drawing-room, in which
her mistress spent her days. She had introduced palliations by degrees
and with an unobtrusiveness which was not likely to attract the
attention of neighbours unaccustomed to lavish delivery by means of
furniture vans. She had brought in a rug or so, and had gradually
replaced objects with such as were more pleasant to live with and more
comfortable to use. Dr. Warren had seen the change wrought, and had
noted evidences that money was not unobtainable. The maid also was a
young woman whose manner towards her mistress was not merely respectful
and well-bred, but suggestive of watchful affection bordering on
reverence. Jane Cupp herself was a certificate of decorum and good
standing. It was not such young women who secluded themselves with
questionable situations. As she laid her hand on the drawing-room door
to open it and announce him, it occurred to Dr. Warren that he would
tell Mary that evening that if Mrs. Jameson had been the heroine of any
unconventional domestic drama it was an unmistakable fact that Jane Cupp
would have "felt it her duty as a young woman to leave this day month,
if you please, ma'am," quite six months ago. And there she was, in a
neat gown and apron,--evidently a fixture because she liked her
place,--her decent young face full of sympathetic interest.

The day was dull and cold, but the front room was warm and made cheerful
by fire. Mrs. Jameson was sitting at a writing-table. There were letters
before her, and she seemed to have been re-reading them. She did not any
longer bloom with normal health. Her face was a little dragged, and the
first thing he noted in the eyes she lifted to him was that they were
bewildered.

"She has had a shock," he thought. "Poor woman!"

He began to talk to her about herself with the kindly perception which
was inseparable from him. He wondered if the time had not come when she
would confide in him. Her shock, whatsoever it had been, had left her in
the position of a woman wholly at a loss to comprehend what had
occurred. He saw this in her ingenuous troubled face. He felt as if she
was asking herself what she should do. It was not unlikely that
presently she would ask him what she should do. He had been asked such
things before by women, but they usually added trying detail accompanied
by sobs, and appealed to his chivalry for impossible aid. Sometimes they
implored him to go to people and use his influence.

Emily answered all his questions with her usual sweet, good sense. She
was not well. Yesterday she had fainted.

"Was there any disturbing reason for the faint?" he inquired.

"It was because I was--very much disappointed," she answered,
hesitating. "I had a letter which--It was not what I expected."

She was thinking desperately. She could understand nothing. It was not
explainable that what she had written did not matter at all, that James
should have made no reply.

"I was awake all night," she added.

"That must not go on," he said.

"I was thinking--and thinking," nervously.

"I can see that," was his answer.

Perhaps she ought to have courage to say nothing. It might be safer. But
it was so lonely not to dare to ask anyone's advice, that she was
getting frightened. India was thousands and thousands of miles away, and
letters took so long to come and go. Anxiety might make her ill before
she could receive a reply to a second letter. And perhaps now in her
terror she had put herself into a ridiculous position. How could she
send for Lady Maria to Mortimer Street and explain to her? She realised
also that her ladyship's sense of humour might not be a thing to confide
in safely.

Warren's strong, amiable personality was good for her. It served to aid
her to normal reasoning. Though she was not aware of the fact, her
fears, her simplicity, and her timorous adoration of her husband had not
allowed her to reason normally in the past. She had been too anxious and
too much afraid.

Her visitor watched her with great interest and no little curiosity. He
himself saw that her mood was not normal. She did not look as poor Mrs.
Jerrold had looked, but she was not in a normal state.

He made his visit a long one purposely. Tea was brought up, and he drank
it with her. He wanted to give her time to make up her mind about him.
When at last he rose to go away, she rose also. She looked nervously
undecided, but let him go towards the door.

Her move forward was curiously sudden.

"No, no," she said. "Please come back. I--oh!--I really think I ought to
tell you."

He turned towards her, wishing that Mary were with him. She stood trying
to smile, and looking so entirely nice and well-behaved even in her
agitation.

"If I were not so puzzled, or if there was _anybody_--" she said. "If
you could only advise me; I must--I _must_ keep safe."

"There is something you want to tell me?" he said quietly.

"Yes," she answered. "I am so anxious, and I am sure it must be bad for
one to be anxious always. I have not dared to tell anyone. My name is
not Mrs. Jameson, Dr. Warren. I am--I am Lady Walderhurst."

He barely managed to restrain a start. He was obliged to admit to
himself that he had not thought of anything like this. But Mary had been
right.

Emily blushed to her ears with embarrassment. He did not believe her.

"But I _am_ really," she protested. "I _really_ am. I was married last
year. I was Emily Fox-Seton. Perhaps you remember."

She was not flighty or indignant. Her frank face was only a little more
troubled than it had been before. She looked straight into his eyes
without a doubt of his presently believing her. Good heavens! if--

She walked to the writing-table and picked up a number of letters. They
were all stamped with the same seal. She brought them to him almost
composedly.

"I ought to have remembered how strange it would sound," she said in her
amenable voice. "I hope I am not doing wrong in speaking. I hope you
won't mind my troubling you. It seemed as if I _couldn't_ bear it alone
any longer."

After which she told him her story.

       *       *       *       *       *

The unadorned straightforwardness of the relation made it an amazing
thing to hear, even more amazing than it would have been made by a more
imaginative handling. Her obvious inability to cope with the unusual and
villainous, combined with her entire willingness to obliterate herself
in any manner in her whole-souled tenderness for the one present object
of her existence, were things a man could not be unmoved by, even though
experience led him to smile at the lack of knowledge of the world which
had left her without practical defence. Her very humbleness and candour
made her a drama in herself.

"Perhaps I was wrong to run away. Perhaps only a silly woman would have
done such a queer, unconventional thing. But I could think of nothing
else so likely to be quite safe, until Lord Walderhurst could advise me.
And when his letter came yesterday, and he did not speak of what I had
said--" Her voice quite failed her.

"Captain Osborn has detained your letter. Lord Walderhurst has not seen
it."

Life began to come back to her. She had been so horribly bewildered as
to think at moments that perhaps it might be that a man who was very
much absorbed in affairs--

"The information you sent him is the most important, and moving, a man
in his position could receive."

"Do you think so, _really_?" She lifted her head with new courage and
her colour returned.

"It is impossible that it should be otherwise. It is, I assure you,
_impossible_, Lady Walderhurst."

"I am so thankful," she said devoutly. "I am so _thankful_ that I have
told you."

Anything more touching and attractive than her full eyes and her
grown-up child's smile he felt he had never seen.



