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´╗┐Title: Sally Bishop - A Romance
Author: Thurston, E. Temple (Ernest Temple), 1879-1933
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 "Sally Bishop - A Romance" ***

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SALLY BISHOP

A ROMANCE



BY
E. TEMPLE THURSTON



NEW AND CHEAPER EDITION



LONDON
CHAPMAN & HALL, LTD.
1912



_BY THE SAME AUTHOR_.

THE APPLE OF EDEN.
TRAFFIC.
THE REALIST.
THE EVOLUTION OF KATHERINE.
MIRAGE.
THE CITY OF BEAUTIFUL NONSENSE.
THE GREATEST WISH IN THE WORLD.
THE PATCHWORK PAPERS.
THE GARDEN OF RESURRECTION.
THIRTEEN.
THE FLOWER OF GLOSTER.
THE ANTAGONISTS.



_Copyright in the United States of America by E. Temple Thurston,
1909_.



To
GERALD DU MAURIER



_MY DEAR GERALD,_

_Amongst the many things which I anticipate in the reception of this
book, is the shrug-shoulder smile of critics at my sub-title--a
Romance. There are canons and rubrics to be observed, it would seem,
in the slightest action that a man attempts in this Great World's
Fair of Conventionality, whose every sideshow is hedged around with
the red-tape of the Law. Witness even that delusive proverb--there
is honour amongst thieves. So is there an unwritten canon in
literature and the making of books, that a Romance must end with a
phrase to convey another illusion--namely, the happiness that is
ever after._

_And so, in this respect, I throw canons to the winds--it sounds a
herculean feat--wash out the printed red of the rubric, and call,
perhaps the saddest story I shall write, a Romance._

_Yet I profess to have a reason beyond mere contrariness. The world
of Romance must be at all times an elusive star--never capable of
being put in the exact same place on any one's calendar. And to me
it conveys no fixed beginning, no fixed end, so long as it possesses
that quality of dreaming imagination in the mind of the character
with whom the circumstances are first concerned. All that we know
certainly of life is reality, and of all those myriad things which
combine to make up the one great scheme, of which we know nothing,
there is the quality of Romance--free to any one who cares to let
his mind drift upon the sea of conjecture._

_In that this was the case with Sally; in that she made her dream
out of Reality itself--I have called it a Romance. The Romance that
remains a Romance until the end, is not as yet within the reach of
my pen. If it ever should be--then I promise you that book as well._

_On all my other anticipations--the attitude of the critical mind
towards Chapter IV. in Book I., the sensitiveness of the delicate
mind when it closes its eyes on Chapter VI. of Book II.--I will keep
silent. As I have said, I anticipate many things, but I only hope
for your approval._

            _Yours always,_
                  _E. TEMPLE THURSTON._

  _LONDON,_
      _January 31st, 1908._



CONTENTS

BOOK   I. THE CONSCRIPT

BOOK  II. THE DESERTER

BOOK III. DERELICT

BOOK  IV. THE EMPTY HORIZON



SALLY BISHOP



BOOK I

THE CONSCRIPT



CHAPTER I


It was an evening late in November. The fog that during the afternoon
had been lying like a crouching beast between the closely built
houses had now risen. It was as though it had waited till nightfall
for its prey, and then departed, leaving a sense of sulkiness in the
atmosphere that weighed persistently on the spirits. A slight
drizzling rain was wetting the pavements. It clung in a mist to the
glass panes of the street lamps, dimming the glow of the light within.

In the windows of all the houses the electric lights were burning.
You could see clerks, male and female, bent up over their desks
beneath them. Some worked steadily, never looking up from their
occupations; others gazed with expressionless faces out into the
street. Occasionally the figure of a man would move out of the
apparent darkness of the room beyond. The light would fan in patches
on his face. You could see his lips moving as he spoke to the occupant
of the desk; you might even trace the faint animation as it crept
into the face of the person thus addressed. But it would only last
for a few moments. The man would move away and the look of tired apathy
settle itself once more upon the clerk's features as soon as he or
she were left alone.

As it grew later, there might be seen men with hats on their heads,
moving about--in the light one moment, lost in the darkness the next.
Some of them were pulling gloves on to their hands, or lighting
cigarettes, others would be pinning a bunch of violets into their
button-holes, or brushing the shoulders of their coats. These were
the ones who had finished for the day. It could always be known when
they had taken their departure. The heads of the clerks would twist
towards the interior of the room. You could almost imagine the
wistful expression on their faces from the bare outlines of their
attitudes as they turned in their chairs. Then, a minute later, the
main door of the house would open, the figure of a man emerge; for
a moment he would turn his face up to the sky, then the umbrella would
go up and he would walk away into the darkness of the street, for
one brief moment an individual with an identity; the next, a mere
unit in the great herd of human beings.

There were many departures such as these before, at last, the clerks
rose from their chairs. When finally they did move, it was with a
lethargy that almost concealed the relief which the cessation of work
had brought them. One might have expected to see the slamming of books
and the rushing for hats like children released from school. But
there was no such energy of delight as that. Ledgers were closed
wearily, as though they were weighted with leaden covers; papers were
put in tiny heaps as if they were a pile of death-warrants.
Typewriters were covered with such slowness and such care that one
might think they were delicate instruments of music with silver
strings, instead of treadmills for tired hands.

Some reason must explain why these young men and girls, when their
superiors took their departure, showed so plainly the envy that they
felt and now are apparently unmoved by the prospect of their own
freedom. It is simply this. Vitality is an exhaustible quality. It
may last up to a certain moment, then it burns out like the hungry
wick of a candle that has no more grease to feed it. You can
incarcerate a man for such a length of time that when at last you
do give him his liberty he has no love left for it. It is much the
same with these creatures who are imprisoned in the barred cells of
London offices. By the time their day's work is ended their vitality
for enjoyment has been exhausted. They take their liberty much as
a man takes the sentence of penal servitude when he had expected to
be hanged.

Stand for a moment in this street that runs out from the Covent Garden
Market and watch the office windows before the lights are
extinguished. Is there one attitude, one movement, one gesture that
betrays the joy of freedom now that the day's work is over? Scarcely
one. That boy with the long dark hair drooping on his forehead,
contrasting so vividly against his sallow skin--you might imagine
from the listlessness of his actions that the day's work was just
beginning. At lunch time, when the vitality was yet in store, he might
have been seen, running out from the building in the gleeful
anticipation of an hour's rest. But now, when all the hours of the
night are before him, his nervous energy has been sapped away. You
get no spirit in a tired horse. It shies at nothing, but drags one
foot wearily after another until the stable door is reached.

This is the actual condition of things that the young men and women
find when they have burnt their boats, have left the country for the
illusory joys of the town. There may be greater possibilities of
enjoyment; but this huge, carnivorous plant--this gigantic city of
London--has only displayed its attractions in order to gain its prey.
They are drawn by the colours of the petals, they come to the honeyed
perfume of its scent; but once caught in the prison of its embrace,
there is only the slow poison of forced labour that eats its deadly
way into the very heart of their vitality.

In one of these offices off Covent Garden, under a green-shaded lamp
that cast its metallic rays on to the typewriting machine before her,
sat one of the young lady clerks in the establishment of Bonsfield
& Co., a firm of book-buyers. They carried on a promiscuous trade
with America and the Colonies, and managed, by the straining of ends,
to meet their expenses and show a small margin of profit. You
undertake the labour of a slave in Egypt, and run the risk of a forlorn
hope when you try to make a living wage in London as your own master.
The price of freedom in a free country is beyond the reach of most
pockets.

The hour of six had rung out from the neighbouring clocks, yet this
girl showed no signs of finishing her work. From down in the street
you could see her bent over the machine, her fingers pounding the
keys--human hammers monotonously striving to beat out a pattern upon
metal, a pattern that would never come. The light from the
green-shaded lamp above her, fell obliquely on her head. It lit up
her pale, golden hair like a sun-ray; it drew out the round, gentle
curve of her face and threw it up against the darkness of the room
beyond. So well as it could, with its harsh methods, it made a picture.
One instinctively paused to look at it. A man coming out of the
shadows of the Covent Garden Market stopped as he passed down King
Street and gazed up at the window.

For five minutes he stood and watched her, assuming, by looking up
and down the street when anybody passed him by, the attitude of a
person who is waiting for some one.

It is impossible to say whether it is really the woman herself, or
a combination of the woman and the moment, which seizes and drags
a man's attention towards her. In this case it may have been the
combined result of the two. The girl was pretty. In the ray of that
electric light, the soft, childish outline of her face and the pale,
sensuous strands of her hair were probably lent a glamour such as
that given by the footlights. The man, too, was on his way back to
companionless chambers. The lower end of Regent Street may be a far
from lonely spot in which to take up one's abode; but there is nothing
so empty as an empty room, no matter on to what crowded thoroughfare
it may look. Say, then, it was a combination of impulses, the woman
and the moment--the girl pretty and the man oppressed by a sense of
loneliness. Whatever it was, he stood there, without any apparent
intention of moving, and watched her.

She was the last, amongst all those workers who could be seen within
the lighted apertures of the windows, to leave her post. One by one
they performed their weary play of actions, the shutting up of
ledgers, the putting away of papers--out went the lights, and a
moment later dim figures stole out of the darkened doorways into the
drizzling rain, and hurried away into the shadows of the streets.
But she still remained, and the man, with a certain amount of dogged
persistence, continued to watch her movements. Once he took out his
watch, as his impatience became more insistent. Then, with the
continual watching of her, the continual sight of her hands dancing
laboriously on those keys, the noise of the typewriter at last
reached the ears of his imagination. He could hear, above the sounds
of the street, that everlasting metallic tapping.

"God! What a life!" he exclaimed to himself.

If there is anything in telepathy; if thoughts, by reason of their
concentration, can be borne from one mind to another utterly
unconscious of them, then what followed his exclamation might well
have been an example of it. For a moment the girl buried her face
in her hands. He could see her pressing her fingers into the sockets
of her eyes. Then, sitting upright, she stretched her arms above her
head. Every action was expressive of her exhaustion. The glancing
at her watch, the critical inspection of the bundle of papers, yet
untyped, that lay beside her on the desk; all these various movements
were like the gestures of a dumb show. Was she going to give in? From
the size of the bundle of papers which she had looked at, there was
apparently still a great deal of work left for her to do.

The thought passed across his mind that he would give her until he
had counted twenty; if she showed no signs of moving by that time,
he decided to wait no longer.

One--two--three--four--she stood up from the desk. He still watched
her until he had seen her place the wooden cover over the machine;
then he crossed to the other side of the road and began walking up
and down the pavement, passing the door of Bonsfield & Co. About every
twenty yards or so, he turned and passed it again.

Five minutes elapsed. At last he heard the door of the premises
close--the noise of it rattled in the street; then he turned and faced
her as she came towards him.

Her head was down; her feet were moving quickly, tapping on the
pavement. He prepared himself to speak to her, his hand getting ready
to lift his hat. If she had given him half the encouragement that
he imagined he required, he would have found courage; but without
lifting her head, as though she were utterly unconscious of his
presence, she hurried by in the direction of Bedford Street and the
West.

Was that to be the end of it? Had he waited that full quarter of an
hour in the drizzling rain for nothing? The man of fixed intent is
hardly beaten so easily as that. There was no definite evil purpose
in his mind. He was caught in that mood when a man must talk to some
one, and a woman for preference. The waiting of fifteen minutes in
that sluggish atmosphere had only intensified it. The fact that in
the first moment of opportunity his courage had failed had had no
power to move him from his purpose, or to change the prompting of
his mood.

As soon as she had passed him on the pavement, he turned resolutely
and followed her.



CHAPTER II


All life is an adventure, even the most monotonous moments of it.
It is impossible to walk the streets of London without being
conscious of that spirit of the possibility of happenings which makes
life tolerable. It was not to feast their eyes upon unknown worlds,
or drench their hands in a stream of gold, that the old marauders
of England set forth upon the high seas. Assuredly it must have been,
in the hearts of them, that love of adventure, that desire for the
happenings of strange things which spurred them on to face God in
the wind, to dare Him in the tempest, to brave Him even into the
unknown.

Some of that instinct, but in its various and lesser degrees, is left
in us now. For one moment it rose in the mind of Sally Bishop, as
she turned into Bedford Street and directed her course towards
Piccadilly Circus. It had crossed her mind in suspicion--the uprush
of an idea, as a bubble struggles to the surface--that the man whom
she had found waiting outside the premises of Bonsfield & Co. had
had the intention in his mind to speak to her as she passed. Now,
as she looked sideways when she turned the corner, and found that
he had altered his direction--was following her--the suspicion
became a conviction. She knew.

In the first realization, the thought of adventure thrilled her. A
life, quiet and uneventful such as hers, looks of necessity for its
happiness to the little thrills, the little emotions that combine
to make one day less monotonous than another. But when, having
reached Garrick Street and, looking hurriedly over her shoulder, she
found that not only was he still following, but that he had
perceptibly lessened the distance between them, the spirit of
interest sank--died out, like a candle snuffed in a gale. In that
moment she became afraid.

It is nameless, that terror in the mind of a woman pursued. Yet
without it one of the first of her abstract attractions would be gone.
Undoubtedly it is the joy of the pursuer that the quarry should take
to flight. Would there be any chase without? But long years of study
amongst the more advanced of us have made the fact of rather common
knowledge. The woman has learnt that to be caught there must be flight,
and, in assuming it, she has acquired for herself the instincts of
the pursuer. So an army, resorting to the strategy of retreat, is
still the pursuer in the more subtle sense of the word. It is this
strategy that is cunningly taught in the modern, genteel education
of the sex. The virtue of chastity it is called, but over the length
of time it has come to be a forced growth; it has altered
intrinsically in its composition. Education has learnt to make use
of chastity, rather than to acquire it for itself. And, after all,
what is it in itself, when the gilt of its glamour is stripped, like
tinsel, from the fairy's pantomimic wand?

There is, when everything has been said, only one value in chastity
in its ideal sense, so long as we are tied to these conditions of
human instinct, and that is in the value that it brings to women.
Without it, a woman may be the essence of fascination; she may be
the completeness of attraction, but for the need of the race she is
undesirable. Without chastity, a woman may be most things to a man,
but she cannot be a mother to his child.

Amongst those girls, then, whose desire in life it is to marry,
conforming in all ways to the authority of convention, chastity has
been taught from the cradle--taught as a means to an end. It is mostly,
if not altogether, in the lower middle classes that you will find
chastity to be an end in itself. The destructive philosophy of
education has not swept out the gentler virtues from them. As yet
they have not come under the keen edge of its influence. For their
chastity, then, they are interesting; whereas the manufactured
virtue of the upper middle class is like the hothouse
strawberry--forced in May--a tempting fruit to lay upon a dish, but
tasteless, as is wool, between the teeth.

It is this virtue--this real quality, breeding self-respect--that
you will find in the mind of Sally Bishop. Here is no strategy of
movement, no well-considered campaign. She quickens her steps, and
her heart thumps within her, because that virtue, which is her
priceless possession, is in danger of being assailed. In the very
soul of her is the desire to escape. There are thousands of women
whom education has nursed who set the pace as well, whenever a man
starts in pursuit; but the course of their flight leads straight to
the altar and they run neither too fast, nor too slow, lest by any
chance the hunter should weary of the chase. But here you have none
of this. The woman is obeying instincts that Nature gave her with
her soul. Sally Bishop is pure--the chaste woman. Where men most look
for her, she is hard to find.

This journey from King Street to Piccadilly Circus was performed
every evening. In Piccadilly she found the 'bus that took her to
Hammersmith. It was a pleasurable little journey; she looked forward
to it. It amused her to dally on the way, stopping to look in the
shop windows. The bright lights lifted her spirits. After a time she
had become acquainted with the prints that hung in the print-seller's
windows in Garrick Street; they always stayed there long enough to
grow familiar. There was also a jeweller's shop in Coventry Street;
it sold second-hand silver--old Sheffield-plated candle-sticks,
cream ewers and sugar bowls; George III. silver tea-services, and
quaint-shaped wine strainers--they stood there in the window in
profusion. In themselves, for the daintiness of their design, or the
value of their antiquity, they did not interest her. She liked the
look of them glittering there; they conveyed a sense of the
embarrassment of riches which touched her ideas of romance. It was
the tray of old-fashioned ornaments, brooches in the design of flimsy
baskets of flowers, each flower represented by a different coloured
stone--old signet rings, old seals, quaint little figures of men and
beasts in silver, sometimes in gold; these were the things that
caught her fancy; she pored over them, choosing, every time she
passed, some fresh trinket that she would like to possess.

But on this evening in November she did not stop. At the
print-seller's in Garrick Street, she hesitated, but one glance over
her shoulder sped her onwards. The apprehension most prominent in
her mind was that if she continually looked behind her, the man might
fancy she was encouraging him. Once having consciously decided that,
she turned no more until she had reached the protection of the
fountain in the middle of the Circus. There she stopped and glanced
back. He was gone. In all the hundreds of human beings who mingled
and churned like a swarm of ants upon an ant-hill, he was nowhere
to be seen. With a genuine sigh of relief, she crossed over to the
Piccadilly side and walked beside a Hammersmith 'bus, as if slowed
gradually down to the regulated place where the conditions of traffic
permit vehicles to collect their passengers.

A little crowd of people, like flies upon fallen fruit, clung about
the steps of the 'bus as it moved towards its resting-place. She
joined in with them, jostled along the pavement by their efforts to
secure an advantageous position by the steps. When finally it did
come to a standstill and she had reached the conductor's platform,
the announcement, "Outside only," met her attempt to force a passage
within.

It was still raining--persistent mist of rain that steals a way
through any clothing. Should she wait? She had no umbrella. But she
had known what it was to wait on such occasions before. The next 'bus
would probably be full up inside, and the next, and the next. Twenty
minutes might well be wasted before she could start on her way home,
and you have little energy left within you to care about a wetting,
when from nine o'clock in the morning until six, when it is dark,
you have been beating the keys of a typewriter. Your mind demands
but little then, so long as you can secure a peaceful oblivion.

So, in the face of others who turned back, she mounted the stairway
on to the roof of the 'bus. There she was alone, and, pulling the
tarpaulin covering around her, she seated herself on the little bench
farthest from the driver. The little bell tinkled twice,
viciously--all drivers and conductors are made vicious by a steady
rain--and they moved out into the swim of the traffic, as a steamer
puts out from its pier.

On bright evenings it was the most enjoyable part of the journey home,
this ride from Piccadilly Circus to Hammersmith. From there onwards
in the tram to Kew Bridge, it became uninteresting. The shops were
not so bright; the people not so well dressed. It always gave her
a certain amount of quaint amusement to envy the ladies in their
carriages and motor-cars. The envy was not malicious. You would have
found no socialistic tendencies in her. In her mind, utterly
untutored in the sense of logic, she found birth to be a full and
sufficient reason for possession. But there was always alive in her
consciousness the orderly desire to also be a possessor herself. It
never led her actually into a definite discontent with her own
conditions of life, irksome, wearying, exhausting though she found
them to be. But subconsciously within her was the feeling that she
was not really meant to be denied the joy of luxuries. That instinct
showed itself in many little ways. She was sometimes
extravagant--bought a silk petticoat when a cotton one would have
done just as well, but, oh heavens! it was cheap! You would scarcely
have thought it possible to buy silk petticoats at the price. And
no doubt the appearance of the silk was only superficial. But it gave
her a great deal of pleasure. When any lady stepped down from her
carriage to go into one of those West End shops, Sally always noticed
the petticoat that she wore. Women will--men too, perhaps.

But on this dismal evening, when whenever she lifted her head the
fine rain sprayed upon her face, there was no pleasure to be found
in watching the people in the streets below. Carriages were huddled
up in line upon the stands and the coachmen shivered miserably on
their seats, the rain dripping in steady drops from the brims of their
hats into the laps of their mackintoshes. So she kept her head down,
and when she heard footsteps mounting the stairway, approaching her,
she held out the three coppers for her fare without looking up. When
her mind, anticipating the answering ring of the conductor's
ticket-puncher, realized the mistake, she raised her head, then
twisted back, electrically, as though some current had been passed
through her body. Seated on the bench at the other side of the
passage-way, was the man whom she had found in King Street outside
the premises of Bonsfield & Co.

Her first thought was to get off the 'bus. She made a preparatory
movement, leaning forward with her hand upon the back of the seat
in front of her. Possibly the man saw it and had no desire to be foiled
a second time. Whatever may have been his purpose, he moved nearer
to her and held out the umbrella with which he was sheltering himself.

"You'd better let me lend you an umbrella--hadn't you?" he said.

There is a quality of voice that commands. It neither considers nor
admits of refusal. He had it. Women of strong personality it
irritates; women with no personality it affrights; but the women who
are women obey--with reluctance probably, struggling against it, but
in the end they obey. There is, again, a quality of voice that
hall-marks the man of birth. Long years of careful preservation of
the breed have refined it down. It may cloak a mind that is vicious
to a thought; but there is a ring in it--a ring of true metal, well
tried in the furnace. He had that also. From him, dressed none too
carefully, it sounded almost misplaced and therefore was the more
noticeable. The effect of it upon her was obvious. Instead of taking
his suggestion as an insult, which undoubtedly she would have done
had the offer been made in any other type of voice, Sally checked
the offended toss of the head, restrained the contemptuous flash of
eye, and merely said, "No, thank you." She said it coldly. There was
no warmth of encouragement, either in her tone of voice or the
unrecognizing eye which she turned upon him without trace of
sympathy.

"Isn't that rather foolish?" he suggested. "You'll get wet through.
How far are you going?"

"Hammersmith."

He had asked the question with such apparent inconsequence that the
thought of denying him the information had not occurred to her.
Undoubtedly it was foolish to refuse his offer. She would get wet
through before she reached Hammersmith. The tarpaulin only covered
her skirt, and in the lap that it made was already a pool of water
swilling backwards and forwards with the rocking of the 'bus. Through
her mind raced a swift calculation, estimating the benefits she would
gain by keeping dry. They were not many in number, but they entered
the balance, dragged down the scales of her decision. The hat she
was wearing--it was not a best hat--but some few evenings before,
she had retrimmed it; there was matter for consideration in that.
The frame was a good one. It could be trimmed again and again, so
long as it met with those requirements which in Sally's mind were
governed by a vogue of fashion that she followed reverently, though
always, perhaps, some few paces in the rear. A severe wetting might
so alter the shape of that frame as to make it for ever unwearable.
Her coat was serge--short, ending at the waist; the feather boa that
clung round her neck, they would inevitably suffer without
protection. For the moment she felt angry with herself. She hoped
almost, since he was there, that he would make his offer again. It
is these little things--the saving of a feather boa, the destruction
of a flimsy hat frame--that are the seed of big issues. Every book,
as is this, is in its way a study in the evolution of a crisis, the
germ of tiny incident which through a thousand stages grows in
strength and magnitude until it takes upon itself the stature of some
giant event.

The thought of her clothes that had entered Sally's mind brought her
one step further, prepared her for the silent permission she gave
him, when he took the vacant seat beside her and shared the umbrella
between them.

"By the time you reached Hammersmith," he said, "you know you'd be
soaked."

"It wouldn't be the first time," she replied.

"Probably not--but it might be the last."

"How?"

"Influenza--pneumonia--congestion of the lungs--of such are the
kingdom of heaven."

She looked at him quickly--that sudden look of one who for a moment
sees into another and a new mind, as passing some strange house, you
look with curious surprise through the unexpectedly opened door into
another's life. The glance was as quick, as little comprehensive.
Just as within that strange house you see schemes of colour that you
would never have thought of, furniture and pictures that are not of
your taste at all, so Sally saw for one brief moment the glimpse of
a mind that could casually make a jest of death and holy-written
things. A great deal of that servile obedience to the religion in
which she had been brought up had been driven out of her by hard work.
You might not get the priesthood to admit it, but religion is a luxury
which few of the hard-workers in this world can afford. But she still
maintained that sense of conventional awe which strict religious
training drives deep into a receptive mind.

"Do you think it amusing to speak like that?" she asked.

"Like what?"

"What you said--the sentence that you quoted?"

"Of such are the kingdom of heaven?"

"Yes."

"Well--I don't think it's the best joke I've ever made--but it was
meant to be amusing."

At this, she laughed--laughed in spite of herself. His absolute
inconsequence was in itself humorous. She snatched a swift glance
at him under cover of a pretence to look behind her. As her eyes
returned, she was conscious that she was interested.

He was clean shaven. The lines were hard about his mouth, cutting
character--the chin was strong, the jaw well-moulded. It was not a
type of face that belonged to the class in which she moved. These
men were of the unreliable type--some definite weakness somewhere
in every face. So far as she could see in that one sudden glance,
this man had none. His face dominated, his voice too. The hardness
of his features carried with it a sense of cruelty; but a woman is
seldom thwarted by that.

Then returned again the spirit of adventure. By the peculiar
inconsequence of his conversation, he had succeeded in driving
timidity from her. No man whom she knew would, in the first moments
of acquaintance, have spoken as he did. The fact of that alone was
an interest in itself. This was an adventure. Again she thrilled to
it. The unexpectedness of the whole affair, this riding homewards
on the top of a 'bus with a man who had come out of nowhere into her
life--even if it were only for a few moments. Would not many another
girl in her position be delighted with the experience? That thought
warmed her to a greater appreciation of the situation.

But why had he been waiting outside the door of the office? Why had
he followed her? How had he known that she was employed in the
exacting services of Bonsfield & Co.? All these questions gyrated
wildly in her mind, swept about, confused at finding no plausible
answers to their importunate demands.

Then, lastly, who was he? There are men who suggest to you that they
must be somebody; there is an air of distinction about them that
glosses the cheapest coat and creases the poorest pair of trousers.
If they are poorly dressed, then it must be that they are
masquerading; if their clothes are well-fitting, then it is only what
you would have expected. It makes for no definite confirmation of
your opinion.

Sally was made conscious of this impression, and, in its way, that
thrilled her too. You have little chance with a woman in this world
if you are a nonentity. Personality inevitably wins its way, and,
in that she was susceptible to the personality of the man beside her,
Sally forgot the circumstances of their acquaintance, forgot to
review them with that same impartial judgment which she would have
exercised had the man conveyed to her mind a more commonplace
impression.

Stung then with curiosity to know how he had heard of her, how he
had come to be waiting in King Street until she should leave off her
work, or whether, as she suspected, it were only that he had been
attracted to her as she passed by, she gave herself away with
unconscious ingenuousness.

"Why were you waiting in King Street?" she asked suddenly.

The words hurried, tumbling in a confusion of self-consciousness
from her lips.

"Oh--you saw me there?" said he.

"Yes."

"You saw me when you passed?"

"Yes."

"Did you know I was walking behind you all the way to Piccadilly
Circus?"

"N--no--how should I?"

"You looked back once or twice."

"Did I?"

"Why do you want to know why I was waiting in King Street?"

"I don't want to know particularly."

"Shall I tell you?"

"Yes."

"I had seen you through the window--working at that ghastly
typewriter--stood there for more than a quarter of an hour--down the
street--waiting till you got sick of it. Then I was going to ask you
to come and have tea with me--dinner if you'd liked. I wanted some
one to talk to; I was going back to my rooms. When they're empty,
a man's rooms can be the most godless--"

She stood up abruptly, striking her hat against the roof of the
umbrella.

"Will you let me out, please?"

"But you told me you were going to Hammersmith. This is only
Knightsbridge."

"I'm getting down here."

He stood up. "I've offended you," he said quietly.

"Did you imagine you would not?"

"No--I suppose I didn't--but I wasn't going to let that stop me from
making your acquaintance. There's nothing to be sorry about. You were
sick of things--I could see that through the window--so was I. Mayn't
two human beings, who are sick of things, find something in common?
You're really going?"

"Yes."

She curled her lip with contempt; but it had a smile behind it which
he could not see.

"Shan't we see each other again?"

"Certainly not!"

She stood at the top of the steps waiting for the 'bus to stop. He
looked up into her face and held her eyes.

"Then I apologize," he said willingly. "And don't be offended at what
I'm going to say now."

She put her foot down on to the first step. "What is it?"

"I'll bet you ten pounds we don't. That is to say you win ten pounds
if we do."

She laughed contemptuously in a breath and hurried down the steps.



CHAPTER III


It is all very well to say that there have been movements towards
the enfranchisement of women since before the Roman era; it is all
very well to point out that these movements are periodical, almost
as inevitable as the volcanic eruptions that belch out their volumes
of running fire and die down again into peaceful submission: but when
the whole vital cause is altered, when the intrinsic motive in the
entrails of that vast crater is changed, it is no wise policy to say,
"It will pass over--another two or three years and women will find,
as they have always found before, that it is better to sit still and
let others do the work."

It is the problem of population that is being worked out now, not
the mere spontaneous and ephemeral struggle of a few dominating
personalities.

It is well-nigh ludicrous to think that Sally Bishop--quiet,
virtuous, chaste Sally Bishop, the very opposite of a revolutionary--is
one in the ranks of a great army who are marching, they scarcely know
whither, to a command they have scarcely heard, strained to a mighty
endurance in a cause they scarcely understand. She seems too young to
be of service, too frail to bear the hardships of the way. How can she
stand out against the forced marches, the weary, sleepless camping at
night?

There are going to be many in this great campaign who will drop
exhausted from the ranks--many who, under cover of night, when the
sentinel is drowsy at his post, will slip out into the darkness, weary
of the fatigue, regardless of the consequences--a deserter from the
cause that is so ill-understood. There are going to be many who,
through a passing village where all is peace and contentment, will
hear the tempting whisper of mutiny. What is the good of it all--to
what does it lead, this endless forced march towards a vague
encounter with the enemy who are never to be seen? If only they might
pitch tents there and then--there and then dig trenches, make
positions, occupy heights--put the rifle to the shoulder and
fire--into hell if need be. But no--this endless, toilsome marching,
marching--always onward, yet never at the journey's end.

Who blames them if they fall by the way? Even the sergeant of the
division, passing their crumpled bodies by the roadside, becomes a
hypocrite if he kicks them into an obedience of their orders. In his
heart he might well wish to drop out as they have done. Who blames
them, too, if they slink off, hiding behind any cover that will
conceal their trembling bodies until the whole army has gone by?--who
blames them if they sham illness, lameness, anything that may be put
forward as an excuse to set them free?--who blames them if a wayside
cottage offers them shelter and, taking it, they leave the other poor
wretches to go on? Who blames them then? No one--no one with a heart
could do so. The great tragedy lies in the fact that they are left
to blame themselves.

And this--this is the way that Nature wages war--a civil war, that
is the worst, the most harrowing of all. She fights her own kith and
kin; she gives battle to the very conditions which she herself has
made. There is very seldom a hand-to-hand encounter. Only your French
Revolutions and your Russian Massacres mark the spots where the two
armies have met, where blood has flowed like wine from the broken
goblets of some thousands of lives. But usually it is the forced
marches, with the enemy ever retreating over its own ground. And in
this position of women, it is the army of Nature that has begun to
move. Not the mere rising of a rebellious faction, but the entire
unconquerable force of humanity whose whole existence is threatened
by the invading power of population.

And Sally Bishop--frail, tender-hearted, sensitive Sally
Bishop--has donned the bandolier and the haversack and is off with
the rest, just one unit in the rank and file, one slender individual
in Nature's army that is out on a campaign to effect the inevitable
change in the social conditions of the sex. It makes no matter that
she will never reap the benefit; it counts not at all that she will
never touch the spoil. The lines must be filled up. When she falls,
there must be others to take her place. The bugle has sounded in the
hearts of thousands of women of her type, and they have had to obey
its shrilling call.

Stand for half an hour in the morning at any of the main termini of
London's traffic-ways, and you will see them in their thousands. They
little know the law they are obeying; they little realize the cause
for which they are working, or the effect it will produce. In another
book from this pen it has been declared that the words of
Maeterlinck--"the spirit of the hive"--are an inspired phrase. Here,
in these conditions, with no need to don the protecting gauze, you
may see its vivid illustration, as only the great draughtsmanship
of life can illustrate the wondrous schemes of Nature.

For two years Sally Bishop had been one amongst them. For two years
she had caught her tram at Kew Bridge in the morning and her tram
again at Hammersmith at night. Only her Sundays and her Saturday
afternoons were free, except for those two wonderful weeks in the
summer and the yawning gaps in the side of the year which are known
as National holidays.

When--where did the bugle sound that called Sally to her
conscription? What press-gang of circumstances waylaid her, in what
peaceful wandering of life, and bore her off to the service of her
sex?

There is a little story attached to it--one of those slight, slender
threads of incident that go to form a shadow here or a light there
in the broad tapestry of the whole.

The Rev. Samuel Bishop was rector of the parish church in the little
town of Cailsham, in Kent. This was Sally's father. There never was
a meeker man; there never was a man more truly fitted with those
characteristics of piety which are essentially and only Christian.
With charity he was filled, though he had but little to bestow--his
whole intellect was subordinated to his faith--and with the light
of hope his little eyes glittered so long as one straw lay floating
on the tide.

This is the man whom Christianity demands, and this the very man whom
Christianity crushes like a slug under the heel. He is bound to be
a failure--bound to hope too much, be blind with faith, and give,
out of charity, with the witless hand that knows not where to bestow.

For ten years he had held the parish of Cailsham, fulfilling all his
duties by that rule of thumb which is the refuge to all those lacking
in initiative. Not one of the parishioners could find any fault with
him, yet none bore him respect. They blinked through his services.
During his deliberate intoning of the lessons, they thought of all
their worldly affairs, and while he preached, they slept.

Hundreds of parishes are served with men like the Rev. Samuel Bishop.
It is half the decay of Christianity that the prospect of a fat living
will induce men to adopt the profession of the Church. This is the
irony of life in all religions, that to be kept going, to increase
and multiply, they must be financially sound; yet as soon as that
financial security is reached, you have men pouring into their
offices who seek no more than a comfortable living.

There is only one true religion, the ministry of the head to the
devotion of the heart. You need no priesthood here, but the
priesthood of conscience; you need no costly erection of churches,
but the open world of God's house of worship. There is no necessity
for the training of voices, when the choir of Nature can sing in
harmony as no voice ever sang. There is no call now for the two or
three to gather together. The group system has had its day, has done
its work. The two or three who gather together now, do so, not in
a communion of mind, but in criticism and fear. Each knows quite well
what the other is thinking of. Where is the necessity for one common
prayer to bring their souls together? Their souls are already tearing
at each other's throats.

You would not have found the Rev. Samuel Bishop agreeing to this.
How could any man consent to give up his livelihood, even for the
truth? This gentleman would have stayed on in his parish, happy in
his hopeless incompetence, until his parishioners might have sent
in a third request for his retirement, had not the irony of
circumstance broken him upon its unyielding anvil.

For ten years, as has been said, he had held the rectorship of the
parish of Cailsham. Sally was then fourteen years of age. Her mother,
one of those hard yet well-featured women upon whom the struggle of
life wears with but little ill-effect, had endeavoured to bring her
up in the first belief of social importance consistent, to an
illogical mind, with the teachings of her husband's calling. But she
had failed. It was grained in the nature of Sally to let the morrow
take thought for the things of itself. The other three children, the
boy up at Oxford, the two girls, one older, the other younger than
Sally, were different. With them she succeeded. Into their minds she
instilled the knowledge that, of all professions, the Church takes
the highest rank in the social scale, and though in the world itself
they might have found that hard to believe, yet in the little town
of Cailsham Mrs. Bishop had discovered her capacity for draining from
her husband's parishioners a certain social deference and respect.

By persuading the Rev. Samuel to utilize his priestly influence upon
the declining years of an old lady of title in the neighbourhood,
Mrs. Bishop had stolen her way into the very best society which
Cailsham had to offer. And Sally was the only one of her children
who did not thoroughly appreciate it.

With what deftness she had induced her husband to make his spiritual
ministrations indispensable to the tottering vitality of Lady Bray;
with what cunning she herself had persuaded the old woman to be
present at her garden parties over the last five years, though the
poor creature was nothing but the head of death and the bones of decay,
barely kept together by the common support of her clothes, it would
be almost impossible to imagine. But to entertain Lady Bray; to be
even a friend of her ladyship was, in Cailsham in those days, a key
to the secret chamber of social success. And Mrs. Bishop held it.

The Rev. Samuel himself gave her ladyship a copy of the Holy Bible,
bound in the best Russian leather, with various texts marked, which
had never failed to bring her comfort when intoned in the meek
monotony of his gentle voice. On the fly-leaf he had inscribed her
name--Lady Bray, from her devoted friend and rector, Samuel Bishop.

On Sundays it was quite a feature of the Communion Service to see
the state and ceremony with which the Holy Eucharist was carried down
the aisle to the Bray's family pew, where the old lady sat, huddled
and alone in one of the corners, like a dead body covered clumsily
with a black pall. One of the parishioners, who had not that good
fortune of being personally acquainted with Lady Bray declared that
she really almost objected to this invariable interruption of the
service.

"I assure you," she said, "it--it practically amounts to a procession
like they have in the Roman Catholic Church."

It was this lady who--whenever the occasion demanded, which was not
often--bracketed in a breath Roman Catholics and unfortunate women
of the street, and alluded to them jointly as--poor creatures.

To be able to say this, and feel that one is daring convention by
one's breadth of mind, is no uncommon standard of Christian
intelligence.

But all this dutiful attention to Lady Bray availed the Rev. Samuel
nothing. On the anvil of circumstances he was broken, as in the smithy
the red-hot metal is bent and severed as though it were but clay.

After ten years' faithful, if somewhat incompetent service, in the
parish of Cailsham, the Rev. Samuel Bishop was requested to accept
the chaplaincy at some distant Union. It was in this manner that his
downfall came about.



CHAPTER IV


It was Easter Sunday. The vicar of the little parish of Steynton,
just outside Maidstone, was away for his holidays, and the Rev.
Samuel Bishop had taken his place as _locum tenens_.

In the small church where the parishioners met every Sunday, it had
been the custom for some time past for an earnest and well-known
member of the congregation, who had an appreciation for the sound
of his own voice, to read the lessons at Matins and at Evensong. This
duty, combined with that of warden, was fulfilled by Mr. Windle, an
ardent church-goer, a staunch, if somewhat narrow-visioned
Christian, and a man rigid in his adherence to the cause of total
abstinence.

Before morning service on this Easter Sunday, he met the Rev. Samuel
Bishop in the vestry. The organist had already gone to his seat behind
the chancel. The first preliminary notes of the voluntary--weak and
uncertain, because the organ-blower had come late and as yet there
was not sufficient wind in the bellows--were beginning to sound
through the building. The two men were alone.

"I should like to know," Sally's father was saying, in his quiet,
apologetic voice, "how many people you generally expect to
communicate on Easter Sunday. The wine, you know. I want to know how
much wine to pour out."

His face twitched as he waited for the answer. It seemed as if some
unseen fingers were alternately pinching the flabby flesh of his
cheeks, then as swiftly letting it go.

Mr. Windle made a mental calculation, delivering his estimation of
the number with a voice confident of his accuracy.

"Sixty," he said. "Not less--possibly more."

"That will take a lot of wine."

"There's plenty in that cupboard," said Mr. Windle.

The gentle rector reverently opened the cupboard and examined it.

"Oh yes; there is enough," he said. He held up a black bottle to the
light, and blinked at it short-sightedly. "I--I only wanted to make
sure," he added; "it is apt to make one somewhat apprehensive, when
one is officiating in a strange church--apprehensive, if you
understand what I mean, of any hitch in the service."

"Quite so," said Mr. Windle, sympathetically. He extracted a small,
white, potash throat lozenge from the pocket of his waistcoat, and
placed it on his tongue. In another twenty-five minutes from that
moment he would be reading the lessons. The lozenge would be
dissolved and swallowed by that time, and the beneficial effect upon
his throat complete when he was ready to begin.

"The bishop is holding early Communion in Maidstone this morning,"
he said, when the lozenge had settled into its customary place in
his mouth.

"So I heard," said Mr. Bishop. "What a charming man his lordship is."

"You know him?" asked Mr. Windle in surprise.

"Well--slightly."

"He is doing us the honour of dining with us to-day after morning
service. We always dine in the middle of the day on Sundays--only
Sundays, of course."

"Indeed?" said the Rev. Samuel, in reference to the first part of
Mr. Windle's sentence.

"My wife and I will be pleased if you will come."

Mr. Bishop's face twitched with pleasure. He saw the opportunity of
becoming better acquainted with his lordship; of mentioning one or
two little alterations in his own parish which he had conceived and
approved of, entirely on his own initiative.

"I shall be delighted," he replied--"delighted. Sixty I think you
said?" he added, as he commenced to pour the wine into the silver
altar jug.

"If not more," replied the other, departing to take his place in the
Windle family pew.

Mr. Bishop was left in the vestry, apportioning out sixty separate
quantities of wine--quantities, which he deemed would be sufficient
to seem appreciable to the palates, spiritual and physical, of those
for whom they were intended. You can see him, tilting up the neck
of the black bottle sixty consecutive times, with no sense of the
ludicrous. Sixty--when meted out, it did not seem quite so much as
he had expected. The silver wine-ewer was only a little more than
half full. Supposing there were not enough. He would have to go over
the consecration part of the service again. That would make them very
late. The bishop might be annoyed if he were kept waiting for his
dinner. His lordship was a rigid Churchman, inclined to be somewhat
High Church in his ideas. It was certain that food would not have
passed his lips since the previous night. It would be a pity to find
the Bishop annoyed, just when he had the opportunity of speaking to
him about those little alterations of his own invention, which he
felt sure would raise him in his lordship's estimation.

Perhaps it would be wiser to add a little more wine. It was Easter
Sunday. Many members of the congregation were farmers and farm
labourers. He had vivid remembrances in his mind of having forcibly
to take the cup from the lips of such as these. They meant no
irreverence by it, of course. He imagined it to be habit in great
part with them, and a smile flickered over his face as the thought
crossed his mind.

Yes--certainly, he had better add a little more wine--just a little.
If there were some over, why, naturally it would have to be consumed.
Wine once consecrated must not be kept. There is that fear that it
might become an object of worship, than which no other thought can
seem more fearsome to the Anglican mind. He might have to drink it;
but there would only be a little in any case; yet, not being
accustomed, with the poor stipend which he received, to the taste
of such luxuries, it might perhaps--it might--well, so little as
there would be, could scarcely lift his spirits. And if it did, could
that really be considered a harmful result? On mature consideration,
he thought it better to add a little more wine. It would save them
from the contingency of a longer service than was already necessary.
He poured in the little more, and the silver jug was now a little
more than three parts full.

Mr. Windle's lozenge was well dissolved and swallowed before the
anthem was finished, and the service went through without a break.
The Rev. Samuel preached one of the sermons which he had written in
his younger days for the season of Easter. He bade his congregation
raise their heads and begin life again with new vigour, new hope in
their hearts, for this was the third day, the day their Lord had risen
for their salvation. It was, he said, both the day of promise and
the day of fulfilment. The anticipation of meeting the bishop flashed
across his mind as he said it. He felt sure that his lordship would
approve of his little alterations.

When the last voluntary had been played, the reverend gentleman sat
in his chair by the altar and watched the congregation filing out
of the church. A great many seemed to be departing, but it was
impossible to tell as yet the number that remained. Mr. Windle had
been so very definite, so confident in his assertion of the number
of communicants. He looked at his watch. The service had taken longer
than usual. He stood up before they had all gone and poured out the
wine into the chalices. From where he had been sitting it was
impossible to see those sides of the church that formed the cross
upon which the foundations had been laid, and so, though only a few
people remained in the centre aisle, he felt no cause for uneasiness.
Mr. Windle had been well assured, and he ought to know.

It was when he stood waiting for the communicants to approach the
altar and saw all the church empty itself into the chancel like a
stream which has been dammed and is set free, that he realized his
mistake.

There were not more than twenty people, and with his own willing and
ready hands he had consecrated all the wine which he had poured out
into the vessel in the vestry. What was the meaning of it? Why had
Mr. Windle told him sixty, or more, when scarcely twenty attended?

He stood waiting in the vestry afterwards with the well-filled
chalice in his hand, tremulously anticipating Mr. Windle's arrival.
His face was twitching spasmodically. The unseen fingers were busy.
They never left him alone.

"_It shall not be carried out of the church, but the priest and such
others of the communicants as he shall call unto him shall,
immediately after the blessing, reverently eat and drink the same._"

So it alluded in the rubric of the Book of Common Prayer to the leaving
over of consecrated wine. In the mind of the Rev. Samuel, Mr. Windle
was that other communicant.

"What shall I do?" he began, directly the devout warden entered.

Mr. Windle was beaming with good nature. He had just been talking
to a lady--the last to leave the church--who had told him that he
had read the lessons with great feeling; and, while he despised all
emotion as sacrilegious in the precincts of God's house of worship,
he liked to be thought capable of it.

Seeing the cup in Mr. Bishop's hand and the dismayed expression on
that gentleman's countenance, he smiled.

"This has to be--be finished," said the distraught clergyman.

"Ah, I'm sorry about that," replied Mr. Windle, easily. "Under
ordinary circumstances, there would have been as many as I said; but
I understand that a lot of people attended early Communion at the
bishop's service in Maidstone. You see, it is not often that he comes,
and they like to have his lordship."

"But this is consecrated wine."

"Ah--well--there's not much, I suppose. Is there?"

Mr. Windle looked casually into the chalice. "Oh, there is a good
deal. What are you going to do?"

"I shall have to call upon you for your assistance."

"Mine?"

"Yes; I couldn't drink all this myself. I'm not accustomed to taking
wine. As much as this would--I am afraid--go to my head." His face
was now twitching convulsively. "Especially on a--a somewhat--empty
stomach."

"But it's no good asking me," said Mr. Windle.

"Why not? You have just been a communicant? Under extraordinary
circumstances like this, I am expected to call upon some one who has
communicated, reverently, to assist me."

"Ah, yes; that is all very well--so long as you do not enforce any
one whom you may choose to break their own most rigid principles.
I'm a total abstainer, you see. Even--er--at the altar--I--I--only
permit the wine to touch my tongue, as I hold every communicant should
do. But you want me actually to drink this. As much liquid as, I assure
you, I should take with a meal. Again, I have taken the pledge--"

"But, my dear Mr. Windle, in such an exceptional circumstance as
this--"

"I have openly taken the pledge," Mr. Windle repeated
conclusively--"I'm very sorry. I'm afraid, too, that the sacristan
has gone. But I think the organ blower was there when I came in; I
fancy I heard him."

"Ah, yes; but he was not at Communion."

"Of course not--then I'm sorry. I shall be sure to see some one who
was, and I'll send them along. We shall see you up at the house soon.
Don't be long--you'll forgive my going on ahead, but I'm afraid his
lordship may have arrived already. I'll send you any one if I see
them. And I'm bound to meet somebody. They haven't been gone very
long."

He had gone. The Rev. Samuel was left alone with the half-filled
goblet of noxious wine in his hand. For some moments he continued
to stand in the same position, looking down into the crimson depth
of liquid that lay, scintillating lazily, in the silver bowl.

At last he raised it to his lips and sipped it--once, twice, three
times. Then he waited. "Wine to make glad the heart of man." The words
came to his mind. Wine was a terrible power, a fascinating evil. He
thanked God that he had never fallen a prey to its fascinations. This
wine was very sweet. He liked sweet things. Once he had tasted
champagne when dining at the house of Lady Bray. He had thought that
disagreeable, though at the moment he had murmured that it was
excellent wine; but he had been unable to understand how any man could
take of that more than was good for him. This wine, of course, that
they used in the church was infinitely more palatable. But how could
he possibly drink all this? It was out of the question. He prayed
devoutly that Mr. Windle would soon find him relief and send some
one.

He took another sip and waited, noticing that already there were
slight signs of diminution in the contents of the chalice. Then he
thought of the bishop. It was possible that his lordship might notice
the scent of it in his breath if he took it all. They would be sure
to be talking together about his little alterations; and if the
bishop were to notice it, it would be disastrous. He looked at his
watch. It was already almost the time that they were supposed to sit
down to dinner. Oh! why did not Mr. Windle find some one and bring
him release from this torture of mind?

He walked to the cupboard where the bottle of wine was kept. Perhaps
it would be better to pour it back--really better in the end. They
would be waiting dinner for him. He knew that the bishop would be
annoyed. It might be better to pour it back.

Then all the force of dogma rose before him like a phoenix from the
ashes of his lower nature. This was consecrated wine! He had
consecrated it with his own hands at the altar of God, for one purpose
and one purpose only--to be consumed by those who believed in the
body and blood of Christ. To pour it back again into the bottle of
unconsecrated wine--that would be sacrilege! Why had Mr. Windle been
so narrow-minded about his foolish pledge of total abstinence? How
foolish some good people were! How bigoted! He felt assured that Mr.
Windle was a good man; but again, there was no doubt about his being
narrow-minded. Ah, why did he not send some one!

Mr. Bishop walked to the door of the vestry that opened on to the
little country lane. He looked out. There was no trace of the devout
warden. Only a man, carefully dressed, with black leather leggings
encasing his legs from knees to the boot-tops--seemingly the type
of clerk in a country town--was coming up the lane. A thought flew
into the clergyman's head. He beckoned to him. The man quickened his
steps and came up to the door.

In the space of two minutes, with nervous, hurried voice, the Rev.
Samuel had told him of his predicament. The man looked on amazed,
but said nothing.

"Now, have you just come from Communion?" he asked at the conclusion
of his explanation.

"Me?" said the man. "No."

"Then I must entreat you to let me read that part of the service to
you--I assure you it won't take long--that is necessitated by the
taking of the wine. You see I must institute you as a communicant.
You are of course a--a Protestant?" he added in sudden afterthought.

"Me?" said the man. "No."

Mr. Bishop stood up dismayed.

"Not a Protestant?" he exclaimed in wonder.

"No, why should I be? Nor anything else. Don't believe in it,
'specially if it can put gentlemen in such a position as you're in
now. I'll drink the wine for you if you like. I see no harm in that.
I'll drink it reverently too--I don't want to hurt your feelings.
But you can't expect me to take it for granted that it ain't nothin'
else but what it is--just the juice out of the grape, don't yer know.
You see, I know what I'm talking about. I'm a chauffeur now, but I
used to be in a brewery--see?"

"Thank you," said Mr. Bishop bitterly, sarcastically; "but you can
be of no service to me." He retired, closing the door and saying
"Thank you" again, in the same tone of voice.

When he found himself alone once more in the vestry he took another
sip of wine. The sentiments which that man had expressed were half
rankling in his mind. They made him feel careless, reckless. He did
not really think of what he was doing. He took another sip--it was
most palatable--and another--it was certainly very good to the taste.
With the little food that he had taken that day, he felt it warm within
him. It was considerably more than half-finished now. He waited again,
and really he felt no bad effects.

Once more he looked at his watch. They were actually sitting down
to dinner now. He walked down the floor of the vestry and back again,
and his steps were quite steady; so he took another sip. Then he
breathed into his open hand held up against his face--as he had once
seen an undergraduate do at Oxford--but he could detect no perfume
of the wine in his breath. Possibly it would be all right. And he
was looking forward so intensely to meeting the bishop. He felt that
he would be able to convince him of the need for his little
alterations.

Once again he looked into the cup. Then he finished the wine at a
draught--elbow tilted at an angle on a level with his head--and
hurriedly put the chalice away.

It was done now. And he felt quite all right. He began to take off
his surplice, and when he trod on the end of it and stumbled a little,
it seemed quite a natural accident. He smiled--laughed even, but very
gently--at the fears he had entertained. Evidently he must have a
very good head to be able to take so much wine. His hat dropped from
his hand as he was raising it to his head; but that was nothing. It
was quite a simple thing to stoop and pick it up again. If a man were
intoxicated he could not do that. He would probably fall. Mr. Bishop
only knocked his elbow against the vestry table as he stood upright.

He looked round the room. Was everything put away? What a delightful
service that was at morning prayer on Easter day. It was quite true
what he had said in his sermon--this was a day of promise, of good
hope. He felt that within himself.

Ah! the cupboard that contained the bottle of wine had not been locked.
He walked across to it, quite steadily, perhaps a little slowly. The
bottle was there all right. How much had they used of it? He
remembered that it had been full to the base of the neck. Now? He
took it out and looked at it. It was more than half empty! He had
practically consumed half a bottle of strongly intoxicating wine!
How could he be sober? He laughed. He heard the laugh within himself,
as though he were standing by, a spectator to his own actions. Then
he knew he was drunk. He said so--to himself--aloud.

"I'm drunk."

At that instant the door of the vestry opened, and in walked Mr.
Windle, followed by the bishop. They saw him there, standing with
gently swaying movements by the cupboard, with the black bottle of
wine in his hands.

"Mr. Bishop," said the warden, "I have brought his lordship to your
assistance. I could find no one on my way home."

The Rev. Samuel put down the bottle and bowed uncertainly.

"I'm afraid it's too late," he said humbly.

The two men looked at him with growing suspicion, then his lordship
said in austere tones, "So I should imagine, Mr. Bishop." He turned
to his companion. "Shall we get back to dinner, Mr. Windle?"

They moved to the vestry door.

"Mr. Bishop," he said, turning round as they departed, "I would
advise you to go back quietly to the vicarage."

Then the door closed and the little man sat down upon the nearest
form. The bishop would never hear of his little alterations now; he
would never think well of them, even if he did.

He burst into tears, and for some moments sat there with his head
buried in his hands. Then he looked up, saw the bread which also had
been kept over from the service, and, reaching forward, began
pathetically to put the little squares one by one into his mouth.



CHAPTER V


That incident in itself is sufficient. There is no need to lead a
way down the steps that brought the Rev. Samuel Bishop to his final
degradation and ultimate death. The generous offer of the chaplaincy
of a small union, the withdrawal of his son from Oxford, the dismissal
of the tutelary services of the lady who had charge of his daughter's
education, the replacing of a better man in the rectory at
Cailsham--all these stages of the little tragedy have no intimate
importance in themselves, except that they formed the first
evolutionary periods of the development of Sally's life. These were
the press-gang of circumstances that forced her into the service of
her sex; these, the shrilling calls of the bugle that bid her strap
the haversack to her slender shoulders and march out to war against
the sea of trouble.

In a living and moving institution such as the Christian Church, you
cannot afford to be lenient to incompetency. And the Rev. Samuel was
incompetent. There is no doubt about that.

In such circumstances as these, assuming them up to the point where
the obliging chauffeur had found the door closed in his face, a
competent man would have lifted reason above his faith. Calmly, he
would have told himself, as did the chauffeur, "This is the juice
of the grape; it is in nowise altered in composition because these
hands of mine--which have done many things--have been laid upon it.
It is better to mix it again with unconsecrated wine, than pour it
down the sacrilegious throat of an unbelieving chauffeur; I will put
it back in the bottle."

So a competent man would have acted, presuming that he had ever
allowed himself to be so far caught in such a predicament. But the
Rev. Samuel was too fully possessed of that first characteristic of
faith, which the Christian Church demands. It only argues that you
must take no man absolutely at his word, even when he presumes to
speak, inspired with the voice of God. Nothing has yet been written,
nothing has yet been said, which can be made to apply without
deviation to the law of change, and also indiscriminately of persons.

And so, for this unswerving faith of the Rev. Samuel, Sally Bishop
is made to suffer. Very shortly after the removal from Cailsham, she
made her declaration of independence.

"Mother," she said, one morning at breakfast, "I'm going to earn my
own living." The baby lines of her mouth set tight, and her chin
puckered.

Mrs. Bishop laid down her piece of toast. "I wish you wouldn't talk
nonsense, Sally," she said.

The young man down from Oxford ejaculated--

"Rot!"

"It's not rot--it's not nonsense!"

Her voice was petulant; there were tears in it. It was not a decision
of strength. Here the press-gang was at work driving the unwilling
conscript. She was going; there was no doubt about her going; but
it was a hard struggle to feel resigned.

"But it _is_ nonsense," said Mrs. Bishop.

"How do you think _you_ could earn your living?" said the young man.
He knew something about the matter; he was trying to find employment
himself--he, a 'Varsity man--and as yet nothing had offered itself.
"If I can't get anything to do," he added sententiously, "how on earth
do you think you're going to?"

"She doesn't mean it," said Sally's eldest sister. "She only thinks
it sounds self-sacrificing."

"Is that the kindest thing you can think of?" asked Sally. "I do mean
it. I've written to London and I've got the prospectus here of one
of the schools for teaching shorthand and typewriting. For eight
pounds they guarantee to make any one proficient in both--suitable
to take a secretaryship. Doesn't matter how long you'll stay; they
agree for that sum to make you proficient, and they also half promise
to get you a situation."

"And where are you going to get the eight pounds from?" said her
little sister.

"And where are you going to get the cost of your living up in Town?"
asked the wise young man, who knew how London could dissolve the money
in one's pocket.

"Oh, she's all right there," said the eldest sister bitterly. "I know
what she's thinking about. She's going to draw that money that
grandmama left her--that fifty pounds. I guessed she'd spend that
on herself one of these days."

"And who else was it left to?" asked Sally.

"Yes, my dear child," said her mother; "we know it was left to you,
of course; but since we came away from Cailsham"--her mouth pursed;
she admirably conveyed the effort of controlling her emotions--the
lump in the throat, the hasty swallowing and the blinking
eyes--"since we left Cailsham, I'd sometimes hoped--"

"Of course you had, mater," said the young man sympathetically.

"But I'm going to relieve you of all responsibility," said Sally.
"I'm no longer going to be an expense to you, and I'm going to do
it with my own money--the money I was given and the money I make.
I can't see what right you have to think me selfish--all of you--as
I know you do. I'm no more selfish than you who expect me to spend
the money on you; in fact, I'm less selfish. It's my money."

This, in a word, is the spirit, the attitude of mind that is entering
into the mental composition of women. They are becoming conscious
of their personality. That phrase may be cryptic; without
consideration it may convey but little; yet it sums up the whole
movement, is the very moon itself to the turning tide. The woman who
once becomes conscious of her own personality is in a fair way towards
her own enfranchisement. Away go the fettering conventions of home
life, the chains of social hypocrisy are flung aside. She rides out
into the open air like the bird from the shattered cage, and if man,
the marksman, does not bring her to earth before her fluttering wings
are fully spread, then she is off--up into the deep, blue zenith of
liberty!

"I'm no more selfish than you who expect me to spend the money on
you; in fact, I'm less selfish. It's my money."

In that definite assertion, Sally first expressed the realization
of her own personality. The girl of twenty years ago would have
sacrificed her little dowry upon the family altar without a word;
she would, without complaint, have allowed it to be spent upon her
brother's education. But now we are dealing with modernity, and out
of the quiet country lanes, from the sacred hearth of the peaceful
home-circles, this army of women are rising. Who has taught them?
No one knows. Who has inspired them with the vitality of action? No
one can say. The spirit of the hive is at work within them; already
they are swarming in obedience to the silent command. Pick out a
hundred girls as they go to work in the city, and ask them why they
are toiling from one day to another. They will all--or ninety-nine
of them--give you the same answer--

"I didn't want to stay at home. I prefer to be independent."

There lies the heart of it, the realization of the ego in the
personality.

Sally had her own way. In the face of abuse, in the face of reproach,
she packed her leather trunk. All those little idols of sentiment,
the clock that ticked on her mantelshelf, the pictures that hung on
the walls; the books she had collected, even the copy of Browning
that she did not understand--they all were stowed away into the
leather trunk. She went out of the house, she went out of the home
as a moth flies out of a darkened room, and you know that unless you
kindle a light to lure it back, it will never return. They knew they
could never kindle the light. They knew she would never come back.
What love had they to offer as an inducement? And no love of her
relations is an inducement to the woman who is seeking her own.

Only the Rev. Samuel shed tears over her. She came into his study
one morning after breakfast to say good-bye. He was writing a new
sermon for the season of Easter, and his mind was raking up the past
as a man unearths some buried thing that the mould has rotted.

The sunlight was pouring in through the window as he bent over his
desk nursing thoughts that were vermin in his brain.

"You're going, Sally?" he said.

"Yes, father."

He stood up from his chair and looked at her--looked her up and down
as though he wished the sight of her to last in his memory for the
rest of his life.

"What time do you get to London?"

"Half-past one."

"And you've arranged about where you're going to stay?"

"Yes, I'm going to share rooms with Miss Hallard--"

"The girl who's going to be an artist?"

"Yes; she has lodgings near Kew."

"Ah, Kew. Yes, Kew. I remember walking from Kew to Richmond, along
by the gardens, when I was quite a young man. So you're going there,
Sally?" His eyes still roamed over her.

"Yes, father. What are you doing? Are you writing a sermon?"

That little interest in his own affairs awakened him. Animation crept
into his eyes. It was the slight, subtle touch that a woman knows
how to bestow.

"Yes, I'm writing a sermon, Sally, for next Sunday--Easter
Sunday--listen to this--" In the pride of composition, having none
but her who would appreciate his efforts, he took up one of the papers
with almost trembling hands.

"There can be no hope without promise, and in the rising of our Lord
from the dead, we have the promise of everlasting life. For just as
He, on that Sabbath morning, defied the prison walls of the sepulchre,
and was lifted beyond earthly things to those things that are
spiritual, so shall we, if we defy the things of this world--its pomps
and its vanities and all the sinful lusts of the flesh--so shall we
win to the things that are eternal rather than those which are
temporal and void."

He looked up at her, waiting eagerly for the words of her approval
to convince him of what he was scarcely convinced himself. Before
she could utter them, Mrs. Bishop entered the room.

"Samuel," she said, "I've written my letter to Lady Bray. I've asked
her to come on the seventeenth. You'd better write yours and enclose
it with mine. You know what to say. I mean you know what sort of thing
she likes from you. I've also written and asked the Colles's to come
to dinner on the eighteenth to meet her. They're sure to accept if
they know they're going to meet her, and I think they ought to be
useful. Write your letter now, will you?"

The Rev. Samuel nodded assent. "I will," he added.

Then he turned to his daughter. "Good-bye, Sally."

She put her hands on his shoulders--knowing all his frailty--and
kissed him. Then she walked out of the room.

When she had closed the door, the clergyman sat down again to his
desk and read again through the sentences he had read to Sally.

"I suppose she didn't think it very true," he said to himself, "but
it is--it is true--its pomps and its vanities, ah--"

Then he took out a sheet of note-paper, and picking up his pen, he
began--

"My dear Lady Bray--"



CHAPTER VI


When Sally stepped off the 'bus at Knightsbridge on that November
evening, her mind was seething with indignation.

To lay a wager! It was an insult! Did he think her acquaintance was
to be bought for a sum of money? It would not be long before he found
out his mistake. And what a sum! Ten pounds! It was ridiculous! What
man would spend all that money simply upon the mere making of an
acquaintance? Of course she knew that if ever she did speak to him
again, he would never pay it. It was quite safe to boast like that--it
was a boast. Ten pounds! Why with ten pounds she could buy a real
silk petticoat, a new frock, a new hat, another feather boa--all of
the most expensive too, and still have money in her pocket.

All the amiable and interested impressions that she had obtained of
him went when he made that bet. It was so easy to boast--so cheap.
But if he thought that the sound of that sum of money had impressed
her, he would learn his mistake.

She caught another 'bus on to Hammersmith and tried vainly to forget
all about it.

Miss Hallard was home from the School of Art before her. In the
bedroom which they shared in a house on Strand-on-Green, she was
combing out her short hair, her blouse discarded, her thin arms bent
at acute angles, and between her lips a Virginian cigarette.

"Wet?" she said laconically, without turning round.

"Dripping." Sally threw her hat on the bed.

"If you bought umbrellas instead of cheap silk petticoats--"

"I knew you'd say that," said Sally.

"Was it raining when you walked from the tram?"

"No. It's stopped now. But it was up in town, and all the 'buses were
full up inside."

"Cheerful," said Miss Hallard.

She twisted her hair into some sort of shape and secured it
indiscriminately with pins.

This girl is the revolutionary. Hers is the type that has been the
revolutionary through all ages. It will be revolutionary to the end,
no matter what force may be in power. She has little or nothing to
do with the class to which Sally Bishop belongs. Her temperament is
the corrective which Nature always uses for the natural functions
of her own handiwork--Sally Bishop is Nature herself, enlisted into
this civil warfare because she must. In her revolutionary ideas, Miss
Hallard follows the temperament of her inclinations. Whatever
position women might hold, she would have disagreed with it. She is
one of those of whom--like some strange animal that one sees,
following instincts which seem the very reverse to Nature's
needs--one wonders what her place in the scheme of things can be.

Of this type are those whom the straining of a vocabulary has
called--Suffragette. They are merely Nature's correctives. Of
definite change in the position of women they will effect nothing.
They are not regulars in the great army; only the wandering
adventurers who take up arms for any cause, that they may be in the
noise of the battle. It is the paid army--the regular troops--who
finally place the standard upon the enemy's heights; for it is only
the forces of Life itself that, in this life, are unconquerable.

This, then, is Miss Hallard--adventuress in a great philosophy. Her
thin lips, her shifting, disconcerting eyes, set deep beneath the
brows; the long and narrow face, the high forehead on which the hair
hangs heavily; that thin, reedy body, that ill-formed, unnatural
breast which never was meant to suckle a child or nurse the drooping
of a man's head--all these are the signs of her calling. A woman--by
the irony of a fate that has thwarted the original design of Nature.

Sally Bishop is a woman before everything. Miss Hallard is a woman
last of all. How these two, in their blatant contrasts, were brought
together, is an example of one of those mysterious forces in the great
machinery of life which we are unable to comprehend. It is like the
harnessing of electricity to the needs of civilization. We can make
it do what we will; but of what it is, we know nothing. So we are
just as ignorant of that law which governs the contact of
personalities. It cannot be luck; it cannot be chance. There is too
much method in the mad tumble of it all, too much plot and
counter-plot, too much cunning intent--which even we can
appreciate--for us to think that it has no meaning. Why, the very
wind that blows has its assured direction and carries the pollen of
this flower to the heart of that.

But there is no need to understand it. The thing happens--that is
all. Miss Janet Hallard and Sally are intimates; that is really
sufficient.

Yet they were not really intimate enough as yet for Sally to sit down
on the bed directly she came into the room and break into an excited
description of her adventure. She knew the cold look of inquiry in
Janet's eyes. She could foresee the disconcerting questions that
would be asked. Janet's questions, coming dryly--all on one
note--from those thin lips of hers, drove sometimes to a point that
was almost too deep for Sally's comprehension. And Sally is a woman
of sex, not of intellect.

