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Title: When the Birds Begin to Sing
Author: Graham, Winifred (Matilda Winifred Muriel)
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 "When the Birds Begin to Sing" ***

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[Frontispiece: "The vicar's wife would have a fit if I lounged like
this."  _See page 4_]



WHEN

  THE BIRDS

   BEGIN TO SING.



A Novel


BY

WINIFRED GRAHAM,


AUTHOR OF

"ON THE DOWN GRADE," &c., &c.



_WITH SIXTEEN ILLUSTRATIONS_

BY HAROLD PIFFARD.



LONDON:

C. ARTHUR PEARSON LTD.,

HENRIETTA STREET, W.C.

1897



CONTENTS.


CHAP.

     I.  AND WHEN LOVE SPEAKS

    II.  "IMPARADIS'D IN ONE ANOTHER'S ARMS."--_Milton_

   III.  "GOD MADE THE WOMAN FOR THE MAN."--_Tennyson_

    IV.  LIFE IS A JEST

     V.  "THE FLY THAT SIPS TREACLE IS LOST IN THE SWEETS"

    VI.  LIKE ONE THAT ON A LONESOME ROAD
         DOST WALK IN FEAR AND DREAD

   VII.  THE SHADOWS RISE AND FALL

  VIII.  KIND HEARTS ARE MORE THAN CORONETS.

    IX.  HEART SICK AND WEARY WITH THE JOURNEY'S FRET

     X.  FALSER THAN ALL FANCY FATHOMS

    XI.  IF WE ONLY KNOW!  IF WE ONLY KNOW!

   XII.  "TO-MORROW, AND TO-MORROW, AND TO-MORROW."--_Shakespeare_

  XIII.  "IF NEED, TO DIE--NOT LIVE."--_Charles Kingsley_

   XIV.  IN CLOUDS OF SILENCE FOLDED OUT OF SIGHT

    XV.  "AH, FOR SOME RETREAT
         DEEP IN YONDER SHINING ORIENT."--_Tennyson_

   XVI.  OH, LOVE!  IN SUCH A WILDERNESS AS THIS

  XVII.  "WHERE THERE AIN'T NO TEN COMMANDMENTS."--_Rudyard Kipling_

 XVIII.  LET US BE OPEN AS THE DAY

   XIX.  THE IDEAL!  DIM VANITIES OF DREAMS BY NIGHT

    XX.  LIFE IS THORNY, AND YOUTH IS VAIN

   XXI.  "BY A ROUTE OBSCURE AND LONELY,
         HAUNTED BY ILL ANGELS ONLY."--_E. A. Poe._

  XXII.  "NO FOOTSTEP STIRRED--THE HATED WORLD ALL SLEPT,
         SAVE ONLY THEE AND ME. (OH, HEAVEN!  OH, GOD!)"

 XXIII.  "OH, I DEFY THEE, HELL, TO SHOW,
         ON BEDS OF FIRE THAT BURN BELOW,
                       A DEEPER WOE."--_E. A. Poe_



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


"THE VICAR'S WIFE WOULD HAVE A FIT IF I LOUNGED
  LIKE THIS" . . . . . . . . . . Frontispiece

"LOOK! THERE IT GOES."

SALUTING THE OLD PICTURES ON THE WALL WITH MOCK COURTESY

THE DINING-ROOM DOOR OPENS, AND PHILIP ROCHE STANDS BEFORE THEM

"MR. AND MRS. GREBBY!"

SHE COVERS HER FACE WITH HER HANDS

"MAY I SEE THAT PHOTOGRAPH?"

"WHY, IT'S NEVER MR. ROCHE!" SHE EXCLAIMS

SHE RUSHES TO THE DOOR WITH A WILD CRY

ELEANOR STAGGERS ON BREATHLESSLY UP THE HILL

THE CRUEL FINGERS PRESS WITH DEADLY FORCE

BIG TOMBO BOWS ASSENT

BEARING TENDERLY THE LIMP BODY OF THE TERRIER

"WHAT VILLAIN HAS KILLED MY HORSE?"

SHE STEALS INTO THE VERANDAH AND WATCHES

PHILIP THROWS BACK HIS COAT, AND SHE SEES THE SHIRT
  BENEATH IT IS SPLASHED WITH BLOOD



WHEN THE BIRDS BEGIN TO SING.


CHAPTER I.

AND WHEN LOVE SPEAKS.

She was certainly very pretty, and just then she looked prettier than
usual, for the sharp run had brought a more vivid colour to the cheek,
and an added sparkle to the eye.  She was laughing, too--the rogue--as
well she might, for had she not brought her right hand swiftly down
upon his left ear when he had chased her, caught her, and deliberately
and maliciously kissed her, and did he not now look red and foolish,
and apparently repentant?

But let me start from the beginning, and tell you how it all came about.

      *      *      *      *      *

Eleanor, the daughter of a neighbouring farmer, is as fresh and
beautiful in the eyes of Philip Roche as the field flowers whose heads
fall fading beneath his tread while he follows her through the long
grass.  He has watched her playing with the innocent school
children--little more than a child herself--and then, with the calm
assurance that to him is second nature, joins the merry throng unasked.
The children greet him eagerly, after scrambling for a handful of
silver from the stranger's pocket, for is it not the great, grand treat
of all the year?

"Come and play wif us," lisps a little maiden of five summers, whom
Philip tosses on his shoulder with good-natured ease.  He has a way of
winning the confidence of children.

"What is the game?"

"Kiss in the ring!" cries a small boyish voice at his elbow.

The stranger's eyes twinkle as he watches the lovely unknown Eleanor
arranging a circle.  Placing his tiny friend again on her feet, and
taking her brother's grimy hand, Philip Roche joins the hilarious
pastime.

Eleanor glances across the ring well-pleasedly, guessing that her
dainty figure and deep-fringed eyes have attracted him thither.

A moment later she trips lightly round the chain of children, her heart
beating higher as her feet approach the man's tall figure.  Shall she?
Shall she?  No time to consider, as the handkerchief falls from her
hand upon Philip's shoulder.

Quick as lightning she flies away--faster--faster--through the
buttercups, while he pursues, nearer--nearer--and then the strong arms
arrest her career, and the inevitable kiss occurs.

Eleanor, her cheeks aflame, frees herself from his audacious caress,
and half laughing, half indignant, walks hastily away.  But after their
unconventional introduction Philip is not easily to be foiled.

"You are offended," he cries penitently.  "It was only the game; won't
you forgive me, Miss----?"

"Grebby," raising her eyes and pausing.  "Eleanor Grebby," she
continues with a prim little air that is quite unnatural, then laughing
spontaneously:

"You see, I was rather taken aback at first, Mr.----"

"Roche--Philip Roche, at your service."

"So now we know each other," holding out her hand.

He grasps it eagerly--such a warm slim hand!

"It was rather a nice introduction, wasn't it?"

Philip thinks how amazingly pretty Eleanor is, as she assents with
deepening colour.

"There!  I knew it would come!" she cries, with a thought for her new
poppy-bedizened hat.

"What?" asks Philip, still feasting his eyes on the girl's fair
physique, and unobservant of the gathering darkness overhead.

"Why, the rain, of course.  We shall get wet."

"Only a summer shower."

"Yes, but as disastrous in its effects as any other downpour.  I shall
make for that barn in the next field; the children have all
mysteriously vanished."

"I am dreadfully afraid of the wet," declares Philip, pretending to
shiver.  "May I accompany you?"

He is still retaining her hand as they run together towards the haven
of "shelter.

"How nice of it to rain!" he gasps, applauding the accommodating skies.
"Let me make you comfortable," heaping together a pile of hay for her
to sit upon.  "Now tell me all about yourself."

Eleanor sinks down on the soft couch, looking somewhat wistfully
through the open door of the barn.

"I am easily explained.  I live here always.  My father is a farmer,
and I feed the chickens, dust the house, and teach in the
Sunday-school.  Only fancy what an exciting life, Mr. Roche.  Doesn't
it take your breath away?"

At the thought of her own humdrum existence Eleanor laughs again with a
return of that superabundant vitality which is hers by nature.

"Then once or perhaps twice a year I am invited to tea at the Vicarage,
and I sit up straight in a high-backed chair and say 'Yes' and 'No'
when I am spoken to, and answer prettily--like a schoolgirl.  The
vicar's wife would have a fit if I lounged like this," flinging herself
back with an air of abandon on the hay.  "Once she asked me to sing (I
play the harmonium in church).  My cousin Joe had brought me a comic
song from town, and I couldn't help, for the life of me, getting up and
giving her a verse."

"Of course it was wrong, and she looked frightfully shocked.  I have
certainly never been invited to tea since.  Oh, how I should like to
sing at concerts and halls--I mean the sort of places where you have an
eyeglass, and walk round with a hat and stick!"

Her face beamed as she delivered this sentence--involuntarily the
little hands clasped themselves together in excitement.

"Be thankful that such an ambition is ungratified," declares Philip,
speaking seriously for the first time.  "You do not know the fate that
you are coveting.  Best contented, child, to remain your own sweet
self.  Your country life is ideal compared with--_that_!"

Eleanor shakes her head.

"It doesn't seem like it," she declares.

"No, I dare say not.  Duty is sometimes heroism in its noblest form."

"Then are all the people wicked that go to London, and sing, act, and
enjoy themselves?"

"Indeed I trust not.  We should have a pretty bad time of it if they
were.  Yet I don't know that you're far wrong.  Few are guileless.  But
why talk of it?  Time enough to warn you of the pitfalls when you are
on your road to the great city."

"What is your life?" asks Eleanor curiously, drawing the long ends of
hay through her teeth with a meditative smile.

"Scarcely less monotonous than yours, Miss Grebby"--an amused look in
his eyes.  "Instead of feeding chickens I feed my friends--lunches,
dinners, midnight suppers--all of which pall terribly after a time.
Instead of dusting my house I leave it to accumulate dust, while I
wander abroad.  A home is a dull place for one man."

"You have no wife or mother?"

"No."

"But you must have lots of money.  Why, only think of all the silver
you threw to the children this afternoon!  I do not believe they had
ever seen so many shillings and sixpences before."

"Money will not buy a mother or----"  He was going to say "a wife," but
checked himself.  Philip Roche was an accurate man.

"Poor Mr. Roche, it must be very lonely," says Eleanor, with genuine
sympathy in her tone.

He smiles enigmatically.  It is strange to him to be pitied by the
little farmer's daughter when so many have envied his happy-go-lucky
existence ere now.

"The rain clouds are dispersing," he murmurs, as a stray ray of
sunlight wanders through the barn door to mingle its glory with
Eleanor's hair.  How gold those tender silken threads appear under its
burnishing hand!

"What a pity!  It has been such a refreshing shower!"

"I feel quite young again," he declares, "young enough to play with the
children for hours.  What do you say to kiss in the ring again?"

He presses her hand gently.

She lifts her eyes to his with a slow shake of her head.

"There is the vicar's wife to be considered."

"Good gracious!" he laughs.  "You don't mean I should have to kiss her?"

Eleanor's face dimples all over in delightful smiles.

"What an absurd idea!" she gasps gleefully.  "I should just like to see
you!"

"I don't think it has _quite_ stopped," murmurs Philip, holding up his
hands to the sky, and pretending the drops from the barn are rain
themselves.

"How silly you are!" cries Eleanor, mockingly, gathering up her skirts
and revealing a well-turned ankle.  "But, oh, isn't the grass soaking?"
as Philip takes her arm and guides her to a narrow path.  "The children
will ruin their boots, and all go home with colds.  Look, they are
tearing about like mad things.  How they will sleep to-night!"

"I wonder what will become of them all in the years to follow, and why
they have any existence whatsoever beneath the glimpses of the moon?"

"One will reap," replies Eleanor, wisely, "and another will sow.  Some
may slay oxen and wring the fowls' necks, and perhaps for all we know
murder each other.  It is a horrible thought, isn't it?  They look so
thoroughly innocent, these country children.  Do you see that little
boy crying because he was knocked down in the three-legged
steeplechase.  His life race is only just beginning.  His father is in
gaol for theft, his mother incurable in a Samaritan infirmary, yet he
is only crying because he grazed his knee and did not win a packet of
bull's-eyes."

Eleanor's voice is low and expressive as her deep sapphire
eyes--fascinating the man by their changeful beauty--one moment light
and dancing like the sunbeams in the branches, the next overflowing
with pity for a pauper child.

The little ones gather round, clinging to her skirts.  She is tender
and kind to all, though her gaze rests chiefly on the tall, sunburnt
stranger making himself popular with the youngsters in her class.

"Look, teacher," cries the same wee maiden who is responsible for
Philip's first appearance in their games.  "I won 'er, 'opping along o'
Margery in the big race," holding aloft a doll with great staring glass
eyes and brilliantly rouged cheeks.  "Ain't she beautiful?"

"What will you name her?" asks the Sunday-school teacher sweetly.

"Don't know," sighs the child perplexedly.

"Eleanor," suggests Philip.

"We 'ad a little sister named Eleanor, but she 'adn't got enough blood
in her, so she died."

"Then you must call your doll by another name," says Miss Grebby
decidedly.

But the small girl shakes her head, and announces with precision:

"I'll call 'er Eleanor!" and marches away well satisfied, to re-open a
half-closed wound in her mother's breast.

"I hit on an unfortunate suggestion," whispers Philip, while the ever
energetic Miss Grebby initiates him into the mysteries of "Nuts in
May," "Poor Mary sits a-weeping," and "I have a little dog."

The soft twilight gradually creeps over this summer world, and the
great red sun sinks down in its sea of fire behind the trees.

The birds chirp a good-night song, till their piping is drowned by the
hearty cheers of the happy children ringing out stirringly on the still
damp air.

"And now--home!" sighs Eleanor, with a little grimace, as Philip bends
down to fasten a spray of wild honeysuckle in her belt.

"May I see you back?" he asks eagerly, noting the bright smile that
flits across her lips at the suggestion.

"_Could_ you walk a mile?" questions Eleanor in mock astonishment.  "I
thought London people always drove.  The vicar's wife had some friends
from South Kensington who were positively lame if they went any
distance on foot.  They said our country roads were a disgrace--no
asphalte, no hansom cabs."

"Come along," murmurs Philip, whose long strides are not easy to keep
pace with.  They walk more slowly when out of sight.  Oh, the
delightful dawdle back through the vague shadows of evening in sweetly
scented lanes!  How merrily she prattles with charming ingenuousness,
while he watches her expressive features, a new strange thrill at his
heart.

What if on this summer holiday, among the clover and the daisies, he
has discovered the one spotless soul of his life--a fresh,
unsophisticated creature of Nature's noblest and purest art!

At last they are in sight of the old farmhouse which Eleanor calls
home.  It is a picturesque spot, and Philip stops admiringly to take in
the beauty of the rural scene.

"So you live there in that quiet abode?" he said thoughtfully.

"Yes.  I am sorry to-day is over.  It has not only been a holiday for
the children, but half the village.  The labourers are to have a dinner
to-night and----"

She paused.  The labourers and the children are so far from her mind at
this moment.

"I shall see you again," he whispers.

"Where and when?" asks Eleanor, feigning surprise.

"To-morrow in this cornfield on our left.  I shall walk past."

"Like Boaz, and Ruth will be gleaning," she replies coyly.

"What will Boaz do?" he murmurs.

Eleanor lowers her eyes, and interlaces her fingers.

"I know," she replies confidently.

In the dim light Philip fancies that Eleanor is weaving some strange
witchcraft.  He is drawn involuntarily nearer and snatching her hand
detains it a moment in both his.  She is more beautiful than ever now
in the dim solitude of the deserted road.  The simplicity of her daily
routine in the country farmhouse appeals to this man of the world, who
yearns for something different, something better in his aimless, empty
life--aimless because he has no one to work for, empty because there is
no one to love.

Eleanor's gentle presence in the gathering gloom quickens his
imagination.  A picture wonderful and hitherto undreamed rises like a
sudden mirage before Philip's eyes.

He seems lost in contemplation.

"I have found her at last," he says, speaking his thoughts aloud.

"Who?" asks Eleanor under her breath.

"The Ideal Woman!" he replies.

The girl looks perplexed--she does not understand the phrase.  New
Women and rational costumes have not yet penetrated to the depths of
Copthorne, so their counter-poising ideal is to her an unknown quantity.

Eleanor's ignorance of modernity constitutes a special charm in his
eyes.  How sweet a privilege to build up this uncultured soul, to mould
her impressionable spirit!  Philip is enamoured of the idea, he sees
such vast possibilities stretching out before him.  Eleanor differed so
widely from the women of his set.  Perhaps the weaker sex are made
variously that the mind of desultory man, studious of change, and
pleased with novelty, may be indulged.

"How long have we known each other?" he asks.

"About three hours," she answers promptly.

"How deep can one go below the surface in one hundred and eighty
minutes?"

Eleanor seems bewildered; she is at a loss for words.

"Have I only been with you so short a time?" he says incredulously.
"Can it be possible?"

"Does it seem long?" she asks looking down shyly.  "Have I wearied you,
Mr. Roche?"

His smile reassures her.

"It does not seem _long_, only _full_ to the brim.  To every second a
fresh thought, an inch deeper into the unknown."

"I have never met anyone before," she declares frankly, "who spoke to
me like that."

Then with a swift "Good night" Eleanor breaks away and vanishes among
the shadows.

"A wife," says Philip to himself, "is something between a hindrance and
a help.  Is this the turn of the tide?"

A nightingale broke into song.  "Yes!" it cried; "yes--yes--yes!"



CHAPTER II.

"IMPARADIS'D IN ONE ANOTHER'S ARMS."--_Milton_.

Eleanor is busy in the morning sunlight, brightening the pewter dinner
service, the pride of the Grebby family, passed down from generation to
generation, and priceless in her eyes.  She can hear the preparations
without for an early start to the neighbouring market.  Her mother is
loading a cart of vegetables, while her father "shoos" the cackling
geese into wicker pens, and harnesses "Black Bess" the steady old mare,
who is almost one of themselves.  And Eleanor is glad that the market
(a weekly centre of attraction to the old village) will leave her in
peaceful solitude.

She breaks out into a glad song, which mingles with the twittering of
birds:

  "There was a jolly miller once,
  Lived on the River Dee."


"Eleanor, Eleanor, give me a hand with these vegetables," cries her
mother's voice.  There is a thud, and a whole sack of potatoes fall
pell-mell into the yard, still muddy from yesterday's rain.

Eleanor gathers them up, indulging the same tuneful mood:

  "He worked and sang from morn till night.
  No lark more blithe than he!"


She has a strong, sweet-toned voice, and "Black Bess" turns her head
sleepily at the sound, whisking the tiresome flies with her tail.  So
often Eleanor's tread at the door of her shed has meant apples and
carrots and sugar.

She wipes the potatoes clean with her apron, replacing them carefully
at the back of the cart.

Mrs. Grebby takes the reins, while Mr. Grebby follows on foot, driving
a few specially honoured sheep, who frequently serve him for
conversation throughout an entire evening spent smoking with
neighbouring farmers.

Eleanor watches them out of sight, her hand over her brow to shade the
dazzling sunlight from her eyes.  A group of chickens congregate around
her with mute inquiry in their beaky faces.  She fetches a handful of
grain from the barn, flings it into their midst, and returns singing to
her pewter polishing:

  "And this the burden of his song
  For ever used to be:


"How dull this soup tureen is, to be sure!" pausing in her verse to rub
it with extra vigour:

  "I care for nobody, no not I,
  If no one cares for me!"


The delinquencies of the dimmed soup tureen are forgotten as these last
words ring out in the quiet parlour.  "Surely," thinks Eleanor, "there
is hidden pathos in the Jolly Miller of Dee's reckless assertion!  To
care for nobody!  What a horrible thought--a whole life's tragedy lies
in the closing verse.  If no one cares for me!"

Eleanor sighs and leans her chin on her hands, kneeling before the
wooden table on which the dinner service is spread.  What if nobody
cared for her!  How vast and miserable a wilderness this world would
be!  Why, even the dumb animals love her.

The little goat she called Nelly, who fell ill the week before, and
gasped out its breath in her arms on a dry heap of hay, gave all the
love of its disputed soul to Eleanor.  Of course, it had a soul; she
made up her mind long ago on this point.  How can a creature with such
mysteriously human eyes as Nelly possessed be less human than the great
plodding, loose-mouthed ploughboy, who only gapes when he is spoken to,
and contains what Mr. Grebby is pleased to call, "only half a
intellec'!"

Eleanor glances at the old-fashioned clock in the corner, decorated by
grotesque pottery dogs and four-legged creatures with horns, and faces
resembling tigers or cats.  She has been up since five, for besides
market day it is churning morning, and she and her mother have worked
for hours in the dairy.

"It is time," she says at last, washing her small hands under the
scullery tap, and then reaching for a hat hanging on the kitchen
dresser.

"I wish I had something pretty to wear," she sighs, glancing at her
reflection in a cracked glass.  "Laces and ribbons, beautiful blue
ribbons with pink spots, like the Squire's nieces wore last Sunday.
The tall girl was dreadfully plain, and I should have looked so well in
her silk gown, with the shorter sister's chiffon fichu."

Eleanor's face brightens at the recollection of those costumes in the
Manor House pew, which appeared so lovely in her eyes while she played
the Magnificat.  Dreams of dainty dresses are dear to her heart as the
occasional thoughts of love which steal over her at times.  "If the two
could be combined," she thinks, "love and wealth."

It is amazing this new and sudden desire for something better, which
all but stops the beating of Eleanor's heart.

"If he loved me," she gasps "_if_--" she staggers back against the
half-closed door, her fingers clenched and pressed to her temples,
throbbing with intense excitement.  All the thoughts that crowd to her
brain are offsprings of that improbable "if," each moment growing more
dazzling!

She hastens with light footsteps to an old cupboard in which her mother
has treasured some hand-made lace left in her aunt's will to the
Grebbys of Copthorne Farm.

She turns down her collar to reveal a shapely throat, pearly white, and
hidden usually from the sun's scorching power, round which the soft
folds of lace fall entrancingly.

What would Eleanor's mother say could she see her precious heirloom
donned hastily on this busy market morning, to adorn her daughter's
neck for a stroll through the fields!  It is sacrilege surely, but the
prize!

The girl closes the cupboard noiselessly, creeping away like a criminal
out into the glaring day.  Her eyes dance, her cheeks are flushed, and
her hair escaping (as if by accident) from its neat braids, waves in
dainty tendrils round her ears.

"I _am_ beautiful," she murmurs to herself, "why not?  Stranger things
have happened--Eleanor Roche, the wife of a rich man--oh!"

The last is a gasp of hitherto unexpressed surprise at the audacity of
her day dreams.

Philip is waiting by the barley field, watching for her.  As she sees
him she slackens her steps, not wishing to appear over anxious for the
rendezvous.  He advances eagerly, grasps her hands, and devours her
with his eyes.

"So we meet again, Eleanor," he whispers.  "I _must_ call you Eleanor;
you don't mind?"

A bold answer that inwardly makes her tremble enters the girl's head.
Why not place herself on an equality with him at once?  She nerves
herself to reply:

"Not if I may call you Philip?"

A look of amused surprise flits over Mr. Roche's features.  What a
naïve, childlike manner Eleanor possesses!

"Of course," he replies, pulling the small hand through his arm, and
turning out of the public thoroughfare.

"I wonder what you think of me?" asks Eleanor unhesitatingly.

The great sparkling eyes are raised to his with genuine curiosity in
their depths.  She is not seeking a compliment; far from it, she really
wants to know, and is waiting for the truth.

He looks from the blue eyes of the girl to the little blue bird's-eye
growing on a bank of clover.  She pauses while he stoops to gather the
tiny flower.

"You see this," he says.

"Yes."

"It is only a field blossom blooming unnoticed in this sweet country
atmosphere, yet to me a thousand times fairer than the exotics and
hot-house plants which naturally demand admiration.  I love this little
flower," pressing the tender blue to his lips, "because it is wild and
untrained.  It appeals to me.  It is like you, Eleanor!"

A flush of offence arises to her cheeks.

"Wild!" "Untrained!" the words sting Miss Grebby's pride.

"I did not think you would compare me to a _weed_!" she retorts,
tossing her head proudly.

But Philip will not see he has offended, and continues in the same
strain.

"Don't despise the weeds, Eleanor; they were placed in their
uncultivated beds by Nature's hand, and have as much right to be called
beautiful as any other creation."

He speaks to her authoritatively, and she looks at his strong,
masterful expression with a gradual sense of awe.

"I should not have thought you would care for flowers."

"Why not?  Does it seem childish in your eyes to soliloquise over a
wayside 'weed,' as you call it?"

His questions perplex her.  She is silent.

"You do not appreciate your beautiful country," he continues, "from
living in it always.  Wait till you have tasted the deadly dust of the
town before you curl your lip at a blue bird's-eye, or pass judgment on
the unbroken quiet of sinless Copthorne.  Since I came here for rest
and holiday leisure I seem to have grasped the whole history and charm
of the place.  It contains endless interest in its Godlike simplicity
to the recluse or the reader.  Look what fields for the naturalist or
botanist!  Think, too, of an artist here for the first time--what
sketches to be made at sunrise and sunset!  You may call your little
world dull, monotonous, uneventful, since, reared in the green
landscape with farmlands and woods around, you are bound through custom
to neglect the pleasures of imagination, and see it only without
observing."

"I am glad you are so enthusiastic over Copthorne," replies Eleanor,
catching at the meadow-sweet, and crumbling it between her fingers.  "I
suppose you have been living a very different life in London?"

"It is a great change," he replies, "from the bustle of fashion to the
unbroken quiet.  But I must own I didn't enjoy so completely all the
beauty of this glad country scene till you came, Eleanor, happy in the
rich possession of youth and lightheartedness."

Now his conversation grows interesting, the perfect smile with which
she is naturally blessed creeps through her lips to her eyes,
illuminating her whole countenance.  In the distance the regular click
of a reaping machine falls on the breeze.

"You must see more of our life," she says impetuously.  "Next week all
our labourers will be reaping, and our barns are ready for the first
loads of harvest.  Do not go till it is gathered in!"

"Shall I promise?  Would it give you pleasure?"

"Yes."

A pause, during which an old horse puts his nose over the gate of an
adjacent field, regarding Philip and Eleanor complacently.

"Then it's a bargain!  If _you_ will be pleased, I will stay; but not
unless."

A little gasp escapes her lips.

"Can you doubt it, Philip?" she murmurs.

He is satisfied by the earnest tone, gratified by her humility and
undisguised devotion.

"Would you like to see my home?" she asks, for their steps are nearing
the quaint farmhouse.

"Indeed, I should."

She takes him from the sloping cornfield, topped by a windmill, to
where the path joins a kitchen garden--a perfect holiday ground for
bees.  The vegetables seem in perfect harmony with yellow marigolds and
calceolaria.  The house is divided from the road by palings richly
covered by Virginia creepers, and as they approach Philip pauses to
lean on the wicket gate and view the peaceful homestead silently.  The
drone of bees and busy presence of insect toil is soothing and
melodious.  He takes Eleanor's hand and kisses it in the full glare of
the mid-day sun under the heavily laden fruit trees.  Then they pass by
the brilliant flower-beds to the rustic porch, through which is visible
the Grebbys' twelve o'clock repast spread on a clean white linen cloth,
a vase of wild flowers for simple decoration.  There are
bright-coloured texts on the walls, and an old Family Bible under a
glass case.

"My mother will be back from the market directly," says Eleanor; "would
you do us the honour of stopping to dinner?"

The tone became a supplication, mingled with smiles.

"You are too kind," declares Philip, touched by the unostentatious
hospitality of his newly found friend.  "I shall be most delighted."

"Come and let us watch for the return of Black Bess," she cries,
leading the way out into the garden again.  Philip thinks he has never
spent a more delightful morning.

To have missed it would have been to lose one of the sweetest episodes
of his life.  The intense restfulness of Copthorne Farm, the fragrance
of the air, the softness of the carpet beneath his feet, the cattle
browsing in verdant pastures, and the murmur of those winged and drowsy
honey-laden workers from the meadows, make a picture which will never
pass from his mind.  For the moment, while basking in the harvest sun,
a scene which must some day be only a faded pleasure left to
recollection, is Paradise!

Then the Grebbys' return from their marketing, to welcome the stranger
whom Eleanor proudly introduces.  Hospitality is a creed with them, and
renewing their daughter's invitation, they place the choicest their
home affords before the unexpected guest.  Thus it is that Philip Roche
finds himself in Eleanor's family circle, discussing the crops and
weather with her father, a rubicund, hale old man, whose life is
centred in bucolic pursuits.

      *      *      *      *      *

The harvest is over, the wheat and barley are garnered, but still
Philip lingers, chained by that mysterious agent the world calls--Love!

He sees the embodiment of all he most admires in Eleanor, the sweet
domesticated country maiden, pure as the health-laden breezes sighing
through the trees.  His love ennobles his being, he is surprised at
this inexplicable and unfathomable passion.

"Eleanor," he says, "I am going away--I want to take you with me.  Will
you be my wife?"

It is more a command than a question.  He cannot do without her.  She
_must_ consent.

The girl's breath comes and goes swiftly; for a moment he fears she
will faint.

The future dances before her swimming brain, the alluring prospect of
money, position, pleasure, whisper like fiends in Eleanor's ears.  Love
is forgotten; she only remembers the vague unsatisfied ambitions of her
young dreams.  She lets him kiss her lips again and again, she is
clasped in his arms, yet feels them not; her mind fixed on the dazzling
picture of "what is to be!"

"Your answer, Eleanor, darling--love!" he gasps, watching the glorious
colour mount to her face, the marvellous radiance fill her eyes.

"Yes, Philip, your wife always!"  Her head is on his shoulder, he has
gathered her hands about his neck.  The brief midday hours fly as she
yields to the tender wooing.

"Soon," he whispers, "autumn's fingers of decay will creep over
Copthorne, while leaves must fall damp and dead in the country lanes.
Marry me, Eleanor, now the summer is here."

She starts back, a deadly fear knocking at her heart.  She laughs,
apparently frivolous and light-hearted.

"Yes, in the summer, sometime next year."

"Next year!" his face falling.  "But when?  Next year has three hundred
and sixty-five long days!"

She smiles entrancingly, shrugging her shoulders.

"Oh! well--when the birds begin to sing."

"No," he cries, drawing her to him, "before they are silent, Eleanor,
before the light of summer goes out of the heavens, and the blue sky
fades to grey!"

Her eyes droop, her cheek is pale.



CHAPTER III.

GOD MADE THE WOMAN FOR THE MAN.--_Tennyson_.

"Oh, do stop and take me to tea in that lovely confectioner's shop!"
cries a pleading voice, while an eager hand flourishes a parasol which
pokes the driver in the back.  "Oh, I wish I could speak the horrid
language."

"But, my dear," replies the man at her side, "you have only just had
your coffee and unlimited bon-bons.  I want to show you Brussels
thoroughly.  It is a most interesting town."

Eleanor Roche sighs.  To her uncultivated mind the magnificent Hotel de
Ville, the Roman Catholic Churches, galleries, picturesque towers,
gables, and doorways of ancient buildings, hold but little charm.

She is madly excited about the bonnet and boot shops, the lace fans and
collars, chocolates, and ice creams.

Philip is bent on enlarging his wife's mind, and hopes to awake in her
his fervent love for art.  Surely in time she will learn to appreciate
it.  At present she is decidedly slow of comprehension.  Though looking
lovelier than ever in her new Parisian toilettes, Eleanor disappoints
him.  She talks perpetually of her appearance, dresses three or four
times a day, revels in admiring glances from male tourists, and
displays strange apathy when sight-seeing.

"How ugly the foreign women are!" exclaims Eleanor, "so short, plump,
and round.  Why, even our miller's daughters could lick them into fits."

Her slang jars on him; but Eleanor is so sublimely unconscious of
offence and childishly contented with herself, that he has not the
heart to murmur.

Besides, even the touch of her small hand thrills him with the old
pleasure.

She surveys her feet admiringly.

"Did you ever see such lovely shoes?  The points are like needles.  It
would be wicked to walk in them.  Oh, dear, where are we stopping now?"

"At the Church of St. Gudule.  You must see it before we go.  The
pulpit is wonderful."

Eleanor gathers up her silken skirts and steps lightly to the pavement.

She thinks this part of the honeymoon very dry, when there are cafés,
music, and shops at hand.

"Isn't the carving beautiful?" murmurs her husband, examining the
pulpit with fresh interest, from the fact that Eleanor is visiting his
favourite places.

"You see, dear," taking her arm, "it is supported on the Tree of
Knowledge and of Life.  Adam and Eve are being driven out of Paradise
on one side by the Angel, while Death is gliding round with his dart."

"Ugh!" says Eleanor, shivering slightly, "what a nasty subject to
choose.  If you had been Adam at Copthorne, and thought you would gain
anything by eating our apples, wouldn't you have devoured the
lot?--that is to say, if I, as Eve, had been unselfish enough to leave
any!"

She laughs at her own humour.

"It is scarcely a subject to jest upon," whispers Philip.

Eleanor's bright eyes sadden instinctively.

How has she displeased him?

"It is a marvellous piece of workmanship," he murmurs, as they move
away.

He wonders if Eleanor, who has never even heard of "Rubens," feels her
ignorance; but his thought is unconsciously answered by her careless,
yet happy, air when he imparts his wisdom.  Her great, expressive eyes
seem to say: "I have no doubt it is very interesting to you, but I have
so much else to think of."

Having escaped from the bewildering pulpit out into the fresh air, her
spirits rise, while her fancy turns to the tempting pastry in the shop
windows.

She catches sight of her face and form in a mirror as they pass to one
of the small round tables, ordering coffee and cakes.  Her heart
kindles with love for her own beautiful being.  It is not actual
conceit, but genuine unbiassed admiration for Mother Nature's handiwork.

A young Englishman of insipid appearance is seated opposite, enjoying
the mild pleasure of an ice _à la panache_.  He puts up his eyeglass
and stares at Eleanor.  She returns the look frankly, taking in his
narrow forehead, ginger hair, and elongated neck.

"Newly married," thinks the man, noting the fresh lustre of her
jewellery.

"English," mentally ejaculates Eleanor, eyeing his scrupulously clean
linen.

"A woman to be loved and hated in the same breath," so runs his
masculine meditation.  "Tantalising open eyes, without a blush in them,
and a face like the bust of Clytie."

"What is engrossing your attention, dearest?" whispers Philip, seeing
her pre-occupied.

"I am wondering if that young man's mother ever thought him handsome.
The nose might have been promising once, before the last half inch
grew, and his hair was gold when she first cut his ringlets."

Philip looks at the stranger's dissipated eyes, and despite the
apparent innocence which the hallowing presence of a guileless
ice-cream will temporarily shed over Lothario himself, sees the general
demoralisation that has set in.

"He is young to be blunted and coarsened," thinks Philip.  Annoyed by
the impudent stare which possibly amuses rather than displeases his
wife, he tells Eleanor she has had enough, and rises to signify
departure.  Lothario is still covering Clytie with his gaze.  She
pauses to caress a lean black cat with hungry eyes, that has crept in
unobserved from the street.  Hurriedly emptying a jug of cream in her
saucer, Eleanor is about to present it to the plaintiff stranger.  Tom,
however, scents the cream, springs on his hind legs, and upsets the
liquid over her Parisian skirt.

The insipid young man starts forward, for Philip is paying at the
counter, and kneels at her feet to repair the damage with his
handkerchief.

Mrs. Roche stands watching helplessly, her lips curving into smiles.

"You are very kind," she murmurs, as his eyeglass falls amongst her
chiffons.  "The cat was hungry, and now he won't get anything.  Philip
will not stay and----"

She breaks off shortly, for her husband has turned and discovered the
youth on his knees before Eleanor, who, as he rises, slips his card
into her hand.

"I will see the cat is fed," he whispers.

She gives him a grateful glance, and explaining the incident to Philip,
hurries away, with the stranger's card hidden in her pale kid glove.

When she is back in the hotel, Eleanor looks at the name.

  HERBERT DALLISON.
    _Junior Conservative Club._


"I don't suppose we shall ever meet again," she says to herself
reflectively.  "But he must so kindhearted, or he wouldn't have
troubled about my dress or the cat."

Though Eleanor Roche is so in love with her own lustrous eyes, she does
not yet realise how much goodwill they can win her.  She has yet to
learn that the dangerous gift of a subtle charm may make or mar its
owner's life.

"We have only one more day here," says Philip, who had mapped out their
tour, "and I want you to see 'Waterloo,' dearest."

"Is it amusing?" asks Eleanor.

"Well, interesting is more the word,"

"Then I probably shall not care for it.  The places you call
interesting are so dull!"

However, Philip carries out his plan, and takes her to the little
straggling village of Brane l'Alleud.  The churchyard full of English
graves and monuments quite distresses Eleanor.

"To think of all these brave men dying nobly for their country, and
then being buried in this out-of-the-way place!" she exclaims.

"I suppose it is all the same to them," replies Philip.

"But I don't like the idea, nor am I fond of the sight of graves, and
the thought of death.  Oh, Philip! what is that fat old man saying to
you?"

"He wants to show us a grave over the Marquis of Anglesea's leg, and is
the proud possessor of the house where it was amputated.  It was buried
in a polished coffin, and has a monument erected to its memory.  But
who are you eyeing so intently, Eleanor?" turning as he speaks.  "Why!
If it isn't that impudent young puppy again, who mopped up the milk!"

"Cream, Philip, cream."

"Well! don't look at him, darling," putting his arm through hers to
draw her gently away.  "We will escape from the voluble Belgian with
the leg story.  He wants to show us the boot that once cased the foot.
Such a fuss about nothing!"

