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Title: Modern Chronicle, a — Volume 08
Author: Churchill, Winston, 1871-1947
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 "Modern Chronicle, a — Volume 08" ***

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A MODERN CHRONICLE

By Winston Churchill


Volume 8.



CHAPTER XVI

IN WHICH A MIRROR IS HELD UP

Spring came to Highlawns, Eden tinted with myriad tender greens.
Yellow-greens, like the beech boughs over the old wall, and gentle
blue-greens, like the turf; and the waters of the lake were blue and
white in imitation of the cloud-flecked sky. It seemed to Honora, as she
sat on the garden bench, that the yellow and crimson tulips could not
open wide enough their cups to the sun.

In these days she looked at her idol, and for the first time believed it
to be within her finite powers to measure him. She began by asking
herself if it were really she who had ruined his life, and whether he
would ultimately have redeemed himself if he had married a woman whom the
world would have recognized. Thus did the first doubt invade her heart.
It was of him she was thinking still, and always. But there was the
doubt. If he could have stood this supreme test of isolation, of the
world's laughter and scorn, although it would have made her own heavy
burden of responsibility heavier, yet could she still have rejoiced. That
he should crumble was the greatest of her punishments.

Was he crumbling? In these months she could not quite be sure, and she
tried to shut her eyes when the little pieces fell off, to remind herself
that she must make allowances for the severity of his disappointment.
Spring was here, the spring to which he had so eagerly looked forward,
and yet the listlessness with which he went about his work was apparent.
Sometimes he did not appear at breakfast, although Honora clung with
desperation to the hour they had originally fixed: sometimes Mr. Manning
waited for him until nearly ten o'clock, only to receive curt dismissal.
He went off for long rides, alone, and to the despair of the groom
brought back the horses in a lather, with drooping heads and heaving
sides; one of them he ruined. He declared there wasn't a horse in the
stable fit to give him exercise.

Often he sat for hours in his study, brooding, inaccessible. She had the
tennis-court rolled and marked, but the contests here were
pitifully-unequal; for the row of silver cups on his mantel, engraved
with many dates, bore witness to his athletic prowess. She wrote for a
book on solitaire, but after a while the sight of cards became
distasteful. With a secret diligence she read the reviews, and sent for
novels and memoirs which she scanned eagerly before they were begun with
him. Once, when she went into his study on an errand, she stood for a
minute gazing painfully at the cleared space on his desk where once had
lain the papers and letters relative to the life of General Angus
Chiltern.

There were intervals in which her hope flared, in which she tasted,
fearfully and with bated breath, something that she had not thought to
know again. It was characteristic of him that his penitence was never
spoken: nor did he exhibit penitence. He seemed rather at such times
merely to become normally himself, as one who changes personality,
apparently oblivious to the moods and deeds of yesterday. And these
occasions added perplexity to her troubles. She could not reproach him
--which perhaps in any event she would have been too wise to do; but she
could not, try as she would, bring herself to the point of a discussion
of their situation. The risk, she felt, was too great; now, at least.
There were instances that made her hope that the hour might come.

One fragrant morning Honora came down to find him awaiting her, and to
perceive lying on her napkin certain distilled drops of the spring
sunshine. In language less poetic, diamonds to be worn in the ears. The
wheel of fashion, it appeared, had made a complete revolution since the
early days of his mother's marriage. She gave a little exclamation, and
her hand went to her heart.

"They are Brazilian stones," he explained, with a boyish pleasure that
awoke memories and held her speechless. "I believe it's very difficult,
if not impossible, to buy them now. My father got them after the war and
I had them remounted." And he pressed them against the pink lobes of her
ears. "You look like the Queen of Sheba."

"How do you know?" she asked tremulously. "You never saw her."

"According to competent judges," he replied, "she was the most beautiful
woman of her time. Go upstairs and put them on."

She shook her head. An inspiration had come to her.

"Wait," she cried. And that morning, when Hugh had gone out, she sent for
Starling and startled him by commanding that the famous Lowestoft set be
used at dinner. He stared at her, and the corners of his mouth twitched,
and still he stood respectfully in the doorway.

"That is all, Starling."

"I beg pardon, madam. How--how many will there be at the table?"

"Just Mr. Chiltern and I," she replied. But she did not look at him.

It was superstition, undoubtedly. She was well aware that Starling had
not believed that the set would be used again. An extraordinary order,
that might well have sent him away wondering; for the Lowestoft had been
reserved for occasions. Ah, but this was to be an occasion, a festival!
The whimsical fancy grew in her mind as the day progressed, and she
longed with an unaccustomed impatience for nightfall, and anticipation
had a strange taste. Mathilde, with the sympathetic gift of her nation,
shared the excitement of her mistress in this fete. The curtains in the
pink bedroom were drawn, and on the bed, in all its splendour of lace and
roses, was spread out the dinner-gown-a chef-d'oeuvre of Madame
Barriere's as yet unworn. And no vulgar, worldly triumph was it to adorn.

Her heart was beating fast as she descended the stairway, bright spots of
colour flaming in her cheeks and the diamonds sparkling in her ears. A
prima donna might have guessed her feelings as she paused, a little
breathless on the wide landing under the windows. She heard a footstep.
Hugh came out of the library and stood motionless, looking up at her. But
even those who have felt the silence and the stir that prefaces the
clamorous applause of the thousands could not know the thrill that swept
her under his tribute. She came down the last flight of steps, slowly,
and stopped in front of him.

"You are wonderful, Honora!" he said, and his voice was not quite under
control. He took her hand, that trembled in his, and he seemed to be
seeking to express something for which he could find no words. Thus may
the King have looked upon Rosamond in her bower; upon a beauty created
for the adornment of courts which he had sequestered for his eyes alone.

Honora, as though merely by the touch of his hand in hers, divined his
thought.

"If you think me so, dear," she whispered happily, "it's all I ask."

And they went in to dinner as to a ceremony. It was indeed a ceremony
filled for her with some occult, sacred, meaning that she could not put
into words. A feast symbolical. Starling was sent to the wine-cellar to
bring back a cobwebbed Madeira near a century old, brought out on rare
occasions in the family. And Hugh, when his glass was filled, looked at
his wife and raised it in silence to his lips.

She never forgot the scene. The red glow of light from the shaded candles
on the table, and the corners of the dining room filled with gloom. The
old butler, like a high priest, standing behind his master's chair. The
long windows, with the curtains drawn in the deep, panelled arches; the
carved white mantelpiece; the glint of silver on' the sideboard, with its
wine-cooler underneath,--these, spoke of generations of respectability
and achievement. Would this absorbed isolation, this marvellous wild love
of theirs, be the end of it all? Honora, as one detached, as a ghost in
the corner, saw herself in the picture with startling clearness. When she
looked up, she met her husband's eyes. Always she met them, and in them a
questioning, almost startled look that was new. "Is it the earrings?" she
asked at last. "I don't know," he answered. "I can't tell. They seem to
have changed you, but perhaps they have brought out something in your
face and eyes I have never seen before."

"And--you like it, Hugh?"

"Yes, I like it," he replied, and added enigmatically, "but I don't
understand it."

She was silent, and oddly satisfied, trusting to fate to send more
mysteries.

Two days had not passed when that restlessness for which she watched so
narrowly revived. He wandered aimlessly about the place, and flared up
into such a sudden violent temper at one of the helpers in the fields
that the man ran as for his life, and refused to set foot again on any of
the Chiltern farms. In the afternoon he sent for Honora to ride with him,
and scolded her for keeping him waiting. And he wore a spur, and pressed
his horse so savagely that she cried out in remonstrance, although at
such times she had grown to fear him.

"Oh, Hugh, how can you be so cruel!"

"The beast has no spirit," he said shortly. "I'll get one that has."

Their road wound through the western side of the estate towards misty
rolling country, in the folds of which lay countless lakes, and at length
they caught sight of an unpainted farmhouse set amidst a white cloud of
apple trees in bloom. On the doorstep, whittling, sat a bearded, unkempt
farmer with a huge frame. In answer to Hugh's question he admitted that
he had a horse for sale, stuck his knife in the step, rose, and went off
towards the barn near by; and presently reappeared, leading by a halter a
magnificent black. The animal stood jerking his head, blowing and pawing
the ground while Chiltern examined him.

"He's been ridden?" he asked.

The man nodded.

Chiltern sprang to the ground and began to undo his saddle girths. A
sudden fear seized Honora.

"Oh, Hugh, you're not going to ride him!" she exclaimed.

"Why not? How else am I going to find out anything about him?"

"He looks--dangerous," she faltered.

"I'm tired of horses that haven't any life in them," he said, as he
lifted off the saddle.

"I guess we'd better get him in the barn," said the farmer.

Honora went behind them to witness the operation, which was not devoid of
excitement. The great beast plunged savagely when they tightened the
girths, and closed his teeth obstinately against the bit; but the farmer
held firmly to his nose and shut off his wind. They led him out from the
barn floor.

"Your name Chiltern?" asked the farmer.

"Yes," said Hugh, curtly.

"Thought so," said the farmer, and he held the horse's head.