"You can have the glass now if you want it," said Janet, moving away
to her bed.

Sally rose wearily and began to take off her things.

"I am fagged!" she exclaimed.

Janet said nothing. The blue lines under Sally's eyes, that
indescribable drawing of the flesh of those round cheeks, had told
her that long ago.

Sally gazed at herself in the glass. "Look at my eyes!" she exclaimed.

"I know."

"Awful, aren't they?"

"Pretty bad. Can't think why you don't stick out for more money when
they work you overtime."

"It's no good--they'd get somebody else."

"Let 'em."

"Well then, what should I do?"

"Go on the stage."

Sally looked critically at herself again in the little
mahogany-framed glass that stood on the dressing-table. With an
effort she tried to forget the lines under the eyes, tried to efface
the look of weariness. The thought of being an actress did not enter
her thoughts. It was her appearance she considered.

"Do you think I look well enough?" she asked.

"Fifty per cent. of them are a good deal worse in those musical
comedies."

"How much should I get?"

"Two pounds a week."

"That's as much as you."

"Yes; but you'd have to work for it. I don't."

"Oh yes; but what sort of work? Nothing to typewriting."

"Perhaps not. But they'd probably expect more than work out of you."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, when a stage manager gives an unknown girl a walk on in the
chorus of a musical comedy, he looks upon it in the light of a favour.
I suppose it is too. He puts her in the way of knowing a lot of
well-to-do young men, and he pays her two pounds a week for doing
nothing but look pretty under the most advantageous circumstances.
There are women who would pay to get a job like that."

Sally's face puckered with disgust. "I think life's beastly," she
said.

Janet smiled. "That's not life," she said; "that's musical comedy."

Then she lit another cigarette and sat there, watching Sally take
off her wet clothes; smiled at her, catching the garments with the
tips of her fingers, and shuddering when they touched her skin.

"You're too sensitive for this business, Sally," she said at last.
"You're too romantic. Why don't you get married?"

"I wish I could," said Sally.

"Well, you don't take your chances."

"What chances?"

"Mr. Arthur--"

They both laughed. Mr. Arthur Montagu was a bank clerk, lodging in
the same house on Strand-on-Green. He had had the same room for over
three years and had, through various stages of acquaintanceship,
come to be addressed by the landlady as Mr. Arthur.

For the first few weeks after the arrival of Sally and Janet, he had
chosen to take his meals in the kitchen--where all meals were
served--after they had finished. His, was a bed-sitting-room, the
only one the house contained, and, in social status, the possession
of it lifted him in rank above any of the other lodgers who shared
the general sitting-room with the landlady, Mrs. Hewson, and her
husband.

But one evening, Sally and he had returned together from Hammersmith
on the tram. They had walked together from the bridge along that river
way, with its tall houses and its little houses, its narrow alleys
and its low-roofed inns, which is perhaps the most picturesque part
of the river that the shattering march of time has left. He had made
intellectual remarks about the effects of the sunlight in the water.
He had drawn her attention to the beauty of the broad stretch of
stream as it bent away towards Chiswick out of sight. He felt that
he had made an impression of mentality upon the little typewriting
girl. And, after that, he had suggested to Mrs. Hewson that it might
seem churlish on his part not to have his meals with the rest.

Janet Hallard he did not like. When he talked about art her eyes hung
upon him and, waiting until he had finished, she then talked about
the Stock Exchange.

"Oh! I hate talking shop," he said one day.

"But you do it so well," she replied quietly. "It seems so much more
interesting than art when you talk about it. After all, art is only
some one person's idea about something they generally don't
understand."

There is no wonder that the man hated her. But for Sally, he formed
a deep attachment that was only kept in check and controlled by the
remembrance of the superiority of his position. Class bias is
universal, and is based almost entirely upon possession. The
school-boy who has more pocket-money, the lodger who has the only
bed-sitting-room in the house, and the man who has the largest
rent-roll, are always socially above those in their immediate
surroundings. Possession being nine points of the law is also nine
points of class superiority. That Mr. Arthur should have stepped down
from his high estate and condescended to have his meals with them,
was proof enough that the man was in earnest. But his interest in
her was not reciprocated.

"I couldn't marry Mr. Arthur," she said; "not even if he was the
manager of his old bank."

"But why not?"

"Because I could never love him; not even respect him."

"That's what fetters women."

"What?"

"That idea that they've got to marry the man they love. They've grown
to think--unconsciously almost--that to give him love, blinded, is
a fair exchange for his provision of a home. They'll never win their
independence that way."

"I don't want my independence," said Sally.

"Then why do you work for it?" asked Janet.

"Because I didn't want to be a clog on my own people--because I wanted
to be free to answer to myself."

"Then why don't you carry that idea further? Why make yourself free,
simply to tie yourself up again at the first chance you get?"

"I don't call it tying myself up to marry a man I'm in love with and
who loves me. That's happiness. I know I shall be perfectly happy."

Janet lifted her head and in a thoroughly professional manner blew
a long, thin stream of smoke from between her lips.

"How long do you think that happiness is going to last?" she asked.

"I don't know."

"You chance it?"

"Yes."

"And then when the end comes you have not even got yourself to fall
back upon. You're done for--sucked dry. You fall to pieces because
you've sold your independence."

Sally left the dressing-table and crossed to Janet's bed. Sitting
there, she put her bare arms on Janet's shoulders.

"It's no good your talking like that," she said gently. "You think
that way, and right or wrong I think the other. If I loved a man and
he loved me, I'd willingly sell my independence, willingly do
anything for him."

"Supposing he wasn't going to marry you?" said Janet, imperturbably.

"Then he wouldn't love me."

"Oh yes; he might."

"Then I don't know what you mean."

Janet stood up from the bed. "I can smell bloaters for supper," she
said; "if you don't hurry up, Mr. Hewson 'll get the best one. I can
see Mrs. Hewson picking it out for him. Come on. Put a blouse on.
There's a woman who's sold her independence. She doesn't get much
for it, as far as I can see. Come on. I'm going to talk to Mr. Arthur
about art to-night."



CHAPTER VII


It is one thing to say you could never marry a man, and it is another
thing to refuse him when he asks you.

That very afternoon Mr. Arthur had received the intimation at his
bank that he was shortly to be made a cashier. He glowed with the
prospect. His conversation that evening was of the brightest. The
poisoned shafts of Miss Hallard's satire met the armoured resistance
of his high spirits. They fell--pointless and unavailing--from his
unbounded faith in himself. A man who, after a comparatively few
years' service in a bank, is deemed fitted for the responsible duties
of a cashier, is qualified to express an opinion, even on art. Mr.
Arthur expressed many.

"Don't see how you can say a thing's artistic if you don't like it,"
he declared.

"I think you're quite right, Mr. Arthur," said Mrs. Hewson. "If I
like a thing--like that picture in one of the Christmas Annuals--I
always say, 'Now I call that artistic,' don't I, Ern?"

Her husband nodded with his mouth full of the best bloater.

"Well, you couldn't call that thing artistic, Mrs. Hewson, if you
mean the thing that's over the piano in the sitting-room?"

"Why not?" asked Janet; "don't you like it?"

"No," said Mr. Arthur emphatically, "nor any one else either, I
should think. I bet you a shilling they wouldn't."

"But Mrs. Hewson does," Janet replied quietly. "Doesn't that satisfy
you that it must be artistic, since some one likes it?"

Mrs. Hewson, finding herself suddenly the object of the conversation,
picked her teeth in hurried confusion. Her husband surveyed the
company over the rim of his cup and then returned to his reading of
the evening paper.

During the weighted silence that followed Janet's last remark, he
laid down his paper.

"I see," he said, "as 'ow there are some people up in the north of
England 'aving what they call Pentecostal visitations."

Mrs. Hewson laughed tentatively, the uncertain giggle that scarcely
dares to come between the teeth. She knew her husband's leaning
towards the arid humour of an obscure joke.

"What's that, Ern?"

"Well, 'cording to the paper, they get taken with it sudden. They
can't stand up. They fall down in the middle of the service and roll
about, just as if they'd 'ad too much to drink."

Mrs. Hewson's laugh became genuine and unafraid, a hysterical
clattering of sounds that tumbled from her mouth.

"Silly fools," she said; "the way people go on. Read it--what is it?
Read it."

Mr. Hewson picked some bones out of the bloater with a dirty hand,
placed the filleted morsel in his mouth, washed it down with a
mouthful of tea, and then cleared his throat and began to read.

Mr. Arthur seized this opportunity. "It's quite fine again now," he
said in an undertone to Sally.

She expressed mild surprise--the lifting of her eyebrows, the casual
"Really." Then it seemed to her that he did not exactly deserve to
be treated like that and she told him how she had got wet through,
coming home.

"Changed your clothes, I hope," he whispered.

"Oh yes."

"You might get pneumonia, you know," he said.

She smiled at that. "And of such are the Kingdom of Heaven."

He gazed at her in surprise. "Why should you say that?" he asked.

"Don't know--why shouldn't I?"

He looked down at his empty plate. There was something he wanted to
say to her. He kept looking round the table for inspiration. At last,
with Mrs. Hewson's burst of laughter at the paper's description of
the Pentecostal visitations, he took the plunge--head down--the
words spluttering in whispers out of his lips.

"Would you care to come for a little walk down the Strand-on-Green?"
he asked. "It's a lovely night now."

In the half breath of a second, Sally's eyes sought Janet's face
across the table. Janet had heard and, with her eyes, she urged Sally
to accept. This all passed unknown to Mr. Arthur. He thought Sally
was hesitating--the moments thumped in his heart.

"I don't mind for a little while," she said.

He rose from the table, conscious of victory. "I'll just go and get
on my boots," he said, and he slipped away.

Sally mounted to her room followed by Janet.

"He's going to propose," said Miss Hallard.

"He's not," retorted Sally.

"I'm perfectly certain he is. He's been excited about something all
the evening. He's come into some money or something. He talked
to-night as if he could buy up all the art treasures in the kingdom."

"You think he's going to buy me up?"

"He's going to make his offer. What'll you do?"

"Well--what can I do? Would you marry him?"

"That's not the question. There's no chance of him asking me. You
can't speculate on whether you'll marry a man until he asks you--your
mind is biassed before then."

"I don't believe you'd marry any one," said Sally.

"It's quite probable," she replied laconically.

Sally began to take off her hat again. "I'm not going out with him,"
she said. "I shall hate it."

"Don't be foolish--put on that hat, and see what it's like to be
proposed to by an earnest young gentleman on the banks of a river,
at nine o'clock in the evening. Go on--don't be foolish, Sally. It
does a woman good to be proposed to--teaches her manners--go on. You
may like him--you don't know."

Sally obeyed reluctantly. In the heart of her was a dread of it; in
her mind, the tardy admission that she was doing her duty,
sacrificing at the altar upon which every woman at some time or other
is compelled to make her offering.

In the little linoleum'd passage, known as the hall, Mr. Arthur was
waiting for her. He had exchanged his felt slippers for a pair of
boots; round his neck he had wrapped an ugly muffler and a cap was
perched jauntily on his head. The impression that he gave Sally, of
being confident of his success, stung her for a moment to resentment.
She determined to refuse him. But that mood was only momentary. When
the door had closed behind them and they had begun to walk along the
paved river path, the impression and its accompanying decision
vanished.

Sally was a romantic--that cannot be denied. She could talk
reverently about love in the abstract. In her mind, it was not a
condition into which one fell, as the unwary traveller falls into
the ditch by the roadside, picking himself out as quickly as may be,
or, in his weariness, choosing at least to sleep the night there and
go on with his journey next morning. In the heart of Sally, whether
it were a pitfall or not, love was an end in itself. She directed
all her steps towards that destination, and any light of romance
allured her.

That evening, walking up towards Kew Bridge, the lights of the barges
lying in the stream, looking themselves like huddled reptiles
seeking the warmth of each other's bodies, the lights of the little
buildings on the eyot, and the lamps of the bridge itself, all dancing
quaint measures in the black water, brought to the susceptibility
of Sally's mind a sense of romance. For the moment, until he spoke,
she forgot the actual presence of Mr. Arthur. The vague knowledge
that some one was with her, stood for the indefinite, the unknown
quantity whose existence was essential to the completion of the
whole.

As they passed by the City Barge--that little old-fashioned inn which
faces the water on the river path--she looked in through the windows.
There were bargemen, working men who lived near by, and others whose
faces she had often seen as she had walked to her tram in the morning,
all talking, laughing good-naturedly, some with the pewter pots
pressed to their lips, head throwing slightly back, others enforcing
a point with an empty mug on the bar counter. And outside, ahead of
them, the lean, gaunt willows, around whose very trunks the hard
paving had been laid, shot up into the black sky like witches' brooms
that the wind was combing out.

Bright, cheerful lights glowed in every cottage window. In some it
was only the light of a fire that leaped a ruddy dance on the
whitewashed walls, and caught reflections in the lintels of the
windows. In others it was a candle, in others a small oil lamp; but
in all, looking through the windows as she passed, Sally saw some
old man or woman seated over a fire. There is romance, even in content.
Sally was half conscious of it, until Mr. Arthur spoke; then it
whipped out, vanished--a wisp of smoke that the air scatters.

"Let's lean over that railing and watch the boats," he suggested.

There were scarcely any boats moving, to be seen. He spoke at random,
as if the river swarmed with them; but only a little tug now and then
scurried like a water-rat out of the shadows of the bridge, and sped
down along towards Chiswick. In its wake, spreading out in
ever-broadening lines, it left a row of curling waves that came
lapping to the steps below them. These sounds and the occasional
noise of voices across on the Kew side, were the only interruptions
to the silence. For some moments they stood there, leaning on the
railing, saying nothing, watching some dull, dark figures of men who
were moving about on the little island that belongs to the Thames
Conservancy.

"I--I've got something I want to tell you, Miss Bishop," Mr. Arthur
said at length with sudden resolve.

Sally caught her breath. If it were only somebody she could love!
What a moment it would be then--what a moment! Her lips felt suddenly
dry. She sucked them into her mouth and moistened them.

"What is it?" she asked.

Mr. Arthur coughed, pulled out a handkerchief and blew his nose
loudly. The sound, intensified there in that still place, jarred
through Sally's senses. She roughly told herself that she was a fool.

"You know I'm in a bank?" he began.

"Yes; of course."

"It's a private bank."

"Really?"

"Yes; what I mean is, they pay better than most banks usually do."

"Really?"

"And they're going to make me a cashier."

"Oh, is that good?"

"Well, there's hardly a fellow of my age in any bank that's got to
a responsible position like that, in the time I have. I bet you a
shilling there isn't."

"Well, I can't afford to bet a shilling on it."

"No, of course not; I didn't mean that. What I mean--"

"I understand what you mean," said Sally. A sense of humour might
have gone far to save him at that moment. She accredited it against
him that he had none. "You might just as well have bet ten pounds,"
she added with a smile, "and I should have known what you meant. Ten
pounds always sounds better than a shilling--even in that sort
of--of--transaction."

"Ah, you're only joking," said he.

"No, I'm not," she replied. "I'm quite serious. I like the sound of
ten pounds better. There's a nice ring of bravado about it. A shilling
seems so mean."

For a few moments he was silenced by the weight of her
incomprehensibleness. Such a moment comes at all times to every man,
whatever his dealings with a woman may be. Mr. Arthur stood leaning
on the railing, looking out at the black water and thinking how little
she understood of the seriousness of his position, or the meaning
that such an uplifting of his financial status conveyed to a man.
She did not even know what he was about to propose. It would steady
her considerably when she heard that; she would be less flippant then.
Out of the corners of his eyes, he watched her face--the little, round,
childish face almost perfect in outline--the gentle force, petulance
almost, in the shapely chin, and the lips--tantalizing--they looked
so innocent. In another few moments he would be kissing those lips;
in another few moments he would be feeling the warmth of that hand
that lay idly over the railing. He wondered if he were really wise.
Was he being carried away by the first flush of triumph which his
success had brought him? There was time to draw back yet.

"Well," she said, "was that what you were going to tell me?"

He turned round and met her look; his eyes wandered over her face.
Those lips--they were indescribably alluring. It seemed impossible
to give up the delight of kissing them; yet, of course, that was
foolish, that was weak. He was not going to let the whole of his life
hang upon a momentary desire like that. If she did not appeal to him
in other ways, if he did not find admiration for her character,
respect for her numerous good qualities, he would certainly not be
so wanting in control as to let a passing inclination sway him to
a momentous decision. He recounted those good qualities to himself
reassuringly. Her innocence, her gentleness, her apparent
willingness to be led by any one stronger than herself. Mr. Arthur
dwelt long on that. That was a distinctly promising characteristic.
He would consider that essential in any woman whom he thought to make
his wife. Then she was demonstrative. He had often seen her show signs
of deep affection to Miss Hallard. At the moment, that seemed a very
necessary quality too. He felt just then that a little demonstration
of affection on her part--if she put her hand in his, or leant her
head up against his shoulder--would make him intensely happy. And
those lips! He half closed his eyes and his hand shook.

"No; that wasn't all," he said emotionally. "That was only
preliminary to what I'm going to say."

Sally kept her eyes away from him. She did not want to watch his face.
She knew he was very good, very honourable, very conscientious in
his work; she knew that he would make a reasonably good husband, that
he was about to offer her a position in life which it was incumbent
upon any girl in her circumstances to consider well before refusing.
But she could not look at his face while these things were weighing
out their balance in her mind. It seemed hard enough to be compelled
to listen to the sound of his voice; the weak, uncertain quality that
it possessed, that faint suggestion of commonness which did not
exactly admit of dropped aitches, but rang jarringly in her ears.

"I'm listening," she said rigidly. Her eyes were fixed without motion
on the quiet water.

"Well, I want you to marry me," he exclaimed impulsively.

She said nothing. She waited.

"After next month, I shall have two hundred pounds a year. We could
be very comfortable on that--couldn't we?"

"Do you think so?" she asked.

"Well, I'll bet you a shilling there are a good many men in
London--married--who are comfortable enough on less. Besides, next
year it'll be two hundred and twenty."

"And you want me to marry you?"

"Yes. I'm offering you a comfortable home of your own. No more pigging
it like this in lodgings. You'll have your own house to look
after--your own drawing-room. I don't want to boast about it, but
don't you think it's a good thing for you?" He felt himself it was
a big thing he was offering--and so it was--the biggest he had. "What
I mean to say," he continued, "I'm a gentleman, you're earning your
own living. I'm going to make you your own mistress--"

"But I don't love you," she said quietly, overlooking with generosity
his insinuations about the position she held.

He gazed at her in amazement. "Why not?" he asked.

"Why not? Oh, why should you ask me a hard question like that?"

"'Cause I want to know. What's the matter with me? I bet you--"

"Oh, don't!" she begged, "I don't love you; that's all. I can't say
any more."

"Then why did you come out with me this evening?"

"I don't know. Of course, I ought not to--I suppose I ought not to."

"But you haven't said you won't marry me."

"No. But haven't I said enough?"

"No."

"You'd marry me, knowing that I didn't love you?"

She turned her eyes to his. The pathos of that touched her. His senses
swam when she looked at him.

"Yes," he said thickly. "You might not love me now--you would."

There, he spoilt it all again. She was so certain of its
impossibility; he was so confident of his success. With the sentiment
of his humility, the unselfishness of his devotion, he might have
won her even then. The pity in a woman is often minister to her heart.
But pity left her when he made so sure.

"Oh, it's no good talking like this," she said gently; "I know I
shouldn't."

He leant nearer to her, peering into her face. "Well, will you think
about it--will you think it over?" He felt certain that when she
thought of that home of her own, she would be bound to relent--any
woman would. "Let me know some other time."

"If you like. I don't know why you should be so good to me."

Passionately he seized her arm with his hand. "Because I love
you--don't you see?"

"Yes; I see. I shouldn't think there's much to love in me though."

"Wouldn't you? My God--I do! Will you give me a kiss?"

One would think he might have known that that was the last thing he
should have asked for. One would think he might have realized that
passion was the last thing he should have shown her at such a moment
as that. But he fancied that any woman might want to be kissed under
the circumstances. He had a vague idea that his passion might awaken
emotion in her; that with the touch of his lips, she might drop her
arms about his neck and swoon into submission. He did not know the
fiddle string upon which he was playing; he did not know the fine
edge upon which all her thoughts were balancing.

She drew quickly away from him; freed her arm and turned towards the
house with lips tight pressed together.

"I'm going in," she said.



CHAPTER VIII


But she had promised to think it over. He kept her to that. Again
it was the hunter, the quarry, and the inevitable flight. The thought
of her possible escape quickened his pulses. He became infinitely
more determined to make her his own. The recollection of her saying
that she did not love him was humiliating, but it stirred him to
deeper feelings of desire. When he thought of her--as at
first--readily accepting him and his prospects, he had not formed
so high opinion of her as now, being at her mercy.

She stood before his eyes that night as he lay in bed. One vague dream
after another filled his sleep, and Sally took part in them
all--kissing him, scorning him. His mental vision was obsessed with
the sight of her.

With Sally herself, sleep came late--reluctantly--like a tired man,
dragging himself to his journey's end.

Janet was seated up in bed, reading and smoking, when she returned.
While she was taking off her clothes, Sally told her all about
it--word for word--everything that had passed between them. This is
a way of women. They have a marvellous memory for the recounting in
detail of such incidents as these.

"Thinking it over means nothing," she said when Sally had
finished--"thinking it over'll only fix your mind on refusing him
all the more. His one chance was this evening. You know that
yourself--don't you? You'll never accept him now."

Sally crept wearily into the bed and pulled the clothes about her.

"Will you?" Janet repeated.

Sally muttered a smothered negative into the pillow, and stared out
before her at the discoloured wall-paper.

"Sally"--Janet shut up her book, and threw the end of her cigarette
with accurate precision into the tiny fireplace--"Sally--"

"What?"

"Is there anybody else? Some man up in Town--some man who comes into
the office--some man _in_ the office--is there?"

Sally turned her pillow over. "No," she replied. She kept her eyes
away from Janet's, but her answer was firm and decided.

For a few moments, Miss Hallard sat upright in the bed and watched
her. Her mind was keyed with intuition. She was conscious of the
presence of some influence in Sally's mind--probably more conscious
of it than Sally was herself. You could not have shaken her in that
belief. Even a woman cannot act to a woman, and that decided "No"
from Sally had only served the more to convince her. When one woman
deals in subtleties with another, fine hairs and the splitting of
them are merely clumsy operations to perform.

"Are you tired?" asked Janet presently--"or only pretending to be?"

"Why should I pretend? I am tired--frightfully tired."

"You want to go to sleep, then?"

"Well, I don't feel like talking to-night; do you?"

They talked every night, regularly--talked about dresses, about
religion, about other people's love affairs, and other women's
indiscretions. Sally described hats she had seen on rich women
shopping at Knightsbridge; Janet told questionable stories about the
lives of models and art students, Sally listening with wondering eyes,
needing sometimes to have them explained to her more graphically in
order really to understand. So they would continue, in the dark, till
one or the other asked a question and, receiving no answer, would
turn over on her side, and the next moment be oblivious of everything.

"What's particularly the matter to-night?" persisted Janet. "Sorry
you told Mr. Arthur you didn't love him?"

"I don't know."

"I believe you are."

There was no such belief in her mind. She knew it would draw the truth.
She used it.

"No, I'm not," said Sally, decidedly. "I'm not sorry."

"Then what are you so depressed about?"

"Am I depressed?" She sat up again and turned her pillow. "Oh, I
haven't said my prayers yet." She began to throw off the bed-clothes.

"Well, you're not going to get out of bed, are you?"

"Yes."

She slid off the bed on to the floor, shuddering as her feet touched
the cold linoleum carpet. Habit was strong in her still. She believed
in no fixed and certain dogma, but she had never broken the custom
of saying her prayers; never even been able to rid herself of the
belief that except upon the knees on the hard floor prayers were of
little intrinsic value. That she had always been taught; and though
the greater lessons--the untangling of the entangled Trinity, the
mystery of the bread and wine--had lost their meaning in her mind,
ever since her father's predicament, yet she still held fondly to
the simple habits of her childhood.

When Janet saw her finally huddled on her knees, her head, with its
masses of gold hair, buried in the arms flung out appealingly before
her, she turned and blew out the candle. Sally never answered
questions when she was saying her prayers, though Janet frequently
addressed them to her, and took the answers for granted.

There she knelt in the darkness, while Janet dug the accustomed grove
in her pillow and went to sleep.

What does a woman pray for--what does any one pray for--whom do they
pray to, when the composition of their mental attitude towards the
Highest is a plethora of doubts? Yet they pray.

Instinctively at night, by the side of their beds, their knees
bent--or there is some genuflexion in their heart which answers just
as well--they drop into the attitude of prayer. And they all begin
in the same way--O God-- And not one of them has the faintest notion
of whom or what or why that God is.

Whoever, whatever, wherever He is, His power must be supreme to make
itself felt through the thick veil of doubt and despair that hangs
so heavily about His identity.

Sally Bishop, who could not say the Apostles' Creed with unswerving
conscience--to whom the story of the Resurrection was fogged,
blurred with a thousand inconsistencies--even she could not dispense
with that moment in each day, that moment of abandonment--the
flinging of one's burden of questions at the feet of a deity whose
identity it would be impossible to define.

For many minutes she stayed there on her knees, her arms wound round
about her head, her shoulders rising wearily with each breath that
she took.

Long after Janet had fallen asleep, and when the cold was numbing
in her limbs, she stayed there, pouring forth her importunate
questions--the woman begging guidance, when she knows full well what
course she is going to adopt.



CHAPTER IX


The life of the Bohemian in London is no brilliantly coloured affair.
The most that can be said for it is that it has its moments. The first
flush of a full purse and the last despair of an empty pocket are
always sensations that are worth while. With the one you can gauge
the shallow depth of pleasure and find the world full of friends;
with the other you can learn how superfluous are the things you called
necessities and you may count upon the fingers of your hand the number
of friends whom really you possess. In their way, these moments are
true values--both of them.

But the life of the Bohemian, wherever it may be, has one advantage
that no other life possesses. It is a series of contrasts. With his
last sovereign, he may have supper at the Savoy, rubbing shoulders
with the best and with the worst; the next night, he may be dining
off a _maquereau grille_ in a Greek Street restaurant, jogging elbows
with the worst and with the best. It is only the steady possession
of wealth that makes a groove; but steady possession is an unknown
condition in the life of the Bohemian. And so, drifting in this
sporadic way through the wild journeys of existence, he comes truly
to learn the definite, certain uncertainty of human things. This he
learns; but it is no sure guarantee that he will follow the teaching
of the lesson.

For in the heart of human nature is a common need of bondage. To this,
no matter what movement may be afoot, a woman still yields herself
willingly. To this, in deep reluctance, with dragging steps, but none
the less inevitably, man yields as well. The desire for companionship,
the desire to give, albeit there may be no giving in return, the
shuddering sense of the empty room and the silent night come to all
of us, however much we may wish for the former conditions of solitude
when once they are ours.

It was this common need of bondage, this hatred of the silent
emptiness of life that caught the mind of Jack Traill, arrested and
held it in the interest of Sally Bishop.

You are never really to know why a man, passing through life, meeting
this woman, meeting that, some intimately, some in the vapid chance
of acquaintanceship, will in one moment be held by the sight of a
certain face. The table of affinities is the only attempt at
regulating the matter, and in these changing times one cannot look
even upon that with confidence.

There is a law, however, whatever it may be, and in unconscious
obedience to it, Traill kept the face of Sally Bishop persistently
before him. After she had left him at Knightsbridge, he too descended
from the 'bus and walked slowly back to Piccadilly Circus.

Casting his eyes round the circle of houses with their brilliant
illuminations, he decided, with no anticipation of entertainment,
where to dine. A meal is a ceremony of boredom when it has no
pleasurable prospect. Indeed, the gratification of any appetite
becomes a sordid affair when the mind is stagnant and the body merely
asking for its food. But in the last three years, Traill had gone
through this same performance a thousand times; a thousand times he
had looked out of the little circular window on the top floor of the
house in Lower Regent Street where he lived; a thousand times he had
taken a coin out of his pocket and let the head or the tail decide
between the two restaurants which he most usually frequented.

On this night there was no tossing of a coin. He had not even so much
interest in the meal as that. Making his way across the Circus, he
entered a restaurant in Shaftesbury Avenue, and passed down the
stairs to the grill-room.

The music, the lights, the haze of smoke and the scent of food were
depressing. The whole atmosphere rolled forward to meet him as he
came through the doors. He had no subtle temperament. It did not
offend his imagination, but it sickened his senses, even though he
knew that in five minutes he would be eating with the rest and the
atmosphere would have taken upon itself a false semblance of
normality.

All the tables had one occupant or another. He was forced to seat
himself at the same table with some man and a girl, who were already
half through their meal. He did so with apologies, quite aware of
the annoyance he was causing. But he was not sensitive. He had the
right to a seat at the table. The rules of the restaurant offered
no restrictions. With it all, he was British.

"Hope you'll excuse my intrusion," he said shortly.

The man, a clerk, with slavery written legibly across his face,
offered some mumbled acceptance of the inevitable. Traill himself
would not have borne with any such intrusion. He would have called
the manager--insisted upon having the table to himself; but he
intruded his presence with only a momentary consciousness of being
in the way.

His manner with waiters was peremptory. He gave them the recognition
of the position which they occupied, but beyond that, scarcely looked
upon them as human.

"Look here," he began, "I want so and so--" he named a dish that was
unknown to the companion of the young clerk. She felt a certain
respect of him for that. Her friend had ordered the most ordinary
of food and had tried to do it in a lordly manner. There was no
lordliness about Traill. He wasted no time with a waiter; he had never
met a German waiter who was worth it. All this gave the impression
of brusqueness. The girl liked it. She looked at her friend and wished
she was dining with Traill. But Traill took no notice of her. Except
an occasional glance, he ignored them both. As soon as he could, he
ordered an evening paper and sat concealed behind it--truly British
in every outline. The music in the place was good, but no music
appealed to him. It came as a confused wreckage of sounds to his ears
as he read through the news of the evening; and when the girl rattled
her spoon on the coffee cup and the young man clapped his hands
vigorously at the conclusion of a selection, he looked over the top
of his paper with annoyance. What music had ever penetrated his
understanding of the art, had come in the form of chants of psalms
and old hymn tunes, which a constant attendance at church in his youth
had dinned into him--the driving of soft iron nails into the stern
oak. He sang these laboriously with numberless crescendos as he
dressed in the mornings.

He finished dinner as quickly as he could. The young people opposite
him were insufferably dull. Apparently they had never met each other
before and were at a loss to make conversation to suit the occasion.
Accordingly, they listened intently to the string band while the
young man smoked a long cigar, and in the natural course of things,
they applauded after each piece to show that they had heard it. Traill
bolted his meal, glad to leave them.

He came out of the restaurant and thanked God--filling his lungs with
it--for the clean air. Then he stood on the pavement contemplating
the next move. Should he go back to his rooms, read--smoke--fall
asleep? Should he turn into a music-hall? When you live alone, the
greatest issues of life sometimes resolve themselves into such
questions as these.

Finally, scarcely conscious of arriving at any definite decision,
he walked slowly back across the Circus in the direction of Lower
Regent Street.

Over by the Criterion he heard the sound of footsteps behind him,
hurrying; then his Christian name in a woman's voice. He turned.

"I was up nearly at the Prince of Wales's," she said out of breath,
"when I saw you crossing the Circus. My--I ran!"

"What for?" he asked laconically.

"Why to talk to you, of course--what else? Where are you going?"

He looked at her coloured lips, at the tired eyes with their blackened
lashes, at the flush of rouge that adorned her cheeks. Involuntarily,
he remembered when she was charming, pretty--a time when she required
none of these things.

"Where are you going anyway?" she repeated. "You haven't been to see
me these months. Where are you going now?"

"I'm going back to my rooms."

A look of resigned disappointment passed like a shadow across her
face. The first realization in a woman of her failure to attract is
the beginning of every woman's tragedy.

"Never seen my rooms, have you?" he added.

"No; never expected to."

"Come in and see them now and have a talk."

"You don't mean that?" Eagerness dragged it out of her.

"Come along," he said; "they're just down here--in Regent Street."

She followed him silently--silently, but in that moment her spirits
had lifted. There was a wider swing in her walk. But he took no notice
of that; he was not observant.

She hummed a tune with a rather pretty voice as she walked up the
flights of stairs behind him.

"Gosh! it's dark," she exclaimed.

"Oh, it's none of your bachelor flats with lifts and attendants and
electric lights," he replied.

On the third landing she stopped--out of breath again.

"Tired?" he said.

"There--" she laid a hand on her chest and breathed heavily. Then
she moved a step nearer to him.

"Give us a kiss, dearie," she whispered.

He retreated a step. "My dear child--I didn't want you for that. Come
up to the next floor when you've got your breath. I'll go on and light
the candles."

He left her there in the semi-darkness, the thin light from the
landing window just breaking up the heavy shadows. When she heard
him open the door upstairs, she moved close to the window, took a
small mirror from her little reticule bag and gazed for a moment at
her face in its reflection. Then from some pocket of the bag, she
produced a powder-puff and a box of powdered rouge, applying them
with mechanical precision.

"S'pose he thought I looked tired," she muttered to herself as she
mounted the remaining flight of stairs.

The room was a bachelor's, but it showed discrimination. Everything
was in good taste--taste that was beyond her comprehension. She stood
there in the doorway and stared about her before she entered. She
thought the rush matting that covered the floor was cold; she thought
the oak furniture sombre. Without realizing the need for tact, she
said so.

"You want a woman in here," she said, thinking that she was paving
the way for herself--"to warm things up a bit--you know what I
mean--make things more cosy."

He put a chair out for her by the fire. It had a rush-bottomed seat
to it, and for the first few moments she worried about in it, trying
vainly to make herself comfortable.

"What would you do?" he asked quietly, filling a well-burnt pipe from
a tobacco-jar.

She took this as encouragement--jumped to it, as an animal to the
food above it.

"Do? Well, first of all I'd have a nice thick carpet." There was no
need to force the note of interest into her voice. She was already
absorbed with it. She confidently thought that she could impress him
with the comfort that she could bring into his life. Her eyes, quick
to grasp certain facts, had shown her that he lived alone. Long study
of men from certain standpoints had made that easy for her to
appreciate. This moment to her was as the gap in the wall of riders
before him is to the jockey; in that moment she saw clear down the
straight to the winning-post. She took it. Ten minutes before she
had not known where to turn. The race had seemed impossible. Two or
three times she had opened her reticule bag and counted the four
coppers that jingled within the pocket. She had had no dinner. No
music hall was possible to her with such capital. You know something
of life when you have only fourpence in the world and vice is the
only trade for which your hand has acquired any deftness.

"I pray God no man 'll offer me ten bob to-night," she had said to
another woman.

"Why?"

"Why? Gosh! I'd take it."

Here then, out of nowhere, in the dull impenetrable wall was torn
the gap through which she saw the chance, such a chance as she had
never been offered by the generosity of circumstance before. She
seized it--no hesitation--no lack of inspiring confidence. It did
not even cross her mind that she looked tired. She was in no way
thwarted by the knowledge that she was not so young, not so pretty
as when first she had known him. The opportunity was too great for
that. It had fallen so obviously at her feet, that she felt it was
meant for her.

She shuffled her feet on the cold clean matting and said again, "I'd
have a nice thick carpet--"

"What colour?"

She looked up to the ceiling to think--not at the room around her.

"I don't know--Turkey red, I think--that's warmest. You know my
carpet--well, it used to be nice. It's worn a bit now and there's
not so much colour in it as when it was new. That was Turkey red."

"And what else?" He sat on the corner of an old table and smoked his
pipe--swinging his legs and looking at her.

"Well, I'd have electric lights instead of these candles--you can't
expect a woman to see with candles;--'lectric light's twice as cheap
and it's much brighter. And they make lovely new fittings now--quite
inexpensive--oxidized copper, I think they call it; I like brass best
myself."

"You think brass is better?"

"Yes; don't you? Those brass candlesticks that you've got are all
right, only they're so plain."

"You like things more ornate?"

"More what?"

"More ornate--more highly finished--more elaborate?"

"Yes; don't you?"

He took no notice of that question. "What else would you do?" he asked.
The smoke curled up in clouds from the bowl of his pipe as he sat
listening to her.

She looked round the room contemplatively.

"Oh--lots of things," she said. "I'd have a sofa--one of those settee
sort of things--"

"Upholstered in red?"

"Yes--to go with the carpet. And a comfortable armchair--really
comfortable, I mean--something that you could chuck your legs about
it--less like a straight jacket than this thing I'm sitting in."

"Upholstered in red?" he repeated.

"Um--of course."

"Then how about this wall-paper?" he questioned. "It's green--do you
think that would go with all the red?"

She looked round the walls, then tried to blur her eyes in an effort
to give scope to her imagination. She put her whole heart into it.
This was the chance of her life. Thrilling through her, like some
warm current that forces its way through cold water, was the
consciousness that she was making him seriously consider the
benefits of having a woman to live with him, to look after his needs,
attend to his comforts, as she pictured herself so well able to do.
After due deliberation, she delivered her opinion.

"I don't think the green would go so badly as you'd think," she said
slowly--"I suppose it would be expensive to change. But red would
look better of course."

He took his pipe out of his mouth and blew a long scroll of smoke
from between his lips as he looked at her.

"In fact," he said at last--"you'd like to make this little room of
mine look like hell."

It was a brutal thing to have said. Yet he knew her mind no more than
she knew his. He knew but little of women. Her knowledge of men was
limited to one point of view. When her flat had been newly decorated,
newly furnished for her, she had boasted of its comforts to every
man she met. Nearly all of them had said that they liked it. It was
clean then, and all they had appreciated was the cleanliness. But
she had not known that. She thought they had approved of her taste.
So, with this narrow knowledge of the sex, she had made her bid for
security and failed.

And he, when he saw the drop in her face, when he saw features and
expression fall from the lofty height of anticipation as a pile of
cards topple in a mass upon the table, he was sorry. Her mouth
opened--gaped. She looked as if a flat hand had struck her.

"I don't mean that unkindly," he said--"but it would be hell--red
hell--to me."

She sat and stared at him. "Can't understand you," she said at last.

"Why not?"

"What did you let me go on talking for?"

"It was rather amusing to compare your taste with mine."

"Amusing? God!"

She lifted herself to her feet and went across to the mantelpiece,
leaning her elbows on it, her head in her hands. All her exhaustion
had returned. She felt a thousand times more tired in that moment
than when she had rested on the landing. All that afternoon she had
been walking the streets--all that evening too. From Regent Street
to Oxford Street, from Oxford Street to Bond Street, from Bond Street
through the Burlington Arcade into Piccadilly, then over the whole
course again, smiling cheerfully at this man, looking knowingly at
that--all a forced effort, all a spurious energy; and pain throbbed
in her limbs--a dominant note of pain. She could feel a pulse in her
brain that kept time to it. These are the ecstatic pleasures of
vice--the charms, the allurements of the gay life.

At last she turned round and faced him. "I don't want any of those
damned red carpets and things," she said,--"if you'll let me come
and live with you--look after you."

She crossed the room and laid her hands heavily on his shoulders;
bent towards him to kiss his lips.

"We should be sick to death of each other in a week," he said, meeting
her eyes.

"No, we shouldn't."

He gazed steadily at her for a moment. "What makes you think I want
any one to live here with me?" he asked curiously.

"I don't know--you do. I saw it the first second I entered the room.
I felt it the first moment you asked me to come up here. You know
you do yourself. You're sick of this--aren't you?"

"You're right there."

She nodded her head sententiously--proud of her perceptive ability.
She wanted to go on saying other things that were just as true,
showing how well she understood him; but she could think of nothing.
Then she made the fatal mistake. She threw a guess at a hazard.

"And you thought when you saw me that I was just the girl you wanted.
I saw that in your face when you turned round."

He smiled. "You've lost the scent," he said, drawing away from her
hands. "Lost it utterly. And why do you want to come and live here?
You're not fond of me. You don't care a rap for me. Are you hard up?"

Pride--self-respect--they are lost qualities in a lost woman. You
must not even look for them. For the moment, she was silent, saying
nothing; but there was no moaning of wounded vanity in the heart of
her. Two questions were weighing out the issue. If she said she were
hard-up, then all opportunity of gaining the chance would be lost.
He would give her money--tell her to go. That would be all. If she
refused to admit it, the opportunity--slight as it had become--would
still be there. Which to do--which course to take? For a perceptible
passing of time she rocked--a weary pendulum of doubt--between the
two. Then she gave it.

"I'm dead broke," she said thickly.

She saw the last hope vanish with that--looked after it with a curl
of bravado on her lip. Lifting her eyes to his, she knew it was gone.
There, in the place of it, was the calculation of what he could
spare--what he should give.

"How much do you want?" he asked.

The question was ludicrous to her. She wanted all she could get. Now
that she had thrown away her chances of the future, her whole mind
concentrated with uncontrolled desire upon the present.

"What's the good of asking me that?" she exclaimed bitterly. "I'll
take what I can get. Reminds me of a girl--a friend of mine. She's
an illegitimate child. Her father's pretty well off. She was down
to the bottom of the bag the other day, so she went to her father
and asked him for some money. 'My dear child,' he said--'I can't spare
you a cent--I've just spent seven hundred and fifty pounds on a motor
car--is a sovereign any good to you?'"

There was a bitter sense of humour in the story. She laughed at
it--loud, uncontrolled laughter that rang as empty and as hollow as
an echo.

"Give me what you can," she added. "Anything above a shilling's
better than fourpence."

"Is that what you're down to?"

"Um--"

He took three sovereigns out of his pocket, and gave them to her.
She let them lie out flat in the palm of her hand--the three of them,
all in a row. They glittered--even in the candle-light. They were
her own.

"When are you coming to see me?"

She still looked at them.

"I'm not coming."

Her head shot up; her eyes filled with questions.

"Why not?"

He opened his hands expressively. If there were any answer to that
question, she learnt that she was not going to get it.

"Are you going to be married?" she asked slowly.

He shook his head--laughing. Then understanding shot into her eyes,
and a flash of jealousy came with it.

"I know," she exclaimed between thin lips.

"What do you know?"

"You're going to keep some woman here--some girl you're fond of."

It was the moment of intuition. She had struck deeper into his mind
than even he was aware of himself.

"What makes you think that?"

"What you said."

"What did I say?"

"You admitted that you were sick of being here alone."

"Well--?"

She burst out laughing. "Well--?" She turned to the door. "Good Lord!
Isn't every blooming man the same!"

She opened her bag and dropped the three gold pieces into a
pocket--one after another. You heard the dull sound of the first as
it fell, then the clinking of the other two, when the metal touched
metal. She shut the bag--the catch snapped sharp! Then she went.



CHAPTER X


You sow an idea--you sow a seed. It grows upwards through a soil of
subliminal unconsciousness until it lifts its head into the clear
air of realization. There is no limitation of time, no need for
watchful dependence upon the season. Only the moment and the
husbandry of circumstances are essential. With these, perhaps a
single hour is all that may be required for the seed to open, the
shoots to sprout, the plant itself to bear the fruit of action in
the fierce light of reality.

In Traill's mind the idea was sown when he stood outside the office
of Bonsfield & Co. in King Street. The soil was ready then--hungry
for the seed. It fell lightly--unnoticed--into the subconscious
strata of his mind. He had not even been aware of its existence. Then,
with the woman who had accompanied him to his rooms, came the
husbandry of circumstance. She fed the seed. She watered it. Before
her foot had finished tapping on the wooden staircase, before the
street and the thousand lights had swallowed her up again, his mind
had grasped the knowledge of the need that was within him.

On Monday morning he went down to the chambers in the Temple where
his name as a practising barrister was painted upon the lintel of
the door. This was a matter of formality. Numberless barristers do
it every day; numberless ones of them find the same as he did--nothing
to be done. He had long since overcome the depression which such an
announcement had used to bring with it. There should be no
disappointment in the expected which invariably happens. The
sanguine mind is a weak mind that suffers it. Traill turned away from
the Temple, whistling a hymn tune as if it were a popular favourite.

From there he made his way down into the hub of journalism. The
descent into hell is easy. He rode there with a free lance--known
by all the editors--capable in his way--a man to be relied upon for
anything but imagination. From one office to another, he trudged;
climbing numberless stairs, filling in numberless slips of paper
with his name, saying nothing about his business. They knew his
business--the ability to do anything that was going. He had written
leaders on the advance of Socialism--criticized a play, reviewed a
book. It says little beyond the fact that one is ready and willing
to do these things.

So, until the nearing hour of lunch time, he went about--a scavenger
of jobs--sweeping up the refuse of the paper's needs, as the boys
in Covent Garden search through the barrows of sawdust for the stray,
green grapes that have been thrown out with the brushings of the
stalls.

If one knew how half the men in London find the way to live, one would
stand amazed. Life is not the dreadful thing; it is the living of
it. Life in the abstract is a gay pageant, the passing of a show,
caparisoned in armour, in ermine, in motley, in what you will. But
see that man without his armour, this woman without her ermine, these
in the crowd without their motley and the merry, merry jangling of
the bells, and you will find how slender are the muscles that the
armour lays bare, how shrivelled the breast that the ermine strips,
how dragged and weary is that pitiable, naked figure which a few
moments before was dancing fantastically, grimacing with its ape.

Traill took it as it came; the man forced to a crude philosophy, as
Life, if we get enough of it, will force every soul of us. You must
have a philosophy if you are going to accept Life. Even if you refuse
it, you must have a philosophy, call it pessimistic, what you wish,
it is still a point of view. The "temporary insanity" of the coroner's
court is most times a vile hypocrisy, invented to soothe a Christian
conscience.

So long as he found enough work to do, his spirits were light. He
had a normal contempt for the temperament that is known as artistic,
despised the variability of mood, ridiculed its April uncertainty.
This is the man who hews his way through Life, making no wide passage
perhaps, no definite pathway for the thousands who are looking for
the broad and simple track; but cuts down, lops off, with the sheer
strength of dogged determination, the hundred obstacles that beset
his progress.

When the clock at the Law Courts was striking the half-hour after
twelve, he came up out of that depth of journalism which lies like
a hidden world below the level of Fleet Street and made his way along
towards the Strand. There was a definite intention in his movements.
He walked quickly; turned up without hesitation into Southampton
Street, and again into King Street. There the speed of his steps
lessened and, walking past the premises of Bonsfield & Co., he kept
his eyes in the direction of the window at which he had first seen
Sally Bishop at work.

She was there, her fingers more lively now than when he had seen them
before, in their eternal dance upon the untiring keys. In the
lingering glance he took at her as he walked slowly by, there was
much that was curiosity, but a greater interest. Thoughts had swept
through his mind since the previous Saturday night. He saw her now
from a different point of view. He still found her
attractive-compellingly so. There was something exquisitely naive
about her, an innocence that was precious. In all the sordid side
of life that he had seen--that was his daily portion to see, for the
journalism of a free lance can be sordid indeed--he found her fresh.
That had been the swift impression which he had formed in the few
moments that he had seen her, spoken to her, on the top of the 'bus
from Piccadilly Circus. At this second sight of her, he was not
disillusioned. Even there, in the midst of offices, chained to the
machine at which she worked, she seemed cut out from her
surroundings--a personality apart.

He walked past the book shop, down the street, until he came within
sight of the clock in the post-office in Bedford Street. It was ten
minutes to one. He turned back again. It was a practical certainty
that she would be going out to lunch at one. The only question that
arose as a difficulty in his mind was the possibility of her being
accompanied by some other member of Bonsfield's staff. He knew that
it would be inconsiderate to approach her then.

Finally he decided to a wait her coming in one of the arches of Covent
Garden market, from whence he could survey the entire length of the
street. He had scarcely taken up his position when she came out into
view. She walked in his direction, She was alone.

Traill felt a sensation in his blood. It was not unaccountable, but
it was unexpected. A combination of eagerness and timidity, that he
would have ridiculed in any one else, had mastered him for the moment.
Years ago, he would have understood it, expected it. Now he was
thirty-six. A man who has lived to his age, lived the years moreover
in his way, does not look to be moved to school-boy timidity by the
sight of a woman. He pulled a cigarette-case out of his pocket,
extracted a cigarette and lit it before he was really conscious of
this action.

She passed down Southampton Street into the Strand without noticing
him. Then for the second time he followed. It was an easy matter to
keep the blue feather in her hat in sight in the crowds of people
all hurrying to get the most of the hour for their mid-day meal. He
let her keep some yards ahead. Then she vanished into a restaurant
at the corner of Wellington Street. He smiled. The matter was as good
as done now. In another three minutes he would be ten pounds in her
debt.

He allowed a couple of minutes to go by before he entered the
restaurant; then he pushed open the doors and his eyes took in the
room with a swift scrutiny.

Everything was in his favour. She was seated at a table in the corner
of the room, herself the only occupant of it. He walked across to
her without hesitation--no timidity now. That had vanished with the
need for a show of determination. Here he must dominate the situation
or fail utterly.

"There's no need to move to another table," he said as he pulled out
a chair for himself and sat down opposite to her. "If you really
strongly object to my having my lunch opposite to you, I'll move
away."

"I do object," she replied.

"But why?"

"I don't know you, I don't know who you are."

"That's not a great difficulty," he said, smiling.

"I think it is."

He laughed lightly. "Not a bit of it. It can easily be overcome. My
name's Traill. I'm a barrister--briefless--the type of barrister
that populates the Temple and all those places. One of these days
I may come into my own; I may be conducting the leading cases at the
criminal bar; I may be--but it's not even one of my castles in the
air."

She smiled at his inconsequence. "You seem to take it very lightly,"
she remarked.

"Why not? Do you imagine I sit in chambers all day long, pining for
the impossible which no alchemy of fate can apparently ever alter?
I'm also a journalist. That's why I've come to see you." He spoke
utterly at random.

"To see me?"

"Yes."

The waitress was standing impatiently by the table, tapping her tray
with her fingers.

"What are you going to have?" he asked.

Sally snatched a swift glance at him. Was he conscious that he was
overruling her objections? She saw no sign of it. He looked up at
her questioningly, waiting for her answer.

"I don't mind at all," she replied. She felt too timid to say what
she would really like, too ashamed perhaps to say what she usually
had for her lunch. The best course was to let him choose. "I'll have
whatever you do," she said agreeably.

He gave the order, a meal for which she could never have afforded
to pay. Then he turned back with a humorous smile to her.

"The objection, the difficulty's overcome, then," he said.

Sally allowed herself to smile, eyes in a swift moment raised to his.

"I never said so."

"No, no; but surely this is tacit admission. However, the point is
not the saying of it." He saw the look of doubtfulness beginning to
show itself in her eyes. "What's the good of talking about it? We're
here for the purpose of eating, not discussing social conventions.
You know who I am, I shall know who you are in another two or three
minutes if you'll be kind enough to tell me. Why, good heavens! life's
short enough, without surrounding everything we want with social
restrictions. I'm a barrister, I told you that before. In some sort
of legal directory you'll find out exactly when I left Oxford and
was called to the bar. In _Who's Who?_ you'll find out exactly where
I live, though I can tell you that myself--" he mentioned the number
of his chambers in Regent Street. "They'll tell you in _Who's Who?_
that my sports are riding, fishing, and shooting--that describes a
man in England; it doesn't describe me. I don't ride; I don't fish
or shoot; I used to; that's another matter. I only ride an occasional
hobby now--fish for work on the papers, and shoot-- Lord knows what
I shoot! Nothing, I suppose. I belong to the National Liberal Club
for the Library, to the Savage where you pass along an editor as you
would a christening mug, and to the National Sporting, because
there's a beast in every man, thank God!"

He had won her. The rattle of that conversation had driven all
thoughts of doubt out of her mind. She would not have denied herself
of his company now for any foolish pretext of convention. In that
hurried summary of himself and his affairs, proving himself by it,
without any pride and conceit, to be a man of very different stamp
and interest to Mr. Arthur Montagu, he had marked her in her flight
for liberty. Nothing was binding her--no interest in life but to be
loved. Had there been any such bond--the prospect of an engagement
which was not distasteful to her--he would have found it no easy
matter to win her to interest then. But she was free, in the midst
of her flight, and he had marked her. She looked into his eyes as
the sighted bird blinks before the glittering barrel of the gun, and
she knew that he could win her if he chose.

"Well," he said, "I've got nothing more to tell you. How about you?"

She took a little handkerchief out from the folds in her coat, then
put it back again, apparently with no purpose.

"I thought you had something to tell me?"

"I?"

"Yes; you said when you came up to the table that you had."

"That? Oh yes, that's business. We'll talk about that later. I want
to hear something about yourself first. You're engaged to be
married."

He rushed blindly at that--knew nothing about it. A ring on her finger
had suggested the thought, but whether it were on the proper finger
or not was beyond his knowledge of such little details.

"What makes you think that?" she asked.

"The ring on the finger."

"But that's not the right finger."

"Isn't it?"

"No. My grandmother gave me that."

He held her eyes--forced her to see the comprehension in his.

"Then you won't help me?" he said.

"Help you? How?"

"You don't want to tell me anything about yourself?"

"But I have nothing to tell. I'm a very uninteresting person, I'm
afraid."

This was shyness, this dropping into conventional phrases. He led
her deftly through them to a greater confidence in his interest, as
you steer a boat through shallow, rapid-running water. He wanted to
get to the woman beneath it all, knowing that the woman was there.
So he made for deep water, guiding her through the shoals. Before
they had finished their second course, she was telling him about Mr.
Arthur.

"And you don't love him?" he said.

"No."

"Respect him?"

She paused. The pause answered him. The tension of the moment lifted.

"Yes. I respect him. I know he's honourable. He must be reliable.
After all he's offering me everything."

You would have thought, to hear her, that the matter was yet in the
balance, swaying uncertainly before it recorded the weight. There
is the instinct of the woman in that. She felt the shadow of his
apprehension; knew that she raised her value in his eyes by the
seeming presence of debate. Yet none realized better than she, that
Mr. Arthur had been stripped of all possibility now. The fateful
comparison had been made--the comparison which most women make in
the decision of such momentous issues--one man against another.
Their emotions are the agate upon which the scales must swing. In
favour of the man before her, they swung with ponderous obviousness.

"Then you'll marry him?" said Traill.

She looked at him questioningly--raised eyebrows--the look of mute
appeal. You might have read anything behind her eyes--you might have
read nothing. Traill studied them wonderingly.

"You'll marry him--of course," he repeated. He was taking the risk.
He might be forcing her to say yes. He prepared himself for it. To
take that risk, knowing one way or another, rather than blindly
groping to the end, this was typical of him. But he could not force
her to the answer that he sought for.

"Do you think I ought to?" she asked.

He drummed his fingers on the table and looked through her.

"Why do you ask me?"

"I'm sorry." She returned sensitively to the food that was before
her--"I thought you had seemed interested. I'm sorry--I took too much
for granted."

He knew the danger of all this--so did she. But danger of what? That
dancing upon the edge of the precipice of emotion is in the normal
heart of every woman--and he? He sought it out; to the edge he had
brought her, knowing the way--every step of it. She had only followed
blindly where he had led. Once there, she knew well the chasm on whose
edge she was balancing. Natural instinct alone would have told her
that. The height was dizzy. She had known well that if ever she gazed
down, it would be that. Her head swam with the giddiness of it. She
kept her eyes fixed rigidly on the plate before her, not daring to
look up, or meet his glance.

"Suppose you haven't taken too much for granted," he suggested
quietly.

"Well?" she raised her head--tried to look with unconcern into his
eyes--failed. Then her head dropped again.

"I should say--don't marry him--not yet--wait. The harm that is done
by waiting is measurable by inches. Wait. How old are you? Is that
rude? No--of course it isn't. It's only rude when a woman's got to
answer you with a lie. How old are you? Twenty?"

"Twenty-one."

"Twenty-one! I was fifteen when you first woke up and yelled."

She threw back her head and laughed.

"Why do you laugh?"

"You say such funny things sometimes."

"I remember the first joke I made you thought was bad taste."

She looked at him. There was excitement in her eyes. The rush of the
stream had taken her; an impulse for the moment carried her away.

"I repeated that joke afterwards," she said quickly, "the same
evening to shock Mr. Arthur."

The moment she had said it, came regret. It was showing him too
plainly the impression that he had left upon her. But he seemed not
to notice it.

"Was he shocked?" he asked.

"Yes--terribly."

She looked at her watch. That moment's regret had brought her to her
senses. The blood came quickly to her face, as she thought how
intimately they had talked within so short a time. Reviewing it--as
with a searchlight that strides across the sky--she scarcely
believed that it was true. In just an hour, she had told him as
much--more than she had told Miss Hallard. Had she changed? Was the
freedom of the life she lived altering her? She had known Mr. Arthur
for a year and a half before he had thought of speaking with any
intimacy to her. The thought that she was deteriorating--becoming
as other women--passed across her mind with a sensation of nausea.
She rose to her feet.

"I must get back," she said.

"But it's only just two," he replied.

"I know, but then I came out five minutes early."

"Are they so fierce as that?"

"Yes, I daren't be late. Mr. Bonsfield gives me his letters directly
after lunch. I think he'd tell me I might go, if I was late. You see
it's very easy for them to get a secretary, the work's not difficult
though there's a lot of it; and there are hundreds of girls who'd
be ready to fill my place in a moment."

He watched her considerately. "Thank God, my lance is free," he said.
"Well--I suppose you must--if you must. I've enjoyed the talk."

Her eyes lighted, smiling. "So have I--immensely--it is very good
of you. Good-bye." She held out her hand.

"Do you think you get off so lightly?" he asked.

"How do you mean?"

"I mean--do you think I'm going to let you go without some chance
of seeing you again?"

"But--"

He checked that. He could not guess what had been passing through
her mind, yet the note in her voice on that one word was discouraging.

"You are going to come to dinner with me one evening."

She was full of indecision. He gave her no time to think. It was not
his intention to do so.

"But how can I?" she began.

"By coming dressed--just as you are. No need to go home and change.
I'll be ready to meet you outside the office at six o'clock. You don't
get out till a quarter past? Then a quarter past. We go to dinner--we
go to a theatre; music-hall if you like--then I drive you down to
Waterloo, put you in the last train to Kew Bridge--and that is all."

She laughed in spite of herself.

"I'll write to Strand-on-Green, and let you know what evening. Miss
Bishop--what initial?"

"S."

"What's S. for?"

"Sally."

"Miss Sally Bishop, 73 Strand-on-Green, Kew Bridge. And I owe you
ten pounds."

For a moment she smiled--then her expression changed.

"That's perfectly ridiculous," she said.

"I wouldn't have you think it anything else," he said; "but,
nevertheless, that's a legally contracted debt."



CHAPTER XI


Before she left the office that evening, Sally picked up the volume
of _Who's Who?_ kept there mainly because Mr. Bonsfield had a brother
whose name figured with some credit upon one of its pages. She turned
quickly over the leaves, until the name of Traill leapt out from the
print to hold her eye.

"John Hewitt Traill"--she read it with self-conscious
interest--"barrister-at-law and journalist. Born 1871; son of late
Sir William Hewitt Traill, C.B., of Apsley Manor, near High Wycombe,
Bucks. Address: Regent Street. _Clubs:_ National Liberal, and Savage.
_Recreations:_ riding, shooting, fishing."

That was all--the registration of a nonentity, it might have
seemed--in a wilderness of names. But it meant more than that to her.
Each word vibrated in her consciousness. Reading that--slight,
uncommunicative as it was--had made her feel a pride in their
acquaintance. Her imagination was stirred by the name of the house
where his father had lived, where he had probably been brought up.
Apsley Manor; she said it half aloud, and the picture was thrust into
her mind. She could see red gables, old tiled roofs, latticed windows,
overlooking sloping lawns, herbaceous borders with the shadows of
yew trees lying lazily across them. She could smell the scent of
stocks. The colours of sweet-peas and climbing roses filled her eyes.
In that moment, she had fallen into the morass of romance, and through
it all, like a gift of God, permeated the sense that it belonged to
this man who had dropped like a meteor upon the cold, uncoloured world
of her existence.

This is the beginning, the opening of the bud, whose petals wrapped
round the heart of Sally Bishop. Romance is the gate through which
almost every woman enters into the garden of life. Her first glimpse
is the path of flowers that stretches on under the ivied archways,
and there for a moment she stands, drugged with delight.

After supper that evening, Mr. Arthur followed her into the
sitting-room.

"Can you spare me a few minutes?" he asked.

His method of putting the question reminded her of Mr. Bonsfield's
chief clerk--the son of a pawnbroker in Camberwell. He assumed the
same attitude of body. Certainly Mr. Arthur did not fold his hands
together before him--he did not sniff through his nostrils; but her
imagination supplied these deficiencies in the likeness.

She agreed quite willingly. The prospect of what she knew was coming,
held no terrors for her. The only real terror is that of doubt. She
knew the course she was about to take. There was no hesitation in
her mind. The fate of Mr. Arthur in moulding the destiny of Sally's
life was weighed out, apportioned, sealed. It had only to be
delivered into his hands.

If this is a short time for so much to have happened, it can only
be said that Romance is a fairy tale where seven-leagued-boots and
magic carpets are essential properties of the mind. In a fairy tale
you are here and you are there by the simple turning of a ring.
Matter--the body--is a thing of nought. It is the same with Romance;
but there you deal with magical translations of the mind. From the
grim depths of the valley of despair, you are transported on to the
summit of the great mountain of delight; from the tangled forest of
doubt, in one moment of time you may be swept on the wings of the
genie of love into the sun-lit country of content.

Happening upon this fairy tale--as every woman must--had come Sally
Bishop. It would seem a foolish thing to think that Apsley Manor,
in the county of Buckinghamshire, should play a part in so great a
change in the life of any human being; it would seem strange to
believe that out of a two hours' acquaintance could arise the
beginning of a whole life's desire; yet in the fairy story of romance,
all such things are possible; nay, they are even the circumstances
that one expects.

When she walked out along the river-side that evening with Mr. Arthur,
there was an unreasoning content in her mind. The lights from the
bridge danced for her in the black water, reflecting the lightness
of her heart. She was in that pleasant attitude of mind--poised--like
a diver on a summer day, before he plunges into the glittering green
water. A few more days, another meeting, and she knew that she would
be immersed--deeply in love. Now she toyed with it, held the moment
at arm's length, and let her eyes feast on the seeming voluptuous
certainty of it. And when Mr. Arthur began the long preface to the
point towards which his mind was set, it sounded distant, aloof, as
the monotonous voice of a priest, chanting dull prayers in an empty
church, must sound in the ears of one whose whole soul is struggling
to lift to a communion with God Himself.

"I only want to know if you have made up your mind?" he said, when
he had finished his preamble.

"Yes, Mr. Arthur, I have."

"You can't?"

He took the note in her voice. It rang there in answer to the
apprehension that was already in his mind.

"No, I can't."

"Why not?"

"The same reason I gave you before."

"You don't love me?"

"No; I'm sorry, but I don't."

"That'll come," he tried to say with confidence.

She thought he was really sure of it; but instead of being angry,
she felt sorry for him. He hoped for that--he had every right to
hope--but oh, he little realized how impossible it was--how utterly,
absolutely impossible it was now. There is no rate of exchange for
Romance in the heart of a woman; she gives her whole soul for it,
and nothing but Romance will she take in return.

"It's no good saying that," she replied; "things don't come when you
expect them to. It surely can't be right for people to marry when
they are only hoping that one of them may love the other."

"But you seem to forget the position I'm offering you," he said. "Is
that no inducement?"

"No; I'm not forgetting it. But do you think position is everything
to a woman?"

"No; but she likes a home."

"Then why do you think I gave up mine?"

"I didn't know you had given it up. I thought you had been compelled
to earn your living."

"No; not at all. My father was a clergyman down in Kent. He only died
last year. My mother still lives there and my two sisters. I could
have a home there if I wished to go back to it."

He looked at her in a little amazement. "I suppose I don't understand
women," he said genuinely.

She looked up into his uninteresting face--the weak, protruding
lower lip, the drooping moustache that hung on to it--then she
smiled.

"I suppose, really, you don't," she agreed. "I think we'll go back;
I'm getting cold."

They walked back silently together, all the night sounds of the river
soothing to her ears, jarring to his. A train rushed by, thundering
over the bridge from Gunnersbury way; he looked at it, frowning,
waiting for the noise to cease; she watched it contentedly, thinking
that it had come from the Temple where Traill was a barrister-at-law.

"Then I suppose it's no good my saying any more," said Mr. Arthur,
as he stood at the door with his latch-key ready in the lock. He waited
for her answer before he turned it.

"No, no good," she replied gently; "I'm so sorry, but it isn't. I
hope it won't be the cause of any unfriendliness; you have been very
good to me, and I do really appreciate the honour of it." The same
phrases, with but little variation, that every woman uses. It is an
understood thing amongst them that a man is conscious of paying them
honour when he asks them in marriage, and that it is better to show
him that they are sensitive to it. He thinks of nothing of the
kind--certainly not at the time. That last appreciation of the honour
is the final application of a caustic to the wound that smarts the
most of all--though in the end it may heal.

Mr. Arthur turned the key viciously in the lock, and pushed the door
open.

"I suppose you have to say that," he exclaimed, "but of course there's
no honour about it to you. If your father was a clergyman, you
probably look down on me. My father was in the grocery business. He
got me into the bank because he had an account there."

He stood by to let her pass him into the hall.

"You're really quite wrong," she began, then she saw that he was not
following her. "I thought you were coming in," she said.

"No; I'm not coming in yet. Good night."

He closed the door behind him, and left her abruptly in the darkness
of the hall.

She stood there for a moment, listening to the departure of his
footsteps as he slouched aimlessly away. He was nobody--nobody in
her life--but she felt sorry for him. On the verge of love--in love
itself--is a boundless capacity for sympathy. She turned to go
upstairs, still feeling pity for him in the pain she had unavoidably
caused him. She did not realize that this was simply a reflection,
the first shadowing of her love for Traill, that sought any outlet
in which to find expression.

In the bedroom, Janet was making a strange costume for a student's
fancy dress ball. She did not look up when Sally entered. With her
inexperienced needle, the work occupied her whole attention. Sally
stood and watched her laborious efforts with a smile of gentle
amusement.