Eleanor returns to the carriage, but, as they drive to the huge mound
with the Belgic Lion on the summit, she is conscious that Herbert
Dallison is following.

For the rest of the day he always seems only a yard from her, as they
examine the red walls pitted by bullets, and wander round the Museum.
He has a party of friends with him--Eleanor can hear them chaffing the
guide, and ridiculing everything.  Their absurd remarks amuse her, from
time to time she laughs for no apparent reason.

At last she owns to fatigue, and Philip leaves her, while he goes in
search of their carriage.

"Would you like some relics?" says a voice at her elbow.

Eleanor knows who is speaking before she looks round.  Herbert Dallison
stands besides her, holding out a French forage cap, a bullet, and a
rusty sword broken off in the middle.

She seizes them delightedly.

"Thank you, thank you, but please go away," as Philip's figure looms in
sight.

She does not need to ask twice.  Herbert Dallison seems to vanish into
thin air.

"You silly child!" cries Philip laughingly, "to spend your money on
those so-called 'relics' manufactured at Birmingham or Brussels to
beguile innocent tourists.  A fresh crop of bullets and swords, I'm
told, is sown every year, that you may have the pleasure of seeing them
turned up yourself."

Eleanor smiles a little nervously.  She is beginning to wish she had
not taken the presents.  What would Philip say if he knew?

He helps her into the carriage with her spoil, the giver following with
his party in the rear.

Eleanor becomes momentarily more conscience-stricken; the sight of the
"relics" are hateful to her.

"I want to throw all this rubbish away," she cries at last.  "It will
only be a worry to me."

"Very true," replies her husband.

"I know," a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.  "Let me shy them out on
the road, and someone will think they have discovered real curiosities."

She stands up in childish glee, casting back a mocking smile at Herbert
Dallison.  One by one she flings his gifts from her, with an expressive
look signifying second thoughts are best.  He has taken his friends
into his confidence, and is horrified at the hilarious laughter which
breaks from them at Eleanor's act.

"Hang it all," he mutters, "it's beastly ungrateful; can't buy that
sort of rot for nothing."

But he is too proud to stop and recover his property; so a bullet, a
cap, and a sword are left by the wayside like the seed that was not
good, to pass into strange hands.

"Moral," cries Bertie's pal, slapping him on the back, "don't interfere
with honeymoon couples, they're abominably slow.  Stick to widows, old
man, for the future."

At the word "widow" Bertie actually blushes.  There is more sting in
this light chaff than his comrades suppose, for the vision of a villa
at Richmond with its dark-haired divinity rises between the dust of the
two carriages, soothing his ruffled feelings and drowning Eleanor's
fair form in the seas of forgetfulness.

The honeymoon slips by pleasantly.

Mrs. Roche enjoys the long railway journeys above everything, which
astonishes Philip, who thinks them the worst part of the trip.

"You see I so seldom go in trains," Eleanor says when he expresses
surprise.  "I love to listen to the whizz of the engine, and see the
rushing, panting people on the stations worrying the grand officials in
their smart uniforms.  Then it is so nice to be first-class, and lean
back on the cushions and cock up your feet if you wish.  Besides, it is
awfully jolly just now to look out of the window and think."

"What do you think of?" asks her husband.

"All the beautiful presents you have given me, and the lovely house on
the terrace at Richmond where I am to live."

The pleasure she takes in little things is a daily marvel to Philip.
In the train, for instance, every moment she opens her dressing-bag, to
shake scent from a silver bottle over her hands or peep in a dainty
glass at her complexion.  Each time they stop something fresh must be
bought--a bunch of grapes, a bag of red plums, flowers, and
unwholesome-looking tarts.

She actually purchases a tumbler of lager beer, drinking it with
relish, declaring it quite home-like and jolly.

Eleanor never worries about anything.  Should the train be missed or
the luggage stray, it is all the same to her.  An hour's wait on a dull
little platform is never grumbled at.  "We'll just have to sit and
whistle," she declares, and amuses herself mimicking the porters, which
she succeeds in doing wonderfully well, while Philip, in spite of
numerous eccentricities, forgives her everything, and worships her
devotedly.

"Alas! that we have to return," he sighs, as they glide in a small boat
on the Lake of Geneva.  "I must be back in the city this week."

"And you will make me _lots_ of money?" expanding her eyes and showing
her beautiful teeth.

"Won't you be contented with a little?"

"Oh, no.  I want to entertain.  You must bring your friends from
London, and the house you have so long neglected shall be packed with
guests."

"We'll see about that," says Philip, not liking to damp her ardour.
"YOU must remember, though, that I am not a walking gold mine, little
wife."

"Can the boatman understand what we say?"

"He only knows a smattering of English.  What a strong, steady stroke
he pulls!"

Eleanor leans over the side, gazing down the clear depths.  "I never
saw such wonderful water," she says, "you can see ever so far below.
How amusing it would be to drop pebbles in and watch them sink."

"Here is a stray one on the seat," said Philip, throwing it overboard.
Eleanor watches the descent with sparkling eyes.

"It is still in sight," she cries, "whirling through the water!  My
word! how clear the lake is.  I must see it again."

She glances round, but there are no more stones.

Before Philip has time to stop her she opens her purse and drops a coin
over the side of the boat.

"Look! there it goes," laughing lightly.  "Isn't it fascinating?"

[Illustration: "Look! there it goes."]

The rower has stopped, and with eager, covetous eyes watches the wilful
waste.  Those coins would mean bread to him and his children, while she
throws them to feed the deep!  Another and yet another fall from her
slim hands.

Philip has turned quite pale with auger.

"Stop!  Eleanor," he says, sternly, "you do not realise what you are
doing.  It is wicked."

But she shrugs her shoulders and drops another.

"Do you hear what I say?" he mutters, grasping her wrist.  "I'll have
no more of this.  Look at that poor fellow's eyes; why, he would like
to murder you.  It is enough to call down the judgment of Heaven upon
us."

"Just one more, only five centimes, Philip, and the man shall have all
that is left in my purse."

"No," he replies, still retaining her arm in an iron grip.

"Don't; you hurt me."

He removes his hand, and with a defiant look Eleanor flings the coin
into the lake, watching it whirl below with redoubled interest.

"Gott!" mutters the boatman under his breath, "what tevilry."

Then, without a sign of shame, Eleanor passes a handful of money to the
sunburnt fellow, casting a smile of ineffable sweetness upon him.

"For the little ones," she says.

But Philip's brow is still black.

"It was wicked," he repeats.

Eleanor only laughs.

"You deserve to want in the future."

"The future," she replies lightly, "who thinks of the future?  It may
be dark enough to frighten the very life out of you--a thing to make
you scream----"

Philip shudders.  Storm clouds are gathering overhead.  This is the
last day of his honeymoon.



CHAPTER IV.

LIFE IS A JEST.

A great red sun that is warm and kind sinks behind the golden trees,
rich with autumnal tints, as Philip and Eleanor drive up to
"Lyndhurst," on Richmond Terrace.

"So this is your home--_my_ home?" she cries, her eyes sparkling with
delight as they rest on her new abode.  "Ring very loud and long,
Philip; I am dying to be in!"

The door is almost immediately opened by a buxom maiden with rosy
cheeks and a lenient smile, which alights on the youthful mistress.
Eleanor bounds into the hall, and waves a feather boa joyfully over her
head.

"Hurrah!  _Ancestors_," she cries, saluting the old pictures on the
wall with mock courtesy.  "Real dead ancestors in wigs, and you _never_
told me, Philip!"

[Illustration: Saluting the old pictures on the wall with mock
courtesy.]

She is standing, gazing on them joyfully as the luggage is brought in,
pointing with her umbrella at a wrinkled judge.

"They have seldom received such admiration," he says gently.  "Poor old
things, they disfigure the walls sadly with their grim faces."

"The lady on the left is simpering; and, oh! here is a tiger rug,"
stumbling over a head on the ground.  "I caught my heel on his nose,"
as Philip prevents her falling by seizing her elbow.

"Show me which is my room.  I am longing to see it," she continues,
taking two steps at a time in her eager ascent.  "Sarah," calling to
her maid, "bring those three hat boxes and my cloak, there's a good
soul!  Come on, Philip, I'll race you to the top."

He feels as if he is playing with a child, as he rushes over the house
after Eleanor.  The day of the school treat returns to his mind, he
fancies he sees her still, running through the long grass.

"Everything is beautiful," she gasps, clasping her hands.  "There's a
room to be frivolous and lazy in, a study for book learning (I'm going
to read no end) and, oh! if you want to sing----"

She draws a deep breath at the remembrance of the grand piano in the
drawing-room.  "It is ever so much bigger than the one at the vicarage,
which was always out of tune.  I'll get my cousin Joe to send me a list
of songs, and we will buy a harmonium, too, Philip.  I can play the
harmonium splendidly."

"I am glad you are pleased, Eleanor," ha replies, kissing her upturned
face.

"And now, I am going to dress, for I feel horrible after my journey.
May I ring for Sarah?"

"Of course.  What a question!  Do exactly as you like with your own
servants."

She finds Sarah in her room busily unpacking.

"Oh! there you are," cries Eleanor.  "I forgot I had given you my keys.
It is such a blessing to be able to talk in English, that foreign stuff
was awful, I could not speak a word!  Yes, I will wear my lovely pink
tea-gown--did you ever see anything so pretty, Sarah?  I must make you
put it on some day, just to see how it looks on another person.  You
are a bit stouter than I am though, but perhaps you could pull in----"

And so Eleanor rattles on, just as if Sarah were one of the
farm-servants at home, and she the same unaffected light-hearted Miss
Grebby.

"Do you come from the country, Sarah?" she asks at last.

"Yes, ma'am.  My father's a grocer, and mother keeps house for the
doctor's children in our next village."

"Then they don't live together?"

"No, ma'am, it's father's temper.  We none of us can't live at home, he
is that hasty!  It ain't safe, ma'am, it ain't really!"

"How dreadful," sighs Eleanor.  "Doesn't it frighten you?"

"Lor! yes, ma'am.  I have seen him grow purple round the eyes, and
crimson in the cheeks, and throve a whole sack of flour through the
window."

Eleanor receives the information with an expressive "Oh!" as she shakes
down her hair, and tells Sarah to brush it.

"How many servants have I got?" gazing at her face in the mirror
contentedly.

"Three, ma'am.  There's me, and Judith, and cook."

"Do you like Richmond?"

"Well enough, ma'am, thank you, but Judith would have rather been in
London, and cook has always set her face against the suburbs."

"Then why did they come?"

"Well, you see, ma'am, the gentleman engaged them, and he seemed that
put about they hadn't the heart to refuse."

"Good gracious! whatever is that noise?"

"The dinner gong.  Judith is very strong in the arms, and she do make
it sound, ma'am!"

"Light a few more candles; I want to have a good look at myself."

Eleanor walks up and down before the glass, with spasmodic gasps of
satisfaction, till Philip comes to the door to see if she is ready.

Eleanor is brimming over with conversation during the evening meal; she
has something to say about everything, and her ideas seem to expand
over each fresh course.  At the soup she wants a pony cart, but over
the fish decides on a brougham and victoria.  The _entrée_ introduces a
pair of prancing chestnuts, and Philip is quite afraid that the arrival
of the meat will suggest powdered footmen in silk stockings.

"You see, dear," he explains at dessert, when Sarah and Judith have
left the room, "I have a very comfortable income to live in a fairly
luxurious style without undue extravagance.  We can easily keep one
horse and man, which I have waited to choose with you."

"I see," replies Eleanor, peeling a banana.  There is a pause, then she
looks up and repeats uncertainly: "I see, Philip."

"You will try and make a good little housekeeper and manage everything
splendidly.  I often think of you, Eleanor, in your peaceful
domesticity at Copthorne.  How quiet it was, and----"

"How _dull_!" (sighing).

It all comes back with a rush--the pewter dinner service, and spotless
parlour, smelling of lavender and soap, the cackle of hens and lowing
of cows.  Eleanor pushes aside the dish of bananas, "Let us go out in
the moonlight," she says.  "It is lovely in the garden, and you can
smoke.  Let me light your cigar?" striking a match on the sole of her
velvet slipper, and narrowly escaping burning her pink silk train.

"You must not do that, dear, it is dangerous," remonstrates Philip.

"Oh, no! not if you put up your foot so," illustrating her meaning by
striking another.  "What is that pretty yellow stuff you are drinking?"

"Chartreuse."

Eleanor kneels down by his side and sips out of his glass.  "What queer
tasting stuff, not half as nice as elderberry wine!"

"Don't you like it?"

"No; it's almost as nasty as the cowslip tea I used to make.  But do
come for a stroll; I like wandering about in this long silk gown, it
feels so grand."

"What myriads of stars!" exclaims Philip, who is well versed in
astronomy.  "Don't they make you feel like a mere atom, Eleanor, when
you think they are all worlds?"

"No, I never bother my head about stars.  I like moonlight, it's so
pretty, and the moonbeams look ghostly and fairylike.  But isn't it
cold in the garden?  I only just realise that summer is over, and what
an eventful summer it has been for me!  The other girls at Copthorne
were mad with jealousy at my wedding.  They all want to marry gentlemen
now, and come to London.  Do you remember the schoolchildren, Philip?
How they scattered flowers and crowded round to kiss me.  I gave them
my wedding cake (or rather what was left of it) when we went, and the
three cheers for 'Teacher' is quite the nicest recollection."
Eleanor's passionate love for children pleases her husband, it shows
that her nature is good.  He puts his arm lovingly round her as they
return to the house.

"Are you happy, Eleanor?" he whispers.  A soft brightness creeps into
her eyes.

"Yes, Philip, there isn't a lighter heart in Richmond!"

      *      *      *      *      *

"Oh! dear, more cards!  I returned the doctors' wives' visits
yesterday, three of them, Philip--each intent on her husband's
business, I suppose.  Two were at home, and I looked so aggravatingly
healthy.  I could not think what to talk about, having never done that
sort of thing before.  The first mercifully had a dog, which I admired
for a quarter of an hour, the second showed me her pigeons.  I knew all
about _them_."

Philip looked at the latest cards which Eleanor handed him.

"Mrs. Mounteagle," he read, "why she is the lady next door.  I don't
want you to know her, Eleanor.  She has not the best of names in
Richmond; this place teems with scandal!  I am acquainted with
half-a-dozen people who positively cram it down your throat whenever
you are unfortunate enough to meet them."

"And what have they against Mrs. Mounteagle?"

"Well, my dear, nothing alarmingly serious, only she is rather a fast
widow, and not a nice companion for you.  She has a queer set at her
house, and is almost too 'up-to-date' even for Richmond society."

"But since she has called, Philip, and we live next door, what am I to
do?"

"It is awkward, certainly.  I should leave cards, and not ask if she is
in.  That is about the best hint if you don't desire her acquaintance."

"She will think me so horrid," sighs Eleanor, "but I will do as you
wish."

The following afternoon Eleanor, card-case in hand, rings at Mrs.
Mounteagle's, prepared to carry out her husband's suggestion.

A soft voice singing in the garden arrests her attention.  It is the
sweetest sound Eleanor has ever heard.  Light footsteps crunch the
gravel, and a slim, dark woman approaches with slumbrous eyes, which
look at the visitor dreamily.  A smile, like a fitful name, flickers
over Mrs. Mounteagle's face, suddenly bursting into a bright expression
of ill-concealed amusement at Eleanor's nervous demeanour.

"Mrs. Roche," she exclaims, holding out a welcoming hand.  "You see,
being such near neighbours, I know you already by sight.  I am sure, if
you are only just married, you must find first calls most boring and
tedious.  But I am very glad you selected this afternoon to return
mine, for I am simply pining to talk to someone.  The dead leaves and
general decay out here give one the blues.  Come in, and help me to
appreciate my first fire."

Eleanor has utterly forgotten her husband's wishes, till she finds
herself in a softly cushioned rocking chair, with her feet on Mrs.
Mounteagle's brightly-polished fender.  Then she remembers--and ignores.

Never has any woman fascinated her as the lovely widow she is asked not
to know.  What sparkling conversation! and, oh, what a dainty tea
service and piping hot cakes the footman places between them as they
talk.

The room is far prettier than Eleanor's boudoir which she has hitherto
considered such a dream of beauty.  More than once Mrs. Roche suggests
going, but the widow intreats her to remain.

"It is so delightful to have you!" she declares, with exuberant
cordiality.  "I have done nothing all the afternoon but lie on this
sofa and yawn over a novel.  I could have written it better myself, and
that foolish librarian at Mudie's recommended it.  I drive to town
nearly every afternoon--there is always something to buy or something
to see.  Are you fond of London, Mrs. Roche?"

"I hardly know, I have been there so little.  I lived in the country
before my marriage, and was positively buried."

"It is a mercy then that Mr. Roche found you, and dug you up."

"Yes.  I like married life much better."

"Spinsterhood is a mistake," retorts Mrs. Mounteagle.  "If you have the
misfortune to be thrown back upon yourself--widowed in your prime--take
my advice and marry again.  We poor weak little women were not made to
take care of ourselves.  We want a stronger arm to lean on--someone who
will think for us, anticipate our every wish, load us with all the good
things of this earth, and kiss us to sleep when we die!"

Eleanor listens admiringly to this superior mind.

"I shall re-marry," continues Mrs. Mounteagle, "but not immediately.  I
am practically 'growing my husband.'  He is still young in years,
though old in frivolity, or vice, whichever you like to call it.  He
must have his fling before he settles down, or I shall only be binding
a burden on my shoulders."

Eleanor attends with deepening interest.

"I married very young," continues Mrs. Mounteagle, "and my husband was
nearly eighty.  Yes," noting her visitor's surprise, "rather a
difference in our ages, wasn't there?

"Love, my dear Mrs. Roche, is a science; you can learn it with careful
study, and make it always accommodating, pleasant, and never vulgarly
effusive.  Do not imagine that the first bloom of youth gleans all the
peaches, leaving only apples for after years.  A clever woman seldom
grows old.  She erases Time with the same nimble fingers with which she
creates her boudoir, and makes it appear part of her being.  You admire
my sanctum, and small wonder.  It has cost me sleepless nights as long
as the furniture bills.  I invented it.  These chairs for instance were
not arranged, they _occurred_.  The minutest detail has positively been
prayed over.  Look at my quaint treasures!  If other hands had placed
them they might appear ignoble, debased.  You see the curve of this
pillowed couch, the tint of the curtains, it is _Art_, Mrs. Roche, Art
with a big _A_."

"I am dreadfully envious," cries Eleanor, "there is no artistic genius
in me."

"It must be born in the blood, but if you like I will 'compose' you a
room.  It shall be like a melody (if you can grasp the
comparison)--subtle, entrancing."

"You are _wonderful_!" says Eleanor solemnly.  "It is all so like a
fairy palace, and you are the fairy, Mrs. Mounteagle."

"Then, in the guise of a mysterious gnome, let me give you a word of
warning.  You are a stranger in Richmond; pray take care not to get
into a clique.  They are so numerous and unhealthy, so full of civil
wars and petty strife, that existence becomes poisoned, and all the
romance of life is swept aside, seared, wasted!"

"Thank you," replies Eleanor, rising reluctantly and giving Mrs.
Mounteagle both her hands.  "How good you have been to me to-day!"

"I hope we shall see a great deal of each other," answers the widow
softly, "and be very great friends."

"It shan't be my fault if we are not," responds Mrs. Roche.

They part.

"Oh, ma'am!  Master's been home an hour, and he's frightened to death
about you."

Thus Sarah greets her on her return.



CHAPTER V.

"THE FLY THAT SIPS TREACLE IS LOST IN THE SWEETS."

"I am tired of arguing the subject," declares Philip hotly, rising from
his chair and pacing the room.  "If you _will_ disregard my wishes and
go your own way, well----"

"Let me, that's all!" retorts Eleanor.

"No wonder you have hardly a single friend in Richmond, if your whole
time is spent with Mrs. Mounteagle," he replied.

"I don't want other friends--I dislike them, Philip, and what is the
good of pretending friendship for people you don't care a button about?
There is not a woman in the place that can hold a candle to Giddy."

"Oh, it's 'Giddy' now, is it?"

"Why not?  I have known her nearly three months."

"Yes; and every month has been one too many.  Do you think I cannot see
the harm she is doing you?  We might have led a happy, contented life
it she were not here to poison it.  What did you think of your
home--before you met her?  Everything was perfect!  What did you say of
it after?"

"Dowdy--old-fashioned--run to seed.  Look at the transformation!  Isn't
my drawing-room a poem?  Has not 'Liberty' descended like the goddess
of Beauty on our abode, and made it the envy of our neighbours?  Giddy
has practically built me up, Philip.  I owe her my dress-maker, my
tailor, my style, my hats, my----"

"Oh! spare me," he interrupts, "I have heard it so often."

"Dear old fellow, _don't_ be angry," coaxes Eleanor, with her old
cajoling manner.  "It is very hard for a poor little woman to be left
alone all day, while her better half is frivoling in the City with
stocks and shares, and all sorts of nice amusing things.  There really
is no harm in Giddy, and she is so awfully clever and entertaining."

"But I do not approve of the people you meet at her house, nor your
frequent visits to town together.  I don't wish my wife to be
constantly seen with a woman of doubtful reputation."

"Nonsense about her reputation, it's all bosh!  People are jealous of
her beauty that say nasty things.  She told me so herself.  Besides, we
only do a little shopping, and it is so dull going all by oneself."

Eleanor has crept into his arms, and is soothing his ruffled feeling
with caresses.

"It is only because I love you, Eleanor," he says, with more
passionately, hungering devotion than of yore.  "Her companionship is
not good for you, and she is always taking you away from me.  That
sounds selfish, doesn't it?"

"Well, I forgive you," she whispers, "if you will be less ferocious in
the future.  I declare, when you walk up and down--like this,"
imitating his stride, "and show the whites of your eyes--_so_! I want
to hide under the sofa, and scream."

"Oh!  Eleanor, was I such a bear?"

"Much worse than a bear; he is in a cage, and cannot get out.  You just
stand and laugh at him, and please him with a biscuit, or tease him
with a feather."

"I didn't want to quarrel before going, only you started the subject of
Mrs. Mounteagle, and it is rather a red rag, you know, Eleanor, since I
objected from the first."

"But I am so wickedly wilful," she sighs, peeping through her eyelashes
coquettishly.  She has caught the "eye-lash" trick from her next-door
neighbour.

"I am sorry, dear, to have to stay in town to-night, but it is most
important.  You won't give up your party at Hillier's?"

"Oh! no.  I shall go alone.  It is only one of their deadly musical
evenings, with about three second-rate professionals, and a sprinkling
of local talent.  The Misses Hillier play the harp and violin, with
particularly red arms and bony elbows, their sister-in-law sings in a
throaty contralto, and the ices run out before ten."

"Is Mrs. Mounteagle asked?"

"They don't know each other, and Giddy is so glad.  It gives her nearly
a fit to look at them."

"Ah! yes, I remember Mrs. Hillier telling me she had not called."

"Now you are beginning again.  And just as we had made it up, too,"
putting her hand over Philip's mouth.

"Well, I'll say no more.  At least, I shall have the satisfaction of
knowing you won't be with her to-night."

"Poor Giddy!" sighs Eleanor as he leaves; "how she is misjudged!"

"Mrs. Mounteagle," announces Sarah.

"How do, dear?" cries the widow sweetly, pressing Eleanor's cheek.

Then, as the door closes: "I don't like that maid of yours, she shows
one in as if one were a dressmaker or sister of mercy, and always looks
at me as if my bonnet were crooked.  You really ought to get a man, it
gives such a much better appearance to the place."

"I do not believe Philip would have one."

"My dear, a man is the last subject I should ever think of consulting
my husband on.  By-the-way, Eleanor, my _fiancé_ has turned up again.
You know he went abroad to grow, and was not to come back for six
months, but three seem to have nearly killed him.  He has had typhoid
fever in Antwerp, and then took a trip to New York, where he got
jaundice.  I must introduce you next Sunday, he is going to drive down."

"You never told me his name."

"Didn't I?  _Bertie_--Herbert Dallison."

"Oh!" with an expressive intonation.  "Is he fond of ices?"

"Yes.  How did you know?"

"They are very unwholesome, and--and you said he had been ill."

"You are going to the Hilliers' to-night," Mrs. Mounteagle says,
unfolding a parcel on her lap.  "You intend wearing your white silk, I
believe."

"Yes. It is good enough for them."

"I should think so, the cut of the skirt is lovely, but I am not
altogether satisfied with the severe bodice.  I want you to wear this
fichu of mine, it is a perfect gem."

She holds out a cloud of spangled gauze.

"How lovely!" cries Eleanor, flinging her arms round the widow's neck.

"You're very welcome to it."

"Philip is deserting me to-night," continues Eleanor--"business in
London."

"How dull you will be going and returning to your party alone.  I
know!" (her face lightening up as with some magic inspiration) "I'll
come and stay the night with you, dear, see you dressed, and have a
real good gossip up in your room about those stupid Hilliers
afterwards."

Philip's words return to Eleanor: "_At least you will not be together
this evening._"  Yet what can she do?  Besides it will be such fun to
have Giddy.

So the plan is settled, and that evening Mrs. Mounteagle arrives in a
flowing tea-gown, her maid unpacking a dainty dressing-bag with
gold-topped ornaments, and hanging up a dress for the morning.  Giddy
sits in a low arm-chair watching Eleanor's toilette.

"Sarah is doing your hair abominably!" she exclaims.  "You will look a
fright.  Here, let me show you, my good girl," addressing the maid in
the superior drawl she adopts towards menials.  "Twist the coil at the
top--so, like a teapot handle, and let the side pieces wave loosely
over the ears.  You don't want to make a guy of your mistress, do you?"

Sarah resents the interference, but between them Eleanor's coiffure is
eventually arranged.

"Now you are lovely; a sight for sore eyes," declares Giddy Mounteagle.
"Yet what is the good after all in being beautiful for such a dowdy
set?  They will only hate you for it, as they hate me, the fools!  We
cannot help being well favoured."

"And she calls 'erself a lady!" says Sarah, scoffingly, to Judith later
on.  "She's as different to our young mistress as chalk to cheese."

"I don't like leaving you alone," declares Eleanor after dinner.

"Afraid I shall steal something?" asks Giddy, laughing.  "Don't fret,
my dear, I shall be quite happy in this glorious bookland.  Mr. Roche
has a most enviable collection.  I have rather a headache, and shall go
to bed early and read.  I never sleep before two or three in the
morning; so don't ring, but just throw a stone at my window.  I should
love to let you in."

"Just as you please, dear.  It is all the same to me."

"You need not sit up for Mrs. Roche," says Mrs. Mounteagle, when she
goes to her room, "and, Sarah! bring me coffee in the morning, my
nerves will not stand tea."

Flinging open her window, Giddy lets the chilly night air mingle with
the fumes of her cigarette, as she lies on a sofa before the fire.

In the meanwhile the beautiful Mrs. Roche is causing quite a sensation
at the Hilliers', who are not so dowdy after all.  The smartest
Richmond girls arrive on this occasion, yet the men crowd round
Eleanor, who, elated by success, converses in a most effervescing style.

She finds herself using Giddy's expressions, stealing Giddy's ideas,
remembering her droll sayings, and repeating them second-hand.

They seem to go down, and amuse Eleanor as much as her listeners.  She
has just told a smart story (rather too smart for the occasion), when
her glance falls on a man in the doorway.  He is looking straight
across at her with strangely magnetic eyes.  He is tall, slim,
handsome.  She stops speaking.  The stranger awakes a new interest; she
forgets the others, she wants him.

He seeks out the youngest Miss Hillier, and asks for an introduction.

"Mrs. Roche--Mr. Quinton."

Two magic words make them friends.  He takes the seat of honour by her
side, monopolises the conversation, and eventually disperses her
admiring circle.

Eleanor is glad.  She is fascinated by the profound interest he
displays when she speaks of herself.  Besides, from what he tells her
she gathers he is a man of genius, destroyed by pessimism, given to
analyse human hearts and discover their misery, to look deeply into the
lives of his fellow creatures, below the platitudes and
conventionalities.  He is richly endowed with the divine gift of
sympathy, the supreme art of discrimination, yet occasionally reveals
the witty spirits of the cynic, who is cynical to please.

He sees through Eleanor's society prattle, the guileless mind, the
childish innocence.  He recognises that as yet she is undeveloped--he
mentally reviews her.  She is absurd, improbable, and therefore
fascinating.  She is like a book with the best chapters torn out--you
long to find them, and never rest till you succeed.

Palmists or clairvoyants would prophesy a future for her, simply
through looking in her eyes; but whether notoriety is to be won by
downfalling or uprising were better left unstated.  Eleanor, he
decides, is neither highly-strung nor excitable, but outspoken, fresh,
and conscious of her beauty, without conceit.  He thinks he loves her
at first sight, the lukewarm love arising from admiration, which a man
may feel towards a married woman, without blame, but at the close of
the evening he is certain of it.

"What have we been talking about all to-night?" asks Eleanor, with a
puzzled frown, and a smile which counteracts it.  "So much was
frivolous and foolish I cannot remember."

"Yet every word is hidden in some secret cell of your brain.  Oh, that
the secret cells could be opened and revealed to our nearest and
dearest.  What countless forgotten treasures might be restored."

"Or what ill-spoken words and evil quarrels revived," adds Eleanor
wisely.

"Thus speaks a guilty conscience," he retorts.  "I could sum up my life
on a sheet of foolscap.  'Preface; apparent folly, covering intents and
purposes.  A boyhood of ambition, a manhood of misfortune.'"

"Misfortune!"

"Yes, since I grew to realise facts, to see men and women as they
_are_, not as they appear!  Sometimes the bare word 'reality' fills me
with such loathing for this paltry world, with its pigmy minds and
soulless bodies, that I can hardly control my contempt.  I pull myself
together, and pray for a new set of nerves, a stronger heart, and a
better flow of healthy blood to the brain."

"What a pity that nerves cannot be purchased like false teeth," says
Eleanor laughing.

"Nerves are the finest satire on our human organisation, and our
bodies, each a theatre of perpetual activity, the most confusing
mystery of all.  I believe in a dual nature existing in men and women,
but the difficulties which bar our progress to perfect knowledge of
each other cannot be overcome."

"Things that can't be understood are invariably irritating," sighs
Eleanor.

"Some day we will think it out together," he whispers, waving her fan
gently.  "We shall meet again, Mrs. Roche"--speaking confidently--"for
have we not a mutual friend in Mrs. Mounteagle, whom I regret is not
here to-night?"

"Yes.  It is strange that we should both know her."

Eleanor has risen, and is holding out her hand for the fan.

"You are not going?"

"Look at the hour!  I shall be disgraced if I stay longer."

She leaves him, and bids her hostess good-night, but finds he is
waiting in the hall for a last word.

"May I call your carriage?"

"I did not order it, as I only live three doors off."

"Then may I escort you?"

Eleanor glances at him confidently with her large innocent eyes.

"Yes; I mean you to."

Mr. Quinton smiles, and takes her arm as they step out into the
darkness.

"I knew somebody would see me home," she says, the old, childish
Eleanor breaking through the "Giddy" manner.  "I thought it would be
much more fun than driving this step."

"Then it was premeditated."

She laughs softly.

"I wish it were not so near," murmurs Mr. Quinton.

"Mrs. Mounteagle wanted to let me in--I believe out of simple
curiosity.  I am to throw stones at her window.  Quite romantic, isn't
it?"

"May I have a shot?" he asks.  "Which is the pane of beauty's shrine?"

"There, on the left of my room," pointing upwards.

A handful of gravel flies through the air.  Rattle, rattle on the glass.

Then Giddy appears in a white _robe de chambre_, her dark hair falling
in waves about her shoulders.

"All right, I am coming down."

A moment later she stands before them, laughing and shaking hands with
Carol Quinton, two small, bare feet peeping from under her airy garb,
her hair still unfettered.

"It is a delightful surprise to see _you_, Carol," she cries.  "I have
sent all the servants to bed, Eleanor, but told them to leave out some
aspic and champagne, as I know the Hilliers starve their guests.  What
do you say to an impromptu supper party?  It would be so delightfully
unconventional."

She has dragged Carol into the hall and closed the door.

"Yes, do come in," echoes Eleanor feebly, pleased and yet awed by
Giddy's suggestion.  She is looking somewhat blankly at those delicate
pink toes, and the dark mane falling over the white gown.

"Shall I get you some shoes?" she whispers.

"No, dear; Nature is better than leather, and more _négligé_."

She speaks in a tone that silences Eleanor, who feels she has been
dense and awkward.

"Come along," says Giddy, leading the way, and lighting the silver
candelabra in the dining-room.  "Do make Eleanor take off that heavy
fur cloak, Carol.  Oh! isn't this nice?" as he fills her glass with
champagne.  "Was there ever a jollier little trio?" leaning back in her
chair and surveying the other two complacently.  "Pass me a brown
sandwich; I am hungry if you are not, and the stuff inside them gives
you an appetite.  What do you call it?--something beginning with an
'L.'"

The nectar of the gods puts a bright sparkle into Eleanor's eyes, their
lustrous beauty gleams on Giddy and Carol Quinton in luxurious
contentment.  She permits her guests to smoke, and tries a whiff from
Mrs. Mounteagle's cigarette, finally lighting one on her own behalf.

She dislikes smoking in reality, but considers it smart to imitate the
widow.

"Have you really missed hearing Kitty Bell at the 'Frivolity'?" asks
Mrs. Mounteagle, giving Carol a light from her cigarette.  "My dear
boy, she is perfectly charming, the most _piquante_ little singer of
the day.  Why, the chorus of her last song has haunted me ever
since--the tune, not the words.  It went something like this, as far as
I can remember:

  "Poor little Flo,
  How should she know?
  A simple country maiden
  From the wilds of Pimlico."


As Giddy Mounteagle sings the lines a latchkey turns in the hall lock,
footsteps advance down the passage, the dining-room door opens, and
Philip Roche stands before them!

[Illustration: The dining-room door opens, and Philip Roche stands
before them.]



CHAPTER VI.

  LIKE ONE THAT ON A LONESOME ROAD
  DOST WALK IN FEAR AND DREAD.

Eleanor's blood runs cold at the sight of her husband.  She knows well
what he will think of this impromptu, supper-party.  Giddy's feet for the
moment are mercifully concealed by the table-cloth.  She half rises,
however, and stretches out her hand to Mr. Roche.

"Eleanor was just wishing you would come back," she murmurs sweetly.

"I returned quite by chance," he answers coldly, knowing her words to be
untrue.  "Brown could not put me up after all," turning to his wife, "so
I drove down."

"Philip, this is Mr. Quinton; he kindly saw me home, and--and----"

"We persuaded him to come in," adds Giddy, as Carol, grasping the
situation, says pleasantly:

"Delighted to make your acquaintance, Mr. Roche."

But, though Philip is far too gentlemanly to show his disapproval, all
the hilarity has gone from the evening.  Perhaps it is due to Eleanor's
sudden tranquillity, the pallor of her face, and nervous hesitating
speech.  She is no adept at concealing her emotions or "passing things
off" like Giddy and Carol.  She leaves the rest of the conversation to
them, and while Philip is seeing Mr. Quinton out slips upstairs for
Giddy's shoes and beseeches her to put them on.

"My husband will think it so odd," she whispers.  "I saw him looking at
your hair."

"Yes," replies Mrs. Mounteagle, "men always admire it.  But don't be
alarmed, dear; I am far too fond of you to care about making a friend of
your husband."  Then she saunters up to bed, with a glance at Eleanor's
pretty, troubled face.

"I wonder if she'll have sense enough to hold her own," thinks Giddy.
"Poor little fool, to be sat upon already!"  She hears them come up, and
creeping from her room steals on tip-toe to their door, with her ear to
the keyhole.

There are high words within, and some unpleasant allusions to herself in
distinctly masculine tones.  Eleanor is heard crying, but her tears do
not hasten a reconciliation.  Giddy goes quietly back.

"Bah!" she exclaims, stretching out her hands to the fire.  "What rot!
As if there was any harm!"

She stirs up the blaze and laughs.  "I shall breakfast in bed," she says
to herself.

      *      *      *      *      *

"He doesn't understand me.  He wants me to be so good, so uninteresting,
so _domesticated_!  I believe he married me for that.  Oh! oh! oh!"

Mrs. Roche is wringing her hands and sobbing on the sofa.

"Another quarrel?" sighs Giddy, stroking Eleanor's soft hair.  "Come,
come, this won't do.  Pluck up your courage, go your own way, act as you
like, and laugh at your husband.  He _can't_ scold you if you laugh!
Tears will only gratify his vanity, besides they are disastrous to
beauty.  Once your eyes become swollen, and your nose red, you can no
longer hold your own.  Your sense of superiority is gone, you are undone!"

"How awful I look!" sighs Eleanor, rising and facing the glass.  "I hope
Sarah will say 'not at home' if anybody calls."

"I am not going to let you stay in and mope, just because Mr. Roche
happened to leave in a lecturing mood this morning.  I have arranged a
little tea in town at my club."

"Your club?  I did not know you had one."

"Oh! yes, and I am on the committee.  Nearly all the artists and literary
women have their clubs nowadays, so I and some friends started one for
people who do absolutely nothing.  It is very useful to members with
jealous husbands.  We call it the 'Butterflies' Club,' a land of cosy
corners and rendezvous.  You really will have to join it, Eleanor, if
Philip goes on like this.  I will put you up at our next meeting.  It is
rather an expensive luxury, ten guineas a year, and a Turkish bath
attached."