Honora had a feeling of faintness.

"Hugh, do be careful!" she pleaded.

He paid no heed to her. His eyes, she noticed, had a certain feverish
glitter of animation, of impatience, such as men of his type must wear
when they go into battle. He seized the horse's mane, he put his foot in
the stirrup; the astonished animal gave a snort and jerked the bridle
from the farmer's hand. But Chiltern was in the saddle, with knees
pressed tight.

There ensued a struggle that Honora will never forget. And although she
never again saw that farm-house, its details and surroundings come back
to her in vivid colours when she closes her eyes. The great horse in
every conceivable pose, with veins standing out and knotty muscles
twisting in his legs and neck and thighs. Once, when he dashed into the
apple trees, she gave a cry; a branch snapped, and Chiltern emerged,
still seated, with his hat gone and the blood trickling from a scratch on
his forehead. She saw him strike with his spurs, and in a twinkling horse
and rider had passed over the dilapidated remains of a fence and were
flying down the hard clay road, disappearing into a dip. A reverberating
sound, like a single stroke, told them that the bridge at the bottom had
been crossed.

In an agony of terror, Honora followed, her head on fire, her heart
pounding faster than the hoof beats. But the animal she rode, though a
good one, was no match for the great infuriated beast which she pursued.
Presently she came to a wooded corner where the road forked thrice, and
beyond, not without difficulty,--brought her sweating mare to a stand.
The quality of her fear changed from wild terror to cold dread. A hermit
thrush, in the wood near by, broke the silence with a song inconceivably
sweet. At last she went back to the farm-house, hoping against hope that
Hugh might have returned by another road. But he was not there. The
farmer was still nonchalantly whittling.

"Oh, how could you let any one get on a horse like that?" she cried.

"You're his wife, ain't you?" he asked.

Something in the man's manner seemed to compel her to answer, in spite of
the form of the question.

"I am Mrs. Chiltern," she said.

He was looking at her with an expression that she found incomprehensible.
His glance was penetrating, yet here again she seemed to read compassion.
He continued to gaze at her, and presently, when he spoke, it was as
though he were not addressing her at all.

"You put me in mind of a young girl I used to know," he said; "seems like
a long time ago. You're pretty, and you're young, and ye didn't know what
you were doin,' I'll warrant. Lost your head. He has a way of gittin'
'em--always had."

Honora did not answer. She would have liked to have gone away, but that
which was stronger than her held her.

"She didn't live here," he explained, waving his hand deprecatingly
towards the weather-beaten house. "We lived over near Morrisville in them
days. And he don't remember me, your husband don't. I ain't surprised.
I've got considerable older."

Honora was trembling from head to foot, and her hands were cold.

"I've got her picture in there, if ye'd like to look at it," he said,
after a while.

"Oh, no!" she cried. "Oh, no!"

"Well, I don't know as I blame you." He sat down again and began to
whittle. "Funny thing, chance," he remarked; "who'd a thought I should
have owned that there hoss, and he should have come around here to ride
it?"

She tried to speak, but she could not. The hideous imperturbability of
the man's hatred sickened her. And her husband! The chips fell in silence
until a noise on the road caused them to look up. Chiltern was coming
back. She glanced again at the farmer, but his face was equally
incapable, or equally unwilling, to express regret. Chiltern rode into
the dooryard. The blood from the scratch on his forehead had crossed his
temple and run in a jagged line down his cheek, his very hair (as she had
sometimes seen it) was damp with perspiration, blacker, kinkier; his eyes
hard, reckless, bloodshot. So, in the past, must he have emerged from
dozens of such wilful, brutal contests with man and beast. He had beaten
the sweat-stained horse (temporarily--such was the impression Honora
received), but she knew that he would like to have killed it for its
opposition.

"Give me my hat, will you?" he cried to the farmer.

To her surprise the man obeyed. Chiltern leaped to the ground.

"What do you want for him?" he demanded.

"I'll take five hundred dollars."

"Bring him over in the morning," said Chiltern, curtly.

They rode homeward in silence. Honora had not been able to raise her
voice against the purchase, and she seemed powerless now to warn her
husband of the man's enmity. She was thinking, rather, of the horror of
the tragedy written on the farmer's face, to which he had given her the
key: Hugh Chiltern, to whom she had intrusted her life and granted her
all, had done this thing, ruthlessly, even as he had satisfied to-day his
unbridled cravings in maltreating a horse! And she thought of that other
woman, on whose picture she had refused to look. What was the essential
difference between that woman and herself? He had wanted them both, he
had taken them both for his pleasure, heedless of the pain he might cause
to others and to them. For her, perhaps, the higher organism, had been
reserved the higher torture. She did not know. The vision of the girl in
the outer darkness reserved for castaways was terrible.

Up to this point she had, as it were, been looking into one mirror. Now
another was suddenly raised behind her, and by its aid she beheld not a
single, but countless, images of herself endlessly repeated. How many
others besides this girl had there been? The question gave her the
shudder of the contemplation of eternity. It was not the first time
Honora had thought of his past, but until today it had lacked reality;
until to-day she had clung to the belief that he had been misunderstood;
until to-day she had considered those acts of his of the existence of
which she was collectively aware under the generic term of wild oats. He
had had too much money, and none had known how to control him. Now,
through this concrete example of another's experience, she was given to
understand that which she had strangely been unable to learn from her
own. And she had fancied, in her folly, that she could control him!
Unable as yet to grasp the full extent of her calamity, she rode on by
his side, until she was aware at last that they had reached the door of
the house at Highlawns.

"You look pale," he said as he lifted her off her horse. The demon in
him, she perceived, was tired.

"Do I?"

"What's the matter?"

"Nothing," she answered.

He laughed.

"It's confoundedly silly to get frightened that way," he declared. "The
beast only wants riding."

Three mornings later she was seated in the garden with a frame of fancy
work. Sometimes she put it down. The weather was overcast, langourous,
and there was a feeling of rain in the air. Chiltern came in through the
gaffe, and looked at her.

"I'm going to New York on the noon train," he said.

"To New York?"

"Yes. Why not?"

"There's no reason why you shouldn't if you wish to," she replied, picking
up her frame.

"Anything I can get you?" he asked.

"No, thank you."

"You've been in such a deuced queer mood the last few days I can't make
you out, Honora."

"You ought to have learned something about women by this time," she said.

"It seems to me," he announced, "that we need a little livening up."



CHAPTER XVII

THE RENEWAL OF AN ANCIENT HOSPITALITY

There were six letters from him, written from a club, representing the
seven days of his absence. He made no secret of the fact that his visit
to the metropolis was in the nature of a relaxation and a change of
scene, but the letters themselves contained surprisingly little
information as to how he was employing his holiday. He had encountered
many old friends, supposedly all of the male sex: among them--most
welcome of surprises to him!--Mr. George Pembroke, a boon companion at
Harvard. And this mention of boon companionship brought up to Honora a
sufficiently vivid idea of Mr. Pembroke's characteristics. The extent of
her knowledge of this gentleman consisted in the facts that he was a
bachelor, a member of a prominent Philadelphia family, and that time hung
heavy on his hands.

One morning she received a telegram to the effect that her husband would
be home that night, bringing three people with him. He sent his love, but
neglected to state the names and sexes of the prospective guests. And she
was still in a quandary as to what arrangements to make when Starling
appeared in answer to her ring.

"You will send the omnibus to the five o'clock train," she said. "There
will be three extra places at dinner, and tea when Mr. Chiltern arrives."

Although she strove to speak indifferently, she was sure from the way the
old man looked at her that her voice had not been quite steady. Of late
her curious feeling about him had increased in intensity; and many times,
during this week she had spent alone, she had thought that his eyes had
followed her with sympathy. She did not resent this. Her world having now
contracted to that wide house, there was a comfort in knowing that there
was one in it to whom she could turn in need. For she felt that she could
turn to Starling; he alone, apparently, had measured the full depth of
her trouble; nay, had silently predicted it from the beginning. And
to-day, as he stood before her, she had an almost irresistible impulse to
speak. Just a word-a human word would have been such a help to her! And
how ridiculous the social law that kept the old man standing there,
impassive, respectful, when this existed between them! Her tragedy was
his tragedy; not in the same proportion, perhaps; nevertheless, he had
the air of one who would die of it.

And she? Would she die? What would become of her? When she thought of the
long days and months and years that stretched ahead of her, she felt that
her soul would not be able to survive the process of steady degradation
to which it was sure to be subjected. For she was a prisoner: the
uttermost parts of the earth offered no refuge. To-day, she knew, was to
see the formal inauguration of that process. She had known torture, but
it had been swift, obliterating, excruciating. And hereafter it was to be
slow, one turn at a time of the screws, squeezing by infinitesimal
degrees the life out of her soul. And in the end--most fearful thought of
all--in the end, painless. Painless! She buried her head in her arms on
the little desk, shaken by sobs.