"Let me do it for you," she said at last--"those stitches 'll never
hold."

In her mood she was willing--anxious to do anything for any one. She
felt no fatigue from her day's work. In the everlasting routine, it
is the mind that makes the body tired. Her mind was lifted above the
ordinary susceptibility to exhaustion.

Janet stuck her needle into the material on her knee, and looked up
searchingly.

"What's the matter with you to-night?" she asked.

"Nothing's the matter. Why?"

"You're so officiously agreeable."

Sally laughed.

"You wanted to help Mrs. Hewson to make that mincemeat," Janet
continued; "now you want to help me; and you were the soul of
good-nature to Mr. Arthur. I'm sure he thinks you're going to accept
him."

"No, he doesn't."

"How do you know?"

"I told him after supper. He asked me to come out with him. I told
him I couldn't marry him."

Janet looked at her with curiosity, her eyes narrowed, judging the
tone of the words rather than the words themselves, as if they were
subject for her brush.

"How did he take it?" she asked, gaining time for the maturity of
her judgment.

"I feel awfully sorry for him. He went out again when I came in."

"Takes it badly, then?"

"I'm afraid so."

"You're sorry for him?"

"Yes."

"Why? You haven't thrown him over. He's taken his chance--he'll get
over it. You're very soft-hearted. It's all in the game. You'll have
to take your chance as well, and no one'll be sorry for you if you
come worst out of it."

Sally looked at her thoughtfully. "I don't believe you've got a heart,
Janet," she said.

"Don't you?"

"Well, have you?"

"It's not a weakness I care to confess to."

"That's as good as admitting it."

Janet was slowly driving to the point. In another moment, she knew
that she would have the truth.

"If having a heart means wasting one's sorrows on men like Mr. Arthur,
I'm glad I haven't." Janet threw her work over the end of her bed,
and looked up at Sally.

"Who is he, Sally?" she asked abruptly. "What's his name? Where does
he live?"

"Who?" She tried to lift her eyebrows in surprise, but the blood
rushed to her cheeks and burnt them red. "Who?" she repeated.

"The man you're in love with. I asked you before if there was some
one in the office; it's silly going on denying it. You'd never have
told Mr. Arthur so soon. You'd have hung it on and hung it on for
heaven knows how long. No, something's happened, happened to-day.
Do you think I can't see? You're bubbling over with it, longing to
tell me, and afraid I'll laugh at you." She rose to her feet and stuck
her needle into the pincushion, then she put her arm round Sally's
waist, and hugged her gently. "Poor, ridiculous, little Sally," she
said, the first soft note that had entered her voice. "I wouldn't
laugh at you. Don't you know you're made to be loved--not like me.
Men hate thin, bony faces and scraggy hair; they want something they
can pinch and pet. Lord! Imagine a man pinching my cheeks--it 'ud
be like picking up a threepenny bit off a glass counter. Who is he,
Sally?"

Sally lifted up her face and kissed the thin cheek.

"Let's get into bed," she whispered.

They undressed in silence. Once, when Sally was not looking, Janet
stole a glance at her soft round arms; then gazed contemplatively
at her own. They were thin, like the rest of her body--the elbows
thick, out of proportion to the arm itself. She bent it, and felt
the sharp bone tentatively with her hand. Sally looked up, and she
converted the motion of feeling into that of scratching, as though
the place had irritated. Then she continued with her undressing.

When once they were in bed and the light was out, Sally told her
everything. Janet made no comments. She listened with her eyes
glaring out into the darkness, sometimes moistening her lips as they
became dry. The unconscious note in Sally's voice thrilled her; it
was like that of a lark thanking God for the morning. She felt in
it the pulse of the great force of sex--nature rising like a trembling
god of power out of the drab realities of everyday existence.

It wakened a sleeping animal in her. She felt as though its stertorous
breaths were fanning across her cheeks and she lay there parched
under them.

"What's that?" exclaimed Sally under her breath when she had finished
her relation.

"What's what?"

"That noise."

They both listened, breaths held waiting between their lips, their
heads raised strainingly from their pillows.

On the other side of the wall was Mr. Arthur's room, and from their
beds they heard muffled sounds as of a person speaking. They waited
to hear the other voice in reply. There was none. He must be speaking
to himself. Sometimes the voice would stop. Then came one single
sound like a groan, only that it was more exclamatory. For a few
moments there was silence; then again a clattering noise. That was
recognizable--a boot being thrown on to the floor. It came again--the
second boot. Then another single sound of the voice, a sudden violent
creaking of springs as a heavy body was thrown on to the bed; then
silence.

"That's Mr. Arthur," said Janet. "He's drunk."

And whereas Janet found sympathy for him, Sally lost that which she
had.



CHAPTER XII


The dinner was fixed some few days later for seven o'clock in a little
restaurant in Soho.

"_Don't think because I chose this place_," concluded Traill's
letter, "_that I am considering the fact that we are not dressing,
and that, therefore, it ought not to be some ultra-fashionable place.
You shall come to those another time if you wish. This particular
evening I want to be quiet, and this is the quietest place I know.
I leave the theatre to your choosing. Anything will suit me, I have
seen them all._"

Janet watched her across the breakfast-table as she folded the letter
and crumpled it into her pocket. Their eyes met and they smiled.

"I shan't be in to dinner this evening, Mrs. Hewson," Sally said
presently.

Mrs. Hewson looked up from a plate of shrimps which had been left
over from the last evening's supper. Her sharp little eyes criticized
Sally. Janet often stayed out for the evening; that was by no means
an uncommon occurrence. Art students are convivial souls; they love
the unconventionality of the evenings in each other's company.
Sometimes Sally went with her to a small impromptu dance or a musical
at-home in the purlieus of Chelsea. But never before had she
announced that she was going out by herself. Mrs. Hewson did not
profess to have any control over the morals of her lodgers, so long
as they did not reflect in any way upon her own respectability; but
she could not refrain from that British desire for interference in
other people's affairs in the cause of morality itself.

Morality itself, not as any means to an end, but just its bare
superficial display of conventional morals, is treasure in heaven
to the average English mind. And their morality itself is a poor
business--cheap at the best. To be respectable, to do what others
expect of you, is the backbone of all their virtue. It has been said,
we are a nation of shopkeepers. If that is true, then all the shops
are in one street, packed tight, the one against the other. For we
are a nation of neighbours too, prone to do what is being done next
door, and a lax king upon the throne of England could turn our morals
upside down. All things are fashions--even moralities--they take
longer to come and longer to go, but they change with the rest of
things nevertheless, and we follow, doing what is at the moment the
thing to do.

In Mrs. Hewson's eyes, as she looked up at Sally, was a considerate
inquiry blent with curiosity, touched with suspicion which she tried
in vain to conceal.

"Going out to dinner, Miss Bishop?" she asked.

"Yes."

"Oh--that's nice for you--isn't it?"

"Very."

Though Janet had finished her breakfast, she waited on with amusement
concealed behind an expressionless exterior.

"Of course, Mr. Arthur can afford it," Mrs. Hewson went on. Sally
made no reply. Mr. Hewson simpered affectedly. "Of course, I'm only
supposin' it's Mr. Arthur. P'raps I may be quite wrong." Sally still
resorted to silence. "Are you going to a theayter with him?" She shot
the last bolt--went as far as decency in such matters and such
surroundings would permit, and it succeeded--it forced Sally to
retort.

"It's not Mr. Arthur, Mrs. Hewson--there is no need to worry
yourself." She snapped the words--broke them crisp and sharp with
pardonable irritation and spirit.

"Oh--indeed--I'm not worrying meself. I'm sorry to have made you so
offended like--it's no affair of mine. I'm quite aware of that--only
that I thought, seeing you've been here nigh on two years and never
gone out by yourself before like--I was only just making--whatcher
might call--friendly inquiry about it--see?"

She brushed the heads of the shrimps into the slop-basin with her
hand and stood up, evidently offended, from the table.

"Of course, it's no business of mine, and I have no cause to complain
of anything you do; you give no offence to me, I must say that. I
never had better be'aved lodgers than I've got at present."

"But you felt curious?" suggested Janet.

"Me? Curious? Well, I think that's the last thing you could accuse
me of. I've got enough affairs of me own without worrying about other
people's. Me? Curious?" She laughed at the impossibility of such a
thing, and began to clear away the breakfast things with more noise
than was actually necessary.

"Well, there's nothing to be excited about, then," said Janet.

Mrs. Hewson laid a cup and saucer with such gentleness upon a pile
of plates that the absence of noise was oppressive.

"I'm not excited," she said with crimson cheeks.

"Sorry," said Janet, laconically; "thought you were. If there's a
thing more hateful than another, I think it's the vexation of a person
who can't satisfy their curiosity about some other body's business.
Don't you think so, Mrs. Hewson?"

"I'm sure I don't know. Those abstruse matters don't worry me."

"No? Well, that is so, and it's about the commonest weakness of
humanity. If I thought you worried about our affairs--of course, I
know you don't, you're most reasonable--I wouldn't stay here another
minute."

The colour in Mrs. Hewson's cheeks went from red to white.

"But you said I was curious," she said in a reserved voice.

"Oh yes, that was only fun! Hadn't you better get a key, Sally, if
you're going to be late. Can you spare Miss Bishop a key, Mrs.
Hewson?"

"Certainly; of course; I'll go and get it."

They both laughed when she had gone out. Sally told Janet that she
was wonderful.

"She'll never meddle again," she said. "I couldn't have done it like
you did."

"Of course you couldn't."

"But why not? I wouldn't be afraid to, but simply I shouldn't think
of things; and why shouldn't I?"

"Because you're not meant to fight, you have to be fought for, like
Mr. Arthur fought for you in his own particular way, like this man
you're going to meet to-night is fighting for you too."

Sally's eyes looked wonderingly before her. "Do you think things are
really like that?" she asked.

"I'm sure of it."

"But why?--why, for instance, are you meant to fight?"

"Do you want me to answer the riddle of the Universe?"

"I don't see why it should be such a riddle."

"Well, it is. I don't know who arranged these things, no more than
any one else, though a good many make a comfortable income by telling
you that they do. But it's pretty obvious that it is so; that's enough
for me."

"I don't see why it's obvious," Sally persisted.

Janet stood away from the table and held out her arms--the thin,
fleshless arms--straight, no deviation to the ungainly shoulders.
There was unconscious drama in it. Yet she was the last person in
the world to act.

"Well, _look_ at me," she said.

Sally only looked at her eyes, and her lips twitched compassionately.

"You may be all wrong," she said. "I may have to fight as well--you
don't know--and somebody, you can never tell, may fight for you."

Janet took the round, warm cheeks in her hands and caressed them with
the long, sensitive fingers.

"That'll never be," she said quietly--"never--never. I know it right
away in here." She laid her hand upon her chest.

"But why?" Sally repeated petulantly, as though wishing it could
alter the truth.

"Because I suppose I really want to do the fighting, however much
I may think differently, when I see you and hear you talk, when your
heart's going and there's all the meaning of it in your eyes. I've
got to fight, and away inside me I want to. I suppose that's the
compensation."

Then Mrs. Hewson brought the key, saying words over it--an
incantation of half-hearted rebuke--and following Sally with her
eyes as she walked out of the kitchen.



CHAPTER XIII


There is Bohemianism still--there will always be Bohemianism. But
the present will never wear the same air of fantasy as the past. It
is the same with all things. Every circumstance take its colour from
the immediate surroundings, and you cannot expect to get the same
light-hearted Bohemianism in the midst of an orderly, church-going,
police-conducted district. What hope is there for a troubadour
nowadays with the latest regulations upon street noises? We must
dispense with troubadours and get our Romance elsewhere. So
everything has to suit itself to its own time--Bohemianism with the
rest.

One essential quality there is, however, in this Vie de Boheme that
will never alter. It demands that those who live it, shall be careless
of the morrow; it expects an absolute liberty of soul, let manners
and conditions be what they may. You will still find that; you will
always find it. Certain souls must be free and they always seek out
the spots of the earth where social restrictions, social exigencies,
are least of all in force. They live where life is freest; they eat
their meals where it is not compulsory for them to be on their best
behaviour. You cannot expect the Bohemian to be a slave, and to
customs least of all. The only well-ruled line that he can follow
is the customary prompting of his own instinct.

Such a spot--an ideal corner of all unconventionality--is Soho. They
say that Greek Street is the worst street in London. You must say
something is the worst, to show how bad and good things are. Then
why not Greek Street? But for no definite reason. It is really no
worse than many another and, with a few more lamps to light its
darkened pathways, it might earn that reputation for respectability
which would endear it to the most exacting of British matrons. All
the doubtful deeds are only done in dark streets. Light is the sole
remedy; you will see crime retreating before it like some crawling
vermin that dares not show its face. Therefore, why blame Greek
Street and those who live there? The county council are to blame that
they do not cleanse the place with light.

Bad or good, though--whatever it may be--it is part of Soho; the
refuge of Bohemianism to which district Traill brought Sally Bishop
on that Thursday evening.

Outside the restaurant in Old Compton Street with its latticed
windows, and its almost spotless white lintels and the low-roofed
doorway, a barrel-organ was twirling tunes to which two or three
girls danced a clumsy step. In the doorway itself, at the top of the
precipitous flight of stairs that led immediately to the room below,
stood Madame, the proprietor's wife--ready to welcome all who came.
Her round, French, good-natured face beamed when she saw Traill, and
her little brown eyes gleamed with genuine approval as they swept
over Sally.

"Bon soir, Monsieur; bon soir, Madame."

Every lady is Madame, however many during the week Monsieur may
choose to bring, and she makes a romance of every single one of them.
Her own days are memories, but, being French, she still lives in the
romance of others.

"Good evening," said Traill; "how's the business--good?"

"Mais, oui, Monsieur; les affaires vont assez bien."

They climbed down the narrow little staircase, made narrower and
almost impassable by the pots of evergreens placed for decoration
upon some of the steps. There, in the flood of light, the little room
papered in gold, hung with pictures advertising the place, all done
by needy customers--mostly French--who had given them to the
establishment for a few francs, or out of the fullness of their hearts,
they were greeted in welcome again by Berthe, the little waitress.

"Bon soir, Monsieur; bon soir, Madame."

It was like the cuckoo hopping from the clock to sing his note at
every quarter.

There were little tables in every corner, all covered with
virgin-white cloths and, in the centre of each, a vase full of
chrysanthemums. It was all in order--all spick and span--French,
every touch of it.

"Ou voulez-vous asseoir, Monsieur? Sous l'escalier?"

Under the staircase by which they had just descended, two tiny tables
had been placed--babies, thrust into the corner, looking plaintively
for company. An Englishman would probably have made a cupboard of
the place for odds and ends.

Traill consulted Sally. She did not mind. Anything in her mood would
have pleased her. The atmosphere of all that was foreign in
everything around her had lifted her above ordinary considerations.
Under the stairs, then, they sat, Traill's head almost touching the
sloping roof above him.

"Well, what do you think you'd like to have?" he asked. And Berthe
stood by, patiently waiting, content to study the little details that
made up Madame's costume; her eyes were lit with the same romantic
interest which the proprietress had shown on their arrival.

"I don't mind."

"Well, will you have escargots?"

"What's that?"

"Snails."

Sally shook her head with a grimace and smiled. Berthe tittered with
laughter.

"Monsieur is funning, he would not eat escargots himself." She smiled
at Sally, the smile that opens confidence and invites you within;
no grudging of it between the teeth, ill-favoured and starved, as
we do the thing in this country.

"However did you find this lovely little place?" asked Sally, when
the girl had gone with Traill's order.

"Deux consommes, deux!" shouted Berthe through a door at the end of
the room. "Deux consommes, deux!" came the distant echo from the
kitchen.

Traill leant his elbow on the table and looked at her--let his eyes
rest on every feature, last of all her eyes, and held them.

"By not looking for it," he said. "By passing it one evening at about
the time for dinner, seeing the new-old bottle-panes in the leaded
windows, looking down these stairs and getting a rough-drawn
impression that the place was cosy, a rough-drawn impression in which
the bottle-panes suggested that they had some sort of ideas in their
heads, these people--and the little pots of evergreen down the stairs
with the ugly red frilled paper round them that made you think that
they had known the country--lived in it. All that blurred together
in a mazy idea that it was sure to be cosy. Then I came downstairs,
saw all these little tables with their vases of flowers, the spotless
serviettes sticking up like white horns out of the wine-glasses, saw
the beaming face of Berthe over there; was greeted with, 'Bon soir,
Monsieur;' and so I dined. That's a year and a half ago. I've had
my dinner, on an average, three times a week here ever since."

"It must be nice to be a man," said Sally.

"Why?"

"Oh, I don't know; to dine where you like, find out these quaint
little places, never to have to think of the impression you give by
what you do."

He leaned back in his chair, and smiled at her. "We have to think
just as much as you do, in most of the things we really want to do.
I didn't want particularly to dine in such a place as this, that
evening I came here. It seemed no liberty to me. There are things
I might give the world to be able to do, yet haven't the liberty.
What do you want with liberty--the liberty to come and go wherever
you please?" He smiled at her again. "What good would it do you?"

Sally wondered what Miss Hallard would say if she were to hear this.
She wondered what she would have said herself, had the expression
of such ideas come from Mr. Arthur. There was no doubt that she would
have repudiated them with vehement denial. With Traill she said
nothing--felt that he was right. Why was that? She could not tell.
It was beyond her power to analyze the situation as closely as it
required. It was beyond her ability to realize that a man may say
he is the son of God, if it be that he has behind the words the power
of the personality of a Jesus Christ. Traill had the personality--the
dominance behind him in what he said--that was all. He might have
told her that women were only the chattels of men, born to slavery,
the property of their masters, and she would not have denied it to
him.

"What in the name of God are women?" he had said more than once in
his life--"Is one of them ever worth all the while?" And he thought
he had meant it. To a great extent, he acted up to it as well. These
are the questions that men of the type put to themselves over and
over again--but there are Cleopatras to mate with Antonys, Helens
of Troy and Lady Hamiltons who can snap their fingers in the face
of such odds and win. But Sally was not of this blood. She is the
lamb that goes willing to the slaughter, the woman, whom a man like
Traill, when once he holds the trembling threads of her affection,
can drive to the uttermost.

"Then you give no liberty to a woman?" she said.

"No--not the liberty she talks about. Not the idea of liberty that
she gets from these suffragist pamphleteers."

"I'd like you to meet my friend, Miss Hallard," said Sally.

"Why? Who's Miss Hallard? What is she?"

"She's an artist--I share rooms with her."

"Why would you like me to meet her?"

"I'd like to hear you two argue. She thinks just the opposite. She
thinks--"

"I never argue with a woman," Traill interrupted.

"You think so poorly of us?" She tried to say it with spirit--struck
the flint in her eyes, contracted her lips to the hard, thin line.

"As women? No--the very best." Her looks did not worry him. Water
pouring over marble runs off as smoothly. "You want to be judged as
men--you never will be till you can cut your hair short and dress
the part. Clothes have the deuce of a lot to do with it. I can love
a woman, but, my God, I can't argue with her."

He leant back to let Berthe put the plates of soup before them, and
Sally watched his face. It was very hard--high cheek-bones from which
the flesh drooped in hollows to the jaws, the grey eyes well set,
neither deep nor prominent, but flinching at nothing. There was no
great show of intellectuality in the forehead--it was broad, smooth,
but not high; yet none of the features were small. The jaw was square,
the upper lip long. At one end the mouth seemed to bend upwards in
a twist of irony, rather than humour, and the lips themselves were
thin--lips that could cut each word to a point if they chose, before
they uttered it, a mouth by no means sensitive to the hard things
it could speak.

To Sally it both feared and fascinated. Whenever he was not looking,
she could not take her eyes away. In the pictures in her mind, it
showed itself most often in ironic rage; yet he could look at her
with an expression that wooed the softest of thoughts in her heart.
Then she felt a slave, and would have given him the world, held in
her fingers, the gift would have seemed so small.

He looked up quickly from his plate--all motions of his head were
alert. "Why don't you begin your soup?" he asked.

She laughed quietly, and commenced at once with childlike obedience.

"Has Mr. Arthur said anything to you since?" he inquired presently.

For a short moment she hesitated--then she admitted it.

"When?"

"Monday evening."

"Oh--the day you had lunch with me."

"Yes."

"What did he say?"

Again she hesitated.

"What right have I to ask--eh?" he interrupted before she could frame
the words to reply. "Isn't that what you're sticking over? Of course
I've no right but interest. You brought me the interest, you
know--but I apologize for it all the same. Berthe!"

"Oui--Monsieur."

"Maquereaux grilles; and I want something to drink."

Berthe went to the bottom of the stairs, leaning on the third step
with her hand and calling up to the room above.

"Alexandre!"

"Why does she do that?" inquired Sally.

"She's calling for Alexandre, the waiter who runs out across the
street--obediently but slowly--with your pennies to buy your wine.
They don't have a license here."

Alexandre made his appearance with a big red cardboard cover in his
hand, which looked as if it held a copy of a weekly paper. This was
the wine list. Traill gripped it from him, giving the number almost
at the same moment.

Alexandre waited patiently for a moment, then deferentially
suggested that he should be given the money, having received which,
the little staircase swallowed up his tall, thin body again. It was
all like playing at keeping restaurant, only everything worked
without a hitch, which would never have happened if it had really
been only a game.

"I apologize," Traill repeated, when Alexandre had disappeared.

"But there's no need to," said Sally, quickly. "I think it's very
kind of you to take the interest that you do. And I suppose"--her
eyes roamed plaintively round the room, rather than at that moment
meet his; "I suppose I should have told you without your asking."

"Why?" he leaned a little forward.

"I don't know. Because I wanted to, I expect."

Her eyes fell to the table. She made tiny pellets of bread between
her fingers and placed them one by one in a row, knowing that his
eyes were searching through her. In that little moment, the silence
vibrated with the current of their thoughts. Traill pulled himself
together--laying hand upon anything that came within his reach.

"Look at this knife," he said in a dry voice, picking up the nearest
to him. "Ever seen such a handle? it's shrunk in the wash." The bone
handle of it was bent round, twisted like a ram's horn. "I generally
get this about once a week. It's an old friend by this time."

She looked at it, scarcely seeing, and forced a smile that could not
quite remove the furrow of silent intensity from her brows. Traill
saw that. He could not take his eyes from her face. Her almost
childish passivity was like a slow and heavy poison in his blood.
It crept gradually and gradually through the veins, leaving fire
wherever it touched.

Alexandre came back with the wine, and broke the spell of it. He
spread the change out on the table, and the sound of it then, at that
moment, was like the breaking of a thousand little pieces of glass,
over which his presence walked with clumsy feet.

"Well, what did Mr. Arthur say?" Traill asked when Alexandre had
disappeared again and Berthe had brought them their second course.

Sally looked up and smiled at his encouragement, a smile that lit
through him. He could feel it dancing in his eyes.

"He asked me if I had made up my mind," she replied.

"Made up your mind to marry him?"

"Yes."

The pause was heavy, it seemed to swing against them.

"And you? What did you say?"

He tried to conceal the burning of his interest to know. His voice
was steady--each note of each word quiet, true, subdued; but when
the brain is tautened, vibrating as was his, it gives out of itself
unconsciously. She felt the strain in her mind as well, just as though
a wire, drawn out, were stretched between them. She heard the note,
half-dominant in his speech. However quiet his voice, he could not
dull her ears to that.

"Oh, I told him I couldn't; it was impossible. I don't love him, I
never should love him. How could one take a step like that on no other
basis than wanting a home? What a home it would be! I should be
miserable."

These were her beliefs. She placed love before everything--lifted
it to the altar as you raise a saint and worshipped with bent knees
and silently moving lips. To understand the great-hearted love of
a greatly loving woman, you must know the joy of greatly giving. She
loves to give; she gives to love. Out of her breast, out of her heart,
with arms laden to the breaking--dragged down by the weight of her
gifts, she will give, and give, and give, holding nothing back,
grudging nothing, forgetting all she has ever given in the blind joy
of what is left to be bestowed. This, when it comes to a woman, is
what she means by love as she kneels down in the silent chapel of
her own heart and worships. This was the passion as Sally understood
it. Her whole desire was to give, and to Mr. Arthur she could have
given nothing.

"What did he say?" asked Traill, quietly. A man always speaks
somewhat in awe, somewhat in deference, of another whose hopes have
been flung to the ground; speaks of him as if he were a prisoner in
a condemned cell--fool enough no doubt, but made a man again by the
meeting of his fate. "What did he say?" he repeated.

Across Sally's mind pictures were rushing in kaleidoscope. The
remembrance of Mr. Arthur as he had left her at the door and turned
away, shuffling his steps along the pathway--the sight of Janet and
herself, with heads raised from the pillow, listening to the muffled,
disordered sounds in the next room--the recollection of Mr. Arthur's
face the next morning as she had passed him in the hall, the eyes
dull--steam, as it were, upon a window-pane--and the unhealthy
shadows beneath. He had grudged her a good morning, but that was all,
and she had scarcely seen him since then. He had been out every
evening.

"He said very little," she replied, "but I know he felt it very much."

"How do you know?"

"Well, that night when he came in--" the words refused utterance.
She looked up quaintly, appealing to him, desiring to be understood
without further explanation.

"Drunk?" said Traill.

She nodded.

"Poor devil!"

A thousand apprehensions fled--darkening--across her face. So pass
a flight of starlings with a thousand whirring wings that sweep out
light of the sun.

"You think I treated him badly?"

"No, I didn't say so."

"But you think it?" She begged eagerly, importunately.

"No, no, my dear child; no. What else could you do?"

"But you felt sorry for him?"

"Do you forbid it? I was putting myself in his shoes, feeling for
the moment what he must have felt. Sift it down and you'll find at
the bottom that I really said poor devil for myself." He laughed as
he looked at her. "Well, now," he went on, "we're getting more than
halfway through dinner and we haven't decided where we're going to
yet. What's it to be?"

"Really, I don't mind a little bit."

"Oh, you never give any help at all."

She laughed light-heartedly. "I find I get along quite all right if
I let you choose."

"You're satisfied?"

"Absolutely."

"Well, then; I'm not going to offer inviolable judgment. I'm only
going to make a suggestion."

"What is it?"

"My rooms are in Regent Street--"

"I know; I looked up the number the other day in the _Who's Who?_
after we'd had lunch."

"Was that to know if I'd told the truth?" He held her eyes for the
answer as you put your metal in the vice.

"No, of course not! How could you think I'd dream of such a thing?"

"Many women might."

"I certainly shouldn't."

A look of tenderness as it passed across his face freed her. She
turned her eyes away. He was finding her so absolutely a child, and
on the moment paused. There is a moment when a pause holds possibility
laden full in its two hands. He let it slip by--it rode off like a
feather on the wind. He lost sight of it.

"Well, what's your suggestion?" she asked.

"That we should come back to Regent Street, sit and talk; we'll have
our coffee there; I'll show you how to make it."

He tried to run the whole sentence through. Set it on its feet, and
pushed it to the conclusion that it might seem natural,
unpremeditated. She saw nothing forced; but his ears burnt to the
stumbling sounds. The breath caught in his nostrils as he waited for
her definite refusal.

"I think that would be lovely," she said with genuine interest.

He let the breath slowly free, checked, curbed, the bearing rein upon
it all the way. He imagined he had found country innocence in London,
and for the moment stood aghast at it; could not see that it was her
trust in him, blindly, implicitly placed, against all knowledge of
the world. He stood for a gentleman in her eyes--that Apsley Manor,
the late Sir William Hewitt Traill, C.B., they all helped to conjure
the vision in her mind. She knew the world well enough in her gentle
way; but this man was a gentleman.

Yet he saw little of this and, in a broadness of heart, warned her.

"I say nothing for or against myself," he said, "and this has not
been put to you as a test; I want you to come, I really hope you'll
come. But you'd be foolish beyond words if you indiscriminately
accepted such an invitation from any man."

"I know that," she replied firmly.

"And you'll come?"

"Yes; I've said I would."

"Why do you make the exception?"

"Because I know you're a gentleman. I trust you implicitly."

That went to the heart of him--drove home--the words quivering where
they struck.



CHAPTER XIV


There was much ceremony when they departed--much French _politesse_,
and many charming little attentions were paid. Marie assisted
Monsieur on with his coat, which, being British, he strongly objected
to. Berthe brought Madame a beautiful chrysanthemum from the vase
on one of the vacant tables and, when Sally proposed wearing it,
insisted upon pinning it in herself, her eyes dancing with delight
as she stood back to admire its effect.

Berthe and Marie stood at the bottom of the stairs as they ascended.

"Au'voir, Monsieur--merci--au'voir, Madame."

Now it was like a duet of little cuckoo clocks, both in unison, both
in time, both with that fascinating touch of the nasal Parisienne
voice. Sally was enchanted with it all.

Last of all there was Madame--Madame smiling--Madame rubbing her fat,
homely hands together--Madame's twinkling brown eyes dancing upon
the two of them.

"You had a good dinner, Monsieur?"

"Excellent, thank you, Madame."

"Oh, Monsieur;" she caught Traill's arm and detained him as Sally
went out in front. "Oh--monsieur--elle est charmante!" Her eyes
lifted and her hands carried the words upwards--to heaven, if need
be.

Traill threw back his head and laughed. "Madame--vous etes trop
romanesque pour ce monde."

"Ah, non, Monsieur--je suis ce que je suis. Je suis trop grosse
peut-etre, mais pas trop romanesque. Au'voir, Monsieur--merci--prenez
garde d'elle, Monsieur." She held up a fat warning finger. "Au'voir,
Madame. A bientot."

They left her bowing there against the background of the old bottle
glass, lit yellow by the light within, her smiles following them down
the street.

"Well--there you are," said Traill, as they walked away. "That's the
terrible, shameless Bohemian life in anarchist quarters. What a
thing it is to be thankful for, that only the English manners _are_
manners, and couldn't afford to show their face in Soho."



CHAPTER XV


They walked in silence through the little bye-streets of Soho, and
followed their way down Shaftesbury Avenue. At the crossings, he
lightly took her arm, protecting her from the traffic, freeing it
directly they reached the pavement. Inwardly she thrilled, even at
the slight touch of his hand on her elbow. She had never been quite
so happy before. Nothing needed explanation. She defined no
sensation to herself. When the sun first bursts in April after the
leaden winter skies, you bask in it, drench yourself in the fluid
of its light, and ask no questions. It is only the smallest natures
that are not content with the moment that is absolute.

But in the mind of Traill, there swung a ponderous balance that could
not find its equilibrium. She had called him a gentleman; was he going
to act as one? Into her side of the scale, with both her little hands,
she had thrown in her implicit confidence. Was there any weight on
his side which he could put in to equalize? He hunted through his
intentions as the goldsmith hunts amongst his drachms and his
counterpoises; but he found nothing that could balance the massive
quality of her faith--nothing!

In his most emotional dreams of women, he had never conceived himself
in the drab light of the married man. Possibly because he had never
moved amongst that class of women with whom intimacy is obtained only
through the sanction of a binding sacrament. His contempt of the
society to which his birth gave him right of entrance, had always
kept him apart from them. But he scarcely saw the matter in that
breadth of light. Intimacy with the women he had known had always
been possible--possible in its various degrees, some more difficult
to arrive at than others, but always possible. And, until that moment,
when Sally had told him that she knew he was a gentleman, he had placed
her no differently to the rest. Cheap, sordid seduction, there had
been none of that in his mind; but he had tacitly admitted within
himself that if their acquaintance were to drift--she willing, he
content--into that condition of intimacy, then what harm would be
done? She was a little type-writer; he, a man, amongst other men.
A thousand women pass through the fire that way and come out little
the worse.

So had he assessed her, until that moment when she had unthinkingly,
unhesitatingly accepted his invitation to come and see him in his
rooms. He had thought it innocence, he had imagined it a purity of
mind that, in a city such as this, was almost unthinkable. It was
his better nature then that had prompted the warning, the opening
of a kitten's eyes before it is to be drowned.

Then the last position of all, the position that made the whole thing
impossible. She was not innocent! She was not ignorant of the world!
She did know the pitfalls in life--knew the luring dangers that lie
concealed in the hedges of every woman's highway! No, it was not that.
She knew everything--but she knew him to be a gentleman.

There is no more disarming passe in the everlasting duel between a
man and a woman than this appeal--whether it be made intentionally
or not--the appeal to his honour as a gentleman. Up flies the
glittering rapier from his hand, he is weaponless--and at her mercy.
For every man, even more especially when he is not one, would be
thought a gentleman.

Traill, disarmed, defenceless, weighing every possibility, every
intention, was still faced with the unequal balance, her gentle faith
in the best of him dragging down the scale. By the time they had
reached the stairway to his rooms, he had forged his mind to its
decision. This once he would let her come to his rooms--this once,
but never again. He knew his instincts and refused to trust them.
If she thought him a gentleman, she should find him one. That was
owed to her. We give the world its own valuation of us. This is
humanity. It is therefore wisest to think well of a man. Those who
think badly will find themselves surrounded by the impersonation of
their own minds. It is wisest to think well, for even thinking has
its unconscious effects. But say evil of a man, tell him to his face,
without thought of punishment, merely in candid criticism that you
find him ill and, besides giving him a bad name, you will make a dog
of him.

She had said he was a gentleman--bless her heart!

"This staircase is confoundedly dark," he said; "I'll strike a
match."

She waited, heart beating, listening to the scratching of the
match-head against the woodwork. When it flared, he raised it above
his head and strode on before her, grim shadows falling round him,
following him like noiseless ghosts. Sally kept close behind.

"I used to live on the top floor," he said, "until the day before
yesterday; I've moved down now to the first. There's not so much
difference in the rooms, but those four flights of stairs in this
sort of light were a bit too much." He thought of the last woman who
had climbed the stairs with him. All she had said that evening, the
first day he had met Sally, trooped through his mind in slow and vivid
procession. He compared her life with that of Sally's, the ghastly
hollowness of it in contrast with this child's simplicity of faith.
The picture was an ugly one. He shuddered before the first, no less
than before the second; for whereas one repelled, the other drew him
to itself with all its subtle fascinations.

"Now," he said, forcing a smile and turning round to face her with
his hand upon the handle of the door, "these are only bachelor's
quarters, remember; no soft cushions, no mirrors--nothing. And if
you'll stay there one second, I'll light a couple of candles. You'd
far better have the room chucked at you all at once, than let it grow
slowly to your eyes as I stalk round with a match. Do you mind?"

"I? Not a bit!" She laughed and turned with her back to the door,
looking down the staircase which they had just ascended. Her heart
was still beating, throbbing with unwonted excitement and
anticipation. She knew she could trust, but there was a spring--a
vibration in the thought that they played with fire. Yet what a
harmless fire! No stake in the marketplace at which the soul, the
honour, the life of the victim is burnt! No! Nothing like that. Only
that fire which, when once it is lit, soothes, warms, nurses the
hearts of men and women into love, and when once it is glowing white
in heat, moulds them, forges them into the God-sent cohesion of unity.
What need had she to fear in playing with so tenderly fierce a fire
as that? None, and there was no trace of fear in the heart of her;
but her pulses hammered; she felt them even in her throat.

"Now--you can come in now!" Traill called, and he came to the door,
opening it wide for her to pass through.

Sally entered--two or three steps; then she stood there looking round
her. The old oak chests, carved some of them, worm-eaten here and
there; the clean, pale, straw-coloured matting, no rugs of any
description: the dark green walls and the rough, heavy brass candle
sconces that glittered against them, reflecting the candle flames
in every polished surface: it was almost barbaric, more like a
reception room of a presbytery than a living room; but a presbytery
decorated to convey the best of a strong and self-reliant mind,
rather than to pander with a taste ornate to the futile conception
of a God.

Except for two rush-seated armchairs, there was no suggestion of
providing any recognized forms of comfort. The chair at the open
bureau, with its case of books above it, had a wooden seat; all the
rest of the smaller wooden chairs were wooden-seated as well. There
was no visible and obvious sign of any desire for luxury; yet
luxurious it all seemed to Sally, every corner of it, as she gazed
around her. It was a luxury conveyed by the intrinsic value of every
article of furniture he possessed; a luxury far more lasting, far
more complete, than any to be found in down cushions and gently shaded
lights.

Austerity was the note through it all, austerity even in the pictures
upon the walls. They were prints, old prints, coloured or plain,
representing boxers of the old school, stripped to the waist, the
ugly muscles flexed and bulging as they raised their lithe arms in
the attitude of defence. There were no other pictures but these;
nothing to show that he had a heart above boxing. There was one thing.
In their journey around the walls, Sally's eyes fell on a little
coloured miniature in a plain gold frame that hung by the side of
the bureau. At that distance, she could distinguish that it was a
girl, a girl with fair hair that clustered on her shoulders. The
beating of her heart dropped to a whisper when she saw it, all the
pulses stopped, and she felt a cool, damp air blowing across her face.

"Well," said Traill, with a smile, "I suppose you think it is
confoundedly uncomfortable?"

She turned, faced him, forcing strength to master her sudden
apprehension.

"I think it's absolutely lovely," she said, with simplicity. "I've
never seen a room like it before."

"And you don't find the want of soft things, cushions and all that
sort of business?"

"No, oh no! they'd spoil it. One doesn't want cushions to be
comfortable, one wants surroundings. These are perfect."

He looked at her with appreciation; then, as a thought swept over
him, it altered to an expression of tenderness. He put his heel on
that, churned it round, and strode over to the fireplace.

"Here, come and sit down here and get warm while I make the coffee,"
he said. "It's frightfully cold outside, you know. I shouldn't wonder
if it isn't freezing."

She followed obediently, and took the chair he had drawn out for her.
Then he hurried about, opening cupboards and drawers, producing a
saucepan here, a coffee-pot and a milk-can there, until all the
things were laid on the table. And all this time, while she made sure
that she was not being observed, Sally's eyes wandered backwards and
forwards to the little miniature. She was nearer to it now and could
more clearly distinguish the features. They reminded her somewhat
of herself. There were the same round cheeks, the same small
childishness of lips and nose and chin, the same pale complexion
tinged with fragile pink, the same big, blue eyes. Had he taken an
interest in her because she was like this girl, this girl whose
miniature he had allowed to be the only breaking note in the whole
symphony of his scheme of decoration? They were like each other, a
likeness sufficiently apparent to suggest the thought to her mind.
The miniature was painted in a fashion common to all such works of
art a hundred and fifty years ago. She could not tell from its style
when it had been done. But the fact that it hung there alone, the
one gentle spot in otherwise austere and hard surroundings, was
sufficient for her to give it the highest prominence in her mind.

It must be that, it must be what she had thought. He was lonely. He
had said as much to her on that first evening when they had driven
on the 'bus together as far as Knightsbridge. The girl was far away,
in another country perhaps, and he had seen her, Sally, had seen the
likeness, been reminded of her in some slight way, and had sought
to ease his own solitude with the half-satisfying pretence that she
was with him.

There was no thought of blame in Sally's mind. He meant no evil by
her; but it was hard. The bitterness of it struck at her heart. After
all, there was no fire to be playing with. The coldness of being
absolutely alone again chilled through her whole body, and she
shivered.

"Now," said Traill--everything was ready at his hand. "The making
of coffee's the simplest thing in the whole world; that's why
everybody finds it so deucedly difficult. We'll put this kettle on
first." He thrust the kettle on the flame, pressing the coals down
beneath it to give it surer hold.

"I'm awfully glad you like my room," he said, looking up from his
crouching attitude by the fire. "I should have been sorry if you
hadn't."

"Why?"

"Oh, I don't know. If you hadn't liked my room, you wouldn't have
liked me. My friend and his dog, I suppose."

She tried to smile. "Well, I like it immensely. I think it's so
awfully uncommon. I suppose you could never get a piano that would
go with the rest of the things?"

For the moment his expression hardened. A piano! He hated the sight
of them.

"No, never," he said.

"P'raps you're not fond of music?"

"No, not a bit. Are you?"

"Oh yes; I love it."

His eyes lost their steel again to the tone of her voice when she
said that.

"Well, that's as it ought to be," he remarked. "Religion and music
are two things a woman can't do without. Are you very religious?"

"I don't know exactly what you mean by that. I'm afraid I hardly ever
go to church, and in that sense, I suppose, I'm not religious. But
I always say my prayers every night and morning."

Traill smiled at her gently. "That's all right," he said; "churches
are nothing, only monuments that fulfil the double purpose of
reminding the more forgetful of us that there are a class of people
who believe in things they can't prove, and that also provide
employment for those who have to look after them. I don't pray myself,
but I should think it's the nearest thing you can get to in a
combination of religion and common sense. Is that kettle boiling,
do you think? Looks like it. Oh, of course, I ought to have known
you were religious."

"Why?"

"Do you remember the way you took that impoverished joke of mine about
the occupants of the kingdom of heaven?"

She laughed lightly at the recollection. But it was the lightness
only of a moment. Her head turned, and she found again the eyes of
that miniature looking into hers. Questions then rushed to her
lips--a chorus of children fretting with intense desire. She could
not hold them back--they would speak. Each one held her heart in its
hands.

"Why do you have that miniature--amongst all the other pictures?"

"That?" He turned round, following her eyes, the boiling kettle
steaming in his hands. "Pretty, isn't it?"

They both looked at it--he, without distraction--she, with eyes
wandering covertly backwards and forwards to his face. Of course,
she admitted its charm. Could she do otherwise?

He poured the hot water into the strainer over the coffeepot, then
shutting the lid, he laid the kettle back in the grate and walked
across to the miniature, looking long and closely into it. Sally
watched him, nostrils slightly distended, lips tightly pressed. In
that moment an unwarranted jealousy almost charred her softer
feelings with its burning breath.

"There are a good many points in it, you know," he said, turning round,
"that bear a strong resemblance to you."

"Oh, but she's very pretty," said Sally.

"And you're not?" He came back to the fireplace; stood there, taking
regard of every one of her features with no attempt to conceal the
direction of his eyes. "And you're not, I suppose?" he repeated.

She smiled with an effort. "If I were, it 'ud scarcely be for me to
say. But I don't think I am. I suppose I'm not ugly. When I'm in good
spirits, I sometimes go so far as to think I'm not actually plain.
But she's pretty--really pretty." Her eyes pointed in the direction
of her last remark.

Traill leant forward, facing her, putting both hands on the arms of
the chair in which she was sitting. "So are you," he said quietly,
"really pretty."

She was locked in, his hands on the arms of her chair and his body
making the bars, against which, even had she wished it, escape were
impossible. She tried to take it with a little smile, the ordinary
compliment in the ordinary way. But the note in his voice refused
to harmonize with that. Her smile was forced, her expression
unnatural. And there she was caged, locked in by his eyes and, like
a bird in the first moments of its captivity, her heart beat wildly
against her breast. It was not because she was afraid--the trust in
her mind never failed her for an instant--but she knew that she was
captive. Whoever the other woman might be, if his honour, his heart,
his whole soul were plighted to her, yet Sally knew that she must
love him. There was all the giving, all the yielding, all the passive
abandonment in her eyes; and when he saw that, Traill shot upright,
forcing his hands to anything they might do.

"That's my sister," he said hurriedly, breaking into
conversation--the man pursued and seeking sanctuary. He could not
trust himself to look closely at her again. The boiling of the milk
was an action of refuge; he crushed the saucepan down on to the
glowing coals. She had said he was a gentleman.

"Your sister?" Sally whispered. He did not turn; he did not see her
lips twitching in the reaction of relief. He had known nothing of
the whirlwind that had been sweeping through her mind. All that play
he had lost and yet was no loser. Had he seen the jealous hunger in
her heart, it would have pointed the rowels of the spur that was
already drawing its blood.

"Yes; she lives down in Buckinghamshire. My father left her the place.
She's married. That was done of her when she was twenty."

"Apsley Manor?"

"Yes," he twisted round. "How did you know the name of the place?"

"I saw it in _Who's Who?_"

"Oh--" He laughed--laughed hard. "Of course, you told me. Yes, Apsley
Manor. It's a fine old place."

"I'm sure it is. I've often--tried--to picture it."

"I'll take you there one day to see it."

It was out! Ripped from him on the impulse. How could he take her
to see it, if they were not going to meet again after this? But he
had never determined that they were not to meet again; only that he
would not bring her to his rooms. It amounted to the same thing. He
was not the man to let his inclinations fool him. If they met, what
was there to keep him from bringing her here? Nothing! He knew he
would do it. He hoped then that she would take no notice of his remark;
but he hoped in vain. She leapt to it, eyes glinting with delight.
To her that offer conveyed everything. She saw herself down there
in the country with him, the spring just lifting its promise of life,
like a child, out of the cradle of the earth. She heard him telling
her that he loved her. She felt herself pledging the very soul that
God had given her into the open hollow of his hands. Take no notice
of his remark? Her whole instinct lifted to it.

"I don't believe there's anything else I should like so well," she
exclaimed intensely.

He inwardly cursed his impulsiveness. "Oh, well, that'll be
splendid," he said soberly. "Only it's no good going down at this
time of the year. The country now's a grave, a sort of God's acre
where only dead things are buried. I can't stand the country at this
time of the year."

"No, of course not. It's much too cold now; but in the spring--"

"Yes," he jumped at that--"in the spring. That's the time."

Then he thought so too. Perhaps the same fancies were shaping in his
mind as well. She threw back her head, resting it on the chair behind.
There was complete happiness in the heart of her. Every breath she
took was an unspoken gratitude.

"Do you see your sister often?" she asked, as he handed her her cup
of coffee.

"Often? No, once a month perhaps." His lips shut tight, as though
the question had been a plea that he should see her more frequently
and he were determined to refuse.

"But why is that?" she asked sympathetically. "Doesn't she often come
to Town?"

"Oh yes--most part of the year. They've got a small house in Sloane
Street, and live there all the winter."

Sally looked at him with troubled eyes--troubled in sympathy because,
with the quick wit of a woman in love, she had felt here the need
of it. His sister lived in Sloane Street--lived there for the most
part of the winter, and he saw but little of her; yet he kept her
miniature lovingly in his room. If there is but one woman pictured
on his walls, you may be sure a man rates her high. Sally knew all
this--knew there was more behind it, yet hesitated to intrude.
Another gentle question was rising to her lips, when he volunteered
it all.

"My sister and I differ in our points of view," he said without
sentiment. "We look at life from hopelessly opposite quarters.
That's why I live here. The house, the grounds, they were all left
to me when my father died. She was given her legacy in a round sum--not
very round either. He wasn't particularly well off. Whatever it was,
at any rate, it meant little or nothing to her. The house--the
property--they were the only things worth having. I was the eldest
son--I got 'em. P'raps this bores you?"

She shook her head firmly--an emphatic negative. "How could you
possibly think that?"

"Well, anyhow," he continued, "she was disappointed. She's
become--since she married--a woman to whom social power is a jewelled
sceptre. Before then, she was what you see in that miniature--a
little bit of a child with a pretty face that wanted kissing--and
got it. Got it from me as well as others. I was fond of her, even
after she married this man--a soldier; he's in the Guards, and after
dinner sometimes thinks he has an eye to the situation in politics.
Even after that, when she began to lift her head so that you couldn't
kiss her and wouldn't have wanted to if you could, I was fond of her.
But I hate society--I wouldn't come to her crushes--I wouldn't go
to her dinners. These things sicken me. They're as empty as an echo.
We fell out a bit over that; but I was living down at the Manor then,
and so it didn't actually come to a split. But when the governor died
and she found that I'd been left the house which was worth no end
to her--socially--and she'd been left the money which really wasn't
worth a damn--sorry--that slipped out"--Sally smiled--"she came
back to me, arms round the neck--head quite low enough to be kissed
then--and did her best to patch the business up. I suppose that
rattled me. I could see the value of it. It was just as empty as all
the rest of her social schemes. I took her at the valuation, told
her she could have the house and I'd take the money, and behaved
generally like a young fool. I was only--what? Only twenty-six then.
And sham seemed to me the most detestable thing on earth. So Apsley
Manor went over to her and I came up to live in London. I don't know
really that I regret it so very much. This life suits me in a way,
though sometimes it's a bit lonely. That's, at any rate, the gist
of the whole business. We see each other sometimes; but her continual
efforts to get me to don the uncomfortable garments of social
respectability make the meetings as uninviting as when you go to be
fitted at a tailor's. I suppose that's a sort of thing you
like--you're a woman--but I'm hanged if I do. I'd buy all my clothes
ready made if I could be sure that nobody else had worn 'em before.
Anyhow, I won't be fitted for social respectability any more often
than I can help. By Jove! What's that? Do you hear that noise? It's
at the back!"

They strained their ears; lips half parted on which the breath waited,
to listen. The sounds, muffled, were broken at moments by a subdued
chorus of men's voices.

Traill crossed the room to the door that opened into his bedroom;
unlatched it, held it wide. Sally watched his face with
half-expectant eyes.

"There's a yard at the back," he said; "my bedroom looks on to it.
Excuse me a second." He disappeared. She heard him throw up the window,
when the sounds increased in volume. Now she could distinguish
individual voices--voices taut, strained to a pitch of excitement.
Then Traill's voice, with a strange, stirring voice of vitality keyed
in it.

"Sally--here!"

It was not thinkingly said. That there had been no thought, no
premeditation, was the fact that stirred her most. In his mind she
had been Sally, and in a moment of tensity he had let it shape on
his lips. She felt the blood racing through her like a mill-dam loosed.
She thought when first she rose to her feet--and it was as though
some strong hand had lifted her--that her limbs would refuse
obedience. A moment of emotion, that was passivity itself, obsessed
her. Then she hurried through into the other room, across to the open
window where he stood expectant. There was no thought that it was
his bedroom in which they stood--no consideration in her mind of the
observance of any narrow laws of propriety. He had asked her. She
came.

"This is the cleanest bit of luck," he said, with scarce controlled
excitement.

"What is it?" She pressed nearer to the window.

He explained. "This yard at the back belongs to some railway company
and two of their men are going to settle a difference of
opinion--that's putting it mildly--as far as I can make out they mean
business."

"What are they going to do?"

He answered her question by putting another. "You know I told you
I belonged to the National Sporting?"

"Are they going to fight?" She caught her breath, forcing back the
sense of nausea.

"Yes; bare fists with a definite end in view. Why look here--" He
took her arm and gently pulled her to the window where he was standing.
"Look here, you see they've even got assistants--those two chaps with
towels over their arms. The men are over in that shed--stripping,
I suppose. By Jove, if I had thought of an entertainment, I couldn't
have got anything more exciting than this for you. Ever seen a fight?"

"No." The word struggled through cold lips.

"P'raps you'd rather not look at this? Don't you hesitate to say so
if you think it'll be disgusting."

She caught the note of disappointment. There was no mistaking it.
In this moment of excitement, he had become a child--scarce content
with seeing the passing show himself, but must drag others with him
to share his delight and thereby intensify it.

"I can easily go away if I don't like it," she said.

"Yes--of course you can--of course you can. But you ought just to
see the beginning, you ought to really. They'll be as quaint as two
waltzing Japanese mice. All these preparations will put them right
off at first. They'll be funked utterly and look as if they were
trying to break bubbles, then they'll warm up a bit. You should see
the novices at the National Sporting on Thursday afternoon. They make
the whole house roar with laughter. Talk about Don Quixote and the
windmills! You must just see the beginning!"

How could she disappoint or refuse him, though the prospect was a
moving horror in her mind? She could close her eyes. He had called
her. He wanted her to see it with him. How could she refuse, lessen
herself perhaps in his opinion? She leant out upon the window-sill
and looked bravely below. Their shoulders were touching--she found
even consolation and assistance in that.

"Do you think it'll be long?" she asked in a low voice.

"Don't know; it all depends. I hope it won't be too short. Sure you
don't mind?"

She was possessed of that same motive which induces a woman to make
light, to make nothing of her pain and her suffering to the man she
loves. In such moments--loving deeply--she looks upon it, speaks of
it, as a visitation of which she is ashamed. Begs him to forgive her
that she suffers. It is an entire abnegation of self. It was so in
this matter with Sally.

"I'm quite sure," she replied, as she held, with tightening hands
and knuckles white, upon the window-sill.



CHAPTER XVI


The two men emerged from the shed where they had put away their coats.
They were stripped to the waist. The couple of lamps that the yard
provided, lit up their skin--sickly yellow--and the surrounding
houses flung shadows in confusion.

"They'll have a job to hit straight," said Traill, tensely. His eyes
were riveted before him. He did not look at her, did not see her white,
drawn face. She raised her head, gazing at the black, leaden patch
of sky that was to be seen through the muddle of roofs and walls.
A wondering crossed her mind of all the horrible sights and scenes
that were being enacted under that same impenetrable curtain of
darkness which hung over everything. She rubbed her hand across her
eyes, but could not wipe it out.

When she looked back again, the men were surrounded by their little
groups of supporters--not more than half a dozen in each party. All
but the two combatants were talking in excited undertones--giving
advice--saying what they would do--standing on tiptoe and talking
over each other's shoulders--pushing those away who came between
them and the expression of their own opinions. And in the centre of
each of these groups stood the two who were about to be at each other's
throats. Except for their bared shoulders, dazzling patches of light
against the dark clothes of the men surrounding them--they looked
the least aggressive in the crowd. They said nothing. Their heads
bent forward listening to the medley of voices that hummed
unintelligibly in their ears, and their eyes roamed from one face
to another, or through the clustering of heads to the other crowd
beyond.

"Told you they'd be funked by all this ceremony," said Traill.
"They're beginning to wish it was over, I should think. Hang it, why
don't they begin? They'll get so cold it'll be like beating frozen
meat."

Sally looked at him in amazement. All the hardness, all the cruelty,
she saw then. But it did not succeed in turning her from him. She
stood wondering at her own passive consent, yet could not bring
herself to risk his offence by declaring that she would not stay.
Of his selfishness, she saw nothing. Had his attitude in the affair
been pointed out to her as frankly inconsiderate, she would have
denied it with fervour. Inconsiderate? It was only her weakness of
spirit. Why should he be blamed for that? If she loathed the sight
of what was taking place before her, then just as surely he revelled
in it. Why should he be expected to give way to her? She would give
way to him--willingly--freely--without question or doubt.

Now, as she looked again, a man had stepped out of the crowd holding
a watch in his hand. There was a tone of command in his voice. It
was evidently he who was the master of ceremonies.

"I've seen that chap at the National Sporting," said Traill, quickly.
"I guessed there must be some system about this. You see, he's going
to act as timekeeper and referee."

"Come on," exclaimed the man referred to. "I ain't goin' to wait 'ere
the 'ole bloomin' night. Get a move on for Gawd's sake. If you ain't
made all yer bets, yer'll 'ave ter do it after the show's begun. Come
on an' bloody-well shake 'ands and start."

Even when that word was uttered, loathsome enough in itself for a
woman's ears, yet indicative of many worse that were to come, Traill
did not think of Sally. She glanced at him when she had heard it,
remembering what he had once said to her--"I belong to the National
Sporting--because there's a beast in every man--thank God!"

The two combatants sifted their way out of the little crowds. They
came slowly towards each other, rubbing their bare arms to encourage
the circulation. Neither the one nor the other seemed anxious for
what was to come. Sally looked tremblingly at their faces and
shuddered. One of them was clean-shaven, the other wore a moustache.
Both had the deep blue shadows of the day's growth of beard upon the
chin and, in that morbid yellow lamplight, their eyes were sunk in
hollows dull and black as charcoal.

"Now, who's attending to Morrison?" said the master of ceremonies.

Two men stepped forward out of the crowd.

"Well--get over there at that side. Got yer towels? And the men for
Tucker? Come on! Come on!"

He relegated them to their positions, and the little group of men
fell away, leaving the two antagonists alone in an open space.

"Now shake 'ands, gentlemen, please," said the master. "'Urry up for
Gawd's sake--I'm getting stiff, I am."

They made no motion of obedience, and he looked from one to the other.
Even from their window, they could see in his face the clouds of the
storm that was about to burst.

"Oh, I can understand now," exclaimed Traill, in an undertone. He
addressed the remark to Sally, but his face scarcely turned in her
direction. "You see, these chaps have a quarrel and they're going
to fight it out under rules and regulations. They've got this fellow
who knows something about boxing--at least I presume he does--to come
and manage the affair. Probably he knows nothing of the quarrel. He
expects them to shake hands, but I'm hanged if they're going to. By
Jove! There'll be a mess here if the police get to hear anything."

"But why should they shake hands if they're going to fight?" asked
Sally, forcing spurious interest. So she bled herself--sapping
vitality to give him pleasure. And he took it--as a man
will--unconscious of receiving anything.

"Why? Oh--it's the rules of boxing. The whole thing is supposed to
be done in a friendly spirit. These chaps down here would probably
cut each other's throats for a song. What's the good of their shaking
hands?"

The combatants were still standing reluctant. It seemed for the
moment as if the whole affair were about to topple over into a state
of confusion.

"Go on, Jim," urged one man in the ring; "shake 'ands wiv 'im. Damn
'is eyes--'e's a gen'leman--ain't 'e? Go 'arn, shake 'ands."

"Look 'ere," said the master, "if there's any of yer blasted bunkum
about this, yer can damn well see to it yourselves. I won't touch
yer bloody money."

The words shuddered through Sally's ears.

"Go 'arn, Jim, shake 'ands. Can't yer see 'e'll drop the 'ole bloomin'
show if yer don't, an' damn it, I've got a couple o' bob on yer. Shake
'ands, can't yer!"

Jim came reluctantly forward into the centre of the ring with a
knotted hand held grudgingly before them. The other took it and
dropped it as if it were filth.

"That's right," said the master, "now, come on. Two minutes a
round--minute wait. Not more 'n ten rounds. And God save us if the
coppers don't 'ave us by then. Come up--up with yer flippers! Time!"
He tipped a leering wink to the crowd.

The two men edged together, their arms bent in defensive, one
clenched fist held menacingly before them. Sally tried to take her
eyes away, but a morbid fascination held them. The anticipation of
that first blow dragged her as the butcher drags his sheep to the
shambles. Every glance she stole in their direction was reluctant;
but all power of volition seemed to have left her. The sight of those
two half-stripped bodies, gleaming in the gas-light, had
concentrated in her eyes. At that moment they filled, obsessed her
vision.

"There's not much style about them," muttered Traill. He was leaning
far out now, his elbows on the window-sill, his hands supporting his
face--the attitude of concentrated interest. "You'll see, they'll
go on dancing round each other like this for the whole of the first
round. Just what I said--Japanese dancing mice."

So they sidled, ridiculous to see, had it not been in such vivid
earnest. Now one feinted a blow, then the next. At each lurching
attempt Sally caught the breath in her throat. It freed itself
automatically with the lack of tension.

At last in a moment of over-balance--a blow from one of them that
struck air and pitched the striker forward--they rushed together,
each grunting like swine as the breath was driven out of them. Sally
clutched the curtain at her side. Her fingers tore at the fabric.

"Break away, break away!" called the master; and when neither of them
loosed his hold for fear the other would strike, he took him whom
they called Jim by the shoulder and pushed him bodily backwards. The
other followed him with a blow like the arm of a windmill in a gale.
Traill chuckled with delight between his hands.

"Time!" called the master, and Jim, striking a futile blow that
glanced harmlessly off the shoulder of his opponent, at which the
little ring sent up its titter of laughter, they returned to their
attendants.

Traill looked round. "What I said, you see," he remarked; "not one
blow went home in the first round. Yet they're fanning them with
towels--ridiculous, isn't it?" In the excitement of his interest,
he spoke to her as though she were as well acquainted with the manners
of the ring as he.

Once more they were called into the open. Once more they slouched
forward with the advice that their backers had poured into their ears
still gyrating in a wild confusion in their minds. That one minute
had seemed interminable to Sally; yet she realized how small a speck
of time it must have appeared to them.

"Do you think they'll hit each other this time?" she whispered.

"Well, let's hope so," said Traill. "It's pretty dull as it is.
There isn't much sport in this sort of thing if you can't hit straight.
Oh, one of them'll land a blow presently. They want warming, that's
all."

His words sounded far away but absolutely distinct. She scarcely
recognized in them the man whom she had been talking to but half an
hour before. His whole expression of speech was different. The lust
of this spirit of animalism was uppermost. He was a different being;
yet still she clung to him. "There's a beast in every man, thank God!"
Just those few words chased in circles through her brain. They had
meant nothing to her; she had barely understood them before. Now they
lived with reality, and so deeply had his influence penetrated into
the very heart of her desire, that she knew she would not have had
him different.

Then her eyes dragged back to the scene below her. The men were still
sparring; waiting--as Traill had said--for the first falling blow
to heat their blood to boiling. At last it fell. Jim Morrison, in
a false moment of vantage, rushed in, head down, arms drawn back like
the crank shafts of some unresisting engine, ready to deal the
crushing body blows. Sally's eyes were wide in a gaping stare. She
expected to see the other fall, waited to hear the grunt of the breath
as it crushed out of him. But it did not come. She did not try to
think how it happened; she only saw Morrison's head shoot upwards
from a blow that seemed to rise from the earth. For a moment he poised
before his man, head lifted, eyes on the second dazed with the
concussion. And then fell Tucker's second blow--the heavy lunge of
the body, the thump of the right foot as it came down upon the stroke,
and the lightning flash of that bare left arm as it shot through the
ugly shadows and found its mark. Sally heard the thud, the void,
hollow sound as when the butcher wields his chopper on the naked bone.
She saw one glimpse of the bloody face as it fell out of the circle
of light into the shadows that hung about the ground, and the little
cry that drove its way between her teeth was drowned by Traill's
exclamatory delight.

"Good left!" he called out excitedly; "follow it up, man! Follow it
up! Don't let him forget it!" Through the fogged haze of sensation,
in which for the moment she was almost lost, Sally heard the sudden
cessation of voices below. She heard the scurrying of feet and
Traill's low chuckle of ironical laughter.

"It's all right!" he called to them. "Go on as far as I'm concerned.
I'm nothing to do with the police. You know your own job better than
I do. I don't want to interfere with it. Go on."

The voices commenced their chattering again, through which
excitement, like a wandering bee, hummed a moving note.

"You won't make any fuss, will yer, mister?" the master's voice could
be heard saying.

"I? Make a fuss? No; why the devil should I? Go on!"

"Third round!" said the master.

Then for a moment Sally's eyes opened. In one of the corners sat
Morrison on the knee of an attendant, who was sponging the blood from
his face, whilst another flapped a towel before him. She took a deep
breath as he rose slowly to his feet and came forward to meet his
man. Directly the shuffling sound of feet began again, she closed
her eyes once more, holding with fingers numbed and cold to the fringe
of the curtain beside her. All the sounds then trooped in pictures
before her mind. When she heard the stamp of the foot, the dull
slapping thud of the heavy blow, and the moaning rush of breath, she
saw that bleeding face falling out of the sickly lamplight into the
sooty shadows.

At last she could bear it no longer. Her imagination was gloating
in her mind over the horrors that it drew. She forced her eyes to
look. It was better to see the worst than conjure still worse terrors
in her mind. She let her sight rush to those two half-naked bodies;
it sped unerringly to the spot like a filing of iron to the magnet's
teeth.

Now Tucker had regained the advantage which that momentary
interruption of Traill's had lost him. His man was swaying before
him as a sack of sawdust swings inert to the vibrating motion of speed.
His blows were falling short and fast. No great force was behind them.
He had no time to give them force. But they were bewildering--the
stones of hail upon the naked eyes. Morrison dropped slowly and
slowly backwards, one staggering step at a time; his defenceless arms
held feebly like broken straws before his face. From nose to chin,
from chin to neck, and from the neck in a spreading stream across
his chest, the blood--black in that light--trickled like molten glue.
In his eyes, she could see that questioning glare, the stupid
senseless gaze of a man drunk with exhaustion. And still the blows
fell to the murmuring accompaniment of that gloating crowd--fell
steadily, shortly, tappingly, like the beating of a stick upon dead
meat.

"He's got him now, by Jove! he's got him now," she just heard Traill
muttering, and then the yellow lamplight slowly went out into the
shadows; the deep, black curtain of the sky slowly descended over
the whole scene; she felt a cold wind full of moisture fanning gently
upon her forehead and her lips; she heard the muffled sounds going
further and further away as though some great hand were spreading
a black velvet cloth over it all; then Traill heard her uncomplaining
moan, and felt the dead weight of her senseless body as it lurched
against his own.



CHAPTER XVII


There are men of a certain type in this world whose judgment is
exceedingly sound when their instincts are not in play, but who, in
certain channels, when the senses are at riot, become puerile; the
good ship, rudderless, which only rights itself when the storm has
passed. They are men without the necessary leaven of introspection.
Of themselves, in fact, they know nothing, learn nothing even in the
remorse when the deed is done. For first of all, they are men of
strength--men who can over-ride, with determination, rough-shod,
the hampering results of their follies. Fate and circumstance have
no power over them. They make their own destiny; cutting, if
necessary, the knots they have tied, with a knife-edge of will that
needs but the one clear sweep to set them free.

Of this type--a vivid example--is Traill. The lust of animalism and
the determination to possess the woman he once desired, were the two
channels, swept into which, he became ungovernable. All clear
judgment which he displayed in the management of his work, all
foresight which he possessed to a degree in the arrangement of common,
mundane affairs, were in such a moment cast out of him. Brute instinct
hugged him in its embrace. He lost all sense of honour, who could
in other matters be most honourable of all. All sense of pity he left,
to become the animal that scents its prey, and stretches limbs,
strains heart to reach it. In those moments when the hunger held him,
he took the cruelty of the beast into his heart, and drove all else
out before it.

When Sally's inert body fell, crushing him against the window recess,
he looked down at her white face in the first realization of what
he had done. Then he came readily to action; picked her up bodily--a
tender, listless weight. In the bend of his arms, he carried her into
the other room. An uncushioned settle, no springs, the seat of plain
wood, was where he laid her, propping her head, because he knew no
better, with a pillow which he brought from the inner room. The sounds
from the yard at the back still reached his ears. He strode through
to the window and closed it; brought back with him a glass of water,
and stood beside the settle, looking down at the slowly disappearing
pallor of her face. Her hat was crushed against the pillow as she
lay; he sought with blind and clumsy fingers for the hat pins,
extracting them gently, with infinite slowness, as though they were
fastened in the flesh. When it was free, he took the hat away and
laid it on the table. Then he stood again and watched her. She looked
asleep. The loosened hair clustered over her ears--soft silk of gold;
his hands touched it. Where a few curls fell out, and the candle-light
struck through them, the hair was pale yellow--champagne held up to
the sun.