Chapter Twenty two


The attack of fever which had seemed to begin lightly for Lord
Walderhurst assumed proportions such as his medical man had not
anticipated. His annoyance at finding his duties interfered with fretted
him greatly. He was not, under the circumstances, a good patient, and,
partly as a result of his state of mind, he began, in the course of a
few weeks, to give his doctors rather serious cause for anxiety. On the
morning following Emily's confession to Dr. Warren she had received a
letter from her husband's physician, notifying her of his new anxieties
in connection with his patient. His lordship required extreme care and
absolute freedom from all excitement. Everything which medical science
and perfect nursing could do would be done. The writer asked Lady
Walderhurst's collaboration with him in his efforts at keeping the
invalid as far as possible in unperturbed spirits. For some time it
seemed probable that letter writing and reading would be out of the
question, but if, when correspondence might be resumed, Lady Walderhurst
would keep in mind the importance of serenity to the convalescent, the
case would have all in its favour. This, combined with expressions of
sympathetic encouragement and assurances that the best might be hoped
for, was the gist of the letter. When Dr. Warren arrived, Emily handed
the epistle to him and watched him as he read it.

"You see," she said when he looked up, "that I did not speak too soon.
Now I shall have to trust to you for everything. I could _never_ have
borne it _all_ by myself. Could I?"

"Perhaps not," thinking it over; "but you are very brave."

"I don't think I'm brave," thinking it over on her own part, "but it
seemed as if there were things I _must_ do. But now you will advise me."

She was as biddable as a child, he told his wife afterwards, and that a
woman of her height and carriage should be as biddable as she might have
been at six years old, was an effective thing.

"She will do anything I tell her, she will go anywhere I advise. I
advise that she shall go to her husband's house in Berkeley Square, and
that together you and I will keep unobtrusive guard over her. All is
quite simple, really. All would have been comparatively simple at the
outset, if she had felt sure enough of her evidence to dare to confide
in some practical person. But she was too uncertain and too much afraid
of scandal, which might annoy her husband. She is deeply in awe of Lord
Walderhurst and deeply in love with him."

"When one realises how unnecessary qualities and charms seem to be to
the awakening of the tender emotion, it is rather dull, perhaps, to ask
why. Yet one weakly asks it," was Mrs. Warren's summation.

"And one cannot supply the answer. But the mere devotion itself in this
nice creature is a thing to be respected. She will control even her
anxieties and reveal nothing while she writes her cheerful letters, as
soon as she is allowed to write them."

"Lord Walderhurst will be told nothing?"

"Nothing until his recovery is complete. Now that she has made a clean
breast of everything to me and given herself into my hands, I believe
that she finds a sentimental pleasure in the thought of keeping her
secret until he returns. I will confess to you, Mary, that I think that
she has read of and tenderly sympathised with heroines who have done the
like before. She does not pose to herself as a heroine, but she dwells
affectionately on ingenuous mental pictures of what Lord Walderhurst
will say. It is just as well that it should be so. It is better for her
than fretting would be. Experience helped me to gather from the medical
man's letter that his patient is in no condition to be told news of any
kind, good or bad."

The house in Berkeley Square was reopened. Lady Walderhurst returned to
it, as it was understood below stairs, from a visit to some German
health resort. Mrs. Cupp and Jane returned with her. The wife of her
physician in attendance was with her a great deal. It was most
unfortunate for her ladyship that my lord was detained in India by
illness.

The great household, having presented opened shutters to the world, went
on in the even tenor of its way. There brooded over it, however, a sort
of hushed dignity of atmosphere. The very housemaids wore an air of
grave discretion. Their labours assumed the proportions of confidential
interested service, in which they felt a private pride. Not one among
them had escaped becoming attached to Lady Walderhurst.

Away from Palstrey, away from Mortimer Street, Emily began to find
reality in the fact that everything had already become quite simple,
after all. The fine rooms looked so well ordered and decent in a stately
way. Melodramatic plotting ceased to exist as she looked at certain
dignified sofas and impressive candelabra. Such things became even more
impossible than they had become before the convincingness of the first
floor front bedroom in Mortimer Street, She began to give a good deal of
thought to the summer at Mallowe. There was an extraordinary luxury in
living again each day of it, the morning when she had taken the
third-class carriage which provided her with hot, labouring men in
corduroys as companions, that fleeting moment when the tall man with the
square face had passed the carriage and looked straight through her
without seeming to see her at all. She sat and smiled tenderly at the
mere reminiscent thought. And then the glimpse of him as he got into the
high phaeton at the station; and the moment when Lady Maria had
exclaimed "There's Walderhurst," and he had come swinging with his
leisurely step across the lawn. And he had scarcely seemed to see her
then, or notice her really when they met, until the morning he had
joined her as she gathered the roses and had talked to her about Lady
Agatha. But he had actually been noticing her a little even from the
first--he had been thinking about her a little all the time. And how far
she had been from guessing it when she had talked to Lady Agatha, how
pleased she had been the morning of the rose gathering when he had
seemed interested only in Agatha's self! She always liked to recall,
however, the way in which he had asked the few questions about her own
affairs. Her simplicity never wearied of the fascination of the way in
which he had looked at her, standing on the pathway, with that
delightful non-committal fixing of her with the monocle when she had
said:

"People _are_ kind. You see, I have nothing to give, and I always seem
to be receiving."

And he had gazed at her quite unmovedly and answered only:

"What luck!"

But since then he had mentioned this moment as one of those in which he
had felt that he might want to marry her, because she was so unconscious
of the fact that she gave much more to everybody than she received, that
she had so much to give and was totally unaware of the value of her
gifts.

"His thoughts of me are so _beautiful_ very often," was her favourite
reflection, "though he always has that composed way of saying things.
What he says seems more _valuable_, because he is like that."

In truth, his composed way of saying things it was which seemed to her
incomparable. Even when, without understanding its own longing for a
thing it lacked, her heart had felt itself a little unsustained she had
never ceased to feel the fascination of his entire freedom from any
shadow of interest in the mental attitude of others towards himself.
When he stood and gazed at people through the glass neatly screwed into
his eye, one felt that it was he whose opinion was of importance, not
the other person's. Through sheer chill imperviousness he seemed
entirely detached from the powers of criticism. What people said or
thought of his fixed opinion on a subject was not of the least
consequence, in fact did not exist; the entities of the persons who
cavilled at such opinions themselves ceased to exist, so far as he was
concerned. His was the immovable temperament. He did not snub people: he
cut the cord of mental communication with them and dropped them into
space. Emily thought this firmness and reserved dignity, and quailed
before the thought of erring in such a manner as would cause him to so
send her soul adrift. Her greatest terror during the past months had
been the fear of making him ridiculous, of putting him in some position
which might annoy him by objectionable publicity.

But now she had no further fears, and could wait in safety and dwell in
peace upon her memories and her hopes. She even began to gain a kind of
courage in her thoughts of him.