How she fought that day to compose herself, fought and prayed! Prayed
wildly to a God whose help, nevertheless, she felt she had forfeited, who
was visiting her with just anger. At half-past four she heard the
carriage on the far driveway, going to the station, and she went down and
walked across the lawn to the pond, and around it; anything to keep
moving. She hurried back to the house just in time to reach the hall as
the omnibus backed up. And the first person she saw descend, after Hugh,
was Mrs. Kame.

"Here we are, Honora," she cried. "I hope you're glad to see us, and that
you'll forgive our coming so informally. You must blame Hugh. We've
brought Adele."

The second lady was, indeed, none other than Mrs. Eustace Rindge,
formerly Mrs. Dicky Farnham. And she is worth--even at this belated stage
in our chronicle an attempted sketch, or at least an attempted
impression. She was fair, and slim as a schoolgirl; not very tall, not
exactly petite; at first sight she might have been taken for a
particularly immature debutante, and her dress was youthful and rather
mannish. Her years, at this period of her career, were in truth but two
and twenty, yet she had contrived, in the comparatively brief time since
she had reached the supposed age of discretion, to marry two men and
build two houses, and incidentally to see a considerable portion of what
is known as the world. The suspicion that she was not as innocent as a
dove came to one, on closer inspection, as a shock: her eyes were tired,
though not from loss of sleep; and her manner--how shall it be described
to those whose happy lot in life has never been to have made the
acquaintance of Mrs. Rindge's humbler sisters who have acquired--more
coarsely, it is true--the same camaraderie? She was one of those for
whom, seemingly, sex does not exist. Her air of good-fellowship with men
was eloquent of a precise knowledge of what she might expect from them,
and she was prepared to do her own policing,--not from any deep moral
convictions. She belonged, logically, to that world which is disposed to
take the law into its own hands, and she was the possessor of five
millions of dollars.

"I came along," she said to Honora, as she gave her hand-bag to a
footman. "I hope you don't mind. Abby and I were shopping and we ran into
Hugh and Georgie yesterday at Sherry's, and we've been together ever
since. Not quite that--but almost. Hugh begged us to come up, and there
didn't seem to be any reason why we shouldn't, so we telephoned down to
Banbury for our trunks and maids, and we've played bridge all the way. By
the way, Georgie, where's my pocket-book?"

Mr. Pembroke handed it over, and was introduced by Hugh. He looked at
Honora, and his glance somehow betokened that he was in the habit of
looking only once. He had apparently made up his mind about her before he
saw her. But he looked again, evidently finding her at variance with a
preconceived idea, and this time she flushed a little under his stare,
and she got the impression that Mr. Pembroke was a man from whom few
secrets of a certain kind were hid. She felt that he had seized, at a
second glance, a situation that she had succeeded in hiding from the
women. He was surprised, but cynically so. He was the sort of person who
had probably possessed at Harvard the knowledge of the world of a Tammany
politician; he had long ago written his book--such as it was--and closed
it: or, rather, he had worked out his system at a precocious age, and it
had lasted him ever since. He had decided that undergraduate life, freed
from undergraduate restrictions, was a good thing. And he did not, even
in these days, object to breaking something valuable occasionally.

His physical attributes are more difficult to describe, so closely were
they allied to those which, for want of a better word, must be called
mental. He was neither tall nor short, he was well fed, but hard, his
shoulders too broad, his head a little large. If he should have happened
to bump against one, the result would have been a bruise--not for him.
His eyes were blue, his light hair short, and there was a slight baldness
beginning; his face was red-tanned. There was not the slightest doubt
that he could be effectively rude, and often was; but it was evident, for
some reason, that he meant to be gracious (for Mr. Pembroke) to Honora.
Perhaps this was the result of the second glance. One of his name had not
lacked, indeed, for instructions in gentility. It must not be thought
that she was in a condition to care much about what Mr. Pembroke thought
or did, and yet she felt instinctively that he had changed his greeting
between that first and second glance.

"I hope you'll forgive my coming in this way," he said. "I'm an old
friend of Hugh's."

"I'm very glad to have Hugh's friends," she answered.

He looked at her again.

"Is tea ready?" inquired Mrs. Kame. "I'm famished." And, as they walked
through the house to the garden, where the table was set beside the stone
seat: "I don't see how you ever can leave this place, Honora. I've always
wanted to come here, but it's even more beautiful than I thought."

"It's very beautiful," said Honora.

"I'll have a whiskey and soda, if I may," announced Mrs. Rindge. "Open
one, Georgie."

"The third to-day," said Mr. Pembroke, sententiously, as he obeyed.

"I don't care. I don't see what business it is of yours."

"Except to open them," he replied.

"You'd have made a fortune as a barkeeper," she observed,
dispassionately, as she watched the process.

"He's made fortunes for a good many," said Chiltern.

"Not without some expert assistance I could mention," Mr. Pembroke
retorted.

At this somewhat pointed reference to his ancient habits, Chiltern
laughed.

"You've each had three to-day yourselves," said Mrs. Rindge, in whose
bosom Mr. Pembroke's remark evidently rankled, "without counting those
you had before you left the club."

Afterwards Mrs. Kame expressed a desire to walk about a little, a
proposal received with disfavour by all but Honora, who as hostess
responded.

"I feel perfectly delightful," declared Mrs. Rindge. "What's the use of
moving about?" And she sank back in the cushions of her chair.

This observation was greeted with unrestrained merriment by Mr. Pembroke
and Hugh. Honora, sick at heart, led Mrs. Kame across the garden and
through the gate in the wall. It was a perfect evening of early June, the
great lawn a vivid green in the slanting light. All day the cheerful
music of the horse-mowers had been heard, and the air was fragrant with
the odour of grass freshly cut. The long shadows of the maples and
beeches stretched towards the placid surface of the lake, dimpled here
and there by a fish's swirl: the spiraeas were laden as with freshly
fallen snow, a lone Judas-tree was decked in pink. The steep pastures
beyond the water were touched with gold, while to the northward, on the
distant hills, tender blue lights gathered lovingly around the copses.
Mrs. Kame sighed.

"What a terrible thing it is," she said, "that we are never satisfied!
It's the men who ruin all this for us, I believe, and prevent our
enjoying it. Look at Adele."

Honora had indeed looked at her.

"I found out the other day what is the matter with her. She's madly in
love with Dicky."

"With--with her former husband?"

"Yes, with poor little innocent Dicky Farnham, who's probably still
congratulating himself, like a canary bird that's got out of a cage.
Somehow Dicky's always reminded me of a canary; perhaps it's his name.
Isn't it odd that she should be in love with him?"

"I think," replied Honora, slowly, "that it's a tragedy."

"It is a tragedy," Mrs. Kame hastily agreed. "To me, this case is one of
the most incomprehensible aspects of the tender passion. Adele's idea of
existence is a steeplechase with nothing but water-jumps, Dicky's to
loiter around in a gypsy van, and sit in the sun. During his brief
matrimonial experience with her, he nearly died for want of breath--or
rather the life was nearly shaken out of him. And yet she wants Dicky
again. She'd run away with him to-morrow if he should come within hailing
distance of her."

"And her husband?" asked Honora.

"Eustace? Did you ever see him? That accounts for your question. He only
left France long enough to come over here and make love to her, and he
swears he'll never leave it again. If she divorces him, he'll have to
have alimony."

At last Honora was able to gain her own room, but even seclusion, though
preferable to the companionship of her guests, was almost intolerable.
The tragedy of Mrs. Rindge had served--if such a thing could be--to
enhance her own; a sudden spectacle of a woman in a more advanced stage
of desperation. Would she, Honora, ever become like that? Up to the
present she felt that suffering had refined her, and a great love had
burned away all that was false. But now--now that her god had turned to
clay, what would happen? Desperation seemed possible, notwithstanding the
awfulness of the example. No, she would never come to that! And she
repeated it over and over to herself as she dressed, as though to
strengthen her will.

During her conversation with Mrs. Kame she had more than once suspected,
in spite of her efforts, that the lady had read her state of mind. For
Mrs. Kame's omissions were eloquent to the discerning: Chiltern's
relatives had been mentioned with a casualness intended to imply that no
breach existed, and the fiction that Honora could at any moment take up
her former life delicately sustained. Mrs. Kame had adaptably chosen the
attitude, after a glance around her, that Honora preferred Highlawns to
the world: a choice of which she let it be known that she approved, while
deploring that a frivolous character put such a life out of the question
for herself. She made her point without over-emphasis. On the other hand,
Honora had read Mrs. Kame. No very careful perusal was needed to convince
her that the lady was unmoral, and that in characteristics she resembled
the chameleon. But she read deeper. She perceived that Mrs. Kame was
convinced that she, Honora, would adjust herself to the new conditions
after a struggle; and that while she had a certain sympathy in the
struggle, Mrs. Kame was of opinion that the sooner it was over with the
better. All women were born to be disillusionized. Such was the key, at
any rate, to the lady's conduct that evening at dinner, when she capped
the anecdotes of Mr. Pembroke and Mrs. Rindge and even of Chiltern with
others not less risque but more fastidiously and ingeniously suggestive.
The reader may be spared their recital.