Presently, he picked up her hand, the arm hanging a dead weight from
her shoulder, the knuckles touching the floor. His fingers closed
over the pulse to find it faintly beating. He had been a fool to let
her stand there and watch the fight. He might have known. The thought
thrust itself into his mind that he would like to meet the woman who
could watch the whole thing out, take the lust of it as he did. She
might be worth while. But this child--she was nothing more than a
child--who fainted at the sight of blood; he felt a tenderness for
her. Looking down at her as she lay on the settle before him, he could
not conceive himself actually doing her harm. She had called him a
gentleman. It seemed as if that stray phrase of hers had taken away
all the sting of the desire. She expected him to act as a gentleman;
then her expectations should be fulfilled to the letter. The woman
who moved him to the deepest force of his nature, was she who knew
the brute, not the gentleman in him, and bowed herself in supine
submission. And as he stood and watched her there, slowly creeping
back through the faintest tinges of colour to consciousness, he
little imagined that Sally was the very woman who would so yield
herself rather than lose him from her life.

At last she opened her eyes, the dazed, wondering stare that comes
after the period of forced unconsciousness.

"Where--where am I?" she whispered.

"Here--my rooms--you fainted."

"Fainted? Why?"

"I don't know;" he knelt down beside her, all tenderness and apology.
"The fight, I suppose; we were looking on at that fight outside, at
the back. I never thought--I was a brute--it never entered my head
for a moment. Here, take a sip of this water, while I go and get you
some brandy."

He put the glass in her hand, laced her cold fingers round it, and
hurried across to a cupboard in one of the oak cabinets. She was
sipping the water bravely when he returned. He took the glass from
her, emptied nearly all the contents away into the coal-scuttle--the
first receptacle that came to his hand--and poured in the neat
spirit.

"Now drink a few sips of this," he said.

She put it to her lips, then lowered her hand again.

"You're really very kind to me," she said in gratitude.

"Kind! Not a bit. Go on--drink it."

She drank a little, obediently, and the points of light came back
again into her eyes, the colour burnt once more with a little fevered
glow in her cheeks. Then she sat up suddenly with the glass gripped
tightly in her hand.

"Oh, what a fool you must think I am," she exclaimed bitterly, "to
make a scene like this, the very first evening that you bring me to
your rooms. I am so sorry, so awfully sorry."

He looked at her in wonder. "Great heavens!" he said. "There's
nothing to be sorry about. If any one should be sorry, it ought to
be myself. I let you in for it. I suppose it is a filthy sight, when
you're not accustomed to it."

"Yes, but you must think me so weak. And I'm not weak really; I'm
very strong."

He saw part of the pathos of this, but not all of it. He did not realize
that she was pleading for herself with all the earnestness of her
soul. He had no subtlety of mind, and the fact was too subtle for
him to grasp that the whole scene which had taken place with that
other woman in his rooms upstairs was being re-enacted, but with a
different motive. That woman had fought for his money, his protection
for her future. Sally was warring against the frailty of her body
for his love. Of his selfishness, she had seen nothing. His cruelty,
that she had seen; the beast in the every-man, that she had realized
as well.

But in the components of a woman there may always be found that
unswerving subjection to the lower nature of the man. It is a passive
submission--for which we have much to be thankful--taking upon
itself in its most extreme form, no more definite expression than
the parted lips, eyes glazed with passion, and the body inert in its
total abandonment.

It is foolish, therefore, to say that man, in that lower animalism
of his nature, is alone in the supposed God-creation of his likeness
to the divinity. The very instinct itself would die out were there
not in woman the passive echo to answer to its call. Divine he may
be; in every man there is the possibility, the nucleus, of divinity;
but it has not yet shaken off the beast of the fields which blindly,
obstinately, without intelligence, hinders the onward path of its
progress.

It was this part of her nature, then, in Sally that answered to the
display of the lower instincts in Traill. By reason of that part of
her, she understood it; by reason of it also, and because she loved
him, she was neither thwarted nor dismayed in her desire to win him
to herself.

"I do hate myself for doing that!" she exclaimed afresh, when she
had finished the brandy he had poured out for her. "Did I say anything
foolish, silly--did I? Oh, I hope I didn't. What happened?"

Traill laughed good-naturedly at her apprehension.

"You didn't say a word; you just moaned and tumbled off. Pitched
against me. If I hadn't been there, you'd have fallen clean on to
the floor and perhaps hurt yourself."

She sat up, then rose unsteadily to her feet. "I am much better now!"
she declared eagerly.

He watched her incomprehensively as she walked across the floor, her
knees loose to bear her weight, her lips twitching, and her hands
doing odd little things with no meaning in them. It was forced upon
him then, the wondering why she was trying so hard to hide her
weakness. He would have imagined that a woman would like to be made
a fuss of, petted, looked after; to be allowed to lie prone upon a
couch, emitting little moans of discomfort to attract sympathy. And
he, himself, would have been quite willing to give it. But now, he
came to the conclusion more than ever that she was not a woman who
cared for the closest relationship. Such a moment as this had been
an excellent opportunity for a woman to have forced sentiment into
the position, and dragged it on from there to intimacy, to have put
out her hand to touch him, seemingly for comfort, but in reality with
an hysterical desire for some demonstration of affection. Sally had
done none of these things. With a giant effort she had struggled
against her inertia. There she was before him, walking up and down
the room, talking anything that came into her head with forced
courage, feigning a strength which any fool could see she did not
possess.

At last his wonder dragged the question from him. "Why are you going
on like this?" he asked suddenly.

She stopped abruptly in her walking, turned and faced him with lips
trembling and fingers picking at the braid upon her dress.

"Like what?"

"Like this. Walking up and down the room. Trying to talk all sorts
of courageous nonsense, and showing how utterly unnerved you are in
everything you say."

"I'm not unnerved!" Her hand wandered blindly to the table near which
she was standing. She leant on it imperceptibly for support. "I'm
not unnerved," she repeated.

"But you are, my dear child. And why should you want to hide that
from me?"

She stood there, swaying slightly, taking deep breaths to aid her
in her effort.

"Well, I assure you I feel absolutely all right now. I'm not a bit
weak now! I know I was ridiculously foolish--"

"Yes, that's the point I want to get at," he interrupted; "that's
just the point I want to get hold of." He did not even appreciate
his want of consideration then in pressing her to answer. "Why do
you call it foolish? It was I who was foolish; I, entirely, who am
to blame. I ought to have known that that was not a fit sight for
any woman not accustomed to look on at such things. And because you
can't stand it, you call yourself foolish."

Sally walked with an effort across to the armchair with the rushed
seat and sank quietly into it.

"I only mean it was foolish," she explained, "because it was a silly
thing to do, the first time that I come to your rooms, for me to faint
like that. Do you think you'll feel inclined to ask me again? Isn't
it natural that a man should hate a scene of that kind? I only hope
that you won't think I easily faint; I don't; I've never--"

Traill leant forward on his knees. Understanding was dawning in him,
it burnt a light in his eyes.

"Do you want to come again, then?" he asked.

So keen was he upon getting his answer, that he could not see the
climax of hysteria towards which he was bringing her. But against
that she was fighting, most fiercely of all. Like the rising water
in a gauge, it was leaping in sudden bounds within her. But to break
into tears, to murmur incoherently between laughter and sobbing that
it could not be helped, but she loved him, wildly, passionately,
would give every shred of her body into his hands if he would but
take it--against this, in the sweating of her whole strength, she
was battling lest he should guess her secret.

"Do you want to come again, then?" he repeated, when she continued
to look at him with frightened eyes, saying nothing.

"Yes, of course; of course I do."

"But why--why?" he insisted.

This reached the summit of his cruelty--blind cruelty it may have
been--but it dragged her also to the climax of her mood. Like the
falling of the Tower of Babel, with its crumbling of dust and its
confusion of tongues, she tumbled headlong from her pinnacle of
strength.

"Oh, don't, please!" she moaned, and then in torrents came the tears;
in an incoherent toppling of sound, the little cries of her weeping
rushed from her; and Traill, hurled from the sling of impulse, was
kneeling at her feet.

"I'm awfully sorry," he kept on saying; "I'm awfully sorry."

Even then he but vaguely understood, had not rightly guessed the
verge upon which she was treading. It was not that she feared he might
guess the secret in her heart. If, as she half believed, he loved
her too, what real harm could be done by that? It was the fear that,
in this unsexing moment of hysteria, she might lose all control,
pitch all reserve and modesty into the flood-tide of her emotions,
and lose him for ever in the unnatural whirlwind of her passion.
Against that she fought, needing only the release from the tension
of his questions. When he began, in his futile efforts to make amends,
to ply them again, she rose hurriedly to her feet.

"Can I go into the other room for a moment?" she asked; "or will you
go and leave me here alone--just for a minute or two?"

He stood up. "I'll do anything you like," he said.

"Then, go--just for a moment."

The door had scarcely closed behind him before she sank back again
into the chair, shaking with the passion of tears. When they ran dry,
she rose and crossed the room to the window, throwing it open. The
cold air blew refreshingly on to her face. She pressed back the hair
from her temples to let it reach her forehead. It was like ice-water
on the burning pulses of her nerves. She took deep breaths of it,
thankful from her heart for the release. When, at last, Traill
knocked upon the door, she could turn with brave assurance and bid
him enter. He came in with questioning eyes that lost their
querulousness the moment they had found her face.

"You're better?" he said at once.

"Yes." She smiled reassuringly. "I'm absolutely all right now."

He looked at her eyes, red with weeping. He knew she had been
crying--had heard her sobs from the other room. Part of her secret
then, at least, he had realized. She was fond of him. How fond, it
would be more or less impossible to divine; but it must be nipped
there--strangled utterly--if he were to fulfil her expectations of
him. What it was that pressed him to the sacrifice, he could not
actually say; unless it were that it appealed to his better nature
as a thing of shame to do otherwise. She would marry him, he felt
sure of that. But marriage, with all its accompanying conventions
and indissoluble bonds--indissoluble, except through the loathsome
medium of the divorce court--was a condition of life that his whole
nature shrank from. He refused it utterly. This girl--this little
child--perhaps saw no other termination to their acquaintance than
that of marriage, and either this thought had become a brake upon
his desire, or he wished, in the honesty of his heart, to treat her
well; whatever it was, there was not that in his mind which made him
determine to be the one to teach her otherwise.

"Well, now sit down, don't stand about," he said kindly. "You can't
be really as strong as you think yet, and I've got something I want
to say to you. Take this chair, it's about the most comfortable there
is here, and I'll get that pillow for your back."

His voice was soft--gentle even--in the consideration that he showed.
To himself, he was striving to make amends; to her, he was that
tenderness which she knew lay beneath the iron crust of his harder
nature.

When she was seated, when he had placed the pillow at her back, he
took a well-burnt pipe--the well-burnt pipe that he had smoked before
under other circumstances than these--and filled it slowly from a
tobacco jar.

Sally watched all his movements patiently, until she could wait for
his words no longer.

"What have you to say?" she asked.

He lit the pipe before replying; drew it till the tobacco glowed like
a little smelting furnace in the bowl, and the smoke lifted in blue
clouds, then he rammed his finger on to the burning mass with cool
intent, as though the fire of it could not pain him.

From that apparently engrossing occupation, he looked up with a
sudden jerk of his head.

"You mustn't come here again," he said, without force, without
feeling of any sort.

She leant back against the pillow, holding a breath in her throat,
and her eyes wandered like a child that is frightened around the room,
passing his face and passing it again, yet fearing to rest upon it
for any appreciable moment of time.

When she found that he was going to say no more, she asked him why.
Just the one word, breathed rather than spoken, no complaint, no
rebellion, the pitiable simplicity of the question that the man puts
to his Fate, the woman to her Maker.

"Why?"

He at least was holding himself in harness that she knew nothing
of--the curb and snaffle, with the reins held tightly across fingers
of iron.

"Why?" he repeated. "If you don't know human nature, would it be wise,
do you think, for me to spell it out to you?"

She knit her brows, trying to see, trying to think, but finding
nothing save the blank and gaping question. Through her mind it swept,
that her fainting was some cause of it. She could not really believe
that that could have brought so much abhorrence to his mind; yet she
tried it. To say anything, to propose any cause, she struggled for
that in order to know the why.

"It was because I fainted?" she said quickly. "You hate a woman to
be weak; I know I was weak; you hate scenes of that sort. Do you think
I can't understand it?" She worked herself into the belief that this
was the reason, and her spirit of defence rose with it. "Of course
I can understand. If I were a man, I should hate it too! But you're
quite wrong if you think I shall get unnerved again, as I did this--"

"It's not that at all!" he said firmly. "Do you think I'm such a fool,
do you even think I'm such a brute as to blame you, to think poorly,
inconsiderately of you for something that was entirely my own fault?
I shouldn't have let myself be carried away by the excitement of that
fight. There are many things I shouldn't have done beside that. I
shouldn't have stopped as I passed along King Street that night. When
I saw that little gold head of yours in the window, I should have
gone on, taken no notice. I shouldn't have followed, I shouldn't have
spoken to you as I did."

"But why?" she entreated.

He gripped the bowl of his pipe in his fingers. "For the very reason
you gave me yourself, on the 'bus that day, and afterwards when we
were having lunch together."

"What was that?"

"That I didn't know you."

She looked her bewilderment. "I don't understand," she said simply.

"Then I can explain no further. We must leave it at that."

"Oh! but why can't you explain?" She had nearly added, "When it means
so much to me," but shut her teeth, drew in her breath on the words,
inducing the physical act to aid her in preventing their utterance.

"I think you would be--perhaps sorry--perhaps hurt--if I did."

"I'm sure I wouldn't--and I'd sooner know."

He looked at her fixedly as the pendulum of decision swung in his
mind. To tell her would be to crush it, kill it utterly, the blow
of the sword of Damocles falling at last--falling inevitably. He knew
how she would take it; just as she had taken his advances to her on
the 'bus that night. Did he think that of her? Was that all the depth
of their acquaintance! Oh, she loathed him! Therefore, why let it
end that way? Why not with this little mystery in her mind, which
would not prevent their sometimes meeting again, even if she never
came to his rooms?

He stood up from the table, crossed the room to where her hat was
lying and picked it up.

"It's nearly eleven," he said quietly. "You'd better think of getting
home."

She took the hat from him, then the pins. He watched her silently
as she secured it to her head, not even appealing to him if it were
straight. Slowly she drew on her gloves, shivering as her fingers
fitted into the cold skin.

"I'm ready," she said, when all these things were done.

Traill went the round of the candles, blowing them out one by one,
until the scent of the smoking wick was pungent in the air. Before
the last, he stopped.

"You get to the door," he said.

Instead of obeying him, Sally walked firmly across to his side.

"We're not to meet again?" she asked.

"I didn't say that."

"But you will never bring me up to your rooms here again? As far as
that goes, it finishes here?" She did not even stop to wonder at
herself. The fears of losing him were spurs in her side.

"Yes."

"Then if you have any respect for me, you'll tell me why?"

"It's because I have respect for you, I suppose, that I don't tell
you."

She stepped back from him. "Is it anything about me?" she asked,
"or--or about yourself that you cannot tell me?" Then it was that
she feared he had discovered her love for him and loathed her for
the disclosing of her secret.

In this persistent determination of Sally's, Janet would scarcely
have recognized her. But she was driven, the hounds of despair were
at her heels. In such a moment as this, any woman drops the cloak
and stands out, limbs free, to win her own.

"Is it about yourself?" she repeated.

Another suspicion now that he was married--engaged--bound in some
way from which there was no escape--was throbbing, like the
flickering shadow that a candle casts, in a deeply-hidden corner of
her mind. She dared not let it advance, dared not let it become a
palpable fear, yet there it was. And all this time, Traill was looking
at her with steady eyes, behind which the pendulum was once more set
a-swinging.

Should he tell her, should he not? Should he rip out the knife that
would cut this knot which circumstances seemed to be tying?

"You want to know exactly what it is," he said suddenly. "Then it's
this. I'm not the type of man who marries. I've seen marriage with
other men and I've seen quite enough of it. My sister's married;
marriage has the making of women as a rule, it gives them place, power,
they want that--so much the better for them. With marriage, they get
it. My sister has often tried to persuade me to marry, drop my life,
adopt the social entity, and worship the god of respectability. I'd
sooner put a rope round my neck and swing from the nearest lamp-post.
And so, you see, I'm no fit company for you. I don't live the sort
of life you'd choose a man to live. I'm not really the sort of man
you take me for in the least. At dinner, this evening, you called
me a gentleman. I'm not even the sort of gentleman as you understand
him; though I've been trying to live up to my idea of the genus, ever
since you said it. My dear Sally"--he took her hand--she let him hold
it--"you don't know anything about the world, and I don't want to
teach you the lesson that I suppose some man or circumstances will
bring you to learn one day. Take my advice and have no truck with
me."

He blew out the last remaining candle, took her arm and led her to
the door. They walked down the one flight of stairs together, their
footsteps echoing up through the empty house; out on the pavement
he called a hansom, held his arm across the wheel as she stepped in;
turned to the cabby, gave him his fare, told him Waterloo Station;
then he leant across the step of the cab and held out his hand.

"Good-bye, Sally," he said.

She tried to answer him, but her words were dry and clung in her
throat.



CHAPTER XVIII


The hour of twelve was tolling out across the water from the little
church on Kew Green, when Sally fitted her borrowed latch-key into
the door. She had performed the journey back to Kew Bridge in a stupor
of mind that could hold no single thought, review no single event
with any clearness of vision. It was as if not one evening, but three
days, had passed by since she had left the office of Bonsfield &
CO.--the day they had dined together--the day on which they had
watched that terrible fight--the day, the last of all, when she had
awakened from unconsciousness, had struggled through a cruel agony
of mind, and had finally said good-bye to him for ever. How was it
possible, with the length, breadth and depth of three days all
crushed into the microscopic space of five hours--a dizzy whirling
acceleration of time--how was it possible for her to think logically,
consecutively, to even think at all? She could not think. She had
lain back in the carriage, her head lax against the cushions, and
simply permitted the whole procession of events, like some
retreating army with death at its heels, to stagger across her brain.
Down the old river-path to the Hewsons' house, she had walked as if
asleep, the glazed eyes of the somnambulist, staring in front, but
seeing nothing. Up to her bedroom she had climbed with but one thought
in her mind, the fear of waking any one. She had struck a match outside
the door, lest the scratching of it in the room should rouse Janet.
Such considerations as these her mind could grasp. It needed a night
of sleep to nurse her comprehension back to all that she had been
through. As yet, she was unable to realize it.

One by one, she took off her clothes, in the same mechanical way as
she would have done if she had returned exhausted from working
overtime at the office. When she put on her night-dress, she knelt
down unpremeditatedly upon the floor, held her hands together, and
looked up to the ceiling, watching a fly that was braving the cold
of winter, as it crept in a sluggish, hibernated way across the white
plaster. When she rose to her feet and blew out the candle, she was
under the vague impression that she had said her prayers. Then she
climbed into bed, pulled the clothes about her, and, as her hand
touched the pillow, its softness, the remembrance of the many nights
when in loneliness she had wept herself to sleep, all rushed back
with their thousand associations, and the dam against her soul broke.
The flood of tears poured through, and she sobbed convulsively.

Suddenly then, with a grasp of the breath, she stopped, though the
tears still toppled down. She had heard her name.

"Sally--"

It was Janet. Before she could resist, before she could explain, two
thin arms were clasped round her breast and a close, warm body was
next to hers.

"What is it, Sally--little Sally? tell Janet--tell
Janet--whisper--"

The passionate sobbing, which had begun again immediately Sally knew
it was Janet, commenced now to break into uneven, uncontrolled
breaths, that by degrees became quieter and quieter as Janet
whispered the fond, meaningless things into her ear. Meaningless?
They would have had no meaning to any who might have overheard; but
in Sally's heart, as it was meant they should be, they were charged
to the full--a cup beneath an ever-flowing fountain that brims
over--with such kindness and sympathy, as only a woman of Janet's
nature knows how to bestow to another and more gentle of her sex.

"Are you unhappy, Sally?" she asked, when, from the sounds of her
weeping, she had become more rational.

There was no answer.

"Are you, Sally?"

"Yes, frightfully--frightfully! Oh, I wish I hadn't got to go on."
It was rent from her heart, torn from her. All the spirit in her was
broken--crushed.

"But why, my darling? Why?" The thin arms held her tighter, warm lips
kissed her neck and shoulders. "Did he treat you badly--did he?"

"No!"

Janet gleaned much in the directness of that answer.

"Doesn't he care for you?"

She knew then that Sally cared for him.

"I don't know. How could I know?"

"He hasn't told you so, one way or the other?"

"No."

"But you think he doesn't?"

"Oh, I don't know."

"Then what makes you so frightfully unhappy?"

"Because I'm never going to see him again."

The words were thick, choked almost in her throat.

"Oh, then he doesn't care," said Janet, softly.

"Yes, he does!" retorted Sally, wildly. "He does care, only--only--"

"Only what?"

"Only, he thinks too little of himself and--and too much of me. He
says he's not the sort of man I ought to have anything to do with"--the
words were rushing from her now--the torrent of earth that a landslip
sets free. "He never wants to marry, he hates the conventionalities
and the bonds of marriage like you say you do. And he asked me to
forgive him for thinking I was different--different--to what he had
expected. He said he ought never to have spoken to me in the first
instance, and that it was his fault, and he blamed himself entirely
for what had happened. Then he took me downstairs and put me in a
hansom and said good-bye. And--I'm not to see him--any more."

It was a pitiable little story, pitiably told; punctuated with tears
and choking breaths, with no heed for effect, nor attempt to make
it dramatic or sadder than it already was.

When she had finished, she lay there, crying quietly in Janet's arms,
all courage gone, all vitality sapped from her.

For a long time Janet waited, thinking it all through. Then she
whispered in Sally's ears.

"And you love him, Sally?"

The heavy sigh, so deep drawn that it seemed to strain down to her
heart--that was answer enough. What further answer need she give?
Sighs, tears, the catch in the breath, the look in the eyes, the look
from the eyes--those are the language in which a woman really speaks.
Words, she uses to hide them.



CHAPTER XIX


If you look into life, you will find that the key-note of every
woman's existence is love--the broad, the great, the grand passion.
She may take up a million causes, champion a thousand aims; but the
end that she reaches--is love. To fail in such an end--to lose the
grasp of it when once it might have been hers--this is the most bitter
of aloes; gall that eats into her blood and corrodes her clearest
vision. A man, forging destinies, is a king, to be mated only with
a woman who loves.

There are exceptions; but these are not needed to prove the rule;
for there hangs even some doubt, like a fly in the amber, in the
history of Jeanne D'Arc, the most patent an example of them all. Yet
whether, as some chronicles would say, she was never burnt as a witch,
but smuggled into the country, and there mated in love--and it would
seem a shame unpardonable to rob history of a great martyr and the
Church of Rome of a saint--it makes no odds in the counting. Great
women have loved greatly--lesser women have loved less--but all who
are of the sex have made the heart their master, and obeyed it
whenever it has truly called.

So it had come to Sally. Beyond all doubt, she loved; beyond all
question, she was prepared to obey the faintest call that her heart
prompted. Janet, tender to her that night, fondling her and caressing
her, answering to her with the very heart that she had tried to stifle
within herself, was Janet herself again the next morning. But Sally
was unchanged.

She dressed herself silently before the mirror, looking out through
the window at the grey river-fog that fell gloomily across the water
and Janet lay in bed, her hands crossed behind her head, a cigarette
hanging between her lips and the smoke curling up past her eyes. The
school of Art did not open until eleven o'clock that morning. Sally
had to be at the office at nine.

"There'll be a fog up in Town," said Janet. She did not take the
cigarette out of her mouth. It jerked up and down with the words.

"Sure to be," Sally replied.

"Suppose Mr. Traill will come and take you out to lunch?"

Sally turned quickly. "I told you last night," she said bitterly.
"We shan't see each--"

"Oh yes, I know that. But do you think he means it?"

"I'm sure he does."

"I'm not."

Sally unpinned a coil of her hair and re-arranged it more carefully,
unconscious that she did it because Janet had suggested the vague
hope in her mind that he might come.

"Why are you so different this morning?" she asked.

Janet brushed away a piece of glowing ash that had fallen like a cloud
of dust into one of the hollows below her neck.

"Didn't know I was very different."

"You are."

"Well, I've been thinking--" She threw the end of her cigarette away
and jumped out of bed, walking on her heels over the cold, linoleumed
floor to the washstand. "I've been thinking," she repeated as she
poured out the cold water into the basin--"and as far as I can
see"--she dipped her face with a rush into the icy water, and her
words became a gurgle of speeding bubbles--"there was really no need
for all your crying and misery--heavens! this water'd nip a tenderer
bud than I am. Ain't I a bud, Sally?" She laughed and shivered her
shoulders as she struggled to work the soap into a lather.

"I never can understand you when you talk like that," said Sally.
"I never know whether you really mean what you say."

"Well, I mean every word of it. It's the only time I do mean things,
when I talk like that. Where'd you put the towel? We want a clean
towel, Sally. I sopped up some tea I spilt with this last night.
No--but can't you see, there's no need for you to be so miserable
as you think. Men only make a sacrifice when they really love a woman.
He'll come back to you, like a duck to the water. You know he will.
Do you think if he'd cared for you at all, he'd have given tuppence
whether he taught you what most men teach most women. The only woman
a man thinks he has no real claim to, is the woman he loves; he
believes he has a proprietary right to nearly every other blessed
one he meets, and has only got to assert it."

"How do you know these things, Janet? What makes you say them?"

"You mean who's taught me them--eh? What man has ever taken a
sufficient interest in me to show me so much of his sex? Isn't that
what you mean?"

"No!"

"Oh, I know I'm ugly enough. That glass has a habit of reminding me
of it every morning. I could smash that glass sometimes with the back
of a hair-brush, only it might break the hair-brush."

"Janet, you're cruel sometimes! Things like that never enter my
dreams!" Sally exclaimed passionately.

"Bless your heart," said Janet, "facts never do. You take facts as
they come; you act on them instinctively, but you don't realize them.
I _am_ ugly. There's no doubt about it. You don't think I'm ugly,
but you see I am. That prompts your question without knowing it. But
men have made fools of themselves--even over me. There was one man
at the school last year--took a fancy to me, I believe because I was
so ugly. Just like James II. and the ugly maids-of-honour. I was going
to live with him. Can you believe that? And one night at one of the
dances, we were kicking up a row a bit--dancing about as if we were
lunatics--and my hair fell down--there's not much for a pin to stick
into at the best of times. I remember laughing and looking across
the room at him. Well, I saw an expression in his eyes that settled
it. He looked as if he could see me--just like I know I am--in the
mornings when I first wake up--all frowsy and fuddled, with this
little bit of a mat I've got, sticking out in tails, about as long
as your hand, on the pillow. It takes a bit of courage for a man to
even go and live with a woman after he's seen her like that. I assure
you it didn't take me much courage to tell him I'd changed my mind."

Sally watched her and the pain that she felt as she listened furrowed
her brow into frowns. She knew that there was more than this, more
than the bare statement behind this little story. That was Janet's
way of putting it, the way Janet made herself look on at life, the
apparently heartless aspect in which she viewed everything. To
sympathize would only sting her to still more bitter sarcasm. Sally
said nothing, the pity was in her eyes.

"I've never told you that before, have I?" said Janet.

"No."

"And I suppose you're terribly shocked because I even ever thought
of living with a man?"

"No, I'm not. If you loved him and--and he couldn't marry you."

Out of the corner of her eyes Janet watched her, rubbing her face
vigorously with the towel to conceal her observation. In that moment
then, she saw the end of Sally, drew the matter out in her mind, as,
with hurried strokes, she might have sketched a passing face upon
the slip of paper.

"Well, you run on down to breakfast," she said. "You'll be late; it's
five minutes to eight."

A whole week passed by, and Sally heard no more of Traill. Every day,
when she went out to lunch, or left the office after work was over,
she looked up and down King Street in the hope, almost the expectation,
of seeing him waiting for her to come. Then the expectation died away;
the hope grew fainter and fainter, like a shadow that the sun casts
upon the sundial until, at an hour before setting, it is scarcely
discernible.

Another week sped its days through. It was as the unwinding of a reel
of silk, each day a round, each round and the body of the reel grew
thinner and thinner, and the coils of silk lay wasted--entangled on
the floor.

Deep shadows settled under Sally's eyes. The disease of
love-sickness has its common symptoms, the whole world knows them;
the hungry self-interest that wears itself out into a hypochondriacal
morbidity; the perverted power of vision, the hopeless want of
philosophy; not to mention the hundred ailments of the body that beset
every single one who suffers from the complaint.

Janet watched Sally closely through it all until, as the time passed
by, even she began to think that her calculations had been at fault.

At last, one morning, there lay on the breakfast-table in the kitchen,
a little brown-paper parcel addressed to Sally. She picked it up
eagerly and the flame flickered up into her cheeks as she laid it
down again, unopened, in her lap. Janet smiled across at her, but
said nothing. When breakfast was over, she let Sally go away by
herself up to her bedroom, while she remained behind and talked to
Mrs. Hewson. Ten minutes, she gave her; then she mounted the stairs
as well. She did not knock. She walked straight into the bedroom and
there she found Sally, seated near the window, the tears coursing
down her cheeks, while she held out her wrist and stared at a woven
gold bangle that bore on it her name in diamond letters. By the side
of the empty box was a letter, well-folded, so that it could fit
within, and on the floor lay the string and the brown paper, just
as it had been torn off.

Janet stood in front of her, hands on hips, warmed with the sense
of being a prophet in her own country.

"Are you satisfied now?" she asked.

Sally looked up; the pride of the woman in the bauble blent in her
eyes with the disappointment of the woman in love.

"Isn't it lovely?" she said pathetically. "Oh, it is lovely. I've
never had anything so beautiful before. But I can't keep it. How can
I keep it?"

"Can't keep it!" exclaimed Janet. "What are you talking about? Do
you think it was given to you to look at and then return? Why shouldn't
you keep it? It's got your name on. He can't give it to anybody else,
unless there's more than one Sally down his alley, which I should
think is very doubtful. What do you mean--you can't keep it? You make
me feel like Job's wife."

Sally unclasped the bangle and laid it back in the little velvet box
with lingering fingers. Then she picked up the letter.

"Read that," she said.

Janet swept her eyes to it. To her, as she read, it seemed to be the
condensation of more than one letter that had been written before.
A man, she argued, who gives such a present, is more than probably
in love; and a man who is in love, cannot write so directly to the
point in his first attempt.

This was the letter:--

"DEAR MISS BISHOP--"

(To call her "Sally" in diamonds and "Miss Bishop" in ink, was
ridiculous. Ink was infinitely cheaper; and if he could afford the
one, then why not the other?)

"I make it a habit to discharge debts. With this to you, I wipe out
my debit sheet and stand clear. You remember my bet on the Hammersmith
'bus. I hope you were none the worse for my foolishness of our last
evening. I have regretted my thoughtlessness many times since.

                              "Yours sincerely,
                                    "J. HEWITT TRAILL."

"What foolishness?" asked Janet, looking up quickly at the end. "What
did he do?"

Of the fight and her fainting, Sally had told her nothing. She told
her nothing now. The fear that Traill might be thought selfish--a
thought which love had refused to give entrance to in her own
mind--had led her to defend him with silence. Now she told the
deliberate lie, unblushingly, unfearingly.

"He did nothing," she replied; "that's only a joke of his. But you
see, I can't keep the bangle," she went on quickly, covering the lie
with words, as Eugene Aram hid the body of his victim with dead leaves.
"I must send it back to him. I never knew he really meant it when
he made that bet. I never even thought he meant it when he reminded
me of it that day after lunch."

"No more he did mean it," said Janet, sharply. "If he'd seen you again
and again--he'd never have paid it--not as he's pretending to pay
it now."

"Pretending?"

"Yes."

Sally took up the bangle in her fingers.

"You don't call this pretence, do you?" she asked. "Why, it's worth
even much more than he said in his bet. He paid more than ten pounds
for this."

"Exactly," said Janet, shrewdly; "doesn't that prove it? If he was
only paying his bet, you can make pretty sure that he'd have sent
the money and not a penny more than he owed."

"Yes; but do you think he'd do a thing like that?" said Sally, with
pride. "He'd know I wouldn't accept it that way."

"Well, perhaps not," Janet agreed; "but then he wouldn't have bought
a thing that cost a penny more than ten pounds, if so much. You don't
know men when they're parting with money that they've had to whip
some one else to get. You say he's not so very well off. At any rate,
he wouldn't have given you a thing that cost fifteen or twenty
pounds--those diamonds aren't so small--when he only owed you ten."

"But he didn't owe it to me!" Sally interrupted.

"Very well, he didn't. Then why do you think he's sent you this?"

"Because he thinks he does."

"Very well, again; then why does he send you something that's worth
so much more?"

Janet folded her arms in a triumph of silence. For a long time Sally
could frame no reply. It had seemed, only an hour before, that she
would have been so willing to seize at any straw which the tide of
affairs should bring her, and now that the solid branch had floated
to her reach, she could not find the confidence to throw her whole
weight upon it. It was the letter that thwarted her; the letter that
warned her from too great a hope.

"But read the letter," she said at last. "Read the letter again. Would
he ever have written as abruptly as that if--if what you suggest is
right? He might have asked me to--to think sometimes when I wore it--"

"Why? Is he a sentimentalist?"

"My goodness! No!"

"Well, then, he wouldn't. That's a stock phrase of the sentimentalist.
The sentimentalist is always thinking, that's all he does, and he
breaks his heart over it if other people don't act what he thinks."

"Well, he's not a sentimentalist, certainly."

She even smiled when she thought of his exclamations during the
fight.

"What are you smiling at?" asked Janet, quickly. "Something he said?"

"Yes."

"That wasn't sentimental?"

"Yes."

"Well, he certainly wouldn't have told you to think about him when
you wore it. I imagine I can guess exactly what sort he is."

"How can you guess?"

"Well, because I know what sort you are, and I fancy I know just the
type of man whom you'd fall in love with as rapidly as you've fallen
in love with this Mr. Traill. He's hard--he can bend you--he can break
you--he can crush you to dust, and there'll still be some wind or
other that'ud blow your ashes to his feet. He's all man--man that's
got the brute in him, too--and you're all woman, woman that's got
the mating instinct in her, and will go like the lioness across the
miles of desert, without food and without water, when once she hears
the song of sex in the hungry throat of her mate. Oh, it's a pretty
little story, too strong for a drawing-room; but Darwin'll tell it
you, Huxley'll tell it you. But you'll never read Darwin, and you'll
never read Huxley--except in a man's eyes. Oh, I know you think I'm
a beast, I know you think I've got no sense of refinement at all,
that I might have been a man just as well as a woman. Lord! how your
friend Traill would hate me, 'cause he's got all I've got and more--in
himself. But I don't care what you say about that letter--the
letter's nothing. It's the gift that's the thing. That's the song
of sex if you like; and whether you return it, or whether you don't,
you'll answer it, as he meant you to. You'll go creeping across the
desert, and you won't touch water, and you won't touch food, till
you've reached him."

She stood there, shaking the words out of her, the revolutionary in
her eyes and God's truth fearlessly in her breath. Then she lit a
Virginian cigarette and walked out of the room.



CHAPTER XX


There were occasions, as he had said, when Traill met his sister.
They were infrequent, as infrequent as he could make them. And they
were seldom, if ever, at her house in Sloane Street.

One evening, some three weeks or less after his parting with Sally,
he took her out to dinner. He donned evening dress, loudly cursing
the formality, and brought her to a fashionable restaurant, where
he gently cursed the abject civility of the waiters beneath his
breath.

"They're not men," he said to his sister; "they're worms of the
underworld, waiting for the corpse to be lowered its regulation six
feet."

Mrs. Durlacher shuddered. "You make use of horrible similes
sometimes, Jack," she said.

"I see some horrible things," said Traill. "Look at that waiter,
hovering like a vulture, while the fat old gentleman from Aberdeen
goes through the items of the bill. He might just as well shut one
eye and stand on one leg to make the picture complete. That's rather
a pretty girl, too, at the same table."

His sister looked in the direction. "Why, he's not from Aberdeen,"
she said, daintily. "That's Sir Standish-Roe; he sits on boards in
the city."

"A vigorous exercise like that ought to reduce his bulk," said Traill.
"Do you know them, then?"

"Yes."

"Who's the girl?"

"That's his daughter. I'll introduce you after dinner if they're not
hurrying off to a theatre."

"No you don't," said Traill; "baited traps don't catch me, however
alluring they are."

So they talked, all through dinner, criticizing in idle good-humour
the various people about them. Whenever he was in his sister's
company Traill sharpened his wits. Putting on the social gloss, he
called it, whenever she laughed at his remarks and told him he would
be a God-send at some of her dinners.

"Is it quite hopeless?" she asked him that evening.

"Quite! As far removed from possibility as I am from a seat in the
Cabinet."

"But you might if you took up politics."

"Exactly, the point of absolute certainty being that I never shall."

She waited awhile, letting the conversation drift as it liked; then
she dipped her oar again.

"Do you ever hunt or shoot now?"

"Hunt, yes, for jobs. I've made that feeble joke before to somebody
else. No--neither."

"We had some rather good days with the pheasants this year down at
Apsley."

"Did you?"

"Yes, Harold got sixty-seven birds one day."

"Lucky dog! Have you finished? Well, look here, we'll come along to
my rooms--I'm on the first floor now; I hate talking in these places.
You won't have to climb up all those stairs this time, and I'll give
you some more of that coffee."

She needed no second persuasion. In the drift of her mind, she fancied
she saw impressions floating by, first one and then another,
impressions that he was more tractable this evening, more likely to
be won a little to her side; for social though she was--the blood
in her veins to the finger tips--she still cared for this Bohemian
brother of hers; considered it trouble well spent to bring him to
her way of thinking. We are all of us apt to think thus generously
of those whom we hold dear.

"There aren't many women who come up these stairs in evening dress,
I can assure you," he said, as they mounted the flight together.

She laughed. "And I suppose the ones who do are on their way to see
you?"

"Dolly, I'm ashamed of you," he replied.

"Well, you've made yourself the reputation; don't grumble at it or
shirk it."

"Shirk it? Why should I?" He stood aside to let her pass in. "I've
nothing to be ashamed of. I don't wear the garment of respectability,
but then I'm not stark naked. Every man clothes himself in some
article of faith, virtue if you like." The name of Sally and Sally's
face swept across his mind. There was one virtue at least which he
could put on. "You people, the set you want me to join, the hunting
set, the country house set--all you wear--I don't mean you
particularly. God! If you were like that!" He was too intent upon
what he was saying to notice the smile of ice that twisted her pretty
lips. "All you wear is the big, comprehensive cloak of respectability,
and sometimes you're not particular whether that's tied up
properly."

Dolly broke into low laughter. "If you'd come down to Apsley," she
said, "one week end, I'd get a certain number of people down there,
and when they are all congregated in the drawing-room after dinner,
you could stand with your back to the fire, command the whole room
and, at a signal from me, make that speech. You'd be the lion of the
evening."

"What does being the lion of the evening mean?" he asked, with the
ironical turn of the lip. "That your bedroom door is liable to open,
I suppose, and admit whatever lady is most hampered in the way of
debts."

"Jack!" She sat upright in the chair she had taken, eyes well lit
with a forced blaze, breath cunningly driven through the nostrils.

"What?"

"How dare you talk to me like that?"

"Don't know," he replied, imperturbably. "It is daring, I suppose,
seeing that I'm not one of you. You'd listen to that on the hunting
field from a man whom you'd met once before. But it was daring of
me; I'm only your brother, and not in the crew at that."

Her eyes glittered more vividly, the breath came quicker still. Then
it all blew away like sea-froth, and she shook with charming
laughter.

"You talk like a Jesuit," she said. "Do you really feel those things
as keenly as that?"

"Me?" He laughed with her and went for his pipe. "I don't feel them
at all. What's there to feel about in them? I only want to show you
that I'm not totally ignorant of what your set is like, the set you
want me to become a lion-of-the-evening in. Lion-of-the-evening,
beautiful lion, eh? Have a cigarette?"

"Thanks. Then why are you so hard on us?"

"Hard! I'm not hard." He lit a match for her, watched by the light
of it her lineless face, deftly made up with its powder and its dust
of rouge, the eyebrows cunningly pencilled, the lashes touched with
black. None of it was obvious. It was only by the match's glare, held
close to her face, that he could see the art that, in any less vivid
an illumination, concealed the art. He smiled at it all, and her eyes,
lifting, as the cigarette glowed, found the smile and sensitively
questioned it.

"Why the smile?" she said, quickly.

"Why? Oh, I don't know. A comparison. I suppose you people really
are artists. Mind you, I don't mean you. I'm not talking about you.
If it were you--well, I shouldn't talk about it."

For the first moment in all their conversation of that evening, she
looked ill-at-ease. A cloud passed over the sun of her self-assurance.
It seemed, on the instant, to turn her eyes from blue to grey.

"What do you mean by--a comparison?" she inquired, "and saying we're
artists? Artists at what? I believe you like to talk in riddles.
That's another thing too that 'ud be in your favour. People 'ud think
you so awfully clever. But what do you mean by comparison?"

He blew through his pipe, set it burning comfortably--took his
favourite seat on the table with his legs swinging like a
schoolboy's.

"A comparison--I mean a comparison between the women of your set,
and the women who toil at the same job in the streets of London."

"Yes, but you said that when you looked at me, when you smiled while
I was lighting the cigarette." The words hurried out of her lips,
dropping metallically with a hard sound on his ears.

"I know, but I told you I didn't refer to you. Good God!" He gripped
the table. "Do you think I could think about you like that? Look here,
it's no good having this nonsense; I won't say another word if you
think I am."

"Very well; all right. But tell me, at any rate, why you said it when
you looked at me."

"Because you're made-up--made-up to perfection. I should never have
seen it if I hadn't held the match up to your face. And there's the
difference--there's the comparison. The women in your set are
artists. There's all the difference in a Sargent and a man with half
a dozen coloured chalks on the pavement, between them and the women
you'll find in Piccadilly at night. But they're both workers in the
same dignified profession. When you think of the way those poor
wretches shove on their rouge--a little silk bag turned inside out
with eider-down on it and rouge powder on that, then the whole thing
jammed on to the face before a mirror in one of Swan & Edgar's shop
windows; any night you can see 'em doing it--and then look at a
society woman done up, with a maid in attendance and a mirror lighted
up, as if it were an actor's dressing-table--my heavens, you're
liable to make a comparison then."

Dolly shuddered at the picture. "I think you've got a loathsome mind,
Jack," she said with conviction.

"Of course you do, and you're quite right. It is a loathsome idea
to think that a man of the type of Sargent is of the same noble
profession as the pavement artist. You can only disinfect its
loathsomeness in a degree by assuring people that they don't work
in the same street. But it always is loathsome in this country to
see facts as they really are, and when you know of society women who
send nude portraits of themselves--"

"Jack!"

"--Up to wealthy men whom they have not had the pleasure of meeting,
it's naturally a beastly conception of life to compare them with
those unfortunate women whose existence of course we all know about,
but would much rather not discuss. I really quite agree with you,
I have a loathsome mind."

Dolly rose with perfect dignity to her feet. "Do you think you ought
to talk about things like that to me, Jack?"

"I don't know. I suppose it is questionable whether one ought to treat
one's sister as a simple innocent, or talk to her, as undoubtedly
you do talk in society to other men's wives and other men's daughters.
I think myself that it doesn't really matter. You're not thinking
of the impropriety of it. That doesn't worry you in the least. Many
a man has talked to you sympathetically on similar subjects before.
You've listened to them. The fault in me is the gentle vein of irony.
Irony's an insidious thing when you grind it out of the truth. Sit
down, Dolly; I won't talk about it any more. I'll pour the sweetest
nothings you ever heard into your ears. Come on--sit down. It's not
much after nine. I only wanted to show you why I don't appreciate
society. I wouldn't mind it, if it admitted its vices and called them
by their names; I think I'd permit myself to be dragged into it by
a woman who was clean right through; but as it is, and as it describes
itself, I prefer the pavement artist with his little sack of coloured
chalks. There's not much reality, I admit, in his portrait of Lord
Roberts or his beautiful pink and blue mackerel with its high light,
that never shone on land or sea, except on the scales of that fish;
there's not much reality in them, when they're finished, but there's
a hell of a lot of it in the doing of them."

He sat and puffed at his pipe, while she remained standing, looking
down into the fire.

The silence was long, then it was broken abruptly. A knock rattled
gently on the door. It was soft, timid, but it rushed violently
through their silence. Traill slid to his feet. His sister stood
erect. Her eyes fastened to his face, and she watched him calculating
the possibilities, as if he were counting them on his fingers, of
whom it might be.

Then it came again.

"Who do you think it is?" she whispered. She was beginning already
to shrink at the thought that some woman had come to see him. He heard
that in her voice and casually smiled.

"It's all right," he said quietly. "I shan't let any one in who'd
offend your sense of propriety. However I talk, we're related. Stay
there."

She watched him cross to the door; turned, so that she could still
observe him and yet with one twist of the head, if any one entered,
seem to have been untouched by any curiosity.

He opened the door. It cut off his face from view; but she heard his
sudden exclamation of surprise, and allowed a thousand speculations
to travel through her brain.

"You!" he said.

"Yes," a woman's voice replied in a nervous undertone. "I came to
see you, to see if you were in. I--I wanted to see you." The words
were stilted with nervous repetitions.

"Of course, of course; come in; let me introduce you to my sister.
Oh--you must--come in--please; we've been dining together and came
on here--for coffee--"

He threw the door wide open, and Sally walked apprehensively into
the room.



CHAPTER XXI


Superficially, training is everything. The heaven-born genius comes
once in a century of decades to remind us, as it were, that there
is such a thing as creation; but beyond the heaven-born genius,
training, on a day of superficialities, must win.

This moment, when Sally stood but a few paces within Traill's room,
and looked--half-appealing, half-guardedly--at Mrs. Durlacher, the
perfect woman of society--perfectly robed, perfectly mannered,
perfectly painted, was a moment as superficial as one, so charged
with possibilities, could be. And through that moment, over it,
almost as if it were an occurrence of her daily life, Mrs. Durlacher
rode as a swallow rides on an upland wind--pinions stretched
straightly out--the consummate absence of effort; all the training
of numberless years and numberless birds of the air in its wings.

"Dolly--this is Miss Bishop--my sister, Mrs. Durlacher." Traill
stamped through the ceremony, like a man through a ploughed field.

In the minute fraction of time that followed--so short that no one
in reason could call it a pause--Mrs. Durlacher had moulded a swift
impression of Sally. Two facts--guide-ropes across a swinging
bridge--she held to for support in her sudden calculation. Firstly,
Sally's appearance--the quiet, inexpensive display of a gentle taste.
The blouse, showing through the little short-waisted
coat--home-made--that, seen at a glance. The hat, with its quite
artistic and unobtrusive colours--self-trimmed--the frame-work a
year behind the fashion. The gloves, no holes in them, but well-worn.
The skirt--not badly cut, but obviously a cheap material. The person,
herself--more than probably a milliner's assistant. Secondly, the
fact that she was in her brother's rooms. She knew Jack's dealings
with women--did not even close her eyes to them--admitted them to
be human and natural so long as he refrained from tying himself up
with any one of them and thereby irretrievably separating himself
from her and her set. With these two facts, then, she made her
ultimate deduction of Sally's identity--a milliner's assistant,
with a pardonable freedom of thought in the matter of propriety--and
on that deduction, she acted accordingly. Ah, but it was acting that
was finished and superb!

Her manner was gracious--she was compelled to accept her brother at
his word, that he would let no one in who could offend her sense of
propriety--yet it was graciousness which you saw through a polished
glass, but could not touch. When Sally half-ventured forward with
hand tentatively lifting, she bowed first--made it plain to Sally
that in such a manner introductions were taken--then generously
offered her hand, palpably to ease Sally's confusion.

Dressed as she was, looking as she did, in comparison with Sally,
she held all the weapons. She could play them, wield them, just as
she wished. Well-frocked, looking her best, a woman is a dangerous
animal; but throw her in contact with another of her sex who is but
poorly clad, socially beneath her, and in training her inferior, and
you may behold all the grace, all the symmetry of the cobra as it
unwinds its beautiful, sinuous body before the eyes of its
panic-stricken prey.

The fact that her brother had admitted Sally to the room, made Mrs.
Durlacher realize that he held her in special regard. Notwithstanding
that Miss Bishop called upon him at his own rooms at half-past nine
at night, when all young ladies who valued their reputations would be
either playing incompetent bridge in the suburban home, or going
respectably with relations to a harmless piece at the theatre, she
took the other fact well into consideration--gave it full weight--and
all in that brief moment of a pause, realized that as yet there was
no intimacy between these two.

She did not look upon women as a class--the class he mixed with--as
dangerous to her brother's ultimate salvation; but coming across the
individual in Sally, quiet, unobtrusive--the type that valued its
own possessions, and would certainly expect substantial settlement,
if not marriage itself--she felt called into action and answered the
call, as only such women with her training know how.

When she had shaken hands, she leant back again with one graceful
elbow, bared, upon the mantelpiece--the pose of absolute ease. Sally,
who, except for the students' balls, to which Janet had sometimes
taken her, had not been in the presence of people in evening dress
since she left home, stood, hiding her nervousness, but not hiding
the fact that it was concealed. Traill's heart warmed to her. He knew
his sister through and through--guessed every thought that was
taking shape in her mind. But Sally--even her presence there
alone--was more or less of an enigma and, seeing her almost pathetic
perturbation of manner, he paid all the attentions he roughly knew
to her.

"Here--you must sit down," he said easily. "We're not going to let
you rush away before you've come."

For that plural of the pronoun, Sally thanked him generously in her
heart; for that also, Mrs. Durlacher smiled inwardly and saw visions
of the power by which Jack would eventually win his way.

"Will you have some coffee?" he added, when she had accepted the chair
he proffered. "We've just had some. Good--wasn't it, Dolly?"

"Excellent."

"Will you have some?" he repeated.

"No, thank you--well--yes,--yes, I think I will."

Even to take coffee is action--action that it is an aid to conceal.

"Some milk?"

"No, thank you--black, please."

She trusted that he would not remember that she had taken it with
milk before. She always did take it with milk, but the eyes of that
woman by the mantelpiece were on her, and she knew well enough how
coffee ought to be taken.

All that Traill had told her of his sister, was racing wildly through
her thoughts. She knew she was being criticized, knew that her
position there was being looked upon in the least charitable light
of all. She should never have come into the room. The fact that her
voice had been heard, would have made no difference. But who thinks
of such things when the moment is a goad, pricking mercilessly? Now
she was there, her position could scarcely be worse. She would have
given her life almost, in those first few moments, to sink into
obscurity, no matter what peals of ironical laughter might ring in
her ears as she vanished. But the thing was done now, and for every
little attention he paid her, she thanked Traill with a full heart.

"What on earth have you got in that parcel?" he asked her, as he
crushed down the saucepan of coffee to heat upon the fire.

Her cheeks reddened--flamed. It felt to her as if the eyes of his
sister were lenses concentrating a burning sun upon her face.

"Oh it's nothing," she said, mastering confusion; "only something
that I was taking home."

His eyes questioned her, noting the flaming cheeks while his sister
studied the muscular development and forbidding features of James
Brownrigg--heavy-weight champion in the fifties, whose portrait
hung over the mantelpiece.

"Isn't this the type of man you'd call a bruiser?" she asked, with
a pretty trace of doubtful confidence in her technical knowledge on
the last word.

"That chap--Brownrigg? No. I should call him a gentleman. I'd have
given a good deal to see him fight. He always allowed his man to have
his chance, though there wasn't one in England he couldn't have
knocked out in the first round. He used to keep that glorious left
of his tucked up, as quiet as a pet spaniel under a lady's arm, till
he'd given his man time to show what he was worth. Then he'd shake
his shoulders, grin a bit with that ugly mouth--never with his
eyes--and plant his blow, the kick of a mule, and his man curled up
like a caterpillar on a hot brick. That stroke got to be known as
James Brownrigg's Waiting Left. I've met him. He kept a public house
up in Islington. Died about four years ago, with both fists clenched,
and his left still waiting. It's quite possible he kept it waiting
till he got to the gates of heaven."

Mrs. Durlacher looked up at the portrait again and then
half-shuddered her graceful shoulders.

"I suppose a man can be a gentleman and look like that," she said.
"But some one ought to have told him to grow his hair a little longer.
As it is, it has a fatal suggestion of three years' imprisonment for
assault and battery."

"Or the army," suggested Traill, with a laugh.

She took that well and laughed with him. "Yes, quite so; or the army;
but they don't look so much like convicts as they used to. What do
you think, Miss Bishop? Would you say, to look at him, that James
Brownrigg was a gentleman?"

This, in a period of ten minutes, was the first remark that she had
addressed to Sally. Coming, as it did, after that space of time,
pitched on the casual note, the eyebrows gently lifted, there was
a whip in it that stung across Sally's sensitive cheeks. The words
in themselves, of course, were nothing. Traill, in fact, thought that
this icicle of a sister of his was beginning to thaw, and looked
towards Sally for her answer in encouraging expectancy.

Sally rose to her feet and crossed to the mantelpiece. The spirit
in her prompted her to considered lethargy, as though the remark were
as inconsequent to her as it had been to the maker; but the gentleness
of her nature made it impossible for her to give insult for insult.
Her steps were not slow--they were almost eager--and her lips smiled.
She gave the very impression that she would have died rather than
create--the apparent sense of pleasure in which she felt in being
addressed at all.

For a moment she stood looking into the impassive, brutal face of
James Brownrigg. Her expression was one of studiousness and
consideration; yet the face of James Brownrigg was completely
blurred in her vision. She had to force her eyes to see, and spur
her mind to think. Then she turned, facing Mrs. Durlacher.

"I think if you're going to judge everybody by their outward
appearance," she said, "you certainly might feel inclined to say that
he wasn't a gentleman. But outward appearances always seem to me so
terribly deceptive. I should never let myself be led away by them."

This was a declaration! Even Sally, in her own gentle way, could
declare war. The perfect curve of her upper lip grew thin as she said
it, like a bow that straightens itself after the arrow has sped.
Traill cast a swift glance at her, comprehending that there lay some
meaning behind her words, yet knowing nothing of the duel that was
being fought under his very eyes.

Mrs. Durlacher smiled. She took the thrust as gracefully as she had
given her own.

To the trained hand and to the practised eyes, these things can not
only be done with dexterity, they can be done with ease and with style.
There are many who imagine that the days of romance are over because
gentlemen do no longer saunter through the salons of the rich with
pointed rapiers tapping at their heels. But romance did not go out
with the duel. The duel itself has never gone out. Words,
looks--these are the weapons of romance now. They are sheathed in
their scabbards of velvet politesse, but just as easy of drawing,
just as light to flash out and tingle in the air as ever were the
dainty little Toledo blades of some odd two hundred years ago.

"Jack," said Mrs. Durlacher, "you've introduced me to a diplomatist.
She says what she means without telling you what she says."

Traill thought that it all alluded to the portrait of James
Brownrigg--imagined that Sally agreed with him, yet did not like to
contradict his sister, and he laughed with amusement at the smartness
of her retort. But Sally returned to her seat, conscious that she
had made an enemy. She could think of no reply that had not a lash
of bitterness in it and, clinging to the dignity of silence, rather
than the vigour of attack, she said nothing.

When Traill had handed her her coffee, his sister moved slowly across
the room to the settle where her fur coat, scarf and gloves were
lying.

"You're not going?" he asked, looking up.

"Yes, I must, my dear boy. It's getting on for ten. Harold's got some
people coming in after the theatre, and I believe we've got a supper.
Do you think you could get me a taxi?"

"There's not a stand here. But you can get any amount of hansoms."

"Yes, but I want to get home. You're sure to find heaps of empty ones
in Piccadilly Circus just at this time. Run and see--do. I'll be
putting on my coat."

Traill went--obedient. They heard him taking the stairs two at a time
in the darkness. Then the door slammed.

"One of these days he'll break his neck down those stairs," said Mrs.
Durlacher. "Do you live in Town, Miss Bishop?"

She ran one sentence into the other inconsequently, as if they had
connection.

"Well--not exactly," said Sally. "I live in Kew."

"Oh yes--Kew--it's a very pretty place. There are some delightful
old houses on the Green--the gardens side--I believe they're King's
property, aren't they?"

"I know the ones you mean," said Sally; "they are very nice, but I
don't live there." She added that with a smile--a generous admission
that she made no pretension to what she was not. Upon Mrs. Durlacher
it was wasted, as was all generosity. She had not the quality herself;
understood it as little as she possessed it.

"Oh, I wasn't supposing that," she replied easily. "I was thinking
that that was the only part of Kew I had noticed. I think I've only
been there once or twice at the most. Have you known my brother long?"

Sally's fingers gripped tight about her little parcel. "Oh no, not
so very long."

"He's a quaint, int'resting sort of person. Don't you find him so?"

To Sally, this description sounded ludicrous. The fashionable way
of putting things was utterly unknown to her. To think of Traill as
quaint, in the sense of the word as she understood it, seemed
preposterous. She could not realize that the Society idea of
quaintness is anything which does not passably imitate or become one
of itself.

"Interesting--yes, I certainly think he is. This room alone would
show that, wouldn't it?"

"Oh, well, I don't know so much about that. He'd have this sort of
room anywhere, wherever he lived. It's the fact that he chooses to
live here and slave and work that I think's uncommon--so quaint. But
he'll give it up--he's bound to give it up after a time. You can't
wash out what's in the blood. Do you think you can? He'll drop the
Bohemian one day--it's merely a phase. I'm only just waiting, you
know, to give the dinner on his coming out." She drew on her long
gloves and smiled in her anticipation of the event.

None of the value of this did Sally lose--none of the intent that
lay behind it. She perfectly realized that it was meant to convey
a candid warning to her; that if she had pretensions, she might as
well light their funeral pyre immediately, burn all her hopes and
ambitions, a sacrifice before the altar of renunciation. But
ambitions, she had none. With her nature, she would willingly have
consented to their burning at such a command as this. What hopes she
possessed, certainly, were shattered; but the flame of her passion,
that was only kindled the more. Now that she realized how utterly
he was beyond her reach, how immeasurably he was above her, she made
silent concessions to the crying demands of her heart which she would
not have dreamed of admitting to herself before.

Irretrievably he was gone now. All Janet had said, strong in truth
as it may have seemed at the time, had only been based upon her
extraordinary view of life in general. Some cases, perhaps, it might
have applied to; it did not apply to this. Janet was utterly wrong;
she was not winning him. In this chance meeting with his sister, brief
though it may have been, she knew that she had lost him; arriving
at which conclusion, she probably reached the most dangerous phase
in the whole existence of a woman's temptations.

When Traill returned, he found them both in preparation for departure.
Sally had replaced the little feather boa about her neck and one of
her gloves, which she had taken off when he gave her the coffee, she
was buttoning at the wrist.

"You're not going, are you?" he exclaimed.

"Yes; I must."

"But you haven't told me what you wanted to see me about yet."

"No, I know I haven't; but that must wait. I can easily write to you."

Mrs. Durlacher picked up her skirts, the silk rustling like leaves
in an autumn wind. As she lowered her head in the movement, the
dilation of her nostrils repressed a smile of satisfaction. "You
mustn't let my going force you away," she said graciously.

"Oh, but I must go," said Sally.

Traill shrugged his shoulders. Let her have her way. When women are
doing things for apparently no reason, they are the most obstinate.
But at the door of the room as his sister passed out first, he caught
Sally's elbow in a tense grip and for the instant held her back.

"I shall wait here for you for half an hour," he whispered.



CHAPTER XXII


"Is there anywhere that I can take you, Miss Bishop?" Mrs. Durlacher
offered, as they stood by the side of the shivering taxi. "I'm going
out to Sloane Street."

"Oh no, thank you; it's very good of you. I'm going to catch a train
at Waterloo." She shook hands, then held out her hand quietly to
Traill.

"Good-bye, Mr. Traill."

He took her hand and held it with meaning. "Good-bye."

She turned away and walked down Waterloo Place, her head erect, her
steps firm, but the tears rolling from her eyes, and her breast
lifting with every sob that she stifled in her throat.

Mrs. Durlacher looked after her; then her eyes swept up to her
brother's face.

"Is she going to walk all the way to Waterloo Station?" she asked
incredulously.

"Expect so."

Mrs. Durlacher looked above her in a perfect simulation of amazement.
Then she stepped into the cab.

"Jack," she said, when she was seated.

"What?"

She prefaced her words with a little laugh. "I wouldn't be a little
milliner at your mercy for all I could see."

Traill snorted contemptuously. "She's not a little milliner," he
said, cutting each word clean with irony. "Neither in your sense,
nor in reality. Fortune has cursed her with being a lady and withheld
the necessary increment that would make such things obvious to you.
Good night."

He stood away, and told the chauffeur the address in Sloane Street.
They did not look at each other again, and the little vehicle pulled
away from the kerbstone without the final nod of the head or shaking
of the hand which usually terminated their meetings.

The last sight she had of him, was as he stood looking down Waterloo
Place, his eyes picking out the people one by one, as the miner sifts
the dross from the dust of gold. Then she leant back in the cab and
a low, sententious laugh lazily parted her lips.

For a moment, Traill stood there; but Sally was out of sight. It
crossed his mind to run down into Pall Mall--coatless, hatless, as
he was--in the hope of finding her; but an inner consciousness
convinced him that she would return, and he walked back into the house,
upstairs to his room to wait for her.

When the mind had been made up to a critical sacrifice, it hates to
be thwarted. The more difficult the sacrifice may be, the more the
mind is revolted by the hampering of circumstances. Having brought
herself through a thousand temptings to the determination that she
must not keep the bangle which Traill had given her, Sally felt
incensed with circumstances, incensed with everything, that she had
been hindered in the carrying out of her design. All that Janet had
said about her ultimate going back to him, she had wiped out with
a rough and unrelenting hand during that hour when she had been in
his sister's presence. But the sting of the other remained, while
she firmly believed that her desire to see him once more, herself
in the frail attitude of hope, had vanished--was dead, buried, almost
forgotten.

The working of the mind is so like that of the body, that comparisons
can be drawn at every point. When the body needs nourishment, or
exercise, or rest, and is denied all of these things, it circumvents
its own master and steals its needs with cunning. So is it precisely
with the mind. When the mind craves a certain expression of itself,
needs a certain relief, and is denied its craving, then it, too,
circumvents its own master, and, by the crafty displacement of ideas,
hoodwinking the very power that governs it, it attains its end.

Sally, yearning in her heart for one more sight of Traill, the putting
to the touch of her last hope, and then crushing out the desire into
an apparent oblivion, was trapped, deceived, outwitted by such
subtle suggestions as that she had been thwarted in her determination
of sacrifice.

At the bottom of Waterloo Place, she hesitated. He had said he would
wait half an hour. She would be back almost immediately if she
returned at once. Her steps took her onwards down Pall Mall, but they
were slower and more measured than before. At the Carlton Restaurant,
she stopped again. She wanted to give him back the bangle herself;
to tell him herself how utterly she knew it was at an end. She could
write, certainly; she could send the little box by post. She had said
she would. But a romance, the only romance she had ever had in her
life, to end through the tepid medium of the post--the letter dropped
in through the black and gaping slit--just the one moment's thrill
that now he must get it! Then, nothing; then, emptiness and the end.
She wanted more than that. She would cry, perhaps, break down when
she saw him put it aside where she could never touch it again. But
what were tears? They were better than nothing; better than the
hollowness of such an end as the writing of a letter would bring.

With half-formed decision, she turned up Haymarket instead of
crossing towards Trafalgar Square and so, slowly, by indecisive
steps, she found herself, some ten minutes later, once more knocking
gently upon Traill's door.

The sound from within, as he jumped to his feet, set her heart beating
through the blood, and though she steadied herself, her lips were
trembling as he opened and made way for her to enter.

She walked straight into the room, did not turn until she heard him
close the door; even then, she refused to let her eyes meet his in
a direct gaze. This was not easy for, having once shut the door, he
stood with his back to it, looking intently at her as if, securing
her at last, he would not willingly let her free.

"What made you come?" he asked, slowly--"and, having come--then, why
on earth did you go away? In the last few minutes before you arrived,
I almost began to think that you weren't coming back again."

She tried to hide her nervousness by taking off her gloves, but her
fingers fumbled at the buttons, and in her awkwardness the seam of
one of the fingers slit from top to bottom. She looked at it ruefully;
was about to make use of the incident to lessen the tension of the
moment when he came across to her. Standing in front of her, he looked
down at the broken glove, and her white skin laid bare by the rent
stitching.

"You'll let me get you a new pair," he said under his breath. In that
instant he wanted to give her the world. The proffer of the gloves
tried to express the sensation.

She looked up into his face with a very small smile--half refusal,
half gratitude. When her eyes met his, she realized that her senses
were swimming. She was standing on a giddy height, to throw herself
from which, became an almost imperative inclination. She felt that
she was losing her balance and in another moment would be pitching
forward into his arms. She wanted to tell him to kiss her, and words
of violent strength, which she had never dreamed of before, shouted
suggestions through her--even to her lips. He seemed to be waiting
for her to do all this, but made no move to accelerate it; then she
swung backwards--turned blindly to the table, laying down her gloves
and the little brown-paper parcel.

"You're going to take off your hat now," he said; "this room's too
hot for accessories."

She showed hesitation, was about to refuse, when he made it plain
to her that he would not have it otherwise.

"I've taken it off before, you know," he said with a smile. "I'm by
no means a novice at the art. You can't call me an amateur."

"When--?" she began; "oh, of course, I remember."

She did not consider her refusal now; she obeyed. He took the hat
from her and her feather boa. Then he insisted on the removal of the
little short-waisted coat. She demurred again, and again was
obedient. He laid them all down on the settle, then sat for a moment
and watched her while she poked her fingers into her hair and pulled
it lightly out where the hat had rested.

"Now you look as if you'd come to see me." he said.

"What did I look like before?"