Giddy places her arm affectionately through Eleanor's and leads her to
the door.

"Come up and dress, dear; my carriage will be here in half an hour, and I
don't intend going without you."

Eleanor cheers up at the prospect.  She is like an April day.

Giddy fans her friend's flushed face, rubs some powder gently with her
fingers round the swollen eyes, and showers eau-de-Cologne on the burning
forehead.

"Do not throw yourself into any more fevers," she says; "life is too
short, and sorrow too long."

Eleanor is soon attired in green velvet and fur, for Mrs. Mounteagle
declares it is necessary to be smart at the Butterflies' Club.

They drive away together in the widow's snug little brougham.

Herbert Dallison is waiting outside the club door to receive them; he
starts, colours, and stares at Eleanor as Giddy introduces him.

"Say 'how do you do?' prettily," she cries in a bantering tone, "and
don't gape like an overgrown school-boy, if you love me, Bertie!"

Mr. Dallison holds out a limp hand in a grey glove, smiles feebly, and
thinks of the "relics" and the cat!

"Why are you not at the Junior Conservative?" murmurs Eleanor, laughing
softly, "instead of dangling round the 'Butterflies'?"

"Ah! you remember my card."

"Yes, I have it still.  I hope you will make Giddy a good husband,"
speaking demurely.

"I ought to, after all I've gone through for her sake.  It is a mercy I
have come back alive after my illnesses, and the dangerous young people I
met on the Continent."

"Let me introduce you to our coming member, the Butterfly that is to be,"
says Giddy, and Eleanor turns to face Carol Quinton.

Mrs. Mounteagle laughs merrily at her astonished look.

"I did not tell you he was coming, but now we are just a cosy quartette."

"I am afraid," murmurs Mr. Quinton, "that my visit to your charming home
the other evening was ill-timed.  Mr. Roche seemed somewhat taken aback
by my presence."

"Yes," stammers Eleanor, growing red.

"I was so vexed _you_ should be annoyed," he replies, "that I could not
go home, but paced the pavement for an hour, watching the light in your
window."

Eleanor's eyes expand.  She has a way of looking "surprise" without
saying it, and the look lasts quite a long while, during which an
ordinary person would have expressed their feelings several times over.
Then the wonderment fades like a magic-lantern slide, and she talks of
something else.

"Have you ever seen the sun burst suddenly through a fog?  It is like
your smile," says Carol, gazing into Eleanor's face.  "Why don't you
always smile?"

"Because I am not always happy," she responds quietly.

A pained expression steals into the man's eyes, and Eleanor flushes rosy
under his look.  It is deep, searching, admiring; it confuses her.  She
wants to push it away like something oppressive, a funeral veil dark and
heavy, or a chloroformed handkerchief, stifling breath!

"Not happy!"

The words break from him with bitter irony.

"You have youth, beauty, personal magnetism, the power to charm, eyes
that might wreck a life every day in the year.  You need not scheme for
love nor demand it.  It is yours by natural right.  Why is not your life
one of wildest exhilaration, conquests, pleasures?  Who could deny you
anything, Mrs. Roche?"

Eleanor knows well, but is too loyal to say.  She would sooner bite out
her tongue than answer "Philip!"  Yet he would rob her of the
companionship of her dearest friend, would deny her intercourse with
Carol Quinton, could he hear these low-whispered words of adulation!  As
she thinks of it, her husband takes the form of some heartless monster,
sapping her youth's freedom, fettering her down to his side like a
dragon-fly on a pin, she can only flap her wings faintly and gasp in vain.

"Were you sorry to see me to-day?" asks Mr. Quinton, watching the
firelight playing on Eleanor's figure.

"No, I was very miserable this afternoon; I had been crying.  I like
meeting you, it does me good."

As she speaks the electric light is turned up, and a little groan issues
from Giddy.

"Just as we were all so comfortable in the gloaming!" pulling her hand
from Bertie's with a pout.

"Butterflies should like light better than darkness," he drawls.

"I want to look round now," cries Eleanor, enthusiastically viewing the
beautiful room.  "Anyone could see that Giddy had something to do with
this."

"Here is a pretty little writing-table behind a screen, with a
rose-coloured lamp," says Carol.  "When you are a member, Mrs. Roche,
will you sometimes write to me?"

"What should I have to say?" she asks innocently, surprised at the
suggestion.

"Tell me about yourself, if only in one line: 'I live--I breathe--I have
my being.'"

"What an odd letter!"

"I like odd things, I like odd people; I hate conventionality, and scorn
the commonplace.  I know a girl who always speaks the truth, and
everybody hates her.  She glories in it."

"How splendid to be hated for such a cause!" declares Eleanor.

"She never will embrace a woman she dislikes, so many people think it is
necessary, and the kiss of detestation is more fashionable in Society
than that of real affection.  For myself, I think a kiss is overrated.
It should be looked on in the light of a hand-shake--harmless and
agreeable, a mark of courtesy, endearment or respect."

"Then you would have to explain it," says Eleanor.  "'I kiss you because
I idolise you;' 'I kiss you because you are estimable;' 'I kiss you
because you are rich and entertain me.'  No, it would never answer."

She is fingering the delicate, scented writing paper.

"How nice this address is in gold, with a big butterfly in the corner.  I
have some invitations to answer, and I should like to do it here--it
looks so well."

Eleanor seats herself, and draws the paper towards her.  "Mrs. Roche
regrets that, owing to no previous engagement, she is unable to accept
Mrs. B's dull invitation for Thursday!"

Carol laughs.

"Have you an 'At home' on Thursday week?"

"Yes, but I shall decline it."

"Don't," he whispers.  "Accept--let them expect you--and fail to turn up.
Come and meet me instead."

Eleanor trembles suddenly and grows pale.  She feels herself face to face
with temptation.

"No," she replies faintly.  "But I shall be in, and _if_ you call----"

"'If'! there is no 'if' in the matter.  I would come every day if you let
me."

"Every day!"  Oh! how alluring it sounds.

She twists her wedding ring round and round, looking down on the carpet.
She remembers the pattern that night in her dreams, a red Maltese cross
on a blue ground.  The blue and red swim before her eyes now like the
colours in a kaleidoscope.  A solitary tear rises in her left eye and
falls on the blotter.

"If only I might do as I like!" she murmurs.

"'Might' is a word you could blot from your vocabulary.  Why not?"

"Oh! don't--don't--don't," as he lays his hand on hers, and the touch
thrills her with bewildering emotion.

"Where is Giddy?  Oh! Giddy, take me home; it is nearly half-past five,
and Philip will be back."

Mrs. Mounteagle raises her eyebrows at Eleanor's agitated tones.

"You told me he would be late this evening."

"Did I?" easing on her gloves.

Carol is standing behind with her cloak.  His hands linger a moment as
they fall on her shoulder, and he turns up the warm fur collar about her
ears.

"My mite of a brougham only holds two," says Giddy, "and Bertie is coming
with me, so I dare say Mr. Quinton will see you home in a hansom."

The suggestion amazes Eleanor.  Really Giddy has the most delightful
ideas, and as to Philip's prejudices----well her thoughts on this subject
are better not divulged.

One moment she is a panic-stricken girl, afraid as the very word
"flirtation", the next, inconsistent, susceptible, a slave to Giddy's
whims, easily led, easily beguiled.

She can hear her heart beating, as Carol helps her into the hansom.  It
is dark already, dark as the unknown future, while they whirl away in the
gloom.

"It is cold," says Eleanor.

He wraps her furs closer round her.

"_Cold?_" with a tender glance.

There is a volume in the word.

      *      *      *      *      *

Philip in the meanwhile is having tea with his cousin, Erminie Henderson.

She is a thoroughly staunch woman, with the warmest of hearts, sociable,
bright, reliable, always ready with a helping hand where help is needed,
yet human enough to err occasionally.  Philip has known her from a child,
has seen her weaknesses and excellences.  The former overrule the latter.
She is fond of him in a cousinly spirit, and delighted at his visit.

For some time they talk on ordinary subjects, till at last Erminie folds
her arms, looks him searchingly up and down, and asks straight out:

"What's the matter, Phil?"

He starts, but returns her glance openly.

"To tell you the truth, I have come to confide in you--to ask you a
favour."

"Good," replies Erminie, who has heard many a confidence in her day.  "Go
on."

"You know but little of my wife--she is young, quite a girl--very easily
influenced."

His words come shortly.  He breathes hard.  "I would tell _you_ what I
could not say to any other creature.  It is early days, and we have begun
to quarrel.  She has made great friends with a frivolous widow--a woman
next door--whom I warned her against from the first.  I have done all in
my power to stop the intimacy, but protestations only appear to
strengthen it.  This woman has got Eleanor entirely under her thumb, she
is like soft clay in her hands.  I thought I could mould my wife, who was
utterly unformed, a little country farm girl.  But Giddy Mounteagle has
proved stronger, cleverer than I.  Perhaps her method is easier to
follow, perhaps I have misunderstood Eleanor from the first.  Day by day
she drifts farther from me, and yet, _if_ such a thing were possible, I
love her more."

He rises and leans his head on his arms over the mantel-border.

"Help me, Erminie; you might do so much."

"How?"

"Come and stay with us--use _your_ influence with Eleanor."

Miss Henderson seems confused.

"I should be delighted.  I would do anything for you, but----"

Philip looks up quickly, his eyebrows rise involuntarily.

He has never yet known a "but" from Erminie's lips, when asking her aid.

"The 'buts' of this world are its stumbling blocks."

"I am going to be married very shortly, I am in the midst of
'trousseauing'."

"Ah!  I had forgotten," he replies, smothering his disappointment.

Erminie makes a resolve.

"I'll come, Phil," she says, holding out her hand.

"But it will be so inconvenient!"

"Never mind.  I shall interest Eleanor in my things, and try to win her
from the widow.  Erminie Henderson _versus_ Giddy Mounteagle.  What is
the betting, Phil?"

He grasps her hands, and wrings them heartily.

"You are the best little woman that ever lived!" he says.



CHAPTER VII.

THE SHADOWS RISE AND FALL.

"I am so sorry, Giddy, darling," Eleanor writes, "but I can't possibly
go to town with you this afternoon, as Philip's cousin, Miss Henderson,
has just arrived to stay, and her _fiancé_, Nelson, is coming too.  She
is quite jolly, and I thought she would be horrid.  Many thanks for
sending on that silly little note from Mr. Quinton.  Why did he address
it to your house?  I suppose he forgot 'Lyndhurst' though I told him
the name.

"Ever your devoted,
  "ELEANOR."


"Dense little idiot!" sighs Giddy.  "She cannot understand poor Carol's
passion, and yet he kissed her in the hansom.  It was like Eleanor to
tell me.  She always gives herself away.  I pity those refreshingly
young people who can never keep anything to themselves."  Giddy waves
up to the windows of Lyndhurst as she drives by.

"Who is that little Jezebel?" asks Erminie.

"My great friend, Mrs. Mounteagle," replies Eleanor.

"Tell her to knock off blanc de perle," responds Miss Henderson, "she
would be twice as good-looking."

"I quite miss Erminie and Nelson," says Eleanor, glancing at her
husband across the tea-table, with a bright smile.  "They were most
delightful people certainly."

It is several weeks later, and Erminie and Nelson are honeymooning in
foreign climes.

"Yes, dear, and I really think we have been happier since their visit.
They were so peaceful, so loving together; perhaps it was the force of
good example."

"I don't think there has been one cross word for a fortnight," says
Eleanor, laughing.  She piles up the silken pillows on the sofa beside
her.

"Come and sit here close by me, and we will have a little flirtation,
like in the old days.  Only you must imagine these brocade flowers are
real red field poppies, and this sofa is a haycock, just at the back of
Copthorne Farm.  I can almost hear the lazy hum of the bees, and smell
the fresh mown grass.  I am not in a silk tea jacket, but my old blue
cotton frock with the tear in the elbow, you remember I caught it on a
nail by the gate.  Isn't it fun to make believe like children?  We
don't often play, do we Philip?  You must take my hand very gently,
under the hay," pulling the cushion over her wrist.  "I draw it away,
you see, rather shyly, looking deliciously coy, and say: 'Oh! you
mustn't, Mr. Roche.'

"Then you are horribly audacious, and kiss me straight off, you know
how you used to.  We are silent for a few moments, just holding each
others' hands in unspeakable content, the sort of ecstacy that comes
before marriage.

"We listen to the birds singing--a thrush keeps repeating my name--they
generally seem to say something.  I remember one at home that used to
sit outside my window and chirp: 'Think of it! think of it! think of
it!' till I grow quite angry, always recalling an unpleasant incident.
'I _don't want_ to think of it!' I would declare, stamping my foot.
Oh!  Philip, what a good actor you are! you look frightfully in love."

"I am," he murmurs tenderly, clasping her in his arms.  Eleanor laughs
incredulously, and lays her head on his shoulder.

"Listen," she says, disengaging herself from his embrace.  "We must not
shock Sarah!"

The door is flung open.

"Mr. Quinton."

Eleanor rises slowly, her eyes flash with strange brilliancy; she
trembles slightly, flushes, pales!

Her husband sees it in a moment--the rush of colour to her cheeks, and
the pallor as her hand meets Carol's.

Philip mutters something inaudible under his breath.  The chilly air of
winter creeps through the hayfield behind Copthorne Farm--the voices of
birds are dead--it is cold, cruel January once more!

A horrible presentiment steals over him, numbing his senses--paralysing
his brain.  This man seems their evil genius, the red firelight playing
on his tall slim figure, transforms him in Philip's eyes to a crimson
Mephistopheles.  Eleanor pours out a fresh cup of tea, and hands it to
Mr. Quinton smilingly, as she did a moment ago to her husband.

She moves the poppy-patterned pillows for the new comer; he is beside
her now on the sofa.

Philip feels left out.  A jealous pang shoots through him like the stab
of a knife, or the burning of iron red-hot on his flesh.  Yet Eleanor,
unconscious of the evil feelings she arouses, takes but little notice
of her husband, and hangs upon Carol's words with eager interest,
agrees with all he says, prevents him leaving twice when he rises to
go, and hopes he will "look in again" soon.

"You might have asked him to stay and dine, Philip," she declares, when
they are again alone.  "He is so chatty and amusing.  Why, what are you
looking so black about?"

"I can't bear the fellow," mutters Philip.  "I should like to knock him
down when he looks at you out of those loathsome eyes, and talks rot
enough to make one sick.  The worst of it is you _like_ him.  I shudder
for your taste."

"You are prejudiced," replies Eleanor hotly, "you can't bear me to have
a friend that is not of your own choosing!  My taste wasn't a thing to
be shuddered at when I married _you_, was it?  A selfish,
egotistical----"

"Hush, Eleanor," he says, laying his hands firmly but not unkindly on
her shoulders.  "Don't let us quarrel, you will be sorry afterwards."

"I don't care _that_" (with a snap of her fingers) "whether we quarrel
or not.  It is better, though, to speak out than bottle it up inside.
There! now you have got your reproachful look again, like the day you
said I was vulgar!  Let me go," wriggling herself free.

She stifles a sob, bangs through the door, and runs upstairs whistling.
The refrain of the "Miller's" song is wafted down to the hall in
Eleanor's clear, rich voice:

  I care for nobody, no, not I
  If nobody cares for me.


Philip walks slowly back to the sofa, gazes a moment at the cushions,
then buries his face in their midst, grinding his teeth.



CHAPTER VIII.

KIND HEARTS ARE MORE THAN CORONETS.

Giddy Mounteagle's face is wreathed in smiles as she talks animatedly
to Eleanor.

"Yes, my dear," she says triumphantly, "Lady MacDonald comes to me
to-morrow.  She is one of the smartest women in town and moves in the
best circles.  She will stay the night and be the belle of my 'At home'
the following day.  I long to introduce her to you.  Such a stately,
aristocratic-looking woman, a little 'difficult' sometimes, but usually
charming.  She takes offence if you introduce her to any one not
_quite_ up to the mark, and, since her marriage, is very particular
whom she knows.  I used to see a great deal of her before she was Lady
MacDonald, but lately we have drifted apart."

"Is she stuck up?" asks Eleanor bluntly.

"No, that is hardly the word.  'Proud,' shall we say? 'dignified.'"

"Because she has married an old lord?  How amusing!  I shall like to
see her."

"I will bring her to tea with you, Eleanor," replies Mrs. Mounteagle,
feeling she is conferring an immense honour on Mrs. Roche.  "Mind you
use that duck of a service, and wear your heliotrope gown.  You look so
_distingué_ in it, and dear Lady MacDonald notices clothes."

"Any more orders?" asks Eleanor, laughing.

Giddy's glance sweeps over the room.

"Yes.  Remove that awful photograph, the one of the old people outside
a farmhouse.  It is not ornamental, and quite spoils the beauty of that
corner.  Lady MacDonald is so critical it might catch her eye."

"Then she will have to sit with her back to it or suffer," replies
Eleanor staunchly.  "It is my favourite picture, and I don't mean to
take it down."

Giddy sighs, puts on a martyred expression, and kicks the footstool.

"Your taste is as terrible as ever," she declares sadly, shaking her
head.  "What would you have been, Eleanor, if I hadn't taken you in
hand?"

"I don't know, dear," she cries, feeling she has been ungrateful.  "You
have done me no end of good turns!  But I love that portrait, it is
sentiment."

"An old nurse of yours and her husband?" asks Giddy.

Eleanor flushes rosy red.

She would like to say "my parents," but dreads Giddy's cynical smile.
She could not bear to hear them scoffed at, even in their absence.

Instead she murmurs:

"That woman nursed me in her arms as a baby, tended me in
childhood--loved me always."

Eleanor, on tiptoe, kisses the two faces in the photo.

"They are good," she says, "generous, kind-hearted; they might grace
the grandest palace----"

"And smile at the claims of long descent," quotes the widow.  "What a
true little woman you are, Eleanor!  Sometimes I half envy you,
_gaucheries_ and all!"

"I can't help being stupid, Giddy; I was not born wise, like you."

"Yet you really have developed marvellously under my training.  The way
you kept up the conversation at that dull luncheon party last week was
admirable.  I could not have done it better myself.  As it was, a
wretched sore throat condemned me to silence.  How your badinage with
Quinton astonished our hostess!  She sat up so straight in her chair, I
thought her fringe curls would reach the ceiling.  She will never
invite you there again, but it was simply splendid.

"'What do you think of Mrs. Roche?' I asked her afterwards, when Carol
was bending over you in the window seat.  She drew in her thin lips,
and muttered: '_Most_ refreshing!' in a tone that meant something very
different."

"What did it mean?" cries Eleanor, with a gasp.

"I am in too great a hurry now to interpret," answers Giddy, kissing
her effusively.  "Ta-ta, beloved--and mind you adopt your best Society
airs for Lady MacDonald to-morrow.  She will swallow any amount, and
may be very useful to us in town.  _Comprenez-vous?_"

      *      *      *      *      *

Eleanor is quite in a flutter the following afternoon.  Her room looks
bright with flowers purchased that morning in the town, her Crown Derby
tea-service is set out on a new and dainty cloth, which had been laid
by for an occasion.  The curtains are drawn to shut away the dreary
fog, and fire-light mingles with the rosy rays from a tall lamp.
Eleanor is still quite in a tremble lest the oil should smell, as Sarah
frequently fails over the art of wick trimming.

"How does my heliotrope go with this chair?" she asks, settling her
sleeves, and critically contrasting the yellow brocade furniture with
the shade of her gown.

Sarah assures her the effect is most desirable, as she places a pink
iced cake by the tray.

"Don't keep Lady MacDonald waiting on the doorstep; you might be in the
hall ready to answer the bell."

"Yes, ma'am."

"And if the fog gets denser light the gas outside."

Eleanor draws her chair to the fire, and pretends to read a Society
paper, but her thoughts are far from the fashion article.

She is supremely contented with herself and her surroundings.  Her hair
has its prettiest wave to-day, she is wearing her smartest toilette,
and a new pair of bronzed beaded shoes.  Her only trial in life at this
moment is the propensity shown by her diamond crescent to turn over in
its bed of lace, and reveal the back, with a hairpin for a fastening.
She fixes it in her fringe at night.

A little tremble of excitement rushes over Eleanor; the bell rings.

Sarah flings open the door, and Giddy Mounteagle sails into the room
with Lady MacDonald.  Mrs. Roche feels quite small and insignificant
under the stranger's patronising smile.

Lady MacDonald raises her long-handled _lorgnette_ to scrutinise her
surroundings.

Giddy is conscious of the offending photograph.  Eleanor draws forward
the largest chair.  Lady MacDonald sinks gracefully back among the
cushions, her head poised on one side--she always holds it so.  Some
admirers once told her it was like a flower bending on its stem with
the weight of its own beauty.

"Oh! the fog outside," she cries, with an affected little cough, first
cousin to a sigh.  "I suppose it rises from the river."

"Yes, and creeps into your soul, and clogs your brain," adds Giddy,
"the yellow land of mist is not attractive."

"No one will turn up at your party to-morrow," says Eleanor, "if it
doesn't lift."

"I never thought of that.  The professionals will be stuck on the line,
perhaps, and we shall have a songless, tuneless 'musical,' with only
locals to eat our cakes."

"My husband has promised to fetch me to-morrow; I must be back in town
by seven, for two or three evening engagements," says Lady MacDonald.

"Then I am glad mine is an afternoon," murmurs Giddy, "or I should not
have secured you.  It is delightful of dear Lord MacDonald to drive
down."

"Oh! he always does what I tell him," she replies, with a superior
smile.

She has a quantity of jingling golden ornaments hanging from a
chatelaine at her waist, a gold crown on the handle of her _lorgnette_,
and so many rings on her long pink fingers that they bulge over her
knuckles.  Her nails are manicured to appear almost crimson, her teeth
are shining white under her curved lips, that look capable of bitter
sayings and smiles of scorn.

"The fire is too hot," she says, laying one soft hand against a still
softer cheek.  Her complexion is a marvel.  Eleanor hands her a painted
screen.

"What a charming picture," continues Lady MacDonald.  "I adore nymphs.
Did you paint this, Mrs. Roche?"

"Yes," replied Giddy, "Eleanor is a perfect artist."

Eleanor raises her eyebrows, staring at Giddy in amazement, never
having touched a brush in her life.

"Do you exhibit?"

Giddy again answers for Eleanor.

"Mr. Roche won't let her, he thinks any publicity _infra dig._ for a
woman."

"Perhaps he is right," says Lady MacDonald; "I know Edward won't allow
me to pen a line for the press, though I have quite a genius for
scribbling.  He is so cross because people get my picture sometimes for
the Society papers.  I have to hide them away from him.  The last one
caught his eye hung up on a bookstall, and he was nearly suffocated
with wrath on the spot, and could not speak for three minutes."

"The penalty of beauty," cries Giddy gaily.

"Are you one of the types of English beauty?" asks Eleanor.

"Oh! no.  Nothing so common.  I leave that to Irish belles, and ladies
of the ballet."

She raises her delicate chin, and rests her languid eyes on Mrs. Roche.

The door opens, and Sarah's voice announces:

"Mr. and Mrs. Grebby!"

[Illustration: "Mr. and Mrs. Grebby!"]

Eleanor starts to her feet, and rashes forward.

"Father!  Mother!"

There they stand.  Mrs. Grebby in a black satin grown, a long gold
chain suspended round her neck, a Paisley shawl crossed over her chest,
and a close bonnet of quilted blue satin.

Mr. Grebby, with a sparse frill of grey hair growing right round his
face, his chin and long upper lip guiltless of hirsute appendages.  A
gorgeous suit of a very baggy cut, flowered satin waistcoat, and a
basket of apples and cooking pears in his hand, as a present to his
daughter.

At his heels a shaggy dog, blind in one eye and toothless--one that in
its puppyhood had leaped and played with Eleanor in the green fields of
Copthorne Farm.

A cry of delight breaks from her, as she hugs her parents in turn, and
catches sight of her old favourite.

"Rover--my darling!" she exclaims, sinking on her knees to fondle the
dog.

He springs up with his muddy feet on the shoulders of her beautiful
heliotrope dress.  His claws catch in the lace, but she heeds them not,
only laughs gleefully as he licks her face.

"We couldn't help bringing him," says Mr. Grebby, wiping his brow with
a red handkerchief, which is shining and damp from excitement.  "Poor
follow, he _did_ want to come!  Black Bess will miss him, won't she?"

"We took it into our heads sudden like to visit London and surprise
you, dearie," Mrs. Grebby vouchsafes.

"How lovely of you!" cries Eleanor, in her joy forgetting the guests by
the fire, then she turns and faces them.

Giddy feels as if cold water is coursing down her back, the palms of
her hands are icy cold.  The feathers in her friend's hat seem dancing
up and down before her eyes.

Lady MacDonald is positively glaring through her tortoiseshell glasses.

There is an air of offended dignity in her mien, as she looks the
couple up and down freezingly.

"This is my father and mother," says Eleanor, an elated smile upon her
lips, a merry sparkle in her eyes.  What do these people matter, now
that her parents have come to her new home?  She longs to show them
everything, and watch their wonder.

"Mr. and Mrs. Grebby, Lady MacDonald, Mrs. Mounteagle," she continues.
"Now, Ma dear, you sit here," pulling up a chair between Giddy and Lady
MacDonald.  "Loosen your shawl, or you'll scorch, and I will give you
some tea."

Mrs. Grebby gazes in awestruck wonder at the grandly dressed visitors,
and her daughter's elaborate clothes.

Mr. Grebby stumps round the room, remarking on everything.

"Well, there!  What do you say to _that_ for a picture," addressing his
wife.  "Tell Ma to come here, Eleanor, I want 'er to see this 'orse,
and the lady on the moon in the next frame.  I wish you could paint
pictures, my girl; but maybe Mr. Roche will 'ave you taught."

Giddy flushes scarlet.  Lady MacDonald fans herself violently with the
screen.  Mrs. Grebby takes the tiny cup Eleanor hands her, and turns it
round to examine it.  Then her eyes fall on the slices of thin bread
and butter, the dainty biscuits, and minute squares of buttered toast.

"Don't you get 'ungry, dearie?" she asks.  "I thought you'd be sure to
have a knife-and-fork tea, living in this style."

Her daughter laughs heartily.  A wicked desire to shock Lady MacDonald,
as Giddy has so often excited her to do on previous occasions, seizes
Eleanor.

"Oh, _no_, Ma!  We have big dinners at eight o'clock.  Five courses and
serviettes.  You ask Lady MacDonald."

"I don't call this a cup," declares Mr. Grebby, grinning broadly as
Eleanor hands him his tea.  "It's more like an acorn!"  He takes half a
dozen slices of bread and butter and munches them hungrily.

"I'm a bit peckish, my girl," he says.  "But then we've had a long day,
and fastin' don't agree with me.  We went to the Tower, Madame
Tussaud's, and the Exhibition of Tortures in Leicester Square.  We
liked that best of all."

"But what did you do with Rover?" asks Eleanor, exciting the dog to
jump on the sofa and patting his wet nose.

"We left him at Cousin Harriett's.  We can stay the night here with
you, and after that we are going to put up a bit at her lodging-house
in Bloomsbury.  Ma was set on bringing old Rover to see you, as we
think he won't last long now."

"The dear fellow!" murmurs Eleanor, cutting the pink cake.  "Some more
tea, Lady MacDonald?"

"_No_, thank you," and the severity of the tone startles Eleanor.

She fears she has committed some deadly offence in offering this proud
beauty a second cup.  Never was there a more grotesque tea-party on the
terrace than in Eleanor's boudoir that afternoon.  Giddy with deepest
shame, resentment and horror, raging in her heart.  Lady MacDonald
haughty and disdainful, eyeing the homely couple as she would the
beasts at the Zoo.  Mrs. Grebby, speechless in admiring silence,
fingering the frills of the sofa cushions, and taking in the pattern of
the wall-paper, her breast swelling with pride and gratification.  Mr.
Grebby, his large boots on the brightly polished fender, his red face
wreathed in smiles, and slowly filling a short clay pipe, as bucolic a
specimen of manhood as Copthorne could produce.

Lastly, Eleanor, looking perfectly fairy-like under the red lamp,
caressing the old dog with her slim white hands, and talking first to
one guest, then to the other, with supreme good nature, her father's
basket of apples on her knee.

"I must send some of these pears in to you, Giddy," she says, "I can't
spare the apples, but your cook may like to stew----"

She pauses, reading her friend's expression of disdain.

She stammers something unintelligible to hide her confusion, wondering
what she has said to offend, and changing the subject, asks
hesitatingly:

"Did--er did you put me up for the 'Butterflies?'"

Mrs. Mounteagle had only that morning requested Lady MacDonald to
second Eleanor.

Now she grows crimson at the thought, for Lady MacDonald is her trump
card in the club.

"Thinking it over," replies Giddy.  "I am quite sure Mr. Roche won't
approve of us poor little Butterflies.  He will imagine that a club
must necessarily be emancipated, that it will lead you into latchkey
habits, and advance your ideas too rapidly.  I should advise you to
stay at home, my dear, and" (with a cynical little smile) "stew your
pears."

Mrs. Grebby has drawn the parish magazine from the recesses of an
enormous pocket in her petticoat, and hands it to her daughter.

"I thought you'd like to read the news," she says.  "Mrs. King's baby
was christened last Sunday, and the little Browns have spread the
measles in the schools."

Lady MacDonald and Giddy exchange glances that palpably say: "Why don't
we go?"

The fact is Mrs. Mounteagle has been rooted to the spot, paralysed as
it were by a sense of shame and humiliation.

Lady MacDonald has watched the scene as at a play, a comedy in
low-life, acted for the benefit of the stalls and boxes.

"We really must go," murmurs Giddy hastily, catching her breath as Mr.
Grebby lights his pipe with a match he has rasped along his trousers.
She rises, gathering up a long feather boa to wind round her neck.

Lady MacDonald follows her example, her jingling chatelaine clanks
irritatingly, as if protesting at being found in such company.

She draws on a light kid glove, proffering Eleanor her finger-tips.

"_Good_-bye, Mrs. Roche," she drawls.  "I have so enjoyed a peep at
your little _coterie_ to-day, but we really _must_ not intrude
ourselves upon you longer, you will have so many _home_ topics to
discuss."

Mrs. Mounteagle refrains from her customary caress, whereat Eleanor
remarks:

"How pale you look, Giddy!  Are you ill?"

"Yes," she replies, under her breath, "I have over-eaten
myself--overdone with APPLES!"



CHAPTER IX.

HEART SICK AND WEARY WITH THE JOURNEY'S FRET.

"You must _not_ go to-day," declares Eleanor emphatically, addressing
her parents.  "I want to take you to Mrs. Mounteagle's party this
afternoon.  I am sure she won't mind, we are such _great_ friends, and
two more will make no difference in a tea and coffee, four-to-seven
squash."

"Is it a real grand party?" asks Mrs. Grebby.

"Oh, yes; no end of people have been invited, and Giddy's affairs are
always so _chic_--that meaning stylish, smart--all sorts of grand
dresses and bonnets."

Mrs. Grebby gasps in wonderment.  "I will lend you two jewelled pins
for your head gear, Ma--one of turquoise and another in the shape of an
olive--that Philip bought abroad, and declares is only paste."

"Well, we _shall_ be swells," says Mr. Grebby, grinning, "and my word,
what a lot we'll have to talk about when we gets 'ome."

"There," says Eleanor, shutting down an envelope and ringing for Sarah,
"I have written the note to Giddy."

She whistles Rover through the window, who is scratching up the lawn,
with splendid energy.

He bounds in and leaps on the sofa.  Eleanor proceeds to scratch his
back comfortingly with a little ivory hand on the end of a long horn
stick.  Then she calls for a comb, which Sarah produces, and fluffs at
his coarse hair, which is stiff, wiry, and grey.

"Mrs. Mounteagle has called to see you," says a voice in the doorway,
when Rover's toilet (which has occupied a full half-hour) is eventually
completed.

"Oh! show her in."

"But," with a glance at Mr. and Mrs. Grebby, "if you please, ma'am, she
asked to speak to you alone."

Eleanor closes the folding doors between her boudoir and the library.

"_You_ stay here, darlings," she says in a soft, cooing voice, "and I
will see Giddy in the next room.  Come on, Rover--down, old boy--your
wet paws have done damage enough to my gown for one morning."

Still whistling, Eleanor saunters into Giddy's presence, her eyes as
radiant as stars, her lips parted in joyous greeting.

"You dear thing," she cries, "to come and see me, when you must be so
busy, pinning bits of drapery over your doors, and heaping flowers into
enormous vases.  Can I come in and help?  I am splendid at decorations,
you know," remembering Giddy's cynical remarks on her artistic efforts,
and laughing merrily.

"No, dear, all is prepared," speaking in funeral tones.  "_But_----"

"Well?"

Giddy's eyes shift uneasily.  Then she speaks straight out: "I can't
have your people!  My dear child, it would be madness--positive
madness, both to yourself and to me.  There, there, don't look so
blank; one would think I had suggested murdering good Mrs. Grebby and
her dear fat husband.  Can't you see it, Eleanor?  You have a good
position in Richmond, and you want to take it and fling it into the
river, as it were.  You want to flaunt your parentage at my party
before everyone."

"Yes," says Eleanor firmly; "I am not ashamed of them, it is not in me
to be ashamed.  What is wrong with them?"

Giddy's mouth curves, her little foot taps impatiently on the floor at
Eleanor's defiant attitude.

"You _must_ see, or are you utterly blind--utterly imbecile?  Now,
child, take my warning--shunt the old people at once--trundle them off
the London junction--send them puffing back in a slow train to the
country--tell them never to enter Lyndhurst again--keep them out of
Richmond.  It was terrible yesterday--a scene I shall never forget.
Lady MacDonald was so sweet over it, though I could see she was
petrified."

"I don't understand you," mutters Eleanor, pale and trembling.  "If you
have come here to insult me----"

"Tut, tut!  Don't be silly.  But I am bitterly disappointed in you.  I
have taken so much pains over your social education.  But you are like
a girl in iron stays, the moment you remove the support (which is my
guiding hand) you go flop!  Now don't turn rusty, or cry," as tears of
passion well into Eleanor's eyes.  "I want you at my party--I want
youth and beauty, for I have a reputation for producing lovely women,
good-looking men, and distractingly sweet girls.  Carol has promised to
come early; now, for one, you would not like him to see your relations."

"Yes, I should," she replies.  "He would not mind, _he_ is a gentleman!"

"I cannot have them, anyhow," declares Giddy firmly.  "You may be
offended, for I have spoken plainly----"

"A great deal too plainly," retorts Eleanor fiercely.  "You have not
spared my feelings.  You think yourself very grand, but my parents
would not have hurt anyone as you have hurt me to-day!  You sneer at
them--hold them up to ridicule--while they are worth all the dressed-up
Lady MacDonalds you toady to!"

Her voice has risen shrilly; she forgets the folding doors.

"Enough!" says Giddy, tossing her head.  "I suffered at your hands
yesterday.  Pray spare me the effort of argument.  Remember I have to
entertain, and must reserve my strength.  Besides, it is so vulgar to
quarrel."

Eleanor walks haughtily to the door and flings it open.

"If I talk any more I shall stifle," she cries.

Giddy gives a low laugh.

"You will agree with me when you get over your temper," she declares,
passing out.

Eleanor sinks on her knees, and buries her head on Rover's shaggy coat.
She is alone, and the faint sound of buried sobs throbs upon the
silence of the room.

The dog licks her hand and whines.  Slowly the folding doors push open,
and the old couple stand upon the threshold.

Mr. Grebby's round face is pale, Mrs. Grebby's cheeks wet with fast
falling tears.

"Oh! dearie, dearie," she cries, folding Eleanor in her arms.  "We
ought not to 'ave come, we didn't know.  But she was right, dearie, and
we will go away, and you shall have your party and your friends.  Oh!
we was wrong, all wrong."

"Don't talk like that," moans Eleanor, realising they have overheard.
"She is a wicked snob--a--a--"

"There, dearie, be calm, don't fret."

"I will never forgive her," Eleanor stammers.  "I love you and I hate
Giddy."

She kisses Mrs. Grebby's damp cheeks, talking between her sobs.  "It
was not true, not one word of it, she just said it all to be
disagreeable.  She likes me to be miserable; I don't believe she ever
had any parents of her own--I mean, not what you call parents.  Some
say she was born in a workhouse, a caravan, or an East-end doss.
Though how she managed to be what she is they can't explain.  I thought
she was nice, mammy.  I called her my friend.  I tried to be like her,"
shuddering at the recollection.  "Oh! don't go away," taking them each
by the hand.

"Thank you, my girl, thank you," murmurs Mr. Grebby, "but Ma and I are
better at Copthorne.  We are not fit for Society; some day you will
come back to the old 'ome and see us, won't you? and we'll all be happy
again together."

Eleanor and Mrs. Grebby dry their tears, while Mr. Grebby pats them
both on the back cheerily.  Rover fawns round, barking and wagging his
tail.

Philip, who is staying late from town this morning in honour of his
guests, enters the room.  "What is the matter?" he asks, looking at
Eleanor's wistful face.

"I am not going to Mrs. Mounteagle's party," she says.

"Well, never mind.  You can send your frock round," he cries jokingly,
"and ask her to put it on a chair with a label: 'This is what Mrs.
Roche would have worn had she been here.'"

But his chaff was received in silence.  Then he notices for the first
time the red rims round her eyes.

"Why, little woman, you have been crying!"

"Yes," murmurs Eleanor, "I have quarrelled with Giddy."

Then between them the three explain as best they can what has happened.

Philip is deeply interested.