Since the meeting in the restaurant the day before, which had resulted in
Hugh's happy inspiration that the festival begun should be continued
indefinitely at Highlawns, a kind of freemasonry had sprung up between
the four. Honora found herself, mercifully, outside the circle: for such
was the lively character of the banter that a considerable adroitness was
necessary to obtain, between the talk and--laughter, the ear of the
company. And so full were they of the reminiscences which had been
crowded into the thirty hours or so they had spent together, that her
comparative silence remained unnoticed. To cite an example, Mr. Pembroke
was continually being addressed as the Third Vice-president, an allusion
that Mrs. Rindge eventually explained.

"You ought to have been with us coming up on the train," she cried to
Honora; "I thought surely we'd be put off. We were playing bridge in the
little room at the end of the car when the conductor came for our
tickets. Georgie had 'em in his pocket, but he told the man to go away,
that he was the third vice-president of the road, and we were his
friends. The conductor asked him if he were Mr. Wheeler, or some such
name, and Georgie said he was surprised he didn't know him. Well, the man
stood there in the door, and Georgie picked up his hand and made it
hearts--or was it diamonds, Georgie?"

"Spades," said that gentleman, promptly.

"At any rate," Mrs. Rindge continued, "we all began to play, although we
were ready to blow up with laughter, and after a while Georgie looked
around and said, 'What, are you there yet?' My dear, you ought to have
seen the conductor's face! He said it was his duty to establish Georgie's
identity, or something like that, and Georgie told him to get off at the
next station and buy Waring's Magazine--was that it, Georgie?"

"How the deuce should I know?"

"Well, some such magazine. Georgie said he'd find an article in it on the
Railroad Kings and Princes of America, and that his picture, Georgie's,
was among the very first!" At this juncture in her narrative Mrs. Rindge
shrieked with laughter, in which she was joined by Mrs. Kame and Hugh;
and she pointed a forefinger across the table at Mr. Pembroke, who went
on solemnly eating his dinner. "Georgie gave him ten cents with which to
buy the magazine," she added a little hysterically. "Well, there was a
frightful row, and a lot of men came down to that end of the car, and we
had to shut the door. The conductor said the most outrageous things, and
Georgie pretended to be very indignant, too, and gave him the tickets
under protest. He told Georgie he ought to be in an asylum for the
criminally insane, and Georgie advised him to get a photograph album of
the high officials of the railroad. The conductor said Georgie's picture
was probably in the rogue's gallery. And we lost two packs of cards out
of the window."

Such had been the more innocent if eccentric diversions with which they
had whiled away the time. When dinner was ended, a renewal of the bridge
game was proposed, for it had transpired at the dinner-table that Mrs.
Rindge and Hugh had been partners all day, as a result of which there was
a considerable balance in their favour. This balance Mr. Pembroke was
palpably anxious to wipe out, or at least to reduce. But Mrs. Kame
insisted that Honora should cut in, and the others supported her.

"We tried our best to get a man for you," said Mrs. Rindge to Honora.
"Didn't we, Abby? But in the little time we had, it was impossible. The
only man we saw was Ned Carrington, and Hugh said he didn't think you'd
want him."

"Hugh showed a rare perception," said Honora.

Be it recorded that she smiled. One course had been clear to her from the
first, although she found it infinitely difficult to follow; she was
determined, cost what it might, to carry through her part of the affair
with dignity, but without stiffness. This is not the place to dwell upon
the tax to her strength.

"Come on, Honora," said Hugh, "cut in." His tone was of what may be
termed a rough good nature. She had not seen him alone since his return,
but he had seemed distinctly desirous that she should enjoy the
festivities he had provided. And not to yield would have been to betray
herself.

The game, with its intervals of hilarity, was inaugurated in the library,
and by midnight it showed no signs of abating. At this hour the original
four occupied the table for the second time, and endurance has its
limits. The atmosphere of Liberty Hall that prevailed made Honora's
retirement easier.

"I'm sure you won't mind if I go to bed," she said. "I've been so used to
the routine of--of the chickens." She smiled. "And I've spent the day in
the open air."

"Certainly, my dear," said Mrs. Kame; "I know exactly how one feels in
the country. I'm sure it's dreadfully late. We'll have one more rubber,
and then stop."

"Oh, don't stop," replied Honora; "please play as long as you like."

They didn't stop--at least after one more rubber. Honora, as she lay in
the darkness, looking through the open square of her window at the silver
stars, heard their voiced and their laughter floating up at intervals
from below, and the little clock on her mantel had struck the hour of
three when the scraping of chairs announced the breaking up of the party.
And even after that an unconscionable period elapsed, beguiled,
undoubtedly, by anecdotes; spells of silence--when she thought they had
gone--ending in more laughter. Finally there was a crash of breaking
glass, a climax of uproarious mirth, and all was still. . .

She could not have slept much, but the birds were singing when she
finally awoke, the sunlight pouring into her window: And the hands of her
clock pointed to half-past seven when she rang her bell. It was a relief
to breakfast alone, or at least to sip her coffee in solitude. And the
dew was still on the grass as she crossed the wide lawn and made her way
around the lake to the path that entered the woods at its farther end.
She was not tired, yet she would have liked to have lain down under the
green panoply of the forest, where the wild flowers shyly raised sweet
faces to be kissed, and lose herself in the forgetfulness of an eternal
sleep; never to go back again to an Eden contaminated. But when she
lingered the melody of a thrush pierced her through and through. At last
she turned and reluctantly retraced her steps, as one whose hour of
reprieve has expired.

If Mrs. Rindge had a girlish air when fully arrayed for the day, she
looked younger and more angular still in that article of attire known as
a dressing gown. And her eyes, Honora remarked, were peculiarly bright:
glittering, perhaps, would better express the impression they gave; as
though one got a glimpse through them of an inward consuming fire. Her
laughter rang shrill and clear as Honora entered the hall by the rear
door, and the big clock proclaimed that the hour was half-past eleven.
Hugh and Mr. Pembroke were standing at the foot of the stairs, gazing
upward. And Honora, following their glances, beheld the two ladies, in
the negligee referred to above, with their elbows on the railing of the
upper hall and their faces between their hands, engaged in a lively
exchange of compliments with the gentlemen. Mrs. Kame looked sleepy.

"Such a night!" she said, suppressing a yawn. "My dear, you did well to
go to bed."

"And to cap it all," cried Mrs. Rindge, "Georgie fell over backwards in
one of those beautiful Adam chairs, and there's literally nothing left of
it. If an ocean steamer had hit it, or a freight tram, it couldn't have
been more thoroughly demolished."

"You pushed me," declared Mr. Pembroke.

"Did I, Hugh? I barely touched him."

"You knocked him into a cocked hat," said Hugh. "And if you'd been in
that kimono, you could have done it even easier."

"Georgie broke the whole whiskey service,--or whatever it is," Mrs.
Rindge went on, addressing Honora again. "He fell into it."

"He's all right this morning," observed Mrs. Kame, critically.

"I think I'll take to swallowing swords and glass and things in public. I
can do it so well," said Mr. Pembroke.

"I hope you got what you like for breakfast," said Honora to the ladies.

"Hurry up and come down, Adele," said Hugh, "if you want to look over the
horses before lunch."

"It's Georgie's fault," replied Mrs. Rindge; "he's been standing in the
door of my sitting-room for a whole half-hour talking nonsense."

A little later they all set out for the stables. These buildings at
Highlawns, framed by great trees, were old-fashioned and picturesque,
surrounding three sides of a court, with a yellow brick wall on the
fourth. The roof of the main building was capped by a lantern, the home
of countless pigeons. Mrs. Rindge was in a habit, and one by one the
saddle horses were led out, chiefly for her inspection; and she seemed to
Honora to become another woman as she looked them over with a critical
eye and discussed them with Hugh and O'Grady, the stud-groom, and talked
about pedigrees and strains. For she was renowned in this department of
sport on many fields, both for recklessness and skill.

"Where did you get that brute, Hugh?" she asked presently.

Honora, who had been talking to Pembroke, looked around with a start. And
at the sight of the great black horse, bought on that unforgettable day,
she turned suddenly faint.

"Over here in the country about ten miles," Chiltern was saying. "I heard
of him, but I didn't expect anything until I went to look at him last
week."

"What do you call him?" asked Mrs. Rindge.

"I haven't named him."

"I'll give you a name."

Chiltern looked at her. "What is it?" he said.

"Oblivion," she replied:

"By George, Adele," he exclaimed, "you have a way of hitting it off!"

"Will you let me ride him this afternoon?" she asked.

"I'm a--a candidate for oblivion." She laughed a little and her eyes
shone feverishly.

"No you don't," he said. "I'm giving you the grey. He's got enough in him
for any woman--even for you: And besides, I don't think the black ever
felt a side saddle, or any other kind, until last week."

"I've got another habit," she said eagerly. "I'd rather ride him astride.
I'll match you to see who has him."

Chiltern laughed.

"No you don't," he repeated. "I'll ride him to-day, and consider it
to-morrow."

"I--I think I'll go back to the house," said Honora to Pembroke. "It's
rather hot here in the sun."