"I don't know. As if you had been and were going away. But what _did_
you come for? What have you got to tell me? I assure you, when I opened
that door and found you standing there--"

"Yes, I'm sure you must have been surprised," she joined in.

"I was--considerably. What do you think of Dolly?"

"Your sister?"

"Yes."

"I know she doesn't like me," she answered evasively.

"What makes you think that? I don't think you're correct. She hasn't
got you right--that's all."

"No, she hasn't got me right. I know she thought I was quite a
different person to what I really am."

"But how do you know that? She didn't tell you so when I'd gone out
to get that taxi, did she? What did she say to you then?"

"Oh no, she didn't tell me what she thought. Under the circumstances,
I'm sure she really treated me very well."

"I don't know about that," said Traill. "You must admit she was a
bit icy at first. That's her social way--the way of the whole set
when they meet strangers. One ought to bring a blast furnace when
one goes calling at their houses, instead of a visiting card. My God,
I've been to them myself, and I'd sooner undertake a job as look-out
on a ship bound for the north pole. They'd freeze the very marrow
in your bones."

Sally smiled--pleased--at his violent antipathy. "Don't you think
you'll ever become one of them, then?" she asked. "I expect you will."

"No, not in fifty lifetimes. Did she say I would?"

"She said she expected it."

"Did she? Well, I wouldn't give a brass farthing for her expectations.
Just like her to say that. I wonder what her game was. I wonder did
she think you could persuade me to it."

He looked up at her; but Sally said nothing. She could have told
him--told him to the letter what he wanted to know--but she said
nothing. Then he asked her again why she had come that evening to
see him.

"Is it anything to do with that parcel?" he asked suspiciously.

Her eyes turned to the little box in its wrapping of brown paper.
She reached out her hand and took it from the table.

"Yes," she replied.

"Oh, the bracelet?"

"Yes."

Her fingers attacked the knots on the string with half-hearted
enthusiasm.

"Doesn't it fit?" he questioned.

"Oh yes; it isn't that."

"Then what is it? You don't like it. Here--" he was growing impatient
of her fingers' futile attempts; "cut the string. You'll never untie
those knots. Here's a knife." He handed her one from his pocket. "You
don't like it, eh?" he repeated.

She looked straightly at him, eyes unmoved by the steady gaze in his.

"Do you really think that?" she asked. "That I'm bringing it back
because I don't like it?"

"I don't know, I'm sure. But if not that, then why?"

There was irritation in his voice; he made little attempt to conceal
it. It was his imagination that he had come to dealings with the type
of feather-brained woman who knows least of all what she wants when
she gets it. It may be seen from this that his knowledge of Sally
was supremely slight. He had a broad judgment for all women, a
pigeon-hole in his mind into which he threw them without
discrimination. When, therefore, he came across the exception in
Sally, he did not recognize her, flung her in with the rest, folded
more carefully perhaps, tied even with a little distinguishing piece
of ribbon. But into that same receptacle in his mind she went,
nevertheless. Yet Traill was not without shrewdness in his wide
judgment of the sex. He could read his sister as you read a book in
which the pages only need cutting, and the glossary sometimes
referred to.

On this evening, certainly, he had failed to see the point towards
which she drove; but in her dealings with another of her sex, a woman
is most inexplicable of all to a man. For this edition de luxe, he
needs reference, dictionary, and magnifying glass, with a steady
finger always to keep his place on the line should his eyes for one
moment lift or wander from the print.

Sally, as yet, he had classified broadly. In the very next moment
he was to learn more of her, to take her down from that
indiscriminating file in his mind, and scrutinize her afresh.

She took the bangle out of its velvet case and clasped it--with pride
even then--upon her wrist.

"You see it fits--perfectly," she said, looking up pathetically.

"Then--Good Lord! why do you bring it back?"

She unclasped it, letting it lie in the palm of her hand,
half-stretched out towards him.

"Because I mustn't accept it--I can't. If, after the last time I was
here, when you said good-bye, you'd said to me you were going to buy
it, I should have told you that I would not take it."

He paid no attention to her outstretched hand. At her eyes he looked.

"Why not? Why particularly after I'd said good-bye?"

"Because you have no right to give it me, and I have less right to
accept it."

He half-laughed. "Isn't that rather childish?"

"I don't think so."

"But do you like it? Isn't it a sort of thing you'd like?"

"A sort of thing? I think it's beautiful. I've never had a present
like it in my life--never had anything that was so valuable."

"And you're going to refuse it?"

"I must."

He still made no offer to take it from her, but looked persistently
at her eyes.

"If I asked you quite straight," he said, "would you tell me quite
straight--why?"

Now it must be the truth or the lie. No silence, no half-measures
could answer here. She knew that he was at the very door of her heart,
when it must either be slammed, bolted, locked in his face with a
lie or flung, with the truth, wide open for him to enter if he chose.

She hesitated, it is true; but it was not the hesitation of indecision.
When, only a few moments before, her senses have been giddily
balancing upon a precipice, saved from the hopeless downfall, only
because the man put out no hand to pull her over, a woman is not likely
to delay in doubt when at last he offers his hands, his eyes and his
voice to drag her into the ultimate abyss of ecstasy.

Sally delayed, only with the natural instinct of reserve. Eventually,
she knew she must tell him; if not in words, then by actions,
looks--even by silence itself.

"I never thought you meant that bet," she began in timid
procrastination.

"No--probably you didn't--but I did. And that's not the reason why
you're returning it now. Supposing we sponge out the debt and I tell
you to look upon it as a gift--would you keep it then?"

"No."

"Well--it's the wherefore of that I want to know. Why wouldn't you?"

"Because you have no right, no cause, to make me presents. You
practically told me so yourself--you said good-bye."

"But don't you take all you can get?" he asked, almost with brutality.
So the passion was stirring in him. All that came to his lips found
utterance.

At any time, she would have resented that. Now she knew instinctively
what the brutality in it expressed.

"No," she replied under her breath--"you might know I don't."

"And so you're returning this because I said good-bye--you're
returning this because I said I was not the type of man who hugs the
idea of matrimony. How could you take a gift from such a man--eh?
I suppose to you it savours almost of an insult. Yet, have you any
conception what your returning it seems to me?"

She shook her head.

"It hurts. Do you think you'd feel inclined to believe that? You'd
scarcely think I was capable of a wound to sentiment, would you? I
am in this case. I gave you that, because I couldn't give you other
things. That bangle was a sort of consolation to my thwarted wish
to give. I'm quite aware that a woman gives most in a bargain; but
a man likes to do a little bit of it as well. Half the jewellers'
shops in London 'ud have to close if he didn't. Some of 'em 'ud keep
open I know for the women who are bought and prefer the bargain to
be settled in kind rather than in cash. And jewellery pretty nearly
always realizes its own value. But this was a gift--a substitute for
other things that I would rather have given you."

He paused and looked steadily at her, her head drooping, her fingers
idly, nervously bending the woven gold.

"Have you any idea what those other things were?" he asked suddenly.

"No," she said--but she did not offer her eyes to convince him of
her reply.

"They were the alteration of all your circumstances. The smashing
of the chains that gave you to that damned treadmill of a
typewriter--the unlocking of the door that keeps you mewed-up in that
little lodging-house in Kew--rubbing shoulders with bank-clerks,
being compelled to listen to their proposals of suburban marriage,
with the prospect of feeding your husband as the stable-boy feeds
the horse when it comes back to the manger. Those were the things
I wanted to free you from, and in their place, give you everything
you could ask, so far as my limited income permits. I only wanted
to give you the things you ought to have--the things you should have
by right--the things you were born to. Your father was a clergyman--a
rector. Why, down at Apsley, the rector comes and dines--for the sake
of God--and respectability--and brings his daughters, dressed in
their Sunday best--with low-necked frocks that make no pretence to
be puritanical. And you slave, day after day, because your father,
through no fault of yours, happened to come down in the world, while
they sit in a comfortable rectory accepting the invitations of the
county. I wanted to give you things that 'ud make your life
brighter--_wanted_ to give them--would have found intense pleasure
in seeing you take them from me."

Sally rose with a choking of breath to her feet. She could bear the
strain no longer. It was like an incessant hammer beating upon her
strength, shattering her resolve, until only the desire and the sense
were left. She crossed with unsteady steps to the mantelpiece. He
rose as well, and followed her.

"Oh--don't!" she moaned. But he took no notice. The impetus he had
gained, carried him on. She could not stop him now.

"They were not much, certainly," he went on; "not much compared with
what I wanted in return. What I wanted in return, was what no
gentleman has the right to expect from any woman who is straight
unless she willingly offers it--and you had called me a gentleman.
Do you remember that? I don't suppose you really knew when you said
it, how much you were saving yourself from me. I wouldn't suggest
that credit were due to me for a moment--it isn't. It was just the
same as telling a man to do a brave act, when only the doing of it
could save his life. I did it because I had to. To be a gentleman
is often one chance in a lifetime, and the man who doesn't take it
is not fit for hanging. Birth has nothing to do with it. You offered
me my chance--I took it--that's all. But now you want to deprive me
of my one consolation. You want to refuse that bangle. I refuse to
take it back."

Sally turned and faced him. Her lips were set--her eyes had strange
lights in them. She looked--as she felt--upon the scaffold of
indecision, with the noose of fate about her neck.

"Oh, it is so hard! Why is it so hard?" she whispered.

"Why is what so hard?"

"This--all this."

He laughed ironically. Either he would not see, or he could not see.
Men may not be so dense as they appear. Sometimes it is a subconscious
cunning that aids them in forcing half the initiative into the hands
of the woman.

"Surely, it can't be so difficult a job to just snap the catch of
that bracelet on your wrist, and forget all about whether I ought
to have given it you or not."

"Oh, I don't mean that," she exclaimed, "you must know I don't mean
that."

"Then what?" His whole manner changed. Now she had told him
definitely. Now he knew without a shadow of doubt. She cared. It was
even swaying in her mind whether she could bear to lose him,
notwithstanding all he had said. It did not seem to him that he had
worked her up to it. In that moment, he exonerated himself of all
blame. He had danced gentleman to the clapping of her hands and the
stamping of her foot; and if it came to this, that she cared for him
more than convention, more than any principle, then it was not in
his nature to force a part upon himself and play it, night after night,
to an empty gallery. His hands caught her shoulders, the fingers
gripping with passion to her flesh. "Then what?" he repeated. "Do
you mean you care for me? Do you mean that it's so hard to go--hard
to say good-bye because of that? Is that what you mean?"

She could not answer yet. Even then the rope was not drawn and she
could still faintly feel the scaffold boards beneath her feet.

"If I've made a rotten mistake," he went on, content on the moment
in her silence to misdoubt his own judgment. "If I've gone and jumped
to this conclusion out of sheer conceit--misreading all I see in your
eyes--translating all wrongly what I hear in your silence--you'll
have to forgive me. I'm not trying to rush you into any expression
of what you feel." He conscientiously thought he was not. "In fact,
to tell you the honest truth, to me it seems that you--bringing back
this bangle--holding from me your reason in doing so; you, stumbling
over everything you say, and looking at me as you have done in the
last few moments--that it's you who have dragged these things out
of me. All my attitude has been in trying to avoid them, because of
what I thought you expected me to be. And now I think differently.
Am I right? Am I?" He turned her face to meet his eyes. "Am I?"

She raised her eyes once--let his take them--hold them--keep them.
Then the boards of the scaffold slipped away from under her feet--one
instant the sensation of dropping--dropping; then oblivion--the
noose of Fate drawn tight--the account reckoned. She swayed into his
arms and he held her--kissing her hair, kissing her shoulders, her
cheeks, her eyes--then, gently putting his hand beneath her chin,
he lifted her face upwards, and crushed her lips against her teeth
with kisses.


END OF BOOK I



BOOK II

THE DESERTER



CHAPTER I


Apsley Manor was one of those residences to be found scattered over
the country, which are vaguely described as Tudor--memorials to the
cultured taste in England, before the restoration with its sponge
of Puritanical Piety wiped out the last traces of that refinement
which Normandy had lent. Britain was destined to be great in commerce,
and not even the inoculation of half the blood of France could ever
make her people great in art as well.

It would be difficult to say the exact date when Apsley Manor was
built. Certain it was that Elizabeth, in one of her progresses--the
resort of a clever woman to fill a needy purse--had stayed there on
her way to Oxford. The room, the bed even in which she was supposed
to have slept, still remain there. Each owner, as he parted with the
property, exacted a heavy premium upon that doubtful relic of history.
None of them wished to remove it from the room where it had so many
romantic associations; but they one and all had used it as a lever
to raise the price of the property--if only a hundred pounds--beyond
that which they had, in the first case, paid for it themselves. Once,
in fact, the hangings had been taken down and the bed itself lifted
from the ground before the very eyes of the intended purchaser; but
that had been too much for him. He had given in. There is England's
greatness! Can it be wondered--much as we pose to despise them--that
we are the only nation in Europe which has given shelter to the tribes
of Israel?

In spring-time, the Manor looked wonderful--the lawns cut for the
first time since the winter, the hedges of blackthorn splashed thick
with snow-blossom, and daffodils, as if sackfuls of new-minted gold
were emptied underneath the trees and elves had scattered pieces here
and there from out the mass. Birds were building in all the thickets,
and the young leaves--virgin green--shyly hid their love-making.
Everything alive was possessed with a new-found energy. The
sparrows--most ostentatious of any bird there is--flew about,
trailing long threads of hay, with an air as if they carried the
Golden Fleece in their beaks each time they returned to the apple
trees. But other creatures were as busy as they. Strange little brown
birds--whitethroats and linnets perhaps, if the eye could only have
followed them--flew in and out of the blackthorn hedges all day long.
Thrushes and blackbirds hopped pompously about the lawns, and the
starlings chattered like old women on the roofs of the red gables.

The house itself was modelled as are nearly all such residences of
the Tudor period, the gables at either end making, with the hall,
the formation of the letter E so characteristic of the architecture
of that time. Only two additions had been made, oriel windows to
enlarge the rooms at each end of the gables; but they had been
executed, some seventy years before Sir William Hewitt Traill's
occupation of the place, by a man who had respect for the days of
King Harry and they had long since toned into the atmosphere. A great
tree of wisteria lifted itself above one of the windows, and on the
other a clematis clung with its wiry, brittle shoots.

The huge cedars, holding out their black-green fans of foliage like
Eastern canopies--the high yew-trees, to whom only age could bring
such lofty dimensions, all surrounded the old, red building and
wrapped it in a velvet cloak of warm security. Tulips in long
beds--brilliant mosaics in a floor of green marble--were let into
the lawn that stretched down the drive. Away on the horizon, the
rising ground about Wycombe showed blue through the soft spring
atmosphere, and in the middle distance, the ploughed fields--freshly
turned--glowed with the rich, red blood of the earth's fulness. So
it presented itself to the eyes of Mrs. Durlacher, when, one morning
late in April, she drove up in her motor to the old iron-barred
oak-door which opened into the panelled hall of her country
residence.

She was alone. Her maid and another servant had come down by rail
to High Wycombe and were being driven over in one of the house
conveyances from the station, a distance of five miles. The chauffeur
descended from the seat, opened the door of the car, and when she
had passed into the house, beckoned a gardener who was at work on
one of the tulip beds, to help him in with some of the luggage which
Mrs. Durlacher had brought with her.

"She's coming to stay, then?" said the gardener.

"S'pose so," replied the chauffeur. "I'd understood yesterday as she
was going to the openin' of a bazaar this afternoon--openin' by
royalty; but I got my orders this morning to fill up the tank and
come along at once, 'cos she was going out into the country. 'Ow's
that ferret of mine going on?"

"First class," said the gardener.

"Well then, as soon as I get the car cleaned this afternoon, I'm going
to have some rattin'. Here--put 'em in the 'all--here."

The gardener struggled obediently. The chauffeur did most of the
looking on and practically all the talking.

From the mouths of babes and sucklings and from the lips of hired
servants one gets wisdom in the one case and information in the other.
All that the chauffeur had stated was quite true. Some five days
before--and we have now three years behind us since that night when
Sally Bishop tottered into Traill's arms--Mrs. Durlacher had
received a letter from her brother, of whom she had seen nothing for
almost six months, saying that he thought of going down to Apsley
for the day. "But I make sure first," his letter concluded, "that
the field is cleared. Down there, as you know, I prefer to be the
only starter."

She had written in reply that she had only been down to Apsley once
that year herself and, furthermore, on the day he mentioned, the
place would be as deserted of human beings as London is in the heart
of July--meaning thereby that any place is a wilderness which is
empty of one's self and one's associates. That she had written by
return of post; then, two days later, her mind had caught an
impression--a wandering insect that the flimsy web of a spider
clutches by chance. He had gone down to Apsley before this, many a
time. She knew that he had a lingering fondness for the place which
no amount of gluttony of Bohemianism could ever wipe out. But he had
never taken these precautions before. He had chanced his luck; if
he had found people there, then he had forced a retreat as soon as
possible. But now he was going out of his way--writing a letter, an
action foreign to the whole of his nature--to ensure that he should
be alone.

The circumstance--for circumstance there must be, just as there is
the puff of wind that drifts the wandering insect to the spider's
web--that brought the impression to her mind, was the brief report
of a cross-examination in the divorce courts, conducted by J.H.
Traill. She knew that in the last two years he had, in a desultory
way, been gleaning briefs from the great field where others reaped.
That had stood for little in her mind; for though she had always
realized that in temperament and intellect he would make an excellent
barrister, she had never believed that he would throw aside the
Bohemian side of his nature sufficiently to gain ambition. Now, in
this stray report, she beheld between the lines the successful man.
His cross-examination had won the case, for his side. Its ability
was undoubted, even to her untutored mind, and from this, in that
indirect method--taking no heed of the straight line--by which women
come leaping to their admirable conclusions, she received the
impression that when Traill came down to Apsley, he would not come
alone.

It is scarcely possible to see how this is arrived at; yet, to the
mind of a woman, it is simple enough. Her brother had, after all these
years, breasted his way out of the slow-moving tide of mental
indifference, into the rapid current of ambition. When a man does
that, her intuition prompted her to know that it is more than likely
that he brings a woman with him. It is always possible for a woman
to recognize--apart from her own identity--that her sex is an
encumbrance to most men which they cannot easily shake off. Witness
the generous criticism of a woman upon any husband but her own.
Combine with this intuitive knowledge the fact--hitherto unrecorded,
even by Traill to Sally--that when he handed over Apsley Manor to
his sister and took her ready money in exchange, Traill had made her
sign a document granting him the right to repurchase possession with
the same amount at any time that it might please him, and you have
the apprehension of the woman who knows that possession constitutes
but few points of the law when there is ink and parchment to nullify
the whole transaction.

Jack, with a woman at his heels; a woman, moreover, whom he had
probably brought with him out of that dark abyss of the past; might
quite easily be a crushing blow to all her social power. Five thousand
pounds perhaps would be a difficult sum for him to raise--certainly
to raise immediately--but she had the proof before her that he was
striding into eminence and, as has been mentioned before in this
chapter, England is the only country in Europe which is a safe harbour
for the Jews.

So then she leapt to the conclusion. He was bringing a woman with
him to see the place. She pictured the creature vividly in her mind--a
woman with a large hat, red lips, a woman with a bold figure who knew
how to dress it brazenly, with eyes that danced to the whip of his
remarks; a woman who as mistress of Apsley, would make it impossible
for her ever to go near the place again. There was only one way to
meet the situation--a situation it had definitely become in the
sudden workings of her mind--and that was face to face, at Apsley,
in possession, with the servants at her command and the most gracious
of speeches on her lips. Tramping through the house alone, that woman
would be assigning rooms to their different owners, as if she were
already in possession; but with Mrs. Durlacher, the perfect artist,
as Jack had called her--she laughed unfeelingly when that phrase came
back to her mind--with herself at the woman's heels, telling her what
they did with this room and how in the hunting season they used that,
there would be little scope for exhibition of the proprietary
sentiment and, whoever the person might be, Mrs. Durlacher
guaranteed she should not shine on that occasion before her brother.

For that day, then, she had cancelled all her engagements. The
opening of the bazaar, a function at which she had felt it her duty
to be present, she crossed out of her book. From the dinner, to which
she and her husband had been asked on the evening previous to Traill's
visit to Apsley, she wrote and excused herself, saying she had been
called out of Town; and on the next morning she had ordered the car
to be round at the house in Sloane Street punctually at a quarter
to ten.

"Can't see why you have to give up the dinner and drive me out of
it as well because you have to go down to Apsley to-morrow," her
husband had said when she had written to her hostess excusing their
presence at dinner.

"The reason's obvious," she replied equably. "I haven't had a good
night's rest for a week--I can't sleep after eight o'clock in the
morning like you do, and I've got a woman to deal with to-morrow.
You don't want to lose the shooting and the hunting down at Apsley,
do you?"

"No--rather not--of course I don't."

"Then let me get a good night's rest."

One admires the woman who sees her plan of action and takes it like
a sword in the hand. Certainly, there was a possibility that she might
be wrong. There well might be no woman. But in her mind, she was
confident, and this was the only method of defence. She did not
hesitate to accept it, difficult though it were. The woman might be
any one--a creature whose touch would be contamination. She placed
no trust in her brother where women were concerned. He would not
actually disgrace her; she could be certain of that. A calculation
on the presence of Mrs. Butterick, the housekeeper, who was always
left in charge of the Manor, would be bound to act as a certain
restraint. But what he expected to present a quotient of
respectability to Mrs. Butterick and the gardener if he happened to
be about the grounds, might well represent sordid vulgarity to her.
He had certainly taken every precaution to be alone. Yet having drawn
all these facts into consideration, she was undaunted. The whole way
down to Apsley, sitting comfortably in the corner of the car, her
eyes unseeingly fixed upon the back of the chauffeur's neck, she
rehearsed one scene after another with a precision of imagination
that was worthy of a greater cause. Yet what cause could be greater
to her? With the loss of Apsley, she fell irremediably in social power.
Five thousand pounds would purchase another residence in the country.
But what sort of a residence? She shuddered and, in a moment of
relaxation, became aware that the chauffeur was in need of a clean
collar.

The moment she arrived, she sent for Mrs. Butterick and went upstairs
to her bedroom. The good, fat, little woman--her face a full harvest
moon, to which the features adhered with regularity but no
expression--soon followed her. She stood at the door of the long,
lofty room with its three big, latticed windows and beamed upon her
mistress. She loved the quality--the quality, she always called them.
When the season of week-ends came round each year, she was the
proudest of women in the country-side. At that very moment, she was
wearing a silk petticoat, worth its weight in gold, five guineas at
the utmost for it seemed like froth in the hand--which a French lady's
maid had given her in exchange for silence over a little incident
that scarcely calls for mention. The first return of her mistress
to Apsley, then, was a sign of the nearing season--the lonely swallow
that is seen scudding through the first break in the year by some
enthusiastic ornithologist and recorded in the next morning's
edition of the _Times_. She kept a diary, in fact, did Mrs. Butterick,
and in about the middle of April of every year, might be noticed the
comment, "Madame arrived--first time this year--" and then, more
than probably the addition, "House-party on the ----" and thereafter
the date, whatever it may have been.

Now, on this occasion, as she always did, she beamed in silence and
waited.

"Good morning, Mrs. Butterick. You got my letter?"

"Yes, madam."

"These sheets are aired?"

"Dry as a bone, madam. I felt 'em myself."

"I shall only be staying the night," Mrs. Durlacher continued; "I
go back to Town to-morrow morning."

Mrs. Butterick made no reply, If her features could have fallen into
an expression of disappointment, they would willingly have done so;
but nature had taken no trouble with them. They were an afterthought.
It seemed as if they had been placed there at the last moment of birth,
with no inner mechanism to answer to sensation. She just said
nothing.

"To-morrow morning," Mrs. Durlacher repeated.

"Yes, madam."

"And now you can take the chintz covers off everything in this room
and the drawing-room as well. There's rather a snap in the air; I
think perhaps you might have the fire lighted in the dining-room.
And tell one of the gardeners to pick me plenty of daffodils--not
common ones--not those ordinary double ones, but the best he's got.
White petals with the yellow trumpets--you know the ones I mean. Also
some narcissi and a few tulips--pink ones for the drawing-room. They
must all be on the dining-room table when I come downstairs. I'll
arrange them myself. And get my trunks sent up to me at once--I want
to change my dress. Taylor and Mason are coming down by train; they'll
be here any minute now. The trap went for them--didn't it?"

"Yes, madam--at half-past ten."

"Well, then, that's all, Mrs. Butterick. What time is it?"

The housekeeper extracted a silver watch with its flowery,
ornamental dial from the recesses of an ample bosom. She drew it out
by the chain and, once free, it swung violently to and fro till she
caught it.

"A quarter past eleven, madam."

"Very well, there's not too much time. I expect my brother and
probably a lady down here to-day. Oh yes, and by the way--when they
come--well--I'll tell that to Taylor. You go and see about the
flowers and the chintz covers at once--and my trunks--immediately.
You'd better come up yourself and unpack for me until Mason arrives."

When once she heard the crunching wheels of the trap upon the drive,
she rang her bell. Mason entered almost immediately.

"Tell Taylor I want her here at once," said Mrs. Durlacher, "and come
and help me dress before you change your things."

The moment she had closed the door, her mistress called her back.

"And send Mrs. Butterick as well."

"Yes, madam."

Mason went downstairs with the report that something was in the air.
She had a feeling, she said.

The interview with Taylor was shorter--more to the point.

"I'm expecting my brother--Mr. Traill, and probably a lady," she said.
She laid no stress on the last word, much as the temptation assailed
her. "It's quite likely they may be down to lunch. When they come,
there is no need to say that I am here, unless, of course, Mr. Traill
asks you. You'd better go and change your dress at once."

Then she turned to Mrs. Butterick.

"You've taken off the chintz covers?" she said.

"Yes, madam."

"Ordered the flowers?"

"Yes, madam."

"Well, now, what have you got in for lunch?"

"There's some lamb, madam."

"Well--that's no good--I'd better tell you what I want. A heavy lunch
like that is impossible. I want all dainty little dishes--something
out of the common, I leave it entirely to you. Four courses will be
enough. And Sauterne and Burgundy. Tell Taylor we'll have coffee in
the dining-room. Now my hair, Mason."

So she marshalled forces, occupied positions and concentrated
artillery in preparation for the siege. The generalship of a woman
is never so keen, so instinct with strategy, as when she gives battle
against another of her sex. Her campaign against men, when once she
takes up arms, is mimic warfare--a sham fight--compared to this.
Against a man, she needs but a company of fascinations, and in one
attack his squares--the stern veterans of determination--are driven
to flight. But with a woman, whole regiments of cunning, whole
battalions of craft, with all the well-trained scouts of intuition
and all the dashing cavalries of charm, are needed to rout her
absolutely from the field.

Within an hour Mrs. Durlacher descended to the dining-room. The gown
she wore would not have pleased a man to infatuation; but a woman
would have realized its beauty, known its value. With deft fingers,
she arranged the flowers. In a chair by the fire, hiding herself from
view to any one outside the window, she sat and watched the table
being laid, giving orders how the vases were to be placed on the old
oak table.

"Lay two places--that's all," she said.

Taylor looked up. "I thought you said there would be a lady with Mr.
Traill, madam."

"I said--probably. You can lay another place if she comes." A vision
crossed her mind of making so small a point as that, a moment of
embarrassment for her unwelcome guest.

Then a sound reached her ears. Her eyes were arrested, fixed
unseeingly to a point before her as she listened.

"Is that a motor, Taylor?"

Taylor looked out of the window. "It's a taxi-cab, madam."

"Can you see who's inside?"

"I suppose it's Mr. Traill, madam. Yes--it is."

"Any one with him?"

"Yes, madam--a lady."



CHAPTER II


Circumstances will almost make a character in a day; in three years,
a character can be moulded, bent, twisted or straightened, in the
furnace of events; just as the potter, idling with the passive clay,
will shape it, heedlessly almost, as the fancy nerves his fingers.
But before he is aware, the time slips by, the clay gets set and there,
in front of his eyes, is the figure as his fancy made it--brittle,
easily broken into dust, but impossible of being moulded afresh until
it shall again go back into the water of oblivion and become the
shapeless mass that once it was.

So, in the three years that had passed since she had yielded body
and soul into the keeping of Jack Traill, had Sally's character
become set in the moulding of his influence. Happiness she had--that
to the full. He cared for her the more when once he had her gentle
nature under his touch; showed her all those little attentions of
which such a mind as his is capable of conceiving--teased her, petted
her, laughed like a schoolboy at her feminine whims and fancies.

For the first month of their relationship, they went abroad. He gave
her money, more money than she had ever had in absolute possession
before, wherewith to fit herself for the journey. She tried to refuse
half of it--told him the sum was preposterous, that less than half
of what he was giving would provide her with the most expensive of
frocks for the rest of her life.

"Sixty pounds?" he said. "My sister spends that in half an hour at
a dressmaker's in Dover Street."

"Ah, yes, but that's your sister," she had objected pathetically.

"And you?"

"But thirty pounds will really be more than enough."

It lay deep in her mind, never offering to rise to the surface, to
remind him that she was not his wife. But he would not give way. He
had said sixty pounds--sixty pounds it had to be. So he mastered her,
without effort, at every turn.

She went then with Janet to the shops--she, and her sixty pounds,
gripped tight in brittle ten-pound notes in her purse. At that time
she was still staying on at Kew, still attending her office in King
Street; but at both places she had given notice to leave, and in a
week's time would be free.

Her first intimation to Janet of all that had occurred and all that
was to follow, was made, as usual, one night, when the darkness hid
her face, and she could only tell by the sound of Janet's breathing
what effect her story might have.

When she had finished, Janet made use of that remark--justified in
her case--which every prophet, false or true, utters at one time or
another--

"Didn't I tell you so?"

But then she went on, and they had talked far into the night; and
at every moment, when doubt or regret seized and shook Sally with
a quivering remorse, Janet laughed at her fears.

"You've got the best bargain in the world," she exclaimed. "You want
a man's love--you've got it--haven't you? And yet you're free--as
free as air. If you should tire--"

Sally laughed bitterly.

"Very well, then, if he should tire, you're your own mistress. All
this caging of wild birds seems to me to be futile. Morals? Oh, morals
be hanged! Are you going to call yourself immoral because the man
has no great respect for matrimony?"

"Yes; but I have."

"You have! That's only because you were dragged up in a rectory, just
outside the church door. I can't understand you. You've shaken off
your belief in lots of things--you don't believe in the actual
divinity of Christ--yet you cling to an antiquated sacrament that
dates back long before the time of a man whose statement that he was
the actual Son of God you're prepared to doubt. It's only because
you labour under the misapprehension--as nearly everybody
does--that marriage is a convenience to a woman. It's the
inconvenience of the thing that makes the morality or the immorality
in your mind. You're only a conventionalist like everybody
else-you're not a moralist."

Yet, notwithstanding all these arguments of Janet's, there were dark
moments during that week before she left Kew, when all the force of
dogma, all the waves of conventionality, beat against her breast;
but it was her faith in love that held her to the end; just as his
faith in the dogma itself, had held the Rev. Samuel Bishop to the
teachings of his Church. Love, she made the high altar of her worship;
to that, unconsciously, she offered all prayers, made all sacrifice.
These dark moments hung heavy in her heart so long as they were
present; but one meeting with Traill was sufficient to drive them
in a body from her mind--gloomy phantoms of imagination which, in
the night, have vivid reality, and with the first welcome break of
morning are stricken out of sight.

When forty-five of the sixty pounds had been spent and she had bought
every conceivable thing that she required, purchasing from habit
where things were cheapest, she had brought the remainder back to
Traill.

He held her face, crumpling it, in his hands.

"What on earth sort of a child are you?" he asked.

"How do you mean?"

"Why--I give you a certain amount of money to spend on clothes and
you bring me back fifteen pounds like the little girl coming back
with change from the grocer's."

"But I've got everything I want," she replied, laughing.

"Have you got an opera cloak?"

"No, I don't want that."

"Have you got an umbrella?"

She laughed again--head thrown back, like a child at its father's
knee.

"No, I have one of my own already."

"Did you get a--get a--oh, I don't know--did you get boots for
tramping through the country with--boots for show, boots for wear,
boots for comfort? How many pair of boots _did_ you get?"

"Two."

"Well--go and get some more and an opera cloak--to-morrow evening,
we're going to sit in the Comedie Francais and not understand a word
that's said."

Then they had gone abroad, and life--wonderful--had passed from day
to day like a pageant before Sally's eyes. The dark moments came with
less frequency. After a time, they passed away altogether. She saw
no end to it; she saw no sin in it. What sin could there be? Janet's
arguments had penetrated more deeply into her mind than she had ever
imagined. When, on rare occasions, she was alone in the hotel where
they happened to be staying--and it was then that doubt, while there
was any, oppressed her--she hugged Janet's sayings to her mind,
forced them to support her. "You're only a conventionalist, like
everybody else--you're not a moralist."

Now she was a moralist, or nothing. She had cut the last link with
convention and, at a moment such as that, the realization that there
was no returning, no getting back, obsessed her with a shuddering
fear. She did not understand that she was conventionalist still at
heart; she did not divine that she was not the great woman, loving
greatly--only the lesser woman, loving, it is true, with all the
utmost of her personality, but loving less.

There is no conventionality in greatness. Great natures make laws
for lesser natures to obey; and, far though she had gone from the
broad path where the little people huddle on their way, the blood
of the little people was in her veins and conventionality still held
its claim upon her. She liked to think that she was married. It was
beyond the strength of her mind to look upon herself as the mistress
of the man she loved.

"It cannot end--it can never end," she told herself. "He loves me
too much and I love him better still. It's as good--quite as good,
as being married. The Church makes no difference." She thought of
her father, remembering how, through the very precepts of that very
Church, he had found retribution. So people, who married with the
Church's sanction, found retribution too. Some lives were miserable;
she had known them. What good had the blessing of the Church been
to them? None!

Then Traill would return to her and doubts would vanish like shadows
that a light disperses. They were happy. She had never conceived of
such happiness before. Her mood was one of continual gratitude. She
thanked him for everything--if not with lips, then with eyes.

"You remind me of a little starved gutter-arab, whenever I give you
anything," he once said, when he had brought her back from a theatre
in Rome and given her supper in the restaurant of the Quirinale.

"Not very complimentary," she replied without objection.

"Well--you look at me that way--as if I were giving you God's earth
for God's sake. Have you never been happy before in your life?"

"Never."

"I don't mean particularly like this. Like this, I know you haven't.
But any other way?"

"No, I don't think I ever have. I went away from home when I was
eighteen--I wasn't happy there. Then I had to work too hard."

"Then you are a little starved gutter-arab." He took her gently in
his arms. "And what do I seem to you--eh? Sort of fairy prince, I
suppose, in gold armour."

"You seem like God, sometimes," she whispered.

He put her away with a stab of conscience--seated her on a chair and
looked down at her.

"It's silly to talk like that," he said evenly. "If there is a
God--and I suppose there is--the world spends a heap of money in
fostering the idea--then He's certainly more consistent in His being
than I am--though consistency always seems to me His weak point. But
you've not got to idealize me, you know. You remember what I once
said to you--don't you?"

"What was that?"

"There's a beast in every man, thank God!"

"Yes--I don't think I shall ever forget that."

"Well--don't," he added.

But even this did not harbour in her mind. She wrote long, impulsive
letters to Janet, pouring out a flood of description of all the places
which they visited, opening her heart of its perfect happiness.

"You said he was hard once," she wrote from Florence. "You said you
knew he was hard. He's never said a hard thing to me the whole time
we've been away. He may be hard to other people. I've seen him awfully
bitter sometimes, but never to me. We are in love, you see. We shall
always be in love. Dear, dear old Janet, I wish you could be with
us."

Janet took a deep breath when she had finished the reading of that
letter, and when Mrs. Hewson pushed some shrimps on to her plate,
she pulled the shells from them with impatient energy.

And so--slowly, even in that month--some little of the change in her
character was wrought. Her nature began to set in the mould of luxury
in which he placed her. Not for one moment was she spoilt by it; not
for one moment made selfish. Whenever he gave her money for a definite
object, she still made her purchases as cheaply as possible, still
brought what was left over in the flat of an empty palm to him. But
the enfranchising influence of those two years of hard work began
to lose its effect. She lost independence at every turn and, by the
time they returned to London, was beginning to lean on Traill, rely
on him, submit subserviently to every wish he uttered.

Such had been her desertion from the cause, a conscript in which,
she had so ill-understood. The falling back into luxury, the
acceptance of those things which in her tentative, unrevolutionary
way she had always imagined to come into her right of possession,
had been very easy--very gentle--the drifting of a feather on an idle
summer wind. She had let herself be borne on it, using it, not as
an advantage, not as a step to lift her to a greater freedom and a
wider independence, but as a fit setting, a worthy environment to
this love which consumed the whole of her being and rode, the master,
with an unslacking rein, over all her actions.

If she had taken the situation as it was, faced the meaning of it
with firm lips and a steady eye, there would have been hope--more,
there would have been salvation for her. But frail, sensitive,
tender-hearted, little Sally Bishop was not of that blood, that
breeding was not in her bone. She took the threads, coloured them
one and all with that deceptive dye of the imagination, and wove a
romance out of the materials of a stern reality.

To every intent, to every purpose in her mind, she was a married woman.
The constant use of his name in the hotels where they stayed abroad
had fostered the delusion in her mind. That, in reality, she was still
Sally Bishop was a fact, obvious enough, patent enough, and one which
she was not so foolish as to try and force herself to forget; but
she was Sally Bishop only in name. So, in contrary comparison, other
women were wives only in name, yet had no husbands.

The true, logical state of the case never made its appeal to her.
She was too much of a romantic, living, as many women do, in a
cloudland of hallucination, until a lightning circumstance tears its
rent in the vaporous fabric and experience thunders in their ears.
Had she consented to the reasoning that she had but left the plying
of one trade in exchange for another; had she admitted the fact that
she had but abandoned one master for the service of another, there
would have been every chance that, if the end should come, she would
be able to take up the threads where they had broken off and wring
profit from the ultimate position. But no such thought entered her
mind. Emancipation was no goal for her ambitions. She sought for
chains to gyve about her soul and, in her relationship with Traill,
she fondly dreamed that she had found them. If the real aspect of
the case had forcibly made its way into her consideration, she would
never have accepted the situation, never have laid seal to the
compact.

All this delirium of reasoning, she showed in the first few moments
to Janet when she had returned to London. Down at Kew she spent an
evening, delighted, with a justifiable pride, to be seen in one of
the dainty frocks that Traill had bought her.

"So you're married now, I 'ear," said Mrs. Hewson.

"Yes." Sally beamed with her reply, and Janet watched her with
questioning eyes.

"I hope you're happy."

"I couldn't be happier," Sally answered; then she dragged Janet
upstairs to the room they had shared together for two years, and
throwing her parcels--presents that she had brought from abroad--on
to the bed, she twined her arms round Janet's slender neck and covered
the thin, drawn face with kisses.

One knows the endearments that such an occasion exacts. They come
out of a full heart and bear no repetition, for only a full heart
can understand them. They swept over Janet, for the moment blinding
her in her fondness for this child, full of swift impulse in her
gratitude, and drugged with romance in her mind. But once those
endearments had been spoken, when once the presents had been divested
of their paper wrappings--porcelain representations of the Bambinos
from Florence--a marble statue of the Venus de Milo from Pisa--an
ornament in mosaic from Rome--when once they had been set up, admired,
paid for in kisses of gratitude, then Janet gave words to the
questions that had been looking from her eyes.

"What sort of a settlement has he made on you?" she asked.

The inquiry, notwithstanding the fact that it had been spoken with
a gentle voice, tuned to consideration for her feelings, struck the
sensitiveness of Sally's mind, whipped the blood to her cheeks.

"There is no settlement. Why should there be?"

"Why? Well, for every reason in the world, I should think."

"There is none, then."

"You haven't even suggested it?"

"No!"

She rose, turning away from the bed where she had been sitting, with
the tears smarting in her eyes. Janet looked after her, an expression
of contemplation pursing her features, wrinkling her forehead.

"I think I'll go and see Mr. Traill," she said slowly.

Sally wheeled round, her heel a pivot to the motion.

"What for?" she asked.

"I think he'd better be told that he can't play indiscriminately with
women like you."

"He's not playing," Sally retorted violently. "You're cruel, Janet.
If you do go to him, I'll never speak to you again."

"That's quite possible; I should expect that," Janet replied
imperturbably. "Whenever one tries to arrange the affairs of people
who cannot arrange them themselves, one must anticipate that sort
of treatment."

"Ah, but you don't understand," Sally pleaded piteously. "He would
hate any interference of that sort. He would hate me through it. We
don't look at the thing in the same light that you do. You make a
business of it. Do you think if I had ever seen it in that light,
I could have done what I have done? You know I couldn't. I should
loathe myself too. I tell you, we love each other. There can be no
question of settlement in such a case as that."

Janet looked at her with pity. It was hard for her to say all that
she intended; but the mind of the revolutionary, however wasted its
cause, has kindred with the mind of God. Justice and truth before
all things is the cry of it, and let suffering be a means rather than
a hindrance to the end.

"Never drown sorrow," Janet had once said from her pinnacle of
enthusiasm, "the dripping ghost of it'll haunt you. Don't drown
it--save it, learn of it."

Now, with a steady hand, she carried that precept into practice. It
might make a rent in Sally's heart; it might bring separation between
them; but she did not hesitate at that. The cause of justice and the
desire for truth have no need of sentiment.

"And how long do you think that love is going to last?" she asked.

"Always; why not?"

"With you, perhaps; but with him?"

Sally looked out of the window across the river. The night that Mr.
Arthur had proposed to her--offering her marriage--danced
flauntingly across her memory. He had been ready to bind himself to
her for the rest of his life. She let the memory go on, with its
mincing steps, back into the dreary darkness of the river from whence
it had come; but she said nothing.

"You can't answer for him?" suggested Janet.

"Yes, I can," she replied impetuously. "Why not always with him?
He'll never marry. He's always said so."

"Yes, but you didn't answer at once. Sally--" Janet put a hand on
her shoulder, "I believe you think you're as good as married. The
way you answered Mrs. Thing-um-i-bob downstairs--Mrs. Hewson--when
she asked you, what we'd both agreed to tell her--that made me begin
to wonder. But you're not married, Sally. He's only your
master--that's all, and if I were you, I'd see that I got my
settlement. He might want to leave you any day."

Sally moved herself free of the detaining hand and laughed, with a
bitter absence of merriment.

"That shows how little you understand," she said. "He's told me over
and over again that he never thought he would find any one who fitted
in so perfectly to his life as I do."

"Most any pretty woman fits into a man's life when he wants, and so
long as he wants her," Janet remarked. "It's only women like
myself--ugly little devils like me--who have to meet the difficulty
of finding a niche that'll hold them for more than the latter part
of an afternoon before the lights are turned up. You fit into his
life--of course you do. I'm not suggesting that you don't. I'm only
questioning how long you're going to do it--only trying to remind
you that it won't be for always. Why will you insist on being so
romantic? Why can't you look at life through a plain sheet of
glass--if you must look at it through something--instead of choosing
the red and the yellow and the purples--anything but the plain, the
untinted reality. Go and get your settlement. Make him put it in black
and white, and shove his name down at the bottom. Then you can look
at it any way you like--forget about it--sit and nurse your romance
all day long if you want to; but make sure of the reality first. He'll
think twice as much of you if you do."

"You think that," said Sally. "You believe he'd think twice as much
of me if I came to him in a mercenary spirit like that? And I thought
you knew something about men."

"Mercenary!" Janet threw her head back and laughed. "You'd have to
ask for a good deal more than that to seem mercenary, my dear child.
You! Why, you've worked two years and you never knew your own value
all that time. I've seen your finger-nails worn square on that old
typewriter you used to pound; but you never dreamed of thinking that
you were worth more than your twenty-five or your twenty-seven
shillings a week, however much they made you stay at that office
overtime. Mercenary's about the last word that could be applied to
you. I don't want to worry the life out of you, or make you miserable,
but when I see you rushing along--giving, giving, always giving, with
both hands--"

"I'm not only giving," Sally exclaimed. "Do you think I get nothing
in return? I've never been made so happy in my life before--never!
Is that receiving nothing for what I give?"

Janet looked at her, steadying her eyes.

"You don't understand the proportion of things," she said slowly.
"You don't realize the comparative ratio of one thing to another.
Any man can give happiness to a woman who loves him--but that's no
bargain! He merely gives her happiness by taking his own. Do you call
that a fair exchange? To you, drunk with romance, perhaps it is. But
in reality it's robbery. He has to pay higher for his pleasures than
that. Why, even the women in the streets, he pays and takes all risks
inclusive? Then what do you think he owes a woman like you? Why, in
the name of God, can't you sweep all this mist away, that's in front
of your eyes, and see it as a transaction? Sign it, seal it, make
a deed of it, and then forget it if you like; but insure yourself
against the worst if it should ever come."

To suppose that this reasoning would appeal to Sally, to expect that
she would assimilate Janet's point of view, adopt Janet's attitude
of mind, is beyond all imagination. The whole aspect that Janet had
revealed, depressed her, weighed--a heavy drag--upon her spirits.
But she was not convinced.

To call things by their names--albeit that language has been evolved
these many thousands of years, and during all that time human beings
have sat in the dust and worked and played with its cunning
symbols--is no easy matter. For the evolution of language has
achieved two ends, and the perfection of it has accomplished the one
as thoroughly as it has the other. With language we give expression
of our feelings; but also with language we have learnt to hide
feelings, cloak thoughts, and dissemble before the very eyes that
know us best. Janet, demanding the truth in all things, seeking in
words the very highest aim of the words themselves, was a far higher
type than Sally.

To Sally, the only means by which she could follow the true bent of
her inclinations, was by wrapping up the matter in a cunning tissue
of words. Herein she is no great woman, loving greatly. She could
not bring herself to think of her position as that of a mistress.
To still love and do that, was beyond her. And so she persisted in
regarding herself as a woman who has faced-out conventionality,
dared the opinion of the world, and chosen to live with a man as his
wife without the condescending sanction of the Church.

It is all pardonable, all this. It is an occurrence as common in big
cities as are the lofty chimneys, and besmirching haze which, on the
horizon, herald the approach of a place where men and women are
gathered closely together. But it is a position which, with the
present conditions of tortured conventionality, is impossible,
untenable. Either a woman is the wife of a man, or his mistress; and
if the latter then, as Janet has said, she had better see to her
settlement first and build her romance, if so she chose, upon its
foundations. A man may keep closed the gates of matrimony until the
last moment, but when he finds that only through them can he gain
the woman he loves, then no amount of principle and no desire of
freedom will hinder him from swinging them wide and following her
through. On the other hand also, he will make but little attempt to
unlock those very gates, so long as there is a shadow of the prospect
within his mind that she will meet him outside.

To Sally, such reasoning as this would have robbed her of all
romance--the shattering siege gun that thunders through a town, and
tumbles the images from their altars in the little church.

Two ways there were in which to view the matter truly. If she were
the great woman, she would have loved for the love of love itself--let
it end where it might. If she were the revolutionary seeking truth,
demanding freedom, then she would have loved the transaction for the
transaction's sake--let it end to-morrow if it willed.

But Sally was neither. She took a middle course. She neither loved
wholly for the sake of love, nor could she make her transaction and
be proud of it. Like thousands of other women, she liked to think
that she was loved in return and that it would never end. Like
thousands of other women, she believed that what the man had taken,
that he would keep, because in the eyes of God and all the other
phrases of romantic sentimentalism, they were one.

But this is conventionality, and conventionality has to be thanked
for it. So women have been brought up; and until that army, of which
Sally now is a deserter, has forced its marches and driven its enemy
from the field, women will so continue to think, so continue to act,
so continue to be broken into dust, the grains of which any wind may
carry into the west where the sun sets in deep crimson.

That night when Sally returned from Kew, Traill had noticed her
depression.

"What's Miss Hallard been saying to you?" he asked. "Telling you that
you're leading a terrible life, I suppose."

"No, why should she? Do you think I am, Jack?"

"Me? I should hope not, since I'm the cause of it. Do you feel you're
doing anything very terrible? Here--put your arms round my
neck--kiss me--God bless your little heart--you couldn't do anything
terrible. Now, are we going to sit and mope, or shall we go out to
supper?"

That meant that they were going to supper, and in half an hour she
was as happy again as a child.

For the first of the three years they passed through an incessant
round of amusements, going abroad every few months, once bicycling
all through France from North to South and then returning by train,
spending a week in Paris. Their method of living was frugal, and
Sally's demands amounted practically to nothing. For the whole of
that year, Traill had sunned himself in the warm delight of her
simplicity. The years when he was alone had brought with them a
certain amount of cynicism, a definite trace of bitterness. But with
Sally, he forgot all that--threw from his shoulders the years that
solitude had added to his age and became the man of thirty-six who
still looks youth in the eyes without question.

Then he had shaken himself and awakened to the broad responsibilities
of life. A small case was offered him in the courts. Such cases he
had refused before; now Sally urged him to accept it and he obeyed,
looking rather to the future than her immediate prompting. So began
the seriousness of his career as a barrister. The second year only
brought one other small brief with it; but both cases were won. Then
he began to specialize in divorce and finally, contact with a
well-known solicitor which had come through the medium of journalism,
brought him his first brief in the probate and divorce division. The
case was rather a big one and he was not the leading counsel, but
the assistance he gave was deemed of such value, that the next brief
from the solicitor was given entirely to him.

Sally came down to the courts and listened to his cross-examination
of the woman who against a thousand incriminating circumstances was
fighting, with white lips and piteously hunted eyes, to keep her name
from the mud into which Traill was striving to drag it.

There she saw the cruelty in him again. It was impossible for her,
listening with every sense taut to the uttermost, to obliterate the
personal element, to think that he was merely a machine grinding,
in the course of his duty, as the implacable mills crush the yielding
grain into the listless powder of flour.

"Didn't it strike you at all," he asked the trembling woman, his voice
barren of all feeling and edged with biting incredulity. "Didn't it
strike you at all, when you kissed the co-respondent, that you were
betraying your husband's confidence in you?"

"No, not when I kissed him. We--we cared for each other--I admit to
that; but--but kissing did not seem wrong."

"You didn't consider kissing wrong?"

"No."

"At what point then in your intimate relations with a man--with the
co-respondent in particular--would you have considered that wrong
began and right ended?"

The wretched woman had looked pitiably at the judge. The judge looked
unseeingly before him into the well of the court.

"At what point?" Traill had insisted.

"I don't know how to say it," she pleaded feebly.

"Then can I assist you? Would you have considered it wrong--having
kissed you--for him to put his arms round you?"

"Yes, I think so."

"There is all the difference, then, in your mind between a man's
kissing you and putting his arms round you. All the difference
between right and wrong?"

"No, I suppose there isn't."

"Then you would not have considered that wrong?"

"No."

"Would you have considered it wrong to sit on his knee?"

Seeing how her case was weakening--realizing how he was belittling
her scruples--she had admitted that she would not think it wrong,
hoping that the ready admission of that would remedy the effect of
her previous indecision.

"Then am I to understand--" asked Traill with a voice stirred in
well-simulated anger, "am I to understand that because you loved the
co-respondent, you kissed him, thinking no wrong in it and yet,
thinking no wrong in sitting on his knee or having his arms about
you, you yet--loving him--refused these things in which you saw no
harm? Is that what you wish his lordship and the jury to understand?"

"I--I--may have let him put his arms round me--perhaps I did sit on
his knee--once or twice."

"Then why," shouted Traill, "when the last witness affirmed that she
had seen you sitting in the drawing-room with the co-respondent's
arm round your neck, did you so vehemently deny it?"

Into the trap she had fallen--into the trap which with his cold
cunning he had laid for her--and from that moment, rigidly denying
her misconduct on her oath before God, the wretched creature was
brought on the rack of his questioning to almost every admission but
that of adultery. At last Sally had left the court. She could bear
the strain of it no longer.

The thoughts which that incident had given rise to in her mind, had
thrown their shadows upon all her lightness of heart for many days
afterwards. There she had seen the keen acid of implacable justice
separating, with undeviating precision, the dross from the gold. She
had beheld the naked fact of adultery--stripped of all the silk of
glamour, all the velvet of romance which once it had worn--held in
its cringing shame before the unsympathetic eyes of twelve men in
a public court of law. And he who had done it, he who had wrenched
away the silken garments, torn off the folds of velvet and flung the
naked deed before their eyes, was the man into whose keeping she had
given her whole existence.

"You, who admittedly can play with passion at the fringe of
adultery," she heard him crying out as she stole from the court, "do
you expect a jury of men, who know the world, to believe that a mere
scruple has withheld you from giving yourself to the importunate
desires of this man--the co-respondent?"

Was that what he thought of her--was that what he thought she had
done to her shame with him? Sally had cried out these questions to
herself, as he had cried them to the woman; but when that evening,
he asked her in a quiet voice what she had thought of the case, she
had evaded any expression that would disclose the trouble of her
mind.

"I couldn't stay till the end, you know," she said. "I had to go before
the verdict. What happened?"

"Oh, we won--hands down; but upon my soul I'm not sure that she did
actually commit adultery. There are some women--men too, for that
matter--who'll play with fire till their hearts are burnt out--but
conventionality drags 'em back from the one deed that will absolutely
crush their conscience, and they think themselves confoundedly
ill-treated when they get their retribution. They whine, like that
woman did to-day; but I'm inclined to believe that on the vital clause
she was telling the truth."

Sally had looked at him, wondering and in amazement; but she had said
nothing, mistrusting herself to speak.

The effect of this incident upon her mind had softened with time--in
time she had practically forgotten about it. And then came round the
end of the third year. The previous year he had given up journalism
entirely, his time being fully occupied with legal business at the
courts. He took chambers to himself in the Temple. Sometimes Sally
came down there on a quiet day and they had tea together.

"We'll pretend," she would say, "that you've never met me before--and
it's awfully unwise for me to come and see you in chambers--but I
come and then perhaps--while I'm making the tea--you suddenly put
your arms round my waist, and of course I'm awfully offended. Then
you kiss me, and I begin to get fond of you--and then--" So she led
him through a child's game to the outburst of a man's passion and
he, amused with being the child, found in it all the burning zest
of being a man.

In the Spring that followed the conclusion of that third year, she
had reminded him of his promise to take her once to Apsley. He jumped
at it.

"A day in the country 'll do me all the good in the world!" he
exclaimed--"and you too. I'll write to Dolly at once and see that
no one's down there on Friday. If there isn't, we'll go."



CHAPTER III


They made a day of it. In Trafalgar Square at eleven o'clock the next
morning, they stepped into a taxi-cab--the same little vehicle that
Taylor, from the dining-room window, had seen spinning round the
curve of the drive. The hood was put down; the warm sunshine, just
touched with a light sting from the regions of cold air through which
it had passed, beat upon their faces. To such a day, from the grey
fogs and lightless hours of winter, one comes, finding life well
worth its while. Sally sat with her hand wrapped in Traill's, giving
vent to a thousand expressions of delight, drawing his sudden
attention to the thousand things that pleased her eye--the faint wash
of green from the buds upon the hedgerows, the bright clusters of
primroses that struck light through the shadows in the wood, forcing
life through the thick carpet of dead leaves that the trees had given
back to earth.

"Does it worry you--my keeping on pointing out things?" she asked
at last.

"Worry? Lord, no! Shout as much as you like. It reminds me of when
I was a kid, coming back from Harrow to Apsley for the holidays."

When they came in sight of the Manor, could perceive through rents
in the cloak of cedars that enveloped it, the high, graceful
Elizabethan chimneys and the points of the red gables on which the
starlings congregated, Traill half rose to his feet with a straining
of his neck--a light of excitement in his eyes.

"There it is!" he exclaimed. "That place through the dark trees there.
Jove, I haven't seen it for more than three years."

She followed the direction in which his extended finger pointed, and
her eyes took in, not only Apsley, but his life and the true gulf
that lay between them. As she saw it from there, she recognized it
as a place which, passing, even in those better days when her father
had lived in the quaint little rectory at Cailsham, she might have
exclaimed--"Oh, what a lovely place that is! I wonder who lives
there?" And it had belonged to him--this man who had taken her life
out of its dreary groove and placed it in a pleasure-garden of plenty;
but the garden gate was not locked and the key was not in her keeping.

This mood was momentary. It passed, scudding across her mind, a
fringe of rain cloud that the wind has caught hanging between the
hill-tops and driven at its will. When Traill leant out of the car
and gave peremptory orders of direction, she forgot about it. Then,
in his almost boyish excitement, she realized how much the place
really was to him; how much, notwithstanding all his Bohemianism,
it counted in his life.

"You love this place--don't you?" she said, when he dropped back
again into his seat.

"Yes--I should think so. I know every stick and stone for miles round
here. See that little lane up there?"

"Yes."

"Had a fight there once with a gamekeeper. Much more exciting, I can
tell you, than that show you saw that night."

"Were you hurt?" she asked, frowning.

"Oh, not much; not more than he was. It was stopped precipitously
by a stick, wielded by my governor. He'd got wind of it. We hadn't
much time to make a mess of each other."

"I suppose it must be full of memories," she said. "I can never
understand why you should have given it up."

"Oh, I was a fool, of course. I wanted ready money, and I didn't want
to sell the place--couldn't have sold it. So I let my sister take
it over for what the pater had left her. That suited me at the time.
I'm not sorry that I saw far enough to re-purchase if I wanted to."

"You can re-purchase?"

"Lord, yes!"

"But you did not tell me that."

"Didn't I? Oh yes, I can re-purchase; five thousand any day will make
this place my own again. That's the sum I took from my sister."

Sally inclined her head to show that she understood, but she made
no reply. The cloud had blown back again into her mind. She felt the
shadow of it, the chill of it, even in the warm sunshine. It took
no definite shape, it brought no definite warning; but she was
oppressively conscious of its presence and its weight upon all her
thoughts.

Then they entered the drive, swept up between the long beds of
brilliant tulips until the house came full in view, and from that
moment her little ejaculations of delight and admiration were a
pleasure to him and a distraction to her.

"It's a wonderful old place!" she exclaimed. "And doesn't it make
it twice as wonderful to think that Queen Elizabeth stayed here when
it was just like it is now!" This fact he had told her as they came
down, knowing that the childish enthusiasm of her mind would catch
hold of it, drive it deep into her imagination and hang thereon a
pretty raiment of romance.

"Does add a bit of colour," he admitted with a smile. "I expect she
made it pretty expensive for the old gentleman who entertained her.
He probably had to keep quiet for a few months after she'd gone, and
lay restrictions on the household expenditure."

Then they drew up before the hall door and Traill helped her to
alight.

"I guess we'll make old Mrs. Butterick give us some lunch first. Are
you hungry?" He opened the hall door and stood aside to let her enter.

"Yes, frightfully. I suppose it was the drive."

"All right, just a second; you go round there through the hall to
the left--fine old hall, isn't it?--and the first door on the left,
that's the dining-room. I shan't be long. I just want to see about
getting this filthy coloured taxi out of the light and tell the
gardener to get the chauffeur a meal--you wait in the dining-room."

He closed the door again. Sally stood for a moment looking about her.
The old square panelling of oak--black with age--the huge open grate
with its logs of wood ready for the burning, the ornaments of
pewter--old pewter jugs, old pewter plates with coats of arms
embossed upon their surface, all the perfection of it awed her and,
with a momentary wave of depression that beat over her feelings of
admiration, she felt an interloper in a place that was beyond her
wildest dreams of avarice. It was with no little sense of reluctance,
even though the anticipation of meeting any one never for the moment
entered her head, that she made her way slowly to the dining-room,
hoping every moment to hear his footsteps following her--giving her,
so it seemed, the right to her presence in so luxurious a place. No
wonder he loved it. And then, the thought struck at her, would it
be any wonder if he re-purchased, as he had said he had the right
to do? And if that were to happen--he was making his name now, and
it well might--would he bring her here to live with him? Would he
perhaps make her his wife? Or would they live, as they lived together
now? Or--and the thought drove blood that was cold and chilling
through her veins--would it be impossible for them to live so
publicly in such a way, and would he then live alone?

She tried to shake herself free of this mood of conjecture, took the
handle firmly within her fingers, opened the door, and walked into
the room.

The next moment her heart leapt, a live thing within her, then lay
still. Every action through her body seemed suspended. She scarcely
realized her physical existence at all. It was as though she were
conscious only of mind, mind that was filled with perplexity,
astonishment, consternation, a mind that was being buffeted by winds
from every quarter of the compass of sensation. And through it all,
she struggled to drive words together into sentences, words, that
like a flock of witless sheep upon open ground, would not be driven,
but ran this way and jumped that in a frolicsome imbecility of
purpose.

And there she stood, just within the room, while Mrs. Durlacher with
slowly uplifting eyebrows of amazement rose gradually from the
comfortable armchair to her feet.

"Aren't you Miss--Miss--?" She tried to catch the name in the air
with her fingers.

"Bishop," said Sally, with dry lips.

"Yes, of course, Bishop--Miss Bishop?"

Sally half inclined her head.

"But what--?" she hesitated, knowing that the rest of her sentence
must be obvious, yet gaining time to put the matter together--fit
it to the whole from its separate parts. This was the girl whom she
had met that night in Jack's room--the girl he had called a lady.
They were still acquainted, still friends--greater friends than ever,
since he had brought her down with him to Apsley. Were they married?
Married secretly? She was a thousand times better dressed than she
had been before. The thought tasted bitter. She swallowed the
possibility of it with undeniable courage.

"Have you come down here with my brother?" she asked, still in assumed
bewilderment.

"Yes," replied Sally. "We--we came down in a taxi-cab."

"But he never said he was bringing any one. He wrote. I--I thought
he was going to be alone."

Nothing could be said to this. To apologize for her presence there
would be ridiculous. Sally said nothing.

"Well," Mrs. Durlacher smiled, brushing away her surprise with that
half-breath of laughter which throws a thin wrapping of amusement
about a wealth of contemptuous resignation. "I'm afraid we haven't
got much of a lunch to offer you. I expect you'll be very discontented
with the slight fare I have provided for Jack and myself. He ought
to have told me. Do come into the room, won't you? Wouldn't you like
to take off your coat?"

So, with that ease of apparent hospitality, she made her guest as
uncomfortable as possible, a glutton for the slightest sign of
embarrassment from Sally. Her gluttony was well served. The poor
child pitiably looked once through the door, straining eager ears
for the sound of Traill's footsteps; then she closed it and came to
the fireplace, taking the first chair that offered.

The sense that she had fallen into a trap, notwithstanding all the
perfect simulation of Mrs. Durlacher's apparently genuine surprise,
swept chillingly through her blood. When once she became conscious
again of her bodily existence, felt the pulses throbbing in her
forehead, and knew that her heart was beating like the muffled
rattling of a kettledrum, she shuddered. Traill, she knew, had
nothing to do with it. If that thought, with the force of conviction
behind it, had entered her mind, she would have fled; driven with
the curling lash of fear--fear of life itself, fear of everything.
But she did not even contemplate it. It was the woman her instinct
mistrusted. She had realized her an enemy before; now, in the purring
tones of her tardy welcome, she recognized in her an enemy whose
aggressiveness is active, brought into definite play.

Where lay the trap and how it had been set, she could not conjecture;
but that a trap was there, she was convinced, and as she had walked
unthinkingly into that room, so she had unsuspiciously fallen into
the cruel iron jaws of the relentless machine. She sat in that chair
by the fire, gazing at the hissing logs as they spat at the flames
that licked them, and felt all the powerlessness, all the impotence,
that the frightened rabbit knows when it is caught in the device of
the snarer.

"Did you come down from Town?" said Mrs. Durlacher, presently.

"Yes."

"It's a nice drive, isn't it?"

"Oh yes, it's lovely."

"Let me see, how long is it since we met last?"

"Three years, I think, perhaps a little more."

"Of course--yes--of course it must be. What a good memory you have!
Would you care to see over the house before lunch? It's rather a
charming old place, don't you think so? But of course it's terribly
untidy now. I haven't started my house-parties yet, and everything's
generally more or less upside down till my husband and I begin to
come down regularly. Perhaps you'd prefer to wait till after lunch,
though?"

Sally rose willingly to her feet.

"Oh no. Not at all--I should like to see it immensely. I think the
hall is perfectly wonderful."

Mrs. Durlacher stood up, her eyes candidly criticizing Sally's
dress.

"Yes, it is rather quaint. We'll go through to the library first."

Then, but not until that moment, not until she had passed through
the white heat of the fire, and had felt her spirit charred, did any
help come to her. Traill opened the door abruptly and came into the
room. From the set line of his lips, both of them could see that his
temper was loose. His shutting of the door, every action, was an
expression of feeling to which an innate sense of politeness made
him deny speech. He crossed the room without hesitation to join them,
shaking hands with his sister.

"They told me you were here, Dolly," he said, all pleasure of meeting
her stamped utterly from his voice.

"Well, I suppose they did," she replied with a laugh. "Besides,
didn't you see the car? I motored over this morning. That reminds
me--" She played with self-possession, it came so easily to her.
"That reminds me. Garrett wants a clean collar. Did you see Garrett?"

"Yes."

"Well, did you ever see such a filthy collar as he's wearing in all
your life?"

"I don't know--" He crushed her flippancy with the tone in his voice,
the look in his eyes. "I don't go about looking at other people's
linen."

"No, but you'd have to if you sat behind Garrett as I did this morning
for something over an hour. You couldn't help noticing it."

"Well, you can't expect a servant to be clean, can you?" he retorted.
"If he hides his uncleanliness that's all you can demand of him."

She broke into a light, ringing laugh at his ironical humour; but
he took no notice of that.

"Where were you two going?" he added. He addressed the question to
Sally, turning his eyes to hers.

Mrs. Durlacher interposed the answer. "I was going to show Miss
Bishop round the house before lunch," she said. "I thought you might
show her the grounds afterwards."

"She's much too tired to go tramping round the place before lunch,"
said Traill, abruptly. "Remember we've just been bumped down from
Town--Trafalgar Square--in a jolting taxi. No, she's too tired.
She'd better go and take off her hat, I think. Where's Taylor?" He
moved towards the bell. "Taylor had better take her up to the
Elizabeth room, or your room if you don't mind."

The outline of Mrs. Durlacher's lips tightened; but Traill took no
notice. He turned to Sally. "Like to lay your hat on the spot where
her gracious Majesty was supposed to have rested a weary head, aching
with finance?" he asked.

