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Title: Marriage à la mode
Author: Ward, Humphry, Mrs., 1851-1920
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 "Marriage à la mode" ***

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                            Marriage à la Mode

                           BY MRS. HUMPHRY WARD



ILLUSTRATED BY FRED PEGRAM

NEW YORK
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
1909

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, INCLUDING THAT OF TRANSLATION INTO FOREIGN
LANGUAGES, INCLUDING THE SCANDINAVIAN

COPYRIGHT, 1908, BY MRS. HUMPHRY WARD
COPYRIGHT, 1909, BY MARY AUGUSTA WARD
PUBLISHED, MAY, 1909



TO L. C. W.



[Illustration: DAPHNE FLOYD]



NOTE

THIS STORY APPEARED IN ENGLAND UNDER THE TITLE OF "DAPHNE." THE
PUBLISHERS ARE INDEBTED TO THE PROPRIETORS OF THE "PALL MALL MAGAZINE"
FOR THEIR PERMISSION TO USE THE DRAWINGS BY MR. FRED PEGRAM.



ILLUSTRATIONS


Daphne Floyd

"He caught the hand, he gathered its owner into a pair of strong arms,
and bending over her, he kissed her"

"In the dead of night Daphne sat up in bed, looking at the face and head
of her husband beside her on the pillow"

"Her whole being was seething with passionate and revengeful thought"



Marriage à la Mode



PART I



CHAPTER I


"A stifling hot day!" General Hobson lifted his hat and mopped his
forehead indignantly. "What on earth this place can be like in June I
can't conceive! The tenth of April, and I'll be bound the thermometer's
somewhere near eighty in the shade. You never find the English climate
playing you these tricks."

Roger Barnes looked at his uncle with amusement.

"Don't you like heat, Uncle Archie? Ah, but I forgot, it's American
heat."

"I like a climate you can depend on," said the General, quite conscious
that he was talking absurdly, yet none the less determined to talk, by
way of relief to some obscure annoyance. "Here we are sweltering in this
abominable heat, and in New York last week they had a blizzard, and
here, even, it was cold enough to give me rheumatism. The climate's
always in extremes--like the people."

"I'm sorry to find you don't like the States, Uncle Archie."

The young man sat down beside his uncle. They were in the deck saloon of
a steamer which had left Washington about an hour before for Mount
Vernon. Through the open doorway to their left they saw a wide expanse
of river, flowing between banks of spring green, and above it thunderous
clouds, in a hot blue. The saloon, and the decks outside, held a great
crowd of passengers, of whom the majority were women.

The tone in which Roger Barnes spoke was good-tempered, but quite
perfunctory. Any shrewd observer would have seen that whether his uncle
liked the States or not did not in truth matter to him a whit.

"And I consider all the arrangements for this trip most unsatisfactory,"
the General continued angrily. "The steamer's too small, the
landing-place is too small, the crowd getting on board was something
disgraceful. They'll have a shocking accident one of these days. And
what on earth are all these women here for--in the middle of the day?
It's not a holiday."

"I believe it's a teachers' excursion," said young Barnes absently, his
eyes resting on the rows of young women in white blouses and spring hats
who sat in close-packed chairs upon the deck--an eager, talkative host.

"H'm--Teachers!" The General's tone was still more pugnacious. "Going to
learn more lies about us, I suppose, that they may teach them to
school-children? I was turning over some of their school-books in a shop
yesterday. Perfectly abominable! It's monstrous what they teach the
children here about what they're pleased to call their War of
Independence. All that we did was to ask them to pay something for their
own protection. What did it matter to us whether they were mopped up by
the Indians, or the French, or not? 'But if you want us to go to all the
expense and trouble of protecting you, and putting down those fellows,
why, hang it,' we said, 'you must pay some of the bill!' That was all
English Ministers asked; and perfectly right too. And as for the men
they make such a fuss about, Samuel Adams, and John Adams, and Franklin,
and all the rest of the crew, I tell you, the stuff they teach American
school-children about them is a poisoning of the wells! Franklin was a
man of profligate life, whom I would never have admitted inside my
doors! And as for the Adamses--intriguers--canting fellows!--both of
them."

"Well, at least you'll give them George Washington." As he spoke, Barnes
concealed a yawn, followed immediately afterwards by a look of greater
alertness, caused by the discovery that a girl sitting not far from the
doorway in the crowd outside was certainly pretty.

The red-faced, white-haired General paused a moment before replying,
then broke out: "What George Washington might have been if he had held a
straight course I am not prepared to say. As it is, I don't hesitate for
a moment! George Washington was nothing more nor less than a rebel--a
damned rebel! And what Englishmen mean by joining in the worship of him
I've never been able to understand."

"I say, uncle, take care," said the young man, looking round him, and
observing with some relief that they seemed to have the saloon to
themselves. "These Yankees will stand most things, but----"

"You needn't trouble yourself, Roger," was the testy reply; "I am not in
the habit of annoying my neighbours. Well now, look here, what I want to
know is, what is the meaning of this absurd journey of yours?"

The young man's frown increased. He began to poke the floor with his
stick. "I don't know why you call it absurd?"

"To me it seems both absurd and extravagant," said the other with
emphasis. "The last thing I heard of you was that Burdon and Co. had
offered you a place in their office, and that you were prepared to take
it. When a man has lost his money and becomes dependent upon others, the
sooner he gets to work the better."

Roger Barnes reddened under the onslaught, and the sulky expression of
his handsome mouth became more pronounced. "I think my mother and I
ought to be left to judge for ourselves," he said rather hotly. "We
haven't asked anybody for money _yet_, Uncle Archie. Burdon and Co. can
have me in September just as well as now; and my mother wished me to
make some friends over here who might be useful to me."

"Useful to you. How?"

"I think that's my affair. In this country there are always
openings--things turning up--chances--you can't get at home."

The General gave a disapproving laugh. "The only chance that'll help
you, Roger, at present--excuse me if I speak frankly--is the chance of
regular work. Your poor mother has nothing but her small fixed income,
and you haven't a farthing to chuck away on what you call chances. Why,
your passage by the _Lucania_ alone must have cost a pretty penny. I'll
bet my hat you came first class."

The young man was clearly on the brink of an explosion, but controlled
himself with an effort. "I paid the winter rate; and mother who knows
the Cunard people very well, got a reduction. I assure you, Uncle
Archie, neither mother nor I is a fool, and we know quite well what we
are about."

As he spoke he raised himself with energy, and looked his companion in
the face.

The General, surveying him, was mollified, as usual, by nothing in the
world but the youth's extraordinary good looks. Roger Barnes's good
looks had been, indeed, from his childhood upward the distinguishing and
remarkable feature about him. He had been a king among his schoolfellows
largely because of them, and of the athletic prowess which went with
them; and while at Oxford he had been cast for the part of Apollo in
"The Eumenides," Nature having clearly designed him for it in spite of
the lamentable deficiencies in his Greek scholarship, which gave his
prompters and trainers so much trouble. Nose, chin, brow, the poising of
the head on the shoulders, the large blue eyes, lidded and set with a
Greek perfection, the delicacy of the lean, slightly hollow cheeks,
combined with the astonishing beauty and strength of the head, crowned
with ambrosial curls--these possessions, together with others, had so
far made life an easy and triumphant business for their owner. The
"others," let it be noted, however, had till now always been present;
and, chief amongst them, great wealth and an important and popular
father. The father was recently dead, as the black band on the young
man's arm still testified, and the wealth had suddenly vanished, wholly
and completely, in one of the financial calamities of the day. General
Hobson, contemplating his nephew, and mollified, as we have said, by his
splendid appearance, kept saying to himself: "He hasn't a farthing but
what poor Laura allows him; he has the tastes of forty thousand a year;
a very indifferent education; and what the deuce is he going to do?"

Aloud he said:

"Well, all I know is, I had a deplorable letter last mail from your poor
mother."

The young man turned his head away, his cigarette still poised at his
lips. "Yes, I know--mother's awfully down."

"Well, certainly your mother was never meant for a poor woman," said the
General, with energy. "She takes it uncommonly hard."

Roger, with face still averted, showed no inclination to discuss his
mother's character on these lines.

"However, she'll get along all right, if you do your duty by her," added
the General, not without a certain severity.

"I mean to do it, sir." Barnes rose as he spoke. "I should think we're
getting near Mount Vernon by this time. I'll go and look."

He made his way to the outer deck, the General following. The old
soldier, as he moved through the crowd of chairs in the wake of his
nephew, was well aware of the attention excited by the young man. The
eyes of many damsels were upon him; and, while the girls looked and said
nothing, their mothers laughed and whispered to each other as the young
Apollo passed.

Standing at the side of the steamer, the uncle and nephew perceived that
the river had widened to a still more stately breadth, and that, on the
southern bank, a white building, high placed, had come into view. The
excursionists crowded to look, expressing their admiration for the
natural scene and their sense of its patriotic meaning in a frank,
enthusiastic chatter, which presently enveloped the General, standing in
a silent endurance like a rock among the waves.

"Isn't it fine to think of his coming back here to die, so simply, when
he'd made a nation?" said a young girl--perhaps from Omaha--to her
companion. "Wasn't it just lovely?"

Her voice, restrained, yet warm with feeling, annoyed General Hobson. He
moved away, and as they hung over the taffrail he said, with suppressed
venom to his companion: "Much good it did them to be 'made a nation'!
Look at their press--look at their corruption--their divorce scandals!"

Barnes laughed, and threw his cigarette-end into the swift brown water.

"Upon my word, Uncle Archie, I can't play up to you. As far as I've
gone, I like America and the Americans."

"Which means, I suppose, that your mother gave you some introductions to
rich people in New York, and they entertained you?" said the General
drily.

"Well, is there any crime in that? I met a lot of uncommonly nice
people."

"And didn't particularly bless me when I wired to you to come here?"

The young man laughed again and paused a moment before replying.

"I'm always very glad to come and keep you company, Uncle Archie."

The old General reddened a little. Privately, he knew very well that his
telegram summoning young Barnes from New York had been an act of
tyranny--mild, elderly tyranny. He was not amusing himself in
Washington, where he was paying a second visit after an absence of
twenty years. His English soul was disturbed and affronted by a wholly
new realization of the strength of America, by the giant forces of the
young nation, as they are to be felt pulsing in the Federal City. He was
up in arms for the Old World, wondering sorely and secretly what the New
might do with her in the times to come, and foreseeing an
ever-increasing deluge of unlovely things--ideals, principles,
manners--flowing from this western civilization, under which his own
gods were already half buried, and would soon be hidden beyond recovery.
And in this despondency which possessed him, in spite of the attentions
of Embassies, and luncheons at the White House, he had heard that Roger
was in New York, and could not resist the temptation to send for him.
After all, Roger was his heir. Unless the boy flagrantly misbehaved
himself, he would inherit General Hobson's money and small estate in
Northamptonshire. Before the death of Roger's father this prospective
inheritance, indeed, had not counted for very much in the family
calculations. The General had even felt a shyness in alluding to a
matter so insignificant in comparison with the general scale on which
the Barnes family lived. But since the death of Barnes _père_, and the
complete pecuniary ruin revealed by that event, Roger's expectations
from his uncle had assumed a new importance. The General was quite aware
of it. A year before this date he would never have dreamed of summoning
Roger to attend him at a moment's notice. That he had done so, and that
Roger had obeyed him, showed how closely even the family relation may
depend on pecuniary circumstance.

The steamer swung round to the landing-place under the hill of Mount
Vernon. Again, in disembarkation, there was a crowd and rush which set
the General's temper on edge. He emerged from it, hot and breathless,
after haranguing the functionary at the gates on the inadequacy of the
arrangements and the likelihood of an accident. Then he and Roger strode
up the steep path, beside beds of blue periwinkles, and under old trees
just bursting into leaf. A spring sunshine was in the air and on the
grass, which had already donned its "livelier emerald." The air quivered
with heat, and the blue dome of sky diffused it. Here and there a
magnolia in full flower on the green slopes spread its splendour of
white or pinkish blossom to the sun; the great river, shimmering and
streaked with light, swept round the hill, and out into a pearly
distance; and on the height the old pillared house with its flanking
colonnades stood under the thinly green trees in a sharp light and shade
which emphasized all its delightful qualities--made, as it were, the
most of it, in response to the eagerness of the crowd now flowing round
it.

Half-way up the hill Roger suddenly raised his hat.

"Who is it?" said the General, putting up his eyeglass.

"The girl we met last night and her brother."

"Captain Boyson? So it is. They seem to have a party with them."

The lady whom young Barnes had greeted moved toward the Englishmen,
followed by her brother.

"I didn't know we were to meet to-day," she said gaily, with a mocking
look at Roger. "I thought you said you were bored--and going back to New
York."

Roger was relieved to see that his uncle, engaged in shaking hands with
the American officer, had not heard this remark. Tact was certainly not
Miss Boyson's strong point.

"I am sure I never said anything of the kind," he said, looking brazenly
down upon her; "nothing in the least like it."

"Oh! oh!" the lady protested, with an extravagant archness. "Mrs.
Phillips, this is Mr. Barnes. We were just talking of him, weren't we?"

An elderly lady, quietly dressed in gray silk, turned, bowed, and looked
curiously at the Englishman.

"I hear you and Miss Boyson discovered some common friends last night."

"We did, indeed. Miss Boyson posted me up in a lot of the people I have
been seeing in New York. I am most awfully obliged to her," said Barnes.
His manner was easy and forthcoming, the manner of one accustomed to
feel himself welcome and considered.

"I behaved like a walking 'Who's Who,' only I was much more interesting,
and didn't tell half as many lies," said the girl, in a high penetrating
voice. "Daphne, let me introduce you to Mr. Barnes. Mr. Barnes--Miss
Floyd; Mr. Barnes--Mrs. Verrier."

Two ladies beyond Mrs. Phillips made vague inclinations, and young
Barnes raised his hat. The whole party walked on up the hill. The
General and Captain Boyson fell into a discussion of some military news
of the morning. Roger Barnes was mostly occupied with Miss Boyson, who
had a turn for monopoly; and he could only glance occasionally at the
two ladies with Mrs. Phillips. But he was conscious that the whole group
made a distinguished appearance. Among the hundreds of young women
streaming over the lawn they were clearly marked out by their carriage
and their clothes--especially their clothes--as belonging to the
fastidious cosmopolitan class, between whom and the young
school-teachers from the West, in their white cotton blouses, leathern
belts, and neat short skirts, the links were few. Miss Floyd, indeed,
was dressed with great simplicity. A white muslin dress, _à la_ Romney,
with a rose at the waist, and a black-and-white Romney hat deeply
shading the face beneath--nothing could have been plainer; yet it was a
simplicity not to be had for the asking, a calculated, a Parisian
simplicity; while her companion, Mrs. Verrier, was attired in what the
fashion-papers would have called a "creation in mauve." And Roger knew
quite enough about women's dress to be aware that it was a creation that
meant dollars. She was a tall, dark-eyed, olive-skinned woman, thin
almost to emaciation: and young Barnes noticed that, while Miss Floyd
talked much, Mrs. Verrier answered little, and smiled less. She moved
with a languid step, and looked absently about her. Roger could not make
up his mind whether she was American or English.

In the house itself the crowd was almost unmanageable. The General's ire
was roused afresh when he was warned off the front door by the polite
official on guard, and made to mount a back stair in the midst of a
panting multitude.

"I really cannot congratulate you on your management of these affairs,"
he said severely to Captain Boyson, as they stood at last, breathless
and hustled, on the first-floor landing. "It is most improper, I may say
dangerous, to admit such a number at once. And, as for seeing the house,
it is simply impossible. I shall make my way down as soon as possible,
and go for a walk."

Captain Boyson looked perplexed. General Hobson was a person of
eminence; Washington had been very civil to him; and the American
officer felt a kind of host's responsibility.

"Wait a moment; I'll try and find somebody." He disappeared, and the
party maintained itself with difficulty in a corner of the landing
against the pressure of a stream of damsels, who crowded to the open
doors of the rooms, looked through the gratings which bar the entrance
without obstructing the view, chattered, and moved on. General Hobson
stood against the wall, a model of angry patience. Cecilia Boyson,
glancing at him with a laughing eye, said in Roger's ear: "How sad it is
that your uncle dislikes us so!"

"Us? What do you mean?"

"That he hates America so. Oh, don't say he doesn't, because I've
watched him, at one, two, three parties. He thinks we're a horrid,
noisy, vulgar people, with most unpleasant voices, and he thanks God for
the Atlantic--and hopes he may never see us again."

"Well, of course, if you're so certain about it, there's no good in
contradicting you. Did you say that lady's name was Floyd? Could I have
seen her last week in New York?"

"Quite possible. Perhaps you heard something about her?"

"No," said Barnes, after thinking a moment. "I remember--somebody
pointed her out at the opera."

His companion looked at him with a kind of hard amusement. Cecilia
Boyson was only five-and-twenty, but there was already something in her
that foretold the formidable old maid.

"Well, when people begin upon Daphne Floyd," she said, "they generally
go through with it. Ah! here comes Alfred."

Captain Boyson, pushing his way through the throng, announced to his
sister and General Hobson that he had found the curator in charge of the
house, who sent a message by him to the effect that if only the party
would wait till four o'clock, the official closing hour, he himself
would have great pleasure in showing them the house when all the
tourists of the day had taken their departure.

"Then," said Miss Floyd, smiling at the General, "let us go and sit in
the garden, and feel ourselves aristocratic and superior."

The General's brow smoothed. Voice and smile were alike engaging. Their
owner was not exactly pretty, but she had very large dark eyes, and a
small glowing face, set in a profusion of hair. Her neck, the General
thought, was the slenderest he had ever seen, and the slight round lines
of her form spoke of youth in its first delicate maturity. He followed
her obediently, and they were all soon in the garden again, and free of
the crowd. Miss Floyd led the way across the grass with the General.

"Ah! now you will see the General will begin to like us," said Miss
Boyson. "Daphne has got him in hand."

Her tone was slightly mocking. Barnes observed the two figures in front
of them, and remarked that Miss Floyd had a "very--well--a very foreign
look."

"Not English, you mean?--or American? Well, naturally. Her mother was a
Spaniard--a South American--from Buenos Ayres. That's why she is so
dark, and so graceful."

"I never saw a prettier dress," said Barnes, following the slight figure
with his eyes. "It's so simple."

His companion laughed again. The manner of the laugh puzzled her
companion, but, just as he was about to put a question, the General and
the young lady paused in front, to let the rest of the party come up
with them. Miss Floyd proposed a seat a little way down the slope, where
they might wait the half-hour appointed.

That half-hour passed quickly for all concerned. In looking back upon it
afterwards two of the party were conscious that it had all hung upon one
person. Daphne Floyd sat beside the General, who paid her a
half-reluctant, half-fascinated attention. Without any apparent effort
on her part she became indeed the centre of the group who sat or lay on
the grass. All faces were turned towards her, and presently all ears
listened for her remarks. Her talk was young and vivacious, nothing
more. But all she said came, as it were, steeped in personality, a
personality so energetic, so charged with movement and with action that
it arrested the spectators--not always agreeably. It was like the
passage of a train through the darkness, when, for the moment, the
quietest landscape turns to fire and force.

The comparison suggested itself to Captain Boyson as he lay watching
her, only to be received with an inward mockery, half bitter, half
amused. This girl was always awakening in him these violent or desperate
images. Was it her fault that she possessed those brilliant eyes--eyes,
as it seemed, of the typical, essential woman?--and that downy brunette
skin, with the tinge in it of damask red?--and that instinctive art of
lovely gesture in which her whole being seemed to express itself?
Boyson, who was not only a rising soldier, but an excellent amateur
artist, knew every line of the face by heart. He had drawn Miss Daphne
from the life on several occasions; and from memory scores of times. He
was not likely to draw her from life any more; and thereby hung a tale.
As far as he was concerned the train had passed--in flame and
fury--leaving an echoing silence behind it.

What folly! He turned resolutely to Mrs. Verrier, and tried to discuss
with her an exhibition of French art recently opened in Washington. In
vain. After a few sentences, the talk between them dropped, and both he
and she were once more watching Miss Floyd, and joining in the
conversation whenever she chose to draw them in.

As for Roger Barnes, he too was steadily subjugated--up to a certain
point. He was not sure that he liked Miss Floyd, or her conversation.
She was so much mistress of herself and of the company, that his
masculine vanity occasionally rebelled. A little flirt!--that gave
herself airs. It startled his English mind that at twenty--for she could
be no more--a girl should so take the floor, and hold the stage.
Sometimes he turned his back upon her--almost; and Cecilia Boyson held
him. But, if there was too much of the "eternal womanly" in Miss Floyd,
there was not enough in Cecilia Boyson. He began to discover also that
she was too clever for him, and was in fact talking down to him. Some of
the things that she said to him about New York and Washington puzzled
him extremely. She was, he supposed, intellectual; but the intellectual
women in England did not talk in the same way. He was equal to them, or
flattered himself that he was; but Miss Boyson was beyond him. He was
getting into great difficulties with her, when suddenly Miss Floyd
addressed him:

"I am sure I saw you in New York, at the opera?"

She bent over to him as she spoke, and lowered her voice. Her look was
merry, perhaps a little satirical. It put him on his guard.

"Yes, I was there. You were pointed out to me."

"You were with some old friends of mine. I suppose they gave you an
account of me?"

"They were beginning it; but then Melba began to sing, and some horrid
people in the next box said 'Hush!'"

She studied him in a laughing silence a moment, her chin on her hand,
then said:

"That is the worst of the opera; it stops so much interesting
conversation."

"You don't care for the music?"

"Oh, I am a musician!" she said quickly. "I teach it. But I am like the
mad King of Bavaria--I want an opera-house to myself."

"You teach it?" he said, in amazement.

She nodded, smiling. At that moment a bell rang. Captain Boyson rose.

"That's the signal for closing. I think we ought to be moving up."

They strolled slowly towards the house, watching the stream of
excursionists pour out of the house and gardens, and wind down the hill;
sounds of talk and laughter filled the air, and the western sun touched
the spring hats and dresses.

"The holidays end to-morrow," said Daphne Floyd demurely, as she walked
beside young Barnes. And she looked smiling at the crowd of young women,
as though claiming solidarity with them.

A teacher? A teacher of music?--with that self-confidence--that air as
though the world belonged to her! The young man was greatly mystified.
But he reminded himself that he was in a democratic country where all
men--and especially all women--are equal. Not that the young women now
streaming to the steamboat were Miss Floyd's equals. The notion was
absurd. All that appeared to be true was that Miss Floyd, in any
circumstances, would be, and was, the equal of anybody.

"How charming your friend is!" he said presently to Cecilia Boyson, as
they lingered on the veranda, waiting for the curator, in a scene now
deserted. "She tells me she is a teacher of music."

Cecilia Boyson looked at him in amazement, and made him repeat his
remark. As he did so, his uncle called him, and he turned away. Miss
Boyson leant against one of the pillars of the veranda, shaking with
suppressed laughter.

But at that moment the curator, a gentle, gray-haired man, appeared,
shaking hands with the General, and bowing to the ladies. He gave them a
little discourse on the house and its history, as they stood on the
veranda; and private conversation was no longer possible.



CHAPTER II


A sudden hush had fallen upon Mount Vernon. From the river below came
the distant sounds of the steamer, which, with its crowds safe on board,
was now putting off for Washington. But the lawns and paths of the
house, and the formal garden behind it, and all its simple rooms
upstairs and down, were now given back to the spring and silence, save
for this last party of sightseers. The curator, after his preliminary
lecture on the veranda, took them within; the railings across the doors
were removed; they wandered in and out as they pleased.

Perhaps, however, there were only two persons among the six now
following the curator to whom the famous place meant anything more than
a means of idling away a warm afternoon. General Hobson carried his
white head proudly through it, saying little or nothing. It was the
house of a man who had wrenched half a continent from Great Britain; the
English Tory had no intention whatever of bowing the knee. On the other
hand, it was the house of a soldier and a gentleman, representing old
English traditions, tastes, and manners. No modern blatancy, no Yankee
smartness anywhere. Simplicity and moderate wealth, combined with
culture--witness the books of the library--with land-owning, a family
coach, and church on Sundays: these things the Englishman understood.
Only the slaves, in the picture of Mount Vernon's past, were strange to
him.