"I'm not very keen about sunshine, either," he declared.

At lunch she was unable to talk; to sustain, at least, a conversation.
That word oblivion, which Mrs. Rindge had so aptly applied to the horse,
was constantly on her lips, and it would not have surprised her if she
had spoken it. She felt as though a heavy weight lay on her breast, and
to relieve its intolerable pressure drew in her breath deeply. She was
wild with fear. The details of the great room fixed themselves indelibly
in her brain; the subdued light, the polished table laden with silver and
glass, the roses, and the purple hot-house grapes. All this seemed in
some way to be an ironic prelude to disaster. Hugh, pausing in his
badinage with Mrs. Rindge, looked at her.

"Cheer up, Honora," he said.

"I'm afraid this first house-party is too much for her," said Mrs. Kame.

Honora made some protest that seemed to satisfy them, tried to rally
herself, and succeeded sufficiently to pass muster. After lunch they
repaired again to the bridge table, and at four Hugh went upstairs to
change into his riding clothes. Five minutes longer she controlled
herself, and then made some paltry excuse, indifferent now as to what
they said or thought, and followed him. She knocked at his dressing-room
door and entered. He was drawing on his boots. "Hello, Honora," he said.

Honora turned to his man, and dismissed him.

"I wish to speak to Mr. Chiltern alone."

Chiltern paused in his tugging at the straps, and looked up at her.

"What's the matter with you to-day, Honora?" he asked. "You looked like
the chief mourner at a funeral all through lunch."

He was a little on edge, that she knew. He gave another tug at the boot,
and while she was still hesitating, he began again.

"I ought to apologize, I know, for bringing these people up without
notice, but I didn't suppose you'd object when you understood how
naturally it all came about. I thought a little livening up, as I said,
wouldn't, hurt us. We've had a quiet winter, to put it mildly." He
laughed a little. "I didn't have a chance to see you until this morning,
and when I went to your room they told me you'd gone out."

"Hugh," she said, laying her hand on his shoulder. "It isn't the guests.
If you want people, and they amuse you, I'm--I'm glad to have them. And
if I've seemed to be--cold to them, I'm sorry. I tried my best--I mean I
did not intend to be cold. I'll sit up all night with them, if you like.
And I didn't come to reproach you, Hugh. I'll never do that--I've got no
right to."

She passed her hand over her eyes. If she had any wrongs, if she had
suffered any pain, the fear that obsessed her obliterated all. In spite
of her disillusionment, in spite of her newly acquired ability to see him
as he was, enough love remained to scatter, when summoned, her pride to
the winds.

Having got on both boots, he stood up.

"What's the trouble, then?" he asked. And he took an instant's hold of
her chin--a habit he had--and smiled at her.

He little knew how sublime, in its unconscious effrontery, his question
was! She tried to compose herself, that she might be able to present
comprehensively to his finite masculine mind the ache of today.

"Hugh, it's that black horse." She could not bring herself to pronounce
the name Mrs. Rindge had christened him.

"What about him?" he said, putting on his waistcoat.

"Don't ride him!" she pleaded. "I--I'm afraid of him--I've been afraid of
him ever since that day.

"It may be a foolish feeling, I know. Sometimes the feelings that hurt
women most are foolish. If I tell you that if you ride him you will
torture me, I'm sure you'll grant what I ask. It's such a little thing
and it means so much--so much agony to me. I'd do anything for you--give
up anything in the world at your slightest wish. Don't ride him!"

"This is a ridiculous fancy of yours, Honora. The horse is all right.
I've ridden dozens of worse ones."

"Oh, I'm sure he isn't," she cried; "call it fancy, call it instinct,
call it anything you like--but I feel it, Hugh. That woman--Mrs.
Rindge--knows something about horses, and she said he was a brute."

"Yes," he interrupted, with a short laugh, "and she wants to ride him."

"Hugh, she's reckless. I--I've been watching her since she came here, and
I'm sure she's reckless with--with a purpose."

"You're morbid," he said. "She's one of the best sportswomen in the
country--that's the reason she wanted to ride the horse. Look here,
Honora, I'd accede to any reasonable request. But what do you expect me
to do?" he demanded; "go down and say I'm afraid to ride him? or that my
wife doesn't want me to? I'd never hear the end of it. And the first
thing Adele would do would be to jump on him herself--a little wisp of a
woman that looks as if she couldn't hold a Shetland pony! Can't you see
that what you ask is impossible?"

He started for the door to terminate a conversation which had already
begun to irritate him. For his anger, in these days, was very near the
surface. She made one more desperate appeal.

"Hugh--the man who sold him--he knew the horse was dangerous. I'm sure he
did, from something he said to me while you were gone."

"These country people are all idiots and cowards," declared Chiltern.
"I've known 'em a good while, and they haven't got the spirit of mongrel
dogs. I was a fool to think that I could do anything for them. They're
kind and neighbourly, aren't they?" he exclaimed. "If that old rascal
flattered himself he deceived me, he was mistaken. He'd have been
mightily pleased if the beast had broken my neck."

"Hugh!"

"I can't, Honora. That's all there is to it, I can't. Now don't cut up
about nothing. I'm sorry, but I've got to go. Adele's waiting."

He came back, kissed her hurriedly, turned and opened the door. She
followed him into the hallway, knowing that she had failed, knowing that
she never could have succeeded. There she halted and watched him go down
the stairs, and stand with her hands tightly pressed together: voices
reached her, a hurrah from George Pembroke, and the pounding of hoofs on
the driveway. It had seemed such a little thing to ask!

But she did not dwell upon this, now, when fear was gnawing her: how she
had humbled her pride for days and weeks and months for him, and how he
had refused her paltry request lest he should be laughed at. Her
reflections then were not on his waning love. She was filled with the
terror of losing him--of losing all that remained to her in the world.
Presently she began to walk slowly towards the stairs, descended them,
and looked around her. The hall, at least, had not changed. She listened,
and a bee hummed in through the open doorway. A sudden longing for
companionship possessed her-no matter whose; and she walked hurriedly, as
though she were followed, through the empty rooms until she came upon
George Pembroke stretched at full length on the leather-covered lounge in
the library. He opened his eyes, and got up with alacrity.

"Please don't move," she said.

He looked at her. Although his was not what may be called a sympathetic
temperament, he was not without a certain knowledge of women;
superficial, perhaps. But most men of his type have seen them in despair;
and since he was not related to this particular despair, what finer
feelings he had were the more easily aroused. It must have been clear to
her then that she had lost the power to dissemble, all the clearer
because of Mr. Pembroke's cheerfulness.

"I wasn't going to sleep," he assured her. "Circumstantial evidence is
against me, I know. Where's Abby? reading French literature?"

"I haven't seen her," replied Honora.

"She usually goes to bed with a play at this hour. It's a horrid habit
--going to bed, I mean. Don't you think? Would you mind showing me about
a little?"

"Do you really wish to?" asked Honora, incredulously.

"I haven't been here since my senior year," said Mr. Pembroke. "If the
old General were alive, he could probably tell you something of that
visit--he wrote to my father about it. I always liked the place, although
the General was something of a drawback. Fine old man, with no memory."

"I should have thought him to have had a good memory," she said.

"I have always been led to believe that he was once sent away from
college in his youth,--for his health," he explained significantly. "No
man has a good memory who can't remember that. Perhaps the battle of
Gettysburg wiped it out."

Thus, in his own easy-going fashion, Mr. Pembroke sought to distract her.
She put on a hat, and they walked about, the various scenes recalling
incidents of holidays he had spent at Highlawns. And after a while Honora
was thankful that chance had sent her in this hour to him rather than to
Mrs. Kame. For the sight, that morning of this lady in her dressing-gown
over the stairway, had seemingly set the seal on a growing distaste. Her
feeling had not been the same about Mrs. Rindge: Mrs. Kame's actions
savoured of deliberate choice, of an inherent and calculating wickedness.

Had the distraction of others besides himself been the chief business of
Mr. Pembroke's life, he could not have succeeded better that afternoon.
He must be given this credit: his motives remain problematical; at length
he even drew laughter from her. The afternoon wore on, they returned to
the garden for tea, and a peaceful stillness continued to reign about
them, the very sky smiling placidly at her fears. Not by assuring her
that Hugh was unusual horseman, that he had passed through many dangers
beside which this was a bagatelle, could the student of the feminine by
her side have done half so well. And it may have been that his success
encouraged him as he saw emerging, as the result of his handiwork, an
unexpectedly attractive--if still somewhat serious-woman from the gloom
that had enveloped her. That she should still have her distrait moments
was but natural.

He talked to her largely about Hugh, of whom he appeared sincerely fond.
The qualities which attracted Mr. Pembroke in his own sex were somewhat
peculiar, and seemingly consisted largely in a readiness to drop the
business at hand, whatever it might be, at the suggestion of a friend to
do something else; the "something else," of course, to be the conception
of an ingenious mind. And it was while he was in the midst of an anecdote
proving the existence of this quality in his friend that he felt a sudden
clutch on his arm.

They listened. Faintly, very faintly, could be heard the sound of hoof
beats; rapid, though distant.