"It was all our mistake," whimpers Mrs. Grebby.  "We are that sorry; we
wouldn't 'ave come.  We really didn't guess what an upset it would
make--parting friends, and bringing trouble on our darling."

"Do not regret it," says Mr. Roche, taking her hand.  "Such friends are
not worth having, and Eleanor is well rid of them."

Secretly he blesses the Grebbys for their timely appearance, and
resolves to write to Erminie and inform her of the fact.

"We are goin' back this morning," continues Mrs. Grebby.  "Harriet
expects us, and is reserving a front room in her lodging house.  There,
dearie," as Eleanor protests, "don't take on; we'd best go."

"Yes, Ma's right, my girl; Ma's always right," adds Mr. Grebby, with an
admiring glance at his wife.

There are more tears before the final parting, when Eleanor watches
them drive away with her husband, who has promised to escort them to
town, and put them safely in a cab.

"Mind you see they go comfortably to Cousin Harriet's," she says before
he leaves.  "No wandering about seeking omnibuses, carrying bags, and
leading Rover."

They wave farewell.  Giddy sees them from her window driving down the
terrace.

"My words have carried good weight," she thinks.  "Eleanor has shunted
those objectionable bumpkins after all."

When they were gone Eleanor puts on her hat and cloak, and sallies
forth in the chill wintry air.

She enters the telegraph office, and addresses a form to Carol Quinton:

"Don't go to G.'s party this afternoon.  Come to Lyndhurst instead.--E."

Then she walks back up the hill, a strange thrill of exhilaration
rushing over her.

"Good-looking men at her parties," she says to herself.  "Carol has
promised to come early, has he?  We shall see."

      *      *      *      *      *

The house seems dull and depressing without the old people or Rover.
Philip is sure to stay late in the City, having spent most of the
morning at home, and since she has no engagement.  Thus Eleanor eases
her conscience and waits expectantly for Carol.

Her drawing-room with its bright log fire looks cosy in the extreme as
Mr. Quinton enters it that afternoon.

Eleanor is curled up on the sofa, a little bundle of sad silk drapery.
Her eyes are wistful, her tea-gown is black.  The dim light reveals not
the slight _soupçon_ of powder paling her features.  She barely rises
to greet him, only moving to a sitting posture, her feet still tucked
under her, holding out a trembling hand.  As the door closes he grasps
the pink fingers and presses them to his lips.

"Don't," a reproachful glance from under her long fringed lashes, "that
is not kind."

"But they are such tempting fingers," he whispers apologetically.

"Come, draw up that chair and sit beside me like a doctor, only I want
you to heal my sorrows.  I have got such a horrid wound _here_,"
pressing her heart.  "But first of all, was I wrong to telegraph?  Are
you angry, Mr. Quinton?"

"It was delightful of you," he murmurs, looking down on her with all
his eyes.  "Dear Mrs. Roche, I thank you from my soul.  Only let me be
your confidant--your friend!"

"Have you been to Giddy's?" she asks eagerly.

"No, what do you take me for?  Was I not commanded to come here
instead?"

"Giddy is no longer my friend; she has treated me abominably--snubbed
and insulted me in my own house, simply because I wanted to bring my
parents to her stupid party.  They are the dearest old people from the
country, not gifted with her false Society airs.  I was only a farmer's
daughter, you know.  She taunted me with meeting you at her house and
being ashamed of my parents.  Bah! it sickens me."

She flung her head back with an air of offended dignity, her eyes
flashing at the remembrance of Giddy's stinging phrases.

"The impudent little fiend!" mutters Quinton through his teeth.  "How
dare she?"

"Oh, she dares very well.  I am in mortal terror of her tongue.  We are
utterly at the mercy of our friends; these people call themselves
friends, though they deal us the bitterest cuts, the cruellest
contumely."

"How _dare_ she?" he repeats again, a fierce expression clouding his
brow.  "To attack a poor little thing like you, and for such a
reason----"

"It is very hard--it made me cry," nodding her head and gazing
earnestly upon him.

"How bewitching she looks in the slim black robe," he thinks.  It
clings round her elegant figure, and contrasts with her fair hair and
delicate colouring.

"What can I do to comfort you?" he says, drawing nearer.

"Stay away from Giddy--take my part.  Stand up for me when you hear her
or Lady MacDonald laughing over Mrs. Roche's relatives."

"They would never dream of taking your name in vain while I was there
to defend it!" he cries.  "Don't you know I would do anything in the
world for you?  Can't you see how I would willingly be your slave?
Will you accept me as such?  Use me as you will!  When in trouble, call
me; I shall be always ready.  No woman has ever exercised the influence
over me that you have done.  I would give my whole life to serve you
for a moment--to tie the lace of your shoe--to sit at your feet--and
adore----"

His lavish devotion pleases Eleanor.  A flush of pleasure peeps through
the white skin, her eyes droop, her breathing quickens.

"I think my life will be better, brighter, nobler, for the knowledge of
such unselfish friendship.  I can be but a poor friend to you, I am
neither influential nor particularly attractive.  Only a very simple
little woman living very much in herself."

"Mr. Roche is a good deal away, isn't he?"

"Yes, especially in the day time.  I am very lonely sometimes.  But how
dark it is growing.  Shall I ring for a light?"

"No," with an imploring gesture, "this is the hour to dream, and to see
more clearly into other natures, to reveal secrets that cannot be left
unknown for ever."

He grasps her hands, and kneeling beside her buries his head in the
folds of her long black sleeves.

"Oh! love--my love!" he gasps.



CHAPTER X.

FALSER THAN ALL FANCY FATHOMS.

"What are you going to do to-day?" asks Philip, kissing Eleanor before
he leaves.

"I must run up to town to have my dress fitted," she replies.

"What, more new frocks?"

"Only a very simple evening rag, dear," speaking nervously.  "I am
rather anxious about it, because it is the first I have had since my
trousseau without Giddy's supervision.  She always designs them, and
does the talking."

"And pockets the commission," said Philip drily.  "Do not regret that
lost acquaintance, little one.  If Mrs. Mounteagle opened your eyes,
don't you allow her to shut them again."

"You will lose your train if you stand talking."

Philip drives away down the hill, and Eleanor thinks regretfully of the
pleasant times she used to spend chatting with Giddy.

Now she must go to town alone.  Eleanor is quite weary of her own
society by the time she arrives at Madame Faustine's in Bond Street.

She wonders if Carol received the little note she penned in such
trepidation yesterday, imploring him to spare her the passionate scenes
in which he indulged the previous evening.  She asked him in the most
pathetic terms never to cross her path in life again, because she was
only a weak little woman, and ended by saying she would be at 19, Bond
Street, the next morning, and hoped not to run across that horrid Mrs.
Mounteagle.

As she is bowed out by an elegant maiden in black satin, a hand is laid
on her arm, a sense of exhilaration possesses her, while Mr. Quinton's
melodious voice whispers "Eleanor" in her ear.

"I asked you not to," she says feebly, ill concealing her pleasurable
surprise.

"But you laid temptation in my way, and it was strong." he answers.

She recalls his passionate words breathed in the firelight, the words
that held her paralysed, and seemed in a single syllable to divorce her
from her husband.

"What are we going to do?" asks Carol.

"_We_!  I must return to Lyndhurst and boredom.  An old lady at
Twickenham Park has asked me to tea this afternoon, and I have to
interview a kitchen-maid at half-past two."

Her voice is a little hard, there is a ring of sarcasm and rebellion in
it that is strange to Eleanor.

"Have you ever been to the Savoy?"

"No."

"Let us lunch there, it is past one," urges Carol Quinton.

He hails a hansom, though Eleanor is reluctant.

"I really can't," she whispered.

"There is no harm, dear," he replies persuasively.

The cabman is watching her; she feels confused, uncertain.

Then his influence is too strong, and Eleanor succumbs.

Where is the harm?  She is a married woman, she can go if she pleases.

He helps her into the hansom, and they spin away.

"Do you remember last time we drove together?" he asks.

"Yes, from the Butterflies' Club."

"It was dark then, Eleanor."

Her eyes droop, an embarrassed flush dyes her cheek.

"I am Mrs. Roche," she stammers.

"But 'Eleanor' is such a beautiful name, so queenly.  You have poisoned
all my happiness since the fatal night when I first saw you."

"I would willingly give it back, every shred of shattered joy, if I
could."

"You could if you would."

"How?"

"By being kind, by taking me back to favour, and forgiving me."

"It looks as if I had done that already."

"But only in a hesitating, half-hearted manner."

"It is far easier for me to forgive," says Eleanor, "than for you to
accept my forgiveness and not err again."

There is silence between them for some moments.

"If I could think you cared for me just a little, Eleanor, I would be a
better man."

"No," she said, biting her lips, and struggling with intense emotion;
"you must reform without my aid--it will be harder, and therefore
nobler.  I do not 'care' for you."

He sees the efforts these words are costing her.

"I don't believe that, Eleanor."

"Then in disbelieving me you put me on a par with a common liar," she
says hotly.

"Oh, no," he replies with his wan smile; "it is one of 'the social lies
that warp us from the living truth.'"

They are turning into the Savoy courtyard.

Eleanor alights half pleased, half frightened at her daring.

She feels very strange as she enters the huge restaurant with Carol.

It is a full day, and he points her out several celebrities as they
pass to their table.

"This is the one, sir," says the waiter, "for two," removing an engaged
card on Eleanor's plate.

"How was the table reserved for us?" she asks Mr. Quinton.  "We seemed
expected."

"I wired for it this morning," he answered tenderly.  "I knew you would
be in town, and I meant you to come!"

"It is very wrong of me," she sighs, and her eyes glisten as if washed
by still rains under her lashes.  "Do you know, I have a calendar in my
room, and every morning I pull off a leaf to read the motto.  I have
just remembered the quotation for to-day."

"What was it?" he asks.

Eleanor bends her head over her _hors d'oeuvre_.

"The stately flower of female fortitude--of perfect wifehood."

"Ah!" he sighs, "Tennyson."

"Yes," says Mrs. Roche.

Her eyes glance round the room.

How many bright eyes glisten over their champagne, and merry tongues
joke and laugh away the hours!

"I like to look at people and make histories of them," says Eleanor.

"That girl with the flaxen hair, next to the dark man on your right,
was a ballet girl before she married Sir Frederick Thurston.  Everybody
prophesied that her high kick would lift her into the aristocracy when
she first gained favour.  Her name was Poppy Poppleton, and people
think she poisoned her husband and let another woman swing for it."

"Why do you tell me these horrible things?" murmurs Eleanor.  "They are
not conducive to appetite."

"Forgive me, but you started by being morbid, quoting at me in fact,
and you look so distractingly lovely when you are shocked."

"To tell a woman she is lovely is to criticise her openly to her face.
Please do not make such a careful perusal of my expression."

"Unfortunately I am endowed with the critical faculty."

The very intonation of Quinton's voice is a caress.

His eyes seem to reveal, as they gaze on her, their power of insight
and analysis.  Their look is appreciation, their sympathy with her
every utterance boundless.

To him she is not only a character study, but a woman to love, to
worship, for a day, an hour.

To her he is an object of fascination, an accomplished man of the
world, one who can make himself utterly irresistible by reason of his
tenderness, chivalry, courtesy, and devotion.

A magnetic attraction rises between them.  Eleanor forgets her
surroundings.  She only remembers him.

At last her eyes fall on the door, and remain transfixed in that
direction.

Giddy Mounteagle, in a costume of wide black and white stripes and
leopard's skin cloak, followed by her youthful _fiancé_, enters the
restaurant.

"Bad luck!" exclaims Eleanor, turning to Carol; "look!"

He re-echoes her deep sigh as Giddy advances.

"I hate her seeing me here with you," Mrs. Roche declares.  "She is a
bad enemy, and now that we are hardly on speaking terms I dare not
think what horrible stories she may not spread against me."

"Why not make it up, for the sake of our friendship, Eleanor?  She
could often help us to meet, you know."

"Never, after the way she treated me!" declares Mrs. Roche, drawing
herself up as Mrs. Mounteagle approaches.

"Hulloa! _you_ here?" she cries in a rather bantering, insolent tone,
and raising her finely pencilled eyebrows till they are lost to view
under her fringe.  She pats Carol playfully on the shoulder, pretending
not to notice the stiffness of Eleanor's bow.

Bertie shakes hands with Mrs. Roche, and they seat themselves at the
next table.

Eleanor turns her back, and becomes deeply interested in what Carol is
telling her.  They talk loudly on politics for Giddy's benefit.

"How spiteful she looked," whispers Eleanor at last.

"Oh, I don't know.  You see you gave her the cold shoulder a bit."

"Do you think she noticed it?"

"Rather.  She is as sharp as a needle."

"I think her hat is atrocious.  It makes me tremble when I remember how
I relied on her taste.  Those enormous black and white feathers, pinned
in crazy fashion with paste brooches, are horribly vulgar."

"Do you see that red-headed man just coming in?" says Carol.

"Yes.  Who is he?"

"Eccott--a tremendously wealthy man, and a great financier.  I expect
your husband knows him."

"Eccott--why, of course!  I have often heard Philip speak of him.  The
name is quite familiar to me, and now I come to think of it he is
living here at the Savoy.  Philip often dines with him."

"And lunches?" asks Quinton hastily.

Eccott is speaking to the head waiter, and evidently looking for a
friend.

Eleanor can see down the long passage.  Suddenly her heart sinks; the
palms of her hands grow cold.

"Philip is there!" she says under her breath.

"What will you do?" whispers Quinton.

"I--I don't know."

"Tell Giddy," he urges; "make the quarrel up now, take her into your
confidence, pretend you are together."

"Place myself in her hands?  Oh, Carol, it would be too humiliating!"

Involuntarily she calls him by his Christian name.

"Self-justification is so embarrassing and unsatisfactory, and some
excuse must be made for our appearing here together, unless you take my
advice.  He has not seen you yet, there is still time."

Thus Quinton urges the unwilling Eleanor to follow his suggestion.

"But I can't," she declares, half-crying.  "What will Giddy think of
me?  What will she say?"

"Shall I speak to her for you?"

"Oh! if you only would."

Philip is still talking outside in the passage to Mr. Eccott.  Carol
rises, leans over the back of Mrs. Mounteagle's chair whispering
hurriedly:

"Philip Roche is here.  I don't want him to see his wife with me.  Take
her under your wing.  I will make it worth your while."

Giddy takes the cue instantly.  Such compromising situations are not
new to her.  She is a Machiavelli in petticoats.

"Here, Bertie," she says, "slip into Eleanor's chair, and stop at that
table with Mr. Quinton."

She turns, smiles benignly upon Mrs. Roche, and motions her to take the
empty seat.

"There, my dear," she murmurs, as Eleanor, confused and ashamed, obeys.
"Let bygones be bygones, you are with me to-day.  I brought you up to
town."

"No, you met me by chance at Madame Faustine's, and we came on here
together.  Oh!  Giddy, how good you are."

"A friend in need, eh?  Finish Bertie's fruit salad.  Good gracious,
you are drinking whiskey and soda.  Pass me his glass, it won't matter
for me."

Eleanor hands it over with trembling fingers.

Philip is well in the room now, and any moment may see them.

"Would it not look well to attract his attention; sign to him.  He is
bound to spot you in a minute.  Here is the waiter, we will send him.
Waiter! go and ask that tall gentleman to come here.  Say two ladies
wish to speak to him."

Mr. Roche advances in surprise.  He is vastly annoyed to find his wife
again in company with Mrs. Mounteagle.

"You did not expect to see me, Philip," she says, assuming an air of
gaiety to cover her confusion.

"I discovered your wife at our mutual costumier's in Bond Street,"
cries Giddy.  "I know she always starves herself when shopping alone in
town, so persuaded her to make a good lunch with me.  I have known her
to exist a whole day on prawns and ices, or Bath buns with lemonade.
So you owe me a debt of gratitude, Mr. Roche.  We are lucky in having
ran across you, and two other friends," as Philip's eyes fall on Carol
Quinton and the insipid Bertie.  "We are simply gobbling our food
whole, as we are going to the International Fur Store.  I want to try
and get a muff of leopard's skin to match my cape, for which, alas! I
have still to write a cheque.  But we are keeping you standing, and Mr.
Eccott is waiting for his guest."

"Don't be late home, Eleanor," he says, "it gets very cold and foggy,
and you still have a cough."

The two women watch him move away, then their eyes meet.

"You are a brick, Giddy," gasps Mrs. Roche, squeezing her hand under
the table.  "What makes you so splendidly loyal to me?"

"Life is so short, dear, it is well to be kind when we can.  Besides, I
am very fond of you though we did quarrel.  I think it will draw us
closer together."

"I shall never forget what you have done for me to-day."

As the four friends leave the restaurant Carol Quinton bends over
Giddy, and says sincerely:

"Bravo! and thanks a thousand times.  You acted to perfection."

"Glad you think so," she replies in an undertone; "and, my friend,
_you_ can go to the fur store now, and settle my little account."

She pointed to her cloak as she spoke, and added saucily:

"The muff can stand over until the next time."

      *      *      *      *      *

"So you have made it up with the Mounteagle woman," says Philip that
evening, pulling fiercely at his moustache.

"Well, you see, it was _so_ difficult not to, meeting at the
dressmaker's.  I can't describe to you how awkwardly I was placed.  I
have felt more uncomfortable to-day than I have done for years.  She
practically took me by storm, and was so kind and nice it quite touched
me.  I have gone back to my old opinion of her.  She may be a little
hot-tempered, but means well."

"It is a thousand pities.  I hoped you had done with her for good.  I
don't like you going to the Savoy with her dressed up in that gaudy
fashion.  She looks quite remarkable and unladylike.  Besides that
fellow Quinton is always at her heels, and I have heard some strange
things about him.  But then he is just the style of man people like the
widow affect."

"What have you heard about Mr. Quinton?"

"Oh, never mind; nothing for your ears, my dear."

"Here is the post," says Eleanor with a sigh of relief.  She is glad
for the introduction of letters to turn the subject.

"Only one for me," turning the envelope over.  "I really dare not open
it."

"Why?  Who is it from?"

"That insatiable Madame Faustine.  It will be the bill for my black
tea-gown and the blue silk blouse that you admired so much, Philip,
dear.  Now you may have this letter, and pay it yourself if you are
awfully good," laughing merrily.  "I will give you the number of
sovereigns in kisses."

She looked so pretty as she handed it to him that he tore it open
leniently, but no bill fell out.

The letter ran thus:

MADAME,--I am writing to ask you a personal favour, with regard to Mrs.
Mounteagle, who kindly introduced me to you.  I was prevented
mentioning it to you to-day by the presence of my assistant.  Could you
induce Mrs. Mounteagle to remit me a portion, at least, of her
long-outstanding account?  She has not been lately to our
establishment, and I cannot get my letters answered.  I thought perhaps
you might use your influence, and oblige very greatly.

Yours respectfully,
  LOUISE FAUSTINE.


"A thousand devils!" cried Philip, crushing the letter in his hand.
"She lied to me--_you_ lied to me!"



CHAPTER XI.

IF WE ONLY KNOW!  IF WE ONLY KNOW!

Eleanor's face is seared with weeping.

For the last three days Philip has hardly spoken to her.

She has stayed indoors and avoided Giddy, but now a message comes from
the widow commenting on her non-appearance.

She pulls forward a sheet of paper, bites the end of her quill, and
cries great drops of tears on the blotting-book.  In a straggling hand
she addresses an envelope to Mrs. Mounteagle, placing therein that
unlucky letter from Madame Faustine.

In as few words as possible she relates the scene on paper to her
friend.

"I am disheartened, dispirited, diseverythinged," she writes in
conclusion.  "As Dick in 'The Light that Failed' says; 'I am down and
done for--broken--let me alone!'"

"Poor little wretch!" thinks Giddy, reading the sorrowful epistle.  "I
must tell Carol.  He shall see this forlorn-looking scrawl."  She sighs
at the thought of some people's folly.  "No sooner met, but they
looked," she quotes to herself, _apropos_ of Eleanor and Mr. Quinton.
"No sooner looked, but they loved; no sooner loved, but they sighed.
Ah! me, it's natural, very plain!"

      *      *      *      *      *

Eleanor is not going out this afternoon, though the air is mild, the
sun shines, and all the world smiles.

She has more than one call to return, which should have been done
to-day, yet she sits alone in her pretty boudoir, neither reading,
working, nor writing.

Her expression renders her face even more beautiful than usual in the
subdued light.  For a ray of winter sunshine, heralding the spring, has
quite dazzled Eleanor's eyes, till she draws the blind, and settles in
a cosy corner at the side of the fender.

In her hand is a letter, brief, yet to its owner teeming with news, so
significant the simple wording seems:

"Why this silence?  Stay at home to-day.  I _must_ see you."


It is neither commenced nor signed, but written in Carol Quinton's
familiar hand.

Surely there is something imperative about that "Stay at home to-day."
No "please," or "will you?"  Merely the bare command.  True the _must_
is underlined, and the question savours of anxiety as to her reticence
in writing or meeting him again.

"Well, he shall come, since this is to be the end."

Better face the matter out; it is dangerous dodging poisoned arrows.
She will try how her shield works, that is to glance them aside.

Determination is in her heart, and courage in her eye.  Eleanor is
worked up into a fever of virtuous indignation at the remembrance of
all she has allowed Quinton to do and say in the past.  This is to be
the turning point in her life.  She will be loyal to her husband, and
her first pure love, she will show him that she is capable of
sacrifice, a woman to be trusted, looked up to, reverenced.  Carol
Quinton shall never enter her doors again after this call, never see
her, hear from her, speak to her.  She will fade from his life, as a
shadow, a phantom!  The sting of sorrow, the bitterness of thus casting
a love she treasured to the wind, is subdued in a measure by a sense of
exhilaration, at the thought of her good resolve.

Already "virtue's own reward" seems in her grasp, her heart is lighter,
her spirit does not quail.  She is tasting perhaps a shred of the
martyrs' joy, when they suffered in the cause of right, she is battling
down that weaker nature and gaining a victory in advance.

She is impatient for the moment to arrive when Carol shall stand before
her to learn his fate, his isolation, from her lips.  No pity, no
glimpse of feeling, no suspicion of sentiment is to creep into this
day's farewell.  He will leave her for ever with the ordinary
hand-shake of a casual acquaintance.  Yes, she is nerved, strong, sure!

It has taken Eleanor three nights of sleepless vigil to overcome her
love and stamp it out.  She has not reached this point without a
struggle.

She listens eagerly for him to come, longing for the interview to
commence and end, while a spirit of heroism is upon her, laying her
lower nature in the dust.

"Down! you shall never rise again," she cries.  "Oh! why is he so long?
I want him _now_.  I could do it _now_.  After to-day I shall have
swept the temptation from my path, and made it impossible for Carol
Quinton to be my friend."

The bell rings--the outer bell.  She staggers to her feet.

The brown chrysanthemum in her belt falls to the ground and lies
unheeded.

How she trembles!  Her face, too, is deadly pale, revealed in the
mirror opposite.  She sways like a flower blown in a gale.  There is a
prayer on her lips, an angel knocking at her heart.

The door opens, and Sarah enters with the tea-tray.

Eleanor sinks on the sofa, the reaction leaving her faint and powerless
to speak.

She watches the tea-table brought forward, the hot scones placed by the
fire.

At last she regains her composure.

"Who was that at the front door, Sarah?"

"Mr. Quinton, ma'am."

"Mr. Quinton!  Why did you not show him in?"

Eleanor leans forward breathlessly, looking Sarah up and down.

The maid crimsons, and replies:

"If you please, it was master's orders.  He told me to say 'not at
home' when Mr. Quinton called."

A moment's pause, during which Mrs. Roche struggles with her
self-control.

Then in a calm voice she says:

"Very well, Sarah; that is all."

She raised the teapot with an effort, pouring out the brown fluid
jerkily.

As the door closes, she covers her face with her hands, rocking to and
fro.

[Illustration: She covers her face with her hands.]

"He does not trust me," she cries fiercely, all that is evil kindling
to life within her.  "He slights and insults me, lowers me before my
own servants.  He dares to shut his doors against my will, to the man
who is my friend.  He treats me like a captive, a slave.  Oh!  Philip,
you do not know what you have done to-day?  You do not guess how much
this want of faith may cost you.  I was so strong, till you threw me
back, so sure, till you treated me like this!"

Eleanor realises how the shock of Philip's order has been the
death-blow to her good resolves.  A sudden hatred of her husband leaps
into her heart and brain, choking her.

"A little confidence, a little love," she murmurs.  "They are small
things to ask at Philip's hands, yet he holds them from me in his cold
reserve and suspicious dread."

Her eyes are dry and bright, her throat is parched, her forehead burns.

What will Carol think?  Carol will be sorry, but not angry; Carol is
always kind, considerate, forgiving.  The dangerous fascination of
imagination steals over her.  Carol is at her side in a waking dream,
but the scene is very different to the one she had contemplated.  She
fancies he is kneeling as once before by the same sofa, murmuring again
those wild, impassioned words.  She bends to grasp his hands and raise
him from the grovelling adoration to her own level.  They are just a
man and woman--soul to soul, clay; ah! yes, of the earth earthly.

She breaks into a low laugh which ripples round the room, and seems to
die away in something like a sob.

What is this rising tumult in her heart?

She cannot analyse her mood, it seems as if a certain knowledge has
broken in like a flood of light upon her dim reason.

"Who can prevent me loving him, who can hold me back if I will it, if I
choose?"

The door re-opens.  Sarah enters with one of Mrs. Mounteagle's little
scented notes upon a salver.

DEAREST ELEANOR,--If you are in, just toddle round to tea like a
darling.  I have some delicious toasted buns, and I want you to come
and eat them.  Don't put on gloves.

Your all impatient,
  GIDDY.


It is intolerable sitting in alone, fuming over her wrongs and acting a
drama with her imagination.  Philip detests Giddy.  She will pay him
out and go.

Glad of anything to divert the current of her thoughts, she snatches up
a small fur cap in the hall, which rests becomingly on Eleanor's wealth
of waving hair.  Flinging a long red cloak around her, she slips out of
the house, and rings at the widow's door.

"I hope she is alone.  I don't feel in the mood to compass Bertie's
inane conversation," thinks Mrs. Roche as the flaxen maid shows her in.

The twilight has gathered, but there is no lamp, as Giddy rustles
forward in a lavender tea-gown to greet Eleanor.

"You are a very bad child," she says holding up her finger, "but we've
found you out, and shown you up most shockingly.  What right have you
to break hearts, as if they were only _bric-à-brac_, and say 'Not at
home' when you were probably gourmandising over the huge Buzzard cake
we ordered in town?"

Eleanor cannot speak, for Carol Quinton rises, and looks reproachfully
into her eyes.  She feels like a hunted stag, and yet she is
glad--relieved.

"There! now you are in a hole," continues Giddy, laughing, "with no
time to invent a plausible excuse.  But come and sit down and ask
forgiveness.  I dare say Carol will get over it."

As yet Eleanor has not spoken.  She walks like one in a trance to the
quaint old chair Mrs. Mounteagle draws forward.  She sits down
mechanically and gazes at the colours in the carpet, just as she did
once before at the Butterflies' Club.

"What a poor little world it is!" she thinks, "just like a muddy,
narrow lane, through which its puppets drive or run, with the dirt
thrown up in their faces at every turn."

"Come! do not look so glum over it," coos Giddy, removing Eleanor's
cloak.  "Carol knows as well as I do what a row you have been in, and
how rusty Mr. Roche has turned.  We are both most terribly sorry for
you.  I am sure I don't know how you stand him.  It does so remind me
of my late husband, from whom I was separated by mutual agreement two
years before his death.  Our quarrels began much in the same way.  I
preferred a will of my own, and meant to have it.  He would have
treated me like the chickens cooped up in the yard--a useful addition
to his table, only their part was the most enviable.  I should not have
minded being cooked and roasted, for there my sorrows would have
ceased."

"Death must be very pleasant," says Eleanor slowly, her head turning
lightly to the alluring charms of suicide.

"No doubt, when you are old and ugly.  But at present life is what you
have got to consider, my dear."

"Life and buttered buns," replies Eleanor drily, as Mrs. Mounteagle
hands the dish.  "No, thank you, Giddy.  I don't want any tea."

Her voice trembles with agitation, as Carol, who has never taken his
eyes off her, draws a little nearer.

"If you won't eat anything, dear," murmurs Giddy, "at least you must
drink something just to settle your nerves.  Suction is so much more
romantic than mastication."

But Eleanor shakes her head.

"I am going to play peacemaker," declares Mrs. Mounteagle, "and leave
you two to make it up.  I have an important letter to write, which must
catch the half-past five post.  You owe Carol an apology, and that is
always difficult in the presence of a third party."

Eleanor is about to demur, when she catches Mr. Quinton's expression,
and his look withers the words on her tongue, and forces them back.

She only stammers, "Don't be long," and collapses into silence.

Giddy's important letter is addressed to the Fur Store.  She orders the
muff.

      *      *      *      *      *

If things have been going badly at "Lyndhurst" before the day on which
Philip makes his fatal error, they do not bear comparison with the bad
times that follow.

Even Erminie's sweet influence cannot bring peace to the
ill-conditioned home.  True she does her best, coming frequently, and
spending long days in Eleanor's society.  But though Mrs. Roche
entertains her charmingly, she refuses to discuss Philip, and flees
from good advice with the clever tact that can conceal rudeness and yet
repel in a breath.

"I don't know why," says Philip one day, in confidence to Erminie, "but
though I do all in my power to win back my wife's love, it seems I have
lost it for ever."

Erminie knows the reason, and so does he, only he dares not own it.

"She has tried me a good deal at times," he continues, "yet I love her
just as madly, and that is what makes me seem to her fiendishly cruel
occasionally, when the spirit of jealousy robs me of reason.  I can't
bear it, Erminie, to see her restless and dissatisfied in my presence,
to feel her shudder from my kiss.  An insurmountable barrier is rising
between us.  Can you guess what it is?"

"Yes."

Erminie's answer startles Philip.

"Then, you, too, have noticed--all the world sees it?  That man who is
trying to steal my wife from me is the curse, the foul fiend, the
shadow, the shame.  I met him in the City only yesterday.  He tried to
bow, but I looked him in the face and cut him dead.  He paled and
shrank away."

"Then, perhaps," suggests Erminie hopefully, "Eleanor has broken with
him?"

"Not so long as she is in Giddy Mounteagle's clutches.  For a while I
let my business alone, I stayed at home day after day to guard and
watch her.  She divined the reason, and chafed against her cage, like a
bird bereft of song, whose wings are cut.  Things went badly for me on
the Stock Exchange; I found I was losing hundreds, thousands, through
my absence.  Finally I returned, and Eleanor's face grew brighter--_she
had seen him again!_"

"How do you know?"

"Don't ask me."

Philip turns away and wipes his brow.  Erminie's true heart bleeds for
him as she thinks of the perfect sympathy and confidence reigning
between herself and Nelson.

"Your cloud may lift in time," she says, somewhat lamely seeking to
console him.

"It may deepen," he answers lugubriously.

"Supposing you were able to persuade Eleanor to go home for a visit; it
would be pleasant at Copthorne now the spring has come.  Her parents
are good, honest people, the country life a healthy one.  It might
strengthen her in body and mind, awaking memories of youth and
innocence, your courtship, her marriage!  There is no tonic for a
diseased mind like fresh air and green fields.  She said she longed to
see the dear old farm again only yesterday.  It would put her beyond
the reach of Giddy Mounteagle, and you might run up and down several
times in the week."

"I will suggest it," says Philip.

      *      *      *      *      *

The idea delights Mrs. Roche beyond measure when later on her husband
mentions it.  She has frequently met Carol Quinton of late, and the
ardour of his passion and her own overpowering love have frightened her
at last.

The thought of escaping to the country to seek forgetfulness and avoid
temptation appeals to her.

She puts her arms softly and half timidly round Philip's neck, resting
her cheek against his, as she has not done for weeks.

He snatches her to his heart with a cry, smothering her face in kisses.
"Eleanor, can't we be better friends?" he whispers.

The tears course down her cheeks, the guilty love she is trying to
crush rises before her--jeering, taunting.

"I will try, Philip," she falters.  "Only let me go home for a while,
and see the old scenes, the familiar faces."

He still holds her to him, his pulses thrilling at her softened tone,
as he answers, "Yes."

"I am really going back to the farm, Giddy," she says the following
day, "to vegetate, and grow young again among the primroses and
violets.  The lawn will be yellow with crocus flowers, and I can almost
smell the hyacinths.  I promised them faithfully I would return when
the birds began to sing!"

"You must give me your address," says Giddy.  "I should like to write."

Eleanor looks at her shrewdly.

She has never quite forgotten the "Lady MacDonald" or "the party"
episode.  It is the recollection of this that makes her state, with a
certain pride, the pleasure she feels in visiting her people.

"I will give it you on one condition," she replies.

"And that?"

"Promise me faithfully on _no_ account to pass it on to Carol Quinton."

"Why not?"

"Because I have gone too far, Giddy.  I want to get away from his
influence.  You know he dogs my footsteps, tracks, and haunts me.  I
dare not trust myself.  I am going away for a course of discipline,
simple living, and country pursuits.  I know, if you promise, I can
trust you."

She holds out a paper on which her address is written, but keeps her
palm over the letter until Giddy shall make the promise.

"I swear," says Mrs. Mounteagle.



CHAPTER XII.

TO-MORROW, AND TO-MORROW, AND TO-MORROW.--_Shakespeare_.

Eleanor is superintending her packing, when Giddy Mounteagle enters her
room.

"I called and ran straight up, dear," she says, "knowing you were busy.
What! are you only taking so small a trunk into the country?"

"Yes, no finery, only two stuff dresses and a felt hat.  I want to
forget there is such a thing as Society or 'toilettes.'  I am going to
have a good time with all the farm people, and the school children, and
be just as I was before I married.  There are some of my clothes still
hanging up in my old room, I shall put them on, and grub in the garden,
rake, weed, and mow.  Our poor machine was dreadfully cranky before I
left; I should think it has fallen to pieces by now, but I mean to have
a try.  Mother's bit of front lawn is the pride of her heart.  Black
Bess will meet me at the station, and Rover--dear affectionate dog.  I
shall swing on the gate and whistle, and----"

But Eleanor's prattle breaks off shortly, for her throat feels
strangled, and the misery that Giddy clearly sees beneath her smiles
overmasters her.

"I think I have got a cold," she falters; "my eyes water so, and I have
a little husk here when I speak."

But Giddy knows it is the coldness of desolation that brings the
raindrops to shine on Eleanor's lashes.

"Do put in a few dainty gowns, dearest," she implores.  "It would be
such fun to show them off and astonish the natives.  Say that hat from
'Louise,' in case you tea with the vicar's spouse, of whom I have often
heard."

Eleanor is too weary to object, and lets Giddy order Sarah hither and
thither till the room is in a litter and her head in a whirl.

"Go and fetch me Mrs. Roche's Roumanian jacket, the one from Liberty,"
says Giddy to Sarah.  "I want to borrow it as a pattern.  I am sure
that nice little dressmaker at Twickenham could make me one exactly
like it," turning to Eleanor, as Sarah quits the room.  "You don't
mind, dear?"

"Oh, no."

"Did I tell you I met Lady MacDonald yesterday, and she actually asked
after you?  I was quite surprised.  She is in great trouble, poor
thing, having lost her favourite maid--a regular right hand in the
household.  The woman had a very good figure, and has gone to the
Empire, and gets £4 a week for standing in the front row of a ballet or
chorus or something.  Lady MacDonald feels sure she must have been in
the trade before she entered her service.  She gets that excellent pay
because she just matches another girl, like a horse, you know.  It must
be vastly more entertaining than fastening Lady MacDonald's back hooks.
The worst of it is she _will_ tell all the other servants about it, and
make them envious.  The scullery maid, who is short and broad, and
stout, is fired to go, and dreams of nothing else."

"I wonder the beautiful Lady MacDonald has time to trouble about the
dreams of a menial," says Eleanor, with the touch of sarcasm that
always accompanies any mention of Giddy's friend.

Sarah returns, and the subject drops.

"Is it not a pity Philip is dreadfully busy this week, or he was to
have come with me to-day," continues Eleanor.  "I doubt now if he will
be able to get to Copthorne at all."

"How like a husband to be busy when you want him.  I am sure you are
much too young and pretty to travel alone."

"Shall we leave Sarah to finish the packing, and come down?  I must
have an early lunch."

Giddy follows her to the dining-room.

"I saw Carol Quinton yesterday," she says.  "I told him you were going
away, but was true to my word, and did not divulge the address."

"I wish you had said nothing about my movements," replies Eleanor
uneasily, starting at the sound of Carol's name.

"I could not help it, he asked me all about you directly; he never
talks of anything else, which seems rather absurd to another woman."

"Yes, you must grow horribly tired of the subject."

"You remember that dance at the 'Star and Garter' that you didn't go
to?  Well, I only heard the other day from those 'Bennett-Jones' girls
that he asked them if you would be there, and they said 'yes,' just
because they wanted him to make their party complete; they took three
men and three girls.  They knew really that you had a previous
engagement, but kept buoying him up all the evening by expecting your
momentary appearance.  Later on, Addie, the eldest, broke it to him
that you had never intended going.  He was so offended he went straight
home, and has not called on them since.  It was rather mean you know to
lure him there under false pretences."

"When did they tell you that?"

"Oh! the next day Addie called about ten in the morning, before I was
down.  She was really quite funny about it."

Eleanor bites her lips.

"It seems that my name is coupled with Mr. Quinton's," she mutters.