They stood at length in the death-chamber, with its low white bed, and
its balcony overlooking the river.

"This, ladies, is the room in which General Washington died," said the
curator, patiently repeating the familiar sentence. "It is, of course,
on that account sacred to every true American."

He bowed his head instinctively as he spoke. The General looked round
him in silence. His eye was caught by the old hearth, and by the iron
plate at the back of it, bearing the letters G. W. and some scroll work.
There flashed into his mind a vision of the December evening on which
Washington passed away, the flames flickering in the chimney, the winds
breathing round the house and over the snow-bound landscape outside, the
dying man in that white bed, and around him, hovering invisibly, the
generations of the future.

"He was a traitor to his king and country!" he repeated to himself,
firmly. Then as his patriotic mind was not disturbed by a sense of
humour, he added the simple reflection--"But it is, of course, natural
that Americans should consider him a great man."

The French window beside the bed was thrown open, and these privileged
guests were invited to step on to the balcony. Daphne Floyd was handed
out by young Barnes. They hung over the white balustrade together. An
evening light was on the noble breadth of river; its surface of blue and
gold gleamed through the boughs of the trees which girdled the house;
blossoms of wild cherry, of dogwood, and magnolia sparkled amid the
coverts of young green.

Roger Barnes remarked, with sincerity, as he looked about him, that it
was a very pretty place, and he was glad he had not missed it. Miss
Floyd made an absent reply, being in fact occupied in studying the
speaker. It was, so to speak, the first time she had really observed
him; and, as they paused on the balcony together, she was suddenly
possessed by the same impression as that which had mollified the
General's scolding on board the steamer. He was indeed handsome, the
young Englishman!--a magnificent figure of a man, in height and breadth
and general proportions; and in addition, as it seemed to her, possessed
of an absurd and superfluous beauty of feature. What does a man want
with such good looks? This was perhaps the girl's first instinctive
feeling. She was, indeed, a little dazzled by her new companion, now
that she began to realize him. As compared with the average man in
Washington or New York, here was an exception--an Apollo!--for she too
thought of the Sun-god. Miss Floyd could not remember that she had ever
had to do with an Apollo before; young Barnes, therefore, was so far an
event, a sensation. In the opera-house she had been vaguely struck by a
handsome face. But here, in the freedom of outdoor dress and movement,
he seemed to her a physical king of men; and, at the same time, his easy
manner--which, however, was neither conceited nor ill-bred--showed him
conscious of his advantages.

As they chatted on the balcony she put him through his paces a little.
He had been, it seemed, at Eton and Oxford; and she supposed that he
belonged to the rich English world. His mother was a Lady Barnes; his
father, she gathered, was dead; and he was travelling, no doubt, in the
lordly English way, to get a little knowledge of the barbarians outside,
before he settled down to his own kingdom, and the ways thereof. She
envisaged a big Georgian house in a spreading park, like scores that she
had seen in the course of motoring through England the year before.

Meanwhile, the dear young man was evidently trying to talk to her,
without too much reference to the gilt gingerbread of this world. He did
not wish that she should feel herself carried into regions where she was
not at home, so that his conversation ran amicably on music. Had she
learned it abroad? He had a cousin who had been trained at Leipsic;
wasn't teaching it trying sometimes--when people had no ear? Delicious!
She kept it up, talking with smiles of "my pupils" and "my class," while
they wandered after the others upstairs to the dark low-roofed room
above the death-chamber, where Martha Washington spent the last years of
her life, in order that from the high dormer window she might command
the tomb on the slope below, where her dead husband lay. The curator
told the well-known story. Mrs. Verrier, standing beside him, asked some
questions, showed indeed some animation.

"She shut herself up here? She lived in this garret? That she might
always see the tomb? That is really true?"

Barnes, who did not remember to have heard her speak before, turned
at the sound of her voice, and looked at her curiously. She
wore an expression--bitter or incredulous--which, somehow, amused
him. As they descended again to the garden he communicated his
amusement--discreetly--to Miss Floyd.

Did Mrs. Verrier imply that no one who was not a fool could show her
grief as Mrs. Washington did? That it was, in fact, a sign of being a
fool to regret your husband?

"Did she say that?" asked Miss Floyd quickly.

"Not like that, of course, but----"

They had now reached the open air again, and found themselves crossing
the front court to the kitchen-garden. Daphne Floyd did not wait till
Roger should finish his sentence. She turned on him a face which was
grave if not reproachful.

"I suppose you know Mrs. Verrier's story?"

"Why, I never saw her before! I hope I haven't said anything I oughtn't
to have said?"

"Everybody knows it here," said Daphne slowly. "Mrs. Verrier married
three years ago. She married a Jew--a New Yorker--who had changed his
name. You know Jews are not in what we call 'society' over here? But
Madeleine thought she could do it; she was in love with him, and she
meant to be able to do without society. But she couldn't do without
society; and presently she began to dine out, and go to parties by
herself--he urged her to. Then, after a bit, people didn't ask her as
much as before; she wasn't happy; and her people began to talk to him
about a divorce--naturally they had been against her marrying him all
along. He said--as they and she pleased. Then, one night about a year
ago, he took the train to Niagara--of course it was a very commonplace
thing to do--and two days afterwards he was found, thrown up by the
whirlpool; you know, where all the suicides are found!"

Barnes stopped short in front of his companion, his face flushing.

"What a horrible story!" he said, with emphasis.

Miss Floyd nodded.

"Yes, poor Madeleine has never got over it."

The young man still stood riveted.

"Of course Mrs. Verrier herself had nothing to do with the talk about
divorce?"

Something in his tone roused a combative instinct in his companion. She,
too, coloured, and drew herself up.

"Why shouldn't she? She was miserable. The marriage had been a great
mistake."

"And you allow divorce for that?" said the man, wondering. "Oh, of
course I know every State is different, and some States are worse than
others. But, somehow, I never came across a case like that--first
hand--before."

He walked on slowly beside his companion, who held herself a little
stiffly.

"I don't know why you should talk in that way," she said at last,
breaking out in a kind of resentment, "as though all our American views
are wrong! Each nation arranges these things for itself. You have the
laws that suit you; you must allow us those that suit us."

Barnes paused again, his face expressing a still more complete
astonishment.

"You say that?" he said. "You!"

"And why not?"

"But--but you are so young!" he said, evidently finding a difficulty in
putting his impressions. "I beg your pardon--I ought not to talk about
it at all. But it was so odd that----"

"That I knew anything about Mrs. Verrier's affairs?" said Miss Floyd,
with a rather uncomfortable laugh. "Well, you see, American girls are
not like English ones. We don't pretend not to know what everybody
knows."

"Of course," said Roger hurriedly; "but you wouldn't think it a fair and
square thing to do?"

"Think what?"

"Why, to marry a man, and then talk of divorcing him because people
didn't invite you to their parties."

"She was very unhappy," said Daphne stubbornly.

"Well, by Jove!" cried the young man, "she doesn't look very happy now!"

"No," Miss Floyd admitted. "No. There are many people who think she'll
never get over it."

"Well, I give it up." The Apollo shrugged his handsome shoulders. "You
say it was she who proposed to divorce him?--yet when the wretched man
removes himself, then she breaks her heart!"

"Naturally she didn't mean him to do it in that way," said the girl,
with impatience. "Of course you misunderstood me entirely!--_entirely!_"
she added with an emphasis which suited with her heightened colour and
evidently ruffled feelings.

Young Barnes looked at her with embarrassment. What a queer,
hot-tempered girl! Yet there was something in her which attracted him.
She was graceful even in her impatience. Her slender neck, and the dark
head upon it, her little figure in the white muslin, her dainty arms and
hands--these points in her delighted an honest eye, quite accustomed to
appraise the charms of women. But, by George! she took herself
seriously, this little music-teacher. The air of wilful command about
her, the sharpness with which she had just rebuked him, amazed and
challenged him.

"I am very sorry if I misunderstood you," he said, a little on his
dignity; "but I thought you----"

"You thought I sympathized with Mrs. Verrier? So I do; though of course
I am awfully sorry that such a dreadful thing happened. But you'll find,
Mr. Barnes, that American girls----" The colour rushed into her small
olive cheeks. "Well, we know all about the old ideas, and we know also
too well that there's only one life, and we don't mean to have that one
spoilt. The old notions of marriage--your English notions," cried the
girl facing him--"make it tyranny! Why should people stay together when
they see it's a mistake? We say everybody shall have their chance. And
not one chance only, but more than one. People find out in marriage what
they couldn't find out before, and so----"

"You let them chuck it just when they're tired of it?" laughed Barnes.
"And what about the----"

"The children?" said Miss Floyd calmly. "Well, of course, that has to be
very carefully considered. But how can it do children any good to live
in an unhappy home?"

"Had Mrs. Verrier any children?"

"Yes, one little girl."

"I suppose she meant to keep her?"

"Why, of course."

"And the father didn't care?"

"Well, I believe he did," said Daphne unwillingly. "Yes, that was very
sad. He was quite devoted to her."

"And you think that's all right?" Barnes looked at his companion,
smiling.

"Well, of course, it was a pity," she said, with fresh impatience; "I
admit it was a pity. But then, why did she ever marry him? That was the
horrible mistake."

"I suppose she thought she liked him."

"Oh, it was he who was so desperately in love with her. He plagued her
into doing it."

"Poor devil!" said Barnes heartily. "All right, we're coming."

The last words were addressed to General Hobson, waving to them from the
kitchen-garden. They hurried on to join the curator, who took the party
for a stroll round some of the fields over which George Washington, in
his early married life, was accustomed to ride in summer and winter
dawns, inspecting his negroes, his plantation, and his barns. The grass
in these Southern fields was already high; there were shining
fruit-trees, blossom-laden, in an orchard copse; and the white dogwood
glittered in the woods.

For two people to whom the traditions of the place were dear, this quiet
walk through Washington's land had a charm far beyond that of the
reconstructed interior of the house. Here were things unaltered and
unalterable, boundaries, tracks, woods, haunted still by the figure of
the young master and bridegroom who brought Patsy Curtis there in 1759.
To the gray-haired curator every foot of them was sacred and familiar;
he knew these fields and the records of them better than any detail of
his own personal affairs; for years now he had lived in spirit with
Washington, through all the hours of the Mount Vernon day; his life was
ruled by one great ghost, so that everything actual was comparatively
dim. Boyson too, a fine soldier and a fine intelligence, had a mind
stored with Washingtoniana. Every now and then he and the curator fell
back on each other's company. They knew well that the others were not
worthy of their opportunity; although General Hobson, seeing that most
of the memories touched belonged to a period before the Revolution,
obeyed the dictates of politeness, and made amends for his taciturnity
indoors by a talkative vein outside.

Captain Boyson was not, however, wholly occupied with history or
reminiscence. He perceived very plainly before the walk was over that
the General's good-looking nephew and Miss Daphne Floyd were interested
in each other's conversation. When they joined the party in the garden
it seemed to him that they had been disputing. Miss Daphne was flushed
and a little snappish when spoken to; and the young man looked
embarrassed. But presently he saw that they gravitated to each other,
and that, whatever chance combination might be formed during the walk,
it always ended for a time in the flight ahead of the two figures, the
girl in the rose-coloured sash and the tall handsome youth. Towards the
end of the walk they became separated from the rest of the party, and
only arrived at the little station just in time before the cars started.
On this occasion again, they had been clearly arguing and disagreeing;
and Daphne had the air of a ruffled bird, her dark eyes glittering, her
mouth set in the obstinate lines that Boyson knew by heart. But again
they sat together in the car, and talked and sparred all the way home;
while Mrs. Verrier, in a corner of the carriage, shut her hollow eyes,
and laid her thin hands one over the other, and in her purple draperies
made a picture _à la Mèlisande_ which was not lost upon her companions.
Boyson's mind registered a good many grim or terse comments, as
occasionally he found himself watching this lady. Scarcely a year since
that hideous business at Niagara, and here she was in that extravagant
dress! He wished his sister would not make a friend of her, and that
Daphne Floyd saw less of her. Miss Daphne had quite enough bees in her
own bonnet without adopting Mrs. Verrier's.

Meanwhile, it was the General who, on the return journey, was made to
serve Miss Boyson's gift for monopoly. She took possession of him in a
business-like way, inquiring into his engagements in Washington, his
particular friends, his opinion of the place and the people, with a
light-handed acuteness which was more than a match for the Englishman's
instincts of defence. The General did not mean to give himself away; he
intended, indeed, precisely the contrary; but, after every round of
conversation Miss Boyson felt herself more and more richly provided with
materials for satire at the expense of England and the English tourist,
his invincible conceit, insularity, and condescension. She was a clever
though tiresome woman; and expressed herself best in letters. She
promised herself to write a "character" of General Hobson in her next
letter to an intimate friend, which should be a masterpiece. Then,
having led him successfully through the _rôle_ of the comic Englishman
abroad, she repaid him with information. She told him, not without some
secret amusement at the reprobation it excited, the tragic story of Mrs.
Verrier. She gave him a full history of her brother's honourable and
brilliant career; and here let it be said that the _précieuse_ in her
gave way to the sister, and that she talked with feeling. And finally
she asked him with a smile whether he admired Miss Floyd. The General,
who had in fact been observing Miss Floyd and his nephew with some
little uneasiness during the preceding half-hour, replied guardedly that
Miss Floyd was pretty and picturesque, and apparently a great talker.
Was she a native of Washington?

"You never heard of Miss Floyd?--of Daphne Floyd? No? Ah, well!"--and
she laughed--"I suppose I ought to take it as a compliment, of a kind.
There are so many rich people now in this queer country of ours that
even Daphne Floyds don't matter."

"Is Miss Floyd so tremendously rich?"

General Hobson turned a quickened countenance upon her, expressing no
more than the interest felt by the ordinary man in all societies--more
strongly, perhaps, at the present day than ever before--in the mere fact
of money. But Miss Boyson gave it at once a personal meaning, and set
herself to play on what she scornfully supposed to be the cupidity of
the Englishman. She produced, indeed, a full and particular account of
Daphne Floyd's parentage, possessions, and prospects, during which the
General's countenance represented him with great fidelity. A trace of
recalcitrance at the beginning--for it was his opinion that Miss Boyson,
like most American women, talked decidedly too much--gave way to close
attention, then to astonishment, and finally to a very animated
observation of Miss Floyd's slender person as she sat a yard or two from
him on the other side of the car, laughing, frowning, or chattering with
Roger.

"And that poor child has the management of it all?" he said at last, in
a tone which did him credit. He himself had lost an only daughter at
twenty-one, and he held old-fashioned views as to the helplessness of
women.

But Cecilia Boyson again misunderstood him.

"Oh, yes!" she said, with a cool smile. "Everything is in her own
hands--everything! Mrs. Phillips would not dare to interfere. Daphne
always has her own way."

The General said no more. Cecilia Boyson looked out of the window at the
darkening landscape, thinking with malice of Daphne's dealings with the
male sex. It had been a Sleeping Beauty story so far. Treasure for the
winning--a thorn hedge--and slain lovers! The handsome Englishman would
try it next, no doubt. All young Englishmen, according to her, were on
the look-out for American heiresses. Music teacher indeed! She would
have given a good deal to hear the conversation of the uncle and nephew
when the party broke up.

The General and young Barnes made their farewells at the railway
station, and took their way on foot to their hotel. Washington was
steeped in sunset. The White House, as they passed it, glowed amid its
quiet trees. Lafayette Square, with its fountains and statues, its white
and pink magnolias, its strolling, chatting crowd, the fronts of the
houses, the long vistas of tree-lined avenues, the street cars, the
houses, the motors, all the openings and distances of the beautiful,
leisurely place--they saw them rosily transfigured under a departing
sun, which throughout the day had been weaving the quick spells of a
southern spring.

"Jolly weather!" said Roger, looking about him. "And a very nice
afternoon. How long are you staying here, Uncle Archie?"

"I ought to be off at the end of the week; and of course you want to get
back to New York? I say, you seemed to be getting on with that young
lady?"

The General turned a rather troubled eye upon his companion.

"She wasn't bad fun," said the young man graciously; "but rather an odd
little thing! We quarrelled about every conceivable subject. And it's
queer how much that kind of girl seems to go about in America. She goes
everywhere and knows everything. I wonder how she manages it."

"What kind of girl do you suppose she is?" asked the General, stopping
suddenly in the middle of Lafayette Square.

"She told me she taught singing," said Roger, in a puzzled voice, "to a
class of girls in New York."

The General laughed.

"She seems to have made a fool of you, my dear boy. She is one of the
great heiresses of America."

Roger's face expressed a proper astonishment.

"Oh! that's it, is it? I thought once or twice there was something
fishy--she was trying it on. Who told you?"

The General retailed his information. Miss Daphne Floyd was the orphan
daughter of an enormously rich and now deceased lumber-king, of the
State of Illinois. He had made vast sums by lumbering, and then invested
in real estate in Chicago and Buffalo, not to speak of a railway or two,
and had finally left his daughter and only child in possession of a
fortune generally estimated at more than a million sterling. The money
was now entirely in the girl's power. Her trustees had been sent about
their business, though Miss Floyd was pleased occasionally to consult
them. Mrs. Phillips, her chaperon, had not much influence with her; and
it was supposed that Mrs. Verrier advised her more than anyone else.

"Good heavens!" was all that young Barnes could find to say when the
story was told. He walked on absently, flourishing his stick, his face
working under the stress of amused meditation. At last he brought out:

"You know, Uncle Archie, if you'd heard some of the things Miss Floyd
was saying to me, your hair would have stood on end."

The General raised his shoulders.

"I dare say. I'm too old-fashioned for America. The sooner I clear out
the better. Their newspapers make me sick; I hate the hotels--I hate the
cooking; and there isn't a nation in Europe I don't feel myself more at
home with."

Roger laughed his clear, good-tempered laugh. "Oh! I don't feel that way
at all. I get on with them capitally. They're a magnificent people. And,
as to Miss Floyd, I didn't mean anything bad, of course. Only the ideas
some of the girls here have, and the way they discuss them--well, it
beats me!"

"What sort of ideas?"

Roger's handsome brow puckered in the effort to explain. "They don't
think anything's _settled_, you know, as we do at home. Miss Floyd
doesn't. They think _they've_ got to settle a lot of things that English
girls don't trouble about, because they're just told to do 'em, or not
to do 'em, by the people that look after them!"

"'Everything hatched over again, and hatched different,'" said the
General, who was an admirer of George Eliot; "that's what they'd like,
eh? Pooh! That's when they're young. They quiet down, like all the rest
of the world."

Barnes shook his head. "But they _are_ hatching it over again. You meet
people here in society you couldn't meet at home. And it's all right.
The law backs them up."

"You're talking about divorce!" said the General. "Aye! it's astounding!
The tales one hears in the smoking-room after dinner! In Wyoming,
apparently, six months' residence, and there you are. You prove a little
cruelty, the husband makes everything perfectly easy, you say a civil
good-bye, and the thing's done. Well, they'll pay for it, my dear
Roger--they'll pay for it. Nobody ever yet trifled with the marriage law
with impunity."

The energy of the old man's bearing became him.

Through Roger's mind the thought flashed: "Poor dear Uncle Archie! If
he'd been a New Yorker he'd never have put up with Aunt Lavinia for
thirty years!"

They turned into their hotel, and ordered dinner in an hour's time.
Roger found some English letters waiting for him, and carried them off
to his room. He opened his mother's first. Lady Barnes wrote a large and
straggling hand, which required many sheets and much postage. It might
have been observed that her son looked at the sheets for a minute, with
a certain distaste, before he began upon them. Yet he was deeply
attached to his mother, and it was from her letters week by week that he
took his marching orders. If she only wouldn't ride her ideas quite so
hard; if she would sometimes leave him alone to act for himself!

Here it was again--the old story:

     "Don't suppose I put these things before you on _my_ account. No,
     indeed; what does it matter what happens to me? It is when I think
     that you may have to spend your whole life as a clerk in a bank,
     unless you rouse yourself now--(for you know, my dear Roger, though
     you have very good wits, you're not as frightfully clever as people
     have to be nowadays)--that I begin to despair. But that is
     _entirely_ in your own hands. You have what is far more valuable
     than cleverness--you have a delightful disposition, and you are one
     of the handsomest of men. There! of course, I know you wouldn't let
     me say it to you in your presence; but it's true all the same. Any
     girl should be proud to marry you. There are plenty of rich girls
     in America; and if you play your cards properly you will make her
     and yourself happy. The grammar of that is not quite right, but you
     understand me. Find a nice girl--of course a _nice_ girl--with a
     fortune large enough to put you back in your proper sphere; and it
     doesn't matter about me. You will pay my rent, I dare say, and help
     me through when I want it; but that's nothing. The point is, that I
     cannot submit to your career being spoiled through your poor
     father's mad imprudence. You must retrieve yourself--you _must_.
     Nobody is anything nowadays in the world without money; you know
     that as well as I do. And besides, there is another reason. You
     have got to forget the affair of last spring, to put it entirely
     behind you, to show that horrid woman who threw you over that you
     will make your life a success in spite of her. Rouse yourself, my
     dear Roger, and do your best. I hope by now you have forwarded
     _all_ my introductions? You have your opportunity, and I must say
     you will be a great fool if you don't use it. _Do_ use it my dear
     boy, for my sake. I am a very unhappy woman; but you might, if you
     would, bring back a little brightness to my life."

After he had read the letter, young Barnes sat for some time in a brown
study on the edge of his bed. The letter contained only one more
repetition of counsels that had been dinned into his ears for
months--almost ever since the financial crash which had followed his
father's death, and the crash of another sort, concerning himself, which
had come so quick upon it. His thoughts returned, as they always did at
some hour of the day or night, to the "horrid woman." Yes, that had hit
him hard; the lad's heart still throbbed with bitterness as he thought
of it. He had never felt anything so much; he didn't believe he should
ever mind anything so much again. "I'm not one of your sentimental
sort," he thought, half congratulating himself, half in self-contempt.
But he could not get her out of his head; he wondered if he ever should.
And it had gone pretty far too. By Jove! that night in the
orchard!--when she had kissed him, and thrown her arms round his neck!
And then to write him that letter, when things were at their worst. She
might have done the thing decently. Have treated a fellow kindly at
least. Well, of course, it was all done with. Yes, it _was_. Done with!

He got up and began to pace his small room, his hands in his pockets,
thinking of the night in the orchard. Then gradually the smart lessened,
and his thoughts passed away to other things. That little Yankee girl
had really made good sport all the way home. He had not been dull for a
moment; she had teased and provoked him so. Her eyes, too, were
wonderfully pretty, and her small, pointed chin, and her witch-like
imperious ways. Was it her money, the sense that she could do as she
liked with most people, that made her so domineering and masterful? Very
likely. On the journey he had put it down just to a natural and very
surprising impudence. That was when he believed that she was a teacher,
earning her bread. But the impudence had not prevented him from finding
it much more amusing to talk to her than to anybody else.

And, on the whole, he thought she had not disliked him, though she had
said the rudest things to him, and he had retaliated. She had asked him,
indeed, to join them in an excursion the following day, and to tea at
the Country Club. He had meant, if possible, to go back to New York on
the morrow. But perhaps a day or two longer----

So she had a million--the little sprite? She was and would be a
handful!--with a fortune or without it. And possessed also of the most
extraordinary opinions. But he thought he would go on the excursion, and
to the Country Club. He began to fold his mother's letter, and put it
back into its envelope, while a slight flush mounted in his cheeks, and
the young mouth that was still so boyish and candid took a stiffer line.



CHAPTER III


"Is Miss Floyd at home?"

The questioner was Mrs. Verrier, who had just alighted from her carriage
at the door of the house in Columbia Avenue inhabited by Miss Floyd and
her chaperon.

The maid replied that Miss Floyd had not yet returned, but had left a
message begging Mrs. Verrier to wait for her. The visitor was
accordingly ushered to the drawing-room on the first floor.