"Do you hear?" she whispered, and still held his arm.

"It's just like them to race back," said Pembroke, with admirable
nonchalance.

"But they wouldn't come back at this time--it's too early. Hugh always
takes long rides. They started for Hubbard's--it's twelve miles."

"Adele changes her mind every minute of the day," he said.

"Listen!" she cried, and her clutch tightened. The hoof beats grew
louder. "It's only one--it's only one horse!"

Before he could answer, she was already halfway up the garden path
towards the house. He followed her as she ran panting through the
breakfast room, the dining room, and drawing-room, and when they reached
the hall, Starling, the butler, and two footmen were going out at the
door. A voice--Mrs. Kame's--cried out, "What is it?" over the stairs, but
they paid no heed. As they reached the steps they beheld the slight
figure of Mrs. Rindge on a flying horse coming towards them up the
driveway. Her black straw hat had slipped to the back of her neck, her
hair was awry, her childish face white as paper. Honora put her hand to
her heart. There was no need to tell her the news--she had known these
many hours.

Mrs. Rindge's horse came over the round grass-plot of the circle and
planted his fore feet in the turf as she pulled him up. She lurched
forward. It was Starling who lifted her off--George Pembroke stood by
Honora.

"My God, Adele," he exclaimed, "why don't you speak?"

She was staring at Honora.

"I can't!" she cried. "I can't tell you--it's too terrible! The horse--"
she seemed to choke.

It was Honora who went up to her with a calmness that awed them.

"Tell me," she said, "is he dead?"

Mrs. Rindge nodded, and broke into hysterical sobbing.

"And I wanted to ride him myself," she sobbed, as they led her up the
steps.

In less than an hour they brought him home and laid him in the room in
which he had slept from boyhood, and shut the door. Honora looked into
his face. It was calm at last, and his body strangely at rest. The
passions which had tortured it and driven it hither and thither through a
wayward life had fled: the power gone that would brook no guiding hand,
that had known no master. It was not until then that she fell upon him,
weeping . . . .



CHAPTER XVIII

IN WHICH MR. ERWIN SEEK PARIS

As she glanced around the sitting-room of her apartment in Paris one
September morning she found it difficult, in some respects, to realize
that she had lived in it for more than five years. After Chiltern's death
she had sought a refuge, and she had found it here: a refuge in which she
meant--if her intention may be so definitely stated--to pass the
remainder of her days.

As a refuge it had become dear to her. When first she had entered it she
had looked about her numbly, thankful for walls and roof, thankful for
its remoteness from the haunts of the prying: as a shipwrecked castaway
regards, at the first light, the cave into which he has stumbled into the
darkness-gratefully. And gradually, castaway that she felt herself to be,
she had adorned it lovingly, as one above whose horizon the sails of hope
were not to rise; filled it with friends not chosen in a day, whose
faithful ministrations were not to cease. Her books, but only those
worthy to be bound and read again; the pictures she had bought when she
had grown to know what pictures were; the music she had come to love for
its eternal qualities--these were her companions.

The apartment was in the old quarter across the Seine, and she had found
it by chance. The ancient family of which this hotel had once been the
home would scarce have recognized, if they had returned the part of it
Honora occupied. The room in which she mostly lived was above the corner
of the quiet street, and might have been more aptly called a sitting-room
than a salon. Its panels were the most delicate of blue-gray,
fantastically designed and outlined by ribbings of blue. Some of them
contained her pictures. The chairs, the sofas, the little tabourets, were
upholstered in yellow, their wood matching the panels. Above the carved
mantel of yellowing marble was a quaintly shaped mirror extending to the
high ceiling, and flanked on either side by sconces. The carpet was a
golden brown, the hangings in the tall windows yellow. And in the morning
the sun came in, not boisterously, but as a well-bred and cheerful guest.
An amiable proprietor had permitted her also to add a wrought-iron
balcony as an adjunct to this room, and sometimes she sat there on the
warmer days reading under the seclusion of an awning, or gazing at the
mysterious facades of the houses opposite, or at infrequent cabs or
pedestrians below.

An archway led out of the sitting-room into a smaller room, once the
boudoir of a marquise, now Honora's library. This was in blue and gold,
and she had so far modified the design of the decorator as to replace the
mirrors of the cases with glass; she liked to see her books. Beyond the
library was a dining room in grey, with dark red hangings; it overlooked
the forgotten garden of the hotel.

One item alone of news from the outer world, vital to her, had drifted to
her retreat. Newspapers filled her with dread, but it was from a
newspaper, during the first year of her retirement, that she had learned
of the death of Howard Spence. A complication of maladies was mentioned,
but the true underlying cause was implied in the article, and this had
shocked but not surprised her. A ferment was in progress in her own
country, the affairs of the Orange Trust Company being investigated, and
its president under indictment at the hour of his demise. Her feelings at
the time, and for months after, were complex. She had been moved to deep
pity, for in spite of what he had told her of his business transactions,
it was impossible for her to think of him as a criminal. That he had been
the tool of others, she knew, but it remained a question in her mind how
clearly he had perceived the immorality of his course, and of theirs. He
had not been given to casuistry, and he had been brought up in a school
the motto of which he had once succinctly stated: the survival of the
fittest. He had not been, alas, one of those to survive.

Honora had found it impossible to unravel the tangled skein of their
relationship, and to assign a definite amount of blame to each. She did
not shirk hers, and was willing to accept a full measure. That she had
done wrong in marrying him, and again in leaving him to marry another
man, she acknowledged freely. Wrong as she knew this to have been,
severely though she had been punished for it, she could not bring herself
to an adequate penitence. She tried to remember him as he had been at
Silverdale, and in the first months of their marriage, and not as he had
afterwards become. There was no question in her mind, now that it was
given her to see things more clearly, that she might have tried harder,
much harder, to make their marriage a success. He might, indeed, have
done more to protect and cherish her. It was a man's part to guard a
woman against the evils with which she had been surrounded. On the other
hand, she could not escape the fact, nor did she attempt to escape it,
that she had had the more light of the two: and that, though the task
were formidable, she might have fought to retain that light and infuse
him with it.

That she did not hold herself guiltless is the important point. Many of
her hours were spent in retrospection. She was, in a sense, as one dead,
yet retaining her faculties; and these became infinitely keen now that
she was deprived of the power to use them as guides through life. She
felt that the power had come too late, like a legacy when one is old. And
she contemplated the Honora of other days--of the flesh, as though she
were now the spirit departed from that body; sorrowfully, poignantly
regretful of the earthly motives, of the tarnished ideals by which it had
been animated and led to destruction.

Even Hugh Chiltern had left her no illusions. She thought of him at tunes
with much tenderness; whether she still loved him or not she could not
say. She came to the conclusion that all capacity for intense feeling had
been burned out of her. And she found that she could permit her mind to
rest upon no period of her sojourn at Grenoble without a sense of horror;
there had been no hour when she had seemed secure from haunting terror,
no day that had not added its mite to the gathering evidence of an
ultimate retribution. And it was like a nightmare to summon again this
spectacle of the man going to pieces under her eyes. The whole incident
in her life as time wore on assumed an aspect bizarre, incredible, as the
follies of a night of madness appear in the saner light of morning. Her
great love had bereft her of her senses, for had the least grain of
sanity remained to her she might have known that the thing they attempted
was impossible of accomplishment.

Her feeling now, after four years, might be described as relief. To
employ again the figure of the castaway, she often wondered why she of
all others had been rescued from the tortures of slow drowning and thrown
up on an island. What had she done above the others to deserve
preservation? It was inevitable that she should on occasions picture to
herself the years with him that would have stretched ahead, even as the
vision of them had come to her that morning when, in obedience to his
telegram, she had told Starling to prepare for guests. Her escape had
indeed been miraculous!

Although they had passed through a ceremony, the conviction had never
taken root in her that she had been married to Chiltern. The tie that had
united her to him had not been sacred, though it had been no less
binding; more so, in fact. That tie would have become a shackle. Her
perception of this, after his death, had led her to instruct her attorney
to send back to his relatives all but a small income from his estate,
enough for her to live on during her lifetime. There had been some
trouble about this matter; Mrs. Grainger, in particular, had surprised
her in making objections, and had finally written a letter which Honora
received with a feeling akin to gratitude. Whether her own action had
softened this lady's feelings, she never understood; she had cherished
the letter for its unexpectedly charitable expressions. Chiltern's family
had at last agreed to accept the estate on the condition that the income
mentioned should be tripled. And to this Honora had consented. Money had
less value than ever in her eyes.

She lived here in Paris in what may be called a certain peace, made no
demands upon the world, and had no expectations from it. She was now in
half mourning, and intended to remain so. Her isolation was of her own
choice, if a stronger expression be not used. She was by no means an
enforced outcast. And she was even aware that a certain sympathy for her
had grown up amongst her former friends which had spread to the colony of
her compatriots in Paris; in whose numbers there were some, by no means
unrecognized, who had defied the conventions more than she. Hugh
Chiltern's reputation, and the general knowledge of his career, had no
doubt aided to increase this sympathy, but the dignity of her conduct
since his death was at the foundation of it. Sometimes, on her walks and
drives, she saw people bowing to her, and recognized friends or
acquaintances of what seemed to her like a former existence.