The atmosphere of the Berkeley Square mansion was good for her. She had
never felt so much its mistress before the staff of servants of whose
existence she was the centre, who so plainly served her with careful
pleasure, who considered her least wish or inclination as a royal
command, increased her realisation of her security and power. The
Warrens, who understood the dignity and meaning of mere worldly facts
her nature did not grasp, added subtly to her support. Gradually she
learned to reveal herself in simple talk to Mrs. Warren, who found her,
when so revealed, a case more extraordinary than she had been when
enshrouded in dubious mystery.

"She is absolutely delicious," Mrs. Warren said to her husband. "That an
adoration such as hers could exist in the nineteenth century is--"

"Almost degenerate," he laughed.

"Perhaps it is regenerate," reflecting. "Who knows! Nothing earthly, or
heavenly, would induce me to cast a doubt upon it. Seated opposite to a
portrait of her James, I hear her opinions of him, when she is not in
the least aware of what her simplest observation conveys. She does not
know that she is including him when she is talking of other things, that
one sees that while she is too shy to openly use his name much, the very
breath of her life is a reference to him. Her greatest bliss at present
is to go unobtrusively into his special rooms and sit there dwelling
upon his goodness to her."

In fact Emily spent many a quiet hour in the apartments she had visited
on the day of her farewell to her husband. She was very happy there. Her
soul was uplifted by her gratitude for the peace she had reached. The
reports of Lord Walderhurst's physician were never alarming and
generally of a reassuring nature. But she knew that he must exercise
great caution, and that time must elapse before he could confront his
return voyage. He would come back as soon as was quite safe. And in the
meantime her world held all that she could desire, lacking himself.

Her emotion expressed itself in her earnest performance of her reverent
daily devotions. She read many chapters of the Bible, and often sat
happily absorbed in the study of her Book of Common Prayer. She found
solace and happiness in such things, and spent her Sunday mornings,
after the ringing of the church bells, quite alone in Walderhurst's
study, following the Service and reading the Collects and Lessons. The
room used to seem so beautifully still, even Berkeley Square wearing its
church-hour aspect suggested devout aloofness from worldly things.

"I sit at the window and _think_," she explained to Mrs. Warren. "It is
so nice there."

She wrote her letters to India in this room. She did not know how far
the new courage in her thoughts of her husband expressed itself in these
letters. When Walderhurst read them, however, he felt a sense of change
in her. Women were sometimes spoken of as "coming out amazingly." He
began to feel that Emily was, in a measure at least, "coming out."
Perhaps her gradually increasing feeling of accustomedness to the change
in her life was doing it for her. She said more in her letters, and said
it in a more interesting way. It was perhaps rather suggestive of the
development of a girl who was on the verge of becoming a delightful sort
of woman.

Lying upon his back in bed, rendered, it may be, a trifle susceptible by
the weakness of slow convalescence, he found a certain habit growing
upon him--a habit of reading her letters several times, and of thinking
of her as it had not been his nature to think of women; also he slowly
awakened to an interest in the arrival of the English mails. The letters
actually raised his spirits and had an excellent physical effect. His
doctor always found him in good condition after he had heard from his
wife.

"Your letters, my dear Emily," Walderhurst once wrote, "are a great
pleasure to me. You are to-day exactly as you were at Mallowe,--the
creature of amiable good cheer. Your comfort stimulates me."

"How _dear_, how _dear_?" Emily cried to the silence of the study, and
kissed the letter with impassioned happiness.

[Illustration: Lady Maria Bayne]

The next epistle went even farther. It absolutely contained "things" and
referred to the past which it was her joy to pour libations before in
secret thought. When her eye caught the phrase "the days at Mallowe" in
the middle of a sheet, she was almost frightened at the rush of pleasure
which swept over her. Men who were less aloof from sentimental moods
used such phrases in letters, she had read and heard. It was almost as
if he had said "the dear old days at Mallowe" or "the happy days at
Mallowe," and the rapture of it was as much as she could bear.

"I cannot help remembering as I lie here," she read in actual letters as
she went on, "of the many thoughts which passed through my mind as I
drove over the heath to pick you up. I had been watching you for days. I
always liked particularly your clear, large eyes. I recall trying to
describe them to myself and finding it difficult. They seemed to me then
to resemble something between the eyes of a very nice boy and the eyes
of a delightful sheep-dog. This may not appear so romantic a comparison
as it really is."

Emily began most softly and sweetly to cry. Nothing more romantic could
she possibly have imagined.

"I thought of them in spite of myself as I drove across the moor, and I
could scarcely express to you how angry I was at Maria. It seemed to me
that she had brutally imposed on you only because she had known she
might impose on a woman with such a pair of eyes. I was angry and
sentimental at one and the same time. And to find you sitting by the
wayside, absolutely worn out with fatigue and in tears, moved me really
more than I had anticipated being moved. And when you mistook my meaning
and stood up, your nice eyes looking into mine in such ingenuous appeal
and fear and trouble, I have never forgotten it, my dear, and I never
shall."

His mood of sentiment did not sit easily upon him, but it meant a real
and interesting quite human thing.

Emily sat alone in the room and brooded over it as a mother might brood
over a new-born child. She was full of tremulous bliss, and, dwelling
with reverent awe upon the wonder of great things drawing nearer to her
every hour, wept for happiness as she sat.

       *       *       *       *       *

The same afternoon Lady Maria Bayne arrived. She had been abroad taking,
in no dull fashion, various "cures," which involved drinking mineral
waters while promenading to the sounds of strains of outdoor music, and
comparing symptoms wittily with friends equal to amazing repartee in
connection with all subjects.

Dr. Warren was an old acquaintance, and as he was on the point of
leaving the house as she entered it she stopped to shake hands with him.

"It's rather unfortunate for a man when one can only be glad to see him
in the house of an enemy."

She greeted him with, "I must know what you are doing here. It's not
possible that Lady Walderhurst is fretting herself into fiddle-strings
because her husband chooses to have a fever in India."

"No, she is behaving beautifully in all respects. May I have a few
minutes' talk with you, Lady Maria, before you see her?"

"A few minutes' talk with me means something either amusing or
portentous. Let us walk into the morning-room."

She led the way with a rustle or silk petticoats and a suggestion of
lifted eyebrows. She was inclined to think that the thing sounded more
portentous than amusing. Thank Heaven! it was not possible for Emily to
have involved herself in annoying muddles. She was not that kind of
woman.

When she came out of the room some twenty minutes later she did not look
quite like herself. Her smart bonnet set less well upon her delicate
little old face, and she was agitated and cross and pleased.