This room, the staircase, the maid, all bore witness to Miss Floyd's
simplicity--like the Romney dress of Mount Vernon. The colour of the
walls and the hangings, the lines of the furniture, were all subdued,
even a little austere. Quiet greens and blues, mingled with white,
showed the artistic mind; the chairs and sofas were a trifle stiff and
straight legged; the electric fittings were of a Georgian plainness to
match the Colonial architecture of the house; the beautiful
self-coloured carpet was indeed Persian and costly, but it betrayed its
costliness only to the expert. Altogether, the room, one would have
said, of any _bourse moyenne_, with an eye for beauty. Fine photographs
also, of Italian and Dutch pictures, suggested travel, and struck the
cultivated cosmopolitan note.

Mrs. Verrier looked round it with a smile. It was all as unpretending as
the maid who ushered her upstairs. Daphne would have no men-servants in
her employ. What did two ladies want with them, in a democratic country?
But Mrs. Verrier happened to know that Daphne's maid-servants were just
as costly in their degree as the drawing-room carpet. Chosen for her in
London with great care, attracted to Washington by enormous wages, these
numerous damsels played their part in the general "simplicity" effect;
but on the whole Mrs. Verrier believed that Daphne's household was
rather more expensive than that of other rich people who employed men.

She walked through the room, looking absently at the various photographs
and engravings, till her attention was excited by an easel and a picture
upon it in the back drawing-room. She went up to it with a muttered
exclamation.

"So _she_ bought it! Daphne's amazing!"

For what she saw before her was a masterpiece--an excessively costly
masterpiece--of the Florentine school, smuggled out of Italy, to the
wrath of the Italian Government, some six months before this date, and
since then lost to general knowledge. Rumour had given it first to a
well-known collection at Boston; then to another at Philadelphia; yet
here it was in the possession of a girl of two-and-twenty of whom the
great world was just--but only just--beginning to talk.

"How like Daphne!" thought her friend with malice. The "simple" room,
and the priceless picture carelessly placed in a corner of it, lest any
one should really suppose that Daphne Floyd was an ordinary mortal.

Mrs. Verrier sat down at last in a chair fronting the picture and let
herself fall into a reverie. On this occasion she was dressed in black.
The lace strings of a hat crowned with black ostrich feathers were
fastened under her chin by a diamond that sparkled in the dim greenish
light of the drawing-room; the feathers of the hat were unusually large
and drooping; they curled heavily round the thin neck and long,
hollow-eyed face, so that its ivory whiteness, its fatigue, its fretful
beauty were framed in and emphasized by them; her bloodless hands lay
upon her lap, and the folds of the sweeping dress drawn round her showed
her slenderness, or rather her emaciation. Two years before this date
Madeleine Verrier had been a great beauty, and she had never yet
reconciled herself to physical losses which were but the outward and
visible sign of losses "far more deeply interfused." As she sat
apparently absorbed in thought before the picture, she moved, half
consciously, so that she could no longer see herself in a mirror
opposite.

Yet her thoughts were in truth much engaged with Daphne and Daphne's
proceedings. It was now nearly three weeks since Roger Barnes had
appeared on the horizon. General Hobson had twice postponed his
departure for England, and was still "enduring hardness" in a Washington
hotel. Why his nephew should not be allowed to manage his courtship, if
it was a courtship, for himself, Mrs. Verrier did not understand. There
was no love lost between herself and the General, and she made much mock
of him in her talks with Daphne. However, there he was; and she could
only suppose that he took the situation seriously and felt bound to
watch it in the interests of the young man's absent mother.

Was it serious? Certainly Daphne had been committing herself a good
deal. The question was whether she had not been committing herself more
than the young man had been doing on his side. That was the astonishing
part of it. Mrs. Verrier could not sufficiently admire the skill with
which Roger Barnes had so far played his part; could not sufficiently
ridicule her own lack of insight, which at her first meeting with him
had pronounced him stupid. Stupid he might be in the sense that it was
of no use to expect from him the kind of talk on books, pictures, and
first principles which prevailed in Daphne's circle. But Mrs. Verrier
thought she had seldom come across a finer sense of tactics than young
Barnes had so far displayed in his dealings with Daphne. If he went on
as he had begun, the probability was that he would succeed.

Did she, Madeleine Verrier, wish him to succeed?

Daphne had grown tragically necessary to her, in this world of American
society--in that section of it, at any rate, in which she desired to
move, where the widow of Leopold Verrier was always conscious of the
blowing of a cold and hostile breath. She was not excluded, but she was
not welcome; she was not ostracized, but she had lost consideration.
There had been something picturesque and appealing in her husband;
something unbearably tragic in the manner of his death. She had braved
it out by staying in America, instead of losing herself in foreign
towns; and she had thereby proclaimed that she had no guilty sense of
responsibility, no burden on her conscience; that she had only behaved
as a thousand other women would have behaved, and without any cruel
intention at all. But she knew all the same that the spectators of what
had happened held her for a cruel woman, and that there were many, and
those the best, who saw her come with distaste and go without regret;
and it was under that knowledge, in spite of indomitable pride, that her
beauty had withered in a year.

And at the moment when the smart of what had happened to her--personally
and socially--was at its keenest; when, after a series of quarrels, she
had separated herself from the imperious mother who had been her evil
genius throughout her marriage, she had made friends, unexpectedly,
owing to a chance meeting at a picture-gallery, with Daphne Floyd. Some
element in Daphne's nature had attracted and disarmed her. The proud,
fastidious woman had given the girl her confidence--eagerly,
indiscriminately. She had poured out upon her all that wild philosophy
of "rights" which is still struggling in the modern mind with a
crumbling ethic and a vanishing religion. And she had found in Daphne a
warm and passionate ally. Daphne was nothing if not "advanced." She
shrank, as Roger Barnes had perceived, from no question; she had never
been forbidden, had never forbidden herself, any book that she had a
fancy to read; and she was as ready to discuss the relative divorce laws
of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, as the girls of fifty years ago were
to talk of the fashions, or "Evangeline." In any disputed case,
moreover, between a man and a woman, Daphne was hotly and instinctively
on the side of the woman. She had thrown herself, therefore, with ardour
into the defence of Mrs. Verrier; and for her it was not the wife's
desertion, but the husband's suicide which had been the cruel and
indefensible thing. All these various traits and liberalisms had made
her very dear to Madeleine Verrier.

Now, as that lady sat in her usual drooping attitude, wondering what
Washington would be like for her when even Daphne Floyd was gone from
it, the afternoon sun stole through the curtains of the window on the
street and touched some of the furniture and engravings in the inner
drawing-room. Suddenly Mrs. Verrier started in her chair. A face had
emerged thrown out upon the shadows by the sun-finger--the countenance
of a handsome young Jew, as Rembrandt had once conceived it. Rare and
high intelligence, melancholy, and premonition:--they were there
embodied, so long as the apparition lasted.

The effect on Mrs. Verrier was apparently profound. She closed her eyes;
her lips quivered; she leaned back feebly in her chair, breathing a
name. The crisis lasted a few minutes, while the momentary vision faded
and the sun-light crept on. The eyelids unclosed at last, slowly and
painfully, as though shrinking from what might greet the eyes beneath
them. But the farther wall was now in deep shade. Mrs. Verrier sat up;
the emotion which had mastered her like a possession passed away; and
rising hurriedly, she went back to the front drawing-room. She had
hardly reached it when Miss Floyd's voice was heard upon the stairs.

Daphne entered the room in what appeared to be a fit of irritation. She
was scolding the parlour-maid, whose high colour and dignified silence
proclaimed her both blameless and long-suffering. At the sight of Mrs.
Verrier Daphne checked herself with an effort and kissed her friend
rather absently.

"Dear Madeleine!--very good of you to wait. Have they given you tea? I
suppose not. My household seems to have gone mad this afternoon. Sit
down. Some tea, Blount, at once."

Mrs. Verrier sank into a corner of the sofa, while Daphne, with an
"ouf!" of fatigue, took off her hat, and threw herself down at the other
end, her small feet curled up beneath her. Her half-frowning eyes gave
the impression that she was still out of temper and on edge.

"Where have you been?" asked her companion quietly.

"Listening to a stuffy debate in the Senate," said Daphne without a
smile.

"The Senate. What on earth took you there?"

"Well, why shouldn't I go?--why does one do anything? It was just a
debate--horribly dull--trusts, or something of that kind. But there was
a man attacking the President--and the place was crowded. Ugh! the heat
was intolerable!"

"Who took you?"

Daphne named an under-secretary--an agreeable and ambitious man, who had
been very much in her train during the preceding winter, and until Roger
Barnes appeared upon the scene.

"I thought until I got your message that you were going to take Mr.
Barnes motoring up the river."

"Mr. Barnes was engaged." Daphne gave the information tersely, rousing
herself afterwards to make tea, which appeared at that moment.

"He seems to have been a good deal engaged this week," said Mrs.
Verrier, when they were alone again.

Daphne made no reply. And Mrs. Verrier, after observing her for a
moment, resumed:

"I suppose it was the Bostonians?"

"I suppose so. What does it matter?" The tone was dry and sharp.

"Daphne, you goose!" laughed Mrs. Verrier, "I believe this is the very
first invitation of theirs he has accepted at all. He was written to
about them by an old friend--his Eton master, or somebody of that sort.
And as they turned up here on a visit, instead of his having to go and
look for them at Boston, of course he had to call upon them."

"I dare say. And of course he had to go to tea with them yesterday, and
he had to take them to Arlington this afternoon! I suppose I'd better
tell you--we had a quarrel on the subject last night."

"Daphne!--don't, for heaven's sake, make him think himself too
important!" cried Mrs. Verrier.

Daphne, with both elbows on the table, was slowly crunching a morsel of
toast in her small white teeth. She had a look of concentrated
energy--as of a person charged and overcharged with force of some kind,
impatient to be let loose. Her black eyes sparkled; impetuosity and will
shone from them; although they showed also rims of fatigue, as if Miss
Daphne's nights had not of late been all they should be. Mrs. Verrier
was chiefly struck, however, by the perception that for the first time
Daphne was not having altogether her own way with the world. Madeleine
had not observed anything of the same kind in her before. In general she
was in entire command both of herself and of the men who surrounded her.
She made a little court out of them, and treated them _en despote_. But
Roger Barnes had not lent himself to the process; he had not played the
game properly; and Daphne's sleep had been disturbed for the first time
in history.

It had been admitted very soon between the two friends--without putting
it very precisely--that Daphne was interested in Roger Barnes. Mrs.
Verrier believed that the girl had been originally carried off her feet
by the young man's superb good looks, and by the natural
distinction--evident in all societies--which they conferred upon him.
Then, no doubt, she had been piqued by his good-humoured, easy way--the
absence of any doubt of himself, of tremor, of insistence. Mrs. Verrier
said to herself--not altogether shrewdly--that he had no nerves, or no
heart; and Daphne had not yet come across the genus. Her lovers had
either possessed too much heart--like Captain Boyson--or a lack of
coolness, when it really came to the point of grappling with Daphne and
her millions, as in the case of a dozen she could name. Whereby it had
come about that Daphne's attention had been first provoked, then
peremptorily seized by the Englishman; and Mrs. Verrier began now to
suspect that deeper things were really involved.

Certainly there was a good deal to puzzle the spectator. That the
English are a fortune-hunting race may be a popular axiom; but it was
quite possible, after all, that Roger Barnes was not the latest
illustration of it. It was quite possible, also, that he had a
sweet-heart at home, some quiet, Quakerish girl who would never wave in
his face the red flags that Daphne was fond of brandishing. It was
equally possible that he was merely fooling with Daphne--that he had
seen girls he liked better in New York, and was simply killing time till
a sportsman friend of whom he talked should appear on the scene and take
him off to shoot moose and catch trout in the province of Quebec. Mrs.
Verrier realized that, for all his lack of subtlety and the higher
conversation, young Barnes had managed astonishingly to keep his
counsel. His "simplicity," like Daphne's, seemed to be of a special
type.

And yet--there was no doubt that he had devoted himself a great deal.
Washington society had quickly found him out; he had been invited to all
the most fastidious houses, and was immensely in request for picnics and
expeditions. But he had contrived, on the whole, to make all these
opportunities promote the flirtation with Daphne. He had, in fact, been
enough at her beck and call to make her the envy of a young society with
whom the splendid Englishman promised to become the rage, and not enough
to silence or wholly discourage other claimants on his time.

This no doubt accounted for the fact that the two charming Bostonians,
Mrs. Maddison and her daughter, who had but lately arrived in Washington
and made acquaintance with Roger Barnes, were still evidently in
ignorance of what was going on. They were not initiated. They had
invited young Barnes in the innocence of their hearts, without inviting
Daphne Floyd, whom they did not previously know. And the young man had
seen fit to accept their invitation. Hence the jealousy that was clearly
burning in Daphne, that she was not indeed even trying to hide from the
shrewd eyes of her friend.

Mrs. Verrier's advice not to make Roger Barnes "too important" had
called up a flash of colour in the girl's cheeks. But she did not resent
it in words; rather her silence deepened, till Mrs. Verrier stretched
out a hand and laughingly turned the small face towards her that she
might see what was in it.

"Daphne! I really believe you're in love with him!"

"Not at all," said Daphne, her eyelids flickering; "I never know what to
talk to him about."

"As if that mattered!"

"Elsie Maddison always knows what to talk to him about, and he chatters
to her the whole time."

Mrs. Verrier paused a moment, then said: "Do you suppose he came to
America to marry money?"

"I haven't an idea."

"Do you suppose he knows that you--are not exactly a pauper?"

Daphne drew herself away impatiently. "I really don't suppose anything,
Madeleine. He never talks about money, and I should think he had plenty
himself."

Mrs. Verrier replied by giving an outline of the financial misfortunes
of Mr. Barnes _père_, as they had been described to her by another
English traveller in Washington.

Daphne listened indifferently. "He can't be very poor or he wouldn't
behave as he does. And he is to inherit the General's property. He told
me so."

"And it wouldn't matter to you, Daphne, if you did think a man had
married you for money?"

Daphne had risen, and was pacing the drawing-room floor, her hands
clasped behind her back. She turned a cloudy face upon her questioner.
"It would matter a great deal, if I thought it had been only for money.
But then, I hope I shouldn't have been such a fool as to marry him."

"But you could bear it, if the money counted for something?"

"I'm not an idiot!" said the girl, with energy. "With whom doesn't money
count for something? Of course a man must take money into
consideration." There was a curious touch of arrogance in the gesture
which accompanied the words.

"'How pleasant it is to have money, heigh-ho!--How pleasant it is to
have money,'" said Mrs. Verrier, quoting, with a laugh. "Yes, I dare
say, you'd be very reasonable, Daphne, about that kind of thing. But I
don't think you'd be a comfortable wife, dear, all the same."

"What do you mean?"

"You might allow your husband to spare a little love to your money; you
would be for killing him if he ever looked at another woman!"

"You mean I should be jealous?" asked Daphne, almost with violence. "You
are quite right there. I should be very jealous. On that point I should
'find quarrel in a straw.'"

Her cheeks had flushed a passionate red. The eyes which she had
inherited from her Spanish grandmother blazed above them. She had become
suddenly a woman of Andalusia and the South, moved by certain primitive
forces in the blood.

Madeleine Verrier held out her hands, smiling.

"Come here, little wild cat. I believe you are jealous of Elsie
Maddison."

Daphne approached her slowly, and slowly dropped into a seat beside her
friend, her eyes still fixed and splendid. But as she looked into them
Madeleine Verrier saw them suddenly dimmed.

"Daphne! you _are_ in love with him!"

The girl recovered herself, clenching her small hands. "If I am," she
said resolutely, "it is strange how like the other thing it is! I don't
know whether I shall speak to him to-night."

"To-night?" Mrs. Verrier looked a little puzzled.

"At the White House. You're going, of course."

"No, I am not going." The voice was quiet and cold. "I am not asked."

Daphne, vexed with herself, touched her friend's hand caressingly. "It
will be just a crush, dear. But I promised various people to go."

"And he will be there?"

"I suppose so." Daphne turned her head away, and then sprang up. "Have
you seen the picture?"

Mrs. Verrier followed her into the inner room, where the girl gave a
laughing and triumphant account of her acquisition, the agents she had
employed, the skill with which it had been conveyed out of Italy, the
wrath of various famous collectors, who had imagined that the fight lay
between them alone, when they found the prize had been ravished from
them. Madeleine Verrier was very intelligent, and the contrast, which
the story brought out, between the girl's fragile youth and the strange
and passionate sense of power which breathed from her whenever it became
a question of wealth and the use of it, was at no point lost upon her
companion.

Daphne would not allow any further talk of Roger Barnes. Her chaperon,
Mrs. Phillips, presently appeared, and passed through rather a bad
quarter of an hour while the imperious mistress of the house inquired
into certain invitations and card-leavings that had not been managed to
her liking. Then Daphne sat down to write a letter to a Girls' Club in
New York, of which she was President--where, in fact, she occasionally
took the Singing Class, with which she had made so much play at her
first meeting with Roger Barnes. She had to tell them that she had just
engaged a holiday house for them, to which they might go in instalments
throughout the summer. She would pay the rent, provide a
lady-superintendent, and make herself responsible for all but food
expenses. Her small face relaxed--became quite soft and charming--as she
wrote.

"But, my dear," cried Mrs. Phillips in dismay, as Daphne handed her the
letter to read, "you have taken the house on Lake George, and you know
the girls had all set their hearts on that place in the White
Mountains!"

Daphne's lips tightened. "Certainly I have taken the house on Lake
George," she said, as she carefully wiped her pen. "I told them I
should."

"But, my dear, they are so tired of Lake George! They have been there
three years running. And you know they subscribe a good deal
themselves."

"Very well!--then let them do without my help. I have inquired into the
matter. The house on Lake George is much more suitable than the White
Mountains farm, and I have written to the agent. The thing's done."

Mrs. Phillips argued a little more, but Daphne was immovable.

Mrs. Verrier, watching the two, reflected, as she had often done before,
that Mrs. Phillips's post was not particularly enviable. Daphne treated
her in many ways with great generosity, paid her highly, grudged her no
luxury, and was always courteous to her in public. But in private
Daphne's will was law, and she had an abrupt and dictatorial way of
asserting it that brought the red back into Mrs. Phillips's faded
cheeks. Mrs. Verrier had often expected her to throw up her post. But
there was no doubt something in Daphne's personality which made life
beside her too full of colour to be lightly abandoned.

       *       *       *       *       *

Daphne presently went upstairs to take off her walking-dress, and Mrs.
Phillips, with a rather troubled face, began to tidy the confusion of
letters she had left behind her.

"I dare say the girls won't mind," said Madeleine Verrier, kindly.

Mrs. Phillips started, and her mild lips quivered a little. Daphne's
charities were for Daphne an amusement; for this gentle, faded woman,
who bore all the drudgery of them, they were the chief attraction of
life in Daphne's house. Mrs. Phillips loved the club-girls, and the
thought of their disappointment pained her.

"I must try and put it to them," was her patient reply.

"Daphne must always have her way," Madeleine went on, smiling. "I wonder
what she'll do when she marries."

Mrs. Phillips looked up quickly.

"I hope it'll be the right man, Mrs. Verrier. Of course, with anyone
so--so clever--and so used to managing everything for herself--one would
be a little anxious."

Mrs. Verrier's expression changed. A kind of
wildness--fanaticism--invaded it, as of one recalling a mission. "Oh,
well, nothing is irrevocable nowadays," she said, almost with violence.
"Still I hope Daphne won't make a mistake."

Mrs. Phillips looked at her companion, at first in astonishment. Then a
change passed over her face. With a cold excuse she left Mrs. Verrier
alone.



CHAPTER IV


The reception at the White House was being given in honour of the
delegates to a Peace Congress. The rooms were full without being
inconveniently crowded and the charming house opened its friendly doors
to a society more congruous and organic, richer also in the nobler kind
of variety than America, perhaps, can offer to her guests elsewhere.
What the opera and international finance are to New York, politics and
administration are, as we all know, to Washington. And the visitor
from Europe, conversationally starved for want of what seem to him
the only topics worth discussing, finds himself within hearing once
more of ministers, cabinets, embassies, and parliamentary gossip.
Even General Hobson had come to admit that--especially for the
middle-aged--Washington parties were extremely agreeable. The young and
foolish might sigh for the flesh-pots of New York; those on whom "the
black ox had trodden," who were at all aware what a vast tormenting,
multitudinous, and headstrong world man has been given to inhabit; those
who were engaged in governing any part of that world, or meant some day
to be thus engaged; for them Washington was indispensable, and New York
a mere entertainment.

Moreover Washington, at this time of the world's history, was the scene
of one of those episodes--those brisker moments in the human
comedy--which every now and then revive among us an almost forgotten
belief in personality, an almost forgotten respect for the mysteries
behind it. The guests streaming through the White House defiled past a
man who, in a level and docketed world, appeared to his generation as
the reincarnation of forces primitive, over-mastering, and heroic. An
honest Odysseus!--toil-worn and storm-beaten, yet still with the spirit
and strength, the many devices, of a boy; capable like his prototype in
one short day of crushing his enemies, upholding his friends, purifying
his house; and then, with the heat of righteous battle still upon him,
with its gore, so to speak, still upon his hands, of turning his mind,
without a pause and without hypocrisy, to things intimate and soft and
pure--the domestic sweetness of Penelope, the young promise of
Telemachus. The President stood, a rugged figure, amid the cosmopolitan
crowd, breasting the modern world, like some ocean headland, yet not
truly of it, one of the great fighters and workers of mankind, with a
laugh that pealed above the noise, blue eyes that seemed to pursue some
converse of their own, and a hand that grasped and cheered, where other
hands withdrew and repelled. This one man's will had now, for some
years, made the pivot on which vast issues turned--issues of peace and
war, of policy embracing the civilized world; and, here, one saw him in
drawing-rooms, discussing Alaric's campaigns with an Oxford professor,
or chatting with a young mother about her children.

Beside him, the human waves, as they met and parted, disclosed a woman's
face, modelled by nature in one of her lightest and deftest moods, a
trifle detached, humorous also, as though the world's strange sights
stirred a gentle and kindly mirth behind its sweet composure. The
dignity of the President's wife was complete, yet it had not
extinguished the personality it clothed; and where royalty, as the
European knows it, would have donned its mask and stood on its defence,
Republican royalty dared to be its amused, confiding, natural self.

All around--the political, diplomatic world of Washington. General
Hobson, as he passed through it, greeted by what was now a large
acquaintance, found himself driven once more to the inward
confession--the grudging confession--as though Providence had not played
him fair in extorting it--that American politicians were of a vastly
finer stamp than he had expected to find them. The American press was
all--he vowed--that fancy had painted it, and more. But, as he looked
about him at the members of the President's administration--at this
tall, black-haired man, for instance, with the mild and meditative eye,
the equal, social or intellectual, of any Foreign Minister that Europe
might pit against him, or any diplomat that might be sent to handle him;
or this younger man, sparely built, with the sane, handsome face--son of
a famous father, modest, amiable, efficient; or this other, of huge bulk
and height, the sport of caricature, the hope of a party, smiling
already a presidential smile as he passed, observed and beset, through
the crowded rooms; or these naval or military men, with their hard
serviceable looks, and the curt good manners of their kind:--the General
saw as clearly as anybody else, that America need make no excuses
whatever for her best men, that she has evolved the leaders she wants,
and Europe has nothing to teach them.

He could only console himself by the remembrance of a speech, made by a
well-known man, at a military function which the General had attended as
a guest of honour the day before. There at last was the real thing! The
real, Yankee, spread-eagle thing! The General positively hugged the
thought of it.

"The American soldier," said the speaker, standing among the
ambassadors, the naval and military _attachés_, of all the European
nations, "is the superior of all other soldiers in three
respects--bravery, discipline, intelligence."

_Bravery, discipline, intelligence!_ Just those--the merest trifle! The
General had found himself chuckling over it in the visions of the night.

Tired at last of these various impressions, acting on a mind not quite
alert enough to deal with them, the General went in search of his
nephew. Roger had been absent all day, and the General had left the
hotel before his return. But the uncle was sure that he would sooner or
later put in an appearance.