Sally smiled. Admiration for him then was intense. Mrs. Durlacher
smiled as well; but for one instant, she winced first.

"Let me do the honours, Jack, _please_," she said sweetly, "at any
rate in my own house."

That was a foolish thing to have said--the first false step she had
taken. But so far in the encounter, she knew she was losing, and it
takes a greater woman than she to play a losing game. In the first
clash of weapons, she had been well-nigh disarmed, and the sting of
the steel in her loosened grip had touched her to that momentary loss
of control. It was not so much the fact that she had spoken of Apsley
as her house. That piece of boasting would have fallen from Traill's
shoulders, shaken off by the shrug with which he would have taken
it. It was the veiled insult to Sally, the ill-concealed suggestion
as to what their relations had been when she had met Sally at the
rooms in Regent Street, that whipped him to reply.

He rang the bell imperturbably. That little action, occupying the
brief moment that it did, gave him ease to temper his feelings; then
he turned.

"Don't let's worry about whose house it is," he said coldly. "Miss
Bishop's tired--that's our first consideration. A taxi's not got the
latest pattern of springs that your car has."

Taylor entered the room.

"Taylor," he added. "Show Miss Bishop up to the Elizabeth room."

He smiled at Sally as she departed; then, when the door had closed,
he turned back to his sister.

Now she was a lost woman, losing a losing game. Her eyes sparkled
with anger; she took her breath rapidly between her teeth.

"How dare you bring your mistresses down here and insult me in my
own house!" she said recklessly. So a woman, the best of them, strikes
when the points are turning against her. It is the rushing blow of
the losing man in the ring. Its comparison can be traced through all
sports--all games. There is always force at the back of the blow,
the brute force of desperation; but, with no head to guide it, it
wastes itself in air. Once delivered, striking nothing, with all the
weight of the body behind it, the body itself is unbalanced, loses
equilibrium, becomes a tottering mark for the answering fist.

The moment she had said it, seeing the flame that it lit in her
brother's eyes, Mrs. Durlacher wished it unsaid. For the instant he
gazed at her, then his anger was spent. Knowing how wasted that blow
was, he turned to the mantelpiece and laughed. It was the most bitter
retaliation he could have made. She heard it echoing through her
brain as the fallen man, dazed and helpless, just hears the seconds
being meted out, yet cannot rise, can lift no voice to stop them.

"What Miss Bishop is to me," he said quietly, "is neither here nor
there--only to be classed with one of those impulsive conjectures
of yours--just the same as when you said that she was a milliner.
You don't quite know what you're speaking about, and that gives you
confidence. You're a woman. But you'll have to forgive me if I correct
you when you talk about this house as yours--it's not--it's mine.
You've scarcely what constitutes a tenancy of it."

"Haven't you to put down the sum of five thousand pounds before you
can say that?" she asked, her voice steadied, her impulses all under
the curb now. She must step lightly if she were to win after this.

"Do you think that would be a very difficult matter?" he questioned
in return.

"Well, can you do it?"

"Oh no," he smiled. "As a matter of fact, I never carry more than
four or five pounds in loose cash about with me. Don't be a fool,
Dolly. Do you want to irritate me into doing something that you know
would put your nose out of joint for the rest of your natural life?
You know well enough, that I could find the money to-morrow if I
wanted to. You've irritated me quite enough already."

"How?"

"By coming down here."

"Why should that irritate you?"

"Because I guess pretty well your reasons. You were expecting a
lady--so Mrs. Butterick amiably told me." He turned and looked at
her fixedly. "You're as cute as ten, Dolly, but I'm hanged if you
know how to play with me."

"Mrs. Butterick told you that?" she said.

"Yes--she spoke like a book. Like the book of Revelations. Now, when
I'd expressly asked you if I should be alone when I came down, what
the deuce did you want to come for?"

"Don't you think you can speak a little more politely?" she
requested.

"That won't help the discussion from your side or mine," he replied
quietly. "But rather than give you cause for interruption--I'll do
so. Why did you come down here?"

The mind of a woman works with amazing rapidity, but it is impossible
to see the direction it will take. There are little insects known
to our childish days as skip-jacks. Scratch them with the end of a
piece of grass, and they reward you for your pains--they will
jump--bound with one spasmodic leap and vanish. So is the working
of a woman's mind. You can be almost certain of the jump--but of the
direction--never.

"Why?" Traill insisted, and then Mrs. Durlacher turned her gaze to
the window, looked far away across the stretch of fields ploughed
and green, beyond the blue, rising land that lifts above Wycombe,
into that distance which holds all the intricate mysteries of a
woman's being. When a woman looks like this, a man strains eyes to
follow her. He realizes all the distance, but cannot with his utmost
effort decipher what it contains. And that very inability in him is
the strongest weapon that she holds. He sees the distance, yet there
is none. No wonder that he cannot discern its contents. There is no
distance. She is looking inwards--not outwards; searching her own
mind, searching his, and only playing the game of contemplation to
hide what she has found.

When Traill saw that expression of her face, he dropped the note of
brass from his voice.

"Why?" he asked again, almost gently.

Her lips bound tight together as though she were keeping back her
confession; her nostrils dilated, checking tears.

"I wanted to see you--that's all."

She said it with a shrug of the shoulders--the motion with which you
shake an unwelcome thought from your mind.

He pressed her further. "But you apparently knew I was bringing some
one?" he said.

She still looked towards her invisible horizon. "I guessed
that--guessed that from your letter--the way you said you wanted to
find no one down here. I thought you wouldn't mind my
coming--besides--there was no one to order anything for you, and
then--as I said--I wanted to see you."

"Yes, but why?" He took her arm, held the elbow in the cup of his
hand.

She looked once more--looked long into her distance--then turned,
petulantly almost, with a smothered sigh to the fireplace, rested
her feet upon the fender, and redirected her gaze into the heart of
the fire.

"Oh, it's no good talking about it now," she said. "Miss Bishop '11
be down in a minute."

"Aren't you happy? That it?"

"Yes."

"You aren't happy?"

"No."

"Harold?"

"Yes."

On the fender she beat out her thoughts.

"All the things she wants to say and is too proud," he said to himself
as he watched the tapping of her dainty toe. That was precisely what
he was meant to think.

"What's he done?" he asked.

"Tisn't what he's done--I don't think he's done anything."

"Then what?" He put his hand on her shoulder. "Poor old Dolly," he
said softly. "But why did you say that about bringing mistresses down
here?"

She looked up frankly--generously into his eyes. "Jealousy," she
admitted.

He laughed lightly. It just caught the edge of his vanity to which
she played. Then, bending down, he kissed her, and as Sally entered
the room, she saw the kiss--to her, a kiss of Judas. In that instant,
the intuition that it was she who was betrayed, shot upwards like
a flame of fire, rushing the blood in a burning race to her temples.



CHAPTER IV


You may jeer at the instinct of a woman, plant the straight line of
logic beside it and ridicule the comparison as you choose, but it
is a sense, a subliminal sense, number it as you like, upon which
she can rely as surely as on touch or scent or sight.

"One of those impulsive conjectures of yours," Traill had said to
his sister in reply to her intuition of his relations with Sally.
"You don't quite know what you're speaking about, and that gives you
confidence. You're a woman." In the face of her accuracy he had said
that. It is only retaliation a man has when a woman betrays the
amazing abnormality of that sense which he can never hope to possess.
He resorts to one weapon, the scientific reliability of evidence.

"Where's your evidence?" he asks, and having none, he smiles at her.
But she knows; a knowledge that will sweep her into the fire of action,
whilst he is methodically buckling on his armour of conviction with
the straps of logical evidence.

It was this instinct, the sixth sense in Sally, that had cast her
mind forward, flung it beyond herself into the future, where she saw
the Tragedy that awaited her. From the moment she had seen that kiss,
she had known that she had an enemy whose weapons were sure, whose
wielding of them was quick and keen. From that moment, standing on
the rise of so small, so insignificant an incident, she had seen ahead
into the years and known what her end would be. With what evidence?
None! With what reason? Little indeed of that. That they were
standing with swords drawn when she had left the room and that when
she returned the swords were sleeping in their scabbards and they
were kissing to make friends--how much was there to be reasoned from
that? Were not such incidents common to the relationship between
brother and sister? Yet, beyond all that, Sally saw with a clearness
of vision that penetrated every obvious deduction; saw away into the
stretch of Time when his sister would have won him back to her side
where she could have no place, no existence.

It might have been wrong, quite easily could have been false a
thousand times, but it was knowledge to her, sure, fateful,
undeniable knowledge; and from that day her instinct was keyed to
find its proof. The cancerous disease of jealousy had dropped its
first seed in the blood of her, and the vulturous growth began to
spread its lean, clutching fingers about her heart.

"My sister's not hitting it off with her husband," Traill told her,
that afternoon as they drove back to London.

"Is that what she was telling you when I went upstairs to take off
my hat?" asked Sally.

"Yes."

"That was why you kissed her?"

"Exactly; did you see me kissing her?"

"Yes, when I came into the room."

"Yes; well, that's it. I always thought Durlacher was a fool," he
added meditatively. "Used to tell her so before she married him. What
in the name of God can you expect of a guardsman? He's one of those
men who just lives through life--taking all, giving nothing. I doubt
if the rotting of his body will be manure for the earth when he dies.
He'd sell it if it were."

Sally closed her eyes, then opened them suddenly to study his face.
Such stray phrases as these that fell from his lips always kept the
knowledge in her mind of how hard he was.

"Has he been unkind to her?" she hazarded. She forced a spurious
interest to please him.

"She says not--but then--she doesn't know. It's perhaps as well that
she doesn't. My experience of divorce leads me to see that it's a
dog's game; mountains are made out of molehills to weight the case
one way or another, and he could probably retaliate with a lot of
half-truths, quite unprovable; but the mere mentioning of them in
the courts would leave a stain on her. No, it's perhaps as well that
she doesn't know as much as I do. She just thinks they don't get on
and a patch can settle a thing like that. Lord! The number of people
nowadays who pull along all right, with marriage lines that are
unrecognizable from their original condition because of the patches
here and the patches there--why, they're legion!"

"Are you going to do anything about it?" she asked.

"Me? Oh, I suppose I shall have to be a sort of go-between. She's
my sister, and as far as I can see, she's pretty miserable."

On this account, then, began his first visits to Sloane Street. There,
the actors in this little play went through their parts--well trained,
well rehearsed. There was never a note of the prompter's voice to
reach the ears of Traill from the wings. He listened quietly,
sympathetically to her tardy admission of the state of affairs. Three
times he went to Sloane Street in the afternoon before he was placed
in possession of all the subtle details and never once did he meet
Durlacher. Durlacher, himself, was always away. It must be admitted
that Traill was interested in these intricate details. They gave him
insight into the vagaries, the pitfalls and the fallacies of the life
with which he had to deal in the divorce courts. Undoubtedly they
were of service to him; undoubtedly, moreover, blood is thicker than
water, and he thought, he imagined, that he would be able to save
his sister from an impending crisis.

On the third occasion, whilst they were sitting over tea in the
drawing-room, the door opened and the man-servant announced--Miss
Standish-Roe.

Traill stood up with a jerk and felt for his gloves.

Mrs. Durlacher's eyes lost no sight of that and she hurried quickly
forwards.

"My dear child, how sweet of you!" She kissed her cheek
affectionately. "Let me introduce you to my brother."

Traill turned and his mind was cast back to the night he had dined
with his sister at the restaurant. This was the girl he had noticed;
her father was the man who sat on boards in the city. He bowed with
his eyes on her face.

"Surely you're not going to go yet, Jack," said Mrs. Durlacher. Her
eyes were feverishly watching his hands as he began slowly to draw
on his gloves. He hesitated. Miss Standish-Roe took the seat he had
vacated and looked questioningly up into his face as though it were
she who had made the request.

"Very well," he said. "Then I'll have another cup of tea with you."

From that moment, and Mrs. Durlacher's heart had leaped with
exultation, she began to play for his humour, baiting the line that
she cast with those little turns of phrase, those little feathers
of speech which she knew would tempt him to rise to the surface of
his mood. In a few moments, he was entertaining them with his tirades
against conventional institutions.

"Conventionality," he exclaimed; "I'd sooner have the honest vice
of the man who pleads guilty; I'd a thousand times sooner defend his
case, than urge for a woman who just holds on to the virtue of
conventionality with the tips of her fingers."

"You gave that lady a bad time the other day, Mr. Traill," said Miss
Standish-Roe, admiringly.

"I did? Which one?"

"The lady who admitted to kissing the co-respondent."

"Why, you weren't in the court, were you?"

"No--but I read it in the paper--your sister told me about it."

Mrs. Durlacher looked apprehensively to her brother's eyes. From so
small a thing as that he might unearth suspicion. But a pardonable
vanity was touched in him. He turned no ground to find the intentions
that lay beneath.

"Well, _there_ was a case," he said. "I've no doubt the woman was
innocent of the worst; but that was an exact case of the virtue of
conventionality. She'd just hung on to it, scraping her nails. She
deserved all she got."

"And you persisted in trying to prove her guilty?" said Miss
Standish-Roe, in amazement. "When you thought her innocent?"

"Why not?" he retorted. "Society wants to be purged of that sort of
woman, and it's full of 'em."

Mrs. Durlacher deftly changed the subject.

"I've got a box to-morrow night, Jack, at some theatre or other,"
she said casually. "Harold's going out to dinner, will you dine with
us and drag us along there?"

"Who's us?"

"Miss Standish-Roe and myself. We shall be all alone if you don't."

Sally's face rose in Traill's mind. If he went, this would be the
first evening, except for those engagements which his profession
demanded, on which he would have left her to dine at a restaurant
by herself. But was he bound? Not in the least! The consideration
that it might even seem to an outsider, decided him.

"Yes, I'll come," he said. "What time dinner?"

Again there was exultation in the heart of Mrs. Durlacher.

"Better be seven-thirty," she said.

He agreed. It never suggested itself to him that he wanted to go.
He hated to seem bound. That was his reason. So he took it with an
open mind, questioning nothing.

When he had gone, Mrs. Durlacher turned to her friend.

"You can come--can't you?" she asked.

Miss Standish-Roe nodded her head.



CHAPTER V


That evening, Traill removed the first pillar in the structure which
Sally had built--the Temple of her security. Notwithstanding all
Janet's advice, heedless, utterly, of Janet's point of view which
had been held before her eyes on almost every occasion on which they
had met during the last three years, she persisted in believing more
surely in the mooring of her life to Traill's, so long as no mention
of settlement was ever suggested.

There was full reason on her side for this. Unable to accept
conditions as Janet would have had her take them--the abandoning of
one master for the service of another--she knew that so long as Traill
kept her by his side without a word of agreement, his honour as the
gentleman she always knew him to be would remain as binding as any
sanction of the Church.

On this evening, then, when he returned from his visit in Sloane
Street, they went together to the little restaurant in Soho where
they had taken their first dinner together.

There was Berthe and Marie--there was Madame--there was
Alexandre--all still working together with the precious regularity
of the Dutch clock.

"Bon soir, monsieur--bon soir, madame." Not an inflection was
changed, not a note was altered. The firm hand of necessity had wound
them up day after day, all those three years, and they had ticked
together and tocked together to the swing of the pendulum of fortune
ever since.

"I shall always love this place," said Sally cheerfully, as they sat
down at the same table--_sous l'escalier_.

"Why?"

"Because you first brought me here." She stretched her hand across
the table and lovingly touched his fingers. She was happy, then.

"You're not sorry that I did?" he asked seriously.

"Sorry--no! How could I be?" Trouble came too quickly into her eyes.
It left them slower than it came.

"Do you remember what you said to me"--he reminded her--"just before
we went on to my rooms?"

"I said so many things."

"No--oh, you didn't. You said so few; but you said one that struck
in--deep--straight home."

"What was that?"

"You said I was a gentleman."

"So I believed then, when I first saw you. So I know now, after these
three years and more."

"You know it--do you?"

"Yes."

"Yet I've never said anything to you about what I intend to give you
for yourself, in your own right."

Pain struck into Sally's eyes. Her lips parted in fear and
anticipation.

"Have you taken all that on trust?" he continued. "If I were to die,
suppose--death is a great deed that even the smallest of us are able
to accomplish--Berthe!" He turned to the attendant who was
waiting--"Consomme--Omelette aux fines herbes--et poulet roti aux
cressons."

"Oui, monsieur--Consomme--pour deux, monsieur?"

"The whole lot pour deux."

Berthe laughed with her little cooing sound in the throat.

"Omelette aux fines herbes, et poulet roti aux cresson--oui,
monsieur."

She departed and they listened to the repetition of it all--

"Deux consommes--deux--" as she shouted it through the little
doorway to the kitchen.

"Supposing I were to die," Traill repeated. He leant his elbows on
the table and gazed steadily into her eyes.

"Why should you talk like that?" she pleaded, and all the while
through her brain scampered the questions--"Does he mean if he were
to die? Doesn't he mean if he were to leave me?" They danced a mad
dance behind her eyes. Had he looked deep enough, he might have seen
their capers.

"Because that sort of thing has to be talked," he said gently. "You
haven't the faintest idea whether I've made any provision for you
or not. I've often wondered would you ask, but you've never said a
word. Aren't you rather foolish? Do you think you take enough care
for yourself? Do you think you look far enough into the future? Don't
you think you treat life too much in the same way as you did my offer
of the umbrella on the top of the Hammersmith 'bus?"

Many another woman would have had it out then; flung the questions
at him, preferring knowledge rather than torture of mind. To Sally
this was impossible. Again she showed those same characteristics of
her father. She hoped against almost all absence of promise; she had
faith in the face of the blackest doubt. He had said--if he
died--perhaps he meant that. Yet the kissing of his sister lifted
like the shadow in a dream before her eyes. She knew he had been with
Mrs. Durlacher that afternoon. Could she have won him still further?
Sally knew her own impotence--bowed under it, recognized fully how
powerless she was to hold him if once the links in the chain of their
caring began to lose their grip. And now, he was offering to make
provision for her. Inevitably that seemed to be the beginning of the
end. Before, she was his, with that emotional phrase in her mind--as
God had made them. Now she was to become his, because he had bought
her, paid for her. There lay in that the difference between two worlds
in her mind; and she fought against it with what strength she knew.

"I don't want to look into the future," she said bravely. "I hate
looking into the future. I'm happy in the present; why shouldn't I
remain so?"

"How will this prevent you? Doesn't it appeal to you at all, that
when we came to live together, I took up a certain responsibility
with you? I've got to fulfil that responsibility. This evening, when
we go back, I'm going to draw out some form of settlement which I
intend to place with you. I shall take it to my solicitor and get
it legalized to-morrow morning."

She leant forward across the table and touched his hand again. Her
lips were trembling; her whole face, which only a few moments before
was bright with cheerfulness, was now drawn, pinched with the
suffering and terror in her mind.

"Please don't," she said brokenly. "Please don't. I don't want any
settlement as long as you care for me. What is a settlement to me
if, as you say, you were to die? What good would it be to me then?
Do you think I could bear to go On living?"

He searched her face with amazement. "You mustn't talk foolishness
like this," he replied firmly, but not unkindly. "We've all got our
own lives to get through. We've all got to answer for them one by
one, and live them one by one as well. There's no condition of
relationship in existence, which can make a man and a woman one person
except in their imaginations and according to the fairy tales of the
Church. You're a dear, simple, little child to talk about not being
able to go on living if I were to peg out; but you would. You'd go
on living. There's no doubt in my mind, but that you'd love some one
else again."

"You little understand me," she exclaimed bitterly, "if you could
ever think that."

"Well--in that respect, at least, I believe I understand human
nature; and in that respect, too, I imagine it must be a surer
criterion from which to judge of such matters. I don't insist upon
it as a certainty--I only suppose it possible. But in any event you
would want money to live upon, and my mind is quite made up that I
ought to make a settlement on you. Why should you not want me to--eh?
Why?"

She hung her head. To tell him, when she had no definite proof that
he had thought of leaving her, might be to put the thought into his
mind. She could not tell him. But pride did not enter the matter in
the least. If it could have served her purpose in any way, she would
willingly have let him know that she counted it possible for him to
desert her. But the fear that it might create a suggestion to his
consciousness which hitherto had not existed, locked the words in
her lips. She would not have uttered them for a crown of wealth.

"Why?" he repeated. "Eh?"

"I'd rather you didn't," she said, with trouble in voice. "I'd rather
you didn't--that's all."

"Well--I'm afraid it's got to be," he replied finally. "In my mind
it's not fair to you, and I'm determined that where you're concerned,
I shall have nothing with which to reproach myself. I shall draw it
up this evening when we go back."

She looked pitiably about her. Now it seemed that the little Dutch
clock, which had been ticking so merrily, so much in unison with life,
all went out of time. It seemed a farce then, that little Dutch clock.
All the romance went out of it--it was only a trade--a trade machine
for the making of money, no longer the counting of happy hours.
Everything seemed a trade then--everything seemed a trade.



CHAPTER VI


That evening the settlement was drawn up. When he had finished it,
Traill held it out to her.

"You'd better just read it through," he said; "the substance of it
is there. To legalize, merely means to write the same thing at greater
length and in less comprehensive English."

"I don't want to read it," she replied.

"But why?"

"It doesn't interest me. You've written it to please yourself, not
to please me. Please don't ask me to read it!"

He was unable to follow the reasoning of this, and he shrugged his
shoulders with a sense of irritation. "As you wish," he said quietly
and put the paper away in a drawer of his bureau. "I'll give you a
copy of this, at any rate."

Before they had gone abroad, Traill had taken a lease of the floor
above his chambers, which contained rooms similar in shape and size
to those in which he lived. These, he had decorated and furnished
according to the slightest wish that he could induce Sally to express.
In the room which she used as a sitting-room, he had given her a piano
with permission to play on it whenever he was not in the rooms below.
Most of the daytime, then, she was at liberty to make what noise she
liked and, at all times, free to have any friends she wished to see,
on the strict understanding that he was not to be bothered by them.

There was only one friend. Janet came to see her on every occasion
when Traill had to be out for the evening--at a Law Courts dinner
or some such public function, but she never met him.

"Why doesn't he want to meet your friends?" Janet once asked her.

"I have only one," Sally had replied, laughing.

"Well--why won't he meet me? I suppose you've shown him that
photograph you've got of me? It's enough to put any man off."

"I shall never take any notice when you talk like that," said Sally.

"Very well--don't! But why is it?"

"I think I know--but I'm afraid you'll be angry."

"No, I shan't. Come along--out with it!"

"Well--I told him once--that first day I dined with him--that I
should love you two to meet. I said I'd love to hear you argue--"

"Oh, God!" exclaimed Janet. She cast her eyes up to the ceiling. "That
did it! What did he say?"

"He said he could love a woman, but he couldn't argue with her."

"Yes--of course he did. A woman has to be confoundedly pretty before
a man's going to let her have a point of view. Even then, if she isn't
fairly cute, it's his own he gives her. Then I suppose when you came
to live here, he saw my photograph?"

"I suppose he--yes, I think he did. I showed it to him; or he asked
who it was."

Janet broke out into a peal of harsh--strident laughter.

"It's a wonder he risks your bringing me as near as the next floor,"
she had said. "Lord! A woman with a face like mine, who argues! God
help us!"

But once she had understood that point, Janet had never alluded to
it again; had made no effort to catch a glimpse of the man who so
filled Sally's life. So much, in fact, had she endeavoured to avoid
their contact that, on one occasion, when she and Sally had been
climbing up to the second floor, and the door of his room was opened,
through which his voice had sounded, calling to Sally, she had run
hurriedly up the stairs out of sight, her heart thumping with
excitement when he had shouted out--

"Who the devil's that?"

The inclination to shout back--"What the devil's that to you?" she
had clipped on the tip of her tongue; but only for Sally's sake.

On this evening, then, that the settlement was drawn up, Sally had
slowly climbed the stairs to the floor above, and once in her little
sitting-room, with the door closed behind her, she had seated herself
upon the settee near the fireplace and gazed into the cheerless,
unlighted fire with dry and tearless eyes.

To her, the shadow of the end fell on everything. Just a little more
than three years and a bend in the road had shown it stretching across
her path. True, it was only a shadow. He had said nothing whatever
about leaving her; had not even suggested it in the slightest word
he had uttered. She must pass through the shadow, then; but what lay
upon the other side was beyond her knowledge, though not beyond her
fear.

To drive the apprehensions from her mind, she rose suddenly,
shrugging shoulders, as though her blood were cold, and went to the
piano. Without thinking, she sat down, began to play; then her hands
lifted from the keys as if they burnt her touch. She had as suddenly
remembered. Traill was below. For a moment longer she sat there, just
touching, feeling the notes with the tips of her fingers--listening
to the sounds in her mind--then she rose, standing motionless,
attentive to all the little noises in the room below.

She heard the clink of a glass. He was taking his whisky. The sound
indicated that he would soon be going to bed. She glanced at the clock,
ticking daintily on her mantelpiece. It was just after eleven.
Thoughts, calculations began to wander to her mind. Downstairs, he
had said good night, kissed her--gently, as he always did--and opened
the door for her as she came upstairs. But then he did that every
night. Every evening he kissed her, every evening he said good night;
but then perhaps, some half-hour later, she would hear him mounting
the stairs to her room, and her heart would hammer like steel upon
an anvil until he had knocked at her door and she had whispered--"Come
in."

Would he come up that evening, she wondered. Two weeks now had passed
since he had been to her thus, and so her mind--searching, as it would
seem, for its trouble--intuitively connected the circumstance with
this event of the settlement. So she drove herself to judge him by
the lowest standards--those standards to which a woman at last
resorts when she thinks she sees the waning of her influence. That
in the heart of them they seldom put first, but last. Yet in the
ninety-nine cases out of a hundred it is, in a man, the soonest to
come and the soonest to go, while fondness, caring and affection may
remain behind, untouched by its departure. The beast in the every
man has little to do with the intellect, and it is with his intellect,
above all things, that he loves truest and most of all.

But here Sally fell into that most common of women's mistakes. She
judged him by his passions. If she did not hear his footsteps on the
stairs that night; if his knock did not fall upon the door and startle
the silence in her heart into a thousand pulsating echoes, then she
knew that she would be one step nearer to the realization that it
was the end indeed.

She looked again at the clock and then, with sudden decision, went
into the other room and began to undress. From a drawer in the
Chippendale chest which he had bought her, she brought forth a new
nightdress, in-let with dainty openwork, which a few days before she
had purchased. This she put on. Then she went to the mirror,
scrutinizing herself in its polished reflection. Her hair was untidy.
She took it all down and put it up afresh, curling the long strands
around her fingers as he had often said he had loved to see them.
When that was finished, she sprayed herself with scent--on her hair,
her arms, her breast, turning the spray, before it spluttered into
silence, in the direction of the pillow upon which she slept. Finally,
she knelt down by her bedside and prayed--

"Oh God--let him love me--always--always; show me how I can keep him
to love me--always--always."

So she prayed for a way, having already chosen it, as once before
she had prayed for guidance, well knowing what course she was about
to adopt. So most of us pray that we may know those things on which
we have decided knowledge already. It helps us in the throwing of
blame on to the shoulders of God. It consoles us--the deed being
done--when we think that--at least--we prayed.

When she rose to her feet, she stood listening--listening intently.
Then she moved to her bedroom door and opened it. She could hear him
still moving in his room below; but now it was in the room beneath
hers--beneath her bedroom. He was going to bed. She crept to the top
of the stairs. Every sound she could hear there, the dropping of his
boots on the floor, the opening and shutting of his cupboard doors
as he put his clothes away. Then, last of all, the creaking of the
springs of his bed as he got into it and moved to right and left,
seeking the comfortable groove.

A heavy sigh forced its way through her lips. She had to swallow
hastily in her throat to check the sudden rising of the tears. At
last, with impulsive decision, she went back to her room, took a silk
dressing-gown from the wardrobe, fitted her feet into little silk
slippers and, without hesitation, without pausing to formulate her
definite plan of action, she crept down the stairs again, opened the
door of his sitting-room and stole in.

"Jack," she whispered. "Jack!"

Her throat was dry and the low voice found no resonance from the roof
of her mouth. There was no answer. He had not heard her.

"Jack!" She said it again and tapped faintly on his door.

"That you, Sally?"

"Yes."

"What is it? Come in. I'm in bed. Believe I was asleep. What is it?
Come in."

She opened the door gently. He sat up in bed, found matches, struck
one and lit a candle.

"Lord!" he exclaimed, "you'll catch your death of cold. What do you
want, child?"

"I can't get to sleep," she murmured, blinking her eyes at the sudden
glare of the candle.

"Why not?"

He sat there, looking at her, his eyes dazed, half awake.

"I don't know."

"Thinking too much?"

"Yes, I suppose so."

"Well, count sheep going through a gate. A hundred's the prescribed
amount."

She tried to smile because she knew that if she did not, he would
think she was unhappy or depressed.

"No, I want you to let me have a book," she said; "I think perhaps
if I read--"

"Of course, take anything you like, and try smoking a cigarette. That
may make you drowsy."

He lay back on the pillows. For a moment, she stood, undecided as
to what to do; then she went into the other room, taking up the first
book that her hands touched in the darkness. There, again, she waited
in silence. At last she undid the fastenings that held her
dressing-gown tight about her and came back again into the room.

"What did you get?" he asked.

She looked for the first time at the cover.

"Macaulay's 'History of England.'"

The springs of the bed creaked to his chuckle of laughter.

"You'll go to sleep all right now," he said.

"But I think I'd like a cigarette, if I might."

"Yes, why not?"

"Where shall I find them?"

"In the case, in my waistcoat pocket. It's hanging over the back of
the chair. What a ridiculous child you are to let that dressing-gown
flap open like that. You'll catch your death of cold. Fasten it up--go
on!"

She reluctantly did as she was bid; then searched for the case. When
she had found it, she came down to the side of his bed and stood there,
picking nervously at the cigarette in her fingers.

"Would you like me to blow out the candle?" she asked.

"Oh no, that's all right. I can blow it out from here. You get to
the door and see your way out first."

She sat down slowly on the bed by his side, then bent forward, winding
one arm around his neck, leaning the full weight of her body upon
him.

"Good night," she whispered as her lips touched his.

"By Jove, you do smell of scent!" he exclaimed. "Do you always drown
yourself in scent before you go to bed?"

"No." Her mouth was dry, her tongue like leather, scraping against
her teeth. "Not always."

"Well, good night, little woman; you read half a page of Macaulay
and you'll soon get to sleep. Kiss me."

She kissed him, longingly and then, as he half tried to turn, she
felt conscious of her dismissal and rose hurriedly from the bed.

"Can you find your way upstairs without a candle?" he asked, when
she had opened the door.

"Oh yes," she said stridently, "quite easily." And she departed,
closing the door behind her. With a glimmer of wonder in his mind,
he blew out the candle, just listened until he heard her footsteps
pattering overhead, then turned over and fell asleep.

But there was no sleep to be found for Sally. When she was once within
her room, she flung book and cigarette upon the bed and her body,
just as she was, across them. Then came the deluge of her tears. If
he had waited, listening to the sounds one moment longer before he
went to sleep, he would have heard the choking sobs that broke between
her lips.



CHAPTER VII


When Traill came back early from the Temple the next evening and told
Sally that he was dining with his sister at the house in Sloane Street,
she took the announcement in silence, eyes lifting to his in a steady
question, her heart wearily adding one more figure to the column of
events which she had already compiled against her hopes of happiness.

As yet, openly, she dared question nothing. She knew too well the
outlook of his mind where freedom of his own action was concerned.
Now she was beginning to realize the full extent, the full impotence
of her position as his mistress. Had she been legally his wife, he
had given her no cause to complain, created no right for her criticism.
As his mistress, she was still less justified in questioning his
actions and to do so would, she knew to a certainty, bring down his
wrath, more surely than ever draw to a close their relationship, the
termination of which was shadowing itself upon the surface of her
suspicion.

"Is your sister getting on better with her husband?" she asked.

"Somewhat, I think. I don't really know--it's difficult to say. I
haven't seen him yet. She doesn't want me to speak to him about it.
She thinks it might only make things worse. Says I've got a blunt
way that 'ud ruffle what little patience he's got."

Sally looked directly, deeply into his eyes.

"You really think it is serious?" she said. "I suppose it wouldn't
have been possible for her to have imagined it?"

"Imagined it? No! Why? What should she have imagined it for? We
Traills haven't got an ounce of imagination between us. How could
she imagine it? What good would it do her? A woman doesn't hesitate
and stumble and drag a thing out of her with tears in her eyes, hating
to talk about it, when the whole business is only a tissue of her
imagination. Besides, what would she gain by it?"

"Your sympathy," Sally replied.

Traill walked into his bedroom with a laugh.

"A deuced lot she really cares about my sympathy," he exclaimed. "I
assure you Dolly's not a sentimentalist. She only wants to cling to
her rung of the ladder, that's all."

That was all, and Sally knew it; but she could say no more. She had
tried to plant the seed of suspicion in his mind. She had failed.
The ambitions which were a motive to all his sister's actions, he
could see well enough; but to the means she used in gratifying them,
he was blind. And Sally, though she knew nothing, dared not attempt
the opening of his eyes.

"Are you going to change now?" she asked.

He mumbled an affirmative. She realized, sensitively, that his mind
was pre-occupied with other things and, quietly, she crept out of
the room, upstairs to the other floor where she stood, looking out
of the window, finding her eyes watching the women who were wheeling
round the corner of the Circus into Piccadilly, with skirts tight
gripped about them, little reticule bags swinging with their
ungainly walk, heads alert to follow any direction that their eyes
might prompt them.

When Traill looked into his sitting-room a few moments later, looked
through the opening front of a white shirt which he was in the process
of dragging over his head, she had gone.

"What are you going to do with yourself this evening, Sally?" he asked,
before his head was free of the folds of the stiff, starched linen.
No answer was given him. Then, when he found he was alone, he cursed
volubly at the intractable shirt. The words steadied on his lips as
a knock fell on the door. He marched across the room as he was, holding
up his garments with one hand and flung it open--one of his
characteristic actions--he cared little how he appeared or whom his
appearance affected.

"You? Come in!" he said.

A tall, well-featured man, well-dressed, well-groomed, walked in
through the open door. With a certain amount of care--customary
enough in him to hide the obvious--he laid his silk hat, brim upwards,
upon the table, pulled off his gloves, threw them carelessly into
it, and turned round.

"You're going out?" he said.

"Yes."

"Can't come and have dinner with me?"

"No, couldn't."

"Taking the little lady out, I suppose?"

"No, she's upstairs."

The man's eyes passed across Traill's face as they wandered to the
portrait of James Brownrigg over the mantelpiece.

"Well, I'm at a loose end," he said. He took a gold cigarette-case
from his pocket and extracted a cigarette. Traill continued his
gymnastics with the shirt, forcing studs through obdurate holes,
fastening links and muttering under his breath.

"I thought we might have dined together and taken the little lady
to a music hall, like we did before. How long ago was that?"

Traill tramped into the other room and came out, struggling with a
collar.

"Oh, last September, wasn't it?"

"Something like that, getting on for a year. How is she?"

"Oh, first rate. Will you have a drink?"

"No, thanks, old man. Where are you going to?"

"I'm dining with my sister. Going to some theatre, I believe."

"Ah, I saw your sister the other day, about a couple of weeks ago."
He seated himself, hitching his trousers above the uppers of his
boots. "Prince's, I think it was. Yes, she was skating with that Miss
Standish-Roe."

"Yes, she's coming with my sister and me this evening."

"Is she?" Again his eye lifted to Traill's face. "Damned pretty
girl."

Traill did not reply. Had he made some casual answer in the
affirmative, the man's eyes might not have followed him as he walked
back into his bedroom; the humorous twist of the man's lips might
not have been visible. There would have been no thought to create
it.

"What theatre are you going to?" he asked unconcernedly.

Traill mentioned the name, and began the singing of a hymn tune with
impossible crescendos and various deviations from the melody.

  "'Can a woman's tender care
    Cease toward the child she bare?
    Yes, she may forgetful be ...'"

"I say!" he called out with unceremonious interruption to himself.

"What?"

"You say you've got a loose end?"

"Yes, there's Time got to be killed somehow."

"Well, take Sally out to dinner."

"What, the little lady?"

"Yes, she'll be lonely by herself. I gave her such damned short notice
about this engagement of mine that she didn't have time to send for
that friend of hers--that Miss Hallard. Would you mind doing that?
Don't hesitate to say if you would."

"Oh no, I wouldn't mind in the least. But how about her?"

"I'll call out to her."

The visitor could hear him opening the door that led into the passage,
then his voice--

"Sally!" The clattering of feet above reached them, the hurried
opening of another door, as though the person called for had been
waiting eagerly for the summons.

"I'm coming," she replied. Her heels tapped loudly--the quick
successive knockings as on a cobbler's last--as she ran down the
stairs.

"Mr. Devenish has come in to ask me to dinner, Sally," he said, before
she reached the bottom. "He's going to take you instead; I can't go,
of course."

The footsteps stopped.

Devenish, within the room, half-closed his eyes, bent his head in
an attitude of amused attention. He heard many things in the silence
that followed.

"Had I better go and dress?" she asked, after the moment's pause.

"Oh no, he's not changed. He's in here; come along."

Sally entered and Devenish moved forward to shake hands.

"Good evening, Miss Bishop; don't you hesitate to say if you'd
thought of doing anything else. I just had a loose end, nothing to
do--so I looked in here, hoping he might come out to dinner."

"It's very kind of you to think of it."

"Oh, not a bit. I shall be delighted. You say where you'd like to
dine; it doesn't make the slightest difference to me. I'll go back
and change if you prefer to dress."

"Oh no, thanks. Really, I think I'd rather not. If you don't mind
my coming as I am."

"Not a bit."

She turned to Traill.

"Shall I go up and put on my hat, Jack?" There was no interest in
her voice, no enthusiasm. This was a child doing the bidding of his
master. Devenish saw through every note of it. He
gathered--erroneously--that Traill had told her he was taking Miss
Standish-Roe to the theatre; fancied that perhaps she may have seen
or heard of the girl's undeniable prettiness, and was piqued with
jealousy. Certainly it was not for love that she was coming out to
dine with him. But that was no deterrent. He looked forward to it
all the more.

"Yes, run up and put on your hat; we can all go out together if you're
quick."

She went away quietly. They heard her mounting the stairs, but only
Devenish noticed the difference in the way she had come down and the
manner in which she returned. He also read its meaning.

"How long has she been living with you here?" he asked, when Traill
had closed the door and returned to the continuance of his dressing.

"A few months over three years."

"Of course--I remember your telling me."

They fell into silence, Devenish watching his friend with
half-conscious amusement as he clumsily tied a white tie, then shot
his arms into waistcoat and coat, one after the other, with no study
of the effect and apparently but little interest.

Lest it should seem unaccountable that this man, seemingly a stranger,
walking casually one evening into his rooms, should be apparently
so intimately possessed of the circumstances of Traill's
relationship with Sally, it were as well to point out that men in
their friendship are bound by no necessity of constant meeting. In
a while they meet and for a while see nothing of each other; but when
they meet--no matter what time may have elapsed since their last
coming together--they are the same friends whose conversation might
just have been broken, needing only the formalities of welcome to
set it going on again, as you wind a clock that has run out the tether
of its spring. To account then for the friendship of these two so
diametrically opposed in character--for in Devenish's regard for
appearances and Traill's supercilious contempt of them, there are
the foundations of two utterly opposite characters--it is necessary
to say that their friendship had been formed at school, after which,
a train of circumstances had nursed it to maturity. At school,
Devenish had been an athlete, superior to Traill in every sport that
he took up. You have there the ground for approval and a certain
strain of sympathy between the two men. The fact that at the 'Varsity
Devenish had developed taste for dress was outweighed by the fact
that he was a double blue, holding place in the fifteen and winning
the quarter-mile in a time that justified admiration.

These qualities had left a lasting impression upon Traill. He
disliked the dandy with a strong predisposition to like the man.
Knowing little of his life in society, refusing to meet his
wife--where he assured Devenish all friendships between man and man
ended--he had retained that predisposition towards friendship and
in the light of it had spoken, as every man does to another who is
his friend, in an open yet casual way about his life with Sally.

"She lives with me," he had admitted. "If you'd rather not meet her,
say so. If you'd like to, don't look down on her--I don't suppose
you would, but I never trust the virtue of the married man, he's
compelled to wear it on his sleeve. Anyhow, she's the best. I've never
met any woman for whom I'd so readily contemplate the ghastly
ceremony of marriage. But I suppose every one lays hold of what he
can take. I'm absolutely satisfied as I am. The strange woman has
no fascination for me now."

Two years and a half had passed since Traill had said that. Now
Devenish had dropped in again for the third or fourth time and found
them, still together, but with a vague and subtle difference upon
it all, to which his astute mind had assigned the reason which Sally
only, beside himself, was aware of. Traill was tiring. If Devenish
did not know it instinctively, then he made his deductions from the
fact alone that brought about the mentioning of the name of Coralie
Standish-Roe. To him, with his own social knowledge of that young
lady, the fact in itself was sufficient.

By the time that Traill was ready, Sally came down prepared to go
out. They all descended the stairs together, parting in the street,
where Traill held Sally's hand affectionately, then called a hansom
and drove away.

With apparently casual glances, Devenish watched Sally's face as she
looked after the departing cab. She followed it with her eyes as they
walked up into the Circus; followed it until it welded into the mass
of traffic and was lost from sight.

"Where shall we go?" he asked, when her features relaxed from their
strain of momentary interest.

"Really, I don't mind," she replied indifferently.

He mentioned the restaurant in Soho. She shook her head definitely.

"Not there?"

"No, anywhere but there. I don't--" she hesitated.

"You don't care for the place?"

"Oh yes, I do. But--"

"Well, then--" He mentioned another and she agreed to anything rather
than that which held so many happy associations.

When they were seated at their table, he leant back in his chair and
looked at her pleasurably.

"You know, it's mighty good of you," he said, "to keep me company
like this."

She was too impervious to outer sensation then to find repugnance
at the tone of his voice; at another time she might have resented
it. Now, scarcely the sense of the words reached her.

"Which would you prefer, a theatre or a music hall afterwards?"

"Whichever you like."

"Oh, we'll say a music hall, then. In a theatre, you're so bound to
listen for the sake of the other people who want to hear. We'll go
to the Palace."

She nodded her head in assent. There was no concealment of her mood,
no hiding of her unhappiness. Even with this man above all others,
whom she well knew was thoroughly aware of the relationship that
existed between Traill and herself, she could not shake off the
entangling folds of her depression, lift eyes that were laughing,
throw head back and face it out until the ordeal of being in his
company was over. At moments she tried--drove a smile to her lips
for him to see; but she felt that it did not convince him; knew that
it utterly failed to convince herself. When he began to speak about
Traill, it faded completely from her expression.

"Jack's gone to a theatre to-night, hasn't he?" he asked ingenuously,
when they had half struggled through the courses.

"Yes--"

"Duke of York's, isn't it?"

"Yes--I think it is."

He watched her closely, but her eyes were lowered persistently to
her plate, or wandering aimlessly from table to table, never meeting
his. The thought that this man might guess the running of the current
of events, stung her to some show of pride that yet was not keen enough,
not great enough in itself to master, even for the moment, the despair
within. All the making up for the part it lent; but the acting of
it was beyond her.

"You've met his sister, Mrs. Durlacher--haven't you?" he asked
presently.

She saw no motive in this. She felt thankful for it--glad to be able
to say that she had.

"She was at Prince's the other day when I was there and she told me
that Jack had taken you down to Apsley."

"Yes, I went down with him in April."

"Lovely place--isn't it?"

"Yes, I thought it was wonderful. Did Mrs. Durlacher talk to you about
me at all?"

She could not hold herself from that curiosity. Into her voice she
drilled all the orderliness of casual inquiry; but give way to it
she must. Devenish thought of all the things that Traill's sister
had said to him; he thought of the many others, far more potent, that
she had left unsaid in the silent parenthesis of insinuation.

"She said how pretty she thought you were," he replied.

Had he thought that would please her? Scarcely. If he knew her mood
at all, he must have realized that this was but the sponge of vinegar
held to the lips, softened but little, if at all, with the gentle
flavour of hyssop.

They had finished dinner now and were just sipping coffee preparatory
to departure.

"Is that all she said?" Sally asked, imperturbably.

"Oh no, I'm sure it wasn't. But that girl--Miss Standish-Roe--who's
gone with them to-night--she was there, and she kept on breaking into
our conversation so that really I can't quite remember."

Had he watched Sally's face then, as closely as he had watched it
all through dinner, he would have seen the colour of ashes that swept
across it, tardily letting the blood drain back into her cheeks.

"Miss Standish-Roe?" she repeated, almost inaudibly.

"Yes--Coralie--she's the youngest daughter of old Sir Standish-Roe.
All the others have paired off. Didn't you know Jack was going with
them to-night?"

"Not with her."

"By Jove--I'm sorry, then." He shrugged his shoulders to free himself
from the sense of discomfort to his conscience. "I suppose I ought
not to have mentioned it."

"Why not?"

It is hard to prevent a woman, in the stress of emotion, from becoming
melodramatic. Tragedy twists her features, strikes unnatural lights
in her eyes. She has but little understanding of the drama of reserve.
She acts with her heart, not with her brain--with her emotions, not
with her intellect. In a moment of Tragedy, it is possible for a man
to think consciously in his mind of the appearance he presents. With
a woman that is impossible. Considerate at every other time of the
impression which she gives, a woman, with the full light of emotion
upon her, throws appearances to the winds. She will cry, though she
knows there is nothing less prepossessing; she will distend nostrils,
curl her lip with an ugly turn, fling herself utterly into the grip
of the situation, and lose dignity in the tempest of her feelings,
unless it be, as in some cases, that the imperiousness of anger should
add a dignity to her stature.

So, in that moment, it became with Sally. From the instant that she
knew there was another woman in Traill's life--and it needed even
less than instinct to show her that this girl was trying to steal
him from her--the whole flame of jealousy licked her with a burning
tongue. Quiet, sensitive, tender-hearted little Sally Bishop blazed
into a furnace of emotion. She did not even know that she was
melodramatic; she did not stop to think what effect her expression
or her action would have on this man beside her. When he questioned
the advisability of having told her that which came so near to the
whole system of her being, she let reserve go, and feelings--a pack
of sensations unleashed--raced riot across her mind, twisting her
childish face into a haggard distortion of jealousy.

"Why not?" she repeated under her breath--"Why shouldn't you have
mentioned it? Did he tell you not to?"

Before him, within the next few moments, Devenish could see the
rising of a storm, and so he set his sails, kept a clear head, talked
gently, almost beneath his breath, as if the matter were not of the
import she found it. The jealousy of women was not unknown to him.
He had met it often before; knew the tempest it called forth; had
sailed through it himself with canvas close-reefed and tiller
well-gripped in his hands. In Sally's eyes, as she branded her
question on his mind, he could discern that unnatural glint which
presages the driven action of a woman who is goaded to desperation.
For Traill's sake, for her sake also, for his own sake too, it was
essential to keep a steady head--move warily and take no risks.

"Did he tell you not to?" she asked again, before the plan of action
was settled in his mind.

"Not at all--of course not. Why should he? Besides, if he had, should
I have spoken to you about it? I thought you knew."

"No--I didn't know. How old is she--this girl?"

"About twenty-one, I suppose. Twenty-two--twenty-one."

"Is she pretty?"

Devenish screwed up his lips--lifted his shoulders.

"Is she?" she reiterated.

"Many people might not think so."

"But you do?"

"Well--I suppose--well, she's not what you'd call plain."

"Ah, you won't tell me. She is pretty--very pretty. Is she fair?"

"Yes."

"Fairer than I am?"

"Well--she has red hair, you see."

"Is her father wealthy?"

"I shouldn't think so. Of course they're by no means poor."

"He's a knight--you said."

"He's Sir--he's a baronet."

"That means the title's in the family."

"Exactly."

"Is she a nice girl? You know her--you said so."

"Oh yes, she's quite nice. Nothing very particular, nothing very
wonderful."

She looked full to his eyes, her own starved for knowledge.

"You're not telling me the truth," she exclaimed suddenly. "You're
telling me all lies. You're trying to save Jack. You know you've said
too much in telling me that he was going with her to-night, now you're
trying to smooth it over."

"My dear Miss Bishop--" He smiled amiably at her distress of
mind--"Surely Jack can go with his sister and some other lady to a
theatre without your being so unreasonably put out about it. You
can't wish to tie him down."

"I don't wish to tie him down. That's the last thing I should dream
of doing. But you know as well as I do that he hates that set in society,
would never have gone near the house in Sloane Street if it had not
been for his sister's unhappiness about her husband!"

Devenish looked up at her quickly with a swift change of expression.

"What unhappiness?" he asked.

"Why, that they're not getting on together."

The moment she had said it, a rush of fear that she had betrayed
Traill's confidence, overwhelmed her with a sense of nausea.

"Please don't say I've said that," she begged.

"Certainly not; but, how on earth can you say it? Captain and Mrs.
Durlacher may not be lovers in the passionate sense of the word, but
I know of few married people who get on as well as they do."

She looked at him with increasing amazement.

"Some time ago--yes--perhaps. But not now?"

"Yes, now. I know it for a fact. They hit it off admirably."

Hit it off--Traill's very words! Then it was a lie. A lie of Mrs.
Durlacher's that day when they were down at Apsley, a lie to win his
sympathy at a moment when she had all but lost it. She had come down
there to Apsley with the intention of estranging them. Traill had
seen through that. Sally had realized at the time that that was what
had stirred him to anger when he had come into the dining-room,
finding his sister there with her. Mrs. Durlacher had failed then.
She remembered her smothered feelings of delight at the attitude he
was taking when she left the room; but it was after that, after she
had gone upstairs, that Mrs. Durlacher, with this lie of her
unhappiness, had won him to her side.

"Are you absolutely sure of that?" she whispered.

"Why, of course! If anybody's spreading that report about, it's a
confounded lie."

Sally looked piteously about her. The iron teeth of the trap she had
seen were surely fast in her now. As yet, she was unable to discern
the deeper motive in Mrs. Durlacher's mind in which the
proprietorship of Apsley Manor played so vital a part; but she was
none the less certain of the designs that were being carried out so
effectually to wrest Traill from her side. She was an encumbrance
to his career. Had he told her that himself she would, with bowed
head, have accepted the inevitable; but, coming to her in this way,
this deep-laid plot and all the machinations of a woman whom, from
the very first, she had had good reason to despise, a devil of
jealousy was wakened in her. Obedience she might have given; her life
she would willingly have offered; yet when it was a subtle poison
that was being dropped into his mind to eat away his love for her,
all force in her nature rose uppermost and she was driven to ends
so foreign, so inconsistent with her whole being, that from that
moment Devenish scarcely recognized her as the same woman.

"I can't come to the music hall with you," she said suddenly.

He looked at her suspiciously.

"Why not?" he asked.

"I couldn't--I couldn't sit there--I--"

It was impossible not to feel sympathy for her. The hardest nature
in the world must yield its pity when the scourge of circumstance
falls upon the weak. Devenish only knew in part what she was suffering.
The mistress--deserted--is a position precarious enough,
undesirable enough for any man to realize and feel sympathy for. To
her mind, seeing that before her, he offered all such pity as he
possessed. But of the love wrenched from her life, the heart aching
with its overwhelming burden of misery, he saw nothing. She would
get over it. He knew that. Women did--women had to. She would settle
down into another type of existence. She would become some other
man's mistress. She would pull through. He looked at her childish
face and hoped she would pull through. The thought crossed his mind
that it would be a pity--a spoiling of something not meant to be
spoilt--if she lost caste and went on the streets. She deserved a
better fate than that. But it would never come to that.

"What are you going to do, then?" he asked quietly.

"Oh, I don't know--anything--I don't know."

"You won't do anything foolish?"

"Foolish? How? Foolish?"

He leant his elbows on the table, bearing his eyes direct upon hers.
The slight catch in her voice was breaking almost on a note of
hysteria.

"You're excited, you know," he said gently. "You know, you're
imagining things. You've got no grounds for them--I assure you you've
got no grounds. Come to the music hall with me and forget all about
it."

She shook her head.

"I couldn't," she replied; "I couldn't. I--I shan't do anything
foolish, but I think I'll go now--now--if you've finished."

"Yes, I've quite finished. But I'm going to say something first."

"What?"

"Don't let your imagination run riot with you; and if I can do
anything for you--there's nothing to be done, I mean--but if I can,
you let me know. Will you?"

She nodded her head vaguely. It meant nothing to her; but she nodded
her head.



CHAPTER VIII


Mrs. Durlacher had asked one of her guests to come early.

"Come at seven," she had said; "before if you can." And Miss
Standish-Roe had arrived at a quarter to the hour.

When she entered the drawing-room, Mrs. Durlacher kissed her
affectionately, then held her at arm's length, her hands on her
shoulders and gazed pensively into her eyes.

"Why do you look at me like that?" Coralie asked.

Mrs. Durlacher shrugged her shoulders and turned away to her chair.

"For no reason at all, my dear child, and for a million reasons. I
wish I was as pretty as you are."

"What nonsense!"

"Yes, isn't it? But if I had that red hair of yours, and those eyes,
I'd be happy for the rest of my life. You can't grow old with that
hair as long as you keep thin. Do you mind my telling you something?"

"No, not a bit; what?"

"You've got a little too much on that cheek, and your lips as well;
do you mind?"

"Heavens! No! Was that one of the million reasons?" She crossed the
room to a well-lighted mirror and, by the aid of its reflection,
rubbed her cheeks and lips with a handkerchief taken from the front
of her dress. "Was that why you stared at me?" she asked, turning
round, looking at Mrs. Durlacher, then at that part of the
handkerchief that her lips had touched.

"One of the reasons? Oh no. I only noticed it. That's all right now.
I believe you look better without it."

"Well, I felt so fagged this evening."

"I know; that's wretched. If you were a man, you'd drink; being a
woman, you make up. It's much more respectable really. By the way,
you don't see anything of Devenish now, do you?"

"No, nothing. We saw him that day at Prince's--I hadn't seen him for
two or three months before that--I haven't seen him since. I don't
think you can ever rely on a married man. Don't you know that line
of Kipling's?"

"Which?"

"In 'Barrack Room Ballads'--'Fuzzy Wuzzy,' I think."

"Nothing about a married man, surely?"

"No; but it fits him."

  "''E's all 'ot sand and ginger when alive,
    An' 'e's generally shammin' when 'e's dead.'"

Mrs. Durlacher broke into a peal of laughter. "What a quaint creature
you are!" she said. "Whatever made you think of that?"

"Well, he is like that--isn't he? I mean, you never know the moment
when his wife isn't going to hear a rumour. Then he shams dead, and
the next time he sees you, he just manages, with an effort, to
recognize you by your appearance."

"Is that what happened to Devenish?" asked Mrs. Durlacher with
amusement.

"I expect so. I never heard that his wife knew anything; but from
the way he suddenly fell in a heap, I should think it's quite likely.
And he's shamming still."

"Well, let him sham. I don't think he's worth anything else." She
paused, watching the effect of her words. "Oh, and you never told
me what you thought of my brother yesterday?"

"I think he's rather quaint."

"Yes, isn't he? I'm glad you like him."

"But why haven't I met him before? Don't you ever ask him down to
Apsley? I never realized you'd got a brother, you know, till the other
day you showed me that case in the paper."

"Very few people I know do," replied Mrs. Durlacher, whereby she
created a sense of the mysterious, raised curiosity and played a hand
that needed all her skill, all her ingenuity. "I shouldn't have told
you about him, even then," she continued, "if it hadn't been fairly
obvious to me that he was becoming a different sort of person."

"Why, what sort of an individual has he been?"

Mrs. Durlacher told her. Ah, but she made the telling interesting.
A man who owns such a place in the country as Apsley Manor, yet prefers
to live the life of the Bohemian in town, shunning society, reaping
none of the benefits that should naturally accrue to him from such
a position, can quite easily be surrounded with a halo of interest
if his narrative be placed in the hands of a skilful raconteur. Mrs.
Durlacher spared no pains in the telling of her story. Led it up
slowly through its various stages to the crisis, the crisis as she
made it. He owned Apsley Manor, not they! It was his property, capable
of repurchase at any moment! And--she leant back in her chair,
covering her face with her hands as though the blow were an unbearable
tragedy to her--he had said that he would take the place back. Five
thousand pounds was nothing to him. He could find it at a moment's
notice. So would any one, when such a place as Apsley was in the
balance.

"You can imagine," she concluded--bearing it bravely with the
resignation of martyrdom--"what a catastrophe that'll be to us."

"Poor Dolly; I never knew of that. I always thought the place was
yours. You always said so."

"Yes; why not? With every right. It is ours--till he repurchases.
You see he's beginning to nurse ambition now. I suppose there's no
doubt that he'll come up to the top of the ladder. I always knew he'd
make a splendid barrister if he once caught hold of the ambition.
Now, of course, he'll find that the possession of Apsley's of value
to him. He'll have to entertain. A Bohemian can't entertain any one
but a Bohemian. Then, I suppose, he'll marry--get a house in Town
like we have--and use Apsley, as we've done, for his friends."

"But, my dear Dolly--what on earth will you do?"

"Do?" Mrs. Durlacher rose with a sigh. "Well--there's prayer and
fasting; but there'll be considerably more fasting than prayer, I
should imagine. I assure you, I do pray that he doesn't make a fool
of himself and marry some woman out of the bottomless pit of Bohemia."

"Well, I should think so. It 'ud be an awful pity, wouldn't it?"

"A considerable pity--yes. Here he is." She turned quickly to her
friend, but her voice was cleverly pitched on a casual note. "Don't
say anything to him about Apsley," she remarked. "He never admits
to possession of it--that's one of his peculiarities. I don't suppose
he will until he planks down his five thousand pounds. He has what
he calls a legal sense of justice. Makes sure of a statement before
he delivers it. You'll never catch him out. That's the Scotch blood
on the mater's side of the family. I should think it's saved him out
of many a difficulty."

Traill strode into the drawing-room as unconscious of the fate that
Mrs. Durlacher had so deftly woven for him as is the unwieldy gull
that, tumbling down the wind, strikes into the meshes of the fowler's
net and finds itself enchained within the web. Coralie, herself, set
to the task of winning him, was as unconscious of the subtly
diaphonous mechanism of the trap as he. Yet she was versed well enough
in human nature in her way. Innocence could not be laid at her door
with the hope of finding it again. But it needs the long training
of social strategy for any one to realize the cunning knowledge that
things are not obtained in this world by asking for them, but by the
hidden method of suggestion. That Mrs. Durlacher was in search of
a suitable sister-in-law was obvious to the most untrained eye. It
was no capable deduction on Coralie's part to have made certain of
that. But she hesitated when she came to the wondering of whether
she was considered suitable to fill that position herself. The
hesitancy was of but little duration. The first time she had seen
Traill, he had attracted her; now the attraction was increased a
thousandfold. She had often stayed at Apsley Manor. Once her father
had gone down for the shooting and had returned glowing with
enthusiasm.

"Place I should like to have," he had grunted, "place I should like
to have." And after dinner he sat over his port and amused himself
with breaking the tenth commandment.

But there was no certainty in Coralie's mind that Mrs. Durlacher,
with all her outward show of friendship, would consider her to be
the eligible one. Yet here the chance offered. She determined to take
it--hand open, ready for the gift.

From the moment then, that he arrived, she began the outset of her
campaign. The social manner she knew he hated. That she cast off.
The astute woman of the world, he despised. Mrs. Durlacher had well
grounded her. She wrapped herself in the simplicity of a girl whose
eyes have scarcely opened to a knowledge of life and whose inner
consciousness is as yet untouched.

If she had given him any impression of a want of innocence the day
before when they discussed the case in the divorce court which he
had won, she now swept it from his mind. He found her ingenuousness
charming. Her eyes helped her. They were big, grey, wide-open like
a child's. He found himself looking interestedly for the simple
questions that they turned upon him. In the box at the theatre, they
leant back in their seats and talked in undertones through the acts
and Mrs. Durlacher, leaning out to watch the piece, heard not a word
that the actors said. Her ears were strained to catch the progress
of their conversation. During the intervals, she levelled her
glasses at the house and was apparently too pre-occupied to interrupt
their enjoyment. In the interval that followed the second act, her
glasses, roaming aimlessly across the stalls, became riveted to her
eyes. After a moment, she looked hastily away, then stealthily looked
again. Finally she turned round to her brother, curbing the surprise
which, notwithstanding her efforts, forced itself into the
expression of her face.

Then she beckoned to him. He rose from his chair and came to her side.

"In the interval after the next act," she whispered, "look through
the glasses at the third row in the pit. Not now--not now! It might
be noticed now."

"Who is it?" he asked.

"I don't know--I'm not certain."

The lights in the theatre were put out just as he was about to turn
his head in the direction. He went back to his seat and in five minutes
had forgotten about it.

When that act was over and the lights revived again, Mrs.
Durlacher handed him the glasses. He came to the edge of the box.
Coralie followed him, looking down on the rows of heads below her.

"Look round the house first," Mrs. Durlacher whispered.

He swept the glasses right and left, about the theatre in an
indiscriminate manner--seeing nothing. Then he turned them in the
direction his sister had indicated. From one face to another he
passed along the third row of the pit, seeing only clerks and their
young girls, shop-keepers and their wives. At last he stopped. There
was a girl sitting by herself. Her head was down, her face hidden;
but he recognized her. Then she looked up quickly--straight to the
box--turned direct to his glasses a pair of dark eyes that were
burning, cheeks that were pale, almost unhealthy in the pallor, and
white lips, half-parted to the breaths he could almost hear her
talking.

It was Sally!

Directly she thought that he had seen her, her head lowered guiltily
again. She kept it bent, hidden from him, lifting a programme to
shield her utterly from his gaze.

He put down his glasses on the ledge of the box.

"Do you allow that sort of thing?" Mrs. Durlacher whispered as she
took them up.

"My God--no!" he exclaimed.

She smiled in her mind. That word--allow--was chosen with
discretion.



CHAPTER IX


As the curtain fell Traill proposed supper at a restaurant. They
readily agreed. Mrs. Durlacher, in the best of spirits, thanking
Providence for the weakness of human nature that had driven Sally
to follow Traill to the theatre, still thrilling with the sound of
his exclamation in her ears, would have lit the dullest entertainment
in the world with the humour of her mood. There was a part for her
to play. She played it. All her remarks, bristling with the pointed
satires of spiteful criticism, were a foil to the gentle temper of
Coralie's conversation.

"My God!" said Traill, as they walked down one of the passages to
the _foyer_, and he listened to his sister's verdict upon a woman
who had gone out before them. "Do you women allow a stitch of
respectability to hang on each other's backs?"

"She'd want more than a stitch," Mrs. Durlacher replied, "if she's
not going to put on more clothes than that."

Traill shrugged his shoulders, half conscious of a comparison
between his sister and the quiet reserve of this girl beside him.
He had thought her pretty, seeing her at a distance on the night when
he had dined with Dolly. Meeting her the day before, in the dim light
of the drawing-room at Sloane Street, he had found her still more
attractive; but on this evening, in the glamour of bright
lights--young, fresh, charming as she seemed to him--his senses were
swept by her fascination.

At all times a beautiful woman is wonderful--the thing of beauty and
the joy for ever; the phrase that comes naturally to the mind. But
when, conscious of her own attractions, she lends that beauty to the
expression of pleasure which she finds in the company of the man
beside her, then, to possibly that man alone, but certainly to him,
she is doubly beautiful. Nature indeed had been generous with Coralie
Standish-Roe. Nature has her moods and her devilish humours. She was
more than amiable when she bestowed her gifts upon Coralie. You may
talk about the value of a noble heart beating in an empty corset,
shining out of pinched and tired eyes; but it is a value, unmarketable,
where the good things in a woman's life are given in exchange. Janet
Hallard and her like have learnt the realization of that. And of the
qualities of noble-heartedness, Coralie possessed but very few. Her
disposition was intensely selfish. She took all the admiration that
she could get--and it was infinitely more than some women dream
of--with a grace of gratitude whose parallel may be found in the
schoolboy galloping through one helping of food that he may begin
another. Her hunger for it was insatiable, but she was too young as
yet for any such reputation to have fastened itself upon her; too
young for the manner which becomes the natural expression of women
of this type to have blotted out her undeniable charm of youth. Youth
saved her from Traill's critical appreciation of women. Two years
later he would have passed her with a momentary lifting of interest
which she herself would unconsciously have dispelled at the first
touch of acquaintance. Now, he was not only thrilled, he was
interested. She was a child. He found her so--as much a child as Sally
had been. Add her beauty to that--a beauty unquestionably greater
than the simple charm of Sally's baby features--and add still again
that fallacious sense of social position by which Traill realized
that such a girl he could not ask promiscuously out to dinner, could
not casually persuade to come to his rooms, and you have, besides
the unavoidable comparison between the two in his mind, that subtle
difference which a life of ease and a life of labour makes in the
position of women to a man's conception of the sex.

Immediately they stepped outside the theatre into the blaze of light
where the attendants were rushing for carriages, and men and women,
in a confused mass, jostled each other to fight free of the crowd,
Traill's eyes searched quickly for a sight of Sally. Mrs. Durlacher
also was alert to the possibility of finding her watching their
movements. But they saw no trace of her.

In the mouth of a little alley, deep with shadows, on the other side
of St. Martin's Lane, she was standing, her heart throbbing, half
timidly, half jealously, yet secure in the knowledge that she was
safe from observation. With eyes, burnt in the fever of a fierce
emotion, she watched them as they stepped into the car that drew up
beneath the lighted portico. When she saw Mrs. Durlacher's gesture
inviting Traill to sit between them on the back seat; when she saw
him willingly accept, notwithstanding that there was more room, more
comfort in the seat opposite, she drew in a breath between her teeth,
and the nails of her fingers bit into the palms of her hands. Now,
from what little she had seen in the theatre, and taking into greatest
consideration of all the proof of her own eyes that the woman was
beautiful, eclipsing herself at every point of attraction, Sally was
full-swept into the mad whirlpool of unreasoning jealousy. Every
action and every incident that her starved eyes fed upon were
distorted, embittered to the taste as though the taint of aloes had
crept into everything.