"It was ridiculous of Walderhurst to leave her," she was saying. "It was
ridiculous of her not to order him home at once. It was exactly like
her,--dear and ridiculous."

In spite of her agitation she felt a little grotesque as she went
upstairs to see Emily,--grotesque, because she was obliged to admit to
herself that she had never felt so curiously excited in her life. She
felt as she supposed women did when they allowed themselves to shed
tears through excitement; not that she was shedding tears, but she was
"upset," that was what she called it.

As the door opened Emily rose from a chair near the fire and came slowly
towards her, with an awkward but lovely smile.

Lady Maria made a quick movement forward and caught hold of both her
hands.

"My good Emily," she broke forth and kissed her. "My excellent Emily,"
and kissed her again. "I am completely turned upside down. I never heard
such an insane story in my life. I have seen Dr. Warren. The creatures
were mad."

"It is all over," said Emily. "I scarcely believe it was true now."

Lady Maria being led to a sofa settled herself upon it, still wearing
her complex expression of crossness, agitation, and pleasure.

"I am going to stay here," she said, obstinately. "There shall be no
more folly. But I will tell you that they have gone back to India. The
child was a girl."

"It was a girl?"

"Yes, absurdly enough."

"Oh," sighed Emily, sorrowfully. "I'm _sure_ Hester was _afraid_ to
write to me."

"Rubbish!" said Lady Maria. "At any rate, as I remarked before, I am
going to stay here until Walderhurst comes back. The man will be quite
mad with gratified vanity."



Chapter Twenty three


It was a damp and depressing day on which Lord Walderhurst arrived in
London. As his carriage turned into Berkeley Square he sat in the corner
of it rather huddled in his travelling-wraps and looking pale and thin.
He was wishing that London had chosen to show a more exhilarating
countenance to him, but he himself was conscious of being possessed by
something more nearly approaching a mood of eagerness than he remembered
experiencing at any period of his previous existence. He had found the
voyage home long, and had been restless. He wanted to see his wife. How
agreeable it would be to meet, when he looked across the dinner-table,
the smile in her happy eyes. She would grow pink with pleasure, like a
girl, when he confessed that he had missed her. He was curious to see in
her the changes he had felt in her letters. Having time and
opportunities for development, she might become an absolutely delightful
companion. She had looked very handsome on the day of her presentation
at Court. Her height and carriage had made her even impressive. She was
a woman, after all, to be counted on in one's plans.

But he was most conscious that his affection for her had warmed. A
slight embarrassment was commingled with the knowledge, but that was the
natural result of his dislike to the sentimental. He had never felt a
shadow of sentiment for Audrey, who had been an extremely light, dry,
empty-headed person, and he had always felt she had been adroitly thrust
upon him by their united families. He had not liked her, and she had not
liked him. It had been very stupidly trying. And the child had not lived
an hour. He had liked Emily from the first, and now--It was an absolute
truth that he felt a slight movement in the cardiac region when the
carriage turned into Berkeley Square. The house would look very pleasant
when he entered it. Emily would in some subtle way have arranged that it
should wear a festal, greeting air. She had a number of nice, little
feminine emotions about bright fires and many flowers. He could picture
her childlike grown-up face as it would look when he stepped into the
room where they met.

Some one was ill in Berkeley Square, evidently very ill. Straw was laid
thick all along one side of it, depressing damp, fresh straw, over which
the carriage rolled with a dull drag of the wheels.

It lay before the door of his own house, he observed, as he stepped out.
It was very thickly scattered. The door swung open as the carriage
stopped. Crossing the threshold, he glanced at the face of the footman
nearest to him. The man looked like a mute at a funeral, and the
expression was so little in accord with his mood that he stopped with a
feeling of irritation. He had not time to speak, however, before a new
sensation arrested his attention,--a faint odour which filled the place.

"The house smells like a hospital," he exclaimed, in great annoyance.
"What does it mean?"

The man he addressed did not answer. He turned a perturbed awkward face
to his superior in rank, an older man, who was house steward.

In the house of mortal pain or death there is but one thing more full of
suggestion than the faint smell of antiseptics,--the gruesome, cleanly,
unpleasant odour,--that is, the unnatural sound of the whispering of
hushed voices. Lord Walderhurst turned cold, and felt it necessary to
stiffen his spine when he heard his servant's answer and the tone in
which it was made.

"Her ladyship, my lord--her ladyship is very low. The doctors do not
leave her."

"Her ladyship?"

The man stepped back deferentially. The door of the morning-room had
been opened, and old Lady Maria Bayne stood on the threshold. Her
worldly air of elderly gaiety had disappeared. She looked a hundred. She
was almost dilapidated. She had allowed to relax themselves the springs
which held her together and ordinarily supplied her with sprightly
movement.

"Come here!" she said.

When he entered the room, aghast, she shut the door.

"I suppose I ought to break it to you gently," she said shakily, "but I
shall do no such thing. It's too much to expect of any woman who has
gone through what I have during these last three days. The creature is
dying; she may be dead now."

She sank on the sofa and began to wipe away pouring tears. Her old
cheeks were pale and her handkerchief showed touches of rose-pink on its
dampness. She was aware of their presence, but was utterly indifferent.
Walderhurst stared at her haggard disorder and cleared his throat,
finding himself unable to speak without doing so.

"Will you have the goodness to tell me," he said with weird stiffness,
"what you are talking about?"

"About Emily Walderhurst," she answered. "The boy was born yesterday,
and she has been sinking ever since. She cannot possibly last much
longer."

"She!" he gasped, turning lead colour. "Cannot possibly last,--Emily?"

The wrench and shock were so unnatural that they reached that part of
his being where human feeling was buried under selfishness and inhuman
conventionality. He spoke, and actually thought, of Emily first.

Lady Maria continued to weep shamelessly.

"I am over seventy," she said, "and the last three days have punished me
quite enough for anything I may have done since I was born. I have been
in hell, too, James. And, when she could think at all, she has only
thought of you and your miserable child. I can't imagine what is the
matter with a woman when she can care for a man to such an extent. Now
she has what she wants,--she's dying for you."

"Why wasn't I told?" he asked, still with the weird and slow stiffness.

"Because she was a sentimental fool, and was afraid of disturbing you.
She ought to have ordered you home and kept you dancing attendance, and
treated you to hysterics."

No one would have resented such a course of action more derisively than
Lady Maria herself, but the last three days had reduced her to something
like hysteria, and she had entirely lost her head.

"She has been writing cheerfully to me--"

"She would have written cheerfully to you if she had been seated in a
cauldron of boiling oil, it is my impression," broke in her ladyship.
"She has been monstrously treated, people trying to murder her, and she
afraid to accuse them for fear that you would disapprove. You know you
have a nasty manner, James, when you think your dignity is interfered
with."