It was of course entirely on Roger's account that this unwilling guest
of America was her guest still. For three weeks now had the General been
watching the affair between Roger and Daphne Floyd. It had gone with
such a rush at first, such a swing and fervour, that the General had
felt that any day might bring the _dénouement_. It was really impossible
to desert the lad at such a crisis, especially as Laura was so excitable
and anxious, and so sure to make her brother pay for it if he failed to
support her views and ambitions at the right moment. The General
moreover felt the absolute necessity of getting to know something more
about Miss Floyd, her character, the details of her fortune and
antecedents, so that when the great moment came he might be prepared.

But the astonishing thing was that of late the whole affair seemed to
have come to some stupid hitch! Roger had been behaving like a very cool
hand--too cool by half in the General's opinion. What the deuce did he
mean by hanging about these Boston ladies, if his affections were really
fixed on Miss Daphne?--or his ambitions, which to the uncle seemed
nearer the truth.

"Well, where is the nephew?" said Cecilia Boyson's voice in his ear.

The General turned. He saw a sharp, though still young face, a thin and
willowy figure, attired in white silk, a _pince-nez_ on the high-pitched
nose, and a cool smile. Unconsciously his back stiffened. Miss Boyson
invariably roused in him a certain masculine antagonism.

"I should be glad if you would tell me," he said, with some formality.
"There are two or three people here to whom he should be introduced."

"Has he been picnicking with the Maddisons?" The voice was shrill,
perhaps malicious.

"I believe they took him to Arlington, and somewhere else afterwards."

"Ah," said Cecilia, "there they are."

The General looked towards the door and saw his nephew enter, behind a
mother and daughter whom, as it seemed to him, their acquaintances in
the crowd around them greeted with a peculiar cordiality; the mother,
still young, with a stag-like carriage of the head, a long throat,
swathed in white tulle, and grizzled hair, on which shone a spray of
diamonds; the daughter, equally tall and straight, repeating her
mother's beauty with a bloom and radiance of her own. Innocent and
happy, with dark eyes and a soft mouth, Miss Maddison dropped a little
curtsey to the presidential pair, and the room turned to look at her as
she did so.

"A very sweet-looking girl," said the General warmly. "Her father is, I
think, a professor."

"He was. He is now just a writer of books. But Elsie was brought up in
Cambridge. How did Mr. Roger know them?"

"His Eton tutor told him to go and see them."

"I thought Miss Floyd expected him to-day?" said Miss Boyson carelessly,
adjusting her eyeglass.

"It was a mistake, a misunderstanding," replied the General hurriedly.
"Miss Floyd's party is put off till next week."

"Daphne is just coming in," said Miss Boyson.

The General turned again. The watchful Cecilia was certain that _he_ was
not in love with Daphne. But the nephew--the inordinately handsome, and
by now much-courted young man--what was the real truth about him?

Cecilia recognized--with Mrs. Verrier--that merely to put the question
involved a certain tribute to young Barnes. He had at any rate done his
fortune-hunting, if fortune-hunting it were, with decorum.

"Miss Floyd is looking well to-night," remarked the General.

Cecilia did not reply. She and a great part of the room were engaged in
watching Roger Barnes and Miss Maddison walking together through a space
which seemed to have been cleared on purpose for them, but was really
the result of a move towards the supper-room.

"Was there ever such a pair?" said an enthusiastic voice behind the
General. "Athene and Apollo take the floor!" A gray-haired journalist
with a small, bewrinkled face, buried in whiskers, and beard, laid a
hand on the General's arm as he spoke.

The General smiled vaguely. "Do you know Mrs. and Miss Maddison?"

"Rather!" said the little man. "Miss Elsie's a wonder! As pretty and
soft as they make them, and a Greek scholar besides--took all sorts of
honours at Radcliffe last year. I've known her from her cradle."

"What a number of your girls go to college!" said the General, but
ungraciously, in the tones of one who no sooner saw an American custom
emerging than his instinct was to hit it.

"Yes; it's a feature of our modern life--the life of our women. But not
the most significant one, by a long way."

The General could not help a look of inquiry.

The journalist's face changed from gay to grave. "The most significant
thing in American life just now----"

"I know!" interrupted the General. "Your divorce laws!"

The journalist shook his head. "It goes deeper than that. What we're
looking on at is a complete transformation of the idea of marriage----"

A movement in the crowd bore the speaker away. The General was left
watching the beautiful pair in the distance. They were apparently quite
unconscious that they roused any special attention. Laughing and
chatting like two children, they passed into the supper-room and
disappeared.

Ten minutes later, in the supper-room, Barnes deserted the two ladies
with whom he had entered, and went in pursuit of a girl in white, whose
necklace of star sapphires, set in a Spanish setting of the seventeenth
century, had at once caught the eye of the judicious. Roger, however,
knew nothing of jewels, and was only conscious as he approached Miss
Floyd, first of the mingling in his own mind of something like
embarrassment with something like defiance, and then, of the glitter in
the girl's dark eyes.

"I hope you had an interesting debate," he said. "Mrs. Phillips tells me
you went to the Senate."

Daphne looked him up and down. "Did I?" she said slowly. "I've
forgotten. Will you move, please? There's someone bringing me an ice."
And turning her back on Roger, she smiled and beckoned to the
Under-Secretary, who with a triumphant face was making his way to her
through the crowd.

Roger coloured hotly. "May I bring Mrs. Maddison?" he said, passing her;
"she would like to talk to you about a party for next week----"

"Thank you. I am just going home." And with an energetic movement she
freed herself from him, and was soon in the gayest of talk with the
Under-Secretary.

       *       *       *       *       *

The reception broke up some time after midnight, and on the way home
General Hobson attempted a raid upon his nephew's intentions.

"I don't wish to seem an intrusive person, my dear Roger, but may I ask
how much longer you mean to stay in Washington?"

The tone was short and the look which accompanied the words not without
sarcasm. Roger, who had been walking beside his companion, still deeply
flushed, in complete silence, gave an awkward laugh.

"And as for you, Uncle Archie, I thought you meant to sail a fortnight
ago. If you've been staying on like this on my account----"

"Don't make a fool either of me or yourself, Roger!" said the General
hastily, roused at last to speech by the annoyance of the situation. "Of
course it was on your account that I have stayed on. But what on earth
it all means, and where your affairs are--I'm hanged if I have the
glimmer of an idea!"

Roger's smile was perfectly good-humoured.

"I haven't much myself," he said quietly.

"Do you--or do you not--mean to propose to Miss Floyd?" cried the
General, pausing in the centre of Lafayette Square, now all but
deserted, and apostrophizing with his umbrella--for the night was soft
and rainy--the presidential statue above his head.

"Have I given you reason to suppose that I was going to do so?" said
Roger slowly.

"Given me?--given everybody reason?--of course you have!--a dozen times
over. I don't like interfering with your affairs, Roger--with any young
man's affairs--but you must know that you have set Washington talking,
and it's not fair to a girl--by George it isn't!--when she has given you
encouragement and you have made her conspicuous, to begin the same
story, in the same place, immediately, with someone else! As you say, I
ought to have taken myself off long ago."

"I didn't say anything of the kind," said Roger hotly; "you shouldn't
put words into my mouth, Uncle Archie. And I really don't see why you
attack me like this. My tutor particularly asked me, if I came across
them, to be civil to Mrs. Maddison and her daughter, and I have done
nothing but pay them the most ordinary attentions."

"When a man is in love he pays no ordinary attentions. He has eyes for
no one but the lady." The General's umbrella, as it descended from the
face of Andrew Jackson and rattled on the flagged path, supplied each
word with emphasis. "However, it is no good talking, and I don't exactly
know why I should put my old oar in. But the fact is I feel a certain
responsibility. People here have been uncommonly civil. Well,
well!--I've wired to-day to ask if there is a berth left in the
_Venetia_ for Saturday. And you, I suppose"--the inquiry was somewhat
peremptory--"will be going back to New York?"

"I have no intention of leaving Washington just yet," said Roger, with
decision.

"And may I ask what you intend to do here?"

Roger laughed. "I really think that's my business. However, you've been
an awful brick, Uncle Archie, to stay on like this. I assure you, if I
don't say much, I think it."

By this time they had reached the hotel, the steps and hall of which
were full of people.

"That's how you put me off." The General's tone was resentful. "And you
won't give me any idea of the line I am to take with your mother?"

The young man smiled again and waved an evasive hand.

"If you'll only be patient a little longer, Uncle Archie----"

At this point an acquaintance of the General's who was smoking in the
hall came forward to greet him, and Roger made his escape.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Well, what the deuce _do_ I mean to do?" Barnes asked himself the
question deliberately. He was hanging out of the window, in his bedroom,
smoking and pondering.

It was a mild and rainy night. Washington was full of the earth and leaf
odours of the spring, which rose in gusts from its trees and gardens;
and rugged, swiftly moving clouds disclosed every now and then what
looked like hurrying stars.

The young man was excited and on edge. Daphne Floyd--and the thought of
Daphne Floyd--had set his pulses hammering; they challenged in him the
aggressive, self-assertive, masculine force. The history of the
preceding three weeks was far from simple. He had first paid a
determined court to her, conducting it in an orthodox, English,
conspicuous way. His mother, and her necessities--his own also--imposed
it on him; and he flung himself into it, setting his teeth. Then, to his
astonishment, one may almost say to his disconcerting, he found the prey
all at once, and, as it were, without a struggle, fluttering to his
lure, and practically within his grasp. There was an evening when
Daphne's sudden softness, the look in her eyes, the inflection in her
voice had fairly thrown him off his balance. For the first time he had
shown a lack of self-command and self-possession. Whereupon, in a flash,
a new and strange Daphne had developed--imperious, difficult,
incalculable. The more he gave, the more she claimed. Nor was it mere
girlish caprice. The young Englishman, invited to a game that he had
never yet played, felt in it something sinister and bewildering.
Gropingly, he divined in front of him a future of tyranny on her side,
of expected submission on his. The Northern character in him, with its
reserve, its phlegm, its general sanity, began to shrink from the
Southern elements in her. He became aware of the depths in her nature,
of things volcanic and primitive, and the English stuff in him recoiled.

So he was to be bitted and bridled, it seemed, in the future. Daphne
Floyd would have bought him with her dollars, and he would have to pay
the price.

Something natural and wild in him said No! If he married this girl he
would be master, in spite of her money. He realized vaguely, at any
rate, the strength of her will, and the way in which it had been
tempered and steeled by circumstance. But the perception only roused in
himself some slumbering tenacities and vehemences of which he had been
scarcely aware. So that, almost immediately--since there was no glamour
of passion on his side--he began to resent her small tyrannies, to draw
in, and draw back. A few quarrels--not ordinary lovers' quarrels, but
representing a true grapple of personalities--sprang up behind a screen
of trifles. Daphne was once more rude and provoking, Roger cool and
apparently indifferent. This was the stage when Mrs. Verrier had become
an admiring observer of what she supposed to be his "tactics." But she
knew nothing of the curious little crisis which had preceded them.

Then the Maddisons, mother and daughter, "my tutor's friends," had
appeared upon the scene--charming people! Of course civilities were due
to them, and had to be paid them. Next to his mother--and to the girl of
the orchard--the affections of this youth, who was morally backward and
immature, but neither callous nor fundamentally selfish, had been
chiefly given to a certain Eton master, of a type happily not uncommon
in English public schools. Herbert French had been Roger's earliest and
best friend. What Roger had owed him at school, only he knew. Since
school-days they had been constant correspondents, and French's
influence on his pupil's early manhood had done much, for all Roger's
laziness and self-indulgence, to keep him from serious lapses.

Neglect any friends of his--and such jolly friends? Rather not! But as
soon as Daphne had seen Elsie Maddison, and he had begged an afternoon
to go on an expedition with them, Daphne had become intolerable. She had
shown her English friend and his acquaintances a manner so insulting and
provocative, that the young man's blood had boiled.

If he were in love with her--well and good! She might no doubt have
tamed him by these stripes. But she was no goddess to him; no golden
cloud enveloped her; he saw her under a common daylight. At the same
time she attracted him; he was vain of what had seemed his conquest, and
uneasily exultant in the thought of her immense fortune. "I'll make her
an excellent husband if she marries me," he said to himself stubbornly;
"I can, and I will."

But meanwhile how was this first stage to end? At the White House that
night Daphne had treated him with contumely, and before spectators. He
must either go or bring her to the point.

He withdrew suddenly from the window, flinging out the end of his
cigarette. "I'll propose to her to-morrow--and she may either take me or
leave me!"

He paced up and down his room, conscious of relief and fresh energy. As
he did so his eyes were drawn to a letter from Herbert French lying on
the table. He took it up and read it again--smiling over it broadly, in
a boyish and kindly amusement. "By Jove! he's happy."

Then as he put it down his face darkened. There was something in the
letter, in its manliness and humour, its unconscious revelation of
ideals wholly independent of dollars, that made Roger for the moment
loathe his own position. But he pulled himself together.

"I shall make her a good husband," he repeated, frowning. "She'll have
nothing to complain of."

       *       *       *       *       *

On the following day a picnic among the woods of the Upper Potomac
brought together most of the personages in this history. The day was
beautiful, the woods fragrant with spring leaf and blossom, and the
stream, swollen with rain, ran seaward in a turbid, rejoicing strength.

The General, having secured his passage home, was in good spirits as far
as his own affairs were concerned, though still irritable on the score
of his nephew's. Since the abortive attempt on his confidence of the
night before, Roger had avoided all private conversation with his uncle;
and for once the old had to learn patience from the young.

The party was given by the wife of one of the staff of the French
Embassy--a young Frenchwoman, as gay and frank as her babies, and
possessed, none the less, of all the social arts of her nation. She had
taken a shrewd interest in the matter of Daphne Floyd and the
Englishman. Daphne, according to her, should be promptly married and her
millions taken care of, and the handsome, broad-shouldered fellow
impressed the little Frenchwoman's imagination as a proper and capable
watchdog. She had indeed become aware that something was wrong, but her
acuteness entirely refused to believe that it had any vital connection
with the advent of pretty Elsie Maddison. Meanwhile, to please Daphne,
whom she liked, while conscious of a strong and frequent desire to smite
her, Madame de Fronsac had invited Mrs. Verrier, treating her with a
cold and punctilious courtesy that, as applied to any other guest, would
have seemed an affront.

In vain, however, did the hostess, in vain did other kindly bystanders,
endeavour to play the game of Daphne Floyd. In the first place Daphne
herself, though piped unto, refused to dance. She avoided the society of
Roger Barnes in a pointed and public way, bright colour on her cheeks
and a wild light in her eyes; the Under-Secretary escorted her and
carried her wrap. Washington did not know what to think. For owing to
this conduct of Daphne's, the charming Boston girl, the other _ingénue_
of the party, fell constantly to the care of young Barnes; and to see
them stepping along the green ways together, matched almost in height,
and clearly of the same English ancestry and race, pleased while it
puzzled the spectators.

The party lunched in a little inn beside the river, and then scattered
again along woodland paths. Daphne and the Under-Secretary wandered on
ahead and were some distance from the rest of the party when that
gentleman suddenly looked at his watch in dismay. An appointment had to
be kept with the President at a certain hour, and the Under-Secretary's
wits had been wandering. There was nothing for it but to take a short
cut through the woods to a local station and make at once for
Washington.

Daphne quickened his uneasiness and hastened his departure. She assured
him that the others were close behind, and that nothing could suit her
better than to rest on a mossy stone that happily presented itself till
they arrived.

The Under-Secretary, transformed into the anxious and ambitious
politician, abruptly left her.

Daphne, as soon as he was gone, allowed herself the natural attitude
that fitted her thoughts. She was furiously in love and torn with
jealousy; and that love and jealousy could smart so, and cling so, was a
strange revelation to one accustomed to make a world entirely to her
liking. Her dark eyes were hollow, her small mouth had lost its colour,
and she showed that touch of something wasting and withering that
Theocritan shepherds knew in old Sicilian days. It was as though she had
defied a god--and the god had avenged himself.

Suddenly he appeared--the teasing divinity--in human shape. There was a
rustling among the brushwood fringing the river. Roger Barnes emerged
and made his way up towards her.

"I've been stalking you all this time," he said, breathless, as he
reached her, "and now at last--I've caught you!"

Daphne rose furiously. "What right have you to stalk me, as you call
it--to follow me--to speak to me even? I wish to avoid you--and I have
shown it!"

Roger looked at her. He had thrown down his hat, and she saw him against
the background of sunny wood, as the magnificent embodiment of its youth
and force. "And why have you shown it?" There was a warning tremor of
excitement in his voice. "What have I done? I haven't deserved it! You
treat me like--like a friend!--and then you drop me like a hot coal.
You've been awfully unkind to me!"

"I won't discuss it with you," she cried passionately. "You are in my
way, Mr. Barnes. Let me go back to the others!" And stretching out a
small hand, she tried to put him aside.

Roger hesitated, but only for a moment. He caught the hand, he gathered
its owner into a pair of strong arms, and bending over her, he kissed
her. Daphne, suffocated with anger and emotion, broke from
him--tottering. Then sinking on the ground beneath a tree, she burst
into sobbing. Roger, scarlet, with sparkling eyes, dropped on one knee
beside her.

[Illustration: "He caught the hand, he gathered its owner into a pair of
strong arms, and bending over her, he kissed her"]

"Daphne, I'm a ruffian! forgive me! you must, Daphne! Look here, I want
you to marry me. I've nothing to offer you, of course; I'm a poor man,
and you've all this horrible money! But I--I love you!--and I'll make
you a good husband, Daphne, that I'll swear. If you'll take me, you
shall never be sorry for it."

He looked at her again, sorely embarrassed, hating himself, yet inwardly
sure of her. Her small frame shook with weeping. And presently she
turned from him and said in a fierce voice:

"Go and tell all that to Elsie Maddison!"

Infinitely relieved, Roger gave a quick, excited laugh.

"She'd soon send me about my business! I should be a day too late for
the fair, in _that_ quarter. What do you think she and I have been
talking about all this time, Daphne?"

"I don't care," said Daphne hastily, with face still averted.

"I'm going to tell you, all the same," cried Roger triumphantly, and
diving into his coat pocket he produced "my tutor's letter." Daphne sat
immovable, and he had to read it aloud himself. It contained the
rapturous account of Herbert French's engagement to Miss Maddison, a
happy event which had taken place in England during the Eton holidays,
about a month before this date.

"There!" cried the young man as he finished it. "And she's talked about
nothing all the time, nothing at all--but old Herbert--and how good he
is--and how good-looking, and the Lord knows what! I got precious sick
of it, though I think he's a trump, too. Oh, Daphne!--you were a little
fool!"

"All the same, you have behaved abominably!" Daphne said, still choking.

"No, I haven't," was Roger's firm reply. "It was you who were so cross.
I couldn't tell you anything. I say! you do know how to stick pins into
people!"

But he took up her hand and kissed it as he spoke.

Daphne allowed it. Her breast heaved as the storm departed. And she
looked so charming, so soft, so desirable, as she sat there in her white
dress, with her great tear-washed eyes and fluttering breath, that the
youth was really touched and carried off his feet; and the rest of his
task was quite easy. All the familiar things that had to be said were
said, and with all the proper emphasis and spirit. He played his part,
the spring woods played theirs, and Daphne, worn out by emotion and
conquered by passion, gradually betrayed herself wholly. And so much at
least may be said to the man's credit that there were certainly moments
in the half-hour between them when, amid the rush of talk, laughter, and
caresses, that conscience which he owed so greatly to the exertions of
"my tutor" pricked him not a little.

After losing themselves deliberately in the woods, they strolled back to
join the rest of the party. The sounds of conversation were already
audible through the trees in front of them, when they saw Mrs. Verrier
coming towards them. She was walking alone and did not perceive them.
Her eyes were raised and fixed, as though on some sight in front of
them. The bitterness, the anguish, one might almost call it, of her
expression, the horror in the eyes, as of one ghost-led, ghost-driven,
drew an exclamation from Roger.

"There's Mrs. Verrier! Why, how ill she looks!"

Daphne paused, gazed, and shrank. She drew him aside through the trees.

"Let's go another way. Madeleine's often strange." And with a
superstitious pang she wished that Madeleine Verrier's face had not been
the first to meet her in this hour of her betrothal.



PART II

THREE YEARS AFTER



CHAPTER V


In the drawing-room at Heston Park two ladies were seated. One was a
well-preserved woman of fifty, with a large oblong face, good features,
a double chin, and abundant gray hair arranged in waved _bandeaux_ above
a forehead which should certainly have implied strength of character,
and a pair of challenging black eyes. Lady Barnes moved and spoke with
authority; it was evident that she had been accustomed to do so all her
life; to trail silk gowns over Persian carpets, to engage expensive
cooks and rely on expensive butlers, with a strict attention to small
economies all the time; to impose her will on her household and the
clergyman of the parish; to give her opinions on books, and expect them
to be listened to; to abstain from politics as unfeminine, and to make
up for it by the strongest of views on Church questions. She belonged to
an English type common throughout all classes--quite harmless and
tolerable when things go well, but apt to be soured and twisted by
adversity.

And Lady Barnes, it will be remembered, had known adversity. Not much of
it, nor for long together; but in her own opinion she had gone through
"great trials," to the profit of her Christian character. She was quite
certain, now, that everything had been for the best, and that Providence
makes no mistakes. But that, perhaps, was because the "trials" had only
lasted about a year; and then, so far as they were pecuniary, the
marriage of her son with Miss Daphne Floyd had entirely relieved her of
them. For Roger now made her a handsome allowance and the chastened
habits of a most uncomfortable year had been hastily abandoned.

Nevertheless, Lady Barnes's aspect on this autumn afternoon was not
cheerful, and her companion was endeavouring, with a little kind
embarrassment, both to soothe an evident irritation and to avoid the
confidences that Roger's mother seemed eager to pour out. Elsie French,
whom Washington had known three years before as Elsie Maddison, was in
that bloom of young married life when all that was lovely in the girl
seems to be still lingering, while yet love and motherhood have wrought
once more their old transforming miracle on sense and spirit. In her
afternoon dress of dainty sprigged silk, with just a touch of austerity
in the broad muslin collar and cuffs--her curly brown hair simply parted
on her brow, and gathered classically on a shapely head--her mouth a
little troubled, her brow a little puckered over Lady Barnes's
discontents--she was a very gracious vision. Yet behind the gentleness,
as even Lady Barnes knew, there were qualities and characteristics of a
singular strength.

Lady Barnes indeed was complaining, and could not be stopped.

"You see, dear Mrs. French," she was saying, in a rapid, lowered voice,
and with many glances at the door, "the trouble is that Daphne is never
satisfied. She has some impossible ideal in her mind, and then
everything must be sacrificed to it. She began with going into ecstasies
over this dear old house, and now!--there's scarcely a thing in it she
does not want to change. Poor Edward and I spent thousands upon it, and
we really flattered ourselves that we had some taste; but it is not good
enough for Daphne!"

The speaker settled herself in her chair with a slight but emphatic
clatter of bangles and rustle of skirts.

"It's the ceilings, isn't it?" murmured Elsie French, glancing at the
heavy decoration, the stucco bosses and pendants above her head which
had replaced, some twenty years before, a piece of Adam design, sparing
and felicitous.

"It's everything!" Lady Barnes's tone was now more angry than fretful.
"I don't, of course, like to say it--but really Daphne's self-confidence
is too amazing!"

"She does know so much," said Elsie French reflectively. "Doesn't she?"

"Well, if you call it knowing. She can always get some tiresome person,
whom she calls an 'expert,' to back her up. But I believe in liking what
you _do_ like, and not being bullied into what you don't like."

"I suppose if one studies these things----" Elsie French began timidly.

"What's the good of studying!" cried Lady Barnes; "one has one's own
taste, or one hasn't."

Confronted with this form of the Absolute, Elsie French looked
perplexed; especially as her own artistic sympathies were mainly with
Daphne. The situation was certainly awkward. At the time of the Barnes's
financial crash, and Sir Edward Barnes's death, Heston Park, which
belonged to Lady Barnes, was all that remained to her and her son. A
park of a hundred acres and a few cottages went with the house; but
there was no estate to support it, and it had to be let, to provide an
income for the widow and the boy. Much of the expensive furniture had
been sold before letting, but enough remained to satisfy the wants of a
not very exacting tenant.