Such had been her life in Paris until a certain day in early September, a
month before this chapter opens. It was afternoon, and she was sitting in
the balcony cutting a volume of memoirs when she heard the rattle of a
cab on the cobbles below, and peered curiously over the edge of the
railing. Although still half a block away, the national characteristics
of the passenger were sufficiently apparent. He was an American--of that
she was sure. And many Americans did not stray into that quarter. The
length of his legs, for one thing, betrayed him: he found the seat of the
fiacre too low, and had crossed one knee over the other. Other and less
easily definable attributes he did not lack. And as he leaned against the
faded blue cushions regarding with interest the buildings he passed, he
seemed, like an ambassador, to convert the cab in which he rode into
United States territory. Then she saw that it was Peter Erwin.

She drew back her head from the balcony rail, and tried to sit still and
to think, but she was trembling as one stricken with a chill. The cab
stopped; and presently, after an interval, his card was handed her. She
rose, and stood for a moment with her hand against the wall before she
went into the salon. None of the questions she had asked herself were
answered. Was she glad to see him? and what would be his attitude towards
her? When she beheld him standing before her she had strength only to
pronounce his name.

He came forward quickly and took her hand and looked down into her face.
She regarded him tremulously, instinctively guessing the vital importance
of this moment for him; and she knew then that he had been looking
forward to it in mingled hope and dread, as one who gazes seaward after a
night of tempest for the ship he has seen at dusk in the offing. What had
the tempest done to her? Such was his question. And her heart leaped as
she saw the light growing in his eyes, for it meant much to her that he
should see that she was not utterly dismantled. She fell; his own hand
tremble as he relinquished hers. He was greatly moved; his voice, too,
betrayed it.

"You see I have found you," he said.

"Yes," she answered; "--why did you come?"

"Why have I always come to you, when it was possible?" he asked.

"No one ever had such a friend, Peter. Of that I am sure:'

"I wanted to see Paris," he said, "before I grew too decrepit to enjoy
it."

She smiled, and turned away.

"Have you seen much of it?"

"Enough to wish to see more."

"When did you arrive?"

"Some time in the night," he said, "from Cherbourg. And I'm staying at a
very grand hotel, which might be anywhere. A man I crossed with on the
steamer took me there. I think I'd move to one of the quieter ones, the
French ones, if I were a little surer of my pronunciation and the
subjunctive mood."

"You don't mean to say you've been studying French!"

He coloured a little, and laughed.

"You think it ridiculous at my time of life? I suppose you're right. You
should have seen me trying to understand the cabmen. The way these people
talk reminds me more of a Gatling gun than anything I can think of. It
certainly isn't human."

"Perhaps you have come over as ambassador," she suggested. "When I saw
you in the cab, even before I recognized you, I thought of a bit of our
soil broken off and drifted over here."

Her voice did not quite sustain the lighter note--the emotion his visit
was causing her was too great. He brought with him into her retreat not
so much a flood of memories as of sensations. He was a man whose image
time with difficulty obliterates, whose presence was a shining thing: so
she had grown to value it in proportion as she had had less of it. She
did inevitably recall the last time she had seen him, in the little
Western city, and how he had overwhelmed her, invaded her with doubts and
aroused the spirit which had possessed her to fight fiercely for its
foothold. And to-day his coming might be likened to the entrance of a
great physician into the room of a distant and lonely patient whom amidst
wide ministrations he has not forgotten. She saw now that he had been
right. She had always seen it, clearly indeed when he had been beside
her, but the spirit within her had been too strong, until now. Now, when
it had plundered her soul of treasures--once so little valued--it had
fled. Such were her thoughts.

The great of heart undoubtedly possess this highest quality of the
physician,--if the statement may thus be put backhandedly,--and Peter
Erwin instinctively understood the essential of what was going on within
her. He appeared to take a delight in the fancy she had suggested; that
he had brought a portion of the newer world to France.

"Not a piece of the Atlantic coast, certainly," he replied. "One of the
muddy islands, perhaps, of the Mississippi."

"All the more representative," she said. "You seem to have taken
possession of Paris, Peter--not Paris of you. You have annexed the seat
of the Capets, and brought democracy at last into the Faubourg."

"Without a Reign of Terror," he added quizzically.

"If you are not ambassador, what are you?" she asked. "I have expected at
any moment to read in the Figaro that you were President of the United
States."

"I am the American tourist," he declared, "with Baedeker for my Bible,
who desires to be shown everything. And I have already discovered that
the legend of the fabulous wealth of the Indies is still in force here.
There are many who are willing to believe that in spite of my modest
appearance--maybe because of it--I have sailed over in a galleon filled
with gold. Already I have been approached from every side by confidential
gentlemen who announced that they spoke English--one of them said
'American'--who have offered to show me many things, and who have
betrayed enough interest in me to inquire whether I were married or
single."

Honora laughed. They were seated in the balcony by this time, and he had
the volume of memoirs on his knee, fingering it idly.

"What did you say to them?" she asked.

"I told them I was the proud father of ten children," he replied. "That
seemed to stagger them, but only for a moment. They offered to take us
all to the Louvre."

"Peter, you are ridiculous! But, in spite of your nationality, you don't
look exactly gullible."

"That is a relief," he said. "I had begun to think I ought to leave my
address and my watch with the Consul General . . . ."

Of such a nature was the first insidious rupture of that routine she had
grown to look upon as changeless for the years to come, of the life she
had chosen for its very immutable quality. Even its pangs of loneliness
had acquired a certain sweet taste. Partly from a fear of a world that
had hurt her, partly from fear of herself, she had made her burrow deep,
that heat and cold, the changing seasons, and love and hate might be
things far removed. She had sought to remove comparisons, too, from the
limits of her vision; to cherish and keep alive, indeed, such regrets as
she had, but to make no new ones.

Often had she thought of Peter Erwin, and it is not too much to say that
he had insensibly grown into an ideal. He had come to represent to her
the great thing she had missed in life, missed by feverish searching in
the wrong places, digging for gold where the ground had glittered. And,
if the choice had been given her, she would have preferred his spiritual
to his bodily companionship--for a while, at least. Some day, when she
should feel sure that desire had ceased to throb, when she should have
acquired an unshakable and absolute resignation, she would see him. It is
not too much to say, if her feeling be not misconstrued and stretched far
beyond her own conception of it, that he was her one remaining interest
in the world. She had scanned the letters of her aunt and uncle for
knowledge of his doings, and had felt her curiosity justified by a
certain proprietorship that she did not define, faith in humankind, or
the lack of it, usually makes itself felt through one's comparative
contemporaries. That her uncle was a good man, for instance, had no such
effect upon Honora, as the fact that Peter was a good man. And that he
had held a true course had gradually become a very vital thing to her,
perhaps the most vital thing; and she could have imagined no greater
personal calamity now than to have seen him inconsistent. For there are
such men, and most people have known them. They are the men who,
unconsciously, keep life sweet.

Yet she was sorry he had invaded her hiding-place. She had not yet
achieved peace, and much of the weary task would have to be done over
after he was gone.

In the meantime she drifted with astounding ease into another existence.
For it was she, and not the confidential gentlemen, who showed Peter
Paris: not the careless, pleasure-loving Paris of the restaurants, but of
the Cluny and the Carnavalet. The Louvre even was not neglected, and as
they entered it first she recalled with still unaccustomed laughter his
reply to the proffered services of the guide. Indeed, there was much
laughter in their excursions: his native humour sprang from the same well
that held his seriousness. She was amazed at his ability to strip a sham
and leave it grotesquely naked; shams the risible aspect of which she had
never observed in spite of the familiarity four years had given her. Some
of his own countrymen and countrywomen afforded him the greatest
amusement in their efforts to carry off acquired European
"personalities," combinations of assumed indifference and effrontery, and
an accent the like of which was never heard before. But he was neither
bitter nor crude in his criticisms. He made her laugh, but he never made
her ashamed. His chief faculty seemed to be to give her the power to
behold, with astonishing clearness, objects and truths which had lain
before her eyes, and yet hidden. And she had not thought to acquire any
more truths.

The depth of his pleasure in the things he saw was likewise a revelation
to her. She was by no means a bad guide to the Louvre and the Luxembourg,
but the light in her which had come slowly flooded him with radiance at
the sight of a statue or a picture. He would stop with an exclamation and
stand gazing, self-forgetful, for incredible periods, and she would watch
him, filled with a curious sense of the limitations of an appreciation
she had thought complete. Where during his busy life had he got this
thing which others had sought in many voyages in vain?