Lord Walderhurst stood clenching and unclenching his hands as they hung
by his sides. He did not like to believe that his fever had touched his
brain, but he doubted his senses hideously.

"My good Maria," he said, "I do not understand a word you say, but I
must go and see her."

"And kill her, if she has a breath left! You will not stir from here.
Thank Heaven! here is Dr. Warren."

The door had opened and Dr. Warren came in. He had just laid down upon
the coverlet of a bed upstairs what seemed to be the hand of a dying
woman, and no man like himself can do such a thing and enter a room
without a singular look on his face.

People in a house of death inevitably whisper, whatsoever their
remoteness from the sick-room. Lady Maria cried out in a whisper:

"Is she still alive?"

"Yes," was the response.

Walderhurst went to him.

"May I see her?"

"No, Lord Walderhurst. Not yet."

"Does that mean that it is not yet the last moment?"

"If that moment had obviously arrived, you would be called."

"What must I do?"

"There is absolutely nothing to be done but to wait. Brent, Forsythe,
and Blount are with her."

"I am in the position of knowing nothing. I must be told. Have you time
to tell me?"

They went to Walderhurst's study, the room which had been Emily's holy
of holies.

"Lady Walderhurst was very fond of sitting here alone," Dr. Warren
remarked.

Walderhurst saw that she must have written letters at his desk. Her own
pen and writing-tablet lay on it. She had probably had a fancy for
writing her letters to himself in his own chair. It would be like her to
have done it. It gave him a shock to see on a small table a thimble and
a pair of scissors.

"I ought to have been told," he said to Dr. Warren.

Dr. Warren sat down and explained why he had not been told.

As he spoke, interest was awakened in his mind by the fact that Lord
Walderhurst drew towards him the feminine writing-tablet and opened and
shut it mechanically.

"What I want to know," he said, "is, if I shall be able to speak to her.
I should like to speak to her."

"That is what one most wants," was Dr. Warren's non-committal answer,
"at such a time."

"You think I may not be able to make her understand?"

"I am very sorry. It is impossible to know."

"This," slowly, "is very hard on me."

"There is something I feel I must tell you, Lord Walderhurst." Dr.
Warren kept a keen eye on him, having, in fact, felt far from attracted
by the man in the past, and wondering how much he would be moved by
certain truths, or if he would be moved at all. "Before Lady
Walderhurst's illness, she was very explicit with me in her expression
of her one desire. She begged me to give her my word, which I could not
have done without your permission, that whatsoever the circumstances, if
life must be sacrificed, it should be hers."

A dusky red shot through Walderhurst's leaden pallor.

"She asked you that?" he said.

"Yes. And at the worst she did not forget. When she became delirious,
and we heard that she was praying, I gathered that she seemed to be
praying to me, as to a deity whom she implored to remember her fervent
pleading. When her brain was clear she was wonderful. She saved your son
by supernatural endurance."

"You mean to say that if she had cared more for herself and less for the
safety of the child she need not have been as she is now?"

Warren bent his head.

Lord Walderhurst's eyeglass had been dangling weakly from its cord. He
picked it up and stuck it in his eye to stare the doctor in the face.
The action was a singular, spasmodic, hard one. But his hands were
shaking.

"By God!" he cried out, "if I had been here it should not have been so!"

He got up and supported himself against the table with the shaking
hands.

"It is very plain," he said, "that she has been willing to be torn to
pieces upon the rack to give me the thing I wanted. And now, good God in
heaven, I feel that I would have strangled the boy with my own hands
rather than lose her."

In this manner, it seemed, did a rigid, self-encased, and conventional
elderly nobleman reach emotion. He looked uncanny. His stiff dignity
hung about him in rags and tatters. Cold sweat stood on his forehead and
his chin twitched.

"Just now," he poured forth, "I don't care whether there is a child or
not. I want her--I care for nothing else. I want to look at her, I want
to speak to her, whether she is alive or dead. But if there is a spark
of life in her, I believe she will hear me."

Dr. Warren sat and watched him, wondering. He knew curious things of the
human creature, things which most of his confrères did not know. He knew
that Life was a mysterious thing, and that even a dying flame of it
might sometimes be fanned to flickering anew by powers more subtle than
science usually regards as applicable influences. He knew the nature of
the half-dead woman lying on her bed upstairs, and he comprehended what
the soul of her life had been,--her divinely innocent passion for a
self-centred man. He had seen it in the tortured courage of her eyes in
hours of mortal agony.

"Don't forget," she had said. "Our Father which art in Heaven. Don't let
anyone forget. Hallowed be thy name."

The man, leaning upon his shaking hands before him, stood there, for
these moments at least, a harrowed thing. Not a single individual of his
acquaintance would have known him.

"I want to see her before the breath leaves her," he gave forth in a
harsh, broken whisper. "I want to speak. Let me see her."

Dr. Warren left his chair slowly. Out of a thousand chances against her,
might this one chance be for her,--the chance of her hearing, and being
called back to the shores she was drifting from, by this stiff,
conventional fellow's voice. There was no knowing the wondrousness of a
loving human thing, even when its shackles were loosening themselves to
set it free.

"I will speak to those in charge with me," he said. "Will you control
every outward expression of feeling?"

"Yes."

Adjoining Lady Walderhurst's sleeping apartment was a small boudoir
where the medical men consulted together. Two of them were standing near
the window conversing in whispers.

Walderhurst merely nodded and went to wait apart by the fire. Ceremony
had ceased to exist. Dr. Warren joined the pair at the window. Lord
Walderhurst only heard one or two sentences.

"I am afraid that nothing, now, can matter--at any moment."

       *       *       *       *       *

Those who do not know from experience what he saw when he entered the
next room have reason to give thanks to such powers as they put trust
in.

There ruled in the large, dim chamber an awful order and silence. The
faint flickering of the fire was a marked sound. There was no other but
a fainter and even more irregular one heard as one neared the bed.
Sometimes it seemed to stop, then, with a weak gasp, begin again. A
nurse in uniform stood in waiting; an elderly man sat on a chair at the
bedside, listening and looking at his watch, something white and
lifeless lying in his grasp,--Emily Walderhurst's waxen, unmoving hand.
The odour of antiseptics filled the nostrils. Lord Walderhurst drew
near. The speaking sign of the moment was that neither nurse nor doctor
stirred.

Emily lay low upon a pillow. Her face was as bloodless as wax and was a
little turned aside. The Shadow was hovering over it and touched her
closed lids and the droop of her cheek and corners of her mouth. She was
far, far away.