"Well, people will talk, whatever you do.  Little Mrs. Hope saw you
walking with him in the park one day, and she told Addie, and Addie
told----"

"Oh! don't," cries Eleanor impatiently, putting her hands to her
racking head, and stamping her foot impatiently.  "I would rather not
hear.  It is all so petty, so stupid, so mean.  What have I or Carol
Quinton to do with them?"

"You have flirted with him, my dear, so openly at the Richmond parties,
you can scarcely expect to escape observation."

"I hate the people here--I hate everybody!" declares Eleanor
passionately.  "I shall be thankful to get away.  There are no
gossiping fools to drive me crazy at Copthorne."

"How delightful!  Fancy wandering about with a cow for your chaperon
and the birds for critics, a rural pasture for your ball-room, a
buttercup meadow for your lounge!  How long shall you stay in 'Happy
Arcadia'?"

"As long as I can," replies Eleanor.  "I should like never to come
back, and when I do I will take good care I am not seen with Mr.
Quinton.  It is all this silly girls' talk that eventually reaches
Philip's ears, and makes our home unbearable."

"Yes, Eleanor.  The breath of scandal permeates through the stolidest
walls, or perhaps it comes in by the keyhole.  It is a germ that is
spread by chattering tongues, like some deadly disease.  It nearly
ruined my life when I was young."

"What a pity it cannot be taxed," sighs Eleanor.  "By the way, the last
thing I heard was that you had broken your engagement with Bertie.  Of
course, I did not believe it."

"Which was distinctly wrong of you under the circumstances.  I am
disappointed in him.  We have decided to go our separate paths--apart."

"Oh!  Giddy, I am so sorry.  But why?"

"When I marry (which I shall do some day again), I want a rising man,
clever, pushing, ambitious, like Lord MacDonald, in fact.  Someone who
will improve my position, lift me, instead of being a burden.  Bertie's
intellect was very weak, and I do hate a fool!"

"I should have thought that would be rather an advantage in a husband,"
remarks Eleanor.

"Really Bertie was too expensive, he wanted so much pocket money, I
could not afford the luxury of a _fiancé_ on his terms.  Of course, he
is broken-hearted, dear boy, and naturally I wept a few poetical tears,
and said I should always think of him as a friend."

"The carriage is at the door," she replies, "they are getting the
luggage down."

Eleanor and Giddy go into the hall together.

As Sarah carries the dressing bag out, it flies open, and something
falls at Mrs. Mounteagle's feet.

She picks it up.

It is a photograph of Carol Quinton.

"You must have that lock secured," she says laughing, "or buy a strap."

Eleanor colours, and hides the photograph in her muff.

"Good-bye, Giddy."

"Take care of yourself, my sweet," returning Eleanor's caress.  "I have
no doubt it will be very merry and jolly in the country," with a little
grimace that means it won't.

But Mrs. Roche cares not to what corner of the globe she is travelling
as the train bears her to Copthorne.  She is too utterly miserable to
notice places or seasons.  She just sits by the window, and stares at
the picture she has drawn from her muff, from which the eyes of Carol
Quinton look pleadingly in hers.

"I wish I could bury myself," she thinks, her mind turning to
Africa--America--Asia--any of the far-off worlds she has read of in
geography books and fiction.  "I wish I were someone else, or even the
old Eleanor that Philip stole from Copthorne Farm.  Why did he not
leave me there?  It would have been far better for us both!"

An elderly woman seated opposite glances at Eleanor over her paper,
struck by the strange pallor of the young face, the nervous twitching
of the mouth, and tear-dimmed eyes.

The stranger leans forward suddenly with an abrupt question:

"May I see that photograph?"

[Illustration: "May I see that photograph?"]

Eleanor starts in trepidation; her thoughts have been so far away that
they are brought back to the present with an effort.

She sees before her a face lined more deeply with sorrow than time, a
woman who might still have considerable beauty had she not dyed her
hair in her youth and ruined her complexion with cosmetics.

The request does not offend Eleanor, for Mrs. Roche is easily won by a
kind look or a smile.

She hands the photograph across, watching the stranger's expression.

"What a handsome face!" she exclaims, with a little gasp of admiration.

"Yes," sighs Eleanor.

"I never saw such mesmeric eyes, and yet they are soft, though
powerful.  I should say that man must have broken many a heart with
those eyes."

She looks shrewdly at Mrs. Roche as she speaks.

"If he loves _you_," she continues, "he will be true."

Eleanor's head droops.

"You love him," said the stranger, reading the tell-tale blush.  "Are
you going to marry him, my dear?"

"No," falters Eleanor, "I wish I could."

"Ah!  I thought so.  Forgive me for my curiosity, but your face
interested me, and I am not conventional.  I always speak if I wish,
though it offends some people.  To me the fashion of introducing seems
absurd.  Here we are all jumbled up together in the same little world,
yet everyone is a mass of reserve, a mind in armour, they never say
what they mean, seldom speak from the heart.  One is in the dust, and
another on the throne, and they all die in like manner, to be buried
most probably by a man they would not have dared address without an
introduction, measured by an undertaker they could not have been seen
walking with in the street, and to mix with thousands of spirits whose
ancestors and pedigree are unknown."

Eleanor listens in surprise.

"Are you uncertain about your future?" the stranger asks.

"A little," falters Eleanor nervously.

"Then let me look at your hand, I may be able to help you.  No, the
left hand please," as Mrs. Roche tremblingly unbuttons her right glove.
"Ah!" as the gold wedding-ring is revealed, "I was afraid so.  I see it
all now; this (pointing to the photograph) is _not_ your husband."

Eleanor tries to speak, but her throat is parched, and dry.  She only
bends her head and gazes at the lines in her pink palm.

"You are going on a journey very soon," vouchsafes the stranger.  "I
wish it could be prevented, for it brings more pain than
pleasure--misery, desolation."

Eleanor snatches away her hand.

"I don't want to know any more," she says, almost fiercely, pulling on
her glove.

"I did not mean to frighten you," replies the woman penitently.  "But I
want to warn you.  Whatever you do wrong in this world, my friend, is
always repaid.  There may be a heaven and a hell in the hereafter, I
know not, I am not in a position to say, but of one thing I am certain,
there is the hell here on earth, which measures out the allotted
punishment to its victims."

"I don't understand you," exclaims Eleanor, "You talk to me as if I
were a criminal."

"No," shaking her head sadly; "only as to a young and beautiful wife,
who dreams and cries over another man's picture.  You have the fatal,
dangerous gift of fascination, Mrs. Roche."

"How did you know my name?"

"It is by me on the label of your bag."

Eleanor is silent.  She waits for the stranger to continue.

"In my youth, Mrs. Roche, I was as fair as you--I was unhappily
married.  I looked lightly on the bonds that meant so much until they
fettered me--held me down, as I then imagined.  Between me and my
husband the sentiment of _camaraderie_ never existed.  When I was not
coquetting with him I was quarrelling.  I tell you this because I shall
never see you again.  You do not know me--or care.  I may be dead
to-morrow--you would never hear.  We are only just passing in life, and
have paused to speak.  The man I married was by necessity a preoccupied
breadwinner, and during his daily absences in hot pursuit of the staff
of life I met--well, we will say this man," taking up the photograph of
Carol Quinton.

Eleanor snatches it from her.

"Ah! yes, just what I should have done then.  I was hot-headed, and
reckless, I had a good life in my hands and I ruined, spoiled,
destroyed it!  The cruel thongs of public opinion lashed my quivering
flesh, the galling retribution broke my spirit, I cried to God, but He
hid his face, I was an outcast, lost, I could only lie and moan for
death which never came."

The stranger covers her face with her hands, and shudders visibly.

The wedding-ring to which she has no right is still on her wasted
fingers, hot tears, forced from her eyes through recollection, pour
down her drawn cheeks, making little rivulets through some coarse
powder of the cheaper kind.

Eleanor's ever-ready pity rises up to crush the anger previously felt,
for she sees now the effort that this brief confession has cost her
fellow traveller.  She knows, too, the reason for which these words
were spoken, and horror stops the beating of her heart, it checks her
throbbing pulses.

Mrs. Roche leans forward, and takes the stranger's hands.

"Thank you," she murmurs simply.

The woman clasps the little fingers gratefully.

"You understand?" she asks.

Eleanor whispers, "Yes."

"Do you know what I saw in your eyes?"

"No."

"Three long words that kept repeating themselves.  All the same words,
and the worst, the most heartbreaking.  'To-morrow, and to-morrow, and
to-morrow!'  They will drive a soul to perdition quicker than any in
the English language.  I am going to have them engraved on my
tombstone, because I can only conquer them in death."

"You are right.  I was looking on, living in fancy the worthless days
and hours."

"Crush that tendency, Mrs. Roche.  Think of me when your life seems
worthless, and remember all that I have lost.  Your face is so sweet,
so pure, so beautiful, it was made for the good love that crowns
spotless womanhood.  But this is my station, and I shall never know
what you do with your future."

"Shall I show you?" says Eleanor hastily, for she is easily swayed, and
the stranger has worked upon her emotion.

"Yes."

"See!" and the soft, enticing eyes of Carol Quinton are torn
asunder--the photograph is reduced to a handful of scraps scattered on
the carriage cushion.

"You are a good woman," says the other, rising and looking down
tenderly, lovingly at Eleanor.

Again they clasp hands, then a cloud of towzled hair under a black
crape bonnet vanishes down the platform, and Mrs. Roche is left alone,
with the pieces of torn cardboard and the scent of patchouli on the
opposite seat.



CHAPTER XIII.

IF NEED, TO DIE--NOT LIVE.--_Chas. Kingsley_.

"Have I changed, or has everything changed?" Eleanor asks herself, as the
days slip by in the old farmhouse.

Mr. and Mrs. Grebby are just the same warm-hearted, genial couple as of
yore; they crack the same jokes at their knife-and-fork tea, while Rover
wags his tail as pleasantly as ever, and Black Bess trots to market.

The school children have not forgotten "Teacher," and, greet her in
demonstrative fashion, flinging their small arms round her neck when she
stoops to kiss them.

Yet Mrs. Roche finds that their mouths are sticky, and the little hands
she clasps in hers hot and unpleasant to the touch.

She rises early, and on churning morning helps her mother even more
industriously than in past days, yet her heart is heavy, and the old
songs never pass her lips without a stifled sob.  She tries to hum the
"Miller of Dee," as for the sake of happy recollections she polishes
afresh the pewter service on the parlour table, yet all the while her
eyes are scrutinising the inartistic arrangement of the room.  Why should
the horsehair sofa be placed straight against the wall, and those ghastly
wax flowers under glass covers adorn the stiff chimneypiece, which might
be made so pretty?  The memorial cards, that are framed and hung on the
wall--how gruesome they appear in the spring sunshine!  She longs to pull
them down, and burn them, but to do so would be to violate poor Mrs.
Grebby's most sacred feelings.

She looks in the old family Bible, standing in its accustomed place on a
table by the window.  There are the births, deaths, and marriages of the
Grebby family for generations.  Oh, if her marriage could be blotted out,
and a date of death mark her name.  She envies the twins that died in
their infancy, when she--Eleanor--was only two years old.

The pewter pots tire her arm, unaccustomed, now to rubbing anything but
diamond trinkets.  The service she so admired once does not attract her
now.  She puts it away half clean, and longs for a novel.

Vegetating was not very soothing after all.  The poisoned arrows had
followed her even to Copthorne, and their wounds could not heal.  The
thoughts she struggled to suppress, here in the dead calm, proclaimed
themselves more loudly, worked fiercer havoc.  She longs, pines, sickens
for a sight of one she must never see, for a voice it would be death to
hear, the touch of a hand it were sin to clasp.

So she wanders about in her strange state of depression, pretending to
enjoy the glorious green of the spring, and seeing only light and
darkness, cold and desolation, in primrose banks and rippling streams.

Mr. Grebby is too preoccupied with his cattle and his land to notice the
change in Eleanor, while Mrs. Grebby takes infinite pains to give her
married daughter the best their house affords, and only remarks on her
lack of appetite, at which she loudly laments.

"You ain't eatin' anything, dearie," she says one morning at breakfast.
"Try a tumbler of new milk to put some strength into you.  It's them
towns as makes you pale and spiritless.  I knows 'em.  We was that done
up after our visit to you and cousin Harriett it was quite surprisin'.
But law, how Pa did make me walk in London.  Up them Monument steps, and
down again before I'd got my breath, with poor Rover in charge of a
policeman below, and everyone a laughing 'cause I was puffing so."

Eleanor forces a smile.  She was watching for the post.

The moment the man's tread is heard on the gravel she starts up and runs
to the door, dreading every day that Giddy may divulge her address.

She longs to write to Carol Quinton, but dare not.  She knows she is too
weak to run the risk.

There are two letters for her, one from Philip, the other from Mrs.
Mounteagle.

She reads Giddy's first.

It is amusing and frivolous as usual.  The last half, however, amazes
Eleanor.

"I am going to be married," it says in the middle of a description of a
new bonnet.  "My future husband is a wealthy man and a general.
Congratulate me!  It will not be a long engagement, as he is seventy-five
to-morrow, but loves with the ardour of a seventeen year old!  Talking of
boys, I am asking Bertie to be best man.  By this you will see all
arrangements for the ceremony are being left entirely to my management.
It will be costly and elaborate.  My gown alone would have swallowed up
dear Bertie's income.  I have given him a splendid new watch to console
him, as his was snatched last year at Epsom.  I met my General at Lady
MacDonald's.  He moves in a very good set--gout permitting.  Excuse my
humour.--Your elated and strong-minded GIDDY.

"P.S.--Don't you think I am a noble woman?  He is one eye short, which is
rather a recommendation, but _has_ been one of the handsomest men about
town."

"How strange," thinks Eleanor.  Then she throws the letter aside in
disgust.  "And very loathsome!" she adds, tearing open Philip's envelope.

She reads it slowly at the breakfast table.

"Philip is coming this evening," she says.

Mr. and Mrs. Grebby clap their hands.

"Well, now, I'm right glad," they exclaim together.  "We could see 'ow
you missed 'im, dearie."

Eleanor feels uncomfortably guilty.  What _if_ they knew that her every
thought was wandering to another!

Already she has begun to try and piece the photograph together again,
regretting her hasty action in the railway carriage.  Before reaching
Copthorne she had hidden the fragments safely in a corner of her
dressing-bag.  She hardly knew whether to be glad or sorry that Philip is
coming.  It will break the dull monotony of the day.  At any rate she
will get herself up to look as much like the old Eleanor as possible,
though the thought of wandering with him through the haunts of past days
is distasteful.

She knows it will please him, however; so, crushing her own feelings, she
dons an old dress made by the village dressmaker, one which has hung in
her wardrobe ever since she left home, then proceeds to search for the
long disused sun bonnet.

The day is almost bright enough to excuse the picturesque headgear,
eventually unearthed from the bottom of a tin trunk, and ironed by
Eleanor's own hands.

She feels as if she were dressed up for amateur theatricals, and even
denies herself the fashionable manner in which her hair is now arranged,
going back to the simple style before she knew London or Giddy Mounteagle.

"It certainly _is_ becoming," she says; "beauty unadorned," viewing her
charms in this rustic guise before a cracked mirror.  "Yet I wonder what
the Richmond girls would think of me if I walked on the Terrace, Sunday
morning after church, dressed like this?"

She looks so pretty that her heart sinks at the thought that it is
Philip, not Carol, for whom she has prepared.

As she comes down the stairs Mrs. Grebby meets her pale and trembling.

"What is the matter, mammy?" asks Eleanor, seeing that her mother is
trying to gain breath for speech.

Mrs. Grebby puts her hand to her heart.

"There, there, child!" she says, "don't be frightened," while her legs
seem sinking under her, and she grasps Eleanor's arm for support.  "But
the man from the post-office, 'e--e's brought a telegram for you."

"Anything wrong at home?" asks Mrs. Roche.

"Not that I know of--_yet_," continues the shaking woman; "it hasn't been
opened."

Eleanor bursts out laughing, and the amused peal reassures Mrs. Grebby.

"Why, Ma, I get them nearly every day at Richmond, there is nothing to be
alarmed at in a wire.  Philip was going to let me know his train.  I
thought I told you."

She opens the message, and as she scans it her face falls.

"He is not coming," she says.  "Too busy, and won't be able to manage it
now.  How like Philip!  To let you get all ready for him and then fail."

It is more the annoyance of having dressed herself in vain than
disappointment at not seeing him which vexes Eleanor.

"I dislike people throwing you over at the last moment; it is very
inconsiderate and unkind.  But I suppose he can't help it, poor fellow,"
with a touch of regret for her petulance.  "I am very extravagant, Ma.  I
spend no end on clothes, though you wouldn't think it to look at me now.
Philip just trots off to the City and makes the money, so it does not
matter a bit."

Mr. Grebby expresses lavish sorrow at Mr. Roche's non-appearance, while
Eleanor wanders out down the budding lanes towards the station, just as
if Philip were coming after all, only there is neither tumult of sorrow
nor joy in her heart.  She feels just indifferent to everything and
everybody.  The hedges are sprouting with young green.  Surely the world
is fair to all eyes but Eleanor's!

Her head is bent, she is gazing on the ground.

Suddenly a shadow crosses her path--the shadow of a man.

She looks up slowly, standing still, rooted to the spot.

A cold chill creeps through her veins, gradually changing to burning
fire.  She can neither speak nor move, the hedges seem to fly round, the
trees spin, the twittering birds shriek!

"_Carol!_"

The word breaks from her lips at last like a cry.

Why has Philip failed her, why is he not here to save?

Someone is holding her hand in a passionate clasp, someone presses her
cheeks, her lips!  Is it a dream or reality, life or death?

The spring bursts suddenly into smiles.  Nature laughs loudly, all the
world is one wide pleasure field, a place to love, to die in for joy!

"Why did you run away?" he whispers, still holding her in his arms.  "Why
did you hide yourself from me, shut out the light from my days?  It was
cruel, Eleanor.  Surely you knew I would have gone to the end of the
world to find you, and you thought to evade me here."

"Fate has willed it otherwise.  How did you discover me?"

"Giddy Mounteagle gave me your address.  I never gave her a moment's
peace till she divulged it, poor woman."

A spark of anger flashes in Eleanor's love-laden eyes.

"The traitress!" she murmurs under her breath.

"Ah! do not say that.  She is happy herself, and I was so miserable,
_you_ were so miserable."

"How do you know?"

"I have read your heart like a book--it is mine and no other's.  I mean
to take it--cherish it--keep it--always!"

"You stole it from Philip--you stole it from me!" she cries, her voice
shaken by fear and dread.  "You see me as I am--weak, defenceless--loving
you to my shame--my destruction.  I am in your power body and soul--you
have got my will as well--it is yours--all yours.  Think for a moment,
Carol, before you keep these stolen goods--what they cost--you and me.
Pity me in this hopeless moment of surrender--make it less hard to part.
Are we to lose everything?  Think of your soul--and my soul.  I believe
that we both have them now in the palms of our hands--to cast into
Hell--to lift up to Heaven!  You should be the stronger.  Remember what
it is to be a man!"

"What is your ideal of poor mankind?" he asks hoarsely.

"To give--not take," replies Eleanor, in the words of Charles Kingsley,
which rise suddenly as an inspiration to her tortured mind.  "To
serve--not rule.  To nourish--not devour.  To help--not crush.  If need,
to die--not live!"

"Then I will rise to your standard," he said boldly.  "Eleanor, I will
kill myself."

"How?" she asks.

"I care not; but to-day--this same hour--you will have driven me to my
death!"

"Oh, Carol, you are cruel!" she sighs.

Then the words well into her brain, with fierce, upbraiding, horrible
reality: "To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow."  She sees the faded
towzled hair of the woman in the train, the dusty crape of her bonnet,
the red upon her lips.

A cry escapes her, and sinking on the green bank by the roadside, Eleanor
buries her face in the grass and sobs in uncontrollable anguish.

Carol cannot bear to watch her misery.  He stoops down and gathers the
little figure in his arms, straining it to his heart.  He kisses dry the
liquid eyes, and soothes the low deep sobs.

"I have decided," he says.

"And your choice, our fate, the end?" she asks breathlessly.

"To take," he replies, holding her fast, "not give back that which is
mine, now and for ever.  To rule (if that is the harsh term you give my
love), to devour, to crush, to live, Eleanor, not die."

The words sound like a shout of victory on the still air.  They kindle a
mad delight in the woman's stricken heart.

"We will leave this miserable country, where you are a captive to a man
who cannot hold your love, yet calls himself 'husband.'  We will go away,
no matter where, since we shall be together.  We have only our two selves
to live for now.  The world was created for us alone, we need remember
nothing else, an Eden to love in and be happy.  Oh! my darling, how
bright I will make your life, as it never was before."

"You are right," says Eleanor slowly.  "I have never known true
happiness.  I was very fond of Philip when I married him--the lukewarm
affection that grows cold instantly in the chill air of disagreement or
mistrust.  The love which you have kindled in me is something I did not
know or dream of.  It is worth all else!"

Carol takes her wedding finger, holds it to his lips a moment, then
places an embossed gold ring below the knuckle, with "Kismet" engraved
upon it.

Eleanor gazes on the ring wistfully.  The words are full of meaning to
her just now.

"'Kismet,'" she murmurs.  "Only a true Mahommedan should use that
expression."

She draws a cat's eye stone, that Philip gave her, from her hand, and
offers it to Carol.

This is the last, the supreme act of surrender--that, more than all else,
renounces for ever and ever Philip, honour, wifehood, and lays her low in
the dust.

They walk through the green fields hand in hand; they talk of things to
be.  The children coming home from school stare at Eleanor, and think how
beautiful she is, wondering at the handsome stranger who gazes in her
eyes, and whispers so low they cannot catch the words.

Yes, she looks just the same, as the evening tints fall with a rosy glow
on her rich hair and simple sun-bonnet.  How innocent she appears in the
plain, homely attire, and that strange but glorious smile parting her
lips.  There are daisies under her feet, and blue sky over her head; love
is in her heart, but hell is in her eyes.

Her eyes droop.  The children cannot see--Hell!



CHAPTER XIV.

IN CLOUDS OF SILENCE FOLDED OUT OF SIGHT.

While Eleanor is at Copthorne, Philip is staying in Trebovir Road with
Mr. and Mrs. Lane.

"I cannot think why I have not heard from Eleanor," he says one morning
to Erminie.  "For three days not a word--no answer to my letters or the
telegram."

"Really; it was a pity you were prevented from running down that
afternoon.  I expect she was disappointed."

"I am not so sure about that," thinks Philip.

"It is just possible she may have written to Lyndhurst.  Did she know
you were staying on with us?"

"I told her so, but perhaps she forgot, or did not take it in.  I shall
go there to-morrow and see."

Philip is uneasy about Eleanor.  Her silence hurts him, for he still
loves her passionately, in spite of their quarrels and her deceptions.
All that day he thinks constantly of his wife, picturing her image at
every turn, wondering how she passes her quiet days in the old
farmhouse, and whether she is happy at Copthorne.  He has sent her some
books and papers she asked for, but they have not been acknowledged.

He is not angry, but pained at her inconsideration, and the galling
thought that he no longer holds even a corner in her heart is bitterest
grief to him.

His friends notice his depression in the City, and remark about it.
The hours are long, and the spring sunshine seems laughing at him.  He
pines for the country, the fresh green, the old love--Eleanor!

That evening the Lanes take him to the theatre.  The play bores him to
distraction, though they say that it is good.  He remembers reading
some excellent notices on it in the leading papers, and planning to
take Eleanor the night after she returns.  He is one of a gay,
light-hearted party, and goes on with them to sup at the Savoy, feeling
like a spectre at the feast.  They sit at the same table where he once
found his wife with that smiling hypocrite, Mrs. Mounteagle, and the
man he hates, loathes, fears.

These recollections render Philip but a poor companion.

Erminie, noticing his low spirits, planned the evening's entertainment
to cheer him up.

She has a pretty little sister-in-law with her, who prattles merrily,
and reminds Mr. Roche somewhat of Eleanor, in a tantalising manner,
when she laughs and he catches her profile.

"I have never been to the celebrated Savoy before," she says.  "Reggie
declares it is a place where ladies go without their husbands when they
want to be rakish and lively.  It looks as if he were right, for I am
certainly without my better half this evening.  When I look at you and
Nelson, and then think of Reggie and myself, I cannot imagine how it is
all wives and husbands don't get on.  I believe I have done a lot of
harm since my wedding by advising everybody to marry, and throwing
susceptible young people together in the most reckless manner."

"We have not given it a very long test," says Erminie, "but look at
that startling beauty in yellow," changing the subject out of
consideration for Philip.

"Oh! she is the leader of one of the fastest sets in town," Nelson
vouchsafes, as Lady MacDonald, a mass of flashing diamonds and old gold
brocade, enters into the restaurant.

The place sends Philip's flagging spirits down to zero, he is thankful
to get home, and paces his room half that night thinking of Eleanor,
and longing for the love of dear departed days.

"Perhaps when she comes back from Copthorne it will be different," he
thinks.  "I have been away too much in that miserable City, she has
been dull, and thus fallen a prey to Mrs. Mounteagle's bad influence."
He will give her more companions, keep his house full of guests,
pleasant accommodating people who will not object to early breakfast,
and dinner that invariably waits half-an-hour later than it should on
account of his business.

He writes to Eleanor as the clock strikes two.  His letter is full of
promises for the future.

He paints a picture of delightful plans.  They will have the house full
until Easter, when he will take her abroad.  She shall go wherever she
pleases, and he will be her trusting, adoring slave.  He will make it
impossible for her not to love him.

For nearly an hour he pores over the sheet, telling Eleanor these good
resolves.

"Dearest," he says in conclusion, "can't we begin our lives over
again--love as we did in quiet Copthorne--before we drifted apart?  I
will try and be a better husband.  Do come back to me soon, for I find
I cannot get on without my little Eleanor.  She is all the world to me."

Then he seals the envelope, and falls into a restless sleep, which is
broken by haunting dreams of dimly suspected terrors.

Early in the morning Philip wakes, unrefreshed and heartsick.  Still
the question burns on his brain--Why has Eleanor not written?

He rises before the household is astir, and lets himself out into the
mild air.

Hailing a hansom, he tells the man to drive him as quickly as possible
to Richmond Terrace.  Perhaps Erminie is right, and Eleanor has written
to Lyndhurst after all.

Sarah starts as she sees Mr. Roche on the doorstep.

"Good-morning," he says, "are there any letters for me?"

He does not wait for the answer, but walks straight in, and takes up a
pile of envelopes on the hall table.

A few circulars, a bill, and three letters addressed to Eleanor at
Copthorne in his own handwriting, and forwarded back by Mrs. Grebby to
Mrs. Roche at Lyndhurst.

He stares at them in mute amazement, as if in those white envelopes a
horrible mystery lies unrolled.

He tears them slowly open one by one, reading what he knows so well
already, the casual news, the fond farewells, penned only for Eleanor's
eyes.

How is it she has never received them?  How is it they have been sent
back by Mrs. Grebby when Eleanor is there?

For the moment he is unnerved.  Then he pulls himself together, places
the letters in his pocket, picks up his stick, and turns to go.

"Are you coming home to-day, sir?" asks Sarah.

"Coming home!"  The words grate on him.

"No," he replies, "I am going to Mrs. Roche, at Copthorne."

Then he dashes out of the house, and reaches Trebovir Road just as
Erminie and Nelson are at breakfast.

"We could not think what had become of you," cries Mrs. Lane, running
out to meet him.  "Why did you go out, and where have you been?"

Then she sees how pale he is, and the questions die on her lips.

"Come in," she says gently.  "I have got some hot coffee for you, and
your favourite dish.  What! you won't eat anything?"

"No thank you, dear, I haven't time.  I only fled back to tell you I am
off to Copthorne.  I am a little anxious about Eleanor not having
written you know.  She was rather seedy and done up before she left,
and those old people are bad correspondents."

"You think she is ill?"

"I fear something is wrong."

"But you must have something before you go, or you will be quite faint."

Philip is not in the mood to argue; he answers her abruptly, almost
rudely, and guessing that something is wrong, she lets him go, watching
him drive away with sorrowful compassionate eyes.

"I am afraid poor Phil is in some trouble again," she says to Nelson,
mechanically cracking the shell of her boiled egg.  "He has gone."

"What?"

"Yes," shaking her head solemnly, "and without any breakfast."

"But you should not let him."

"I could not help it.  He is going to see Eleanor."

"Has she been leading the poor fellow another dance?  What a curse that
woman is!"

"Don't talk like that!  I am very fond of Eleanor, with all her
faults--almost as fond as of Phil, and you know how I love him.  I am
not sure what it is about her, but you can't bring yourself not to care
for her.  It's that pretty little confiding way, I think, and those
lovely wistful eyes.  She is so easily led and swayed.  It is a great
pity."

"She will come to a bad end, depend upon it," replies Nelson,
congratulating himself on the good woman who crowns his home.

Philip takes the morning train to Copthorne.  Business goes to the
wind.  He thinks only of his wife, and the letters that have come back
so strangely into his keeping.

The journey seems interminable.  He flings a pile of papers unread on
the opposite seat, puts a cigar between his teeth, and forgets to light
it, closes his tired eyes, which only quickens and excites his
overwrought imagination, till finally the train steams into the drowsy
little station of Copthorne.

Philip walks at the fastest possible speed across the meadows.  There
is the gate on which Eleanor perched herself the night before their
wedding, declaring she _would_ dangle her feet whether she was to be
Mrs. Roche or not.

Then the green lane, where she asked him to wait till the following
spring.  He remembers her words distinctly.  She had said them so
lightly in reference to their union: "When the birds begin to sing,
then I will marry you, Philip."

But he had proved himself the stronger, and carried off his prize that
same month.

Now the spring is here.  The birds are singing--mocking, jeering.  The
old farmhouse is in sight--he pauses.

Oh, what a moment of suspense!

No Eleanor comes across the garden to greet him.  It all looks
dead--still.

He can hear Rover's feeble bark--the sound savours of decay.

Then Philip walks forward, and his shadow falls across the porch.  The
bell peals.

Mrs. Grebby starts at the ring, and brushes past the little farmhouse
servant hurrying to the door.

"Why, it's never Mr. Roche!" she exclaims.

[Illustration: "Why, it's never Mr. Roche!" she exclaims.]

"Yes," he replies; "I have come for Eleanor.  Where is she?"

Mrs. Grebby sinks on to the seat in the porch, and stares at him
open-mouthed.

"What do yer mean?" she gasps at last.  "There ain't no harm come to my
dearie!"

She wrings her hands despairingly.

"Has Eleanor left you?" he asks in a voice so strangely unfamiliar that
he hardly knows it for his own.

"Three days ago.  She went 'ome, to be sure, as bright and as bonny as
could be, looking that pretty, I says to my old man 'It's well she's
not travellin' alone.'"

"Who was with her?" questions Philip intently, mastering his intense
emotion.

"A friend what came the day you telegraphed.  He said 'e'd see her back
safe and sound.  I packed 'er clothes with my own hands, I did, she
never touched a thing, and we drove them both behind Black Bess to the
station, with Rover following at the wheel."

A low hiss breaks from Philip's lips.

"And this man," he asks fiercely, impatiently, biting his lips.  "What
was he like?"

"Oh! 'e was a beautiful gentleman, so well dressed and handsome, Mr.,
let me see, Mr. Quinton I think she called him."

Philip has heard enough, he turns away with a groan.

Mrs. Grebby watches the dark despair creep over his features in blank
amazement.

"What does it mean?" she asks, detaining him with a trembling hand.

"It means," replies Philip in a choking voice, "that Eleanor has left
me."

A cry escapes Mrs. Grebby, she buries her face in her apron, rocking
herself to and fro, moaning pitifully.

"We, as always kep' ourselves respectable, and never knew what it was
to blush for any of our stock, and she 'as lifted the family, and
married a good, real gentleman like yourself, sir, to bring disgrace
and ruin on 'er 'appy 'ome.  Oh! my, oh! my, the poor misguided lass!"

Philip, in his own agony, finds himself comforting the weeping woman,
and praying her to bear up.  Then, as she dries her streaming eyes,
clasping his hand with a hoarse "God bless you, Mr. Roche," he hastens
away with bent head and throbbing brow back over the green grass.

No curse rises to his silent lips; he is as one who has just heard of
the sudden death of his dearest upon earth.  Everything seems slipping
from him.  There is a long stretch of blank life before his bloodshot
eyes.

He waits in a state of nervous prostration on a wooden bench at
Copthorne Station till the return train to town appears.

Then he staggers forward into the first empty carriage, buries his face
on the cushions, and sobs.

His strong frame shakes like a reed with the violence of his grief.  He
is weak, too, from having fasted since the previous night, and does not
attempt to control his sorrow.

The maddening thought of Eleanor and Quinton together adds gall and
wormwood to the desolation in the deserted husband's heart.

"With Quinton!"  He repeats the words, grinding his teeth.  Quinton,
the low scoundrel, the fast, fascinating man of bad reputation, the
villain who has betrayed his wife, his angel, and dragged her to the
lowest depths of degradation!  She is beyond Philip's help now, and he
knows it--beyond redemption!

The Rubicon has been crossed.  Eleanor is among the lost--on the other
side!

Erminie is sitting under the pale light of a yellow lamp, deep in a
novel.

The heroine is wavering on the verge of an irredeemable error, and
Erminie's kind heart is thoroughly in the book.  She is a sympathetic
reader, and her eyes moisten as they scan the pages.

She is guilty of serious skipping, and as steps are heard in the hall
below, glances at the finish.

A sigh of relief escapes her.

"Oh, I am glad she didn't!  I am glad she is saved!" exclaims Mrs. Lane
involuntarily, rising, as she thinks, to meet Nelson, since this is his
hour to return.

Instead, Philip stands before her, white as a corpse.  His haggard
features are accentuated by the mellow lamp light, his figure sways,
tottering till he steadies himself by grasping the back of a chair.

He has not tasted food that day, and she fancies he looks shrunken,
marvelling at his altered appearance.

She dares not ask him what has happened, but just gazes with wondering
sympathy into his miserable eyes.

"It has come," he gasps, passing one hand over his brow.

"What?" murmurs Erminie, under her breath.

"Eleanor and Quinton--they have gone together."

His voice vibrates through the room.  A gasp of horror escapes Mrs.
Lane.  She staggers back.

"What shall you do?" she asks.

"What will I do?" echoes Philip, his eyes flashing, and the colour
rushing back in a flood to his ashen cheeks.  "Find her--track her to
the end of the earth.  Everything in life has closed to me this day.  I
shall only exist for one motive--one unswerving aim.  She thinks she
has escaped me, but the world is small, and while Eleanor and I are
both in the same hemisphere----"

He pauses, for the room swims round.

A look that Erminie can never forget crosses his face--a look of
sublime love, checked by an expression of devilish rage and hatred.
The two seem battling a moment for pre-eminence.

Then he draws himself up to his full height, as if fighting for breath,
and falls heavily upon the floor at Erminie's feet.  Nelson's voice is
heard calling her without.

She rushes to the door with a wild cry:

"Help--help!  Philip is DEAD!"

[Illustration: She rushes to the door with a wild cry.]



CHAPTER XV.

  AH, FOR SOME RETREAT,
  DEEP IN YONDER SHINING ORIENT.--_Tennyson_.

"Have you ever heard anything more of that poor Mr. Roche, whose wife
deserted him?" asks Erminie's sister-in-law.

"No," replies Mrs. Lane sadly.  "We had one awful night when he came
and told us the news, and fainted.  I am so weak-minded, I thought he
was dead immediately, and shrieked and tore my hair, and made quite a
scene.  I always jump at conclusions, it is so stupid of me.  Nelson
had a bad time of it that night.  We sent for a doctor, but it was ages
before we got him round, and then he seemed so strange and reticent
that it frightened me still more.  I thought he would lose his reason,
he had just that look on his face.  The following day he left us
without a word.  He just held both my hands very tightly, and said
thank you with his eyes.  Of course I made a fool of myself, and kissed
him and cried over him like a child, which only made matters worse.  I
asked him what he intended doing, and he gasped 'Eleanor' under his
breath, and rushed out of the house.  We have never seen him since."

"How strange!  Then he has entirely vanished out of your lives?  I
thought he seemed strangely depressed at the theatre, the evening we
went to the Savoy."

"Ah! that was the night before."

"Yes, he disappointed me.  I had heard so much of your charming cousin,
but I suppose the poor fellow had some inkling of it then."

"I never expect to see him again.  He was a very sensitive man, and the
curious or condoling looks of acquaintances would have driven him mad.
Nelson says he has left England, yet no one knows where he has gone.
The nice home on Richmond Terrace is broken up, and I have practically
lost a brother.  It was a strange ending to his married career."

"That is what comes of marrying beneath you.  These people with low
minds----"

Erminie stops her sister-in-law with a deprecating gesture.  She is
staunch to Philip, and knows how it would pain him to hear these words.

"I was fond of her," she says simply.  "Let us talk of something else."

      *      *      *      *      *

"I wish we could go up to the source of the Irrawaddy River, where no
white man has ever been," says Eleanor, laying her hand confidingly in
Carol's.  "I should not be afraid with you, dear--such a traveller, and
knowing the country so well.  How many years is it since you were last
in India?"

"Over seven.  How did I drag through them without you?" he replies
tenderly.

"We had a glorious voyage, didn't we? and everybody was so nice to us.
I remember, Carol, how frightened I felt when first you suggested this
long journey, and promised to take me north of Burmah to this strange,
uncivilised village, where I should have to eat nothing but rice, or
shoot my own game.  Of course you had been here before, and though it
is so wild and out of the way, there are still some white people to
remind us we are not all savages."