Lady Barnes had then departed to weep in exile on a pittance of about
seven hundred a year. But with the marriage of her son to Miss Floyd and
her millions, the mother's thoughts had turned fondly back to Heston
Park. It was too big for her, of course; but the young people clearly
must redeem it, and settle there. And Daphne had been quite amenable.
The photographs charmed her. The house, she said, was evidently in a
pure style, and it would be a delight to make it habitable again. The
tenant, however, had a lease, and refused to turn out until at last
Daphne had frankly bribed him to go. And now, after three years of
married life, during which the young couple had rented various "places,"
besides their house in London and a villa at Tunis, Heston Park had been
vacated, Daphne and Roger had descended upon it as Lady Barnes's tenants
at a high rent, intent upon its restoration; and Roger's mother had been
invited to their councils.

Hence, indeed, these tears. When Daphne first stepped inside the
ancestral mansion of the Trescoes--such had been Lady Barnes's maiden
name--she had received a severe shock. The outside, the shell of the
house--delightful! But inside!--heavens! what taste, what
decoration--what ruin of a beautiful thing! Half the old mantelpieces
gone, the ceilings spoiled, the decorations "busy," pretentious,
overdone, and nothing left to console her but an ugly row of bad Lelys
and worse Highmores--the most despicable collection of family portraits
she had ever set eyes upon!

Roger had looked unhappy. "It was father and mother did it," he admitted
penitently. "But after all, Daphne, you know they _are_ Trescoes!"--this
with a defensive and protecting glance at the Lelys.

Daphne was sorry for it. Her mouth tightened, and certain lines appeared
about it which already prophesied what the years would make of the young
face. Yet it was a pretty mouth--the mouth, above all, of one with no
doubts at all as to her place and rights in the world. Lady Barnes had
pronounced it "common" in her secret thoughts before she had known its
owner six weeks. But the adjective had never yet escaped the "bulwark of
the teeth." Outwardly the mother and daughter-in-law were still on good
terms. It was indeed but a week since the son and his wife had
arrived--with their baby girl--at Heston Park, after a summer of
yachting and fishing in Norway; since Lady Barnes had journeyed thither
from London to meet them; and Mr. and Mrs. French had accepted an urgent
invitation from Roger, quite sufficiently backed by Daphne, to stay for
a few days with Mr. French's old pupil, before the reopening of Eton.

During that time there had been no open quarrels of any kind; but Elsie
French was a sensitive creature, and she had been increasingly aware of
friction and annoyance behind the scenes. And now here was Lady Barnes
let loose! and Daphne might appear at any moment, before she could be
re-caged.

"She puts you down so!" cried that lady, making gestures with the
paper-knife she had just been employing on the pages of a Mudie book.
"If I tell her that something or other--it doesn't matter what--cost at
least a great deal of money, she has a way of smiling at you that is
positively insulting! She doesn't trouble to argue; she begins to laugh,
and raises her eyebrows. I--I always feel as if she had struck me in the
face! I know I oughtn't to speak like this; I hadn't meant to do it,
especially to a country-woman of hers, as you are."

"Am I?" said Elsie, in a puzzled voice.

Lady Barnes opened her eyes in astonishment.

"I meant"--the explanation was hurried--"I thought--Mrs. Barnes was a
South American? Her mother was Spanish, of course; you see it in
Daphne."

"Yes; in her wonderful eyes," said Mrs. French warmly; "and her
grace--isn't she graceful! My husband says she moves like a sea-wave.
She has given her eyes to the child."

"Ah! and other things too, I'm afraid!" cried Lady Barnes, carried away.
"But here is the baby."

For the sounds of a childish voice were heard echoing in the domed hall
outside. Small feet came pattering, and the drawing-room door was burst
open by Roger Barnes, holding a little girl of nearly two and a half by
the hand.

Lady Barnes composed herself. It is necessary to smile at children, and
she endeavoured to satisfy her own sense of it.

"Come in, Beatty; come and kiss granny!" And Lady Barnes held out her
arms.

But the child stood still, surveyed her grandmother with a pair of
startling eyes, and then, turning, made a rush for the door. But her
father was too quick for her. He closed it with a laugh, and stood with
his back to it. The child did not cry, but, with flaming cheeks, she
began to beat her father's knees with her small fists.

"Go and kiss granny, darling," said Roger, stroking her dark head.

Beatty turned again, put both her hands behind her, and stood immovable.

"Not kiss granny," she said firmly. "Don't love granny."

"Oh, Beatty"--Mrs. French knelt down beside her--"come and be a good
little girl, and I'll show you picture-books."

"I not Beatty--I Jemima Ann," said the small thin voice. "Not be a dood
dirl--do upstairs."

She looked at her father again, and then, evidently perceiving that he
was not to be moved by force, she changed her tactics. Her delicate,
elfish face melted into the sweetest smile; she stood on tiptoe, holding
out to him her tiny arms. With a laugh of irrepressible pride and
pleasure, Roger stooped to her and lifted her up. She nestled on his
shoulder--a small Odalisque, dark, lithe, and tawny, beside her
handsome, fair-skinned father. And Roger's manner of holding and
caressing her showed the passionate affection with which he regarded
her.

He again urged her to kiss her grandmother; but the child again shook
her head. "Then," said he craftily, "father must kiss granny." And he
began to cross the room.

But Lady Barnes stopped him, not without dignity. "Better not press it,
Roger: another time."

Barnes laughed, and yielded. He carried the child away, murmuring to
her, "Naughty, naughty 'ittie girl!"--a remark which Beatty, tucked
under his ear, and complacently sucking her thumb, received with
complete indifference.

"There, you see!" said the grandmother, with slightly flushed cheeks, as
the door closed: "the child has been already taught to dislike me, and
if Roger had attempted to kiss me, she would probably have struck me."

"Oh, no!" cried Mrs. French. "She is a loving little thing."

"Except when she is jealous," said Lady Barnes, with significance. "I
told you she has inherited more than her eyes."

Mrs. French rose. She was determined not to discuss her hostess any
more, and she walked over to the bow window as though to look at the
prospects of the weather, which had threatened rain. But Roger's mother
was not to be repressed. Resentment and antagonism, nurtured on a
hundred small incidents and trifling jars, and, to begin with, a matter
of temperament, had come at last to speech. And in this charming New
Englander, the wife of Roger's best friend, sympathetic, tender, with a
touch in her of the nun and the saint, Lady Barnes could not help trying
to find a supporter. She was a much weaker person than her square build
and her double chin would have led the bystander to suppose; and her
feelings had been hurt.

So that when Mrs. French returned to say that the sun seemed to be
coming out, her companion, without heeding, went on, with emotion: "It's
my son I am thinking of, Mrs. French. I know you're safe, and that Roger
depends upon Mr. French more than upon anyone else in the world, so I
can't help just saying a word to you about my anxiety. You know, when
Roger married, I don't think he was much in love--in fact, I'm sure he
wasn't. But now--it's quite different. Roger has a very soft heart, and
he's very domestic. He was always the best of sons to me, and as soon as
he was married he became the best of husbands. He's devoted to Daphne
now, and you see how he adores the child. But the fact is, there's a
person in this neighbourhood" (Lady Barnes lowered her voice and looked
round her)--"I only knew it for certain this morning--who ... well, who
might make trouble. And Daphne's temper is so passionate and
uncontrolled that----"

"Dear Lady Barnes, please don't tell me any secrets!" Elsie French
implored, and laid a restraining hand on the mother's arm, ready,
indeed, to take up her work and fly. But Lady Barnes's chair stood
between her and the door, and the occupant of it was substantial.

Laura Barnes hesitated, and in the pause two persons appeared upon the
garden path outside, coming towards the open windows of the
drawing-room. One was Mrs. Roger Barnes; the other was a man, remarkably
tall and slender, with a stoop like that of an overgrown schoolboy,
silky dark hair and moustache, and pale gray eyes.

"Dr. Lelius!" said Elsie, in astonishment. "Was Daphne expecting him?"

"Who is Dr. Lelius?" asked Lady Barnes, putting up her eyeglass.

Mrs. French explained that he was a South German art-critic, from
Würzburg, with a great reputation. She had already met him at Eton and
at Oxford.

"Another expert!" said Lady Barnes with a shrug.

The pair passed the window, absorbed apparently in conversation. Mrs.
French escaped. Lady Barnes was left to discontent and solitude.

But the solitude was not for long.

When Elsie French descended for tea, an hour later, she was aware, from
a considerable distance, of people and tumult in the drawing-room.
Daphne's soprano voice--agreeable, but making its mark always, like its
owner--could be heard running on. The young mistress of the house seemed
to be admonishing, instructing, someone. Could it be her mother-in-law?

When Elsie entered, Daphne was walking up and down in excitement.

"One cannot really live with bad pictures because they happen to be
one's ancestors! We won't do them any harm, mamma! of course not. There
is a room upstairs where they can be stored--most carefully--and anybody
who is interested in them can go and look at them. If they had only been
left as they were painted!--not by Lely, of course, but by some drapery
man in his studio--_passe encore_! they might have been just bearable.
But you see some wretched restorer went and daubed them all over a few
years ago."

"We went to the best man we could find! We took the best advice!" cried
Lady Barnes, sitting stiff and crimson in a deep arm-chair, opposite the
luckless row of portraits that Daphne was denouncing.

"I'm sure you did. But then, you see, nobody knew anything at all about
it in those days. The restorers were all murderers. Ask Dr. Lelius."

Daphne pointed to the stranger, who was leaning against an arm-chair
beside her in an embarrassed attitude, as though he were endeavouring to
make the chair a buffer between himself and Lady Barnes.

Dr. Lelius bowed.

"It is a modern art," he said with diffidence, and an accent creditably
slight--"a quite modern art. We hafe a great man at Würzburg."

"I don't suppose he professes to know anything about English pictures,
does he?" asked Lady Barnes with scorn.

"Ach!--I do not propose that Mrs. Barnes entrust him wid dese pictures,
Madame. It is now too late."

And the willowy German looked, with a half-repressed smile, at the row
of pictures--all staring at the bystander with the same saucer eyes, the
same wooden arms, and the same brilliance of modern paint and varnish,
which not even the passage of four years since it was applied had been
able greatly to subdue.

Lady Barnes lifted shoulders and eyes--a woman's angry protest against
the tyranny of knowledge.

"All the same, they are my forbears, my kith and kin," she said, with
emphasis. "But of course Mrs. Barnes is mistress here: I suppose she
will do as she pleases."

The German stared politely at the carpet. It was now Daphne's turn to
shrug. She threw herself into a chair, with very red cheeks, one foot
hanging over the other, and the fingers of her hands, which shone with
diamonds, tapping the chair impatiently. Her dress of a delicate pink,
touched here and there with black, her wide black hat, and the eyes
which glowed from the small pointed face beneath it; the tumbling masses
of her dark hair as contrasted with her general lightness and
slenderness; the red of the lips, the whiteness of the hands and brow,
the dainty irregularity of feature: these things made a Watteau sketch
of her, all pure colour and lissomeness, with dots and scratches of
intense black. Daphne was much handsomer than she had been as a girl,
but also a trifle less refined. All her points were intensified--her
eyes had more flame; the damask of her cheek was deeper; her grace was
wilder, her voice a little shriller than of old.

While the uncomfortable silence which the two women had made around them
still lasted, Roger Barnes appeared on the garden steps.

"Hullo! any tea going?" He came in, without waiting for an answer,
looked from his mother to Daphne, from Daphne to his mother, and laughed
uncomfortably.

"Still bothering about those beastly pictures?" he said as he helped
himself to a cup of tea.

"_Thank_ you, Roger!" said Lady Barnes.

"I didn't mean any harm, mother." He crossed over to her and sat down
beside her. "I say, Daphne, I've got an idea. Why shouldn't mother have
them? She's going to take a house, she says. Let's hand them all over to
her!"

Lady Barnes's lips trembled with indignation. "The Trescoes who were
born and died in this house, belong here!" The tone of the words showed
the stab to feeling and self-love. "It would be a sacrilege to move
them."

"Well then, let's move ourselves!" exclaimed Daphne, springing up. "We
can let this house again, can't we, Roger?"

"We can, I suppose," said Roger, munching his bread and butter; "but
we're not going to."

He raised his head and looked quietly at her.

"I think we'd better!" The tone was imperious. Daphne, with her thin
arms and hands locked behind her, paused beside her husband.

Dr. Lelius, stealthily raising his eyes, observed the two. A strange
little scene--not English at all. The English, he understood, were a
phlegmatic people. What had this little Southerner to do among them? And
what sort of fellow was the husband?

It was evident that some mute coloquy passed between the husband and
wife--disapproval on his part, attempt to assert authority, defiance, on
hers. Then the fair-skinned English face, confronting Daphne, wavered
and weakened, and Roger smiled into the eyes transfixing him.

"Ah!" thought Lelius, "she has him, de poor fool!"

Roger, coming over to his mother, began a murmured conversation. Daphne,
still breathing quick, consented to talk to Dr. Lelius and Mrs. French.
Lelius, who travelled widely, had brought her news of some pictures in a
chateau of the Bourbonnais--pictures that her whole mind was set on
acquiring. Elsie French noticed the _expertise_ of her talk; the
intellectual development it implied; the passion of will which
accompanied it. "To the dollar, all things are possible"--one might have
phrased it so.

The soft September air came in through the open windows, from a garden
flooded with western sun. Suddenly through the subdued talk which filled
the drawing-room--each group in it avoiding the other--the sound of a
motor arriving made itself heard.

"Heavens! who on earth knows we're here?" said Barnes, looking up.

For they had only been camping a week in the house, far too busy to
think of neighbours. They sat expectant and annoyed, reproaching each
other with not having told the butler to say "Not at home." Lady
Barnes's attitude had in it something else--a little anxiety; but it
escaped notice. Steps came through the hall, and the butler, throwing
open the door, announced--

"Mrs. Fairmile."

Roger Barnes sprang to his feet. His mother, with a little gasp, caught
him by the arm instinctively. There was a general rise and a movement of
confusion, till the new-comer, advancing, offered her hand to Daphne.

"I am afraid, Mrs. Barnes, I am disturbing you all. The butler told me
you had only been here a few days. But Lady Barnes and your husband are
such old friends of mine that, as soon as I heard--through our old
postmistress, I think--that you had arrived, I thought I might venture."

The charming voice dropped, and the speaker waited, smiling, her eyes
fixed on Daphne. Daphne had taken her hand in some bewilderment, and was
now looking at her husband for assistance. It was clear to Elsie French,
in the background, that Daphne neither knew the lady nor the lady's
name, and that the visit had taken her entirely by surprise.

Barnes recovered himself quickly. "I had no idea you were in these
parts," he said, as he brought a chair forward for the visitor, and
stood beside her a moment.

Lady Barnes, observing him, as she stiffly greeted the new-comer--his
cool manner, his deepened colour--felt the usual throb of maternal pride
in him, intensified by alarm and excitement.

"Oh, I am staying a day or two with Duchess Mary," said the new-comer.
"She is a little older--and no less gouty, poor dear, than she used to
be. Mrs. Barnes, I have heard a great deal of you--though you mayn't
know anything about me. Ah! Dr. Lelius?"

The German, bowing awkwardly, yet radiant, came forward to take the hand
extended to him.

"They did nothing but talk about you at the Louvre, when I was there
last week," she said, with a little confidential nod. "You have made
them horribly uncomfortable about some of their things. Isn't it a pity
to know too much?"

She turned toward Daphne. "I'm afraid that's your case too." She smiled,
and the smile lit up a face full of delicate lines and wrinkles, which
no effort had been made to disguise; a tired face, where the eyes spoke
from caverns of shade, yet with the most appealing and persuasive
beauty.

"Do you mean about pictures?" said Daphne, a little coldly. "I don't
know as much as Dr. Lelius."

Humour leaped into the eyes fixed upon her; but Mrs. Fairmile only said:
"That's not given to the rest of us mortals. But after all, _having's_
better than knowing. Don't--_don't_ you possess the Vitali Signorelli?"

Her voice was most musical and flattering. Daphne smiled in spite of
herself. "Yes, we do. It's in London now--waiting till we can find a
place for it."

"You must let me make a pilgrimage--when it comes. But you know you'd
find a number of things at Upcott--where I'm staying now--that would
interest you. I forget whether you've met the Duchess?"

"This is our first week here," said Roger, interposing. "The house has
been let till now. We came down to see what could be made of it."

His tone was only just civil. His mother, looking on, said to herself
that he was angry--and with good reason.

But Mrs. Fairmile still smiled.

"Ah! the Lelys!" she cried, raising her hand slightly toward the row of
portraits on the wall. "The dear impossible things! Are you still
discussing them--as we used to do?"

Daphne started. "You know this house, then?"

The smile broadened into a laugh of amusement, as Mrs. Fairmile turned
to Roger's mother.

"Don't I, dear Lady Barnes--don't I know this house?"

Lady Barnes seemed to straighten in her chair. "Well, you were here
often enough to know it," she said abruptly. "Daphne, Mrs. Fairmile is a
distant cousin of ours."

"Distant, but quite enough to swear by!" said the visitor, gaily. "Yes,
Mrs. Barnes, I knew this house very well in old days. It has many
charming points." She looked round with a face that had suddenly become
coolly critical, an embodied intelligence.

Daphne, as though divining for the first time a listener worthy of her
steel, began to talk with some rapidity of the changes she wished to
make. She talked with an evident desire to show off, to make an
impression. Mrs. Fairmile listened attentively, occasionally throwing in
a word of criticism or comment, in the softest, gentlest voice. But
somehow, whenever she spoke, Daphne felt vaguely irritated. She was
generally put slightly in the wrong by her visitor, and Mrs. Fairmile's
extraordinary knowledge of Heston Park, and of everything connected with
it, was so odd and disconcerting. She had a laughing way, moreover, of
appealing to Roger Barnes himself to support a recollection or an
opinion, which presently produced a contraction of Daphne's brows. Who
was this woman? A cousin--a cousin who knew every inch of the house, and
seemed to be one of Roger's closest friends? It was really too strange
that in all these years Roger should never have said a word about her!

The red mounted in Daphne's cheek. She began, moreover, to feel herself
at a disadvantage to which she was not accustomed. Dr. Lelius,
meanwhile, turned to Mrs. Fairmile, whenever she was allowed to speak,
with a joyous yet inarticulate deference he had never shown to his
hostess. They understood each other at a word or a glance. Beside them
Daphne, with all her cleverness, soon appeared as a child for whom one
makes allowances.

A vague anger swelled in her throat. She noticed, too, Roger's silence
and Lady Barnes's discomfort. There was clearly something here that had
been kept from her--something to be unravelled!

Suddenly the new-comer rose. Mrs. Fairmile wore a dress of some pale
gray stuff, cobweb-light and transparent, over a green satin. It had the
effect of sea-water, and her gray hat, with its pale green wreath,
framed the golden-gray of her hair. Every one of her few adornments was
exquisite--so was her grace as she moved. Daphne's pink-and-black
vivacity beside her seemed a pinchbeck thing.

"Well, now, when will you all come to Upcott?" Mrs. Fairmile said
graciously, as she shook hands. "The Duchess will be enchanted to see
you any day, and----"

"Thank you! but we really can't come so far," said a determined voice.
"We have only a shaky old motor--our new one isn't ready yet--and
besides, we want all our time for the house."

"You make him work so hard?"

Mrs. Fairmile, laughing, pointed to the speaker. Roger looked up
involuntarily, and Daphne saw the look.

"Roger has nothing to do," she said, quickly. "Thank you very much: we
will certainly come. I'll write to you. How many miles did you say it
was?"

"Oh, nothing for a motor!--twenty-five. We used to think it nothing for
a ride, didn't we?"

The speaker, who was just passing through the door, turned towards
Roger, who with Lelius, was escorting her, with a last gesture--gay,
yet, like all her gestures, charged with a slight yet deliberate
significance.

They disappeared. Daphne walked to the window, biting her lip.

       *       *       *       *       *

As she stood there Herbert French came into the room, looking a little
shy and ill at ease, and behind him three persons, a clergyman in an
Archdeacon's apron and gaiters, and two ladies. Daphne, perceiving them
sideways in a mirror to her right, could not repress a gesture and
muttered sound of annoyance.

French introduced Archdeacon Mountford, his wife and sister. Roger, it
seemed, had met them in the hall, and sent them in. He himself had been
carried off on some business by the head keeper.

Daphne turned ungraciously. Her colour was very bright, her eyes a
little absent and wild. The two ladies, both clad in pale brown stuffs,
large mushroom hats, and stout country boots, eyed her nervously, and as
they sat down, at her bidding, they left the Archdeacon--who was the
vicar of the neighbouring town--to explain, with much amiable
stammering, that seeing the Duchess's carriage at the front door, as
they were crossing the park, they presumed that visitors were admitted,
and had ventured to call.

Daphne received the explanation without any cordiality. She did indeed
bid the callers sit down, and ordered some fresh tea. But she took no
pains to entertain them, and if Lady Barnes and Herbert French had not
come to the rescue, they would have fared but ill. The Archdeacon, in
fact, did come to grief. For him Mrs. Barnes was just a "foreigner,"
imported from some unknown and, of course, inferior _milieu_, one who
had never been "a happy English child," and must therefore be treated
with indulgence. He endeavoured to talk to her--kindly--about her
country. A branch of his own family, he informed her, had settled about
a hundred years before this date in the United States. He gave her, at
some length, the genealogy of the branch, then of the main stock to
which he himself belonged, presuming that she was, at any rate,
acquainted with the name? It was, he said, his strong opinion that
American women were very "bright." For himself he could not say that he
even disliked the accent, it was so "quaint." Did Mrs. Barnes know many
of the American bishops? He himself had met a large number of them at a
reception at the Church House, but it had really made him quite
uncomfortable! They wore no official dress, and there was he--a mere
Archdeacon!--in gaiters. And, of course, no one thought of calling them
"my lord." It certainly was very curious--to an Englishman. And
Methodist bishops!--such as he was told America possessed in
plenty--that was still more curious. One of the Episcopalian bishops,
however, had preached--in Westminster Abbey--a remarkable sermon, on a
very sad subject, not perhaps a subject to be discussed in a
drawing-room--but still----

Suddenly the group on the other side of the room became aware that the
Archdeacon's amiable prosing had been sharply interrupted--that Daphne,
not he, was holding the field. A gust of talk arose--Daphne declaiming,
the Archdeacon, after a first pause of astonishment, changing aspect and
tone. French, looking across the room, saw the mask of conventional
amiability stripped from what was really a strong and rather tyrannical
face. The man's prominent mouth and long upper lip emerged. He drew his
chair back from Daphne's; he tried once or twice to stop or argue with
her, and finally he rose abruptly.

"My dear!"--his wife turned hastily--"We must not detain Mrs. Barnes
longer!"

The two ladies looked at the Archdeacon--the god of their idolatry; then
at Daphne. Hurriedly, like birds frightened by a shot, they crossed the
room and just touched their hostess's hand; the Archdeacon, making up
for their precipitancy by a double dose of dignity, bowed himself out;
the door closed behind them.

"Daphne!--my dear! what is the matter?" cried Lady Barnes, in dismay.

"He spoke to me impertinently about my country!" said Daphne, turning
upon her, her black eyes blazing, her cheeks white with excitement.

"The Archdeacon!--he is always so polite!"

"He talked like a fool--about things he doesn't understand!" was
Daphne's curt reply, as she gathered up her hat and some letters, and
moved towards the door.

"About what? My dear Daphne! He could not possibly have meant to offend
you! Could he, Mr. French?" Lady Barnes turned plaintively towards her
very uncomfortable companions.

Daphne confronted her.

"If he chooses to think America immoral and degraded because American
divorce laws are different from the English laws, let him think it!--but
he has no business to air his views to an American--at a first visit,
too!" said Daphne passionately, and, drawing herself up, she swept out
of the room, leaving the others dumfoundered.

"Oh dear! oh dear!" wailed Lady Barnes. "And the Archdeacon is so
important! Daphne might have been rude to anybody else--but not the
Archdeacon!"