This was what Walderhurst felt first,--the strange remoteness, the
lonely stillness of her. She had gone alone far from the place he stood
in, and which they two familiarly knew. She was going, alone, farther
still. As he stood and watched her closed eyes,--the nice, easily
pleased eyes,--it was they themselves, closed on him and all prosaic
things and pleasures, which filled him most strangely with that sense of
her loneliness, weirdly enough, _hers_, not his. He was not thinking of
himself but of her. He wanted to withdraw her from her loneliness, to
bring her back.

He knelt down carefully, making no sound, stealthily, not removing his
eyes from her strange, aloof face. He slowly dared to close his hand on
hers which lay outside the coverlet. And it was a little chill and
damp,--a little chill.

A power, a force which hides itself in human things and which most of
them know not of, was gathering within him. He was warm and alive, a
living man; his hand as it closed on the chill of hers was warm; his
newly awakened being sent heat to it.

He whispered her name close to her ear.

"Emily!" slowly, "Emily!"

She was very far away and lay unmoving. Her breast scarcely stirred with
the faintness of her breath.

"Emily! Emily!"

The doctor slightly raised his eyes to glance at him. He was used to
death-bed scenes, but this was curious, because he knew the usual
outward aspect of Lord Walderhurst, and its alteration at this moment
suggested abnormal things. He had not the flexibility of mind which
revealed to Dr. Warren that there were perhaps abnormal moments for the
most normal and inelastic personages.

"Emily!" said his lordship, "Emily!"

He did not cease from saying it, in a low yet reaching whisper, at
regular intervals, for at least half an hour. He did not move from his
knees, and so intense was his absorption that the presence of those who
came near was as nothing.

What he hoped or intended to do he did not explain to himself. He was of
the order of man who coldly waves aside all wanderings on the subjects
of occult claims. He believed in proven facts, in professional aid, in
the abolition of absurdities. But his whole narrow being concentrated
itself on one thing,--he wanted this woman back. He wanted to speak to
her.

What power he unknowingly drew from the depths of him, what exquisite
answering thing he reached at, could not be said. Perhaps it was only
some remote and subtle turn of the tide of life and death which chanced
to come to his aid.

"Emily!" he said again, after many times.

Dr. Warren at this moment met the lifted eyes of the doctor who was
counting her pulse, and in response to his look went to him.

"It seems slightly stronger," Dr. Forsythe whispered.

The slow, faint breathing changed a shade; there was heard a breath
slightly, very slightly deeper, less flickering, then another.

Lady Walderhurst slightly stirred.

"Remain where you are," whispered Dr. Warren to her husband, "and
continue to speak to her. Do not alter your tone. Go on."

       *       *       *       *       *

Emily Walderhurst, drifting out on a still, borderless, white sea,
sinking gently as she floated, sinking in peaceful painlessness deeper
and deeper in her drifting until the soft, cool water lapped her lips
and, as she knew without fear, would soon cover them and her quiet face,
hiding them for ever,--heard from far, very far away, across the
whiteness floating about her, a faint sound which at first only fell
upon the stillness without meaning. Everything but the silence had been
left behind aeons ago. Nothing remained but the soundless white sea and
the slow drifting and sinking as one swayed. It was more than sleep,
this still peace, because there was no thought of waking to any shore.

But the far-off sound repeated itself again, again, again and again,
monotonously. Something was calling to Something. She was so given up to
the soft drifting that she had no thoughts to give, and gave none. In
drifting so, one did not think--thought was left in the far-off place
the white sea carried one from. She sank quietly a little deeper and the
water touched her lip. But Something was calling to Something, something
was calling something to come back. The call was low, low and strange,
so regular and so unbroken and insistent, that it arrested, she knew not
what. Did it arrest the floating and the swaying in the enfolding sea?
Was the drifting slower? She could not rouse herself to think, she
wanted to go on. Did she no longer feel the water lapping against her
lip? Something was calling to Something still. Once, aeons ago, before
the white sea had borne her away, she would have understood.

"Emily, Emily, Emily!"

Yes, once she would have known what the sound meant. Once it had meant
something, a long time ago. It had even now disturbed the water, and
made it cease to lap so near her lip.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was at this moment that one doctor had raised his eyes to the other,
and Lady Walderhurst had stirred.

When Walderhurst left his place beside his wife's bed, Dr. Warren went
with him to his room. He made him drink brandy and called his man to
him. "You must remember," he said, "that you are an invalid yourself."

"I believe," was the sole answer, given with an abstracted knitting of
the brows,--"I believe that in some mysterious way I have made her hear
me."

Dr. Warren looked grave. He was a deeply interested man. He felt that he
had been looking on at an almost incomprehensible thing.

"Yes," was his reply. "I believe that you have."

About an hour later Lord Walderhurst made his way downstairs to the room
in which Lady Maria Bayne sat. She still looked a hundred years old, but
her maid had redressed her toupee, and given her a handkerchief neither
damp nor tinted with rubbed-off rouge. She looked at her relative a
shade more leniently, but still addressed him with something of the
manner of a person undeservedly chained to a malefactor. Her irritation
was not modified by the circumstance that it was extremely difficult to
be definite in the expression of her condemnation of things which had
made her hideously uncomfortable. Having quite approved of his going to
India in the first place, it was not easy to go thoroughly into the
subject of the numerous reasons why a man of his years and
responsibilities ought to have realised that it was his duty to remain
at home and take care of his wife.

"Incredible as it seems," she snapped, "the doctors _think_ there is a
slight change, for the better."

"Yes," Walderhurst answered.

He leaned against the mantel and gazed into the fire.

"She will come back," he added in a monotone.

Lady Maria stared at him. She felt that the man was eerie, Walderhurst,
of all men on earth!

"Where do you think she has been?" She professed to make the inquiry
with an air of reproof.

"How should one know?" rather with the old stiffness. "It is impossible
to tell."

Lady Maria Bayne was not the person possessing the temperament to
incline him to explain that, wheresoever the outer sphere might be to
which the dying woman had been drifting, he had been following her, as
far as living man could go.

The elderly house steward opened the door and spoke in the hollow
whisper.

"The head nurse wished to know if your ladyship would be so good as to
see Lord Oswyth before he goes to sleep."

Walderhurst turned his head towards the man. Lord Oswyth was the name of
his son. He felt a shock.

"I will come to the nursery," answered Lady Maria. "You have not seen
him yet?" turning to Walderhurst.

"How could I?"

"Then you had better come now. If she becomes conscious and has life
enough to expect anything, she will expect you to burst forth into
praises of him. You had better at least commit to memory the colour of
his eyes and hair. I believe he has two hairs. He is a huge, fat,
overgrown thing with enormous cheeks. When I saw his bloated
self-indulgent look yesterday, I confess I wanted to slap him."