Other excursions they made, and sometimes these absorbed a day. It was a
wonderful month, that Parisian September, which Honora, when she allowed
herself to think, felt that she had no right to. A month filled to the
brim with colour: the stone facades of the houses, which in certain
lights were what the French so aptly call bleuatre; the dense green
foliage of the horse-chestnut trees, the fantastic iron grills, the Arc
de Triomphe in the centre of its circle at sunset, the wide shaded
avenues radiating from it, the bewildering Champs Elysees, the blue
waters of the Seine and the graceful bridges spanning it, Notre Dame
against the sky. Their walks took them, too, into quainter, forgotten
regions where history was grim and half-effaced, and they speculated on
the France of other days.

They went farther afield; and it was given them to walk together down
green vistas cut for kings, to linger on terraces with the river far
below them, and the roofs of Paris in the hazy distance; that Paris,
sullen so long, the mutterings of which the kings who had sat there must
have heard with dread; that Paris which had finally risen in its wrath
and taken the pleasure-houses and the parks for itself.

Once they went out to Chantilly, the cameo-like chateau that stands
mirrored in its waters, and wandered through the alleys there. Honora had
left her parasol on the parapet, and as they returned Peter went to get
it, while she awaited him at a little distance. A group was chatting
gayly on the lawn, and one of them, a middle-aged, well-dressed man
hailed him with an air of fellowship, and Peter stopped for a moment's
talk.

"We were speaking of ambassadors the other day," he said when he joined
her; "that was our own, Minturn."

"We were speaking of them nearly a month ago," she said.

"A month ago! I can't believe it!" he exclaimed.

"What did he say to you?" Honora inquired presently.

"He was abusing me for not letting him know I was in Paris."

"Peter, you ought to have let him know!"

"I didn't come over here to see the ambassador," answered Peter, gayly.

She talked less than usual on their drive homeward, but he did not seem
to notice the fact. Dusk was already lurking in the courtyards and byways
of the quiet quarter when the porter let them in, and the stone stairway
of the old hotel was almost in darkness. The sitting-room, with its
yellow, hangings snugly drawn and its pervading but soft light, was a
grateful change. And while she was gone to--remove her veil and hat,
Peter looked around it.

It was redolent of her. A high vase of remarkable beauty, filled with
white roses, stood on the gueridon. He went forward and touched it, and
closed his eyes as though in pain. When he opened them he saw her
standing in the archway.

She had taken off her coat, and was in a simple white muslin gown, with a
black belt--a costume that had become habitual. Her age was thirty. The
tragedy and the gravity of her life during these later years had touched
her with something that before was lacking. In the street, in the
galleries, people had turned to look at her; not with impudent stares.
She caught attention, aroused imagination. Once, the year before, she had
had a strange experience with a well-known painter, who, in an impulsive
note, had admitted following her home and bribing the concierge. He
craved a few sittings. Her expression now, as she looked at Peter, was
graver than usual.

"You must not come to-morrow," she said.

"I thought we were going to Versailles again," he replied in surprise. "I
have made the arrangements."

"I have changed my mind. I'm not going."

"You want to postpone it?" he asked.

She took a chair beside the little blaze in the fireplace.

"Sit down, Peter. I wish to say something to you. I have been wishing to
do so for some time."

"Do you object if I stand a moment?" he said. "I feel so much more
comfortable standing, especially when I am going to be scolded."

"Yes," she admitted, "I am going to scold you. Your conscience has warned
you."

"On the contrary," he declared, "it has never been quieter. If I have
offended; it is through ignorance."

"It is through charity, as usual," she said m a low voice. "If your
conscience be quiet, mine is not. It is in myself that I am
disappointed--I have been very selfish. I have usurped you. I have known
it all along, and I have done very wrong in not relinquishing you
before."

"Who would have shown me Paris?" he exclaimed.

"No," she continued, "you would not have been alone. If I had needed
proof of that fact, I had it to-day--"

"Oh, Minturn," he interrupted; "think of me hanging about an Embassy and
trying not to spill tea!" And he smiled at the image that presented.

Her own smile was fleeting.

"You would never do that, I know," she said gravely.

"You are still too modest, Peter, but the time has gone by when I can be
easily deceived. You have a great reputation among men of affairs, an
unique one. In spite of the fact that you are distinctly American, you
have a wide interest in what is going on in the world. And you have an
opportunity here to meet people of note, people really worth while from
every point of view. You have no right to neglect it."

He was silent a moment, looking down at her. She was leaning forward, her
eyes fixed on the fire, her hands clasped between her knees.

"Do you think I care for that?" he asked.

"You ought to care," she said, without looking up. "And it is my duty to
try to make you care."

"Honora, why do you think I came over here?" he said.

"To see Paris," she answered. "I have your own word for it. To--to
continue your education. It never seems to stop."

"Did you really believe that?"

"Of course I believed it. What could be more natural? And you have never
had a holiday like this."

"No," he agreed. "I admit that."

"I don't know how much longer you are going to stay," she said. "You have
not been abroad before, and there are other places you ought to go."

"I'll get you to make out an itinerary."

"Peter, can't you see that I'm serious? I have decided to take matters in
my own hands. The rest of the time you are here, you may come to see me
twice a week. I shall instruct the concierge."

He turned and grasped the mantel shelf with both hands, and touched the
log with the toe of his boot.

"What I told you about seeing Paris may be called polite fiction," he
said. "I came over here to see you. I have been afraid to say it until
to-day, and I am afraid to say it now."

She sat very still. The log flared up again, and he turned slowly and
looked at the shadows in her face.

"You-you have always been good to me," she answered. "I have never
deserved it--I have never understood it. If it is any satisfaction for
you to know that what I have saved of myself I owe to you, I tell you so
freely."

"That," he said, "is something for which God forbid that I should take
credit. What you are is due to the development of a germ within you, a
development in which I have always had faith. I came here to see you, I
came here because I love you, because I have always loved you, Honora."

"Oh, no, not that!" she cried; "not that!"

"Why not?" he asked. "It is something I cannot help, something beyond my
power to prevent if I would. But I would not. I am proud of it, and I
should be lost without it. I have had it always. I have come over to beg
you to marry me."

"It's impossible! Can't you see it's impossible?"

"You don't love me?" he said. Into those few words was thrown all the
suffering of his silent years.

"I don't know what I feel for you," she answered in an agonized voice,
her fingers tightening over the backs of her white hands. "If reverence
be love--if trust be love, infinite and absolute trust--if gratitude be
love--if emptiness after you are gone be a sign of it--yes, I love you.
If the power to see clearly only through you, to interpret myself only by
your aid be love, I acknowledge it. I tell you so freely, as of your
right to know. And the germ of which you spoke is you. You have grown
until you have taken possession of--of what is left of me. If I had only
been able to see clearly from the first, Peter, I should be another woman
to-day, a whole woman, a wise woman. Oh, I have thought of it much. The
secret of life was there at my side from the time I was able to pronounce
your name, and I couldn't see it. You had it. You stayed. You took duty
where you found it, and it has made you great. Oh, I don't mean to speak
in a worldly sense. When I say that, it is to express the highest human
quality of which I can think and feel. But I can't marry you. You must
see it."

"I cannot see it," he replied, when he had somewhat gained control of
himself.

"Because I should be wronging you."

"How?" he asked.

"In the first place, I should be ruining your career."

"If I had a career," he said, smiling gently, "you couldn't ruin it. You
both overestimate and underestimate the world's opinion, Honora. As my
wife, it will not treat you cruelly. And as for my career, as you call
it, it has merely consisted in doing as best I could the work that has
come to me. I have tried to serve well those who have employed me, and if
my services be of value to them, and to those who may need me in the
future, they are not going to reject me. If I have any worth in the
world, you will but add to it. Without you I am incomplete."

She looked up at him wonderingly.

"Yes, you are great," she said. "You pity me, you think of my
loneliness."

"It is true I cannot bear to picture you here," he exclaimed. "The
thought tortures me, but it is because I love you, because I wish to take
and shield you. I am not a man to marry a woman without love. It seems to
me that you should know me well enough to believe that, Honora. There
never has been any other woman in my life, and there never can be. I have
given you proof of it, God knows."

"I am not what I was," she said, "I am not what I was. I have been
dragged down."

He bent and lifted her hand from her knee, and raised it to his lips, a
homage from him that gave her an exquisite pain.

"If you had been dragged down," he answered simply, "my love would have
been killed. I know something of the horrors you have been through, as
though I had suffered them myself. They might have dragged down another
woman, Honora. But they have strangely ennobled you."

She drew her hand away.

"No," she said, "I do not deserve happiness. It cannot be my destiny."

"Destiny," he repeated. "Destiny is a thing not understandable by finite
minds. It is not necessarily continued tragedy and waste, of that I am
certain. Only a little thought is required, it seems to me, to assure us
that we cannot be the judges of our own punishment on this earth. And of
another world we know nothing. It cannot be any one's destiny to throw
away a life while still something may be made of it. You would be
throwing your life away here. That no other woman is possible, or ever
can be possible, for me should be a consideration with you, Honora. What
I ask of you is a sacrifice--will you make me happy?"

Her eyes filled with tears.

"Oh, Peter, do you care so much as that? If--if I could be sure that I
were doing it for you! If in spite--of all that has happened to me, I
could be doing something for you--!"

He stooped and kissed her.

"You can if you will," he said.





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