"How did they manage to get into such a subject--so quickly?" asked
Elsie in bewilderment.

"I suppose he took it for granted that Daphne agreed with him! All
decent people do."

Lady Barnes's wrath was evident--so was her indiscretion. Elsie French
applied herself to soothing her, while Herbert French disappeared into
the garden with a book. His wife, however, presently observed from the
drawing-room that he was not reading. He was pacing the lawn, with his
hands behind him, and his eyes on the grass. The slight, slowly-moving
figure stood for meditation, and Elsie French knew enough to understand
that the incidents of the afternoon might well supply any friend of
Roger Barnes's with food for meditation. Herbert had not been in the
drawing-room when Mrs. Fairmile was calling, but no doubt he had met her
in the hall when she was on her way to her carriage.

Meanwhile Daphne, in her own room, was also employed in meditation. She
had thrown herself, frowning, into a chair beside a window which
overlooked the park. The landscape had a gentle charm--spreading grass,
low hills, and scattered woods--under a warm September sun. But it had
no particular accent, and Daphne thought it both tame and depressing;
like an English society made up of Archdeacon Mountfords and their
women-kind! What a futile, irritating man!--and what dull creatures were
the wife and daughter!--mere echoes of their lord and master. She had
behaved badly, of course; in a few days she supposed the report of her
outburst would be all over the place. She did not care. Even for Roger's
sake she was not going to cringe to these poor provincial standards.

And all the time she knew very well that it was not the Archdeacon and
his fatuities that were really at fault. The afternoon had been decided
not by the Mountfords' call, but by that which had preceded it.



CHAPTER VI


Mrs. Barnes, however, made no immediate reference to the matter which
was in truth filling her mind. She avoided her husband and
mother-in-law, both of whom were clearly anxious to capture her
attention; and, by way of protecting herself from them, she spent the
late afternoon in looking through Italian photographs with Dr. Lelius.

But about seven o'clock Roger found her lying on her sofa, her hands
clasped behind her head--frowning--the lips working.

He came in rather consciously, glancing at his wife in hesitation.

"Are you tired, Daphne?"

"No."

"A penny for your thoughts, then!" He stooped over her and looked into
her eyes.

Daphne made no reply. She continued to look straight before her.

"What's the matter with you?" he said, at last.

"I'm wondering," said Daphne slowly, "how many more cousins and great
friends you have, that I know nothing about. I think another time it
would be civil--just that!--to give me a word of warning."

Roger pulled at his moustache. "I hadn't an idea she was within a
thousand miles of this place! But, if I had, I couldn't have imagined
she would have the face to come here!"

"Who is she?" With a sudden movement Daphne turned her eyes upon him.

"Well, there's no good making any bones about it," said the man,
flushing. "She's a girl I was once engaged to, for a very short time,"
he added hastily. "It was the week before my father died, and our smash
came. As soon as it came she threw me over."

Daphne's intense gaze, under the slightly frowning brows, disquieted
him.

"How long were you engaged to her?"

"Three weeks."

"Had she been staying here before that?"

"Yes--she often stayed here. Daphne! don't look like that! She treated
me abominably; and before I married you I had come not to care twopence
about her."

"You did care about her when you proposed to me?"

"No!--not at all! Of course, when I went out to New York I was sore,
because she had thrown me over."

"And I"--Daphne made a scornful lip--"was the feather-bed to catch you
as you fell. It never occurred to you that it might have been honourable
to tell me?"

"Well, I don't know--I never asked you to tell me of your affairs!"

Roger, his hands in his pockets, looked round at her with an awkward
laugh.

"I told you everything!" was the quick reply--"_everything_."

Roger uncomfortably remembered that so indeed it had been; and moreover
that he had been a good deal bored at the time by Daphne's confessions.

He had not been enough in love with her--then--to find them of any great
account. And certainly it had never occurred to him to pay them back in
kind. What did it matter to her or to anyone that Chloe Morant had made
a fool of him? His recollection of the fooling, at the time he proposed
to Daphne, was still so poignant that it would have been impossible to
speak of it. And within a few months afterwards he had practically
forgotten it--and Chloe too. Of course he could not see her again, for
the first time, without being "a bit upset"; mostly, indeed, by the
boldness--the brazenness--of her behaviour. But his emotions were of no
tragic strength, and, as Lady Barnes had complained to Mrs. French, he
was now honestly in love with Daphne and his child.

So that he had nothing but impatience and annoyance for the recollection
of the visit of the afternoon; and Daphne's attitude distressed him.
Why, she was as pale as a ghost! His thoughts sent Chloe Fairmile to the
deuce.

"Look here, dear!" he said, kneeling down suddenly beside his
wife--"don't you get any nonsense into your head. I'm not the kind of
fellow who goes philandering after a woman when she's jilted him. I took
her measure, and after you accepted me I never gave her another thought.
I forgot her, dear--bag and baggage! Kiss me, Daphne!"

But Daphne still held him at bay.

"How long were you engaged to her?" she repeated.

"I've told you--three weeks!" said the man, reluctantly.

"How long had you known her?"

"A year or two. She was a distant cousin of father's. Her father was
Governor of Madras, and her mother was dead. She couldn't stand India
for long together, and she used to stay about with relations. Why she
took a fancy to me I can't imagine. She's so booky and artistic, and
that kind of thing, that I never understood half the time what she was
talking about. Now you're just as clever, you know, darling, but I do
understand you."

Roger's conscience made a few dim remonstrances. It asked him whether in
fact, standing on his own qualifications and advantages of quite a
different kind, he had not always felt himself triumphantly more than a
match for Chloe and her cleverness. But he paid no heed to them. He was
engaged in stroking Daphne's fingers and studying the small set face.

"Whom did she marry?" asked Daphne, putting an end to the stroking.

"A fellow in the army--Major Fairmile--a smart, popular sort of chap. He
was her father's aide-de-camp when they married--just after we did--and
they've been in India, or Egypt, ever since. They don't get on, and I
suppose she comes and quarters herself on the old Duchess--as she used
to on us."

"You seem to know all about her! Yes, I remember now, I've heard people
speak of her to you. Mrs. Fairmile--Mrs. Fairmile--yes, I remember,"
said Daphne, in a brooding voice, her cheeks becoming suddenly very red.
"Your uncle--in town--mentioned her. I didn't take any notice."

"Why should you? She doesn't matter a fig, either to you or to me!"

"It matters to me very much that these people who spoke of her--your
uncle and the others--knew what I didn't know!" cried Daphne,
passionately. She stared at Roger, strangely conscious that something
epoch-making and decisive had happened. Roger had had a secret from her
all these years--that was what had happened; and now she had discovered
it. That he _could_ have a secret from her, however, was the real
discovery. She felt a fierce resentment, and yet a kind of added respect
for him. All the time he had been the private owner of thoughts and
recollections that she had no part in, and the fact roused in her tumult
and bitterness. Nevertheless the disturbance which it produced in her
sense of property, the shock and anguish of it, brought back something
of the passion of love she had felt in the first year of their marriage.

During these three years she had more than once shown herself insanely
jealous for the merest trifles. But Roger had always laughed at her, and
she had ended by laughing at herself.

Yet all the time he had had this secret. She sat looking at him hard
with her astonishing eyes; and he grew more and more uneasy.

"Well, some of them knew," he said, answering her last reproach. "And
they knew that I was jolly well quit of her! I suppose I ought to have
told you, Daphne--of course I ought--I'm sorry. But the fact was I never
wanted to think of her again. And I certainly never want to see her
again! Why, in the name of goodness, did you accept that tea-fight?"

"Because I mean to go."

"Then you'll have to go without me," was the incautious reply.

"Oh, so you're afraid of meeting her! I shall know what to think, if you
_don't_ go." Daphne sat erect, her hands clasped round her knees.

Roger made a sound of wrath, and threw his cigarette into the fire.
Then, turning round again to face her, he tried to control himself.

"Look here, Daphne, don't let us quarrel about this. I'll tell you
everything you want to know--the whole beastly story. But it can't be
pleasant to me to meet a woman who treated me as she did--and it
oughtn't to be pleasant to you either. It was like her audacity to come
this afternoon."

"She simply wants to get hold of you again!" Daphne sprang up as she
spoke with a violent movement, her face blazing.

"Nonsense! she came out of nothing in the world but curiosity, and
because she likes making people uncomfortable. She knew very well mother
and I didn't want her!"

But the more he tried to persuade her the more determined was Daphne to
pay the promised visit, and that he should pay it with her. He gave way
at last, and she allowed herself to be soothed and caressed. Then, when
she seemed to have recovered herself, he gave her a tragic-comic account
of the three weeks' engagement, and the manner in which it had been
broken off: caustic enough, one might have thought, to satisfy the most
unfriendly listener. Daphne heard it all quietly.

Then her maid came, and she donned a tea-gown.

When Roger returned, after dressing, he found her still abstracted.

"I suppose you kissed her?" she said abruptly, as they stood by the fire
together.

He broke out in laughter and annoyance, and called her a little goose,
with his arm round her.

But she persisted. "You did kiss her?"

"Well, of course I did! What else is one engaged for?"

"I'm certain she wished for a great deal of kissing!" said Daphne,
quickly.

Roger was silent. Suddenly there swept through him the memory of the
scene in the orchard, and with it an admission--wrung, as it were, from
a wholly unwilling self--that it had remained for him a scene unique and
unapproached. In that one hour the "muddy vesture" of common feeling and
desire that closed in his manhood had taken fire and burnt to a pure
flame, fusing, so it seemed, body and soul. He had not thought of it for
years, but now that he was made to think of it, the old thrill
returned--a memory of something heavenly, ecstatic, far transcending the
common hours and the common earth.

The next moment he had thrown the recollection angrily from him.
Stooping to his wife, he kissed her warmly. "Look here, Daphne! I wish
you'd let that woman alone! Have I ever looked at anyone but you, old
girl, since that day at Mount Vernon?"

Daphne let him hold her close: but all the time, thoughts--ugly
thoughts--like "little mice stole in and out." The notion of Roger and
that woman, in the past, engaged--always together, in each other's arms,
tormented her unendurably.

       *       *       *       *       *

She did not, however, say a word to Lady Barnes on the subject. The
morning following Mrs. Fairmile's visit that lady began a rather awkward
explanation of Chloe Fairmile's place in the family history, and of the
reasons for Roger's silence and her own. Daphne took it apparently with
complete indifference, and managed to cut it short in the middle.

Nevertheless she brooded over the whole business; and her resentment
showed itself, first of all, in a more and more drastic treatment of
Heston, its pictures, decorations and appointments. Lady Barnes dared
not oppose her any more. She understood that if she were thwarted, or
even criticized, Daphne would simply decline to live there, and her own
link with the place would be once more broken. So she withdrew angrily
from the scene, and tried not to know what was going on. Meanwhile a
note of invitation had been addressed to Daphne by the Duchess, and had
been accepted; Roger had been reminded, at the point of the bayonet,
that go he must; and Dr. Lelius had transferred himself from Heston to
Upcott, and the companionship of Mrs. Fairmile.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the last day of the Frenches' visit. Roger and Herbert French had
been trying to get a brace or two of partridges on the long-neglected
and much-poached estate; and on the way home French expressed a hope
that, now they were to settle at Heston, Roger would take up some of the
usual duties of the country gentleman. He spoke in the half-jesting way
characteristic of the modern Mentor. The old didactics have long gone
out of fashion, and the moralist of to-day, instead of preaching, _ore
retundo_, must only "hint a fault and hesitate dislike." But, hide it as
he might, there was an ethical and religious passion in French that
would out, and was soon indeed to drive him from Eton to a town parish.
He had been ordained some two years before this date.

It was this inborn pastoral gift, just as real as the literary or
artistic gifts, and containing the same potentialities of genius as they
which was leading him to feel a deep anxiety about the Barnes's
_ménage_. It seemed to him necessary that Daphne should respect her
husband; and Roger, in a state of complete idleness, was not altogether
respectable.

So, with much quizzing of him as "the Squire," French tried to goad his
companion into some of a Squire's duties. "Stand for the County Council,
old fellow," he said. "Your father was on it, and it'll give you
something to do."

To his surprise Roger at once acquiesced. He was striding along in cap
and knickerbockers, his curly hair still thick and golden on his
temples, his clear skin flushed with exercise, his general physical
aspect even more splendid than it had been in his first youth. Beside
him, the slender figure and pleasant irregular face of Herbert French
would have been altogether effaced and eclipsed but for the Eton
master's two striking points: prematurely white hair, remarkably thick
and abundant; and very blue eyes, shy, spiritual and charming.

"I don't mind," Roger was saying, "if you think they'd have me. Beastly
bore, of course! But one's got to do something for one's keep."

He looked round with a smile, slightly conscious. The position he had
occupied for some three years, of the idle and penniless husband
dependent on his wife's dollars, was not, he knew, an exalted one in
French's eyes.

"Oh! you'll find it quite tolerable," said French. "Roads and schools do
as well as anything else to break one's teeth on. We shall see you a
magistrate directly."

Roger laughed. "That would be a good one!--I say, you know, I hope
Daphne's going to like Heston."

French hoped so too, guardedly.

"I hear the Archdeacon got on her nerves yesterday?"

He looked at his companion with a slight laugh and a shrug.

"That doesn't matter."

"I don't know. He's rather a spiteful old party. And Daphne's accustomed
to be made a lot of, you know. In London there's always a heap of people
making up to her--and in Paris, too. She talks uncommon good
French--learnt it in the convent. I don't understand a word of what they
talk about--but she's a queen--I can tell you! She doesn't want
Archdeacons prating at her."

"It'll be all right when she knows the people."

"Of course, mother and I get along here all right. We've got to pick up
the threads again; but we do know all the people, and we like the old
place for grandfather's sake, and all the rest of it. But there isn't
much to amuse Daphne here."

"She'll be doing up the house."

"And offending mother all the time. I say, French, don't you think art's
an awful nuisance! When I hear Lelius yarning on about _quattro-cento_
and _cinque-cento_, I could drown myself. No! I suppose you're tarred
with the same brush." Roger shrugged his shoulders. "Well, I don't care,
so long as Daphne gets what she wants, and the place suits the child."
His ruddy countenance took a shade of anxiety.

French inquired what reason there was to suppose that Beatty would not
thrive perfectly at Heston. Roger could only say that the child had
seemed to flag a little since their arrival. Appetite not quite so good,
temper difficult, and so on. Their smart lady-nurse was not quite
satisfied. "And I've been finding out about doctors here," the young
father went on, knitting his brows: "blokes, most of them, and such old
blokes! I wouldn't trust Beatty to one of them. But I've heard of a new
man at Hereford--awfully good, they say--a wunner! And after all a motor
would soon run him out!"

He went on talking eagerly about the child, her beauty, her cleverness,
the plans Daphne had for her bringing up, and so on. No other child ever
had been, ever could be, so fetching, so "cunning," so lovely, such a
duck! The Frenches, indeed, possessed a boy of two, reputed handsome.
Roger wished to show himself indulgent to anything that might be pleaded
for him. "Dear little fellow!"--of course. But Beatty! Well! it was
surprising, indeed, that he should find himself the father of such a
little miracle; he didn't know what he'd done to deserve it. Herbert
French smiled as he walked.

"Of course, I hope there'll be a boy," said Roger, stopping suddenly to
look at Heston Park, half a mile off, emerging from the trees. "Daphne
would like a boy--so should I, and particularly now that we've got the
old house back again."

He stood and surveyed it. French noticed in the growing manliness of his
face and bearing the signs of things and forces ancestral, of those
ghostly hands stretching from the past that in a long settled society
tend to push a man into his right place and keep him there. The Barnes
family was tolerable, though not distinguished. Roger's father's great
temporary success in politics and business had given it a passing
splendour, now quenched in the tides of failure and disaster which had
finally overwhelmed his career. Roger evidently did not want to think
much about his Barnes heritage. But it was clear also that he was proud
of the Trescoes; that he had fallen back upon them, so to speak. Since
the fifteenth century there had always been a Trescoe at Heston; and
Roger had already taken to browsing in county histories and sorting
family letters. French foresaw a double-barrelled surname before
long--perhaps, just in time for the advent of the future son and heir
who was already a personage in the mind, if not yet positively expected.

"My dear fellow, I hope Mrs. Barnes will give you not one son, but
many!" he said, in answer to his companion's outburst. "They're wanted
nowadays."

Roger nodded and smiled, and then passed on to discussion of county
business and county people. He had already, it seemed, informed himself
to a rather surprising degree. The shrewd, upright county gentleman was
beginning to emerge, oddly, from the Apollo. The merits and absurdities
of the type were already there, indeed, _in posse_. How persistent was
the type, and the instinct! A man of Roger's antecedents might seem to
swerve from the course; but the smallest favourable variation of
circumstances, and there he was again on the track, trotting happily
between the shafts.

"If only the wife plays up!" thought French.

The recollection of Daphne, indeed, emerged simultaneously in both
minds.

"Daphne, you know, won't be able to stand this all the year round," said
Roger. "By George, no! not with a wagon-load of Leliuses!" Then, with a
sudden veer and a flush: "I say, French, do you know what sort of state
the Fairmile marriage is in by now? I think that lady might have spared
her call--don't you?"

French kept his eyes on the path. It was the first time, as far as he
was concerned, that Roger had referred to the incident. Yet the tone of
the questioner implied a past history. It was to him, indeed, that Roger
had come, in the first bitterness of his young grief and anger, after
the "jilting." French had tried to help him, only to find that he was no
more a match for the lady than the rest of the world.

As to the call and the invitation, he agreed heartily that a person of
delicacy would have omitted them. The Fairmile marriage, it was
generally rumoured, had broken down hopelessly.

"Faults on both sides, of course. Fairmile is and always was an
unscrupulous beggar! He left Eton just as you came, but I remember him
well."

Roger began a sentence to the effect that if Fairmile had no scruples of
his own, Chloe would scarcely have taught him any; but he checked
himself abruptly in the middle, and the two men passed to other topics.
French began to talk of East London, and the parish he was to have
there. Roger, indifferent at first, did not remain so. He did not
profess, indeed, any enthusiasm of humanity; but French found in him new
curiosities. That children should starve, and slave, and suffer--_that_
moved him. He was, at any rate, for hanging the parents.

       *       *       *       *       *

The day of the Upcott visit came, and, in spite of all recalcitrance,
Roger was made to mount the motor beside his wife. Lady Barnes had
entirely refused to go, and Mr. and Mrs. French had departed that
morning for Eton.

As the thing was inevitable, Roger's male philosophy came to his aid.
Better laugh and have done with it. So that, as he and Daphne sped along
the autumn lanes, he talked about anything and everything. He expressed,
for instance, his friendly admiration for Elsie French.

"She's just the wife for old Herbert--and, by George, she's in love with
him!"

"A great deal too much in love with him!" said Daphne, sharply. The day
was chilly, with a strong east wind blowing, and Daphne's small figure
and face were enveloped in a marvellous wrap, compounded in equal
proportions of Russian sables and white cloth. It had not long arrived
from Wörth, and Roger had allowed himself some jibes as to its probable
cost. Daphne's "simplicity," the pose of her girlhood, was in fact
breaking down in all directions. The arrogant spending instinct had
gained upon the moderating and self-restraining instinct. The results
often made Barnes uncomfortable. But he was inarticulate, and easily
intimidated--by Daphne. With regard to Mrs. French, however, he took up
the cudgels at once. Why shouldn't Elsie adore her man, if it pleased
her? Old Herbert was worth it.

Women, said Daphne, should never put themselves wholly in a man's power.
Moreover, wifely adoration was particularly bad for clergymen, who were
far too much inclined already to give themselves airs.

"I say! Herbert never gives himself airs!"

"They both did--to me. They have quite different ways from us, and they
make one feel it. They have family prayers--we don't. They have ascetic
ideas about bringing up children--I haven't. Elsie would think it
self-indulgent and abominable to stay in bed to breakfast--I don't. The
fact is, all her interests and ideals are quite different from mine, and
I am rather tired of being made to feel inferior."

"Daphne! what rubbish! I'm certain Elsie French never had such an idea
in her head. She's awfully soft and nice; I never saw a bit of conceit
in her."

"She's soft outside and steel inside. Well, never mind! we don't get on.
She's the old America, I'm the new," said Daphne, half frowning, half
laughing; "and I'm as good as she."

"You're a very good-looking woman, anyway," said Roger, admiring the
vision of her among the warm browns and shining whites of her wrap.
"Much better-looking than when I married you." He slipped an arm under
the cloak and gave her small waist a squeeze.

Daphne turned her eyes upon him. In their black depths his touch had
roused a passion which was by no means all tenderness. There was in it
something threatening, something intensely and inordinately possessive.
"That means that you didn't think me good-looking at all, as compared
with--Chloe?" she said insistently.

"Really, Daphne!"--Roger withdrew his arm with a rather angry
laugh--"the way you twist what one says! I declare I won't make you any
more pretty speeches for an age."

Daphne scarcely replied; but there dawned on her face the
smile--melting, provocative, intent--which is the natural weapon of such
a temperament. With a quick movement she nestled to her husband's side,
and Roger was soon appeased.

       *       *       *       *       *

The visit which followed always counted in Roger Barnes's memory as the
first act of the tragedy, the first onset of the evil that engulfed him.

They found the old Duchess, Mrs. Fairmile, and Dr. Lelius, alone. The
Duchess had been the penniless daughter of an Irish clergyman, married
_en secondes noces_ for her somewhat queer and stimulating personality,
by an epicurean duke, who, after having provided the family with a
sufficient store of dull children by an aristocratic mother, thought
himself at liberty, in his declining years, to please himself. He had
left her the dower-house--small but delicately Jacobean--and she was now
nearly as old as the Duke had been when he married her. She was largely
made, shapeless, and untidy. Her mannish face and head were tied up in a
kind of lace coif; she had long since abandoned all thought of a waist;
and her strong chin rested on an ample bosom.

As soon as Mrs. Barnes was seated near her hostess, Lelius--who had an
intimate acquaintance, through their pictures, with half the great
people of Europe--began to observe the Duchess's impressions. Amused
curiosity, first. Evidently Daphne represented to her one of the queer,
crude types that modern society is always throwing up on the shores of
life--like strange beasts from deep-sea soundings.

An American heiress, half Spanish--South-American Spanish--with no doubt
a dash of Indian; no manners, as Europe understands them; unlimited
money, and absurd pretensions--so Chloe said--in the matter of art; a
mixture of the pedant and the _parvenue_; where on earth had young
Barnes picked her up! It was in some such way, no doubt--so Lelius
guessed--that the Duchess's thoughts were running.

Meanwhile Mrs. Barnes was treated with all possible civility. The
Duchess inquired into the plans for rebuilding Heston; talked of her own
recollections of the place, and its owners; hoped that Mrs. Barnes was
pleased with the neighbourhood; and finally asked the stock question,
"And how do you like England?"

Daphne looked at her coolly. "Moderately!" she said, with a smile, the
colour rising in her cheek as she became aware, without looking at them,
that Roger and Mrs. Fairmile had adjourned to the farther end of the
large room, leaving her to the Duchess and Lelius.

The small eyes above the Duchess's prominent nose sparkled. "Only
moderately?" The speaker's tone expressed that she had been for once
taken by surprise. "I'm extremely sorry we don't please you, Mrs.
Barnes."

"You see, my expectations were so high."

"Is it the country, or the climate, or the people, that won't do?"
inquired the Duchess, amused.

"I suppose it would be civil to say the climate," replied Daphne,
laughing.

Whereupon the Duchess saw that her visitor had made up her mind not to
be overawed. The great lady summoned Dr. Lelius to her aid, and she, the
German, and Daphne, kept up a sparring conversation, in which Mrs.
Barnes, driven on by a secret wrath, showed herself rather noisier than
Englishwomen generally are. She was a little impertinent, the Duchess
thought, decidedly aggressive, and not witty enough to carry it off.