Her description was not wholly accurate, but he was a large and robust
child, as Walderhurst saw when he beheld him.

From kneeling at the pillow on which the bloodless statue lay, and
calling into space to the soul which would not hear, it was a far cry to
the warmed and lighted orris-perfumed room in which Life had begun.

There was the bright fire before which the high brass nursery fender
shone. There was soft linen hanging to be warmed, there was a lace-hung
cradle swinging in its place, and in a lace-draped basket silver and
gold boxes and velvet brushes and sponges such as he knew nothing about.
He had not been in such a place before, and felt awkward, and yet in
secret abnormally moved, or it seemed abnormally to him.

Two women were in attendance. One of them held in her arms what he had
come to see. It was moving slightly in its coverings of white. Its
bearer stood waiting in respectful awe as Lady Maria uncovered its face.

"Look at it," she said, concealing her relieved elation under a slightly
caustic manner. "How you will relish the situation when Emily tells you
that he is like you, I can't be as sure as I should be of myself under
the same circumstances."

Walderhurst applied his monocle and gazed for some moments at the object
before him. He had not known that men experienced these curiously
unexplainable emotions at such times. He kept a strong hold on himself.

"Would you like to hold him?" inquired Lady Maria. She was conscious of
a benevolent effort to restrain the irony in her voice.

Lord Walderhurst made a slight movement backward.

"I--I should not know how," he said, and then felt angry at himself. He
desired to take the thing in his arms. He desired to feel its warmth. He
absolutely realised that if he had been alone with it, he should have
laid aside his eyeglass and touched its cheek with his lips.


Two days afterwards he was sitting by his wife's pillow, watching her
shut lids, when he saw them quiver and slowly move until they were wide
open. Her eyes looked very large in her colourless, more sharply
chiselled face. They saw him and him only, as light came gradually into
them. They did not move, but rested on him. He bent forward, almost
afraid to stir.

He spoke to her as he had spoken before.

"Emily!" very low, "Emily!"

Her voice was only a fluttering breath, but she answered.

"It--was--you!" she said.



Chapter Twenty four


Such individuals as had not already thought it expedient to gradually
loosen and drop the links of their acquaintance with Captain Alec Osborn
did not find, on his return to his duties in India, that the leave of
absence spent in England among his relatives had improved him. He was
plainly consuming enormous quantities of brandy, and was steadily going,
physically and mentally, to seed. He had put on flesh, and even his
always dubious good looks were rapidly deserting him. The heavy young
jowl looked less young and more pronounced, and he bore about an evil
countenance.

"Disappointment may have played the devil with him," it was said by an
elderly observer; "but he has played the devil with himself. He was a
wrong'un to begin with."

When Hester's people flocked to see her and hear her stories of exalted
life in England, they greeted her with exclamations of dismay. If Osborn
had lost his looks, she also had lost hers. She was yellow and haggard,
and her eyes looked over-grown. She had not improved in the matter of
temper, and answered all effusive questions with a dry, bitter little
smile. The baby she had brought back was a puny, ugly, and tiny girl.
Hester's dry, little smile when she exhibited her to her relations was
not pretty.

"She saved herself disappointment by being a girl," she remarked. "At
all events, she knows from the outset that no one can rob her of the
chance of being the Marquis of Walderhurst."

It was rumoured that ugly things went on in the Osborn bungalow. It was
known that scenes occurred between the husband and wife which were not
of the order admitted as among the methods of polite society. One
evening Mrs. Osborn walked slowly down the Mall dressed in her best gown
and hat, and bearing on her cheek a broad, purpling mark. When asked
questions, she merely smiled and made no answer, which was extremely
awkward for the well-meaning inquirer.

The questioner was the wife of the colonel of the regiment, and when the
lady related the incident to her husband in the evening, he drew in his
breath sharply and summed the situation up in a few words.

"That little woman," he said, "lives every day through twenty-four hours
of hell. One can see it in her eyes, even when she professes to smile at
the brute for decency's sake. The awfulness of a woman's forced smile at
the devil she is tied to, loathing him and bearing in her soul the
thing, blood itself could not wipe out. Ugh! I've seen it once before,
and I recognised it in her again. There will be a bad end to this."

There probably would have been, with the aid of unlimited brandy and
unrestrained devil, some outbreak so gross that the social laws which
rule men who are "officers and gentlemen" could not have ignored or
overlooked it. But the end came in an unexpected way, and Osborn was
saved from open ignominy by an accident.

On a certain day when he had drunk heavily and had shut Hester up with
him for an hour's torture, after leaving her writhing and suffocating
with sobs, he went to examine some newly bought firearms. In twenty
minutes it was he who lay upon the floor writhing and suffocating, and
but a few minutes later he was a dead man. A charge from a gun he had
believed unloaded had finished him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Lady Walderhurst was the kindest of women, as the world knew. She sent
for little Mrs. Osborn and her child, and was tender goodness itself to
them.

Hester had been in England four years, and Lord Oswyth had a brother as
robust as himself, when one heavenly summer afternoon, as the two women
sat on the lawn drinking little cups of tea, Hester made a singular
revelation, and made it without moving a muscle of her small
countenance.

"I always intended to tell you, Emily," she began quietly, "and I will
tell you now."

"What, dear?" said Emily, holding out to her a plate of tiny buttered
scones. "Have some of these nice, little hot ones."

"Thank you." Hester took one of the nice, little hot ones, but did not
begin to eat it. Instead, she held it untouched and let her eyes rest on
the brilliant flower terraces spread out below. "What I meant to tell
you was this. The gun was not loaded, the gun Alec shot himself with,
when he laid it aside."

Emily put down her tea-cup hastily.

"I saw him take out the charge myself two hours before. When he came in,
mad with drink, and made me go into the room with him, Ameerah saw him.
She always listened outside. Before we left The Kennel Farm, the day he
tortured and taunted me until I lost my head and shrieked out to him
that I had told you what I knew, and had helped you to go away, he
struck me again and again. Ameerah heard that. He did it several times
afterwards, and she always knew. She always intended to end it in some
way. She knew how drunk he was that last day, and--It was she who went
in and loaded the gun while he was having his scene with me. She knew he
would go and begin to pull the things about without having the sense to
know what he was doing. She had seen him do it before. I know it was she
who put the load in. We have never uttered a word to each other about
it, but I know she did it, and that she knows I know. Before I married
Alec, I did not understand how one human being could kill another. He
taught me to understand, quite. But I had not the courage to do it
myself. Ameerah had."