She thought she saw him lay his hand upon hers as he took the place
beside her. In that position she knew that they would be wedged close
together, their limbs touching, thrilling his senses as she well knew
she herself had thrilled them by even slighter proximity than that.
Here, too, she judged again by the lowest of standards, if judgment
it can be said of a wild flinging of thoughts--vitriol hurled in a
moment of madness. Yet against him she could find no bitterness. The
woman, kissing the hand that strikes her, to shield it from the
falling of the law, is a type that has made no history; but in the
hearts of men she is to be found with her ineffaceable record.

It was against the two women, against Mrs. Durlacher with her
damnable cunning, against the other with her still more damnable
fascination, that all the blinding acid of Sally's thoughts was cast.
The woman who had hoodwinked him with her lies about her husband,
the woman who had crept in, seizing the moment of his blindness--these
were the two people in the world whom she could willingly have
strangled with her little hands that gripped and loosened in the mad
emotion of her rage. Under her breath she muttered--hissing the
words--the vain things that she would do. All the civilized refinement
of humanity was burnt out of her. She was not human. She had lost
control. The thoughts that revelled in her brain were animal; the
savage fury of the beast starved of its food and then deprived of the
flesh and blood that are snatched from the very clutching of its claws.

It is not so far a call, even now, for this divine humanity, weaned
upon the nutritious food of intelligence, nursed in the refining lap
of civilization, to hark back, driven by one rush of events, to the
lowest forms of nature that exist. If, in the hour of death, seeking
immunity from peril, there live men who have trodden down the bodies
of women, beaten them with naked fists, severed arms from their
bleeding hands that held to safety in order that they might find their
own escape; then, surely it is no very wonderful thing for a woman,
threatened with the destruction of all her happiness, to give herself
over to the mad riot of murderous intent that shouts the cry of bloody
revolution through her brain!

In these moments nothing human could have been accounted for in Sally.
In these moments the fire of the enraged animal glittered in her eyes,
the incoherent mutterings of dumb passion vibrated in her breath.

A man passing down through the dark shadows of the alley into the
street, turned and gazed at her. She took no notice. Did not even
see him. The car was just beginning to move out into the traffic.
As it turned, too eager to follow it, she stepped on to the pavement.

Traill's eyes caught her then, saw her begin to quicken her steps,
break even into a run following their tardy progress as they squeezed
a way through the press of other vehicles. He looked out through the
small, square window in the back of the hood and could still see her,
forcing her way through the crowds of people, sometimes jostling them
upon the path, then running in the gutter for the greater freedom
of passage.

"God!" he muttered under his breath, as he turned back again.

"What is it?" asked Coralie.

"Oh, nothing," he replied; "nothing."

Mrs. Durlacher caught her lips between her teeth to crush the smile
that rose to them. Now she was sure at least that Sally's power was
broken. Her subtle use of that word "allow" had served its double
purpose. Not only had it delicately questioned the possession of that
authority which she knew he held above all things; but also, in
permitting it, the admission had been deftly drawn from him that
Sally was his mistress. She had known it before, as women do know
things. Now she was certain of it and, in her certainty, realized
that this was the moment--to strike when he was weakest. A man, shaken
free of the ties that bind him to one woman, is more ready than another
in the reaction of indifference which follows to fetter himself again
in order that life may seem less void, less hollow than he finds it.

To Coralie, then, in the dressing-room of the restaurant, as they
took off their cloaks, she said--

"My dear girl, you're making that brother of mine in love with you."

And to Traill, she jested as they said good night--

"My dear boy, considering your obligations to other women, do you
think it's fair? The girl's losing her heart to you, or will be if
she sees you again."



CHAPTER X


The congestion of the traffic, the knotted lines of carriages
conveying to their houses the thousands of people whom the theatres
had disgorged into the streets, enabled Sally to keep Mrs.
Durlacher's car in sight until it passed through the wide portals
of a restaurant in the Strand where, from the street, she could see
them dismount and pass into the building. They had gone to supper.
Traill had told her nothing about that. Then it had only been decided
since he had met them; he must be enjoying himself in the society
of these very people whose society he professed to abhor. That they
might have pressed him to accompany them so that he found it
impossible to refuse, did not enter the argument in her mind. All
thoughts tended in one direction--instinct guiding them--instinct,
drunk with the noxious ferment of jealousy, whipping her mind down
paths where no reason could follow, yet bringing her invariably to
the truth with that same generosity of Providence which watches over
the besotted wanderings of a drunken man.

For some moments she stood there, watching the doors which a powdered
flunkey had swung to after their entrance. Wild suggestions flung
themselves before her consideration. She would go back to her room,
dress herself in the best frock that Traill had given her and go to
supper there herself. She would wait there an hour, an hour and a
half if necessary, to see if he went home with them. That she had
almost decided on, when a man of whose presence, passing behind her
once or twice upon the pavement, she had been unaware, stopped by
her side.

"Waiting for some one?" he said, with that insinuating tone of voice
which disposes of any need for introduction.

She drew away from him quickly in horror, fear driving cold through
the hot blood of her jealousy. Then she turned, as he laughed to
conceal his momentary embarrassment, and hurried off in the
direction of Trafalgar Square.

That incident proved her waiting to be impossible. She walked slowly
home, all the spirit within her sinking down into an impenetrable
mood of depression from which not even the persistent hope that love
must win her back her happiness in the end had any power to raise
her. Now she was crushed--burnt out. Only the charred cinders and
the ashes of herself were left behind from the flames of that furnace
which had torn its way through her.

Lighting just one candle, she sat in his room waiting for his return.
An hour passed, and at last she blew the candle out. He might think
it strange to find her there, sitting up for him; he might suspect,
and as yet she was sublimely unconscious that he had seen her. She
was sure when she had covered her face with the programme in the
theatre that the action had been in time; moreover, she was by no
means certain that from that distance his glasses had covered her
at all.

Mounting the uncarpeted stairs from his room to the floor above, she
stopped once or twice, thinking she heard a hansom pulling up in the
street. Her heart stopped with her and she held a breath in suspense;
but on each occasion it jingled on, losing the noise of its bells
in the murmuring night sounds which never quite die into silence in
that quarter.

When she reached her room, she lit a candle, holding it up before
the mirror on the dressing-table and gazing at her face in its
reflection.

"My God!" she whispered.

Truly, in the light of that one candle, she hardly recognized herself.
Violent sensations, deep emotions, these are the accelerations of
time. They produce--momentarily no doubt--the same effect as do the
passing of years over which such intensity of feeling is more evenly
distributed. In those few hours, since she had heard from Devenish
that another woman was claiming the attentions of Traill's mind,
Sally had aged--withered almost--in the fierce stress of her passion
of jealousy. It had passed over her like the sirocco of the desert,
leaving her parched, dried, shrivelled, as a child grown old before
its years. No colour was there in her cheeks, no vestige of the sign
that beneath a mere fraction's measurement of that white skin, the
blood was flowing through her veins. Yet the skin was not really white.
It was an ugly grey, smirched with a colour that bore but the faintest
resemblance to animation. Beneath the eyes deep shadows lay, smeared
into the sockets. She lifted the candle to their level, but they did
not disappear. Pain had cast them, and no shifting of material light
would wipe them out. But it was the eyes themselves that startled
her. When she looked into them--deep into the pupils--she realized
how close she had drifted to the moment beyond which control is of
no account--the moment of absolute madness. Even then, they
glittered unnaturally. A gleam from the candle again? She moved it
once more--this way and that--but still the light flickered there,
frightening her into a sudden effort of restraint. She tried to pull
herself together; put down the candle hurriedly and, feeling the
leathern dryness in her mouth, caught at a carafe of water, drinking
from it without use of the glass.

That steadied her. Thoughts drifted back into their channels and,
coming with them, looming with its portentous realization above the
others, the remembrance that only the evening before, he had drawn
out the settlement upon her life. Now she knew why he had done it.
Now she found the absolute trending of his mind. He had said if he
died! That was only to blind, only to tie a bandage about her eyes
in order to conceal from her the true motive that had instigated him.
But she saw the true motive now. Under the bandages she had already
tried to peer; now circumstance itself had wrenched them from her.

With feverish movements, she opened a drawer and took from it a little
slip of paper. This was a copy of the settlement as he had drawn it
out. He had presented it to her.

"You'd better keep it as a memorandum of the details," he had said
and, without glancing at its contents, she had thrust it into this
drawer. Now she hurriedly spread it open.

"In the event of my death, or the discontinuance of the relations
which now exist between Miss Sally Bishop and myself--"

These were the first words that met her eyes. Her fingers closed
automatically over the paper, crushing it into her palm. Could she
need any more proof than that? That a settlement and dealing with
a relationship such as theirs must be worded in such a way, carried
no weight with it to her mind. She knew then, that when he had alluded
to the event of his death, it had been farthest from his thoughts.
He had meant their separation. In three years--a little more than
three years it had come. He was tired of her. She knew well then how
useless had been her efforts to move him to passion the night before.
Her cheeks flamed, thinking that it had not been because he was
unconscious of her attempt. He had seen it. There was no doubt in
her mind that when he had told her to fasten her dressing-gown, when
he had noticed the perfumes of scent from her hair, he had realized
the motive that was acting within her. But he was tired--satiated.
And how he must have loathed her! Yet no greater than she, at that
moment, loathed herself. He knew--of course he knew--that her coming
down to get the book had all been an excuse. He had probably thought
that her desire had been for herself. How could he possibly have known
that she felt no desire, had been frigid, cold, without a strain of
passion in her thoughts, seeking only to tempt him to her side, for
his pleasure alone, with the delights of her body? How could he have
known? He did not know! Of a certainty he must have thought that it
was her own satisfaction she was seeking. The blood raced back from
her cheeks, leaving her shivering and cold. Oh, how he must have
loathed her! Why had she done it? Why was there not some illuminating
power to point out the intricacy of the ways when people came to such
a maze in life as this?

In a torture of shame that blent with all her misery, she flung
herself, dressed as she was, on to the bed. Let him find her
there--what did it matter! She realized that she had lost everything.
And there she lay, eyes burning and dry, heart just beating faintly
in her breast. But when she heard his footsteps mounting the stairs,
she suddenly got up. If he knew that she had followed them, he would
never forgive her. So, in the midst of her misery, she still found
the strength to hope. Jumping up from the bed she stood before her
mirror and began to take off her hat as though she had that moment
returned.

When his knock fell on the door, she forced fear from her voice, drove
eagerness into the place of it, and called him to enter.

The door opened. In the mirror's reflection, she could see him stop
abruptly as he came into the room. With hands still lifted,
extricating the pins from her hat, she turned. His lips were tight
closed, his eyes merciless. So he had looked that day at Apsley when
he had returned to find his sister with her in the dining-room. So
he had directed his gaze upon the woman whom she had heard him
cross-examine in the Law Courts. The suspicion leapt to her mind that
he knew, that he had seen her; but having steeled herself to tell
the lie, she did not attempt, in the sudden moment, to reconstruct
her mind to a hasty admission of the truth. She must tell the lie,
clinging to it through everything.

"Have you only just come in?" he asked.

The tone in his voice seemed to question her right to come in at all.
And she was no actress. Another woman in her place, even knowing all
she knew, suspecting all she did, would have turned to him in
amazement; questioning his right to speak to her like that; covered
her guilt with a cloak of astonished innocence and paraded her injury
before him. Sally took it for granted; did not even argue from it
the certainty that he had seen her. Her mind was made up for the lie
and she did not possess that agility of purpose which, at a moment's
notice, could enable her to twist her intentions--a mental
somersault that needs the double-jointedness of cunning and all the
consummate flexibility of tact. He might know that she had followed
them, but she must never admit it. It seemed a feasible argument to
her, in the whirling panic of her thoughts, that her admission would
be fatal--just as the prisoner in the dock pleads "not guilty"
against all the damning evidence of every witness who can be brought
against him.

"I've been in about half an hour," she replied.

"Did you dine with Devenish?"

The same direct form of question, thrown at her with the same
implacable scrutiny of his eyes.

"Yes," she replied.

"Where?"

She mentioned the name of the restaurant in Shaftesbury Avenue.

"Where did you go afterwards?"

It was all prepared on her tongue. She did not hesitate.

"To the Palace," she replied.

"To the Palace?" He repeated it. His eyes burnt into her. Then she
knew that he had seen her in the theatre; but only in the theatre
where she could still swear to him that he was mistaken. Every
instinct she possessed forced her to deny it until the last; beyond
that if breath were left her.

"Did you see it out? Did you see the performance out?" he continued.

"Yes--we waited till the end."

A note of warning despatched to Devenish would ensure his
confirmation of all she had said. He had told her that if ever she
needed a friend--now indeed she wanted one.

"What did you do then if you only came in half an hour ago? It's just
one o'clock."

A thought rushed exultingly to her mind that he was jealous--jealous
of Devenish. He had not seen her at all. This was jealousy. Her heart
cried out in thankfulness. She crossed the room to him, all the whole
wealth of her love alive and bright in her eyes.

"Jack"--she whispered--"you're not jealous of Devenish, are you?"

A laugh broke out from his lips, striking her with the sting of its
harshness.

"Where did you go afterwards?" he repeated.

"To supper--we went to supper--the same place where we had dined.
Why wouldn't you tell me if you were jealous? Do you think I should
mind?"

"Jealous?" He took her arm and led her nearer to the light of the
solitary candle. There he faced her, looking down into the weary
pupils of her eyes. "All these things you've been saying," he said
brutally--"are lies--the whole--blessed--pack of them. You never
went to the Palace Theatre, you went to the Duke of York's. You sat
in the third row of the pit and covered your face with a programme
whenever you thought we were looking in your direction. You never
went to supper afterwards. You tracked Dolly's car into the
Strand--running in the gutter to keep pace with it. Jealous? Great
God! No! What have I to be jealous about? What did you think you were
doing--eh? What did you think you were going to gain by it?"

Up to a moment, she met his eyes; but when he railed at her thoughts
of his jealousy, then all courage fell from her. "Jealous? Great God!
No!" She knew it was finished when he had said that and, beneath the
weight of his contempt, she crumbled into the dust of pitiful
obsession.

"Did you imagine," he went on mercilessly--"that I undertook the
arrangement of this life with you with the thought for a moment in
my mind that you would institute a close vigil over all my actions?"

"It was only because I knew you were being deceived," she said
brokenly.

"How being deceived? By whom?"

"By your sister."

"How has she deceived me?" He forced her eyes to his. "How?" he
repeated.

To defend her case, just as the woman in the Courts had done, she
told him of what Devenish had said; notwithstanding that she herself
had pleaded with Devenish to repeat nothing of what had passed
between them. Then, in the cold glittering of his eyes, she saw how
she had doubly wronged her cause.

"So you speak to outsiders," he said quietly, "about the things which
I have told you in confidence. My God! It's well that you and I are
not married; well for you and well for me that we haven't to smirch
our names in order to get the release of a divorce."

"Divorce?"

"Yes. Great heavens! Do you think I'm going to live on with you now?
Do you think I'm going to be followed in all my actions--tracked,
trapped--and dandle the private detective on my knee?"

"Ah, but Jack!" She flung arms around his neck, her head bent close
to his chest. "I was jealous--can't you see that? I was jealous of
that girl."

He put her firmly away from him. "Oh, that be damned for a tale!"
he exclaimed.

She shuddered. She had sought for pity--the last hope. In his voice
there was none. If only she had had some one to guide her, some one
to show her that it would all lead to this. She would have held him
longer; she would still have held him, had she not given way to let
jealousy wrestle with her soul, flinging it at his feet for him to
trample on. Whatever had been the attitude of his mind before, she
had afforded him no reason to leave her. Now there was cause--cause
enough. She could only see the enormity of her guilt with his eyes,
so completely did he dominate her. That a thousand circumstances had
mitigated her action, had goaded her, as the unwilling beast is
driven through the noise and smoke of battle, until, in the fury of
fear, it plunges headlong towards the murderous cannonade--that
these things should be taken into account did not enter her
conception of the situation. She had wronged him. That was all she
felt. And now, clutching his hand, raising it to her lips, drenching
it with her tears and kisses, she begged his forgiveness, humbling
herself down to the very dust.

He took his hand away. "What's the good of talking about
forgiveness?" he said unemotionally. "The thing's done. I was not
the only person who saw you."

"Your sister?"

"Yes; she pointed you out first."

"I might have guessed that!" Sally exclaimed bitterly.

"Why?"

"Because she hates me. She knew it 'ud make you angry if you saw me
there."

"Oh, that's nonsense! Why should she hate you?"

"Why, because she wants you for that other girl. And you do care for
her now, don't you--don't you?"

Traill turned away with annoyance. "We'll leave that matter alone,"
he said. "I haven't the slightest intention of discussing it.
To-morrow morning I shall see about letting my rooms. According to
the terms of the settlement I drew out last night, you retain
these--rent free--to the expiration of the lease. That's three years.
But you mayn't sub-let."

Sub-let! He could talk about sub-letting! The irony of it dragged
a laugh through her lips.

"Do you think I shall want to sub-let?" she said stridently. "Do you
think I shall care what I do, where I live, how I live?"

"You'll be a fool if you don't," he remarked.

The hysterical note in her voice had jarred through him. Once before
in his life he had had a woman screaming about his ears. There was
no desire in his mind to relish the enjoyment of it again. He turned
slowly towards the door. This was the worst of women. A man's
relations with them were bound to end something after this fashion.
In common with most men, he shared a hatred of that termination of
all intimacies which one calls a scene.

But, really, he had no cause for apprehension. The tears now were
streaming down her face, sobs were choking her, convulsive
shudderings that shook her body in a merciless grip. Her spirit was
utterly broken. No worse could happen to her now. But through all
her misery, she could still think first of him. That tentative
drawing away, the hand stretching out for the door, she knew the
meaning of that; she saw that he had had enough--enough of her weeping,
enough of her despair. Just as when, watching the fight, she had
struggled against her weakness lest it should spoil his pleasure,
so now she fought down the hysteria of her mind to give him ease.
Very wearily she crossed the room and stood beside him, forcing back
tears with lips that were trembling and contorted. It was no show
of bravado, no spurious bravery, aping self-respect, taking it well,
as the phrase has it. She was not brave. She felt a coward to all
of life that offered. Her heart was that of a derelict--numbed, inert,
no spirit left in it--just lifting its head with sluggish weariness
above the body of the waves. But simply out of love for him she could
not bear to see him annoyed by her suffering.

"You needn't hurry to go," she said finely; "I shan't make a fool
of myself--the way you think. I shan't be a drag on you--I promise
you that. And if you're going to-morrow, wouldn't you stop just a
little while and talk?"

At any other moment the simplicity of that would have touched him;
but the affection that Devenish had seen to be tiring had been
snapped--a thread in a flame--when he had found her watching his
actions, dogging his footsteps. His liberty--that which a man of his
type most prizes when he finds it being encroached upon--had been
threatened. There was no forgiveness in the heart of him for that.
In the sudden freedom of his affections--just as Mrs. Durlacher had
so deftly anticipated--he had let them drift--a moth to the nearest
candle, a floating seed to the nearest shore--and Coralie
Standish-Roe had claimed them.

"Can anything be gained by talking?" he asked, quietly.

"Yes--perhaps it's the last time."

"But nothing can be gained by it. You'll only make yourself more
miserable. What is the good of that?"

"Do you think I could be more miserable?" she asked.

He shrugged his shoulders.

This scarcely, without seeking defence for Traill, is the most
difficult part for a man to play well. He had never offered, in the
first beginning of their acquaintance, to deceive her. He was not
a man who had respect for marriage, he had said quite honestly. He
had told her to go--have no truck with him; and if she had gone, if
she had not taken upon herself to return his present, he would have
seen no more of her. She had known of his love of liberty, and she
herself had threatened it; yet now, seemingly, he was playing a mean
part, deserting her, casting her off, when she loved him with every
breath her trembling lips drew through her body. It is hard to play
such a part well. Even the least sensitive of men, conscious of their
own cruelty, will seek to end it as quickly as may be. Wherefore,
how could he be expected to see the good gained by staying and
talking? What good, in God's name, did talking do? With the agony
prolonged, the strain drawn out, how were they--either of them--to
benefit? Here, indeed, is a judgment of the head. But it was with
her heart alone that Sally craved for its continuance. It was the
last she was to see of him; the last time that he would be in her
bedroom where all the passionate associations of her life would
always lie buried. Can it be wondered that she would willingly have
dragged the misery of it through all that night, if only to keep him
for the moments as they passed, by her side?

Yet he was driven to play the mean part--the part for which there
never will be--perhaps never should be--any sympathy. And he must
play it with the best grace he could. A man is always a spectator
to his own actions; a woman, in her emotions--never. So women lose
their self-respect more easily than men.

But Traill was not the type to allow these abstract considerations
to worry him. The love in him she found to be dead. He was not even
moved by the piteousness of her appeal. There, then, it must end.
It was not his nature to choose the most graceful, the kindest way
to end it. He snapped it off as, across the knees, you break a faggot
for the burning. And that, too, is the only way to do it.

"I didn't come up here," he said, "to discuss anything. The whole
thing's discussed in my mind. When I saw you running after the car,
pushing your way along the gutter--that ended it. You'd better read
through your settlement now and if you don't think I've been generous
enough, tell me to-morrow morning. I shall be downstairs till
eleven."

He opened the door--passed through--closed it. She listened to each
one of his steps as he descended the stairs, her mouth hanging open,
her eyes struck in a fixed glare at the spot where he had stood. Then,
when she heard him close his door below, she just crumpled up in an
abandoned heap upon the floor, and with each breath she
moaned--"Oh--oh--oh."

Traill, undressing below, heard it. With a muttered exclamation, he
dragged his shirt over his head and flung it violently into the corner
of the room amongst the bundle of dirty linen.


END OF BOOK II



BOOK III

DERELICT



CHAPTER I


Virtue is the personality of many women. Rob them of it, those of
them whose value it enhances, and you prize a jewel from its setting,
you wrench a star out of the mystery of the heavens and bring it down
to earth. It is a common trend of the mind in these modern days to
make nobility out of the women whose personality needs no virtue to
lift it to a pedestal of fame. But really, it is they who make the
nobility for themselves. Phryne of Athens, Helen of Troy, Catherine
of Russia, Mary of Scotland--these are women who have ennobled
themselves without aid of eulogy. Personality has been theirs
without necessity for the robe of virtue to grace them in the eyes
of the world. But with the seemingly lesser women, the women of
seemingly no vast account--with those whose whole individuality
depends upon the invaluable possession of their virtue, no great epic
can well be sung, no loud paean sounded. You may find just a lyric
here, a rondel there, set to the lilt of a phrase in an idle hour
and sung in a passing moment to send a tired heart asleep. But that
is all. Yet they are the women upon whom the world has spent six
thousand years in the making; they are the women at whose breasts
are fed the sons of men. The whole race has been weaned by them; every
country has been nursed into manhood in their arms. But they are too
normal or they are too much a class to have men sing of them. There
is not one mother of children in the vast calendars of history who
stands out now for our eyes to reverence. Upon the stage of the world
their part is played, and what eye is there can grasp in comprehensive
glance the whole broad sweep of power which their frail hands have
wielded? Only upon that mimic platform of fame, raised where the eyes
of all can watch the figure as it treads the boards, have women stood
apart where the recorder can jot their names upon a scroll of history
for the world to read. There is no virtue essential here; virtue
indeed but adds a glamour with its absence.

There is some subtle attraction in a Catherine of Russia or a Manon
Lescaut which tempts the cunning lust of men to cry their praise for
the nobility of heart that lies beneath. But what elusive charm is
there in the mother of children whose stainless virtue is her only
personality? None? Yet to the all-seeing eye, to the all-comprehending
brain--to that omniscience whom some call God, be it in Trinity or in
Unity, and others know not what to call--these are the women who lift
immeasurably above fame, infinitely above repute.

So, therefore, rob them of their virtue and you prize a jewel from
its setting, you wrench a star from the mystery of the heavens and
bring it down to earth, you filch from the generous hand of Nature
that very possession which she holds most dear. For without virtue,
these women are nothing. Without virtue, you may see them dragging
the bed of the streets for the bodies they can find. It is the last
task which Nature sets them--bait to lure men from the theft of that
virtue in others which they can in no wise repay.

And this very virtue itself needs no little power of subtle
comprehension to understand; for intrinsically it is a fixed quality
while outwardly it changes, just as the tide of custom ebbs or flows.
Intrinsically then, it is that quality in a woman which breeds
respect in men--respect, the lure of which is so often their own
vanity. And the pure, the chaste, the untouched woman, whether it
be vanity or not, is she whom men most venerate. Of these they make
mothers--for these alone they will live continently. And however
much love a man may bear in his heart for a woman whom some other
than himself has possessed, the knowledge of it will corrupt like
a poison in the blood though he forgive her a thousand times.

Such a woman, pure, chaste, and untouched, had been Sally Bishop.
But to one man alone can a woman be this, and then, only so long as
she remains with him. Once he has cast her off, when once she is
discarded, she becomes to all who know her, a woman of easy virtue,
prey to the first hungry hands that are ready to claim her. This,
in an age when the binding sacrament of matrimony is being held up
to ridicule both in theory and in practice, is perhaps the only
reasonable argument that can be utilized in its defence. It is surely
not pedantic to hope that the purity of some women is still essential
for the race, and it is surely not illogical to suppose that marriage
is the means, in such cases as that of Sally Bishop, to this humble
end.

Pure, certainly, she had been, even in the eyes of such a man as
Devenish; but in the light of a discarded mistress, all her virtue
vanished. Innate in the mind of the worst of men is the timid
hesitation before he brands a virtuous woman; but when once he knows
that she has fallen, conscience lifts, like a feather on the breeze.
With a light heart, he reaps the harvest of tares which some other
than himself must be blamed for sowing, and with a light heart he
goes his way, immune to remorse.

This then is the Tragedy which, like some insect in the heart of the
rose, had eaten its way into the romance of Sally Bishop.

For three days after Traill had left her, she broke under the flood
of her despair. For those three days she did not move out of her rooms,
taking just what nourishment there was to be found in the cupboards
where they stored the food for their breakfasts. On the side of her
bed she sometimes sat, biting a dry piece of bread--anything that
she could find--in that unconscious instinct with which the body
prompts the mind for its own preservation. But these meals--if such
they can be called--she took at no stated times. Crusts of bread lay
about on the table, showing how indiscriminately of order she had
fed herself. For two hours together, she would sit in awful silence,
with eyes strained staringly before her. Of tears, there were none.
Sometimes a sob broke through her lips when a sound downstairs
reminded her of him; but no tears accompanied it. It was more like
the complaining cry of some animal in its sleep.

For the first two nights she just flung herself on her bed when the
darkness came. She did not undress. The nights were warm then, or
cold might have driven her between the clothes. But, on the third
evening, she disrobed. This was habit reasserting itself. She did
it unconsciously, only remembering as she crept, shuddering, between
the sheets, that for the two previous nights she had not gone to bed
at all.

The toppling fall of reason would soon have ended it; that merciful
potion of magic which can bring a torturing misery in the guise of
a quaint conceit to a mind made simple as a little child's. Another
day or so, and the frightened agony that glittered in her
eyes--fusing slowly towards the last great conflagration--would
have burnt up in the sudden panic-flare as the reason guttered out,
then smouldered down into that pitiable lightless flickering where
all glimmer of intelligence is dead.

Inevitably this must have followed, had not Janet visited her late
in the evening of the fourth day. Two days before, she had written
saying that she would come if Traill were not likely to be there.

Her note finished abruptly, characteristic of all her letters.

"If I don't hear from you to the contrary," it concluded, "I shall
arrive."

She heard nothing to the contrary. The letter had lain, since its
arrival, in the box downstairs. Sally had not moved out of her room.
The possibility of a letter from Traill might have drawn her forth;
but she knew that such a possibility did not exist. The woman who
attended to their rooms she had sent away.

"I shall be able to look after these two rooms myself," she had
thought vaguely. Then she had locked herself into her bedroom, taken
up a duster to begin the morning's work and, after five minutes, idly
lifting each thing in her hand, she had seated herself by the side
of the bed, allowing the duster to fall limply from her fingers. Then,
throwing herself on to the pillows, had given way with tearless eye
to her despair.

When Janet's knock fell, she was lying in bed, eyes gaping at the
ceiling above her in a gaze that scarcely wandered or moved from the
spot upon which they were fixed. At the unexpected sound, she sat
up. Intelligence struggled for the mastery in her mind. There, in
her eyes, you could see it fight for victory.

"Who's that?" she called out querulously in a thin voice.

"Janet! Do you mean to say you're not up yet?"

"No."

"Well, come and unlock the door. I can't get in."

Sally drove the energy into her limbs with an effort and tumbled from
the bed. As her feet touched the floor, she lurched forward with
weakness. She clutched at the clothes and held herself erect; but
her knees trembled, knocking together like wooden clubs that are
shaken by reckless vibration.

With a little moan of weakness she stumbled to the door, holding to
the end of the bed, the back of a chair, the handle of the door in
her uncertain progress.

As soon as she heard the key turned, Janet entered and found Sally
in her night-dress, a white ghost of what she was, swinging
unsteadily before her--so a dead body, swung from a gallows, eddies
in a lifting wind.

"Sally!" she exclaimed.

Sally stared at her. Her dry lips half-parted to make Janet's name.
Her eyes, burnt out in the deep black hollows, flickered with a light
of thankful recognition. Then she swung forward, a dead weight on
to Janet's shoulder.

For a moment, Janet held her there, looking over the shoulders that
crumbled against her thin breast, at the disordered room before her.
She saw the crusts of bread, she saw the bed-clothes hanging to the
floor. She gazed down at the unkempt head of hair that dragged
lifelessly on her shoulder, and her eyes were wide in bewildered
amazement.

"Great God!" she exclaimed.

And she realized how inadequate that was.



CHAPTER II


For three weeks Janet stayed with her, sleeping with her, arms
tight-locked about her yielding body as they had often slept together
in the days at Kew. With her own hands, she fed her; in the warmth
of her big, generous heart, she nursed her back to life, as you revive
some little bird, starved and cold, in the heat of your two hands.

During the first fortnight, she asked no questions. What had happened
was obvious. She learnt from the people on the second floor in the
office of the railway company that Traill had left his rooms; but
under what circumstances and why, she made no inquiries. Brought face
to face with the exigencies in the lives of others, there is a fund
of common sense to be found in the character of the revolutionary
woman. That Janet Hallard was an artist, now with a studio of sorts
of her own, says nothing for her temperament and less for her art.
She had no conception of the higher life, and to her mind the inner
mysticism was a jumble of confused nonsense--the blind leading the
blind, for whom the ultimate ditch was a bastard theosophy. As a
matter of fact, Janet had no mean ideas of design; but they were
vigorous and, for her living, she had to struggle against the
overwhelming sentimentalism of the _nouveau_ art.

In dealing with Sally then, a subject needing tact, common sense and
an unyielding strength of purpose, she was more than eminently fitted
to save her from the edge of the precipice towards which she had found
her so blindly stumbling. It was just such a moment as when one sees
one's dearest friend walking blindly to the verge of an abyss and
knows that too sudden a cry, too swift a movement to save them, may
plunge their reckless body for ever into eternity. In this moment,
Janet kept her wits. With infinite care, with infinite tenderness,
never weakening to the importunate demands that were made of her,
giving up her work, giving up every other interest that she had, she
slowly drew Sally back into the steady current of existence; saw day
by day the life come tardily again into the bloodless cheeks, and
watched the smearing shadows beneath the hollow eyes as they
disappeared.

Then, at the end of a fortnight, she learnt in quavering sentences
from Sally's lips, trembling as they told it, the story of her
desertion.

"You shouldn't have followed him, Sally," she whispered gently at
its conclusion.

"I know I shouldn't--I know I shouldn't. And so I know of course he
isn't to blame. It's that woman--his sister. I always knew she hated
me--knew it! She used to look at me like you look at soiled things
in a shop! She pointed me out to him in the theatre. I can guess the
things she said. She brought the other--the other one to see him.
Oh, wasn't it cunning of her? Mustn't she be a brute! Think what she's
done to me! Look how wretched she's made my life! And she's got every
single thing she can want. Oh, I don't wonder that people have their
doubts about this marvellous mercy of God! I don't see any mercy in
what's happened to me. I never saw any mercy in what happened to
father; and yet he only did what he ought to have done."

The excitement was rising within her--a steady torrent lifting to
the flood. Janet watched its progress steadily in her eyes. When it
reached this point, she adroitly changed the current of her thoughts.

"What did your father do?" she asked with interest.

Sally looked up and the expression in her eyes changed.

"Have I never told you?"

"No."

"He consecrated too much wine one Easter Sunday where he was taking
a _locum tenens_--and afterwards, when he had to drink it--it went
to his head."

She told it so seriously that Janet was driven to choke the rush of
laughter rising within her.

"Why did he have to drink it?" she asked.

"They have to. Consecrated wine mustn't be kept."

"But why not? Does it go bad?"

"Janet! No--but, don't you see?--they do keep it in the Roman
Catholic Church--on the altar--that's why the little red lamp is
always burning in front. That's why the people bow when they first
come into the church. And don't you see they're afraid in the Anglican
Church, that if the Bread and Wine were kept, people might venerate
it as the real Presence, which of course it isn't."

"Isn't it?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"I couldn't tell you."

"Then he had to drink it all himself?"

"Yes."

"Why didn't he get somebody to help him?"

"He did try. He asked the warden--but the warden was a total
abstainer."

Janet looked sternly out of the window.

"Then he asked a man he saw outside the church--but he was apparently
an atheist. At any rate, he didn't believe in that."

"P'raps he thought the wine wasn't good?" Janet suggested.

"Oh no--he offered to drink it; but of course as he didn't believe--"

"Didn't believe in what? He believed it was wine, didn't he?"

"Oh yes--but he didn't believe in the Communion. So father had to
drink it himself. And then, the Bishop came into the vestry and found
him."

"What happened then?"

"Nothing then--but a few months later, he was appointed to the
chaplaincy of a Union--of course a much smaller position than the
one he had occupied."

"Didn't they give any reasons?"

"Oh yes--in a sort of a way. They said that they thought the
rectorship of Cailsham was rather too responsible a post for him.
They asked him to accept the other in such a way that it would have
been hard to refuse. Of course, they couldn't actually turn him out.
But mother hated him for going. It was soon after we left there that
I came up to you in London. They were getting so poor. My brother
couldn't be kept up at Oxford. The governess had to go. Father died
not long after I left. I know what he died of. They called it a general
break-up."

"Oh--I know that," said Janet. "There's the shot-gun
prescription--all the pharmacopoeia ground into a pill and fired
down the patient's throat. It must hit something. That general
break-up is the double-barrelled diagnosis. You believe it was the
resignation of the rectorship that finished him."

"Yes--I'm sure of it. I remember, the day I went away from home--when
I came in to say good-bye to him, he was writing a sermon for Easter.
It was just Easter then, don't you remember? I went to the little
church on Kew Green. He read a bit of it out to me--something about
there being the promise of everlasting life in the rising of Christ
from the dead--and yet I know, in his heart, he was cast down in the
very lowest depth of despair."

Janet shook her head up and down. Not one of us is too old to learn
some new mystery in the inner workings of the human machine. To Janet
it was a fairy tale, what had been life and death to the Rev. Samuel
Bishop. But she had achieved her object. Sally was quieter after the
relation of that little story and, seeing in her mood a good
opportunity for suggesting some plans about the future, Janet said
quietly--

"What are your mother and sisters doing now?"

"They've gone back to Cailsham. They've got a school there for little
boys--sons of gentlemen--preparatory for the Grammar School at
Maidstone. The sort of thing that nearly every woman takes up when
she gets as poor as mother is."

Janet left it at that, and set about the getting of a meal, talking
all the time in a light and flippant way about her studio; pointing
humorous descriptions of the managers of firms with whom she had to
deal in her business of designing.

"There's one man," she said. "You know the place up the Tottenham
Court Road--he weighs seventeen stone if he weighs an ounce, and he
comes up to business in the morning, all the way from Turnham Green
in a motor-car that makes the noise of thirty horses galloping over
a hard road, with the power of six of them in its inside. He asked
me down to dinner one night; I went. It meant business. His wife
weighs the ounce that he ought to weigh if he didn't weigh seventeen
stone, and they sit at each end of a huge table in a tiny room filled
with maroon plush against a green carpet, and all through dinner they
talk about carburetters and low-tension magnetos, and Mr. Cheeseman
discusses what friend living in the row of houses, of which theirs
is one, they would get most out of in return for a drive in the motor
next Sunday. 'There's one fellow I know,' I remember him saying.
'He's something to do with the stage--his brother's in the
booking-office at Daly's. He might get us some seats if we took him
out.'"

Sally laughed. The first moment that her lips had parted to the sound
since Janet had been with her.

"It's true," said Janet. "I'm not making it up. He got that
car--allowing for his trade discount--for a hundred and thirty-five
pounds--cape-cart hood and all. It only costs him thirteen pounds
a year in tyres--and it can do twenty-five miles to a gallon of petrol
with him inside, and he reckons he's been saved five shillings a week
regularly in dinners since he got it. Well, what else do you think
a man buys a motor-car for if he can't afford it? Some one has to
pay for it--why not his friends? That's the English system of
hospitality--what I buy you pay for; what you pay for I get, and what
I've got I must have bought, otherwise I shouldn't have it. It's the
principle of the _reductio ad absurdum_, if you know what that is.
Everybody gets what they want, everybody else pays for it, and
everybody's happy. I'll do your washing if you'll do mine. Can you
have a more generous hospitality than that?"

Sally laughed again, and then Janet launched her boat of enterprise.

"You're fond of kiddies, aren't you, Sally?" she asked suddenly.

A tender look crept into Sally's eyes. "You know I am," she replied.

"Well--why don't you go down to your people at Cailsham and help them
for a little while in the school?"

The look of tenderness died out. Her eyes roamed pitiably about the
room.

"I couldn't leave here," she said powerlessly.

"Why not?"

"I couldn't. It's all reminding me I know; but I couldn't be happy
anywhere else. I should be miserable away from here."

The meeting of such obstacles as this, Janet had anticipated. She
knew well that slough of the mind which sucks in its own despair,
and with all the concentration of her persuasion, she strove to lift
Sally out of the morass. Failing on that occasion, she turned the
conversation into another channel--let it drift as it pleased; but
the next day she led it back again. At all costs Sally must be removed
from the association of her surroundings, and no means offered better
than these. Yet at the end of three weeks, notwithstanding all the
patient persuasion that she employed, her object was as far from
being reached as at the beginning.

"If you spoil your life, Sally," she said, as she was going, "it'll
be the bitterest disappointment to me that I can think of. No man
is worth it to a woman--no woman's worth it to a man. Can't you get
some ambition to do something? All your time's your own, and you
haven't got to work for your living. He's been generous enough--I'll
admit that. Let me give you lessons in drawing."

"I could never learn anything like that," said Sally, wearily.
"Haven't got it in me."

This mood of wilful depression, bordering upon melancholia, can be
perhaps the most trying test to friendship that exists. To throw life
into the balance of chance--to fling it absolutely away in a moment
of heroism for a friend one loves, is a simple task compared with
the unwearying patience that is needed to face the lightless gloom
of another's misery. It taints all life, discolours all pleasures,
tracks one--dogs one, like a shadow on the wall. Yet Janet passed
the test with love the greater, even at the end of the gauntlet of
those three weeks.

"I'll be with you all day, the day after to-morrow," she said, as
she departed; "and think about teaching the kiddies--I would if I
were you. You'd get awfully fond of them--as if they were your own.
Sons of gentlemen! Think of them! Dear little chaps! My God--the
mothers bore them, though."



CHAPTER III


It should not be lightly touched upon, this heroism of Janet
Hallard's in sacrificing three weeks of her work--every hour of which
meant some living to her--in order to save Sally from that ultimate
dark world of dementia towards which she was inevitably drifting.
It was not the sacrifice of time alone, not the fact that on her return
she was compelled to sell some of her valued possessions in order
to meet the rent of her studio which the work she had left undone
would have amply supplied. Much rather was it the noble perseverance
of effort through the dim, impenetrable gloom of Sally's wide-eyed
misery, her own spirits never cast down by the seeming impossibility
of the task, her resources never exhausted by the persistent drain
that was made upon them. Here was the strength of her masculinity
united with the patient endurance of the woman in her heart. No man,
of his own nature alone, could have won through the sweating labour
of those three weeks--few women either. But that very combination
of sex, that very duality of her nature which, as a woman, made her
unlovable to any man, and endeared her so closely to Sally's life,
had succeeded where a thousand others of her sex would have failed.

She left Sally, it is true, a woman with a wounded heart to nurse,
an aching misery to bear; but she left her with a sanity of purpose
which can take up the tangled threads and, however blinded be the
eyes with weeping, with fingers feeling their way, can unravel the
knotted mass that lies before her.

So she slowly returned to the common factors of existence, and in
six weeks from the time of Traill's departure, was ready to smile
at any moment to the humour of Janet's dry criticisms of life. But
to move from her rooms, to disassociate herself from the past with
every sorrow and every joy that it contained, was more than she could
bring herself to do. Through all Janet's persuasions, Sally remained
obdurate.

"I've only got the rooms for three years," she replied finally. "I
can't think of it as really past until that time's gone by; Then,
I will. I'll go anywhere you like. I'll come and share your studio
with you."

They entered into a formal agreement on that and, knowing the Romance
in Sally's nature, Janet pursued her quest of success on the other
point no further.

But circumstance, with an arm stronger than Janet could ever wield,
succeeded where she had failed.

One evening, as Sally was preparing to go out alone to dinner, she
heard footsteps mounting the stairs to her floor. On the moment, her
heart leapt, beating to her throat. Her hands, raising the hat to
her head, so trembled that she had to put it back upon the
dressing-table. A cold dew damped her forehead. She put her hand up
and found it wet. Then the knock fell and, shaking in every limb,
she set her lips and walked as firmly as she could to the door. There
she stopped, taking a deep breath. Then she swung it open.

It was Devenish.

He took off his hat and held a hand out to her. She accepted it,
confused in her mind as to the reason of his coming. Did he know?
Or was he utterly unconscious? He must have known; he had come to
her door.

"Do you mind my coming in?" he asked.

"No, not at all."

She made way for him to pass into her sitting-room. There followed
an awkward pause which he tried to fill with the laying down of his
hat and the discarding of his gloves. Sally stood there where she
had closed the door, waiting for him to explain his presence. Had
he brought a message for her from Jack? Had he come to see
Jack--knowing nothing--and, finding the rooms below occupied by
another tenant, had he come to learn the reason of her? Why had he
come? And at last he turned frankly to her.

"Miss Bishop, I saw Jack the other day. He told me."

Sally lifted her head with an assumption of pride, a strained effort
to show the pride that Janet had urged her to possess. She crossed
the room and dropped into a chair.

"Aren't you going to sit down?" she asked.

"Thanks." He took the nearest chair, winding his watch-chain about
his finger to convey the air that he was at ease.

"Did Jack send you to see me?" she asked then.

"No."

"You've no message from him?"

"No."

"Then, why do you come here?" She wanted to put the question firmly,
but in her ears it sounded wavering; in his, touched only with
surprise.

"Do you remember that evening we dined together?" he asked in reply.

Could she forget it? She nodded her head in silence.

"If you recollect, I said I wished to offer my friendship?"

Her head nodded again. She did not make it easy for him; but the social
training inures one to the difficulties of forging conversation. He
ploughed through with a straight, undeviating edge that in no way
displeased her.

"Well, I don't want to distress you by going over the whole business
which, as you might quite justly say, was none of mine. I thought
you might find it a bit lonely, and so, as I'd taken you out to dinner
before"--he raised his eyes, finishing the sentence with a smile and
lifting eyebrows. "Were you going out to dinner now?" he added,
before she had time to reply.

"Yes, I was."

"Then will you come with me?"

She met his gaze with frank speculation. What did it matter where
she went? Who was there to care? Janet, the only one, would urge her
to it if she knew. There was no doubt in her mind that friendship
had prompted him. It was a considerate thought on his part to come
and offer to take her out because he had imagined she might be lonely.
She felt grateful to him, but with no desire to show it. If it pleased
him to be generous on her behalf, why should she refuse to profit
by it? But here was no thought of giving in return. A woman seldom
meets but one man in the world to whom she will give without a shadow
of the desire for the value in return. What was there in the world
now to prevent her from taking what life offered of its small,
distracting pleasures? A moment of recklessness brought a deceptive
lift to her spirits.

"I shall be very glad to," she said.

In her mind was no unfaithfulness to the memory of Traill. Unfaithful,
even to a slender memory, it was not in her nature to be. The benefit
of the Church now was the only door through which she could pass out
of his life. She considered no likelihood of it; for, in common with
those of her sex in whom the strong waters of emotion run deep in
the vein of sentiment, she felt--being once possessed by him--that
he was the lord of her life.

"But I warn you," she added, with a pathetic smile, "I shan't be good
company. You'll have to do all the talking. You'll have to make all
the jokes."

"I'm prepared to do as much and more," he said lightly.

"Then you must wait while I put on my hat. Play the piano--can you?"

"No--not I. Can you?"

"Yes--just a little."

"Sing?"

"Yes--sometimes."

"Ah, that settles it. We come back here after dinner, and you sing
every song in your repertoire."

She laughed brightly at his enthusiasm. "You're really fond of
music?" she said.

"Yes, passionately. And I suffer little for my passion because I know
absolutely nothing about it. That's a promise, then? You'll sing to
me after dinner?"

"Yes, I should love to."

So much had her spirits lifted in this deceptive atmosphere of
diversion that Devenish even heard her humming a tune in the other
room. And he smiled, looking up to the ceiling with hands spread out
and fingers lightly playing one upon the other.

At a restaurant in Great Portland Street, shut off from the rest of
the room by the astute arrangement of a screen--ranged around every
table, presumably to ward off the draught--they dined in comparative
seclusion. Into the selection of that dinner Devenish put a great
part of his ingenuity. The man who knows how to choose a meal and
savour those intervals between the courses with anecdote, has
reached a high-water mark of social excellence. Devenish was the type.
He was not hampered with the possession of intelligence. Wit he had,
but it was not his own. The man, after all, who can echo the wit of
others and suit its application to the moment is a man of no little
accomplishment. The least that can be said of him is that he is worthy
of his place at a dinner-table where conversation is as empty as the
bubbles that shoot through the glittering wine to the frothy surface.
To suffer from intelligence in such an atmosphere as this is a
disease--the silent sickness--of which such symptoms as the lips
tight bound, the heart heavy, and an aching void behind the eyes,
are common to all its victims. Later, in the course of its development,
if the attack is acute, comes the forced speech from lips now scarcely
opened--forced speech recognizable by its various degrees of
imbecility. The man, for instance, who asks you if you have been to
a theatre lately when you have just deftly foisted upon the company
the latest joke you heard in a musical comedy, has reached that stage
of the disease when retirement is the only cure. Like quinine in fever
districts, there is one drug which may ward off the icy fingers of
the complaint--champagne--but it should be administered at frequent
intervals.

From such a malady as this, Devenish was not only immune, but he
carried with him that lightness of spirit which may go far to relieve
others of their suffering. Add to this a face well-featured, a figure
well-planned with all the alertness of an athlete, an immaculate
taste in dress, and you have the type which the 'Varsity mould offers
yearly to the ephemeral needs of her country. The impression remains,
stamped upon the man until he is well-nigh forty. He knows how to
get drunk in the most gentlemanly way and his judgment about women
is sometimes very shrewd. A knowledge of the classics is of service
to him if he does nothing. If, on the other hand, he sets about the
earning of his living--a drudgery that some of these youths are
compelled to submit to--the classics are only the peas in the shoe
which, as a pilgrim to the far-off shrine of utility, he is compelled
to wear.

Not having to earn his own livelihood, or rather, having already
earned it in the profession of matrimony into which he had entered
in partnership with a wealthy woman, Devenish was a pride to the
college which had turned him out.

He knew most of those people in London who range in the category
of--worth knowing. Anecdotes of them all--those little personal
insights into private domestic relations of which surely there must
somewhere be an illicit still, hidden in the mountains where gossip
echoes--he had at the tips of his fingers.

"Surely you've heard that last thing that Mrs. ---- said at the first
night of ----;" and thereafter follows some quaint conceit--smuggled,
God knows how, from the illicit still in the mountains, stamped with
a fictitious year to give it flavour--which the well-known actress
in question would have offered her soul to have said on the occasion
alluded to in the story, but which she had never even thought of.

It may be concluded, then, from these apparently needless
digressions that Devenish was good company. He did his best to amuse
Sally--he succeeded. When they were halfway through the dinner and
he had casually refilled her glass with champagne, she was prepared
to see humour in everything he said.

There is a mood of recklessness--wild determined recklessness--that
strikes, like a light in the heavens, across the face of despair.
In such a mood was Sally then. Her mind, empty of the vice which so
often accompanies it, was echoing with the cry--What does it matter?
What does it matter? When he filled her glass a second time, she half
raised a hand from her lap to stop him. But what did it matter? It
would put her in good spirits, and in good spirits she felt the strong
desire to be. Between this and the harmful result of the wine, so
far a call was stretched in her mind that she never let it enter her
consideration. Let him fill her glass a second time! She was to return
to rooms empty but of the bitterest of associations. The whole long
night had to be passed through with that haunting speculation--which
now so frequently beset her--the wondering of what Traill was doing,
the questioning in what woman's arms he was finding the joy of desire
which he had found in hers.

What did it signify then, this evening in which she let go the
strained reserve which at any other time she would have retained?
What did it signify, so long as the deepest beating of her heart was
unmoved by the quickened pulses and the eyes alight with a reckless
laughter?

It mattered nothing to her who knew its meaning; but to Devenish,
seeing the colour lifting to her cheeks, watching the sparkling in
those eyes which had met his but an hour or more ago, when
disappointed hope had thrown them into deep shadows, there was a
tentative significance. It appealed to the lowest nature of his
senses to see her, whom he had long desired, unbending in her
reticence. Her laughter was a whip about his body; her lips,
parted--losing that expression of restraint--were becoming an
obsession to his eyes. But he guarded all his actions with a steady
hand.

When her glass was empty for the second time, he stretched out his
hand to refill it again.

"Oh--I'd better not have any more," she said lightly. "Whatever would
you do with me if I took too much?" And she laughed. Laughed, he
imagined, at the possibilities that rose to her mind, and it was on
the edge of his lips to say the things he would do.

"Another glass can't hurt you," he said, laughing with her.
"Here--I'll fill mine--there"--he held up the bottle for her to
see--"Now you have the remainder. You don't want me to drink it all,
do you? I should like to know what you'd do--I suppose you'd give
me in charge of the head waiter? I guess you'd shirk your
responsibilities more than I would." And as he talked, he emptied
the bottle into her glass beneath the fringe of the conversation.

"Ever hear that story," he began again, and caught her attention once
more with an idle tale that had worn its way through half the clubs
in Town. His yarns were all fresh to her, and, moreover, he spun them
amazingly well. There was none of that disconcerting fear of their
staleness to thwart him--no need for the tentative preface--"You'll
say if you've heard this before." One suggested another--they rolled
off his tongue. And while she sipped her champagne, he kept her
amused; never allowed her the moments of inaction in which to relent.
He amused himself. The old, worn-out story has all the humour still
keen in it for you--if _you_ tell it. It was no effort, no strain
to Devenish. He laughed as heartily as she did over the stale old
jests. Their novelty to her made them new to him. She leant her elbows
on the table and watched his face as he told them.

"Now," he said, when they had finished their coffee, "how about the
songs? I've done my share of the entertainment. As soon as I've got
the bill, we'll go back, and you can supply the more serious items
of the programme."

"Really--I'm afraid I couldn't. I believe you think I sing well--I
don't. I did think of going on the stage once--into musical
comedy--but not because I was musical."

"Well--of course not. It isn't a refuge for the art. But I have my
belief in your being able to sing. You're not going to shake that."

"Very well--I suppose I'll try." Her hands lifted to her face. "My
cheeks are burning. Do they look very red?"

"No--not particularly--the room's warm, I think."

She permitted herself to be satisfied with that explanation. Had a
mirror been near at hand, she would have realized in its reflection
that the warmth of the room was not the only cause for the flushed
scarlet of her cheeks, or the light that glittered in the expanded
pupils of her eyes.

When Devenish had paid the bill, they departed. A hansom conveyed
them back to Sally's rooms in Regent Street. Once seated in it, she
leaned back in the corner, and her eyes closed.

"I do feel so awfully sleepy," she said, ingenuously.

He glanced at her swiftly. Was that simplicity, or a veiled request
for him to close his arms about her? How could she be simple? The
mistress of a man for three years--what simplicity could be left in
her now? Undoubtedly she must know--of course she knew by now--the
thoughts that were travelling wildly through his mind.

"Poor child," he said considerately--"I suppose you are."

Her eyes opened to that. She sat a little straighter in the corner.
There was a tone in his voice more subtle than friendship. Her ears
had heard it, but her senses were too drowsy then to dwell for long
upon its consideration.

He would have said more--in another moment, he would have slipped
his arm around her waist, had it not been for her sudden movement
of reserve. That warned him. Unconsciously a woman gives out of
herself the impression of whether she be easy of winning or not. With
Sally, notwithstanding all the circumstances that ranged against her
in his mind, Devenish realized that an inconsidered step would be
fatal to his desires. That did not thwart him. He admired her the
more for it; wanted her the more.

When they reached her rooms and, taking off her hat, she seated
herself at the piano, creating in the susceptibility of his mind a
greater sense of the intimacy of their relations, he stood at the
other side of the room watching her, content to let his anticipations
slowly drift upon the quiet stream of events to the ultimate cataract
of their realization.

This is the true nature of the sensualist. Woman or man, whatever
sex, you may know them by their feline delight in the procrastination
of the moment. It is an evolution of the intellect. The raw, unbridled
forces of nature have no dealings with such as these. They are people
of pleasure. They have taken the gifts that Nature has offered and,
with the subtle cunning of their minds, have torn the inviolable
parchment of her laws to shreds before her face. With no inheritance
of the intellect, Devenish possessed all the other qualities.
Sensualist as he was, with that strain of refinement induced by the
easy circumstances of life, the paid women disgusted him. Of mere
animalism, he had none. Here in this widest essential, his nature
marked its contrast with Traill. To admit the beast in every man would
have been beyond him; simply because the admission of a
generalization such as that, would most directly have implied
himself. In Traill's concession of it, such an admission may easily
be read. And this is the type of man, such as Devenish, most dangerous
to society.

If the threadbare hypocrisy of this country of England could but
bring itself to don the acknowledgment that the hired woman has her
place in the scheme of things, such men as Devenish would find the
virtuous woman more closely guarded from their strategies than she
is.

When her first song was finished, Sally turned in her chair, laughing
frankly to his eyes.

"You needn't suffer on account of your passion for music by having
to criticize," she said. "I know it was awful."

He crossed the room to her side. "As you like," he said, bringing
his eyes full to hers. "You can call it anything you please--but I
want some more." He picked up the pieces of music that lay on the
top of the piano. "Do you sing that song out of the Persian
Garden--Beside the Shalimar? I forget the words of it?"

Her fingers ran through the pile of music. "'Pale Hands I Loved.'
Is that it?" She lifted her face and looked up at him.

"Yes--yes--sing that!"

"I'm afraid I haven't got the music--can't play without the music."

He drew a deep breath. "That's a pity," he said.

"Well--listen--I'll sing this."

She placed the music before her on the rest, and with one hand on
the back of her chair, the other resting on the piano, he bent over
her, eyes wandering from the gold of her hair to the parting of her
lips as she sang. It was just such a song as he had asked for; filled
with the abandoned sentimentalism of decadent passion--

   "Lord of my life, than whom none other shareth
    The deep, red, silent wine that fills my soul--
    Take thou and drain, till not one drop remaineth
    To wet thy lips--then turn thou down the bowl.

   "Lord of my heart--this boon I crave--this only,
    That all my worth may be possessed by thee;
    Make thou my life a chalice, drained, that lonely
    Stands on the altar of Eternity."

She looked up at him as her fingers wandered to the final chord. His
lips were set in a thin line, and he was breathing quickly.

"Why did you sing that?" he asked.

She blindly shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know--why shouldn't I?
The music's a good deal nicer than the words, I think. Don't you find
the words are rather silly? They are of most songs, I think."

"And you call that silly," he said. "I suppose it's a woman's
song--but, my God! do you know I could sing that to you?"

His arm was round her then, dragging her towards him in a lithe grip,
the fierce strength of which she too well understood. She struggled,
breathing heavily, for her freedom; but he caught her face in his
hand, dragged it to his lips and covered her with kisses.

Then she broke free, rising to her feet, overturning the chair behind
her, pushing back the disordered hair from her forehead.

"How dare you!" she breathed.

Countless women have said it, in countless moments similar to this.
And with it, often, seeing all the circumstances that have led up
to it in their different light, comes the knowledge--as it came also
to Sally--the understanding of how the man has dared. Recklessness
had led her. In her heart, she blamed herself. She might have known
men now; known them from her knowledge at least of one man.
Undoubtedly she was to blame, taking everything into account--the
defencelessness of her position, the fact that he had known of her
relationship with Traill and its termination; yet her eyes flamed
with contempt as they met his.

"Your hat is over on that chair." she said presently in a strident
voice. "Will you go?"

He crossed the room quietly--no want of composure--and picked it up.

"Would you rather I didn't come and see you again?" he asked, brushing
the hat casually with his sleeve.

"I never want to see you again!" she exclaimed.

He smiled amiably. "Don't you think you're rather foolish?"

"Foolish!"

"Yes--the unmarried man who keeps a woman is bound to leave her some
time or other--that's not half as likely to be the case with--"

"What do you mean?" She was white to the lips.

He looked puzzled. "I'm afraid I can't understand you," he said.

She tried to answer him, but the words mingled in a stammering of
confusion before she could utter them.

"You don't think there's a chance of Traill coming back to you, do
you?" he went on. "I shouldn't be here, I assure you, if there were."

Sally's knees trembled with weakness. An overwhelming nausea shook
her till she shuddered.

"Did he tell you to come here?" she whispered.

"Heavens, no! I don't suppose he'd do that. He wouldn't do a thing
like that. But I'm pretty sure he's in love with that Miss
Standish-Roe--the beautiful Coralie. He knows it. He won't admit it;
but I'm certain he is, and I rather think I'd better open his eyes
a little."

That last remark did not fall within her understanding. She took no
notice of it.

"And so you came here of your own accord?"

"Yes--why not? I had an apparently erroneous idea that you liked me.
When you let me come back here after dinner, I was sure of it. I saw
no reason why we shouldn't get along together just as well as you
and Traill did."

"Oh!" she exclaimed, and she hid her face in her hand.

"Oh yes--I see my mistake by this time," he said easily. All passion
was cooled in him now. "I'm sorry. There was no intention of insulting
you in my mind." He moved to the door. "I--I thought you understood
it."

Sally dropped into a chair, her face still covered; shame--the
deepest sense of it--beating through all her pulses.

"Well--I must only hope you'll excuse my--my ignorance of women,
though I must admit you're a bit different to the rest. Well--I
suppose I'd better say good night, then."

She heard him take the step forward. She could see in her mind the
hand held out, but she did not look up. He turned again to the door.
She heard it open. She heard it close. She heard his footsteps slowly
descending the stairs. And still she sat there with her face
close-buried in her hands.



CHAPTER IV


You are never to know how deep the iron has entered your soul until
Fate begins to draw it out.

When Traill had left her, Sally's mind had been numbed with misery.
The despair of such loneliness as hers is often a narcotic, that drugs
all power of thought. In the beating of her pulses, when she had first
heard Devenish's footsteps mounting the stairs, she was forced to
the realization that hope was not yet dead in the heart of her. That
undoubtedly was why, despite all Janet's efforts, she had refused
to leave her rooms. The hope that Traill would one day return, that
one evening she would hear his steps on the stairs, his knock on the
door, had needed only such a coincidence as the unexpected visit of
Devenish to stir it into vivid animation. Just so had the Rev. Samuel
Bishop hoped, in the fulfilment of his duties as chaplain, that one
day the rectorship of Cailsham would return to his possession; just
so had he been imbued with faith, the same as hers, when he had
shuddered at his narrow avoidance of sacrilege in the vestry of the
little church at Steynton. To him, at that moment, it would have been
as impossible to pour back the consecrated into the unconsecrated
wine, as it had been for Sally to lose assurance that Traill would
one day return to her.

But now it was different. The iron, in the sure grasp of the fingers
of Fate, was being torn out of her. She could feel it wrenching its
way from the very depths. Traill would never come back. It was not
so much because she had heard he was in love, that she realized it;
that--even then--her faith, in its ashes, repudiated. But when
Devenish had said--alluding to the faintest chance of his return--"I
shouldn't be here, I assure you, if there were," she had been made
conscious of Traill's tacit permission--unspoken no doubt--to
Devenish which had prompted his visit to her rooms.

But last and most poignant of all in the bitterness of this lesson
that she had learnt, was her understanding of the place she held in
the eyes of such men as Devenish. With those who knew of her life,
no friendship was possible. One relationship, one only could
exist--a relationship, at the thought of which her whole nature
shuddered in violent disgust.

Janet was right. Janet had seen things from their proper point of
view. As a trade she should have looked at it. As the leaving of one
master to labour in the service of another she should have weighed
its issue. Yet, even now, the cruelty of that outlook revolted her.
Had she viewed it thus, those three years of absolute happiness could
never have been and she could not even forego the memory of them.

But the knowledge that had come to her, brought decision with it.
She could stay no longer where she was. The thought of meeting just
those few people whom she knew, who knew her, in the streets, drove
the blood burning to her forehead. She must go away--away from
London--away from every chance incident that might fling back in her
face the tragedy of her existence. Away from all its associations
she would be able to hide it; not from herself, not from the biting
criticism of her own thoughts. But from others; she could hide it
from them.

That night she wrote to Janet asking her to come and see her; and
the next day they sat opposite to each other at a table in a quiet
restaurant up West.

"I'm going to take your advice," Sally began.

"You're going away?"

"Yes."

"When?"

"At once; in a day or two, as soon as I hear from mother. I wrote
to her this morning."

"What did you say?"

"I said that I'd saved up some money and, as I hadn't been very well,
I wanted to come down and stay with her for a change. I suggested
that I might be of some use in the school."

"Yes, that's all right. But for goodness' sake don't let her see that
you've got a lot of money. The wives of clergymen, as far as I've
ever seen, are weaned on the milk of suspicion. They'll never believe
anybody's properly married but themselves; I suppose that's because
they're in the trade. I know Mr. Cheeseman thinks nobody's furniture
genuine, except his own. That's always a little business failing.
But you ought to be careful."

"But I haven't any too much money," said Sally quietly.

Janet gazed up at her in unsympathetic surprise. "That's rather
unlike you," she said abruptly. "I think he was very generous. A
hundred and fifty a year, free of rent for three years, is more, I
imagine, than most men would drag out of their pockets. You could
make what living you liked beside that, if you chose to. I know I
should jolly-well think myself a Croesus with that capital."

Her tone of voice was hard with criticism.

"But do you think I take all he's offered me?" asked Sally.

"Do you mean to say you don't?"

"No, I take the very least I can. A pound a week is all I want for
my food; what else should I want? I wouldn't touch another penny of
it but that till the three years are over. I have all the clothes
I could possibly want. You thought I was mean, didn't you, Janet?"

Janet looked up at the ceiling, then impulsively held out her hand.

"God help me!" she exclaimed, "if I find my own sex an enigma; but
what on earth made you decide?"

"Mr. Devenish."

"Who?"

"Mr. Devenish, the man I told you I was dining with that night, six
weeks ago."

"Why him, in the name of Heaven?"

"He came to see me last night."

"Well?"

"He took me out to dinner."

"Very good thing too. You want a little of that sort of entertaining.
Did he advise you to go?"

"No--"

"Then what?"

She could see the colour mounting and falling in Sally's cheeks and
her suspicions sped to a conclusion.

"He made love to me," said Sally. Her hand went to her eyes. She
covered them.

"Oh, I see. You want to get away from him? You don't like him? Think
he's going to be a nuisance?"

"No, it's not that." She still hid her face. "I don't think he'd ever
come and see me again, now."

"Then what?"

"It was what he said."

"What did he say?"

"He wanted-- Oh!"

Janet leant forward on the table. "To take Traill's place--eh?"

"Yes."

Janet leant back in her chair and looked scrutinizingly at Sally's
head, bent into her hands, and from what she knew by this time of
Sally's nature, there came the understanding of what such a proposal
must have meant.

"And what else did you expect?" she asked gently. "Most men are the
same. News that there is a woman to be found situated such as you
are spreads through the ranks of them like--like--like a prairie fire.
It goes whispering from one lip to another. You can never tell where
it starts. You can never tell where it ends. As soon as a man knows
that money can buy a woman he wants, he'll scrape the bottom of the
Bank of England to get it. I told you before, it's a business! Why
in the name of Heaven can't you give up all your romanticism? If you
don't want to go on with it, to be absolutely brutal, if you don't
want to make it pay, why can't you take all the money that Traill's
given you and go away from here altogether? Well--you are
going--thank the Lord for that much sense! But go, and take all you
can get with you. Save it up if you won't spend it; and that's better
still. But, for God's sake, take it, it's yours! Surely you've earned
it. I should think you had."

Sally dropped her hands and looked up. "I don't know why you and I
have ever got on together, Janet," she said brokenly. "I could never
conceive two people more absolutely opposite. I sometimes hate the
things you say, but I nearly always love you for saying them. I loathe
the things you've said now. If I thought like that, I can't see what
there would be to stop me from sinking as low--as low as a woman can.
Do you really mean to say that you'd do like that if you cared for
a man, as I do for Jack? Would you grasp every penny he'd left you?"

"I don't know. I should either do that, or not take a farthing of
it. Make my own living, earn my own way, be independent at any cost."

"Do you mean I ought to do that?"

"I don't mean you ought, because I know you couldn't. You could no
more go and earn your own living now--now that you've learnt the ease
and luxury of living in a man's arms--than you could fly. You aren't
the type, Sally; you never were."

Sally's lips pressed together. "You think I love the ease and
luxury?" she said bitterly. "You think as poorly of me as that?"