"My dear, you must not call them 'savages,'" he says smiling.  "They
are really very nice, though a trifle odd and original; but that is
what you like, I believe."

"Oh! yes.  I am quite in love with my black servants.  I think they are
ever so much more picturesque and pleasant than my Richmond
acquaintances.  They look on me as a white angel, which no one would
have done at home," with a smile at her quiet humour.

Eleanor's feelings by now are blunted to a certain extent, and she
frequently jests on the wholesome horror with which her English friends
must now regard "that reckless Mrs. Roche!"

Yet there are times when the thought of her sin rises like a dark
thundercloud over the sunshine of this life of love.

She is standing in the low verandah of her bamboo house, looking out
over a network of gorges, rifts, and ravines, precipices in peaks, with
villages crowning each crest.  The houses are thatched with long grass,
which grows over the hills, while below in the valley the rice is
cultivated in terraces.  The villages are stockaded with bamboo, and
the water runs through them in troughs of split bamboo.

"The people are certainly very dirty," says Eleanor, watching an old
woman with large amber earings, pounding rice, and talking to a dusky
man in a blue turban.

"Yes.  They wear their clothes till they fall off, and never wash
except when it rains.  That man below is a noted warrior in these
parts."

"How do you know?"

"You see the sword slung over his shoulder, with a bamboo hoop?  Well,
the tiger's hoop is a sign of distinction."

"I wish the old woman would stop pounding.  She makes my back ache to
look at her.  She has been making linen on a loom all day, and must be
dreadfully tired."

"Did you notice the bell on it?"

"Yes.  What was that for?"

"So that her lord and master may know when she stops working."

"There was a funeral to-day," says Eleanor; "the guns have been going
since morning in the jungle, to keep the spirits off.  What a misery it
must be to believe in 'Nâts.'* That old woman there gave me a charm.  I
am always to wear it to keep the devils off.  Do you think it will,
Carol?" with a low laugh.  "Or am I theirs already?"

"Don't, Eleanor," he cries, drawing her to him.  "I cannot bear to hear
you say such things."

She wriggles herself free, determined to tease him.

"But there are heaps of devils about," she declares, shaking her head;
"or else why do they put up arches especially to keep them
off--propitiate them, and prevent their entrance into the village?
They have little bamboo huts like dolls' houses, and place food inside,
that the devils may lodge and eat.  It seems that the corpse to-day had
a good time of it.  They gave him a month's food, new gong and gun, a
complete set of new clothes, and two or three gourds of Zoo--they are
always drunk with that stuff.  It is an awfully strong drink, though
made from rice, which sounds innocent, doesn't it?  Rice always reminds
me of my bib-and-tucker days."

"It is rather like English cider, with the strength of whisky.  But
what a lot of information you pick up, little woman, while I am out
shooting!"

"It terrifies me when you are away all day," she declares.  "Then I
feel lonely--deserted--afraid.  Tigers and bears are such alarming
things to picture you chasing, though you are accompanied by a troop of
negroes."

Eleanor leans back in a low chair, gazing wistfully across the wild
country.  She can see the course of the Irrawaddy river, with its
numerous rapids and picturesque cascades.  It seems only the other day
that she and Carol steamed up it, past Mandalay, Bhanio, and Myitkyina.
She wishes they could travel on overland through the jade, amber, and
ruby mines, but Carol fears for her, and prefers to stay in these more
quasi-civilised regions.

A group of women and girls strikes her eye, carrying loads supported by
a strap encircling their foreheads, after the curious fashion of Dundee
fisherwomen.

The unmarried girls wear square-cut fringes and their hair hanging
loosely at the sides to the shoulders, while the married women have it
done up decorously on the head.

"I am glad I have not to carry loads like those poor creatures," says
Eleanor softly; "yet perhaps an external load is better than an
internal one.  Sometimes, Carol, I remember that I once had a
conscience.  It just stirs and half wakes when I am quite alone.  Often
in the darkness I fancy I see Philip, or feel as if he were near me.  I
would sooner die a thousand deaths than meet his eye."

"Do not think of it, dearest; we have cut ourselves adrift from old
associations for that purpose.  There is nothing to remind you or
trouble you."

"Nothing," replied Eleanor, "I am content, Carol.  We have discovered
an Eden--after the fall."

      *      *      *      *      *

Eleanor is in a roving mood, and while Carol is engaged in the mild
sport of pheasant shooting for a change, she wanders alone into the
jungle to watch the children playing with large beans like marbles.
Though she cannot understand what they say, she grasps the method of
the game, watching it with amused interest.  They are such queer little
dusky creatures.

One boy among them especially attracts her attention.  His face is
strangely European, and his features noticeably different to those of
his comrades.  Yet his skin is dark and swarthy, there can be no
mistaking the black blood in his veins.

Now and again Eleanor fancies she catches an English exclamation from
his lips.  She wishes she could join the children in their gambols, as
in her girlhood at Copthorne.  But they eye her suspiciously and sidle
away when she approaches.

She wanders back disconsolately, wishing she knew more of the boy with
the European face.

That very day her wish is satisfied.  It is late in the afternoon, and
Carol is still out.  She is too blinded by love to resent his
selfishness in leaving her so much alone, and wanders down to the
river, singing from sheer lightness of heart.

She sees as she saunters along a trap set for a deer, and gives it a
wide berth as she passes.

It consists of a noose fastened to the top of a pliant tree, which is
bent down and pegged across a path leading down to the water.  Thus it
serves to entrap prey on the way to drink.

She has scarcely gone a hundred yards when a shriek rends the air, and
turning simultaneously Eleanor sees a small boy trip over the noose,
which, released from the peg, flies back with the full force of the
tree, carrying him into the air with it.

She rushes up terror-stricken at the horrible sight.  The screaming
child is suspended far above her head, the cruel thongs cutting deeply
into his flesh.

The sight puts energy and cat-like agility into her limbs.  She climbs
the tree with all the daring of her orchard days, tearing great rents
in her dress, spurred on by the cries of the helpless victim.  She
creeps on hands and knees along the willowly bough, upon which he hangs
till her weight combined with his brings the inevitable result.  A
crack, a crash, and the two fall together to the ground.  Unharmed
herself save for a few bruises and scratches, Eleanor releases the
unfortunate child, raising his bleeding body tenderly in her arms,
binding up the wounds with her handkerchief, and soothing his groans
with kisses.

"Oh! dear," she says, "I wish I knew where you lived, you poor little
darling."

To her intense surprise the boy replies:

"Up there," pointing feebly with an injured arm.

Then she sees for the first time he is the child with the European
features.

"Will it hurt you if I carry you back?" asks Eleanor.

"Best try," answers the boy abruptly.

He is heavy for his age, but she staggers forward manfully, while the
little aching head drops confidingly on her shoulder.

"You're awful pretty," he gasps at last, "and I am dropping no end of
blood off my arm on your bodice.  Oh! how my leg hurts.  Guess I have
broken it clean in two."

At every step Eleanor fears she must give in, the perspiration is
standing out on her forehead, while her own wounds smart and ache.

"I am afraid I shake you terribly up this hill; would you like me to
rest a moment?"

Eleanor hopes he will say yes, for her strength is giving out.

"Sit on that stone, I'm just dying," moans the little lad.

Eleanor eagerly assents, and moves him into a more comfortable position.

"My mother is white like you," he says at last, raising his head.

"Is she, dear?  Are you better?  Shall we go on?"

"Yes, please.  We may meet father, he is ever so big and dark.  I shall
be big and dark too, all the good men are black."

"And the good women?" asks Eleanor, smiling in spite of her load.

"Oh! white of course, white all over like you and mother, hands, feet,
everything."

Eleanor staggers on breathlessly up the hill, the boy seems to grow
heavier at every step.  She is nearly exhausted.  He is like the weight
of her sin, which increases with time.

[Illustration: Eleanor staggers on breathlessly up the hill.]

One or twice she stumbles, the boy clutches her round the neck, fearing
she will fall upon him, and his hands half choke her.  She gasps for
breath.

"Is it much farther?" she pants, turning sick and dizzy with the climb.

"No, there is my house, that hut ahead, see."

It has come in sight not a moment too soon, for Eleanor's arms are
cramped and paralysed by supporting his body, her cheek pale with the
heat, her heart fluttering spasmodically.

Only a few steps more, and she will have reached the haven of refuge.
How foolish it would be to fail now.

Through sheer force of will she reaches the hut, and as the boy cries
"Mother! mother!" she sinks exhausted in the entrance, still holding
her suffering burden in her arms.

A woman rushes out, and takes her bleeding son from the stranger's
embrace.

"He has been hurt," explains Eleanor faintly.  "I carried him up the
hill."

"Oh, you good soul!" cries the grateful mother, feeling her son's arms
and legs; "and you're just as done up as can be.  Come in, you poor
young thing, and I'll give you a drink of Zoo to pull you round."

"No, thank you, I don't want anything.  I am better now; but let me
help you with the boy.  We had better get his things off, and wash the
wounds."

Together the two women tend the child.  His leg is strained, not
broken, and they put him to bed and watch him till he falls into a
restless sleep.

Then their eyes meet, and the mother holds out her hand to Eleanor.

"God bless you!" she says; "if anything had happened to Tombo we should
have broken our hearts.  He is our only child."

Eleanor has recounted the history of the accident, leaving her share in
the background, and making as light of it as possible.

She thinks, as she looks at the white woman, with her fair hair and
sandy eyelashes, that something in the face brings an indistinct memory
to her mind.

She glances curiously around the hut, adorned by the heads of animals.

"I must go," she says; "it is getting late."

"The boy is sleeping.  I will walk home with you."

"No, stay by him.  I shall be all right alone."

"They have shot a tiger, and will be all drunk in the village for a
week.  You are different to me.  I must come."

"Thank you," says Eleanor.  "I shall enjoy your companionship.  May I
ask your name?"

"Elizabeth Kachin.  And yours?"

"Eleanor--Eleanor Quinton."

Mrs. Roche's eyes droop as she turns them away from the sleeping face
of that innocent child.



* Spirits.



CHAPTER XVI.

OH, LOVE! IN SUCH A WILDERNESS AS THIS.

Eleanor grows very fond of Elizabeth Kachin and her dusky son.  Since
she rescued him that day from the trap Tombo thinks there is no one
like the beautiful Mrs. Quinton.

Big Tombo, his father, an educated man who has spent many years of his
life in England, also looks upon Eleanor with the same reverence and
admiration as little Tombo.

Carol makes fun of the sandy-haired woman wedded to a native, and
laughs at Eleanor for being friends with her.

"I have not so many friends that I can afford to pick or choose," she
says simply to Quinton, who is smoking in the verandah, his legs
crossed, and a graceful air of abandon in his attitude.

She looks lovingly at his long, slim foot, remembering how it attracted
her in old days.

"No, darling; I am afraid you must be getting bored to death in this
beastly slow place."

A look of alarm steals over Eleanor's features.  The distress in her
voice is evident as she replies:

"Oh, no, Carol--are you?"

"I have plenty of sport," he says, watching the smoke wreath upwards;
"it is different for me."

"And I have you," she answers tenderly; "that is all I want."

"Sweetest Eleanor," he drawls, letting her take his hand.  "How easily
you are satisfied!"

"I don't quite see that," she answers, puckering her forehead.  "I have
the only man I love here at my side, glorious scenery all round, I do
just as I please, I come and go unquestioned, you have given me a horse
to ride, and a house to inhabit, a heart to treasure----"

"Why do you put the heart last?"

She laughs at his question.

"Oh! merely by chance."

"Perhaps it is the least valuable," says Quinton, playing with her
fingers.

"Don't be silly."

"I wish you were fond of sport, I would teach you to shoot."

"I cannot bear killing things.  I really believe I should suffer as
much as my victims."

"That would be very weak-minded of you."

"Perhaps, but I _have_ a weak mind, you know.  I told you that at
Copthorne, when you swallowed up my will."

"That sounds as if I were a devouring monster, darling."

She is gazing before her and takes no notice of his remark.

"Copthorne!" she says at last.  "_What_ a long way off it seems."

"Yes," replies Quinton, "rather fortunate under the circumstances.
Your good parents were eminently virtuous; I doubt if they would give
me such a friendly welcome now.  I say, Eleanor, don't you wish you had
Giddy out here.  She would wake us up.  I should like to see her come
in now, with that terrible purple hat, and the white cock's feathers
all awry.  How full she would be of gossip, and how funny!"

He laughs at the recollection of her odd sayings.

"But I don't want waking up," replies Eleanor.  "It would be like a
douche of cold water thrown rudely over you in a dream to see any face
that reminded me of the past.  I am sure we don't want Giddy in our
paradise.  It is far pleasanter without her!"

"You prefer Elizabeth Kachin and her black Tombo!" laughs Carol.  "Do
you know, Eleanor, you are the only white woman who would speak to her."

"I like them both; they do not bother me with questions."

"By the way, dear, I forgot to tell you Captain Stevenson and Major
Short, two old pals of mine, are in these parts.  They sent a mounted
messenger to ask me to go and see them this afternoon.  They don't know
what I am doing here.  Of course, I shall say 'sport,' that is only
another word for 'love.'"

"The two make a bad combination, for some love is only sport to the
fickle and untrue."

"How different to yours and mine, Eleanor," he murmurs tenderly.  "I
wish I could take you with me this afternoon, but it is a long, rough
road, and--and----"

"You would rather your friends did not see me, Carol.  Don't be afraid
to say it.  It is very natural.  Besides," with a forced smile, "I am
so wonderfully pretty, they might become madly enamoured, and kidnap me
in these wilds."

There is no conceit in Eleanor's voice or manner as she speaks, but a
spirit of cynicism which is new to her.

Quinton kisses her passionately.

"You are beautiful," he whispers.

"Yet you intend leaving me for several long hours!  What are these men
like?"

"Captain Stevenson is the dearest fellow on earth, and Major Short
handsome enough to fascinate any woman.  I assure you I am far too
jealous to wish to introduce him.  His eyes are soft and hazel, the
sort that the feminine mind worships--adores!  Hair dark and curling,
with threads of grey.  A smile that has worked destruction in the four
quarters of the globe, and a heart so good and tender that he would not
intentionally cause a fly a pang."

"I _should_ like to meet him," sighs Eleanor.

"To quote your own sentiments, darling, it is pleasanter alone; we want
no one in our paradise, neither Giddy Mounteagle, nor the handsome
Major Short."

"Now you are vindictive and cross," she declares, as he draws her head
down on his shoulder.

"There is my horse.  Good-bye, little woman.  I shall be back before
nightfall."

She watches him ride away, waving from the verandah; he turns several
times to kiss his hand.

Then she sinks back in a low chair, wondering how to kill time until he
returns.

The sun sets when he is out of sight, and rises in all its glory at his
presence.  He is her idol.  Her whole happiness and interest are
absorbed in Quinton.

She sends her black servant Quamina to beg Mrs. Kachin to come and sit
with her.

It will pass the afternoon to have someone to talk to.

Elizabeth gladly obeys the summons, for she thinks a great deal of her
new white friend.

"How is young Tombo?" asks Eleanor, running out to meet Elizabeth, whom
she caresses in her affectionately demonstrative manner.

"Oh; so well again, his arm is as good as ever, and he hardly runs
stiff at all now."

"My husband has gone to visit two men from Burmah, and I felt terribly
deserted and lonely.  It is good of you to come, Mrs. Kachin."

"I am also glad of a companion," replies Elizabeth.  "Big Tombo has
gone to superintend the 'Jhooming' and the boy is with him."

"What is Jhooming?" asks Eleanor.

"Oh! don't you know, they cut down the trees once a year, and burn them
when they are quite dry.  Then plough the ground, ploughing in all the
ash, and sow when the rain comes, scattering the seeds broadcast."

"What busy lives the natives lead!  It makes me feel so idle," says
Eleanor, stretching her arms.  "Yet I love this beautiful country, and
enjoy to sit and dream.  My days are one long siesta; I am never really
awake."

"Ah! you don't work in your home as I do.  All this morning I was
making clothing for little Tombo on my loom, yet I, too, am happy, Mrs.
Quinton.  Perhaps you wonder how it is that I married big Tombo.  We
met in England when I was quite a girl.  He was the only honest man it
had been my fate to know.  I was an unfortunate child, nameless from my
birth, yet loved honour and virtue more than anything on earth.  My
mother was always lenient and kind, but when I grew old enough to
realise the wrong she had done me I abhorred her!  My marriage released
me from a hateful and unwholesome home.  I was glad to leave the
country in which I first learnt to despise the woman I called by the
sacred name of 'mother.'"

Eleanor is pale to the lips, she trembles all over as she listens to
Elizabeth.

"I sometimes hear from her now, but she knows my feelings towards her."

"Poor woman!" cries Eleanor, speaking suddenly as if compelled against
her will.  "You, in your quiet life, with big Tombo, cannot guess the
temptations she may have faced.  You judge her very harshly.  She was
kind to you, and it is your duty to love her.  You prize virtue and
honour, yet do not hesitate to hate and abhor your own flesh and blood."

"It is easy to dictate to others.  But if you were to meet that woman,
and knew her history, you would pull your skirts aside, for fear they
might brush her in passing."

Eleanor shakes her head.

"Oh, no," she says sorrowfully.  "I would take her by the hand, and
call her 'Sister.'"

"Then you are the right sort of Christian," replies Elizabeth.  "I
cannot feel that way, because I suffered for her sin--Heaven only knows
how bitterly!"

As Eleanor listens to Mrs. Kachin, she feels involuntarily drawn
towards her by force of contrast.  Their natures are so widely
different, for Eleanor was ever lenient, kind-hearted, and forgiving,
while Elizabeth is hard, determined, not easily swerved from a purpose.

"Where does your mother live?"

"I hardly know; she is a roving spirit, with no settled home.  But her
loveless old age is the penalty she must pay for a misused youth.  Once
she wrote and told me she had enough money laid by to come here if I
would receive her."

"And you refused?"

"Most certainly."

"Oh! how _could_ you!" cries Eleanor, her eyes flashing with
indignation.

"I consider the way I have acted since I came to years of discretion is
simply just retribution.  There is a saying that justice begins next
door.  I have practised it on my nearest of kin."

"You must be very cruel."

Elizabeth smiles vaguely.  Her smile is her only beauty.  It lights up
her stern face, and makes Eleanor forget that she has sandy eyelashes.

They talk together in the low verandah till long after Quinton should
have been home.

"He promised not to stay more than an hour with his friends, and it is
a two hours' ride," says Eleanor.  "He left soon after one o'clock.  It
is nearly dark."

Elizabeth detects the anxiety in her tone.

"Oh! you know what men are, they are worse than women!  The Major has
probably a host of good stories, and the Captain is plying him with
wine and some extra special cigars.  Don't worry, my dear Mrs. Quinton,
he is sure to be late."

She presses Eleanor's hand, and wishes her good-bye.

Then Mrs. Katchin hurries up the hill to her hut, where big Tombo is
growling at her absence, and little Tombo getting into endless
mischief, which only his mother's watchful eye can prevent.

Night has fallen, but still Eleanor waits on the verandah, with
widely-opened eyes, staring along the zigzag path by which Carol rode
away.  She remembers he turned back to look at her three times, kissing
his hand twice.  What can have detained him?  Surely he knows how
nervous she is!

Eleanor rises and walks up and down distractedly, her face ashen pale,
her figure trembling.

He has had an accident--she is certain of it.  The road, he said was
lonely and rough; it winds near a precipice, the loose stones and
boulders roll down the slope of the hill and fall into the abyss.

Perhaps his horse has fallen a victim to disease upon the way, or he
has been attacked by a savage troop and speared to death.

These thoughts are too horrible to be borne with equanimity; the
stillness of night appals her, she can stand it no longer.

Summoning Quamina, she orders her horse to be saddled immediately, with
the idea of flying to his aid.  She loves him too well to fear the
night, the dangers of that lone road, or her indifferent horsemanship!
She would die sooner than sit at home when he might need assistance.

Her horse is the handsomest animal that Carol could buy.  She has named
him "Braye du Valle."

The black men stare wondrously as she mounts and rides out bravely into
the night.

"Braye du Valle," she whispers, "we must find him if it costs our
lives!"

In the meanwhile Quinton has bidden his friends good-bye, having stayed
far later than he intended, talking over old times, and airing his
favourite adventures.

It is dark, and he feels a pang of self-reproach at the thought of
Eleanor.

Yet his heart is light, and he whistles as he turns his horse's head
homewards.

He loses himself in thought, for Carol Quinton is an imaginative man.
As far as his fancy is concerned, he is artist, author, poet, and
actor.  He creates pictures in his brain, dreams of immortal verse,
invents a thousand thrilling anecdotes, and quaint love histories.  His
train of ideas is more that of a woman than a man.

The moon rises, and he watches it floating above him

  Like one that had been led astray,
  Through the heaven's wide pathless way.


But the soul of the poet, soaring in the high region of his fancies, is
suddenly rudely shaken.  His horse starts, throws up its head and
snorts, then shies across the road, as a dark shadow blackens the white
stretch of moonlit ground.

"Steady," murmurs Quinton, patting the animal's neck, which is damp
with sudden terror.

A black figure comes out from the gloom as he speaks--a tall, masked
man on horseback--and before Quinton realises his presence he is seized
violently by the throat and dragged from his saddle.  A hissing sound
as of suppressed rage issues from the assassin's lips--he towers above
Quinton, and is muscular and active.  Carol is taken unawares, and
therefore at a disadvantage.  He is like a rat in the paws of a tiger,
he can neither cry out nor speak, for the cruel fingers press with
deadly force upon his windpipe, and he is flung backwards and forwards,
shaken till his teeth rattle in his head and his eyes all but drop from
their sockets.

[Illustration: The cruel fingers press with deadly force.]

The moon swims round in a sea of blood--he gasps, gargles, struggles.

The savage man in whose clutches he suddenly finds himself seems
glorying in his power.

Quinton feels himself face to face with death: he is a child in the
hands of this dark highwayman.

The thought rises suddenly to his fading senses:

"By night an Atheist half believes in God."

The terror of judgment is upon him--hell threatens.  Through the black
slits of the mask he faintly discerns the eyes of his tormentor, whose
face is in such close proximity to his own that the hot breath of
passion brushes his brow.  They are the eyes of a devil, burning as
coals of fire--glowing, scintillating.  The broad white teeth of the
man glisten as they press his lower lip; then he loosens his hold on
Quinton's throat and gropes for his hand.

The two are fighting now like twin devils under the dark trees, through
which the moonlight flits.  They roll over in the dust, while Quinton
breathes out curses, struggling for mastery.  More than once he feels
one finger of his left hand caught in the stranger's grasp, then, as
with a cry of triumph which rends the air with hideous mirth,
super-human strength seems to possess the masked man.  He picks up
Quinton in his sinewy arms, whirls him once wildly above his head, and
drops him over a rock, down a bank--a fall of only a few feet, on to
thick undergrowth below.  Then leaping back into his saddle, he gallops
at full speed towards the jungle, while Quinton lies gasping and
shaking, cut and bleeding.

He rises dizzily--strange!--there are no bones broken, only the
uncomfortable feeling of those hot fingers at his throat, and the giddy
sensation from the violent shaking.  He feels for his watch; it is
still there.  Some money fallen from his pocket lies loose on the
wayside.  Nothing apparently is stolen.

Then he looks down suddenly at his finger, the one twice captured in
their struggle.

His cat's-eye ring has gone!



CHAPTER XVII.

"WHERE THERE AIN'T NO TEN COMMANDMENTS."
  "_The Road to Mandalay._"--_Rudyard Kipling_.

As Carol goes on through the night, fear is in his heart.

How easily the dark, vindictive, savage creature could have cast him
wantonly into eternity, yet he stayed his hand.  Evidently he had not
desired Quinton's life, since he took nothing but a little band of
gold, with a cat's-eye.  Such a worthless prize--a woman's ring.

The scene is a puzzle to Carol Quinton, the mystery of it haunts him.
In every shadow he sees a black mask, at the slightest sound his blood
runs cold, the creaking of the boughs above are to him the echo of
pursuing hoofs, and the cry of the parrot, that sinister yell which
accompanied his fall.  Even the stars are flashing eyes, the moon an
enemy, and the stones devils.

Quinton is not a brave man; truth to tell, he is a coward.  His whole
system is suffering from the shock, while the long tramp he has taken
in search of his horse, which strayed from the road, increased his
nervous agitation.

His hands tremble as they hold the reins, his knees knock against his
frightened horse, who in sympathy with his master, starts at every
step, appearing to find his route peopled with spirits.

"What did it all mean--what could it mean?" he asks himself again and
again.

The beating of his heart seems to Quinton as thunder on the air, which
is heavy and oppressive, a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours!

Surely this can be no fancy--the slow tread of a sure-footed beast on
the path before him.  Carol quails and whitens to the lips.  The moon
passes behind the cloud--a second figure is at his side.  He spurs his
horse, and the frantic swish of his crop lays a deep weal on the
animal's withers.  It breaks into a gallop, throwing up the dust around
and flying down a steep descent.  He hears the hoofs following closely
in the rear, someone is nearly upon him gaining inch by inch.  His
courage sinks--dies--he is white, perspiring, terrified, limp!  His
senses reel, he drops the reins, falling forward on his horse's neck.
His fingers clutch the mane, while a woman's voice cries behind:

"Carol!  Carol!"

The horse recognises Eleanor's soft tones, and halts, just in time for
Quinton to fall unharmed, swooning to the earth.

Eleanor springs off "Braye du Valle," sinking on her knees in terror by
the helpless form.  She sees the bleeding scratches on his face and
hands, but feels his heart beat, knowing that he still lives.

"Oh, Carol," she murmurs, pillowing his head on her breast, "what is
the matter?"

He stirs faintly, a convulsive shudder runs through his limbs.

"I am here, Carol," she continues tenderly; "I, Eleanor!"

He starts up, staring at her in the moonlight.

"But the man," he gasps, "the masked man who followed me only a moment
since.  What has happened?  What has become of him?"

"I followed you down the slope.  I came out to find you, fearing you
had met with some accident on the road.  Just as I was approaching and
about to speak, you dashed past me, and then----"

"What then?" interpolates Carol impatiently.

"I suppose you fainted, for I saw you roll from your saddle as the
horse drew up at the sound of my voice."

"You ought not to have come," says Carol, somewhat harshly, but
Eleanor's blinded senses, dulled under the influence of her love, heed
not his ill-temper.

He rises surlily, brushing some blood off his forehead.

He mounts Eleanor upon her horse without a word.

"Why are you so late?" she asks.

"I was attacked on the road by a madman, and half killed," he replies
between his teeth.

"Oh, Carol!" she exclaims, her face blanching, "how terrible!"

"Yes, it was rather bad."

Then he describes the scene graphically as they ride on side by side,
till Eleanor is shivering with horror.

"Strangely enough," he says, "the only thing I lost in the struggle was
that cat's-eye ring you gave me.  I think the man imagined it was
something of value."

"Is that so?" replies Eleanor slowly, staring before her into the
moonlight.  "I would rather anything had gone but that."

"I am sorry, too; I shall miss it."

There is a pause.

"You are ill, exhausted!" murmurs Eleanor sympathetically.

"Oh, no; don't worry.  But I wish I knew who the devil that man was."

      *      *      *      *      *

"Captain Stevenson wants to give me an Irish terrier," says Carol, a
few mornings later.  "I think it will be well to have a dog about the
place, especially after what happened the other night."

"Yes, indeed; I should accept it by all means."

"I will ride over and see him early, and get back by daylight."

Eleanor picks up a book, leaning back wearily.  She is growing
accustomed to his absences.  The Eleanor who was so difficult to please
with Philip Roche will stand anything from Carol Quinton.

Her one idea is to yield to his every whim, regard his every wish.  To
live only to please.

He bends over her.  She is reading Shakespeare for the first time.

"What is honour?--a word," she quotes aloud.  "What is that word,
honour?--air."

He kisses the curling hair on her forehead.

"Good-bye, my love.  You shall not be alarmed this time."

"Come back soon, Carol."

She does not rise to kiss her hand or wave as he rides away.

She is beginning to see with a woman's shrewd instinct that he treats
her with more deference when she feigns indifference.

She is dreaming over her book, and her idle fingers turn the pages till
they come to _Macbeth_.  By chance her eyes fall on five familiar
words, of whose origin she was ignorant.

"To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow!"

A low laugh ripples from her lips, she rises and tosses the volume
aside.  They have no power to frighten her now, for the to-morrows mean
Carol, life, love.

Here in this beautiful country she is passing a charmed existence.
Nature in all its majesty now appeals to her senses, ravishes her eye,
while she, lovely in her picturesque surroundings, feels a goddess of
the east.

She hears the sounds of hoofs below, and leans over the balustrade, a
bright smile parting her lips, the sunlight streaming on her hair,
looking quite childlike in her soft white gown, which clings around her
girlish figure.

Two men ride up: one tall, fair, and emaciated in appearance; the other
dark, and indescribably handsome.

"Does Mr. Quinton live here?" asks the fair man, raising his hat.

"Yes," replies Eleanor, "but he is out now, won't you come in?"

The men hesitate and exchange glances.

"Are you Captain Stevenson and Major Short?" looking at them through
her long lashes, with half-veiled curiosity.

They reply in the affirmative, and Eleanor informs them that Carol is
already on his way to their encampment, at K----.

"But I am all alone, and very dull," says Eleanor plaintively.  "Do
rest and refresh yourselves."

She sends for a man to take their horses, and receives them in the
verandah with a gracious air.

"May I ask to whom we have the pleasure of speaking?" murmurs Captain
Stevenson.

"Oh! didn't I introduce myself?" says Eleanor with a slight flush.
"How stupid of me!  I am Mrs. Quinton, you know, or rather you _don't_
know," laughing spontaneously.  "The fact is, Carol and I made a
runaway match against the wishes of my relations--very shocking, was it
not?  But I am not going to appal you with domestic details.  A whisky
and soda is more to the point.  Is not this an ideal spot?"

The visitors hardly notice the surrounding scenery.  They are looking
at the lovely features of their blushing young hostess.

An Irish terrier has followed them hot and panting into the verandah.

"I have brought the dog I promised your husband," says Captain
Stevenson.  "He is a fine little fellow, and game for anything."

"It is extremely good of you," cries Eleanor, catching the dog up in
her arms, and feeding him with biscuits.

She puts both the strangers at their ease at once.  It is long since
she has had anyone fresh to talk to, and the time flies, for they all
three have much to say.  Eleanor will not let them go.

"You must stay and lunch with me," she murmurs persuasively.  "Carol
will be so angry if I don't keep you, and the days are so long without
him."

"I can't think how it was we did not meet if he rode our way," declares
Major Short, when lunch is over, and Eleanor has begged them to smoke.

"Nor I; but he must be home early."

"Is that your guitar?" asks Major Short.

"Yes, but unfortunately I cannot play it.  Carol has taught me a few
chords, but I have no music."

"Short is the man to sing," Captain Stevenson vouchsafes.

Eleanor seizes the instrument, and holds it out to him with a winning
smile.

"Do give us one little song!" she pleads.

He takes the guitar with a kind look from his exquisite brown eyes, and
strokes the strings, it seems so gently, that they whisper like the
wind in the trees.

"What will you have?"

Eleanor leans forward with her chin between her hands, gazing at him
intently.

"Anything you like."

"This road," says Captain Stevenson, leaning over the verandah, "is the
road to Mandalay.  It seems impregnated with the spirit of Rudyard
Kipling."

"That shall be the song," says Major Short.

Captain Stevenson half sits on the balustrade, with the terrier beside
him gazing up wistfully into his eyes.  Eleanor retains her intent
attitude, as a voice more beautiful and mellow than any she has ever
heard swells out on the hot air.

Eleanor is moved almost to tears by the magnetism of that wonderful
sound, thrilling her very being, for she is highly emotional.

The tune is soft, and the well-known words to the familiar melody take
pathos from their rough uncultured sentiment.

She remembers once hearing a man recite the words at a musical "At
home."

People had cried then; they knew not why, save that his elocution was
exquisite, and he breathed it in an undertone:

  By the old Moulmein Pajoda lookin' eastward to the sea,
  There's a Burmah girl a-setting, and I know she thinks o' me,
  For the wind is in the palm trees, and the temple bells they say:
  "Come you back, you British soldiers, come you back to Mandalay."


Eleanor and Captain Stevenson join in the chorus softly.  It is sung
slowly, like a low wail, Major Shore's clear notes rising above the
rest:

        Come you back to Mandalay,
        Where the old Flotilla lay,
  Can't you 'ear their paddles chunkin' from Rangoon to Mandalay?
        On the road to Mandalay,
        Where the flying fishes play,
  And the dawn comes up like thunder out er China, 'crost the bay.


As they sing, Carol rides up the hill, and the music falls on his
astonished ear.  Singing in their verandah--how can that be?

Eleanor is the first to catch sight of him, but does not speak or move,
though Quinton's presence always quickens her pulses.

The chords of the guitar take up the refrain, and Captain Stevenson,
turning, espies Carol.

  "When the mist was on the rice fields, an' the sun was droppin' low,

continues the rich voice.

"Why, there's Quinton!" exclaims Captain Stevenson, breaking into the
melody.  "My dear fellow, how was it we missed on the road?"

"I can't imagine," he replies; "I suppose I took a different path."
His eyes shift uneasily, a flush rises to his brow.

"Your wife has been most kind and hospitable," declares Major Short,
laying down the guitar.

"I am delighted she kept you."

"We brought the dog.  He has already attached himself to Mrs. Quinton.
I assure you at lunch his preference for her was most marked; he
wouldn't look at us."

"Cupboard love, eh?  I suppose she fed him."

"Well, yes, I should rather think so, he will not require anything more
for some time."

"I am afraid," says Quinton, "that I interrupted a concert.  You all
looked most Bohemian and enjoying the _dolce far niente_ stage of
existence."

"It was too bad to break off in the middle of your song, Major Short,"
Eleanor murmurs, seating herself beside him and taking up the guitar.
"I wish you could teach me the accompaniment, for I do know a few notes
vaguely, and though I have never learned to sing I can croon a little."

"It really is not difficult," Major Short assures her.  "I will send
you the song if you like."

"Thanks, but I cannot read music, only I have rather a good ear."

So he strikes the chords one by one very slowly, while Eleanor repeats
them.

"I should never have picked it out by myself.  Now I shall be able to
sing to Carol in the evenings."

"Are they not delightful?" says Eleanor, as the two men ride away.  "I
have quite enjoyed to-day, Carol."

"I believe," muttered Major Short as they turned out of sight, "I
believe that fellow Quinton lied to his wife.  Do you think for a
moment he went our way?  There is only one road that is fit to ride on,
that he could have gone by; besides, it was written on his face when he
saw us."

"You are too sharp, Short, my boy," laughed the good-natured Captain
Stevenson.  "But there is something wrong with Quinton undeniably.  I
wonder who the little woman is, and where she came from?"

Major Short rides on in silence, he is thinking of the little woman's
smile.

That night, as Quinton smokes in his low cane chair, Eleanor brings the
guitar, running her lithe fingers over the strings.

"I say, Eleanor," he begins, "you need not have let out you could not
read music.  It was awfully _gauche_ of you.  You don't want to
advertise your farm origin."

"I am so sorry, darling," she answers penitently.

Again she strikes the cords, this time hesitatingly, for her hand
trembles.

The spicy garlic smells are wafted on the night air.

Eleanor breaks suddenly into song, as if inspired by the oriental
atmosphere:

  "When the mist was on the rice fields, an' the sun was droppin' low,
  She gets her little banjo, an' she'd sing "Kullalo-lo.
  With her arms upon my shoulder, an' 'er cheek agin my cheek,
  We use ter watch the steamers, and the 'hathis "pilin'" teak.


Her voice travels far in the darkness; she feels as if singing to some
unseen audience--perchance spirits peopling that road to Mandalay.

The dog at her feet starts up suddenly, bristling all over, growling,
barking!

"Did you hear anything?" asks Carol nervously.

"I fancied a rustle came from the bushes."

"Perhaps danger is stalking abroad to-night," mutters Carol, throwing
his cigar aside.

The dog refuses to be silenced, while Eleanor, holding him by the
collar, tries to soothe his petulance.

But Carol goes indoors.



CHAPTER XVIII.

LET US BE OPEN AS THE DAY.

Eleanor notices after that night Carol becomes nervous and irritable.

His absences are more frequent, but whereever he goes he takes the dog
with him for protection.

Though only a rough-haired terrier, it seems to guard him; yet the
constant recurrence of apparently reasonless growls and barks startles
and annoys him.

Eleanor often sits with Elizabeth Katchin when Quinton is out, and
wonders what she would do without the companionship of this one white
woman.

That day she is walking up the hill towards her friend's hut, when she
meets young Tombo, who rushes up and seizes her skirts.

"Oh, do come!" he cries, dragging her along; "something awful bad is
going on at home.  There is a stranger at our door crying just
dreadful; and mother's red in the face, sayin' no end of angry words,
stampin', fumin', and wringing her hands.  The stranger wanted to see
me and speak; but mother just hustled me out at the back, and tells me
to go and play beans in the jungle.  But the boys are not there.
Quartey M'Ba is takin' care of his father, who's dead drunk with Zoo,
and little Rangusaw Mymoodelayer is workin' with his uncle.  It's sure
to be all right if you come, Mrs. Quinton.  Mother 'll calm down when
she sees who I've brought."

He runs eagerly before her, while Eleanor, utterly at a loss to
comprehend the nature of the trouble, approaches Elizabeth's homestead
in some trepidation.