Meanwhile, Daphne had instantly perceived that Mrs. Fairmile and Roger
had disappeared into the conservatory; and though she talked incessantly
through their absence, she felt each minute of it. When they came back
for tea, she imagined that Roger looked embarrassed, while Mrs. Fairmile
was all gaiety, chatting to her companion, her face raised to his, in
the manner of one joyously renewing an old intimacy. As they slowly
advanced up the long room, Daphne felt it almost intolerable to watch
them, and her pulses began to race. _Why_ had she never been told of
this thing? That was what rankled; and the Southern wildness in her
blood sent visions of the past and terrors of the future hurrying
through her brain, even while she went on talking fast and recklessly to
the Duchess.

       *       *       *       *       *

At tea-time conversation turned on the various beautiful things which
the room contained--its Nattiers, its Gobelins, its two _dessus de
portes_ by Boucher, and its two cabinets, of which one had belonged to
Beaumarchais and the other to the _Appartement du Dauphin_ at
Versailles.

Daphne restrained herself for a time, asked questions, and affected no
special knowledge. Then, at a pause, she lifted a careless hand,
inquiring whether "the Fragonard sketch" opposite were not the pendant
of one--she named it--at Berlin.

"Ah-h-h!" said Mrs. Fairmile, with a smiling shake of the head, "how
clever of you! But that's not a Fragonard. I wish it were. It's an
unknown. Dr. Lelius has given him a name."

And she and Lelius fell into a discussion of the drawing, that soon left
Daphne behind. Native taste of the finest, mingled with the training of
a lifetime, the intimate knowledge of collections of one who had lived
among them from her childhood--these things had long since given Chloe
Fairmile a kind of European reputation. Daphne stumbled after her,
consumed with angry envy, the _précieuse_ in her resenting the easy
mastery of Mrs. Fairmile, and the wife in her offended by the strange
beauty, the soft audacities of a woman who had once, it seemed, held
Roger captive, and would, of course, like to hold him captive again.

She burned in some way to assert herself, the imperious will chafing at
the slender barrier of self-control. And some malicious god did, in
fact, send an opportunity.

After tea, when Roger, in spite of efforts to confine himself to the
Duchess, had been once more drawn into the orbit of Mrs. Fairmile, as
she sat fingering a cigarette between the two men, and gossiping of
people and politics, the butler entered, and whispered a message to the
Duchess.

The mistress of the house laughed. "Chloe! who do you think has called?
Old Marcus, of South Audley Street. He's been at Brendon House--buying
up their Romneys, I should think. And as he was passing here, he wished
to show me something. Shall we have him in?"

"By all means! The last time he was here he offered you four thousand
pounds for the blue Nattier," said Chloe, with a smile, pointing to the
picture.

The Duchess gave orders; and an elderly man, with long black hair,
swarthy complexion, fine eyes, and a peaked forehead, was admitted, and
greeted by her, Mrs. Fairmile, and Dr. Lelius as an old acquaintance. He
sat down beside them, was given tea, and presented to Mr. and Mrs.
Barnes. Daphne, who knew the famous dealer by sight and reputation
perfectly well, was piqued that he did not recognize her. Yet she well
remembered having given him an important commission not more than a year
before her marriage.

As soon as a cup of tea had been dispatched, Marcus came to the
business. He drew a small leather case out of the bag he had brought
into the room with him; and the case, being opened, disclosed a small
but marvellous piece of Sèvres.

"There!" he said, pointing triumphantly to a piece on the Duchess's
chimney-piece. "Your Grace asked me--oh! ten years ago--and again last
year--to find you the pair of that. Now--you have it!"

He put the two together, and the effect was great. The Duchess looked at
it with greed--the greed of the connoisseur. But she shook her head.

"Marcus, I have no money."

"Oh!" He protested, smiling and shrugging his shoulders.

"And I know you want a brigand's price for it."

"Oh, nothing--nothing at all."

The Duchess took it up, and regretfully turned it round and round.

"A thousand, Marcus?" she said, looking up.

He laughed, and would not reply.

"That means more, Marcus: how do you imagine that an old woman like me,
with only just enough for bread and butter, can waste her money on
Sèvres?" He grinned. She put it down resolutely. "No! I've got a
consumptive nephew with a consumptive family. He ought to have been hung
for marrying, but I've got to send them all to Davos this winter. No, I
can't, Marcus; I can't--I'm too poor." But her eyes caressed the shining
thing.

Daphne bent forward. "If the Duchess has _really_ made up her mind, Mr.
Marcus, I will take it. It would just suit me!"

Marcus started on his chair. "_Pardon, Madame!_" he said, turning
hastily to look at the slender lady in white, of whom he had as yet
taken no notice.

"We have the motor. We can take it with us," said Daphne, stretching out
her hand for it triumphantly.

"Madame," said Marcus, in some agitation, "I have not the honour. The
price----"

"The price doesn't matter," said Daphne, smiling. "You know me quite
well, Mr. Marcus. Do you remember selling a Louis Seize cabinet to Miss
Floyd?"

"Ah!" The dealer was on his feet in a moment, saluting, excusing
himself. Daphne heard him with graciousness. She was now the centre of
the situation: she had asserted herself, and her money. Marcus outdid
himself in homage. Lelius in the background looked on, a sarcastic smile
hidden by his fair moustache. Mrs. Fairmile, too, smiled; Roger had
grown rather hot; and the Duchess was frankly annoyed.

"I surrender it to _force majeure_," she said, as Daphne took it from
her. "Why are we not all Americans?"

And then, leaning back in her chair, she would talk no more. The
pleasure of the visit, so far as it had ever existed, was at an end.

       *       *       *       *       *

But before the Barnes motor departed homewards, Mrs. Fairmile had again
found means to carry Roger Barnes out of sight and hearing into the
garden. Roger had not been able to avoid it; and Daphne, hugging the
leather case, had, all the same, to look on.

When they were once more alone together, speeding through the bright
sunset air, each found the other on edge.

"You were rather rough on the Duchess, Daphne!" Roger protested. "It
wasn't quite nice, was it, outbidding her like that in her own house?"

Daphne flared up at once, declaring that she wanted no lessons in
deportment from him or anyone else, and then demanding fiercely what was
the meaning of his two disappearances with Mrs. Fairmile. Whereupon
Roger lost his temper still more decidedly, refusing to give any account
of himself, and the drive passed in a continuous quarrel, which only
just stopped short, on Daphne's side, of those outrageous and insulting
things which were burning at the back of her tongue, while she could not
as yet bring herself to say them.

An unsatisfactory peace was patched up during the evening. But in the
dead of night Daphne sat up in bed, looking at the face and head of her
husband beside her on the pillow. He lay peacefully sleeping, the noble
outline of brow and features still nobler in the dim light which effaced
all the weaker, emptier touches. Daphne felt rising within her that
mingled passion of the jealous woman, which is half love, half hate, of
which she had felt the first stirrings in her early jealousy of Elsie
Maddison. It was the clutch of something racial and inherited--a
something which the Northerner hardly knows. She had felt it before on
one or two occasions, but not with this intensity. The grace of Chloe
Fairmile haunted her memory, and the perfection, the corrupt perfection
of her appeal to men, men like Roger.

[Illustration: "In the dead of night Daphne sat up in bed, looking at
the face and head of her husband beside her on the pillow."]

She must wring from him--she must and would--a much fuller history of
his engagement. And of those conversations in the garden, too. It stung
her to recollect that, after all, he had given her no account of them.
She had been sure they had not been ordinary conversations!--Mrs.
Fairmile was not the person to waste her time in chit-chat.

A gust of violence swept through her. She had given Roger
everything--money, ease, amusement. Where would he have been without
her? And his mother, too?--tiresome, obstructive woman! For the first
time that veil of the unspoken, that mist of loving illusion which
preserves all human relations, broke down between Daphne and her
marriage. Her thoughts dwelt, in a vulgar detail, on the money she had
settled upon Roger--on his tendencies to extravagance--his
happy-go-lucky self-confident ways. He would have been a pauper but for
her; but now that he had her money safe, without a word to her of his
previous engagement, he and Mrs. Fairmile might do as they pleased. The
heat and corrosion of this idea spread through her being, and the will
made no fight against it.



CHAPTER VII


"You're off to the meet?"

"I am. Look at the day!"

Chloe Fairmile, who was standing in her riding-habit at the window of
the Duchess's morning-room, turned to greet her hostess.

A mild November sun shone on the garden and the woods, and Chloe's
face--the more exquisite as a rule for its slight, strange
withering--had caught a freshness from the morning.

The Duchess was embraced, and bore it; she herself never kissed anybody.

"You always look well, my dear, in a habit, and you know it. Tell me
what I shall do with this invitation."

"From Lady Warton? May I look?"

Chloe took a much blotted and crossed letter from the Duchess's hand.

"What were her governesses about?" said the Duchess, pointing to it.
"_Really_--the education of our class! Read it!"

     ... "Can I persuade you to come--and bring Mrs. Fairmile--next
     Tuesday to dinner, to meet Roger Barnes and his wife? I groan at
     the thought, for I think she is quite one of the most disagreeable
     little creatures I ever saw. But Warton says I must--a
     Lord-Lieutenant can't pick and choose!--and people as rich as they
     are have to be considered. I can't imagine why it is she makes
     herself so odious. All the Americans I ever knew I have liked
     particularly. It is, of course, annoying that they have so much
     money--but Warton says it isn't their fault--it's Protection, or
     something of the kind. But Mrs. Barnes seems really to wish to
     trample on us. She told Warton the other day that his
     tapestries--you know, those we're so proud of--that they were bad
     Flemish copies of something or other--a set belonging to a horrid
     friend of hers, I think. Warton was furious. And she's made the
     people at Brendon love her for ever by insisting that they have now
     ruined all their pictures without exception, by the way they've had
     them restored--et cetera, et cetera. She really makes us feel her
     millions--and her brains--too much. We're paupers, but we're not
     worms. Then there's the Archdeacon--why should she fall foul of
     him? He tells Warton that her principles are really shocking. She
     told him she saw no reason why people should stick to their
     husbands or wives longer than it pleased them--and that in America
     nobody did! He doesn't wish Mrs. Mountford to see much of
     her;--though, really, my dear, I don't think Mrs. M. is likely to
     give him trouble--do you? And I hear, of course, that she thinks us
     all dull and stuck-up, and as ignorant as savages. It's so odd she
     shouldn't even want to be liked!--a young woman in a strange
     neighbourhood. But she evidently doesn't, a bit. Warton declares
     she's already tired of Roger--and she's certainly not nice to him.
     What can be the matter? Anyway, dear Duchess, _do_ come, and help
     us through."

"What, indeed, can be the matter?" repeated Chloe lightly, as she handed
back the letter.

"Angela Warton never knows anything. But there's not much need for _you_
to ask, my dear," said the Duchess quietly.

Mrs. Fairmile turned an astonished face.

"Me?"

The Duchess, more bulky, shapeless and swathed than usual, subsided on a
chair, and just raised her small but sharp eyes on Mrs. Fairmile.

"What can you mean?" said Chloe, after a moment, in her gayest voice. "I
can't imagine. And I don't think I'll try."

She stooped and kissed the untidy lady in the chair. The Duchess bore it
again, but the lines of her mouth, with the strong droop at the corners,
became a trifle grim. Chloe looked at her, smiled, shook her head. The
Duchess shook hers, and then they both began to talk of an engagement
announced that morning in the _Times_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Fairmile was soon riding alone, without a groom--she was an
excellent horse-woman, and she never gave any unnecessary trouble to her
friends' servants--through country lanes chequered with pale sun. As for
the Duchess's attack upon her, Chloe smarted. The Duchess had clearly
pulled her up, and Chloe was not a person who took it well.

If Roger's American wife was by now wildly jealous of his old _fiancée_,
whose fault was it? Had not Mrs. Barnes herself thrown them perpetually
together? Dinners at Upcott!--invitations to Heston!--a resolute
frequenting of the same festal gatherings with Mrs. Fairmile. None of it
with Roger's goodwill, or his mother's,--Chloe admitted it. It had been
the wife's doing--all of it. There had been even--rare occurrences--two
or three balls in the neighbourhood. Roger hated dancing, but Daphne had
made him go to them all. Merely that she might display her eyes, her
diamonds, and her gowns? Not at all. The real psychology of it was
plain. "She wishes to keep us under observation--to give us
opportunities--and then torment her husband. Very well then!--_tu l'as
voulu, Madame!_"

As to the "opportunities," Chloe coolly confessed to herself that she
had made rather a scandalous use of them. The gossip of the
neighbourhood had been no doubt a good deal roused; and Daphne, it
seemed, was discontented. But is it not good for such people to be
discontented? The money and the arrogance of Roger's wife had provoked
Roger's former _fiancée_ from the beginning; the money to envy, and the
arrogance to chastisement. Why not? What is society but a discipline?

As for Roger, who is it says there is a little polygamy in all men?
Anyway, a man can always--nearly always--keep a corner for the old love,
if the new love will let him. Roger could, at any rate; "though he is a
model husband, far better than she deserves, and anybody not a fool
could manage him."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a day of physical delight, especially for riders. After a warm
October, the leaves were still thick on the trees; Nature had not yet
resigned herself to death and sleep. Here and there an oak stood, fully
green, among the tawny reds and golds of a flaming woodland. The gorse
was yellow on the commons; and in the damp woody ways through which
Chloe passed, a few primroses--frail, unseasonable blooms--pushed their
pale heads through the moss. The scent of the beech-leaves under foot;
the buffeting of a westerly wind; the pleasant yielding of her light
frame to the movement of the horse; the glimpses of plain that every
here and there showed themselves through the trees that girdled the high
ground or edge along which she rode; the white steam-wreath of a train
passing, far away, through strata of blue or pearly mist; an old
windmill black in the middle distance; villages, sheltering among their
hedges and uplands: a sky, of shadow below widely brooding over earth,
and of a radiant blue flecked with white cloud above:--all the English
familiar scene, awoke in Chloe Fairmile a familiar sensuous joy. Life
was so good--every minute, every ounce of it!--from the Duchess's _chef_
to these ethereal splendours of autumn--from the warm bath, the
luxurious bed, and breakfast, she had but lately enjoyed, to these
artistic memories that ran through her brain, as she glanced from side
to side, reminded now of Turner, now of DeWint, revelling in the
complexity of her own being. Her conscience gave her no trouble; it had
never been more friendly. Her husband and she had come to an
understanding; they were in truth more than quits. There was to be no
divorce--and no scandal. She would be very prudent. A man's face rose
before her that was not the face of her husband, and she
smiled--indulgently. Yes, life would be interesting when she returned to
town. She had taken a house in Chester Square from the New Year; and Tom
was going to Teheran. Meanwhile, she was passing the time.

A thought suddenly occurred to her. Yes, it was quite possible--probable
even--that she might find Roger at the meet! The place appointed was a
long way from Heston, but in the old days he had often sent on a fresh
horse by train to a local station. They had had many a run together over
the fields now coming into sight. Though certainly if he imagined there
were the very smallest chance of finding her there, he would give this
particular meet a wide berth.

Chloe laughed aloud. His resistance--and his weakness--were both so
amusing. She thought of the skill--the peremptory smiling skill--with
which she had beguiled him into the garden, on the day when the young
couple paid their first call at Upcott. First, the low-spoken words at
the back of the drawing-room, while Mrs. Barnes and the Duchess were
skirmishing--

"I _must_ speak to you. Something that concerns another
person--something urgent."

Whereupon, unwilling and rather stern compliance on the man's part--the
handsome face darkened with most unnecessary frowns. And in the garden,
the short colloquy between them--"Of course, I see--you haven't forgiven
me! Never mind! I am doing this for someone else--it's a duty." Then
abruptly--"You still have three of my letters."

Amusing again--his shock of surprise, his blundering denials! He always
was the most unmethodical and unbusiness-like of mortals--poor Roger!
She heard her own voice in reply. "Oh yes, you have. I don't make
mistakes about such things. Do you remember the letter in which I told
you about that affair of Theresa Weightman?"

A stare--an astonished admission. Precisely!

"Well, she's in great trouble. Her husband threatens absurdities. She
has always confided in me--she trusts me, and I can't have that letter
wandering about the world."

"I certainly sent it back!"

"No--you never sent it back. You have three of mine. And you know how
careless you are--how you leave things about. I was always on
tenterhooks. Look again, _please_! You must have some idea where they
might be."

Perplexity--annoyance!

"When we sold the London house, all papers and documents were sent down
here. We reserved a room--which was locked up."

"_A la bonne heure!_ Of course--there they are."

But all the same--great unwillingness to search. It was most unlikely he
would be able to find anything--most unlikely there was anything to
find. He was sure he had sent back everything. And then a look in the
fine hazel eyes--like a horse putting back its ears.

All of no avail--against the laughing persistence which insisted on the
letters. "But I must have them--I really must! It is a horrid tragedy,
and I told you everything--things I had no business to tell you at all."

On which, at last, a grudging consent to look, followed by a marked
determination to go back to the drawing-room....

But it was the second _tête-à-tête_ that was really adroit! After
tea--just a touch on the arm--while the Duchess was showing the Nattiers
to Mrs. Barnes, and Lelius was holding the lamp. "One moment more!--in
the conservatory. I have a few things to add." And in that second little
interview--about nothing, in truth--a mere piece of audacity--the lion's
claws had been a good deal pared. He had been made to look at her, first
and foremost; to realize that she was not afraid of him--not one
bit!--and that he would have to treat her decently. Poor Roger! In a few
years the girl he had married would be a plain and prickly little
pedant--ill-bred besides--and he knew it.

As to more recent adventures. If people meet in society, they must be
civil; and if old friends meet at a dance, there is an institution known
as "sitting out"; and "sitting out" is nothing if not conversational;
and conversation--between old friends and cousins--is beguiling, and may
be lengthy.

The ball at Brendon House--Chloe still felt the triumph of it in her
veins--still saw the softening in Roger's handsome face, the look of
lazy pleasure, and the disapproval--or was it the envy?--in the eyes of
certain county magnates looking on. Since then, no communication between
Heston and Upcott.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Fairmile was now a couple of miles from the meet. She had struck
into a great belt of plantations bounding one side of the ducal estate.
Through it ran a famous green ride, crossed near its beginning by a main
road. On her right, beyond the thick screen of trees, was the railway,
and she could hear the occasional rush of a train.

When she reached the cross road, which led from a station, a labourer
opened the plantation gates for her. As he unlatched the second, she
perceived a man's figure in front of her.

"Roger!"

A touch of the whip--her horse sprang forward. The man in front looked
back startled; but she was already beside him.

"You keep up the old habit, like me? What a lovely day!"

Roger Barnes, after a flush of amazement and surprise, greeted her
coldly: "It is a long way for you to come," he said formally. "Twelve
miles, isn't it? You're not going to hunt?"

"Oh, no! I only came to look at the hounds and the horses--to remind
myself of all the good old times. You don't want to remember them, I
know. Life's gone on for you!"

Roger bent forward to pat the neck of his horse. "It goes on for all of
us," he said gruffly.

"Ah, well!" She sighed. He looked up and their eyes met. The wind had
slightly reddened her pale skin: her expression was one of great
animation, yet of great softness. The grace of the long, slender body in
the close-fitting habit; of the beautiful head and loosened hair under
the small, low-crowned beaver hat; the slender hand upon the reins--all
these various impressions rushed upon Barnes at once, bringing with them
the fascination of a past happiness, provoking, by contrast, the memory
of a harassing and irritating present.

"Is Heston getting on?" asked Mrs. Fairmile, smiling.

He frowned involuntarily.

"Oh, I suppose we shall be straight some day;" the tone, however, belied
the words. "When once the British workman gets in, it's the deuce to get
him out."

"The old house had such a charm!" said Chloe softly.

Roger made no reply. He rode stiffly beside her, looking straight before
him. Chloe, observing him without appearing to do anything of the kind,
asked herself whether the Apollo radiance of him were not already
somewhat quenched and shorn. A slight thickening of feature--a slight
coarsening of form--she thought she perceived them. Poor Roger!--had he
been living too well and idling too flagrantly on these American
dollars?

Suddenly she bent over and laid a gloved hand on his arm.

"Hadn't it?" she said, in a low voice.

He started. But he neither looked at her nor shook her off.

"What--the house?" was the ungracious reply. "I'm sure I don't know; I
never thought about it--whether it was pretty or ugly, I mean. It suited
us, and it amused mother to fiddle about with it."

Mrs. Fairmile withdrew her hand.

"Of course a great deal of it was ugly," she said composedly. "Dear Lady
Barnes really didn't know. But then we led such a jolly life in it--_we_
made it!"

She looked at him brightly, only to see in him an angry flash of
expression. He turned and faced her.

"I'm glad you think it was jolly. My remembrances are not quite so
pleasant."

She laughed a little--not flinching at all--her face rosy to his
challenge.

"Oh, yes, they are--or should be. What's the use of blackening the past
because it couldn't be the present. My dear Roger, if I hadn't--well,
let's talk plainly!--if I hadn't thrown you over, where would you be
now? We should be living in West Kensington, and I should be taking
boarders--or--no!--a country-house, perhaps, with paying guests. You
would be teaching the cockney idea how to shoot, at half a guinea a day,
and I should be buying my clothes second-hand through the _Exchange and
Mart_. Whereas--whereas----"

She bent forward again.

"You are a very rich man--you have a charming wife--a dear little
girl--you can get into Parliament--travel, speculate, race, anything you
please. And I did it all!"

"I don't agree with you," he said drily. She laughed again.

"Well, we can't argue it--can we? I only wanted to point out to you the
plain, bare truth, that there is nothing in the world to prevent our
being excellent friends again--_now_. But first--and once more--_my
letters!_"

Her tone was a little peremptory, and Roger's face clouded.

"I found two of them last night, by the merest chance--in an old
dispatch-box I took to America. They were posted to you on the way
here."

"Good! But there were three."

"I know--so you said. I could only find two."

"Was the particular letter I mentioned one of them?"

He answered unwillingly.

"No. I searched everywhere. I don't believe I have it."

She shook her head with decision.

"You certainly have it. Please look again."

He broke out with some irritation, insisting that if it had not been
returned it had been either lost or destroyed. It could matter to no
one.

Some snaring, entangling instinct--an instinct of the hunter--made her
persist. She must have it. It was a point of honour. "Poor Theresa is so
unhappy, so pursued! You saw that odious paragraph last week? I can't
run the risk!"

With a groan of annoyance, he promised at last that he would look again.
Then the sparkling eyes changed, the voice softened.

She praised--she rewarded him. By smooth transitions she slipped into
ordinary talk; of his candidature for the County Council--the points of
the great horse he rode--the gossip of the neighbourhood--the charms of
Beatty.

And on this last topic he, too, suddenly found his tongue. The cloud--of
awkwardness, or of something else not to be analyzed--broke away, and he
began to talk, and presently to ask questions, with readiness, even with
eagerness.

Was it right to be so very strict with children?--babies under three?
Wasn't it ridiculous to expect them not to be naughty or greedy? Why,
every child wanted as much sweetstuff as it could tuck in! Quite right
too--doctors said it was good for them. But Miss Farmer----

"Who is Miss Farmer?" inquired Mrs. Fairmile. She was riding close
beside him--an embodied friendliness--a soft and womanly Chloe, very
different from the old.

"She's the nurse; my mother found her. She's a lady--by way of--she
doesn't do any rough work--and I dare say she's the newest thing out.
But she's too tight a hand for my taste. I say!--what do you think of
this! She wouldn't let Beattie come down to the drawing-room yesterday,
because she cried for a sweet! Wasn't that _devilish_!" He brought his
hand down fiercely on his thigh.

"A Gorgon!" said Mrs. Fairmile, raising her eyebrows. "Any other
qualifications? French? German?"

"Not a word. Not she! Her people live somewhere near here, I believe."
Roger looked vaguely round him. "Her father managed a brick-field on
this estate--some parson or other recommended her to mother."

"And you don't like her?"

"Well, no--I don't! She's not the kind of woman _I_ want." He blurted it
out, adding hurriedly, "But my wife thinks a lot of her."

Chloe dismissed the topic of the nurse, but still let him run on about
the child. Amazing!--this development of paternity in the careless,
handsome youth of three years before. She was amused and bored by it.
But her permission of it had thawed him--that she saw.