"I don't think poorly at all. You were never meant to work. Your curse
is the curse of Eve, not Adam. You ought to have a child. You wouldn't
be wasting your soul out on a man then. You'd take every farthing
that Traill's left you, as it's only right you should. You don't see
any right in it now; but you would then. Every single thing in the
world is worth its salt, and a child 'ud be the salt of life to you.
When do you think you'll hear from your mother?"

"To-morrow, perhaps."

"Well, then, directly you hear you can go--go! Don't stop in London
another second. It's a pitiable purgatory for you now. Go and look
after the little kiddies in the school. You'll know quick enough what
I mean about the curse of Eve, when you find one of them tugging at
your skirts for sympathy."


END OF BOOK III



BOOK IV

THE EMPTY HORIZON



CHAPTER I


Cailsham--one of those small antiquated towns which, in its day, has
had its name writ in history--sits at the feet of the hills, like
an old man, weary of toil, and gazes out with sleepy eyes over the
garden of Kent. In the spring, the country is patched with white
around--white, with the blossoms in the fruit plantations. Broad
acres of cherry orchards spread their snow-white sheets out in the
sun--a giant's washing-day. The little lanes wind tortuous ways
between the fields of apple bloom, and off in the forest of the tree
stems, lying lazily in the high-grown grass, dappled yellow with
sunlight, you will find in every orchard a boy, idly beating a
monotonous tattoo to scare away the birds. A collection of tin pots
in various stages of dilapidation, each one emitting a different
hollow note, are spread around him, and there he lies the day through
till nightfall, eating the meals that are brought him, humming a tune
between them to pass away the time; but ceaselessly beating a
discordant dominant upon his sounding drums of tin. This is Cailsham
in the spring. Cailsham at any time is more the country that surrounds
it. All its colours, all its life, all its interests, it takes from
those great, wide gardens of fruit as they break from leaf into
blossom, blossom to fruit, from fruit to the black, naked branches
of winter, when Cailsham itself sinks into the silence of a
well-earned, lethargic repose. Then they talk of the fruit seasons
that are past, and the fruit seasons that are to come. The lights
burn out early in the windows, and by ten o'clock the little town
is asleep.

This is Cailsham. The narrow High Street and the miniature Exchange,
the square of the market-place and the stone fountain that stands
with such an effort of nobility in the centre, bearing upon one of
its rough slabs the name of the munificent donor, and the occasion
on which the townspeople were presented with its cherished
possession--these are nothing. They are only accessories. The real
Cailsham is to be found in the apple, the plum, and the cherry
orchards. From these, either as owners or as labourers, all the
inhabitants draw their source of life, with the exception of those
few shopkeepers whose premises extend in a disorderly fashion down
the High Street; the Rector, who has his interest in the fruit season
as well as the rest; and lastly, Mrs. Bishop, headmistress of that
little school in Wyatt Street, where the sons of gentlemen are fitted
for such exigencies of life as are to be met with between the ages
of four and eight.

With the name of Lady Bray to conjure popularity, she had set up her
establishment immediately after her husband's death. Then the old
lady herself had fallen asleep--in her case a literal description
of her disease. One night they had put her quietly to bed as usual,
and in the morning she was still asleep--a slumber which really must
be rest.

Fortunately for Mrs. Bishop the school was planted then. Twenty
pupils sat round the cheap kitchen tables in the schoolroom--all sons
of gentlemen--whose mothers paid occasional visits to the house and
peeped into the schoolroom, after they had partaken of tea with Mrs.
Bishop in the drawing-room. Whenever this incident occurred, the
little boys rose electrically from their forms in courteous
deference to the visitor; and the boy, whose mother it was, would
blush with pride and look away, or he would frankly smile up to his
mother's eyes. Then Mrs. Bishop would inevitably eulogize his
progress as she sped the parting guest, making inquiries from her
daughters afterwards to ascertain how near she had gone to the truth.
One boarder only she accepted into the establishment. It had not been
her intention to have any. But one day a lady had written from
Winchester to say that through a friend of a friend of Lady Bray's,
she had heard of Mrs. Bishop's preparatory school for the sons of
gentlemen. She was compelled, she concluded in her letter, to go for
some little time to live in London and, though she knew that Mrs.
Bishop only accepted day pupils at her house, she would consider it
a great favour if, for a term or so, she would consent to the admission
of her son as a boarder. If such an arrangement were possible, she
would be glad to know the terms which Mrs. Bishop would deem most
reasonable.

For the rest of that day there had been unprecedented excitement at
No. 17, Wyatt Street. Until late that evening Elsie and Dora Bishop,
in consultation with their mother, went into all the financial
details of the undertaking. Little Maurice Priestly could sleep in
the small room at the top of the house, used then as a box room. The
smallness of the window in the sloping ceiling could easily be
disguised by lace curtains at six three-farthings a yard.

"Put that down," Mrs. Bishop had said; and the item of capital outlay
had gone down on a half-sheet of note-paper.

To Cailsham they had brought with them an old armchair convertible,
at considerable risk to the fingers, into a shake-down bed.

"We needn't buy a bed, then," said Mrs. Bishop.

"No; but it'll need some sort of coverlet to make it look decent.
I've seen them at Robinson's in the High Street for two and
eleven-three."

"Put that down," said Mrs. Bishop.

By ten o'clock the list of expenses had been compiled. By eleven
o'clock it was decided what would be the cost of board and lodging
for an adult--a little being added on to that for visionary
extras--soap, light, towels, and suchlike, less visionary than
others, but extras nevertheless.

When Mallins, the constable on night duty, passed down Wyatt Street
at quarter-past eleven and saw a light in No. 17, he stopped in
amazement and gazed through a chink in the old Venetian blind.

"It's 'ard on that Mrs. Bishop," he said to his wife the next morning,
"the way she 'as to work."

That same morning a letter had been despatched to Mrs. Priestly, and
by return of post came the reply--

"I suppose what you ask is quite reasonable. I am bringing Maurice
to you the day after to-morrow."

"Suppose!" said Elsie.

"We couldn't do it for less," said Mrs. Bishop.

"And the box room'll look really quite comfortable," Dora joined in.
"I've just put the bed up. I never thought it was such a nice little
room."

Two days afterwards Mrs. Priestly and little Maurice had made their
appearance. The slowest of the three flies in the town of Cailsham
drove them up to the door and, for the moment, all work in the
schoolroom had been suspended. The twenty sons of gentlemen, left
to themselves, behaved as the sons of gentlemen--of any men, in
fact-will do. There was an uproar in the schoolroom which Dora,
before she had obtained a proper view of Mrs. Priestly from behind
the door of the pantry at the end of the long hall, was compelled
to go and reduce to silence. Having been deprived of the
gratification of her curiosity, her effort had been with unqualified
success. Between the ages of four and eight a boy can be quelled by
a look. That look, the twenty sons of gentlemen received.

Mrs. Priestly was a tall woman, graceful and, for one who lived in
one of the smaller of the provincial towns, elegantly dressed. Her
face and its expression were sad. The quietness of her manner and
the gentle reserve of her voice added to that sadness. The patient
gaze of her deep grey eyes suggested suffering. Undoubtedly she had
suffered. To the sympathetic observer, this would have been obvious;
but to the calculating mind of Mrs. Bishop it presented itself in
the form of a social aloofness which she was morbidly quick to see
in any one.

Mrs. Priestly was dark. Little Maurice was fair--the Saxon stamped
on his head, coloured in his blue eyes. He was six years old, abundant
in extreme animal spirits, which his mother beheld with a love and
pride in her eyes that was almost pathetic to see in one so possessed
by the apathy of unhappiness, and which Mrs. Bishop observed with
the silent resolve that Master Maurice was on no account to be allowed
into her drawing-room.

When it had come to the moment of leaving her son to the glowing
promises of Mrs. Bishop's tenderness and affection, Mrs. Priestly
broke down, winding her arms tight about his little neck and pressing
him fiercely to her bosom. Mrs. Bishop stood by with an indulgent
smile.

Then Mrs. Priestly had looked up with tears heavy in her eyes.

"I'll come and see you, Mrs. Bishop," she had said with
control--"I'll come and see you when I've said good-bye, before I
go."

Mrs. Bishop had wisely taken the suggestion and departed to the end
of the hall where her daughters were standing expectantly.

"Of course the child is spoilt," she said, in an undertone.

"Why?" they asked in chorus.

"Well, she's saying good-bye to him--crying over him. I call it very
nonsensical. I came away. That sort of thing annoys me."

And in the drawing-room, mother and son were saying a long farewell
that was to last them for a few weeks. It would be some time before
she could come down from London, Mrs. Priestly had said. The tears
were falling fast down their cheeks.

"You won't love any one else but mummy, will you, Maurie?"

"Shan't love her," he had said, with a thrusting of his head towards
the door which Mrs. Bishop had just closed.

"And you'll say prayers every night and every morning?"

"Yes, mummy."

"And you'll say, 'God help mummy'"

"Will I pray for father?"

She took a deep breath as she looked above his head. He was too young
to feel the weight of the pause. It meant nothing to him. He thought
she had not heard.

"Will I pray for father?" he repeated.

"Yes," she said slowly; "pray for father, pray for him first, and
then mummy, just before you go to sleep. God bless you, my little
darling--" and in the fierce blinding passion which a mother alone
can understand, she caught him again in her arms and crushed his
yielding little body to her heart.

Such was the arrival of Master Maurice Priestly at No. 17, Wyatt
Street.

When she arrived, some three weeks after this event, Sally found a
little fair-haired boy with sad blue eyes whom at night, in the room
next to hers, she sometimes heard crying. She had mentioned this to
her mother.

"Oh, take no notice of it, Sally," she said. "It's probably a noise
he makes in his sleep."

Sally had become a welcome addition to the household. She had offered
to pay liberally for her board while she stayed there and, during
that visit, however long it should prove to be, they had been able
to dispense with the services of Miss Hatch, the music-mistress, who
came regularly every morning from ten till twelve and was a
considerable drain on the net profits of the establishment. Sally,
unconscious of the change, filled her place. From a quarter-past ten,
until half-past, her pupil was Maurice, and on the day she had spoken
to her mother about his crying, she also questioned him.

"I wasn't crying," he said proudly. "I couldn't cry."

He found it easy to say that in the bright light of the morning. But
it was a different matter at night. That very night again he wept.
She could hear his sobs stifled in the pillow. She was going to bed.
When the sound reached her ears, she stopped, listening. It _was_
crying! She opened her door gently. Certainly it was the sound of
crying! Then, half-undressed, not thinking to cover her shoulders,
she crept across the passage to his door, opened it and peered inside.

"Maurie," she whispered.

The crying stopped.

"Maurie," she repeated, "you are crying."

He admitted it--sadly; they had found him out. Now they would think
he was a baby. That was the inevitable accusation in the mind of these
people who were grown up--in the mind of every one, except his mother.

"But I'm not a baby!" he exclaimed.

Sally knelt down by the side of his bed. "Who said you were a baby?"
she whispered.

"You were just going to."

"No, I wasn't. I don't think you are a baby. I cry sometimes."

"Do you?" There was a thin note of amazement in his voice. "What do
you cry for?"

"Oh, lots of things. What do you?"

"For mummy--it's so cold in bed without mummy."

"Do you sleep with mummy, then?" she asked, and she slid a warm arm
around his sturdy little neck.

"Yes--always. Mummy's so warm and she lies so tight. Your arm's
warm--I like your arm." He felt it with his fingers. "What's that?"
he asked suddenly.

"What's what?" said Sally.

"Something wet fell on the back of my hand. Why, it's you--it's you.
You're crying. Aren't you? You're crying. Oh, I wonder if you're a
baby. I don't see why you should be, if you don't think I am. Why
are you crying?"

"I don't know."

"Oh, but you must know! I always know why I'm crying. I cry at nights
when it's all dark, and you can't hear anything. I cry then because
I want mummy. Mummy cries sometimes though, and she doesn't know
why."

"Do you ask her, then?"

"Yes; and she says she doesn't know. So I suppose ladies don't know
sometimes, but boys always do. But you won't say I cried, will you?
Promise!"

"I promise," she said firmly.

"Because the others 'ud think I was a baby if they knew, and I'm not
really a baby--not in the morning, am I?"

"No; not a bit."

"You wouldn't think I was a baby when you give me my music lesson,
would you?"

"No; I always think you're very brave."

He twisted about in the bed. "Put your other arm round my neck, will
you?--like mummy does. She always puts both arms--it's much warmer."

She clasped him with both arms.

"Ah; that's better," he said. "I hope mummy wouldn't mind, because
she said I wasn't to love any one else but her. But, of course, I
don't really love you, you know. I like you because you're warm."

"You don't love me, then?"

"No; how could I? I could only love mummy, really. Oh, there it is
again! You're still crying, you know."

"Yes; I know I am."

"I suppose you wouldn't come into bed and cry--it's much warmer."

A sob broke in Sally's throat.

Here now it had come--so soon as this--the fulfilment of Janet's
prophecy. The curse of Eve was no mystery to her now. She knew. She
knew what life lacked.

"No; you must go to sleep now, Maurie," she said thickly. "You must
go to sleep now. You mustn't cry any more."

"Very well, then," he said resignedly. "You must promise you won't
too."

"I promise I won't. Good night."

And so, to keep her promise, lest he should hear as she had heard,
she lay on her bed and buried her face in the pillow. But she cried.



CHAPTER II


That night began their friendship. In that night was sown the seed
of the new idea in her mind, which neither the wild passion of her
love for Traill, nor all the stern preaching of Janet's philosophy
had caused to take root before. A child--she knew that now--a child
would save her. A child would make this life of hers worth while.
And, having none, she set her heart, as you set a lure with cunning
hands, to win the love of little Maurice Priestly.

At the age of six, a boy-child is constituted of impressions--soft
wax to the working of any fingers that touch his heart. In their
ramblings together, through the orchards where the ripening apples
turned up their bonny faces, peering through the leaves to find the
sun; up the side of the hills, exploring the hidden dangers of the
hollow chalk-pits--climbing always to see what the world looked like
on the other side--they came to know each other; Sally to know all
his little faults, sometimes of pride, sometimes of lovable
boastfulness; he to know that her heart was aching--aching for
something--something that he could not comprehend. But fancy wove
the story for him. He must have a story with which to realize that
her heart really was aching.

"If there's no story," he said, "I shan't really believe you're sad."

So they sat on the side of the hills, looking out over the head of
the tired old man--the little town of Cailsham--and seeing with their
eyes what the tired old man saw all day long--the abundant garden
of England. There Maurice told her the story of her misery, in which
fairies and goblins and giants and witches moved in quick and sudden
passage across the vistas of his vivid imagination.

"And that's why you're sad," he said at its conclusion. "If only the
prince had not done what the witch told him, you'd have been perfectly
happy, wouldn't you?"

Sally put her arm round his neck, lifted the soft, smooth little face
to hers, and kissed it.

"Yes, that's why," she said gently; "but you must never tell any one."

"Mayn't I tell mummy?" he pleaded.

She took her arm from his neck and looked straight before her. The
moment of jealousy sped through her--shame rode fierce behind.

"Yes," she replied, "you can tell mummy."

The weeks of the summer flew by. No sympathy was lost between her
mother and herself. Her sisters frankly were jealous of her. She had
better clothes than they, knew more of the world, was more
interesting to strangers in her conversation. The people of Cailsham,
treating her first as one of the Bishops--the one who had lived in
London, earning her living--came to find that she was a different
type of person to the rest of her family. The women admitted her to
look smart; the men--at the weekly teas which some member of the
tennis club always provided--sought out her company. And then, to
compensate for all the unpleasantness in her home, there was
Maurie--Maurie whom every night since that first occasion of their
friendship she said good night to. With arms round each other's necks,
they said their prayers together--Sally who had offered no
supplication on her knees since the night when Traill had left her.

"I scarcely thought it possible to be so happy," she wrote to Janet.
"I absolutely look forward to the waking in the mornings now, because
then I go in and wake him up, kiss his dear, brave little face as
it lies on the pillow fast asleep; and then he kneels on the bed,
puts his arms round my neck, and we say our prayers together. That
means nothing to you, I expect; but don't laugh at it. Oh, Janet,
I wish he were mine."

She was woman enough, too, to find some consolation in the attention
which the people of Cailsham paid to her. She was gratified by the
interest which the men in the little town, and principal amongst them,
Wilfrid Grierson, showed in her whenever they met. He was the eldest
son of the largest fruit farmer in the town--a man, therefore, in
much request, conspicuous at every party to which it was thought
considerate to ask Mrs. Bishop and her daughters. To Sally's mind,
nauseated still whenever she thought of it by the light in which
Devenish had seen her, the possibility of a man falling in love with
her was remote from her consideration. She was brought abruptly to
its realization by a remark which Dora, her younger sister, dropped
for her benefit.

"If Mr. Grierson wasn't so eminently sensible," she said one evening
after a tea which Mrs. Bishop had given at the tennis club, "one would
feel inclined to think that he'd lost his head over you, Sally."

A flame of colour spread across Sally's cheeks. "Let's be thankful
that he's eminently sensible, then," she replied.

"What--do you mean to say you wouldn't marry him?"

"He hasn't asked me--surely that's sufficient. He never will. My
position in life is not the position that he's ever likely to choose
a wife from."

"Your position, Sally," said Mrs. Bishop, looking up from the writing
of a letter at the other end of the room, "so long as you are with
us, is the same as ours."

"Yes, I'm quite aware of that, mother. So I say it's quite unlikely
that he will ever ask me to marry him."

Then she left the room, and they discussed the advisability of
keeping her with them. The fact that she saved the expense of Miss
Hatch's services as music-mistress weighed ponderously in the
balance, swung down the scales. They tacitly passed the matter over.

Upstairs Sally was saying good night to Maurie. "I only want you,
my darling," she whispered in the darkness. "I don't want anybody
else now--say you know I don't want anybody else."

"But you can't," he replied simply; "I'm mummy's."

Sally stood up from the bed. "Yes--you're mummy's," she repeated
under her breath, and she repeated it again. She went into her bedroom,
beginning slowly to undress, still repeating it.

From that day onwards, whenever possible, she avoided Mr. Grierson
as you skirt a district where fever rages. He was too good a man,
too honourable, for her to throw her life in his way. All the outlook
of men upon a woman such as herself, which Devenish that evening had
shown her, rose warningly to thwart her from taking the opportunity
which circumstances seemed generously to be offering. The love of
Traill was in no wise lessened in her heart; but now, lifting beside
it, had come this love of a child, and with the knowledge that Maurie
could never be hers, the insensate desire to bear children of her
own rose exultantly within her. If she were to marry, this would be
her portion. If she were to marry for that reason, above all, would
she separate herself for ever from the hope--the still flickering
hope--that Traill might one day return?

Whilst one impulse, then, pressed her forward to the seeking of the
better acquaintance with Wilfrid Grierson, the fear that she was
unfit to be the wife of any so honourable as he withheld her.

But fate, circumstance--give it any name that pleases--was in its
obstinate mood. That better acquaintance, it was determined, should
be made.

One afternoon, while Maurie was at his lessons, and her own work for
the day was over, she was walking through those apple orchards which
spread up to the side of that little lane which leads down off the
London Road. Supremely unconscious of whose property it was in which
she was wandering, she suddenly became aware of a figure descending
from one of the apple trees. The first thought that some one was
stealing the fruit was driven from her when she recognized Mr.
Grierson.

Before he had seen her, she had turned and hurried back in the
direction in which she had come. A break in the hedge had given her
entrance from the lane. She made as quickly as possible for that.
But the sound of footsteps running over the soft ground, the hissing
of the grass stems as they lashed against leather leggings, then the
sound of her name, showed her that it was too late. She turned.

"I saw you getting down from the tree," she said evasively, "but I
thought it was a man stealing fruit."

"So you made a bolt for it?"

"Yes; was it very cowardly?"

"Not at all. If it had been a thief, and he'd thought you were
suspicious, he might have turned nasty. But are you sure you didn't
recognize me, and come to the conclusion that I was even less
desirable than the man stealing the apples?"

She laughed nervously, knowing what was before her.

"No; why should I?"

"Because you've been avoiding me for the last ten days, ever since
that tea-party your mother gave at the tennis club."

She looked to the ground; she looked to the forest of leaves above
her head, where the rosy apples peered at her, beaming with their
bright, healthy cheeks.

"You don't say anything to that," he said, striking his leggings with
the little switch in his hand.

"I didn't know I had been," she replied, glancing up to the open
candour of his eyes.

"But you have. I was going to write to you."

"You were?"

"Yes; I'm not much of a hand at it, but I was going to make a shot.
I was going to ask you if you--if you were preferring--oh--you
understand what I mean--if you didn't like my thrusting my attentions
on you--well--as I--as I had been doing. I was going to write that
to-night."

She looked up with wide eyes--the eyes that Traill had first
loved--but she said nothing.

"Well?" he asked, pressing her to the answer. "What would have been
your reply?"

"I really don't know," she said honestly.

"You don't care for me?" he exclaimed. "I'm not the sort of chap
who--"

"Oh, it's not that!"

"Then, what?"

She met his eyes steadily. "It's--am I the sort of woman?"

He came close to her side, took her hand reverently as though its
preciousness made him fear the harm his heavy grip might do. And there,
under the network of apple branches interwoven with the patches of
a deep, blue sky, with now and then the sound of an apple tumbling
heavily to the ground, or a flight of starlings whirring overhead,
and in the distance the hollow monotonous beating on the tin drums
of the boy who scared the birds, he told her roughly, unevenly, in
words cut out of the solid vein of his emotion, what kind of a woman
he thought she was.

"No," she kept on whispering; "no, no."

But he paid no attention. He scarcely heard the word in the gentleness
of her voice. When he had finished, she took away her hand.

"That means nothing to you, then?" he said bitterly.

She gazed away through the lines of apple trees that hid the greater
distance from view.

"It means more than you think," she replied. "But I can't let you
say it--I can't let you continue to think it, until--until"--she took
a deep breath--"until I tell you."

"Tell me what?"

"I'll write to you."

"But you can tell me. Why can't you tell me?" His lips were white.
The little switch snapped in his fingers. Neither of them noticed
it. Neither heard the sound. "Why can't you tell me?" he repeated.

"I can't, that is all. After what you've said--after what you've been
so generous to tell me that you thought of me, I--couldn't. I'll write
it."

He threw the pieces of the switch away into the grass.

"You're going to be married?" he muttered. "You're in love, you're
engaged to some one else?"

"No, no, it's not that. Please don't ask me. I'm not engaged to be
married."

"You're married already?" He leant forward, bending over her, the
words clicking on his tongue.

"No--no--not even that."

"Then, what is it?"

She looked up to his eyes and let him read them. Then he stood
upright--slowly stood erect. His cheeks were patched with white,
there was a sweat on his forehead. He wiped it off with his hand.

"My God!" he whispered. "You, you? Great God, no!"

He turned, strode a few steps away from her, and stood looking down
into the grass. She could hear him muttering. For a little time she
waited, head bent, expectant of the sudden bursting of his revolt
against the truth. But it never came. His silence was more pregnant
with rebuke than speech could ever have been. She bore with it until
she thought she had given him full opportunity to rail against her
had he wished, then she walked slowly away, the unconquerable
sickness in her heart. She walked slowly; but she did not look back.
Would he follow her? Would he? Would he? She reached the gap in the
hedge. Then she turned her head. He was still standing where she had
left him, gazing down into the forest of grass stems.



CHAPTER III


This ended her life at Cailsham. How could she remain, how face the
reproach, no matter what effort she knew he would make to conceal
it, which at any moment she might find herself compelled to meet in
the eyes of Wilfrid Grierson? Cailsham was too small a place, the
little set in which her mother moved too narrow and confined to ever
hope of avoiding it. This must end her life at Cailsham.

With the readiness of this realization, then, why had she told? Cry
the woman a fool! She was a fool. Most good women are. But just as
the matter is vital in the mind of a man, so is it in the woman the
crucial test of honour. A thousand reasons--her happiness--the
happiness of content,--the sheltering of her name, the sheltering
of her position, all the cared-for security of her life to
follow--these can be placed in the scale, weighty arguments against
that little drachm of abstract honour, to plead for her silence. A
thousand times she could have been justified in saying nothing; but
had she done so she would have been a different woman. Fine things
must be done sometimes; mean things will be done always. There are
men and women to do them both.

That no passion was in the heart of her may have been an aid to her
honesty. With passion to lift the scale on to the agate, there would
have been a deed worthy of eulogy then! But even as it was, she
sacrificed much; she sacrificed her all. For now she knew that she
must go; and there could he no more joy in life for her in the love
of little Maurice. To face that, she clutched her hands that
afternoon as she walked back into Cailsham. How it was to be
accomplished, how endured, was more than she could realize, more than
the listless energy of her mind could grasp.

"I am leaving Cailsham almost immediately," she wrote that evening
to Grierson. "You will understand my reasons. I am sorry to have
caused you the pain that I did. As you realized, I tried to avoid
it. I am not presuming at all in my mind that you will ever wish to
see me again; but if your generosity should make you think that you
owe me any explanation of your silence this afternoon, please believe
me that I already understand it, expected it and sympathize from my
heart with the position in which I placed you. All that you said to
me before you knew, which, of course, I know you cannot think now,
I shall treasure in my mind as the opinions of a generous man which
were once believed of me. What I have told, or what I have left untold,
I know you will hold in your confidence. Good-bye."

Grierson read that letter the next morning in his bedroom. He sat
down on the bed, and read it through again; then he railed at women,
railed at life, railed at himself that such things should mean so
much.

A scene no less dramatic than this was being enacted over the
breakfast table at No. 17, Wyatt Street. There, it was the custom
for Dora to read such pieces of information from the newspaper as
were considered essential to those who, ruling the lives of the sons
of gentlemen and being pioneers of education in Cailsham, must be
kept up with the times. On this morning, she had given extracts from
the foreign intelligence, had read in full the account of the latest
London sensation. Then she stopped with an exclamation.

"Mother!"

"What?"

"Mrs. Priestly!"

"Mrs. Priestly?"

"Yes."

"What about her?"

"She's--she's in the divorce court!"

Mrs. Bishop slowly laid down her egg-spoon. "Pass me the paper," she
said.

"Yes; just one minute. The case came on--"

"Dora--the paper!"

The printed sheets were handed to her across the table, and Sally's
eyes--pained, terrified--watched her face as she read. When she had
finished, she laid down the paper, took off her spectacles and laid
them glass downwards on the table. The long steel wires to pass over
the ears stood upright, formidably bristling.

"I always had my suspicions about that woman," she said, with thin
lips. "Oh, it's monstrous, it's abominable! That boy can't stop here
another minute."

"Oh, but, mother--why?" Sally exclaimed importunately. "What's he
done--he's done nothing."

"If you had a little more understanding about the laws of propriety,
you wouldn't ask a ridiculous question like that. The boy must go
at once. I've often thought since you came down here that the effect
of London upon you was to make you extremely lax in your judgment
of other people's morals. I've noticed it once or twice in different
things you've said. But you'll kindly leave this matter entirely to
me. That boy--I feel ashamed to think he's ever been under this
roof--is illegitimate!"

"Mother!" exclaimed the two girls.

"So I gather from this report," she said coldly.

Sally said nothing.

"And to think that I've allowed the wretched little creature to live
in my house and mix with my boys--a contaminating influence."

"It's horrible!" said the two girls.

"Oh, how unjust you all are!" exclaimed Sally, rising from the table
with burning cheeks. "How can a boy of that age be a contaminating
influence? How can he affect the innocence of all those other little
wretches whom you simper over just because their mothers have it in
their power to lift you in the society of this wretched little place?"

Mrs. Bishop had risen from her chair with white lips and distended
nostrils. The two girls were staring at Sally with wide eyes and open
mouths. For a moment there was a silence that thundered in all their
ears.

"Sally," said her mother, biting her words before she foamed them
from her, "if you weren't a daughter of mine, I'd--I'd say you were
a wanton woman. You know in your heart, as your father always taught
you--as you could read in the Bible now--if you ever do read your
Bible--that the sins of the fathers, yes, and the mothers too, will
fall on the children until the third and fourth generation; and do
you think that child of sin isn't contaminated by the vice of his
mother's wickedness?"

Elsie came to her mother's side with the proper affection of a
daughter and laid her hand gently on her shoulder.

"Don't worry yourself, mother," she said. "He can't stay, of course
he can't stay. Sally doesn't know what she's talking about."

"Certainly, he can't stay," reiterated Mrs. Bishop. "If I have to
put him in the train myself to-day, and pack him off to London."

"But who'll meet him?" asked Dora.

"Oh, of course, I suppose I shall telegraph to her. I've got her
address."

"But that's a terrible waste of money," Elsie objected. "If you wrote
now and sent him by a later train, wouldn't she get it in time?"

"It can be charged to her bill," said Mrs. Bishop.

"And are you going to send Maurie alone, all the way up to London?"
Sally exclaimed, forced at last to break her silence.

"Of course," said Mrs. Bishop, with surprise. "You don't think I'm
going to afford him the luxury of a travelling companion, do you?"

"You may not; but I shall."

"What on earth do you mean?"

"I shall go with him myself."

"If you do--if you associate yourself with those disreputable people
at all--you shall never enter this house again."

Her voice thrilled with the terror of her threat.

"I can look forward to the prospect of that with no great reluctance,"
said Sally quietly.

"Oh!" Mrs. Bishop exclaimed. "Oh!" Then her daughters wisely led her
from the room.

"I've left my egg unfinished," she said brokenly as she departed.

They fondly believed that Sally could not face the ominous threat
of her mother until they beheld her trunks ready packed in the hall.
Then Elsie came to her.

"Sally," she said, with the voice of one who carries out implacable
orders, "do you realize that mother meant what she said?"

"Realize it? I suppose so. I haven't thought about it."

"You don't mean that. You must have thought about it. Do you realize
that you'll never see her again?"

"Yes, quite. But not particularly because she says so. I'd never come
back again if she were to beg me to. It means a lot to you perhaps,
it means nothing to me."

Elsie looked at her in horrified alarm, as at one sinking into the
nethermost hell.

"I could never have believed you'd say anything like that," she
murmured under her breath. "Can't you see that you're breaking the
fifth commandment?"

"Can't mother see," retorted Sally, with vehemence, "that she's
breaking all the unwritten commandments of charity--love your
enemies--do good to them that hate you? I'd break the fifth
commandment fifty times rather than come back and live with all of
you again. You're narrow, you're cruel, you're hard, and you save
yourselves from your own consciences by calling it Christianity."

When this was all repeated, as inwardly she hoped it would be, they
could not believe her to be the same Sally. Mrs. Bishop came out into
the hall where she and Maurie were waiting for the vehicle which was
to convey them to the station.

"You're not going to say good-bye, Sally?" she asked, drawing her
aside into the dining-room.

"I saw no necessity. Wouldn't it be a farce?"

"You can talk like that when you're never going to see me again?"

"I don't see why stating a fact should be unsuitable to the occasion.
It would be a farce. You hate me--I'm not fond of you. Yet you would
be willing to kiss me--make a sentimental good-bye of it, because
you want to do what you know is wrong--cruel, unkind--in the most
Christian-like way."

Here indeed was the spirit of Janet speaking from Sally's lips. The
contrast, in fact, which induced Janet to preach her philosophy to
Sally, was now apparent to Sally herself, between her and her mother.
She saw through all the little petty sentimentalities, all the false
self-deceits with which the worldly mind of many a clergyman's wife
shields itself from rebuke.

"How dare you say such things to me, Sally?" she whispered. "Do you
absolutely forget that I'm your mother; that in pain and agony I
brought you into the world, and nursed and fed you to life?"

"No, I don't forget that," said Sally, quietly. "But why do you think
so much of yourself? Why can't you think a little of that poor woman
up in London, trying to shield Maurie from all the horror of this
divorce case which now so easily may come to his ears? Why can't you
let her leave him here in peace? She suffered just the same agony
as you; but she's suffering it still--and you--you're as hard as you
can be."

Mrs. Bishop paled with anger. Accusations, epithets, abuse, were the
only words that bubbled to her lips.

"You're just as much a fool as your father!" she said chokingly. "He
reduced us to this because he was a fool!"

"You know where it's written," Sally remarked, "'He that calleth his
brother a fool.'" In a text-quoting atmosphere, she felt that a
remark of this kind would carry more weight.

"Yes; but are you my brother? That's identically the same sort of
remark that your father would have made."

"I see," said Sally, "you read your Bible literally. All good
Christians do--sometimes. And you could call father a fool! If you
had half the Christianity in you that he had in him, I shouldn't be
shocking Elsie by breaking the fifth commandment."

The rumbling of the old vehicle outside mercifully put an end to that
interview and, once in the train, Sally took Maurie in her arms,
pressing his head silently to her breast.

"We're going to see mummie," she kept on telling him. "Mummie'll be
at the station to meet us;" and she had to listen to the exclamations
of delight that fell mercilessly from his lips.

From a photograph that Maurie had had upon the mantelpiece in his
little room, she recognized the tall, stately lady as the train
slowed down into the station. Maurie had been leaning out of the
carriage and was frantically waving a handkerchief as she walked
after them.

"That's mummie--that's mummie!" he said repeatedly, looking back
into the carriage at her.

Each time she nodded her head and said to herself, "Now it's all
over--now it's all over;" and standing behind him, holding him gently
back until the train stopped, she waited stoically for the last
moment.

Directly it came to a standstill, Maurie jumped out of the train,
and when, a moment later, she descended from their carriage, she
could see the little fair head half hidden in the mother's arms.

Nervously, reticently, she approached them. Then Mrs. Priestly
looked up and the sad grey eyes rested on Sally. She held out her
hand in hesitating embarrassment.

"You are Miss Bishop?" she said.

Sally inclined her head.

"Maurie talked about you in every letter he wrote me."

"I--I think we were friends," said Sally.

Mrs. Priestly called a fourwheeler, told Maurie to get inside. Then
she turned to Sally.

"I received a telegram this morning," she said, "saying that Maurie
was coming up to London by this train. But I've had no explanation."

"Didn't you guess the reason?" said Sally, softly.

"Yes; I guessed it, but--" She did not know how much to say, how much
to leave unsaid.

"Well, that is it," Sally replied, evasively. "My mother read about
your case in the paper this morning."

"And she packed him off, like this, the same day?"

"Yes; my mother is a Christian. She sees things in that light."

"Did she send you with Maurie, then?"

"No; she forbade me to go. She was going to send him alone."

"Then why--?"

"Because I suppose I'm not a Christian."

"You came with him all the same?"

"Yes; I love him." She looked up into Mrs. Priestly's eyes. "Perhaps
that sounds an offence to you? But he doesn't love me. You needn't
be afraid that I've stolen his love from you. We always used to say
our prayers together, and he always used to pray for you. One night
I asked him to pray for me, and he said, 'Would that mean that I loved
you?' And I--well--I wanted him to love me--you must blame me for
that if you wish--I said 'Yes,' because I thought he was going to
do it. And then--he said"--Sally stared hard at a stoker shovelling
coals into the furnace of one of the engines--"he said he
mustn't--because he only loved you. I only told you that because--"

"You thought I'd be jealous?"

"Yes; I should have been."

"And now you've come up to London," said Mrs. Priestly, straining
back the tears in her throat. "What are you going to do? Are you going
back to Cailsham?"

"No--I'm not going back."

"Then will you come with us? The rooms I've taken are not very
comfortable--but--"

"No, I won't come with you--thank you for asking me. I have rooms
in London myself. I shall go to them. Good-bye."

"But, Miss Bishop, you can't leave us like this. I must thank you
properly for all your kindness. You can't leave us like this!"

"It's the best way," said Sally; "I'd sooner this way. Good-bye."

They shook hands silently. Mrs. Priestly got into the cab. Sally
wondered would she tell Maurie that he would not see her again. Then,
as the lumbering old vehicle drove off, a little fair head shot
suddenly out of the window and a large white handkerchief flapped
like a beating flag against his happy little face.



CHAPTER IV


When she had left her trunks at the rooms in Regent Street, Sally
drove straight to Janet's studio, situated in the environments of
Shepherd's Bush.

In the apron of the art-student, her hands unwashed, her hair
dishevelled and untidy, she opened the door to Sally's summons.

"Heavens!" she exclaimed. "Why aren't you at Cailsham?"

"I came up this afternoon."

Sally entered the room, crossed to the drawing-board, where the
design for a figure of lace was slowly materializing in white paint
upon brown paper under Janet's hand. With an apparent concentration
of interest she gazed into that. Then Janet closed the door.

"When are you going back?" she asked, climbing slowly to her stool.

"I'm not going back."

Janet grunted, dipped her brush into the porcelain palette and
painted in a line that meant nothing. Then she laid down the brush
and looked up.

"I've been expecting this." she said. "Why aren't you going back?"

"Mother doesn't want me--I don't want to go."

"Does your mother know?"

"She knows nothing."

Janet stared. "Then what?" she asked abruptly.

Sally dropped into a chair. "Mrs. Priestly--Maurie's mother--is
being divorced. They found it out to-day in the papers. Maurie's not
her husband's child. They packed him off at once; weren't even going
to send any one with him. I said I'd go. Mother said if I did, she'd
never have me in the house again. That didn't make any difference
to me. I was going in any case."

"Why?"

"A Mr. Grierson down there, asked me to marry him. I couldn't consent
without telling him."

"You told him?"

"Yes."

"What did he say?"

"Not very much. Just that at first he couldn't believe it. Then, when
he saw I was telling the truth, he said nothing."

"Why did you tell him?"

"Because--it was only right--it was only fair."

Janet gazed at her, eyes softened with a gentle admiration.

"Do you remember what you told me about your father?" she said.

"Yes, why?"

"I expect you must he very like him. Only, instead of being a slave
to a Church, you're a slave to your heart. You're just as much the
type of woman whom the world wants and treats damned badly--I don't
care if I do swear--as he was the type of man whom an institution
like the Church of England requires--and treats damned badly too.
I guess you're exactly like your father."

"That's what mother said; but she didn't put it in that way. She said
I was a fool--like father was."

"Hum!" said Janet, and picked up her brush again. For a time she
worked in silence, eyes strained to the fine lines, breath held in
to steady her hand, then liberated with a sudden grunting sound.

"Would you have married the man?" she asked presently.

"Yes."

Janet painted in a few more lines. "Do you mean to say you didn't
realize that he wouldn't be able to stand what you told him?"

"I expected it."

"Then why--?"

"Simply it wasn't fair. You couldn't make it fair, however much you
tried. You'd have done the same yourself. I think I could have been
happy with him if he knew. I'd have worshipped his children. But I
should have been miserable if he didn't know."

"So you've learnt at last what I told you?" said Janet. "Did Traill
never wish you to have a child?"

"No; I don't think so. He never said anything about it."

"And you?"

"No; I don't think I did. I was too happy."

Janet bent down over the drawing-board. "You would now?" she said
without looking up. In the delicate operation of painting in the
petals of a rose, she did not realize that her question had not been
answered. A minute slipped by and with breath strained in the holding
of it, she repeated her question. "You would now?"

When the rose had bloomed under her brush, still receiving no reply,
she sat upright and looked round. Sally's body was bent forward, her
elbows were on her knees, her face in her hands.

Janet clambered down from her stool. "Crying?" she asked.

Sally gazed up at her with tearless eyes. "No; I can't cry now. I
try to. I can't."

"God! What a difference it 'ud make to you!" said Janet.

"What would?"

"If you had a kiddy. What was this little Maurie like? He sounded
sweet in your letters. Why don't you see as much of him as you can?
I'm sure he's fond of you. Isn't he?"

"Yes--in his way--in his dear little way. But you don't want fondness
from children."

"What do you want, then?"

"Love. If you want anything at all. There were some of the little
boys down at Cailsham who were loathsome: horrid little wretches,
who'd put out their tongues at you."

"Sons of gentlemen," said Janet.

"One of them spat at me once when I was giving him a music lesson.
You couldn't want anything from them. But I could almost have
believed that Maurie was mine."

"Then why don't you go and see him? Take care of him for Mrs. Priestly
till the case is over. He's bound to be in the way. When will it be
over?"

"The case?"

"Yes."

"I don't know."

"Is she likely to win?"

"I'm afraid not, and I don't believe she minds as long as she's got
Maurie."

"What counsel has she?"

"Oh, I don't know. I didn't read the paper."

"Well, why don't you go and take care of him till it's over?"

"I don't believe she'd like me to."

"Why on earth not? Here, let me get at that stove. We're going to
have some tea. But why on earth not?"

"I know she was jealous. Maurie used to write her lots of letters
about me. She was afraid he was getting to love me. I could see that
this afternoon. I could see it so plainly that I told her. I admitted
that I'd tried to get him to love me and failed."

"You did try?"

"Yes; I suppose it was about the meanest thing I've ever done."

Janet laid down the kettle silently on the stove, then came and sat
on the arm of Sally's chair. One hand she laid on her shoulder, with
the other she raised her face.

"I haven't appreciated you sufficiently, Sally," she said in a
toneless voice. "You're not the sort that gets appreciation. But,
my God! I think you're wonderful. Do I keep saying 'God' too much,
d'you think?"



CHAPTER V


That night Sally sat in her old rooms once more and wrote a letter
to Traill. The return to them had for one moment surged back in a
rushing flood of memories; but it did not overwhelm her. She threw
herself into no quagmire of despair. Her eyes were tearless. All her
actions were such as those of a person dazed with sleep. One hope
she had in her heart which animated her, just as the hope of ultimate
rest will give sluggish life to the person whose eyes are heavy with
fatigue.

Towards the realization of that hope, she seated herself at her desk
and wrote to Traill.

"DEAR JACK,

"Will you come and see me to-morrow afternoon at about half-past
four? I will give you some tea. I want to speak to you. Please do
not think that I am going to begin to pester you with unwelcome
attentions. My silence over these two or three months should convince
you that I would not worry you like that for anything.

            "Hoping that I shall see you,
                  "Yours sincerely,
                        "SALLY BISHOP."

When she had posted it, she went to bed and slept fitfully till
morning. There was no letter waiting her from Traill, but an envelope
addressed with a scrawled, uneven writing lay in the box. She tore
it eagerly open, her heart beating exultantly.

"DEAR SALLY," it read,

"Mummy has gone out    I am to write to you    I am to say good bi
proply    I am very fond of you    but I doant luv you Mummy ses you
have been very kind    I wode luv you very much if you was my mummy
but mummy ses she is she is    I am afrade this is not spellt rite
but I have got a very bad pen.

            "Yours affagintly,
                  "MAURIE."

If the tears could have come then; but she laid the letter down on
the table, and her eyes were aching and dry. The quaintness of the
spelling, the almost complete absence of punctuation. That queer
little repetition, of words--"she is she is"--none of these things
moved her, even to smile. Maurie had said good-bye properly. That,
and that he was only just fond of her, was all that reached her
understanding. Had the letter been from a lover, dashing all her
hopes into fragments, she could not have read it more seriously. But
one prospect was left her. She never took her eyes from that. The
fact that Traill had not written did not convey to her mind any fear
that he would not come. She knew that he would not needlessly lead
her to expect him and disappoint her at the last.

At four o'clock she had the table laid for tea. The dainty china that
she had bought with him when abroad was brought out. The kettle was
beginning to sing on the gas stove in the grate. When everything was
ready, she tried to sit quietly in a chair, but her eyes kept
wandering to the little Sevres clock. Again and again she rose to
her feet, looking out of her window into the street below.

At last footsteps echoed up the stairs. She caught her breath, and
a sound broke in her throat. They came nearer, and she trembled; her
hand shook; her whole body was chilled with searching cold. She had
not seen him for three months--more. Now she began to think that she
could not bear it. Then the knock fell on the door. A cry was on her
lips. She forced it back, turned, holding as naturally as possible
to the mantelpiece, and said--

"Come in."

He entered. He closed the door after him. Then she looked around.

The situation was as strained, as tautened, as is the gut of a
snapping fiddle-string. Every sound seemed to vibrate in itself. For
an instant he stood still, coming forward at last, hand outstretched
to relieve the tension.

"Well, how are you, Sally?" he asked.

The random speech, jerked out--any words to break the silence. Even
he felt it beating on his brain.

She shook hands with him. For the brief moment he touched her cold
fingers in the grip of his; then she withdrew them.

"Let me take your hat," she said.

He gave it her. Watched her as she crossed the room to lay it on the
chintz-covered settee, turned then to the fireplace, biting a nail
between his teeth.

"Do you know the kettle's boiling?" he forced himself to say.

"Yes; I'm just going to make tea. You'll have some tea?"

"Oh, rather. You promised that."

He looked up with his old jerk of the head, courting the smile to
her lips. She had no smile to give, and a shrug half tossed his
shoulders.

"Are you comfortable here?" he asked, as she poured out the boiling
water.

"Oh yes. Very."

"God!" he said casually within himself, feeling the weight of the
strain. Then he struggled for it once more.

"I'm dining with Devenish this evening," he said lightly. "You
remember Devenish, don't you?"

"Oh yes--I remember him. He came up to see me here a few weeks ago."

"Did he? He's a gay dog," he said lightly. "Do you like him?"

"I haven't thought about it."

"Oh, then you don't. And haven't you seen him since?"

"No; I've been away."

"Away?"

"Yes; down at Cailsham--staying with my mother."

"Oh, very nice, I should think. I'm glad you're moving about a bit.
I was rather afraid, you know, that you'd hang about in town all
through the summer, and that 'ud be bound to knock you up."

She handed him his cup of tea. "Why were you afraid?" she asked.

"Why? Do you think I'd be glad if you were knocked up?"

He looked up at her, with raised eyebrows, not understanding.

"I don't suppose you'd be sorry, would you?"

She said it gently--no strain of bitterness. The emotion which had
swept her at first was passed now. All her mind concentrated to the
one end.

"Of course I should," he replied. "Of course I should be sorry. Do
you paint me in your mind the little boy dropped in and out of a love
affair?"

"Oh no."

"Then why say that? Of course I should be sorry. Because you and I
couldn't fit things properly together--"

"Is that how it seems to you now?" she interrupted.

"Well, could we? Is it any good going over it all again? Did you ever
imagine me to be the type of man who would consent to being followed,
as you followed me that night? I can't suppose you did; otherwise,
would you have tried to hide it from me? But I don't lose any friendly
regard for you because of that."

"You don't object to being here, then?" she asked eagerly.

"No; certainly not! Why should I?"

"Would you come again if nothing of that were ever mentioned any more
between us--would you come again?"

"Yes, willingly. Now that I see that your intention is to be perfectly
reasonable, I would--willingly. Why not? I don't see why we should
be enemies."

"No," said Sally quickly; "neither do I--neither do I."

He drank through his tea. One mouthful--they were such tiny cups;
but that is the way a man takes his entertainment.

"Have a good time down at Cailsham?" he asked presently.

He felt more at his ease. She was taking it well--so much better than
he expected.

"Oh, not very good. I have told you, haven't I, that I don't get on
very well with my people."

"Of course; yes. Isn't that rather a pity?"

Possibly conscience was plying its spurs. There was some suggestion
underlying the quietness of her manner which he found to bring a sense
of uneasiness. He would have preferred that she had got on well at
Cailsham. He would rather that she had taken a fancy to Devenish.
But she was reasonable--extremely reasonable. He had nothing to
grumble at. Yet he could not get away from the sense of something
that made each word they said drag slowly, unnaturally into utterance.
He tried to shake it from him.

"Well, what is it you've got to speak to me about?" he asked in a
fresh tone of voice, as if with a jerk they were starting again over
lighter ground.

"Won't you wait till you've finished your tea?" she asked.

"I have finished."

"No more?"

"No, thanks. Do you mind my smoking?"

She lit a match for him in answer--held it out, waiting while he
extracted the cigarette from his case.

"Now tell me," he said, when she had thrown the match away.

She gazed for a moment in the grate, at the kettle breathing
contentedly on the gas stove.

"I'm lonely," she said, turning to his eyes.

He met her gaze as well as he could. He knew she was lonely.
Conscience--conscience that no strength of will could override--had
often pricked him on that point. But what was a conscience? He would
not have believed himself guilty of the weakness at any other time.
He gave no rein to it.

"But you'll get over that," he said. "You'll get over that."

"I don't think so."

"But why not? Perhaps you give way to it. Find yourself plenty to
do. Keep yourself moving. You won't be lonely then."

"I know. But do what?"

"Well," the question faced him. He had to answer it. "Well, you're
fond of reading, aren't you?"

"Reading!"

"And you've got these rooms to keep straight. A good many women if
they thought they'd got to tidy up two rooms every day would grumble
at the amount of labour, because it took up so much of their time."

"Yes; but they'd do it."

"Probably they'd have to."

"And then they wouldn't be lonely."

"Quite so. Isn't that what I say?"

"Yes; but don't you forget one thing?"

"What's that?"

"They'd be doing it for some one else. They wouldn't be doing it for
themselves. And don't you think they get the impetus to do it from
that?"

She leant forward--no sign of triumph in her face--and watched his
eyes. She knew he could not reply to that. He knew it too. He pulled
strenuously at his cigarette, then flung it into the empty fireplace.

"Then what is your point?" he asked firmly. He beat around no bushes.
That was not the nature of him. This was a difficulty. He faced it.
This was the scene she had deftly been leading up to. Let her have
it out and he would tell her straight, once and for all. "What is
your point?" he repeated. "You want me to come back--go through the
same business all over again?"

"No!"

Now he was puzzled. His eyes frowned straight into hers.

"Then what? Come along, Sally, out with it."

She turned her head away. He heard the sound in her throat as she
began to form the words. But she could not say it. Then her hands
covered her face, for a moment stayed there; at last she took them
away and met the beating gaze of his eyes.

"If I had a child," she said quickly.

His forehead creased, line upon line. He took a deep breath and leant
back in his chair.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"If I had a child," she repeated, "I shouldn't be lonely then. I
should have some one to do all these things for then. I should have
something to live for."

Traill stood abruptly to his feet. "You're--you're crazy!" he
exclaimed.

She stood beside him. Her hand stretched out nervously, touching his
coat.

"No, no, I'm not. I mean it. Can't you see what it would mean to me,
here alone, night after night, night after night, no one, absolutely
no one but myself."

He studied her in amazement. "If it were any other woman than you,"
he said suddenly, "I should think this was a put-up job to compromise
me--a cunning, put-up job. But you! It's amazing! I don't understand
it. Why, you'd brand yourself to the whole world. It'd be a mill stone
round your neck, not a child."

"Don't you think I'm branded plainly enough already? What do you
think a man like Devenish thinks of me?"

"Oh, Devenish be damned! There are other men than Devenish in the
world. Men who know nothing; men who'd be ready to marry you."

"Yes, I found one--one who thought me everything--everything till
I told him."

"You told him?"

"Yes."

"In the name of God, what for? You must be crazy. What the deuce did
you want to tell him for?"

"It was the only fair thing to do," she said quietly.

"Fair? Rot! That's chucking your chances away. That's playing the
fool! What's he got to do with your life before you met him?" This
was flinging the blame at him.

"Would you rather that the woman you were going to marry kept silent,
risked your not finding out afterwards? Would you think she'd treated
you fairly if she said nothing, and you were to discover it when it
was too late?"

He had no answer. He tried to make one. His lips parted; then, in
silence, he turned away.

"It might have made your mind easier," she said quietly, without tone
of blame, "but it wouldn't have been fair."

He twisted back. "There's no need for my mind to be made easier,"
he said hardly. "I've treated you fairly from the beginning to the
end. I warned you in the first instance; I told you to have no truck
with me. I sent you away. You came back. I didn't ask you to come
back."

Janet's words flashed across Sally's memory; the words she had said
when they were talking over the bangle: "I don't care what you say
about that letter, the letter's nothing! It's the gift that's the
thing. That's the song of sex if you like, and whether you return
it, or whether you don't, you'll answer it, as he means you to."

It was on the edge of her mind to repeat them then to him, but she
refrained. It was better then, at that moment, to let him think that
he had no cause to blame himself.

"No, my mind's perfectly easy," he added. "Thank God, I don't pose
for a paragon; I've got the beast in me all right, but I've treated
you square--absolutely square."

Her fingers clutched. To win her desires she must let him think so.
And perhaps he had treated her square; she supposed he had.

"Then help me not to be lonely now," she begged. She could see the
wave of repulsion beat across his face, but even that did not deter
her. "Oh, I don't mean that you should come back and live with me,"
she went on. "It isn't for that. You can't--you surely can't hate
me as much as all that." It was not in her knowledge to realize that
he must love her, greater than he had ever loved, if she were to win.
To the woman needing the child it is the child alone; to the man,
the child is only the child when it is his.

"I don't hate you," he said. He picked up his hat from the settee,
and her heart dropped to a leaden weight. "You seem to harp on that.
But what you ask, you surely must realize is frankly impossible. I
don't wish to be responsible for a child."

"You needn't be responsible," she said eagerly. "You need never see
it. You've been generous enough to me in what you've given me. I
shan't ask for a penny more--I shan't use the child to extract money
from you. You'll never hear from me again. After all, you have loved
me," she said piteously. "You did love me once."

He turned angrily away. "My God!" he exclaimed. "You talk as if you
were out of your mind! If I did have a child, I should want to see
it. I shouldn't want to be ashamed of it; I shouldn't want to disown
it, as you'd have me do."

"Well, then, you might see it as often as you wished."

He strode to the door. She must have it now. He had meant to say
nothing, wishing to save her feelings; but she must have it now.

"Then I'm engaged to be married," he said firmly. "Do you see now
that it's impossible?"

She dropped into a chair, staring strangely at his face.

"You--married?" she whispered.

"Yes; and I've no desire to have things cropping up in my life
afterwards, just in the way that this Mrs. Priestly in the divorce
courts--"

Sally struggled to her feet.

"Mrs. Priestly?"

"Yes; what about her? Do you know her?"

"What do you know about her?" she asked.

"I'm counsel for her husband."

"You're cross-examining her?"

Straight through her mind leapt that scene in the divorce court when
she had witnessed his attack upon the miserable woman whom the law
had placed out for his feet to trample on.

"Yes," he replied. "What _do_ you know about her?"

She sank back into her chair saying nothing.

"You won't say?"

She shook her head.

"Well, it's of not much interest to me. I shouldn't have you
subpoenaed, if you did know anything. You know the case, at any rate.
Well, I don't want that sort of affair in my life; so you never need
mention this matter again. I'll come and see you sometimes, if you
want me to; but only on condition that we have none of this. When
I'm married, of course, then it'll have to stop."

Sally raised her head. Her eyes were burning--her lips were drawn
to a thin colourless line.

"You--who never were going to marry!" she shouted. "You who didn't
believe in it--who wouldn't fetter yourself with it! Oh, go! Go!"



CHAPTER VI


That same evening there might have been seen two men seated opposite
to each other at a small table in the corner of the grill-room of
a well-known restaurant. Throughout the beginning of the meal, they
laughed and talked amiably to each other. No one took particular
notice of them. The waiter, attendant upon their table, leant against
a marble pillar some little distance away and surreptitiously
cleaned his nails with the corner of a menu-card. A band played on
a raised platform in some other part of the room. From where they
sat, they could see the conductor leading his orchestra with the
swaying of his violin. He tossed his hair into artistic disorder with
the violent intensity of feeling as he played, and his fingers,
strained out till the tendons between them were stretched like the
strings upon which they moved, felt for the harmonics--shrill notes
that pierced through the sounds of all the other instruments.

In the midst of the rattling of plates, the coming and going, the
buzz of conversation, these two men chatted good-naturedly over
their meal. At its conclusion, they ordered coffee, cigars and
liqueurs, and leant back comfortably in their chairs. Hundreds of
others there, were doing precisely the same as they--thousands of
others in all the restaurants in London. There was nothing remarkable
about their faces, their dress or their manner until one of them
suddenly leant forward across the table, and his expression, from
genial amusement, leapt in sudden changes from the amazement of
surprise to the fierceness of contempt and anger. Some exclamation
in the force of the moment probably left his lips, for a woman at
a table near by turned in her chair and gazed at them with unconcealed
curiosity. She kept strained in that position as he brought down his
fist on the table. She could see his fingers gripping the cloth. Then
the other man put out his hand with a gesture of restraint.

From that they talked on excitedly--one or them driving his questions
to the tardy replies of the other. Here and there in their speech
the name of God ripped out, and the waiter, placing the card back
on one of the empty tables, stood more alert, listening.

Their cigars burnt low, their coffee was drained; yet still they
continued, voices pitched now on a lower key, but none the less
intense, none the less spurred with vital interest. The man
apparently most concerned had ceased from the urging of his questions.
His elbows were resting on the table, his face was in his hands. Now
and again he nodded in understanding, now and again he ejaculated
some remark, pressing his companion to the full measure of what he
had to say. Obviously it was a story--the relation of some incident,
reluctantly dragged from the one by the persistent, unyielding
demands of the other.

The woman at the near table put up her hand to her ear, shutting off
the conversation of those with her, striving to catch a word here
and there in the endeavour to piece it together. It was about some
woman. She--was continually being alluded to. She--had done this--at
a later date she had done that. Gathering as little as she did, the
woman who listened was still strangely fascinated to curiosity.

Then at last a whole sentence reached her ears in a sudden hush of
sound.

The man took his elbows from the table, as if the climax of the story
had been reached.

"I know!" he said excitedly; "I know--the type of woman who never
breaks a commandment because she daren't, yet never earns a beatitude
because she can't; but, my God, if this isn't true--"

Then the other began his reply--

"My dear fellow--should I come and--"

She heard no more. A renewed deafening clatter of plates from the
grill drowned the remainder of his sentence.

"There's a little tragedy behind us," said the woman, leaning forward,
speaking under her breath to one of her companions. They all turned
and gazed in the direction of the table. Then the two men stood up.
One of them picked up the bill.

"Pay at the desk, please, sir," said the waiter obsequiously.

He half followed them down the room. They had forgotten to tip him.
It was quite obvious that they forgot. Yet his face was a study in
the mingling of disappointment and contempt. He stood there looking
after them; then he chucked up his head in disgust, and catching the
eye of some distant waiter, he made a sign of a nought with his fingers,
and looked up at the ceiling.

As they passed the woman's table, she heard one of them say--

"There's not a straight woman in the whole of that damned set--not
one!" Then they passed out of hearing.

"I think it's a marvellous thing," said the woman when they had gone,
"to think of the thousands of exciting tragedies, romances, crimes
perhaps, that are being acted out to their ends all round one, and
except for a stray little bit of conversation like that, one would
never realize it. I remember hearing a woman in a crowd say something
to a man in the most awful voice, full of horror, that I've ever heard.
I just caught her saying, 'If he finds it out to-night, either I'll
kill myself or he'll do it for me,' and then they got out of the crowd,
called a hansom and drove away. Positively, I didn't sleep that night,
wondering if he had found it out, wondering if he had killed her,
wondering if hundreds of other people had found out hundreds of other
horrible things. But it all went in the morning. Cissy had a terrible
toothache, and I had to take her to the dentist's."



CHAPTER VII


It was nine o'clock in the evening of the same day on which Traill
had been to see Sally. The lights were burning in her room as Janet
approached the street door. Opening it, she walked along the passage
and began the ascent of stairs. Halfway up the first flight she
stopped. The voices of two men, talking rather excitedly, came up
to her from the street as if they were nearing the house. Another
moment and she heard one bidding the other good night in the passage.
Evidently he was coming in. She walked on up the flight of stairs.
His footsteps sounded behind her. She took but little more notice
of the fact until, when she stopped before Sally's door, he stopped
behind her. Then she turned round. Her eyes opened a little wider.
She began to say one thing; then she changed her mind and said
another.

"Aren't you Mr. Traill?" she asked.

He looked at her more closely in the dim light from the landing
window.

"Yes; how did you know?"

"I'm Miss Hallard."

"Oh, oh yes! You're Sally's friend."

"'Bout the only one she has." said Janet. There was no flinching in
her eyes from his.

"You mean that for me?"

"Yes."

"Would it surprise you to hear me say I deserve it?"

"Yes, considerably. Isn't it a pity you didn't realize that a bit
sooner?"

"Well, we must all have disagreeable times in our lives," he said
rigidly. "Sally's had hers, but I guess it's over now. I fancy I've
just come from school and learnt my lesson."

"What do you mean?"

"Do you expect me to answer that to you?"

Here, in the first moment, they came to their antagonism, as Janet
had always realized they would.

"No, I don't expect it in the least" she replied.

"Well, if you're going in--?"

"Yes, I'm going in." She opened the door and entered the sitting-room.
All the lights were burning. Sally's hat lay untidily on the table.

"One moment," said Traill.

Janet turned round.

"I should be glad if you'd allow me to see Sally alone as soon as
possible. I want to talk to her. I've got a lot to say."

"I'll go now," she replied.

"No, oh no, see her first. She's probably been expecting you. Didn't
she send for you this afternoon, some time after five o'clock--eh?"

"No, I haven't seen her since yesterday. I'll just knock at her door.
Sally!" She called the name gently and knocked. Traill walked to the
mantelpiece. There was no answer.

"She must be in," he said, "there's her hat."

Janet knocked again. There was no reply. She turned round.

"I wonder can she have gone to bed and be asleep? She looked terribly
tired when I saw her yesterday."

She knocked again and tried the door; then bent down and examined
the keyhole. The key was inside, and a light was burning in the room.
Janet stood up suddenly. Her lips were shaking; her cheeks were
white.

"Mr. Traill," she said in a hollow voice, but raising it as though
he were some distance away. "This door's locked from the inside, and
there's a light in the room."

He took it quite casually. "Better let me try it," he said. "It can't
be locked from the inside unless she's there."

Janet stood aside, trembling, as he tried the handle. Then he, too,
bent down and examined the keyhole.

"Good God! You're right!" he said thickly.

Janet's eyes roamed feverishly from his face to the door. When he
stood back and called out Sally's name, her senses sharpened to a
quivering point to catch the slightest sound of a reply. She must
be inside--she must be inside! Then why didn't she answer? Why? She
recalled Sally's face as she had last seen it, white, drawn, the eyes
hollow, the lips but faintly tinged with pink. Now it was in that
room, the face that she had lifted and kissed before she had said
how wonderful she was. But what was it looking like now? What was
it looking like now, alone in that awful silence?

Traill strode back into the room.

"What are you going to do?" asked Janet. "Something's got to be done!
What are you going to do?"

"Break down the door," was his answer.

He searched in the fireplace. He searched round the room.

"Take that chair! Take that chair!" cried Janet.

He picked it up by its heavy arms, stood back and then charged the
door. There was a shuddering noise, a splintering sound of wood
giving. Then it was all quiet again.

He got ready to do it again.

"Wait!" said Janet. In a quivering voice she called Sally's name
again.

There was no reply.

"Do it now!" she said, almost incoherently. "Do it now! I believe
one of the panels is giving."

He charged it once more, and then again.

"The panel's giving," said Janet.

He flung down the chair from his shoulders. The panel had splintered
from its joining at the bottom. He could just push it forward a little,
making a slight aperture.

"Get the poker!" he said firmly.

She ran obediently and brought it to him. He prized it into the gap,
levered it forward until there was room for his fingers to squeeze
through; then he thrust them in and used the strength of his arm,
an additional lever, to push an opening down towards the key inside.

"Mind your arm," said Janet; "you're tearing the skin."

He made no reply--forced his hand still further through the gap until
the splinters of wood were cutting into the flesh and the blood was
dripping down in red blotches on the white paint of the door. She
glanced at his face. It was grey. The pupils of his eyes were large
with fear. His breath was hunting through his nostrils as he strained
to reach the key.

"Now I've got it," he whispered. "Prize that open with the poker as
far as you can or I'll never get my hand back."

She leant all her fragile weight against it, aided with the strength
of maddening fear. Her ears were strained for the sound in the lock.
When she heard the bolt click, she gasped and pressed forward again
with redoubled vigour as he slowly drew out his lacerated hand from
the crevice.

Then they both stood upright. Together they both drew a deep breath
as Traill turned the handle and opened the door. A physical sickness
made them weak. Janet half tumbled, half ran into the room. The length
of Traill's strides brought him even with her.

Sally was there. Sally was in the room. She lay crumpled on the bed,
her legs drawn up, twisted, bent; one arm thrown out covering her
face, her other hand gripping a corner of the bed-clothes, stretching
out from her in tautened creases. She looked as though some giant
hand had knotted her fragile body with fingers of iron.

With a cry, Janet bent over the bed. At her feet, Traill picked up
a little bottle, hurriedly read the label, and blindly put it in his
pocket.

"Uncover her face," he whispered; "take her arm away from her
face--she's choking herself."

"Choking herself!" Janet gently bent the arm back. Every feature was
twisted in the same grip, the lips caught in the same iron fingers
and dragged in her suffering, baring the teeth--the whole expression
of her face was as though she had died, emitting one last scream of
unbearable agony. "Look! Choking herself? She's dead!"

With a muffled sound, Traill forced himself to her side. He put his
arm round her. He lifted her up. The body dragged against him, the
head swung from the loose neck.

"Sally's had her bad time," said Janet, hoarsely, "and, my God, it's
over now!"


THE END



PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, LONDON AND BECCLES.



Messrs. CHAPMAN & HALL'S
2/- net Library of Popular Novels.

_Works by E. TEMPLE THURSTON._
THE APPLE OF EDEN.
TRAFFIC.
THE EVOLUTION OF KATHERINE.
MIRAGE.
SALLY BISHOP.
THE CITY OF BEAUTIFUL NONSENSE.
THE GREATEST WISH IN THE WORLD.

_Works by ARNOLD BENNETT,_
Author of "The Old Wives' Tale," etc.
HELEN WITH THE HIGH HAND.
THE GLIMPSE: An Adventure of the Soul.

_By W.H. MALLOCK,_
Author of "The Individualist," etc.
A HUMAN DOCUMENT.

_Works by MAJOR W.P. DRURY._
THE PERADVENTURES OF PRIVATE PAGETT.
BEARERS OF THE BURDEN.
MEN AT ARMS.
THE SHADOW ON THE QUARTER DECK.
THE TADPOLE OF AN ARCHANGEL AND OTHER STORIES.
THE PASSING OF THE FLAG-SHIP.

_Works by RIDGWELL CULLUM,_
Author of "The Watchers of the Plains," etc.
THE NIGHT RIDERS.
THE HOUND FROM THE NORTH.
THE SHERIFF OF DYKE HOLE.

London: CHAPMAN & HALL, Limited.





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