"I'll have none of you," Mrs. Kachin's hard voice is heard exclaiming.
"Did I not write it plain in black and white?  Didn't I repeat it three
times over on the same page, twice underlined?  Am I not old enough to
speak for myself, to know my own will?  Begone, or I'll tell you some
home truths which were best not uttered from my lips."

"Oh, little Beth, little Beth!" moans a pleading voice, "the child I
nursed and loved.  Can it be you that speaks so hard, that turns me
from the door?  Let me see the child before I go--the sturdy dark boy
who was born to you.  Beth, have some pity, some mercy on my misery!
It has cost me nearly my little all to come out to you, for I thought
your heart would soften when you saw your mother's face."

She breaks off into bitter sobbing and sinks on the step.

Eleanor stands like one paralysed listening to the quarrel, while Tombo
hides behind her skirts, clinging to her fearfully.

Her face flushes with shame for Elizabeth, and pity for this stricken
woman.  Her eyes flash scorn on Mrs. Kachin, as she turns and raises
the stranger from her attitude of humility and degradation.

"Your daughter's virtue and pride are things to be despised, accursed,"
she says, "when bound in such an armour of harshness and cruelty."

The weeping woman lifts her head, and her eyes meet Eleanor's.

The two start involuntarily.  The scene of a railway carriage rushes
suddenly before their vision, the fragments of a torn photograph, the
name on the label of Eleanor's dressing bag.

"Mrs. Roche!" gasps the stranger.

That word here.  It stuns, petrifies her!  The very sound of it is as a
blow.

A flock of four or five hornbills fly above their heads, making their
noises like an express train through the air.  As they fade from sight
Eleanor fancies the train has stopped at the little platform of
Copthorne.

The shrill cry of the jungle fowl, crowing like bantams on the old
farmland at home, seem to repeat the word "_Roche, Roche!_"

"What can I do?" asks the woman wildly, grasping Eleanor's arm.  "I am
here, and Beth has cast me out, I have nowhere to lay my head."

"Come with me," says Eleanor slowly, deliberately, looking from the
faded features of the withered woman to Mrs. Kachin's contracted mouth.
"I will give you rest and shelter."

"You will regret it if you take her under your roof!" cries Elizabeth,
slamming the door.

"May the good Samaritans of this world do the same for you, Mrs. Roche,
when you are in trouble," says the weary wanderer, as Eleanor leads her
faltering footsteps down the hill.

She is too excited by the strange coincidence of this, their second
meeting, to wonder whether she is binding a burden on her back, or
offering a refuge thoughtlessly without consulting Carol.  She only
looks pityingly at the towzled hair and drawn face of her guest,
pressing her hand sympathetically as they enter the verandah together.
"I am not Mrs. Roche here," falters Eleanor; "you must call me Mrs.
Quinton."

The woman looks searchingly, sadly, into Eleanor's eyes.

"I see," she answers slowly.

"And your name?" asks Eleanor.

"Palfrey Blum.  I am Mrs. Blum."

What an odd introduction, what a puzzling fate.

Carol is deeply annoyed at his return to discover the guest.

"What on earth you want to bring that hideous creature with a head of
hay here for I can't imagine," he exclaims.  "You must shunt her as
soon as possible, Eleanor; I can't have you picking up waifs and
strays, and turning our home into a sort of infirmary."

"I don't know what to do, it is a most pitiable story."

"Oh! dash the story!" interpolates Carol.  "I shouldn't mind if she
were not so confoundedly ugly."

"I could not help it, darling," says Eleanor tearfully.  "I did not
think you would object."

"Well, now she is here, what are you going to do with her?"

"I don't know."

Carol stalks up and down the room with his hands in his pockets.

Eleanor's spirits sink.

"I will see what I can do, dearest," she says at last.

Carol turns, seeing her beautiful eyes moist and sorrowful.

He gathers her into his arms and kisses her suddenly.

"Get rid of the old ghost," he whispers.  "I can't endure to see a
relic of faded beauty standing decayed before my eyes.  A woman has no
right to grow old, it is an unpardonable offence, and takes away one's
appetite having to look at her at meals."

"How unchristian you are, Carol!" she says, smiling under his caress.

The following morning Mrs. Blum seems refreshed, and looks less
careworn after her night's sleep.

"There is one thing I desire more than all else on earth," she confides
to Eleanor, "and that is to hold my grandson in my arms, and kiss him
once."

"I have been again to Elizabeth, but she will not listen to me.
Perhaps I might get the boy to you without her knowledge, or big Tombo
may possibly bring him.  There were tears in his eyes to-day when I was
pleading with Elizabeth."

"Ah!  Big Tombo is not so bitter against me as his wife.  He is a good
man, and charitable."

So Eleanor watches for Mr. Kachin to pass down the path to the valley
below, where the rice is cultivated.

When she sees him she runs out.  He stops and bows.  Eleanor gives him
her hand.

"Ah, Mrs. Quinton," he says, "we are deeply indebted to you for your
kindness to poor Mrs. Blum.  Even my wife in her righteous indignation
owns that.  I should personally be very glad to do anything I could for
her, only Elizabeth is so determined.  Can you advise me?"

Eleanor thinks a moment.

"She must be sent back again, I suppose.  She regrets bitterly having
come."

"Has she any money?"

"Oh, yes, but hardly enough to take her home; she relied on living with
you and Elizabeth.  I shall help her all I can, and perhaps you will
also."

Big Tombo works hard, and he has a good store of hoardings laid by.  He
is an intensely generous man, and but for his wife's watchfulness would
give away all that he has to others.

Eleanor inspires him to make an offer.

"I will pay her fare to England," he says.  "It will save Elizabeth the
pain of coming in contact with her.  After all, she is my
mother-in-law.  It is the least that I can do."

"You are most good and kind," replies Eleanor, "and she would be deeply
grateful if you came in now and told her this yourself.  She feels her
daughter's slight acutely."

Big Tombo bows assent.

[Illustration: Big Tombo bows assent.]

The beautiful Mrs. Quinton's word is law.

Mrs. Blum trembles with emotion as her eyes fall upon him.  She listens
to what he says with tears in her eyes and a blessing in her heart.

"You are a good son," she says, taking his great brown hands between
her withered palms, and pressing them to her lips.  "I love you for
your care of Elizabeth--for the happy home in which she lives.  When
she speaks of me harshly tell her to think of me as one dead.  We
reverence the names of those who are underground, even though we
despise them during their lives.  I shall never forget what you have
done for me."

Her voice is choked with emotion.

"If--if you don't mind," she falters, "I should like to look once on
your child before I go."

Tombo bends his head.  He has not the heart to refuse her.

That afternoon, he sends the boy, without Elizabeth's knowledge, to
carry some bananas to Eleanor.

"Come in, my dear," she says kindly, as the little boy presents the
fruit.  "There is a lady who wishes to see you."

She takes his small hand and leads him into the room.

Mrs. Blum rushes forward with a cry, and flinging her arms round the
child's neck, kisses him again and again.

Then perching him on her knee, she looks at him intently, murmuring:
"Beth's boy!  Beth's son!"

"You are the lady who got scolded," says Tombo gravely.  "Why was my
mother so angry with you?"

"It is not polite to ask questions," puts in Eleanor hastily.

"But she ought not to be cross," continues Tombo, "because you must be
good, you're white, like Mrs. Quinton, and mother never rows her.  Who
are you?" placing his tiny fingers against her cheek, and stroking it
gently.

"I am your granny, dear, and you will never see me again.  But you must
think of me sometimes, and remember that I loved you."

She strains him to her heart passionately.

"You're crying!" says Tombo.  "That's naughty.  Oh! don't cry," shaking
her in a sudden frenzy of fear.  "Granny, Granny!"

Children always dread to see their elders give way to any emotion, and
the little fellow's terror brings back Mrs. Blum's composure.

"There, darling, see, I am smiling," she says, her faded eyes lighting
up through a mist of tears.

"I think it is very nice to have a Granny, and I want to keep her
always."

"That is impossible, dearest.  You must be a good boy, and not ask
mother questions."

Eleanor brings him sweets and cakes, which he readily devours, sharing
them with the dog, who jumps up, startling Mrs. Blum, on whose knees
young Tombo is seated.

"You must trot home soon," says Eleanor, glancing nervously at the
time, and fearing every moment lest Elizabeth should sweep in like a
tragedy queen, and snatch her offspring from Mrs. Blum's arms.

"Yes, soon," sighs his grandmother, holding him as if she will never
let him go.  She detaches a small gold locket from her chain, in which
is a lock of Elizabeth's hair.

"You may keep this darling," she murmurs, "to remember Granny by."

She looks tenderly at the pale, flaxen lock of hair, which grew on
little Beth's baby forehead.

"Don't lose it, Tombo, for it is very precious--one of Granny's dearest
treasures.  Mother will recognise it and know the hair inside.  Tell
her you must keep it always, because she played with it as a little
girl."

The boy gazes in awe at the locket.

"Didn't it cost a lot of money?" he asks.

Mrs. Blum smiles at the remark.

"You are an odd child," she says, placing him on the ground.

"Have you nothing you can give Granny?" whispers Eleanor in his ear.

Tombo draws a small whistle from his pocket and carries it with an air
of triumph to Mrs. Blum.

"This is for you, Granny.  It is all my own, so don't be afraid.
Quartey M'Ba gave it to me for a dead 'minah' I found in the jungle."

She takes the little whistle tremblingly.

"Granny will wear it on her chain," she says, "in the place of her
locket, she will keep it quite as carefully."

Then she kisses the child, and pushes him from her, covering her face
with her hands that she may not see him go.

Eleanor leads Tombo away, and watches him run down the hill--he is
clasping the gold locket safely in both hands.

      *      *      *      *      *

Mrs. Blum has departed blessing Eleanor, and pouring such overwhelming
gratitude into her ears that solitude is a welcome relief.

"Poor soul," she thinks.  "Shall I ever come to _that_?"

A step is heard on the verandah, the rustle of a dress, and Elizabeth
Kachin stands before her.

She is paler than of yore, her eyes a trifle softer.  The hard lips
part in greeting, she takes Eleanor by both hands.

"You are a good woman," she says, with an admiring glance.  "I cannot
tell you how high your great charity has placed you in my esteem and
regard.  To think you actually laid aside all your natural feelings of
repulsion and harboured such a woman out of charity."

"Merely an act of plain humanity," replies Eleanor.

"Nevertheless, I could not do it, even to my own mother.  To be in
contact with what is sinful is abhorrent to me.  Still, I am not blind
to your great kindness and self-sacrifice.  Tombo and I both wish to
thank you."

Eleanor's heart swells at the words--to be thought good, noble,
charitable.  What a blessed thing it is!  She realises how deeply she
still values public opinion, which she has cast to the winds in her
reckless love for Carol.  Elizabeth, by her words of praise, endears
herself to Eleanor, in spite of her late behaviour to the poor outcast.
It is well to be looked up to and to be believed in.  Then the galling
thought creeps into her elated brain:

"You have no right to this approbation.  Elizabeth is a just woman,
clothed in that pitiless virtue which tramples down the weak.  You are
deceiving her and accepting what is not your due.  You may be foolish,
wild, mistaken, Eleanor; you may have ruined your husband and yourself;
but you are _not_ a hypocrite."

She realises in a moment all it will cost her to lose her friend's
respect, to see the look of scorn in Elizabeth's eye, and watch her
turn away as from one polluted.

For the moment it seems too hard, but Eleanor pulls herself together
and sets her teeth.

She walks across to the door with a steady step, her slim young figure
drawn up to its full height, her head tossed back, her cheeks aflame.

Elizabeth watches in mute surprise.  Then Eleanor breaks the silence,
flings open the door, and cries with outstretched hand pointing to the
hill:

"_Go_!  I, too, am a wicked woman!"



CHAPTER XIX.

THE IDEAL!  DIM VANITIES OF DREAMS BY NIGHT.

From the moment those fatal words were uttered: "Go!  I, too, am a
wicked woman!" the scales fall from Elizabeth's eyes.

How natural it seems to her now, the so-called Mrs. Quinton's act of
sympathy.

But what she does not know, nor can ever guess, is the supreme effort
that confession costs Eleanor.  It is wrung from her lips through sheer
force of will, and as Mrs. Kachin obeys the command, and with head held
proudly aloft, passes out into the blinding sunlight, Eleanor receives
her first slight since leaving England.

The cup is bitter, it takes away her breath.  She stands in the doorway
gasping, blinded by the glaring light of day.  A victim at the shrine
of truth, self condemned, self accused.

It is thus that Carol finds her, gazing tragically at the departing
figure of Elizabeth Kachin.

"What's up?" he asks, seeing her distress.

"I have told Elizabeth," she says slowly, "what I am."

Quinton bites his lips with annoyance.

"I should not have thought even you could have committed such an
egregious act of folly!"

"I could not help myself.  Elizabeth thought me so good, so different,
and her words seared my conscience.  Ah! you smile, no wonder.  It
ought to be dead by rights, long ago."

"You poor little thing," he murmurs tenderly.  "But it was very silly,
and another time do not let a few miserable scruples overrule your
better judgment.  After all, Elizabeth is no great loss, but it is
always unwise and unnecessary to give yourself away.  There!  I have
done my lecture, come and kiss me."

She flies into his arms.

"It is terrible when you are annoyed with me, Carol.  I should like you
to think everything I do or say perfection.  But then we cannot have
all we want in life, and especially such a delightful life as ours.  Do
you know, however deeply you love, however constant you may prove, you
can never realise your ideal.  It exists alone in the realms of fancy;
it is as unsubstantial as a dream--in fact, it is a dream!"

"Have I disappointed you then?" he asks, with a wounded look.

"Oh, no," raising her eyebrows at the bare idea.  "I meant it just the
other way--that I have failed to please you in everything.  An ideal
has no fault, and I appear full of errors.  An ideal is something good,
holy, perfect.  I am bad, unreasonable, foolish."

"You certainly have a way of making a fellow feel a cur without meaning
it."

"Have I?" says Eleanor simply.

"Do you ever long to be back in London?" asks Quinton suddenly.

"No--a thousand times no!  It is a city of destruction, a hell of
iniquity, Satan and the Savoy, his satellites Giddy Mounteagle, and----"

"_Me_!"

"Carol," with deep reproach in her tone, "though my life here with you
is one which the 'Elizabeths' of Society shun and condemn, I believe,
in the peaceful atmosphere, the blessed quiet, and sweet unfretful
days, I have been a better woman.  When I think of the daily quarrels
in Richmond, the frivolous worldly conversations of Giddy and her set,
it soothes all suspicion of regret in my heart.  Love is my only law,
and this is described as chief among virtues."

"Then you are happy.  I have brought some solace and light into your
days, Eleanor?  If I died to-morrow, or was lost from sight, you would
look back and say: 'He gave me my dearest hours, my most treasured
memories.  He brought me from the slough of despond to the sunshine of
the east.'"

"Yes," she murmurs, quoting her favourite song:

  "If you've heard the East a-callin',
  You won't never 'eed naught else."


She snatches up her guitar with the light laugh of a girl.

  "No, you won't 'eed nothin' else, but them spicy garlic smells,
  An' the sunshine an' the palm-trees, an' the tinkly temple bells."


"Come out for a ride," says Carol, "now it is cooler."

Eleanor's face brightens, her eyes glow.  He goes so frequently alone,
never even telling her the direction he has taken, and answering
shortly when questioned.  His suggestion meets with her highest
approval.

"We will go by the jungle," she says.  "You know my favourite road; not
past Elizabeth's hut, since her doors will be closed to me henceforth.
I shall miss her friendship when I am alone, but you must not leave me
so often now, and we will ask that nice Major Short and Captain
Stevenson to come and see us again."

"So you _are_ fond of society still," says Quinton smiling, "though you
denied it just now."

"Two congenial spirits are not 'society,'" she replies, "That word
comprises people in a bulk.  But here are the horses.  Doesn't Braye du
Valle look splendid?  I hope if I died you would let him drag me to my
grave."

"Don't be gruesome," says Carol.

"Oh! we _must_ take the dog.  Where is he?  Do go and find him, dear."

"He is such a bothering little beast, we shall be better without him,"
protests Quinton.  "Yesterday he nearly frightened my horse over a
precipice, flying into the bushes and fighting with some wild animal.
I don't know what it was, but he came out bitten and bleeding.  He
limped home, leaving a track behind him.  Something big rushed away, I
shot at it but did not hit it.  I don't know how the dog escaped with
his life."

"But he is all right to-day, and I want to take him, he is always so
busy and amusing," Eleanor persists.  "Besides, such a plucky little
beggar ought not to be coddled.  I think you will find him in my room."

Quinton goes unwillingly.  The dog and its vagaries have got on his
nerves, though he does not care to own it.

As Eleanor is waiting without she hears the sound of a horse behind,
and, turning quickly, is surprised to see a stranger riding up the
hill.  A tall, handsome woman well developed, with portly shoulders and
large hands.  She is riding an immense charger, and whistling gaily.
At a second glance Eleanor sees that this masculine young woman is
strikingly attractive, her style distinctly original, her figure,
though large, splendidly proportioned.  She has shiningly white teeth
under her curling lips--full, red, and smiling.  Her eyes are large,
dark, and brilliant, flashing like twin stars under a level brow, with
black, almost bushy eyebrows.

Her complexion is rich and clear, her hair braided in masses under a
man's hat.  A gun slung over her shoulder gives her a sporting
appearance.

She looks curiously at Eleanor's fragile beauty--the contrast between
them is marked.

The whistle dies on the stranger's lips, she sets her mouth, averts her
head, lashes her steed, and gallops by--never halting till out of sight
of the slim woman on Braye du Valle.

"I wonder who she can be?" thinks Eleanor, watching the departing
figure so intently that she never notices Carol return with the dog
till he speaks:

"What are you looking at?"

His eyes follow the direction of her gaze, but discern only a cloud of
dust in the distance.

"A stranger," cries Eleanor excitedly, "a white woman riding alone."

"Really!  What was she like?"

"Big, and bold, and handsome.  The sort of 'knock you down' woman who
balances weights at music-halls in tights.  Giddy and Bertie took me
once to a box at the Empire; she reminded me of the strong lady in
spangles.  A magnificent creature, like a splendid animal."

"Oh!" ejaculates Quinton.

"Couldn't you find out who she is, Carol; I would love to know?  She
gave me such an odd look from her great brave eyes, then, to my
astonishment, galloped madly away as if I were going to eat her.  She
was armed, too, so need not have been afraid, though I don't look much
like a savage, do I?"

"I can't see that we need trouble about her."

"She raised my curiosity."

"Simply because of her good looks."

"She was the strangest woman I ever saw.  I should like to know more of
her."

Quinton jags his horse's mouth angrily, and, calling the dog, rides
forward to stop the discussion.

"He has no thought for any woman but me," mentally ejaculates Eleanor,
as she follows on Braye du Valle.

She is perfectly satisfied with her lot as she rides beside him, gazing
at his handsome profile.

Some sombre-hued birds on the ground fly into the air as they approach.
The transformation from dark feathers to brilliant yellow plumage as
they spread their wings in flight is pleasing to the eye.

"I love the golden oriole," says Eleanor, "they look like a flash of
sunlight.  The Eastern birds are very beautiful."

As she speaks there is a low growl from behind.

Simultaneously Eleanor and Carol turn in their saddles, looking sharply
at the dog, and then to the thick growth towards which he is stealing,
his tail between his legs and his head down.

"I believe that dog is cracked," says Eleanor, calling him back
sharply.  "I always feel as if some evil spirit were near us when he
behaves like that."

"I told you how it would be if we brought him."

"Let us see what he will do."

The dog has taken no heed of her call, but crouches nearer the bushes,
bristling all over.  Then suddenly he makes a dive into their midst,
disappearing from view.

This is followed by a series of shrill barks--the sound as of a dog
fighting for its life--a skirmish--a hideous yell--and then--silence.

"Something has killed him!" whispers Eleanor under her breath.

"We had better get on," replies Quinton; "it may be some dangerous
beast."

"What! ride off, and perhaps leave the wretched dog mangled and maimed
to crawl away and starve?  Carol! what are you thinking of?"

She springs to the ground, flings him her reins, and before he realises
what she is going to do, rushes into the bushes after her pet.

"Eleanor, are you _mad_?" he thunders, already picturing her devoured
by some fierce beast.

It is a moment of horrible suspense.  Then she emerges, her face
scratched by the low boughs, bearing tenderly the limp body of the
terrier, torn and bleeding.

[Illustration: Bearing tenderly the limp body of the terrier.]

"He is quite dead," she says sorrowfully, tears standing in her eyes.
"I can see the marks of teeth on his throat."

"Poor little beggar!  Do you know you too might be dead at this moment
for the sake of recovering the lifeless body of a dog?  You must be off
your head, Eleanor, to do such an utterly insane thing.  Whatever were
you thinking of?"

"I was excited--my blood was up.  I am like that," she answers
apologetically.

They ride silently home.

"We shall miss him," sighs Eleanor at last.

"Who?  The dog?"

"Yes.  We must let Captain Stevenson know."

"I wonder what animal killed him?"

"I saw nothing; only I fancy I heard a rustle in the trees to my right,
and the sound of a horse's hoofs scampering towards the jungle.  It may
have been only imagination, or perhaps the stalwart lady with the fine
eyes was hovering near us."

Quinton's face blanches.  He turns to her sharply:

"If you _did_ imagine it, I wish you would not romance."

Eleanor is sorry she has told him, since he appears anxious and
uncomfortable.  He has never been quite the same since his wrestle with
the masked man.  He is easily startled and alarmed.  She blames herself
inwardly for want of discretion, and reassures him with a smile.

"Oh! it was nothing, dearest; if anyone had been riding I must have
seen him--I mean--her."

Eleanor knows this is not the case, but seeing Carol's relief at the
words, does not regret them.

"We must expect adventures now and again," she continues cheerfully,
trying to throw off her depression.

"I shall never forget that night," says Carol, "when I rode away from
you in the dark.  I _did_ wish I was on Charing Cross Station."

"It was too bad of me; I might have had the sense not to pursue you,
sheer idiotcy on my part."

"Has it ever struck you, Eleanor, to wonder how long we shall go on
living in this out-of-the way hole?"

She catches her breath.

"No, Carol.  I am quite contented to be here, though I suppose in time
you will weary of the place, and we shall move elsewhere.  Yours is
rather a roving spirit, I fear, never happy for long in one spot.  I
feel rooted to this restful retreat; but directly you tire of it, only
say the word, and I will follow you to the end of the world.  We have
our home here, and there is plenty of sport for you, so I expect we
shall jog along for a while!" with a feeble attempt at a laugh.  Any
signs of discontent on Carol's part fill her with vague dread and
suspense.

"Would it not seem strange," he continues, "to go back to England and
be respectable?  Imagine yourself in a prim little village, posing as a
good young widow, playing Lady Bountiful to the poor, and being called
on by the county magnates, while I lived a virtuous bachelor life in
the dreary precincts of Clifford's Inn."

"Apart!  _Us_ apart!" gasps Eleanor.

"My love, I was only 'supposing.'  But isn't the idea ludicrous, quite
too funny and absurd?  You romanced first, I am only following your
lead.  I have heard respectability termed 'the curse of pleasure.'  It
kills enjoyment, breeds hypocrisy, fosters discontent, revolutionises
Bohemia!"

Eleanor dislikes his flippancy.  The picture he has drawn bewilders
her.  The thought of life without Carol is hideous, impossible.  Her
usual spirits flag.

"Why are you so dull and down, darling?"

"You make me so!"

"It seems, Eleanor, you can never take a joke."

All the glamour of her present happiness has faded under the saddening
influence of Carol's "joke!"  But she will not own it is that which
distresses her.

"I do not see an animal I know and care for bitten to death every day,
and that poor little dog was so attached to me.  I wish I had given him
the extra biscuit he begged for this morning.  I told him he was
greedy, and hid it away."

She goes sadly into the house and dresses for dinner in a dainty robe
of white muslin cut low at the neck, for Quinton's benefit.

The sudden necessity for looking beautiful, and making herself pleasant
and fascinating, comes over her like a nightmare.  Her throat is
parched.  Her temples burn.

The gown is soft and clinging, the effect fairylike and picturesque.
Quinton never sees her in this simple garb without an exclamation of
approval.

She creeps behind him in the verandah, twining her bare arms round his
neck.

He looks at her admiringly, as he would at a picture which gladdens the
eye for a moment.

"How late it is," she whispers, kneeling beside him.  "Cook is frantic,
for all our dinner is spoiled, we were out a long while."

Quamina, who only talks a smattering of English, rushes into the
verandah, wringing her hands.  Her black lips tremble, her eyes start
from her head.

"Oh!  Sahib, Sahib!" she cries, "the big black devil that tracks the
Sahib, he rode up the hill, _there_!" pointing with outstretched
fingers.

Quinton starts to his feet.

"Where?" he asks, looking out but seeing nothing.  "What do you mean?"

But Quamina continues to shake and cry, moaning "The devil, he has come
for the Sahib!"



CHAPTER XX.

LIFE IS THORNY, AND YOUTH IS VAIN.

When Quamina can be quieted and her fears calmed, the truth is
gradually drawn from her.  She has seen a man in a black mask prowling
on his hands and knees in the bushes round the house.  She leant out of
her window and screamed, whereupon he sprang on to a horse, and
galloped up the hill like a madman.

Quamina cannot be persuaded it is not the devil himself haunting their
domain, and is petrified with terror for the rest of the evening.

"I should feel inclined to put the masked man down to Quamina's vivid
imagination," declares Eleanor, "if you had not personally encountered
him, Carol.  He is like a sort of 'troll,' one of Ibsen's 'helpers and
servers.'"

Quinton has given Eleanor "The Master Builder" to read, himself being a
believer in the strange theory of will power.  He is much upset by
Quamina's story, bewildered at the mystery shrouding this evil demon.
His life is becoming a purgatory on earth; he goes in daily dread of
some fresh disaster.  He says little to Eleanor, but she notices he
does not sit out in the verandah, preferring the shelter of four walls,
as if in mortal fear of something.

"Does he picture a phantom shooting in the dark?" she wonders.

She offers to sing, but he silences her with a petulant movement and
gruff word.  He is not in the mood for music.  The loaded revolver he
always keeps in his room is brought down and laid beside him as he
smokes and reads.

Eleanor is grieved to see him so unhinged.  It is a pitiable thing when
a man loses his pluck, and the woman must play the part of consoler and
encourager.

The following morning, to her surprise, Quinton seems no less
frightened than on the previous night.  He refuses to go out, and sits
in moody silence or paces the room--both equally trying to the patient
Eleanor.  At last the idea seizes her that, if she shows daring and
goes out alone, leaving him to brood in solitude, it may spur Quinton
to rouse himself and cast off his apprehensions.  Surely he will not be
outdone by a woman!

"I am going for a stroll," she announces calmly.

"Oh!  Are you?"

His lips twitch nervously.  He does not volunteer to accompany her.

She takes up a large shady hat, and winds a long white veil over her
face.

"Won't you come, too?" she asks mildly.

"No, certainly not, and I think you are very foolhardy to go."

She stares at him in amazement.

"My dear boy, are we to stay in for ever because of old Quamina and her
ugly sayings?  If the devil is coming for me, he'll come in whether I
hide or not; besides, I do not believe in devils!"

"No, but living assassins, modern highwaymen, who scout the country to
shed blood, seeking whom they may devour.  If you take my advice you
will stay safely indoors."

But, for the sake of example, Eleanor shakes her head.  If she gives in
to him now their life will be one of cowering seclusion.  There is
something convincing in the light of day that drives from her heart all
qualms and misgivings.

"I see no reason why we should not walk abroad just the same as
Elizabeth or any other person.  You were only attacked once, and that
was at night.  Look, for instance, at the white woman on the charger.
She was alone.  I don't think even a highwayman, though, would tackle
her," with a low laugh.  "She'd be a pretty good handful for anybody.
I could imagine her mesmerising a lion with those eyes.  I have no
doubt she is a crack shot, too, from the bold way she carried her gun.
She was a regular Amazon."

"You forget I have never seen the white stranger you allude to."

"Of course not.  She passed when you were looking for the dog on that
unfortunate day.  Well, good-bye for the present, dear.  Take care of
yourself, and if you like to come and meet me I shall be delighted."

She leaves the house singing, hoping her bravado will have the effect
of re-assuring Carol.

As she goes he flings his book on the ground, stretching out his arms
like a caged bird beating its wings against the bars.

"It can't last much longer," he hisses between his teeth; "it _won't_
last much longer.  Thank goodness I can see the end."

Eleanor's mind is so full of thought that she does not heed the
direction in which her steps turn.  She walks like one in a dream, busy
with her own thoughts.  A thousand ideas flit through her brain.  She
lives over her miserable past.  Even the early days at Copthorne return
vividly.  She is a merry child swinging on a gate; a lazy girl lolling
on a hayrick; a frivolous wife, sporting her gay attire in the Brussels
Bois; a weary woman sighing at her lot in the house on Richmond
Terrace; and then the realisation of the present rushes over her, and
she starts as if suddenly awaking from sleep.

There are steps at her side; she turns, remembering Carol's warning.

Elizabeth Kachin stands before her, they are face to face.

From sheer force of habit Eleanor stretches out her hand in greeting,
but draws it back sharply, gathering her scattered wits together.
There is a cold look in Elizabeth's eyes.  Eleanor shivers though the
sun scorches, for the frosts of sin are very bitter.  Mrs. Kachin
averts her head, and passes her without a word.  Little Tombo, who is
following in the rear, runs up and raises his face for a kiss, but his
mother calls to him quickly, while Eleanor pushes him away.  "Why is
she angry with me?" he asks Elizabeth; "why doesn't she come and see us
now?"

Eleanor hears the words.  They cut deeper than an assassin's knife.
Carol was right.  Retribution is on the road, waiting to devour her
body and soul.  She paces on with bent head, the hot blood in her
cheeks, and a lump in her throat.

A third shadow crosses her path, this time it is Big Tombo.  Her eyes
meet his fearlessly.  He bares his head, bows low, and Eleanor smiles
sadly.

"Men are kinder than women," she thinks, as she wanders on.  "They
judge less harshly.  When their companions sin they do not cast them
out to sink lower in the mire, they give them a hand, instead of a
kick!  But women take upon themselves to dash their sisters with cruel
force upon the stones."

It was good to be alone with her sorrow, her shame.

She breathed a prayer from the depths of her soul--a wordless
invocation.  She is close to the jungle now, and the pleasant shade of
the foliage cools her feverish brain.

She steps fearlessly into the thick undergrowth.  Then pauses, for the
sound of a horse attracts her attention.  It is the heavy tread of the
huge charger, on which that handsome white stranger, gun in hand, is
seeking prey.

Eleanor watches the flash of those wonderful eyes, there is something
unholy, devilish, in their unusual splendour.  Her full red lips are
drawn in and compressed.

She raises her gun, and before Eleanor can cry out the woman has fired!

The bullet whizzes past her head, for a moment her heart stops beating,
the narrow escape fills her with horror!

She fancies the stranger saw her before she pulled the trigger, and let
off her gun out of sheer devilment, to show her accuracy.

But scarcely has she recovered from the fright when a second report is
heard from the bushes close by, and the great charger, on which this
reckless sportswoman is seated, falls dead beneath her.  She rolls off
the saddle, and stands like a fury over the body.

"What villain has killed my horse?" she cries aloud, in a deep voice,
which even in its anger sounds strangely fascinating, despite the
masculine slang.

[Illustration: "What villain has killed my horse?"]

Eleanor rushes forward.

"The unseen hand!" she exclaims, hardly knowing what she says.

"How do you mean?" asks the tall woman.

"Someone shot from the bushes; didn't you see?  First of all you nearly
hit me, it was the closest shave I ever had, and immediately your horse
fell----"

"I'll soon find out who has been making a target of me," muttered the
stranger.

So saying, she fires recklessly into the bushes, but there is no sound,
no cry.

Eleanor watches this wild creature curiously.  Surely she will
apologise for nearly killing her through inexcusable carelessness.

But she says no word, only watches the smoke rise, and anathematises
the fate that has slain a useful beast.

Eleanor forgets her own grievance, and sympathises with the stranger's
loss.

"It could not have been done intentionally," she declares.

"I don't believe in chance; it was a dead aim, depend upon it."

Eleanor's eyes expand at this remark.

"Who are you?" she asks.  "What is your name?"

"I am a woman," replies the other, with a mocking smile; "my name is
Paulina."

She shows no wish to be acquainted with Eleanor's identity.

"What will you do without your horse?"

"Get another, of course."

"But now?"

"Walk."

"Then you live in these parts?  I hope in the future you will be more
careful how you shoot at random.  It would not have been very pleasant
for either of us if you had hit me."

"What are you doing walking about by yourself?"

Eleanor looks up and laughs.

"Not risking other people's lives, at any rate."

"I wish I could unravel the mystery of my unknown assailant!  Have you
any idea who watches your movements and revenges himself on my
carelessness?"

A new light flashes across Eleanor at these words.  This weird
adventure becomes more interesting and amazing at Paulina's suggestion.

"I don't understand you."

"All the better, perhaps."

The abrupt answer startles Eleanor, a puzzled look creeps over her face.

"Why can't you say what you mean?" she asks hotly, looking at Paulina
with sudden dislike and repugnance.

The stranger laughs, shoulders her gun, and turns away.

"Where would you have been now," she cries in parting, "if I had shot
you down by mistake like a jungle fowl?"

There is a taunting sneer in the words.

A hateful thought steals into Eleanor's mind.  This woman, who swears
and treats her with such abominable coolness, knows something of her
past or present, possibly from Elizabeth, with whom she may be
acquainted.  This last remark is an insinuation of her unfitness to
die, and that her soul is ripe for perdition.  The implied slur
gradually increases and exaggerates itself in Eleanor's brain,
sensitive to a degree.  She sees in it a deliberate insult, and
following Paulina, she demands:

"Before you go, please apologise for your carelessness.  I am not
accustomed to be made a mark of, either for bullets or jests."

Paulina stops, and looks her up and down in a manner that makes Eleanor
feel like a pigmy facing a giant.

She takes out a cigarette, places it between her teeth, and hands her
case to Eleanor.

"Have one?" she asks, with insouciance.  Eleanor is staggered.  She
does not know whether to take this as a fresh slight or a very lame
apology.

Faint pulses of quivering sunbeams glance through the trees, playing
round the dead body of Paulina's horse.  The old oaks rear their heads
to a sky of purest turquoise, but Eleanor has no heart to notice the
beautiful aerial effects.  She is wondering if the proffered cigarette
is meant as an olive branch or otherwise.

She gazes in mute disgust.

"Have you never seen a weed before?" asks Paulina vivaciously.  "You
are the type of woman, I suppose, who sits at home and arranges
flowers, very artistically, no doubt.  You would pose in limp gowns of
gauzy drapery, like a pictured saint, and expect your husband or your
lovers to grovel and worship.  But you are dangerously near to the
borderland separating the sublime from the ridiculous.  You expect me
to apologise for a shot at random, which cost a valuable horse its
life.  Some savage black who worships your fair form at a distance,
most likely paid it back with interest."

"You are a very vulgar woman," exclaimed Eleanor.  "I hope I shall
never see you again."

"Don't use that word 'vulgar,'" she replies, "it's so low class."

"You don't mind what you say to me because I am alone and unprotected,"
cries Eleanor with almost childish petulance, the tears glistening in
her angry eyes.  "If Carol was here, he would defend me."

"Carol," she laughs, "who is the staunch and gallant Carol?"

But Eleanor will not answer; she feels desperately affronted, and turns
away.

The women walk in opposite directions; the day is dying.

"Well! you are back safely; any adventures?" asks Quinton, as she
enters the house pale and weary.

Eleanor sinks into a chair, slowly unwinds her veil, and flings her hat
impatiently upon the sofa.  She is so seriously put out, that for the
moment she dares not trust herself to speak.

"Anything the matter, eh?"

Eleanor clears her throat.

"Yes."

Quinton sits bolt upright from his lounging attitude.

"What?" he says, staring at her intently.

Then she recounts her scene with Paulina, word for word, while Quinton
listens breathlessly.

"Her horse _shot from under her_?" he cries, as if that is of far more
importance than Eleanor's narrow escape.

"Yes, dear, wasn't it awful?  It might have been you or me!  I do
believe the masked man is on the warpath, only he went for _her_ this
time instead.  It may be a lunatic, for every act seems so perfectly
motiveless."

"I told you not to venture out," he says, his face reddening with
annoyance.  "You _would_ go against my wishes, and suffered for it
accordingly.  The idea of getting into conversation, and actually
deigning to quarrel with a stranger.  It was most humiliating and
lowering.  Another time if you meet this 'Paulina,' as you call the
white Amazon, kindly avoid her.  This merely confirms me in the
conviction which has grown upon me lately, that this place is no longer
fit for us to dwell in.  I, for one, am sick of it, and long for a
taste of clubdom and life again."

"Oh!  Carol!" she exclaims, and the words are wrung from her like a
sharp cry.

"Don't look so absurdly miserable, my dear," he says hastily, dreading
a scene with all the shrinking of his cowardly nature.  "I won't say
anything to vex you again.  I was only cross; forgive me."

Eleanor's heart goes out to him with all the old yearning tenderness.

Forgive him!  Why, she would forgive Carol anything--he is her all.
She falls on her knees at his side, and draws down his face for a kiss.

As she does so, the sound of a loud, rich, stirring voice, swelling out
on the evening air, reaches them.  They exchange hurried glances, start
to their feet, and look cautiously out.

It is "Paulina," swaggering down the hill with a devil-may-care mien,
her gun still over her shoulder, her hands in her pockets.