And while Lady Walderhurst sat gazing at her with a paling face, she
began quietly to eat the little buttered scone.

THE END

[** Transcriber changes:

Original page 90 (Part One, Chapter 4): The whole treat, juvenile and
adult, male and female, burst into three cheers which were roars and
bellows[missing. inserted]

Original page 37 (Part One, Chapter 2): "I wish I had such
clothes,[missing " inserted] answered Lady Maria, and she chuckled
again.

Original page 150 (Part Two, Chapter 7): Realising this, he did not
quite understand why he rather liked it in the case of Emily Fox-Seton,
though he only liked it remotely and felt his his[second "his" has been
omitted] own inaptness a shade absurd.

Original page 277 (Part Two, Chapter 14): "I know what her ladyship
feels about being talked over. If I was a lady myself, I shouldn't like
it. And I know how deep you'll feel it, that when the doctor advised her
to get an experienced married person to be at hand, she said in that
dear way of hers, 'Jane, if your uncle could spare your mother, how I
should like to have her.'[extraneous ' omitted] I've never forgot her
kindness in Mortimer Street.'"

Original page 312 (Part Two, Chapter 17): "My lady! my lady!" she gasped
out as soon as she dare[missing "d" inserted].

Original page 320 (Part Two, Chapter 17): "They may be as innocent as I
am. And they may be murderers in their hearts. I can prove nothing, I
can prevent nothing. "[extraneous " omitted]Oh! _do_ come home."

Original page 432: Human nature at its best and worst is well
protrayed[changed to "portrayed"]. **]

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The first big success of this much loved American novelist. It is a
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The story of an ambitious, backwoods Ohio boy who rose to prominence.
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A splendid story of the political game, with a son of the soil on the
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Realistic stories of men and women living midst the savage beauty of the
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A jolly company of six artists, writers and other clever folks take a
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TESS OF THE STORM COUNTRY. By Grace Miller White. Illustrated by Howard
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An amazingly vivid picture of low class life in a New York college town,
with a heroine beautiful and noble, who makes a great sacrifice for
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FROM THE VALLEY OF THE MISSING. By Grace Miller White. Frontispiece and
wrapper in colors by Penrhyn Stanlaws.

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A lovely princess travels incognito through the States and falls in love
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MAUD BAXTER. By C.C. Hotchkiss. Illustrated by Will Grefe.

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A young New York business man, his pretty sweetheart, his sentimental
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The hero of this story is the Squaw Man's son. He has been taken to
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JOHN MARCH, SOUTHERNER. By George W. Cable.

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MR. JUSTICE RAFFLES. By E.W. Hornung.

This engaging rascal is found helping a young cricket player out of the
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FORTY MINUTES LATE. By F. Hopkinson Smith. Illustrated by S.M. Chase.

Delightfully human stories of every day happenings; of a lecturer's
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OLD LADY NUMBER 31. By Louise Forsslund.

A heart-warming story of American rural life, telling of the adventures
of an old couple in an old folk's home, their sunny, philosophical
acceptance of misfortune and ultimate prosperity.

THE HUSBAND'S STORY. By David Graham Phillips.

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thought. A young couple begin life in humble circumstances and rise in
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THE TRAIL OF NINETY-EIGHT. By Robert W. Service. Illustrated by Maynard
Dixon.

One of the best stories of "Vagabondia" ever written, and one of the
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A beautiful blonde Englishwoman visits Russia, and is violently made
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complicates the romance.

THE GAMBLERS. By Charles Klein and Arthur Hornblow, Illustrated by C.E.
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A big, vital treatment of a present day situation wherein men play for
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CHEERFUL AMERICANS. By Charles Battell Loomis. Illustrated by Florence
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A good, wholesome, laughable presentation of some Americans at home and
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THE WOMAN OF THE WORLD. By Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

Clever, original presentations of present day social problems and the
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A young Southerner who loved Lafayette, goes to France to aid him during
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THE RAMRODDERS. By Holman Day. Frontispiece by Harold Matthews Brett.

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The Master's Violin

By MYRTLE REED

A Love Story with a musical atmosphere. A picturesque, old German
virtuoso is the reverent possessor of a genuine Cremona. He consents to
take as his pupil a handsome youth who proves to have an aptitude for
technique, but not the soul of the artist. The youth has led the happy,
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with his meagre past, express the love, the longing, the passion and the
tragedies of life and its happy phases as can the master who has lived
life in all its fulness. But a girl comes into his existence, a
beautiful bit of human driftwood that his aunt had taken into her heart
and home; and through his passionate love for her, he learns the lessons
that life has to give--and his soul awakens.

Founded on a fact well known among artists, but not often recognized or
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If you have not read "LAVENDER AND OLD LACE" by the same author, you
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The Prodigal Judge is a shabby outcast, a tavern hanger-on, a genial
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The Judge will be a fixed star in the firmament of fictional characters
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A beautiful Parisienne became an outcast because her husband would not
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An unconventional English woman and an inscrutable stranger meet and
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THE CELEBRITY. An Episode.

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CHIP, OF THE FLYING U

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HER PRAIRIE KNIGHT

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THE RANGE DWELLERS

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THE LURE OF DIM TRAILS

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THE LONESOME TRAIL

"Weary" Davidson leaves the ranch for Portland, where conventional city
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THE LONG SHADOW

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GRAUSTARK.

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BEVERLY OF GRAUSTARK.

Beverly is a bewitching American girl who has gone to that stirring
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BREWSTER'S MILLIONS.

A young man is required to spend one million dollars in one year in
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CASTLE CRANEYCROW.

The story revolves round the abduction of a young American woman, her
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COWARDICE COURT.

An amusing social feud in the Adirondacks in which an English girl is
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THE DAUGHTER OF ANDERSON CROW.

The story centers about the adopted daughter of the town marshal in a
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THE MAN FROM BRODNEY'S.

The hero meets a princess in a far-away island among fanatically hostile
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NEDRA.

A young couple elope from Chicago to go to London traveling as brother
and sister. They are shipwrecked and a strange mix-up occurs on account
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THE SHERRODS.

The scene is the Middle West and centers around a man who leads a double
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TRUXTON KING.

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THE CAPTAIN OF THE KANSAS.

Love and the salt sea, a helpless ship whirled into the hands of
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A bit of parchment found in the figurehead of an old vessel tells of a
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THE PILLAR OF LIGHT.

The pillar thus designated was a lighthouse, and the author tells with
exciting detail the terrible dilemma of its cut-off inhabitants.

THE WHEEL O'FORTUNE. With illustrations by James Montgomery Flagg.

The story deals with the finding of a papyrus containing the particulars
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A sort of Robinson Crusoe _redivivus_ with modern settings and a very
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