They catch the words, which ring full and clear:

  "And constancy lives in realms above,
    And life is thorny and youth is vain;
  And to be wroth with one we love
    Doth work like madness in the brain."


"She _is_ like a 'troll,'" murmurs Eleanor, "shrieking in the night."

"A magnificent creature," says Carol.  "Quite a picture!"

His eyes are riveted on the retreating form!



CHAPTER XXI.

  BY A ROUTE OBSCURE AND LONELY,
  HAUNTED BY ILL ANGELS ONLY.--_E. A. Poe_.

Eleanor is taking her siesta, wrapt in dreams of Carol and love.  No
thought of evil disturbs her rest, for to-day the clouds seem to have
blown over.  Carol has been tender and adoring as of old, he speaks no
more of the dreaded up-rooting, but is peaceful and content.  Yet while
she lies in fancy-land--asleep--she cannot see him in the room below, a
look of excitement on his face while he writes with feverish haste on a
large sheet of flimsy paper.

The words reel rapidly off his quill, he never pauses, and his eyes are
aglow with the fire of energy.

Quamina, who has been in the verandah, enters with a tray of cooling
drinks and places them by his elbow.  She has never seen the Sahib
writing before, she did not know he could hold a pen, and his engrossed
attitude awakes her curiosity and suspicion.  He does not hear her come
in till she puts the glasses beside him, then he pushes them away and
tells her to go.

Quamina steals across the room.

Why is the Sahib writing?  It is not his way.  His quill flies like a
thing possessed across the paper, and when he pauses it is to wipe the
drops of perspiration from his heated brow.

"This is the Sahib's hour for sleep," thinks Quamina.  "It is a secret
message that he writes at such a time, when his wife is absent,
dreaming in the other room."  She steals into the verandah and watches.
A sudden idea comes to her ignorant mind, which, as she turns it over
in her brain, amounts to a firm conviction.

[Illustration: She steals into the verandah and watches.]

"The Sahib is making a compact with the devil.  He is frightened of
that tall spirit in the black mask, and is coming to terms with him.
Maybe he will offer his house and his servants, his wife even, to be
himself released from the terror of that grim presence."

Quamina shakes from head to foot.  Her white teeth rattle.  Surely the
Sahib's face is taking the likeness of the Evil one, as he sits alone,
or why does a sinister smile flit across his lips, while he perpetually
pauses to listen, and look nervously towards the door?  Once he rises,
opens it, standing a moment, looking towards Eleanor's room.  But there
is no sound, and he returns to his desk reassured.

Finally the letter ends.  He folds it carefully, looking at the dashing
signature with some pride.  He takes up a red seal, strikes a light,
and drops a huge round of burning wax upon the envelope.

"The deed is done," thinks trembling Quamina; "the devil has been
written to.  He will scan those hasty words in his unholy abode, and
bargain with the Sahib, till an arrangement shall be made."

Her suspicions increase as Quinton, listening once more at the door,
snatches up a hat with a guilty air, creeping out into the broiling sun.

Quamina by this time is wild with curiosity, and as Carol hastens down
the hill, the letter in his hand, she follows stealthily at a discreet
distance.

"Perhaps he will give it himself to the devil.  Ah, the poor Sahib!"
she mutters.

Quinton never pauses till he is out of sight of the bungalow; then
turning to his right he places the sealed envelope in a crevice of a
rock, hidden from sight.

Quamina watches wonderingly the post-box of the devil.

She marks the spot in her mind's eye, and fearing detection hurries
back unobserved.

For the rest of the day she thinks of nothing but the Sahib's letter,
and its strange hiding place.  She pictures the "Nâts" surrounding the
spot, and bearing it in triumph to their chief.

She watches her master curiously, but by no sign does he reveal that
anything unusual has occurred, save that he laughs more frequently, and
seems as light-hearted and high spirited as a boy.

"Maybe he has paid the devil off," Quamina surmises.

      *      *      *      *      *

Captain Stevenson and Major Short ride over, much to Eleanor's delight,
who enjoys a chat with the outer world as keenly as Carol.

She longs once again to hear Major Short's melodious voice, and
bringing her guitar, begs for "Mandalay."

But he shakes his head.

"I shall tire you of the one song," he declares.

"Not when it is the favourite," she protests.  "Only four lines, if you
will, or a single bar of the tune.  I love the sad refrain."

He follows her on to the verandah.  Quinton and Capt. Stevenson are
talking and smoking within.

They catch the words between the pauses in their conversation:

  "Ship me somewhere east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,
  Where there ain't no ten Commandments, and a man can raise a thirst.
  For the temple bells are callin' and it's there that I would be,
  By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin' lazy at the sea."


"Dreadful morals!" laughs Captain Stevenson.

"Do _you_ love the East?" asks Eleanor, as Major Short lays aside the
guitar.

"Yes, well enough, but I get terribly homesick at times.  I long to
draw round a huge log fire in the old hall at home on a still winter's
evening, with the shutters shut and the curtains drawn, and my feet on
the fender.  No one has any conception of the bliss of those long,
luxurious hours over the flame and the coal.  Those who have it don't
appreciate it.  Imagine yourself nipped by a biting frost coming
suddenly in to such a scene of warmth and ease, to lose yourself in the
depths of an enormous spring chair, and gaze in that wilderness of red,
while the wood crackles, and blue flickers up like a phantom light in
the blazing scarlet.  It is many years since I passed a good old
English Christmas, with plum pudding and bells chiming over the snow.
Bah!  I cannot endure to think of it--I get so green with envy."

"I am afraid I never cared for the winter.  The sun is better than
artificial warmth--the East is rosier than the fireside."

"But you must yearn sometimes to get home to your family and friends.
Have you no mother you long to kiss--no father who is pining for a
sight of his daughter's smile, and old chums waiting to greet you with
a hearty handshake and a cheery welcome?"

Eleanor shakes her head mournfully--her large soft eyes look sad and
wistful--she is no hypocrite--she never could pretend.

"No; England is all a blank.  My whole interest in life is centred in
my husband."

Involuntarily a pang of pity shoots through the man's heart.  He hardly
knows why, since she is so happy in Quinton's love.

He mistrusts him, for men are quicker in reading each other than a
woman blinded by skin-deep fascination.

Many a trusting heart has been won by the pink light from a lamp
falling on a handsome profile, by the faultless cut of a frock coat, or
by a good seat on horseback.

Poor little Eleanor!  Poor humanity!

"It is a mistake to rely too much on love," says Major Short.  "It
sometimes fails us, and then----"

He pauses, seeing the look of pain upon Eleanor's face.

"I was speaking of myself," he adds half apologetically.  "Look for
instance, at my parents, at home in the old country.  What good is
their affection now?  What use am I to them, stuck here in India?
True, we correspond, but letters give us no sight of the familiar face,
no kiss from the lips that may be dead and cold before we meet again.
But love, Mrs. Quinton, is over for ever in my life, it is a memory
alone, a dream of the silent past."

Eleanor's eyes are deeply sympathetic; she is a woman to inspire
confidence.

Major Short continues, though he is surprised at himself for so doing:

"Yes, I was in love once, it was the one sincere and overruling passion
of my life."  He lowers his voice as he speaks.  "You brought it back
to me when you said that all your interests were centred in your
husband."

He holds out a little case to Eleanor.

"I always carry this about with me; it is her portrait.  Look at it."

Eleanor opens the case reverently, and gazes with a certain awe at the
beautiful face within.  She fancies there is a mystery in the far-away
expression of the woman's eyes.  But, after all, it is only the mystery
of death.

"That picture was taken after she knew she must die," he says.  "They
would not let me marry her then."

His eyes are lowered, Eleanor fancies they are moist.

"Fate is very cruel," she murmurs.

"Yes, when the poetry of existence turns to prose, all the light dies
out.  I can never love again.  Sentiment to me now is as a shallow
stream."

Quamina appears with the tray of drinks again.  Her eyes look wild; she
shambles along; her knees knock together.

"What is the matter with that woman?" asks Major Short, as she staggers
away.

"She is frightfully superstitious, and some nights ago she thought the
devil had come for Carol, and she has never been the same since.  She
crouches about like a creature demented.  Sometimes I fancy she must be
insane."

Major Short quotes from Pope with a dry smile:

  'Lo! the poor Indian, whose untutored mind,
  Sees God in clouds, or hears Him in the wind."


"But there is sense in that," Eleanor declares.  "God is in all Nature;
every blade of grass manifests Him."

Then she remembers that she is still clasping that small case, and
looks down once more on the impressive features of the beautiful woman.

"Talking of death--and love," she says slowly, harping back to the old
subject, "I often wonder what I should do if anything happened to
Carol.  Imagine me here, in a strange country, alone, friendless!  What
if he sickened with fever, or was wounded by an enemy, or if he died?"
A shudder of apprehension runs over her.

"I hope you will never call yourself friendless while we--while I am
within your reach.  I have suffered myself; I know what sorrow is.
Should you ever be in any trouble, Mrs. Quinton, or need a helping
hand, remember you can rely on me."

Eleanor looks at him with that serious and admiring glance of hers,
expressive of greater gratitude and deeper wonder than any words.

"You are _very_ good," she says at length.  "If all men were so kind, I
think women would be better and place surer trust in them."

Two large trees in front of the verandah, with bending boughs, meet and
make an archway of feathery foliage, in which the birds lodge.
Eleanor's eyes turn to the drooping green, and then to the distant
hills.  She has a vague foreshadowing of coming evil.  She sees the
oxen yoked together dragging their loads; she wonders if they are
happier after all than mortals like Major Short and herself.  Two of
these patient animals are drawing a Burmese public carriage, with a
black boy looking out of the quaint covering, like a little house on
two wheels.  They pause to drink in the Irrawaddy; she sighs to think
how sadly they need refreshment.  In the thatched huts and tall palms,
Eleanor pictures Copthorne--it rises as a mirage--till Major Short
dispels it by some casual remark.  He notices her listlessness, for she
starts as she speaks.

"Forgive me," she says, smiling wanly, "but I was miles away."

"How interesting.  May I not follow you?  What did you see?"

"I conjured up a farm-house and green English lanes, gold cornfields,
rustic reapers, and honest workers.  They were getting in the harvest."

Captain Stevenson's cheery voice, and Quinton's musical laugh
interrupts the conversation as they join Eleanor and Major Short.

"It is time we were making tracks.  What do you say, Short?"

"I suppose so, but it is always hard to tear oneself away from pleasant
companions."

"When shall we meet again?" asks Eleanor gaily.  "Can't we arrange a
day next week?  Ride over in the cool of the morning to breakfast."

"Thanks--delighted.  There is a peculiar fascination in your charming
home and hearty welcome."

Quinton smiles enigmatically, as he watches them ride away.

Eleanor slips her hand in his.

"You seem very merry to-day," she says.  "They quite enlivened us,
didn't they, Carol?"

"Yes; it certainly makes a difference having somebody to speak to.
Don't you notice it, dear?"

He looks down at her steadfastly, and for the moment Eleanor's
expression turns the unscrupulous man dizzy with a vague sensation
nearly approaching regret.

He sees in her eyes the overflowing of a heart; whose passionate
adoration amounts to idolatry.

He is touched and softened.  He presses her lips, though they no longer
thrill him, and she in her mute worship cannot define the change.

Her love, he thinks, so freely given, so utterly beyond control, is
after all a pitiable spectacle.

He scrutinises her fair face critically; it seems insipid to him now.
Its pale spirituality, which once set his brain on fire, appears
characterless.  The classical features, exquisitely moulded, lack
power.  The sweet mouth has a wan droop, as if sighing for ungranted
kisses.

"Sometimes, Carol," she says at last, "I fancy you are tiring of me."
She only speaks for him to contradict.

"My darling, what an absurd notion to get into that pretty little head
of yours!  Occasionally it is a little slow here for us both."

"That is only since you grew nervous.  Of course, the days are long if
you will stay indoors doing nothing."

"Yes, you are quite right," he answers, somewhat to Eleanor's surprise.
"It _is_ foolish, and unnecessary.  Now you won't grumble, my pet, if I
go for a long day's sport to-morrow.  It will do me all the good in the
world, some excitement and exercise.  I have been getting dreadfully
grumpy and cross."

"How early shall you start?"

"Oh, first thing.  I assure you, Eleanor, I am quite looking forward to
it.  I can't have been very well lately, and that accounts for my
apparent prostration and uncalled-for nervousness.  There is nothing
really to fear, and you can make your mind quite easy about me."

These reassuring words delight Eleanor, for as long as Carol is happy
and satisfied, her joy is intense.

As they talk Quamina is crouching under the broad steps that lead down
from the verandah; her eyes gaze in the direction of that mysterious
rock hidden from sight.

She wonders if the devil has yet come for the Sahib's message.  Her
soul is torn by curiosity and fear.  She longs to know, and if the
strange letter still lies in the crevice untouched, herself to break
the seal and try to decipher the words.

It is a tremendous temptation; yet, as she rises with a bold resolve
and creeps along the moonlit path, she suffers mortal dread,
momentarily expecting to encounter some supernatural apparition.  She
turns out of sight of the bungalow, with its cheerful light, and
reaches the rock, on which the moonbeams play.  A ray of light lies
across the crevice in which the Sahib deposited his epistle.

With set teeth, and frantically beating heart, Quamina forces her
skinny arms into the hole, murmuring prayers as she gropes and fumbles,
then staggers back with a low moan, and flees from the unholy spot.
The devil has been!  The letter is _gone_!



CHAPTER XXII.

  NO FOOTSTEP STIRRED--THE HATED WORLD ALL SLEPT,
  SAVE ONLY THEE AND ME.  (OH, HEAVEN!  OH, GOD!)

The following morning Eleanor, her face bright with smiles, kisses
Carol as she bids him adieu.

"Shoot something nice for dinner, dear," she says, "and have a good
day."

She waves her hand as he trots down the hill, his slim form erect, his
eyes bright and lips parted.

"I hope you won't be dull, Eleanor," he cries with a gay laugh.  "Keep
house till I return, and take care of yourself."

As he fades from sight she turns singing into the bungalow.

There are several duties to be attended to.  Her pink muslin gown needs
rearranging, and the huge bunch of crimson flowers Quamina has gathered
her must be put in the drawing-room.  They are bright, and will please
Carol's eye.

As she places them in tall, picturesque vases, Paulina's words return
with aggressive force.

The sort of woman who stays at home tending flowers!  They take the
pleasure from her simple task.  She leaves the fallen blossoms half on
a couch, half on the ground, turning from them disgusted.

Perhaps Paulina was right!  Carol would find her far more of a
companion if she shouldered her gun and rode off with him to the
jungle; but she hates killing things.

The chase is brutal!  Sport is revolting!  Thus she consoles herself,
and sends Quamina for the muslin gown.

How tenderly Carol had kissed her when he said good-bye.  How brilliant
he seemed that morning!

She laughs again at the thought of his wit.  Her Carol was always
clever.

He has marked a passage of Spencer's in a novel Eleanor is reading; she
picks it up and comes across it.

It is like a rude shock.  Why has he pencilled such disagreeable lines?

  Full little knowest thou that hast not tried.
  What hell it is in suing long to bide;
  To loose good dayes that might be better spent,
  To waste long nights in pensive discontent.


Perhaps it struck him as so strangely different to their ideal
existence.

The hours do not seem long, for a "light heart goes all the day," but
as afternoon wanes she is filled with expectant delight, awaiting
Carol's advent.  He will be naturally tired, and she draws the couch
near the window, piles luxurious pillows upon it, and perches herself
at the end of it, placing in readiness a loose lounging coat of yellow
Tussore silk.  Carol, it is a pretty name, she thinks, taking up his
portrait and pressing it to her lips.  It is in the same attitude as
the one she destroyed in the railway train, upon her first meeting with
Elizabeth Kachin's mother.

The faint light slants across the verandah, and falls on the yellow
cushions placed for Quinton.

It creeps into the room, and sheds a halo round the striking likeness
she still holds in her hand.

Eleanor gazes at the Oriental splendour, the beauties of which no
utterance is capable of expressing, and indulges in visions that are
pleasant and soothing, marvelling at a scene she has admired a thousand
times before, and recalling memories of sweet caresses and whispered
words.

Filmy shadows fall from the trees without, gradually outlining
themselves upon the walls of the room, and the steps from the verandah.
The hot air rises from the valley.

Eleanor breathes the tropical atmosphere and sighs.  She loosens her
gown at the throat, and waves an enormous palm-leaf fan leisurely
backwards and forwards.  The air stirs the soft hair on her forehead,
cooling her brow.

She raises her eyes to the clock and smiles.

"He will soon return," she thinks.  "It is growing late, and he
promised to be home before nightfall."

She goes out on to the verandah, gazing down the road which leads to
Mandalay.

Two or three black children are resting by a wall at the foot of the
hill, one squatting on the ground hugging his knees, the others
standing in easy graceful attitudes, with round pitchers on their heads.

The well is beneath a huge palm.  Eleanor has sometimes "wished" by it
with Carol, pretending there is some mystic spell in the water.

He will pass that charmed spot as he returns, and she will stand on the
steps to greet him.

Surely in all the world Carol could not have chosen a more romantic
retreat in which to live and love!

The shadows deepen, they take forms, and glide from place to place as
daylight dies.

She peers into the gloom, the children go home to bed.  Carol is not in
sight!

The red flowers of the morning lie withered up and brown on the floor
where she has left them.  Carol must not be greeted by the sight of her
negligence.  She stoops down, and gathers them together in both hands,
sweeping the dust and fallen petals into her white palm.  Crossing
slowly to the door, Eleanor calls Quamina.

"Take these away," she says.

Quamina looks anxiously into her face, as she relieves her young
mistress of the dead blossoms.

"The Sahib is long in returning," she volunteers, with a nervous leer.

"Yes.  We shall soon need a light."

"The devil will not catch him this evening; the devil is well
employed," Quamina assures her.  "Have no fear, lady."

"What do you mean?" asks Eleanor, a shade of anger crossing her face.

Quamina looks up proudly, delightedly.

"I have placed food and drink in the rock away from the roadside," she
replies chuckling.  "He will be busy eating, and never see the Sahib
riding up the path.  Quamina loves the Sahib and his white lady; she
will provide for the devil."

Eleanor shrugs her shoulders in sheer despair.  She cannot bring this
woman to reason.  With a pitying smile she returns to the window, and
buries her fingers in the soft silk of those yellow pillows with an
almost frantic clutch.  They are just like the sofa cushions at
Lyndhurst.  Philip, perhaps, is lounging on them now, or Erminie--he
has given them to Mrs. Lane for her new drawing-room.

She kneels for a while on the lounge, and though there is no sound her
lips move.

Thus she stays, directly opposite the open window, listening and
looking, wondering and praying.

Can some evil have befallen him?  She remembers his displeasure when
she rode out to meet him that night--the man with the black mask.

There is a loud report in the room; she springs to her feet with a cry.
It is only a string of her guitar which has broken, and she sinks back
into the old attitude despairingly.

Quamina is pounding rice in the kitchen.  Eleanor calls to her to stop.
She fancies the sound may prevent her hearing the first fall of a
horse's hoofs in the distance, for the moon has not risen yet, and she
cannot see far.

So she remains perfectly still, waiting for the pale light to rise in
the heavens, while crowds of unutterable fancies rush through her
brain--a mad disorder of thought.

She stares outwards, as one in the fetters of an awful dream.

"Why does he not come to her?"

Some well-known words recur to her brain.  "The eye, like a shattered
mirror, multiplies the images of its sorrow, and sees, in innumerable
far-off places, the woe which is close at hand."

There is a hot and heavy vapour in the air--it seems to poison Eleanor
as she inhales it in her lungs.  A settled apathy pervades her spirit.
For some moments she feels nothing, has not a thought--only a strange
ringing in her head.  The landscape before her looks desolate and
terrible, an unredeemed dreariness darkens her soul like a London
fog--thick, stifling.

London!  The word recalls Philip, the man whose home she shattered,
whose life she ruined--for Carol's sake.  It was easy to deal the blow,
to forget the world, to forfeit her good name when love's overpowering
fascination was the bait.  She can annihilate that black past in the
light of Carol's smile; but when he is absent, and night is on the
earth and in her heart, then the spectre rises, points his deadly
finger at her quivering soul, and she realises the hideous dropping off
of the veil.  Her mind is a chaos of ruins.  She calls to Carol in
vain; only the shrill cry of some night bird through the air, and the
beating of her pulses, answer that he will not come!

The gaunt form of a four-footed beast steals across the shadows she has
watched so long, that she almost doubts her senses.  Can it be a tiger
perchance come forth from the jungle to prowl around her home?

She looks again, a thrill of horror darting through her trembling body.

The beast creeps with a soft and stealthy tread up the verandah
steps--it is long and yellow.

Eleanor stares in mesmeric terror at its fiery eyes.

Then she sees it is a dog--a huge sandy mastiff, with hanging jaws, wet
with foam, a great square head, and broad noiseless feet.  It shambles
nearer, appearing so suddenly out of the gloom that it seems to
materialise before her vision.  It watches her as if about to spring;
she cannot remember it is not a tiger after all.

Eleanor sickens with fear, a dizzy faintness numbs her nerves, the room
swims round.  Her breath comes in quick gasps from a throat parched,
and dry as with desert sand.

She stares dumbly into its glistening eyes that look like coals of fire
in the dark.

Those moments seem to be long hours; they are spells of invisible woe;
this dog is perhaps a phantom, come to warn her of some ghastly peril
into which Carol has fallen.  Its fangs look ripe for human gore; it
pants, and its breath is as the rush of a storm.

"Help!" says a low voice, calling the dog by name.

The animal turns at the sound of that word.  "Help! come back."  He
crouches away disappointed; he would have liked to seize Eleanor by the
throat if he dared.

At the sound of the man's call Eleanor does not move, nor even start,
only the blood seems to dry up in her veins, her fingers twitch
convulsively, her eyes roll back in her head.  She can hear the heavy
footfalls mounting the steps to the verandah one by one; she dares not
look, for she _knows_, she _understands_!

Then a sudden idea seizes her.  They are not yet face to face.  If her
paralysed limbs will let her she may yet escape through the room, and
out behind.  She can hide in the thick undergrowth, and watch her
opportunity to creep down the road and warn Carol of the danger
threatening their lives.  He may even now be passing the well and
riding up the hill to death!

She rushes blindly across the room, but that instant the heavy steps
reach the verandah.  Her aim is frustrated.  She staggers against the
wall, extending her arms aloft with a wild gesture.

The intruder stands in the open window, his dark figure framed, in the
line between the verandah and the interior, his face illuminated by the
moon which has burst like a ghostly lamp-man over the east.  She feels
like one dazed in the trammels of opium.  She tries to cry out, to
shriek for help, but only one word breaks hoarsely from her lips with a
hollow groan:

"Philip!"

The man enters the room silently, his garments are thick with dust, his
coat torn as with jungle briars sharply thorned.  He looks as if he had
lived in the outer air, unkempt, dishevelled!  Thick black hair has
grown over the lower part of his face; but his eyes gleam as they meet
hers while he advances, his gaze riveted on Eleanor.  A fierce growl
makes him turn, and his eyes fall on the lounging coat of Tussore silk
lying upon yellow cushions.

"Help" has scented it, and springing with his huge paws towards the
sofa, tears and rends it furiously in his heavy jaws with the savage
air of a lion destroying prey.

The sight is strangely horrible to Eleanor.  Her eyes start from their
sockets, staring, bloodshot, fixed.  Her lips are livid, her limbs
stiff, she is still drawn up against the wall at bay; but for its
support she would fall upon the ground.

Philip smiles.  The action of the dog pleases him.  He does not notice
the photograph of Carol, which dropped from Eleanor's hands as she
started across the room, but the heel of his dusty boot falls on the
face, crushing it under the weight of his tread, scarring the features
and cracking the card.  He advances and stands passively before
Eleanor, so close that his hot breath fans her cheek, looking at her
and waiting.

The steady ticking of the clock resounds in the room; in that moment of
extreme tension it deafens her.

The silence is horrible, unendurable; she struggles to break it, and
her voice sounds to her own amazement perfectly natural.

"I know why you have come, Philip," she says calmly, and it seems that
she has lived through this moment in some past existence, so painfully
familiar are the ghastly occurrences of to-night.  Perhaps it was in
some shadowy dream which faded from her memory on awaking.  "I know why
you are here," she repeats throwing back her head against the bamboo
panelling, and stretching out her arms in the attitude of a crucified
victim.  "I read it in your face.  But I am too young to die, too
sin-stained."

"You think I have come to kill you, Eleanor?"

His words are low and hollow; they seem strangely similar to the
warning growl of his huge dog.  She thinks he has grown to resemble the
ferocious-looking beast, or "Help," in the moonlight, appears like his
master--from perpetual companionship.

But even as she looks, something of the man creeps into Philip's eyes,
humanising them.  The brute nature fades.

She answers his question under her breath:

"Yes, you have hunted me down to take my life."

An expression of intense pain contracts his features; she has cut him
to the quick.

With a woman's sharp instinct, intensified by dread, Eleanor sees that
her doom is not yet; but the thought of another burns like fire in her
brain.  Her own miserable thread of life, what does it matter?  She
holds it as nought compared with the one she loves.  She would die a
thousand deaths if such a sacrifice would buy him safety.

"How little you understand me!" he says at last.  "It was always so."

"Why have you come?" she asks, faintly tracing the shadows that fall
around him in the pallid moonlight.

He turns, as if in answer, to the scattered rags of a silken coat, some
of which still hang in the mastiff's jaws; then his gaze travels
through the verandah, down the zig-zag path towards the jungle.

Eleanor interprets the look.  With a swift movement she wrenches
herself from the wall against which she has seemed to be held as if by
a strong magnet, crosses the room with quick and noiseless tread,
fastens the folding window doors together with a click, facing Philip
in defiant silence.

"You have come for him," she hisses, the hatred in her eyes gleaming
forth.  "You would kill--Carol."

At the mention of his name from her lips Philip starts.

"Is it not so?" she cries wildly, raising her voice, which trembles
with emotion, vibratos with dread.

For the moment Philip does not reply, only his face lights up as with
the glory of revenge.

Eleanor's fingers tighten on the window fastening.  She clings to it
for support.

A strangled cry breaks from her lips, and the half incoherent words:
"My God!  My God!"



CHAPTER XXIII.

  OH, I DEFY THEE, HELL, TO SHOW
  ON BEDS OF FIRE THAT BURN BELOW,
        A DEEPER WOE.--_E. A. Poe_.

Philip pushes a chair forward as if to signify there is no need to
guard the window.

The action excites Eleanor to passion.

"It is cowardly to kill," she cries through her clenched teeth.

"And if I did, what should I get in return for all he has stolen from
me?  Could he give me back your heart?  Could he blot out the past with
his blood?  Should I regain the pure thing I lost, the wife I
treasured, the woman I adored?  Think how he shattered my life and
wrecked my happiness, when he enticed you with the golden apple, that
rots and decays, turning to wormwood between the lips!  You were
allured by the seductive cajolery, the damnable influence of a
scoundrel."

Eleanor's breast heaves, she staggers forward in a frenzy.

"Stop!  What you say is false.  I was not 'enticed.'  I went because I
loved him body and soul; because existence without him was
empty--impossible.  If I had stayed with you, loving him, I should not
have been true to myself; I should have played the traitor in my own
home; the curse would have been on you and on your children.  If such a
thing were possible, here in this new land, my passion developed,
increased, tenfold.  The night and day, the light, the darkness, they
hold nothing for me but this rapturous love, all that is precious,
tender, sweet.  I have fed on in this paradise till _you_ came, like an
image of death, to bring back all that is odious, hateful."

"Yes," he replies slowly, "I can believe you were happy, clinging to
the prize you held so dear.  Your words have not surprised me,  I have
listened to them so often in fancy, picturing this scene, when you and
I alone should stand together and bare our souls.  I expected to hear
your short-lived rapture hurled at me as a shield, a fortification!  I
am ready to judge it, to weigh it if you will, in the scales of right
and wrong.  Will you not continue?"

His words wither Eleanor's defence; she shrinks back into herself.

"Surely you have something more to say," with an ironical laugh, that
re-echoes discordantly round the room.

She shakes her head mournfully, and drops her hands to her sides.

"Perhaps," he continues, "I was to blame.  I was not in harmony with
you; I failed to please."

"Oh!  Philip!"

The words are a protest, wrung from the bottom of her soul.

"Or I did not place sufficient confidence in you; we had 'family jars,'
'vexed questions,' 'disagreements.'"

"Philip, for pity's sake----"

He runs his fingers through the grey hair, lying moist upon his
sun-bronzed brow.  The crow's feet of sorrow furrow the corners of his
eyes, which are stern, but not angry.  They have looked for the last
time on the golden season of life, now they stare at Eleanor as if
reading in her face the key of the everlasting twilight that has fallen
on his days.

Instinctively she cowers back, hiding her burning face in her hands,
red with a flush of deepest shame.

"Don't shrink from me," he says.  "It is almost incomprehensible,
Eleanor, but----"

She looks up quickly.

"Ever since you left me I have had no thought but you.  In life's
morning you were my love, my all.  I could not tear you from my heart
had I wished to.  But I never tried."

"Is that possible?" she gasps incredulously.  "You must indeed have
loved me!"

"I may be mad, but it is so.  I love you now in your degradation, and
misery, in spite of all!"

The confession staggers her.

"And you show it by hunting me down to destroy my happiness.  You must
have sought long to find me here, and now that you are successful, now
that I am run to earth, what will you do?"

"What do you _think?_"

His face becomes fiendish.  She watches his sinister smile.

"I have told you what I believe you capable of--you will murder him.  I
know it.  You have no pity!  The love you boast of is swallowed up in
hate."

An evil flame lights his mocking eyes.

"Yes, I might spring at his throat as he comes from the jungle, I might
set 'Help' upon him in the dark.  He is a weak man, easily unnerved.
The very sight of this knife----"

"Ah!"

Philip has drawn a sharp blade of steel from his coat and flashed it in
the moonlight, with a bitter groan.

He replaces it at the sight of her terror, with something of regret in
his hard smile.

"What false professions!" sneers Eleanor.  "You dare to speak of loving
mo, when you would rob me of the man in whom all my happiness lies!"

Philip winces as if suddenly recalled to facts.

"Yes, your whole future was controlled by him."

His words fill her with a vague misgiving, but she draws herself up
proudly and replies:

"It is safe in Carol's keeping."

"You are sure of that?"

She bows a cold assent.

"Then listen, Eleanor."  He speaks authoritatively.  "Come here.  Sit
down."

He points to a chair, but she sinks on the edge of the sofa, too
agitated to notice her proximity to the huge mastiff.

"There is need of explanation," Philip continues, never taking his eyes
off her white, scared face.  "It is time you understood me.  You say I
have 'run you to earth,' as if through this long period of separation I
had been hunting you like a bloodhound, and suddenly found myself on
your track.  You imagine I have just discovered you."

Eleanor's lips part as if to speak, but the words are choked back in
her throat.  "Help" stirs his head, for the first time she sees he is
at her feet.

"You recall," says Philip, "that small dog--a suspicious Irish
terrier--you were given some time back?"

"What of him?  How did you know?" turning her eyes wonderingly from
"Help" to Philip.

"It was killed in some bushes by a wild beast, when you were riding one
day with your lover."

"Yes."

He pauses.

The mastiff rises slowly, and stretches himself, as if wearied by his
day's work.

Eleanor draws her skirts away from contact with his coarse hair.

She sees it all at last.

"Killed," she repeats, "and by your dog."

Her breath comes quicker, she turns and peers through the window, as if
expecting something.

"There is still more," declares Philip.  "That cat's-eye ring I gave
you, Eleanor--where is it?"

His voice pulses with suppressed force.

"Carol was attacked in the jungle one night----"

"By a masked fiend, who tore him from his horse and shook him by the
throat, like a cat with a mouse, then flung him aside as a scorpion too
poisonous to touch--a foul thing, only fit to lie beneath a rock,
hidden from the sight of man.  When he rose up, his assailant had gone,
like a silent ghost on that lonely road."

Philip holds his lean fingers before her eyes, and flashing on one of
them gleams the greenish light of the cat's-eye gem.

Again Eleanor looks fearfully out into the night, she fancies she hears
Carol on the steps below.

"While you have been basking in your 'paradise' dreaming your
short-lived vision of love, I have watched and waited, prowling to and
fro with 'Help,' a faithful servant, at my heels.  Your dog scented me,
he proclaimed my presence, so I let 'Help' silence him once and for
all.  Many a night when you sat together, there in that verandah, your
hand linked in his ringless fingers, your eyes feasting on his false
face, I crouched below, watching.  Did you never feel my nearness?  Ah,
you shudder!  It _was_ strange--very strange.  It maddened me that he
should wear your ring--my ring--so I wrenched it from him."

She listens like one in the thralls of a hideous nightmare.  If Carol
comes now--he is lost!

"Why, when I had him by the throat," asks Philip, "did I not strangle
the life from his body?  Why did I stay my hand?  How was it I watched
your happiness with hungry eyes, and did not strike?  I could have shot
you dead in each other's arms scores of times.  I inexorably determined
on his death, but held the sword suspended, like Damocles, by a single
hair."

She listens acutely to his every syllable.

"Why?" she stammers feebly, her mind groping in the dark.

"So long as he was faithful to you--so long as he valued what you flung
at his feet, I would not wake you from your Elysium.  By this I
_proved_ the love you discredit.  My action should not plunge you into
an abyss of woe; but _now_ that he is false--_false as Hell_----"

"Liar!" breaks in Eleanor hotly; "your miserable accusation is
unfounded."

"Wait.  When he left you for long days of 'sport,' what do you think
was the nature of that chase?"

Eleanor is silent, numbed by dread and despair.

"His game--was a woman, who knew from his lips your whole history.  I
have seen them together for hours at a time--heard them speak--jest at
your expense.  But, in spite of this, she was jealous of you, and, but
for a bad shot, would have taken your life that day in the jungle, when
I killed her horse under her.  You see I was guarding you, Eleanor.  He
has been scheming to go away with her; to desert you as a toy that is
broken--a flower which has lost its scent."

She leaps to her feet, and flings open the window.

"You are hoodwinking me with a trumped-up story; it is not true!"

"Hear me out.  He is serving you as you treated me.  It is retribution.
You forfeited his respect and consideration.  He gave you only the
brief glamour of his passion, which has died, to re-live in the smiles
of 'Paulina.'"

"Philip, these lies are dastardly--cruel!  You do not know what you are
saying."

"You cling hard to your faith!" he retorts savagely, her staunchness to
Carol awaking a fever of indignation within him.  "Did I ever in the
old days deserve that hard term 'liar'?"

She shakes her head.  "Oh, no!"

"You are waiting for him to-night, Eleanor.  He had promised, I
believe, to return?"

She gazes down the slanting road.

"Yes.  He is late."  Then, with a sudden cry: "And when he comes--oh!
Philip, I had not realised it--your revenge!  What can I do to save
him?  Anything--I care not what!  I will go and leave him--I will kill
myself here before your eyes, as a ransom!  You are mistaken, he is
_not_ false to me; any moment he may arrive.  Only spare his life, for
the love of Heaven!"

She falls on her knees at Philip's feet, beating the air with her hands.

He raises her gently, but firmly.

"You need not look," he says, as her terrified eyes stare out at the
moonlit scene, white and ghostly.  "Yesterday he wrote to the woman
Paulina, making all arrangements for their flight this night.  She
dropped the letter in the jungle, from a satchel full of shot.  It is
here."

He holds out the torn envelope, with its broken seal and deadly
intelligence.

Eleanor takes it mechanically--as yet she cannot believe--while the
sight of the familiar handwriting sends the hot blood coursing freely
once more through her brain.

She draws the closely-worded sheet from its resting-place and crosses
to the light to scan the text.

Philip watches her face as it bends over the letter.  He has struck a
match and holds it up to illuminate that fatal message.

Every vestige of life seems to fly from her features.  The page swims
before her tailing sight, the words become crossed and blurred.  She
has read enough!

Then she remembers Paulina's fingers have touched this paper, perhaps
her lips, and it flutters from Eleanor's hands at the thought, falling
silently between her and Philip.

"Now," he cries, "can you grasp my mission?  Do you guess why I am
here?  There was no longer any cause for him to live."  Philip throws
back his coat, and she sees the shirt beneath it is splashed with blood.

[Illustration: Philip throws back his coat, and she sees the shirt
beneath it is splashed with blood.]

He takes her icy hand and draws her towards the verandah.

"I killed him at sunset," he whispers, pointing outwards, "over there,
on that far hill.  When night came I bore him back to you.  Now in the
moonlight, down near the well, or to-morrow at dawn, you will find your
lover.  His set face is looking up from the long grass, his last word
was 'Paulina!'"

Eleanor staggers to the rails, and points towards the well.

She seems struggling to speak, but there is only a low gurgle in her
throat.

Philip stands on the steps.  "'Help,'" he says abruptly, calling the
dog.  "Come."

Together the man and beast pass like visions into the night.

      *      *      *      *      *

Eleanor crouches away to the far corner of the verandah, her limbs
relax, and she huddles herself in a heap on the hard ground, without a
cry; without a moan.

      *      *      *      *      *

Another day breaks gloriously over the East; in the first rays of
sunlight Eleanor stirs.  With difficulty she rises from her cramped
position, a shudder runs over her frame as she walks unsteadily down
the steps, in the direction of the well.

The jungle fowl on tree and ground give forth their sharp shrill cries.

The bulbul whistles sweet notes like those of a thrush.

The golden oriole with its bright yellow plumage whirrs as a flash of
sunlight through the trees, and the birds at home are singing.



THE END.





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