Presently, from the child she led him on to common acquaintance--old
friends--and talk flowed fast. She made him laugh; and the furrows in
the young brow disappeared. Now as always they understood each other at
a word; there was between them the freemasonry of persons sprung from
the same world and the same tradition; his daily talk with Daphne had
never this easy, slipping pleasure. Meanwhile the horses sauntered on,
unconsciously held back; and the magical autumn wood, its lights and
lines and odours, played upon their senses.

At last Roger with a start perceived a gate in front. He looked at his
watch, and she saw him redden.

"We shall be late for the meet."

His eyes avoided hers. He gathered up the reins, evidently conscious.

Smiling, she let him open the gate for her, and then as they passed into
the road, shadowed with over-arching trees, she reined in Whitefoot, and
bending forward, held out her hand. "Good-bye!"

"You're not coming?"

"I think I've had enough. I'll go home. Good-bye."

It was a relief. In both minds had risen the image of their
arrival together--amid the crowd of the meet. As he looked at
her--gratefully--the grace of her movement, the temptation of her eyes,
the rush of old memories suddenly turned his head. He gripped her hand
hard for a minute, staring at her.

The road in front of them was quite empty. But fifty yards behind them
was a small red-brick house buried in trees. As they still paused, hand
in hand, in front of the gate into the wood, which had failed to swing
back and remained half open, the garden door of this house unclosed and
a young woman in a kind of uniform stepped into the road. She perceived
the two riders--stopped in astonishment--observed them unseen, and
walked quickly away in the direction of the station.

Roger reached Heston that night only just in time to dress for dinner.

By this time he was in a wholly different mood; angry with himself, and
full of rueful thought about his wife. Daphne and he had been getting on
anything but well for some time past. He knew that he had several times
behaved badly; why, indeed, that very afternoon, had he held Chloe
Fairmile's hand in the public road, like an idiot? Suppose anyone had
passed? It was only Daphne's tempers and the discomfort at home that
made an hour with Chloe so pleasant--and brought the old recollections
back. He vowed he never thought of her, except when she was there to
make a fool of him--or plague him about those beastly letters. Whereas
Daphne--Daphne was always in his mind, and this eclipse into which their
daily life had passed. He seemed to be always tripping and stumbling,
like a lame man among loose stones; doing or saying what he did not mean
to do or say, and tongue-tied when he should have spoken. Daphne's
jealousy made him ridiculous; he resented it hotly; yet he knew he was
not altogether blameless.

If only something could be done to make Daphne like Heston and the
neighbours! But he saw plainly enough that in spite of all the effort
and money she was pouring out upon the house, it gave her very little
pleasure in return. Her heart was not in it. And as for the neighbours,
she had scarcely a good word now for any of them. Jolly!--just as he was
going to stand for the County Council, with an idea of Parliament later
on! And as for what _he_ wished--what would be good for _him_--that she
never seemed to think of. And, really, some of the things she said now
and then about money--nobody with the spirit of a mouse could stand
them.

To comfort his worries he went first of all to the nursery, where he
found the nursery-maid in charge, and the child already asleep. Miss
Farmer, it appeared, had been enjoying a "day off," and was not expected
back till late. He knelt down beside the little girl, feeding his eyes
upon her. She lay with her delicate face pressed into the pillow, the
small neck visible under the cloud of hair, one hand, the soft palm
uppermost, on the sheet. He bent down and kissed the hand, glad that the
sharp-faced nurse was not there to see. The touch of the fragrant skin
thrilled him with pride and joy; so did the lovely defencelessness of
the child's sleep. That such a possession should have been given to him,
to guard and cherish! There was in his mind a passionate vow to guard
the little thing--aye, with his life-blood; and then a movement of
laughter at his own heroics. Well!--Daphne might give him sons--but he
did not suppose any other child could ever be quite the same to him as
Beatty. He sat in a contented silence, feeding his eyes upon her, as the
soft breath rose and fell. And as he did so, his temper softened and
warmed toward Beatty's mother.

A little later he found Daphne in her room, already dressed for dinner.
He approached her uneasily.

"How tired you look, Daphne! What have you been doing to yourself?"

Daphne stiffly pointed out that she had been standing over the workmen
all day, there being no one else to stand over them, and of course she
was tired. Her manner would have provoked him but for the visiting of an
inward compunction. Instead of showing annoyance he bent down and kissed
her.

"I'll stay and help to-morrow, if you want me, though you know I'm no
good. I say, how much more are you going to do to the house?"

Daphne looked at him coldly. She had not returned the kiss. "Of course,
I know that you don't appreciate in the least what I am doing!"

Roger thrust his hands into his pockets, and walked up and down
uncomfortably. He thought, in fact, that Daphne was spoiling the dear
nondescript old place, and he knew that the neighbourhood thought so
too. Also he particularly disliked the young architect who was
superintending the works ("a priggish ass," who gave himself abominable
airs--except to Daphne, whom he slavishly obeyed, and to Miss Farmer,
with whom Roger had twice caught him gossipping). But he was determined
not to anger his wife, and he held his tongue.

"I wish, anyway, you wouldn't stick at it so closely," he said
discontentedly. "Let's go abroad somewhere for Christmas--Nice, or Monte
Carlo. I am sure you want a change."

"Well, it isn't exactly an enchanting neighbourhood," said Daphne, with
pinched lips.

"I'm awfully sorry you don't like the people here," said Roger,
perplexed. "I dare say they're all stupids."

"That wouldn't matter--if they behaved decently," said Daphne, flushing.

"I suppose that means--if I behaved decently!" cried Roger, turning upon
her.

Daphne faced him, her head in air, her small foot beating the ground, in
a trick it had.

"Well, I'm not likely to forget the Brendon ball, am I?"

Roger's look changed.

"I meant no harm, and you know I didn't," he said sulkily.

"Oh, no, you only made a laughing-stock of _me_!" Daphne turned on her
heel. Suddenly she felt herself roughly caught in Roger's arms.

"Daphne, what _is_ the matter? Why can't we be happy together?"

"Ask yourself," she said, trying to extricate herself, and not
succeeding. "I don't like the people here, and they don't like me. But
as you seem to enjoy flirting with Mrs. Fairmile, there's one person
satisfied."

Roger laughed--not agreeably. "I shall soon think, Daphne, that
somebody's 'put a spell on you,' as my old nurse used to say. I wish I
knew what I could do to break it."

She lay passive in his arms a moment, and then he felt a shiver run
through her, and saw that she was crying. He held her close to him,
kissing and comforting her, while his own eyes were wet. What her
emotion meant, or his own, he could not have told clearly; but it was a
moment for both of healing, of impulsive return, the one to the other,
unspoken penitence on her side, a hidden self-blame on his. She clung to
him fiercely, courting the pressure of his arms, the warm contact of his
youth; while, in his inner mind, he renounced with energy the temptress
Chloe and all her works, vowing to himself that he would give Daphne no
cause, no pretext even, for jealousy, and would bear it patiently if she
were still unjust and tormenting.

"Where have you been all day?" said Daphne at last, disengaging herself,
and brushing the tears away from her eyes--a little angrily, as though
she were ashamed of them.

"I told you this morning. I had a run with the Stoneshire hounds."

"Whom did you meet there?"

"Oh, various old acquaintances. Nobody amusing." He gave two or three
names, his conscience pricking him. Somehow, at that moment, it seemed
impossible to mention Chloe Fairmile.

       *       *       *       *       *

About eleven o'clock that night, Daphne and Lady Barnes having just gone
upstairs, Roger and a local Colonel of Volunteers who was dining and
spending the night at Heston, were in the smoking-room. Colonel Williams
had come over to discuss Volunteer prospects in the neighbourhood, and
had been delighted to find in the grandson of his old friend, Oliver
Trescoe,--a young fellow whom he and others had too readily regarded as
given over to luxury and soft living--signs of the old public spirit,
the traditional manliness of the family. The two men were talking with
great cordiality, when the sound of a dogcart driving up to the front
door disturbed them.

"Who on earth?--at this time of night?" said Roger.

The butler, entering with fresh cigarettes, explained that Miss Farmer
had only just returned, having missed an earlier train.

"Well, I hope to goodness she won't go and disturb Miss Beatty,"
grumbled Roger; and and then, half to himself, half to his companion, as
the butler departed--"I don't believe she missed her train; she's one of
the cool sort--does jolly well what she likes! I say, Colonel, do you
like 'lady helps'? I don't!"

Half an hour later, Roger, having said good-night to his guest ten
minutes before, was mounting the stairs on his own way to bed, when he
heard in the distance the sound of a closing door and the rustle of a
woman's dress.

Nurse Farmer, he supposed, who had been gossiping with Daphne. His face,
as the candle shone upon it, expressed annoyance. Vaguely, he resented
the kind of intimacy which had grown up lately between Daphne and her
child's nurse. She was not the kind of person to make a friend of; she
bullied Beatty; and she must be got rid of.

Yet when he entered his wife's room, everything was dark, and Daphne was
apparently sound asleep. Her face was hidden from him; and he moved on
tiptoe so as not to disturb her. Evidently it was not she who had been
gossiping late. His mother, perhaps, with her maid.



CHAPTER VIII


In the course of that night Roger Barnes's fate was decided, while he
lay, happily sleeping, beside his wife. Daphne, as soon as she heard his
regular breathing, opened the eyes she had only pretended to close, and
lay staring into the shadows of the room, in which a nightlight was
burning. Presently she got up softly, put on a dressing-gown, and went
to the fire, which she noiselessly replenished; drawing up a chair, she
sank back into it, her arms folded. The strengthening firelight showed
her small white face, amid the masses of her dark hair.

Her whole being was seething with passionate and revengeful thought. It
was as though with violent straining and wrenching the familiar links
and bulwarks of life were breaking down, and as if amid the wreck of
them she found herself looking at goblin faces beyond, growing gradually
used to them, ceasing to be startled by them, finding in them even a
wild attraction and invitation.

[Illustration: "Her whole being was seething with passionate and
revengeful thought."]

So Roger had lied to her. Instead of a casual ride, involving a meeting
with a few old acquaintances, as he had represented to her, he had been
engaged that day in an assignation with Mrs. Fairmile, arranged
beforehand, and carefully concealed from his wife. Miss Farmer had seen
them coming out of a wood together hand in hand! In the public road,
this!--not even so much respect for appearances as might have dictated
the most elementary reticence and decency. The case was so clear that it
sickened her; she shivered with cold and nausea as she lay there by the
now glowing fire which yet gave her no physical comfort. Probably in the
past their relation had gone much farther than Roger had ever confessed
to his wife. Mrs. Fairmile was a woman who would stick at nothing. And
if Daphne were not already betrayed, she could no longer protect
herself. The issue was certain. Such women as Chloe Fairmile are not to
be baulked of what they desire. Good women cannot fight them on equal
terms. And as to any attempt to keep the affections of a husband who
could behave in such a way to the wife who had given him her youth,
herself, and all the resources and facilities of life, Daphne's whole
being stiffened into mingled anguish and scorn as she renounced the
contest. Knowing himself the traitor that he was, he could yet hold her,
kiss her, murmur tender things to her, allow her to cry upon his breast,
to stammer repentance and humbleness. Cowardly! False! Treacherous! She
flung out her hands, rigid, before her in the darkness, as though for
ever putting him away.

Anguish? Yes!--but not of such torturing quality as she could have felt
a year, six months even, before this date. She was astonished that she
could bear her life, that he could sit there in the night stillness,
motionless, holding her breath even, while Roger slept there in the
shadowed bed. Had this thing happened to her before their arrival at
Heston, she must have fallen upon Roger in mad grief and passion, ready
to kill him or herself; must at least have poured out torrents of
useless words and tears. She could not have sat dumb like this; in
misery, but quite able to think things out, to envisage all the dark
possibilities of the future. And not only the future. By a perfectly
logical diversion her thoughts presently went racing to the past. There
was, so to speak, a suspension of the immediate crisis, while she
listened to her own mind--while she watched her own years go by.

It was but rarely that Daphne let her mind run on her own origins. But
on this winter night, as she sat motionless by the fire, she became
conscious of a sudden detachment from her most recent self and life--a
sudden violent turning against both--which naturally threw her back on
the past, on some reflection upon what she had made of herself, by way
of guide to what she might still make of herself, if she struck boldly,
now, while there was yet time, for her own freedom and development.

As to her parents, she never confessed, even to herself, that she owed
them anything, except, of course, the mere crude wealth that her father
had left her. Otherwise she was vaguely ashamed of them both. And
yet!--in her most vital qualities, her love of sensational effect, her
scorn of half-measures, her quick, relentless imagination, her
increasing ostentation and extravagance, she was the true child of the
boastful mercurial Irishman who had married her Spanish mother as part
of a trade bargain, on a chance visit to Buenos Ayres. For twenty years
Daniel Floyd had leased and exploited, had ravaged and destroyed, great
tracts of primæval forest in the northern regions of his adopted state,
leaving behind him a ruined earth and an impoverished community, but
building up the while a colossal fortune. He had learnt the arts of
municipal "bossing" in one of the minor towns of Illinois, and had then
migrated to Chicago, where for years he was the life and soul of all the
bolder and more adventurous corruption of the city. A jovial, handsome
fellow!--with an actor's face, a bright eye, and a slippery hand. Daphne
had a vivid, and, on the whole, affectionate, remembrance of her father,
of whom, however, she seldom spoke. The thought of her mother, on the
other hand, was always unwelcome. It brought back recollections of storm
and tempest; of wild laughter, and still wilder tears; of gorgeous
dresses, small feet, and jewelled fingers.

No; her parents had but small place in that dramatic autobiography that
Daphne was now constructing for herself. She was not their daughter in
any but the physical sense; she was the daughter of her own works and
efforts.

She leant forward to the fire, her face propped in her hands, going back
in thought to her father's death, when she was fifteen; to her three
years of cloying convent life, and her escape from it, as well as from
the intriguing relations who would have kept her there; to the clever
lawyer who had helped to put her in possession of her fortune, and the
huge sums she had paid him for his services; to her search for
education, her hungry determination to rise in the world, the friends
she had made at college, in New York, Philadelphia, Washington. She had
been influenced by one _milieu_ after another; she had worked hard, now
at music, now at philosophy; had dabbled in girls' clubs, and gone to
Socialist meetings, and had been all through driven on by the gadfly of
an ever-increasing ambition.

Ambition for what! She looked back on this early life with a bitter
contempt. What had it all come to? Marriage with Roger Barnes!--a hasty
passion of which she was already ashamed, for a man who was already
false to her.

What had made her marry him? She did not mince matters with herself in
her reply. She had married him, influenced by a sudden, gust of physical
inclination--by that glamour, too, under which she had seen him in
Washington, a glamour of youth and novelty. If she had seen him first in
his natural environment she would have been on her guard; she would have
realized what it meant to marry a man who could help her own ideals and
ambitions so little. And what, really, had their married life brought
her? Had she ever been _sure_ of Roger?--had she ever been able to feel
proud of him, in the company of really distinguished men?--had she not
been conscious, again and again, when in London, or Paris, or Berlin,
that he was her inferior, that he spoiled her social and intellectual
chances? And his tone toward women had always been a low one; no great
harm in it, perhaps; but it had often wounded and disgusted her.

And then--for climax!--his concealment of the early love affair with
Chloe Fairmile; his weakness and folly in letting her regain her hold
upon him; his behaviour at the Brendon ball, the gossip which, as Agnes
Farmer declared, was all over the neighbourhood, ending in the last
baseness--the assignation, the lies, the hypocrisy of the afternoon!

Enough!--more than enough! What did she care what the English world
thought of her? She would free and right herself in her own way, and
they might hold up what hands they pleased. A passion of wounded vanity,
of disappointed self-love swept through her. She had looked forward to
the English country life; she had meant to play a great part in it. But
three months had been enough to show her the kind of thing--the hopeless
narrowness and Philistinism of these English back-waters. What did these
small squires and country clergy know of the real world, the world that
mattered to _her_, where people had free minds and progressive ideas?
Her resentment of the _milieu_ in which Roger expected her to live
subtly swelled and strengthened her wrath against himself; it made the
soil from which sprang a sudden growth of angry will--violent and
destructive. There was in her little or none of that affinity with a
traditional, a parent England, which is present in so many Americans,
which emerges in them like buried land from the waters. On the contrary,
the pressure of race and blood in her was not towards, but against; not
friendly, but hostile. The nearer she came to the English life, the more
certain forces in her, deeply infused, rose up and made their protest.
The Celtic and Latin strains that were mingled in her, their natural
sympathies and repulsions, which had been indistinct in the girl,
overlaid by the deposits of the current American world, were becoming
dominant in the woman.

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, thank goodness, modern life is not as the old! There are ways out.

Midnight had just struck. The night was gusty, the north-west wind made
fierce attacks on the square, comfortable house. Daphne rose slowly; she
moved noiselessly across the floor; she stood with her arms behind her
looking down at the sleeping Roger. Then a thought struck her; she
reached out a hand to the new number of an American Quarterly which lay,
with the paper knife in it, on a table beside the bed. She had ordered
it in a mood of jealous annoyance because of a few pages of art
criticism in it by Mrs. Fairmile, which impertinently professed to know
more about the Vitali Signorelli than its present owner did; but she
remembered also an article on "The Future for Women," which had seemed
to her a fine, progressive thing. She turned the pages noiselessly--her
eyes now on the unconscious Roger--now on the book.

     "All forms of contract--in business, education, religion, or
     law--suffer from the weakness and blindness of the persons making
     them--the marriage contract as much as any other. The dictates of
     humanity and common-sense alike show that the latter and most
     important contract should no more be perpetual than any of the
     others."

Again:--

     "Any covenant between human beings that fails to produce or promote
     human happiness, cannot in the nature of things be of any force or
     authority; it is not only a right but a duty to abolish it."

And a little further:--

     "Womanhood is the great fact of woman's life. Wifehood and
     motherhood are but incidental relations."

Daphne put down the book. In the dim light, the tension of her slender
figure, her frowning brow, her locked arms and hands, made of her a
threatening Fate hovering darkly above the man in his deep, defenceless
sleep.

She was miserable, consumed with jealous anger. But the temptation of a
new licence--a lawless law--was in her veins. Have women been trampled
on, insulted, enslaved?--in America, at least, they may now stand on
their feet. No need to cringe any more to the insolence and cruelty of
men. A woman's life may be soiled and broken; but in the great human
workshop of America it can be repaired. She remembered that in the
majority of American divorces it is the woman who applies for relief.
And why not? The average woman, when she marries, knows much less of
life and the world than the average man. She is more likely--poor
soul!--to make mistakes.

She drew closer to the bed. All round her glimmered the furniture and
appointments of a costly room--the silver and tortoise-shell on the
dressing-table, the long mirrors lining the farther wall, the silk
hangings of the bed. Luxury, as light and soft as skill and money could
make it--the room breathed it; and in the midst stood the young creature
who had designed it, the will within her hardening rapidly to an
irrevocable purpose.

Yes, she had made a mistake! But she would retrieve it. She would free
herself. She would no longer put up with Roger, with his neglect and
deceit--his disagreeable and ungrateful mother--his immoral friends--and
this dull, soul-deadening English life.

Roger moved and murmured. She retreated a little, still looking at him
fixedly. Was it the child's name? Perhaps. He dreamed interminably, and
very often of Beatty. But it did not move her. Beatty, of course, was
_her_ child. Every child belongs to the mother in a far profounder sense
than to the father. And he, too, would be free; he would naturally marry
again.

Case after case of divorce ran through her mind as she stood there; the
persons and circumstances all well known to her. Other stories also, not
personally within her ken; the famous scandals of the time, much
discussed throughout American society. Her wits cleared and steeled. She
began to see the course that she must follow.

It would all depend upon the lawyers; and a good deal--she faced
it--upon money. All sorts of technical phrases, vaguely remembered, ran
through her mind. She would have to recover her American
citizenship--she and the child. A domicile of six months in South
Dakota, or in Wyoming--a year in Philadelphia--she began to recall
information derived of old from Madeleine Verrier, who had, of course,
been forced to consider all these things, and to weigh alternatives.
Advice, of course, must be asked of her at once--and sympathy.

Suddenly, on her brooding, there broke a wave of excitement. Life,
instead of being closed, as in a sense it is, for every married woman,
was in a moment open and vague again; the doors flung wide to flaming
heavens. An intoxication of recovered youth and freedom possessed her.
The sleeping Roger represented things intolerable and outworn. Why
should a woman of her gifts, of her opportunities, be chained for life
to this commonplace man, now that her passion was over?--now that she
knew him for what he was, weak, feather-brained, and vicious? She looked
at him with a kind of exaltation, spurning him from her path.

But the immediate future!--the practical steps! What kind of evidence
would she want?--what kind of witnesses? Something more, no doubt, of
both than she had already. She must wait--temporize--do nothing rashly.
If it was for Roger's good as well as her own that they should be free
of each other--and she was fast persuading herself of this--she must,
for both their sakes, manage the hateful operation without bungling.

What was the alternative? She seemed to ask it of Roger, as she stood
looking down upon him. Patience?--with a man who could never sympathize
with her intellectually or artistically?--the relations of married life
with a husband who made assignations with an old love, under the eyes of
the whole neighbourhood?--the narrowing, cramping influences of English
provincial society? No! she was born for other and greater things, and
she would grasp them. "My first duty is to myself--to my own
development. We have absolutely no _right_ to sacrifice ourselves--as
women have been taught to do for thousands of years."

Bewildered by the rhetoric of her own thoughts, Daphne returned to her
seat by the fire, and sat there wildly dreaming, till once more recalled
to practical possibilities by the passage of the hours on the clock
above her.

Miss Farmer? Everything, it seemed, depended on her. But Daphne had no
doubts of her. Poor girl!--with her poverty-stricken home, her drunken
father lately dismissed from his post, and her evident inclination
towards this clever young fellow now employed in the house--Daphne
rejoiced to think of what money could do, in this case at least; of the
reward that should be waiting for the girl's devotion when the moment
came; of the gifts already made, and the gratitude already evoked. No;
she could be trusted; she had every reason to be true.

Some fitful sleep came to her at last in the morning hours. But when
Roger awoke, she was half-way through her dressing; and when he first
saw her, he noticed nothing except that she was paler than usual, and
confessed to a broken night.

       *       *       *       *       *

But as the day wore on it became plain to everybody at Heston--to Roger
first and foremost--that something was much amiss. Daphne would not
leave her sitting-room and her sofa; she complained of headache and
over-fatigue; would have nothing to say to the men at work on the new
decoration of the east wing of the house, who were clamouring for
directions; and would admit nobody but Miss Farmer and her maid. Roger
forced his way in once, only to be vanquished by the traditional weapons
of weakness, pallor, and silence. Her face contracted and quivered as
his step approached her; it was as though he trampled upon her; and he
left her, awkwardly, on tiptoe, feeling himself as intrusively brutal as
she clearly meant him to feel.

What on earth was the matter? Some new grievance against him, he
supposed. After the softening, the quasi-reconciliation of the day
before, his chagrin and disappointment were great. Impossible she should
know anything of his ride with Chloe! There was not a soul in that wood;
and the place was twenty miles from Heston. Again he felt the impulse to
blurt it all out to her; but was simply repelled and intimidated by this
porcupine mood in which she had wrapped herself. Better wait at least
till she was a little more normal again. He went off disconsolately to a
day's shooting.

Meanwhile, his own particular worry was sharp enough. Chloe had taken
advantage of their casual _tête-à-tête_, as she had done before on
several occasions, to claim something of the old relation, instead of
accepting the new, like a decent woman; and in the face of the
temptation offered him he had shown a weakness of which not only his
conscience but his pride was ashamed. He realized perfectly that she had
been trying during the whole autumn to recover her former hold on him,
and he also saw clearly and bitterly that he was not strong enough to
resist her, should he continue to be thrown with her; and not clever
enough to baffle her, if her will were really set on recapturing him. He
was afraid of her, and afraid of himself.

What, then, must he do? As he tramped about the wet fields and
plantations with a keeper and a few beaters after some scattered
pheasants, he was really, poor fellow! arguing out the riddle of his
life. What would Herbert French advise him to do?--supposing he could
put the question plainly to him, which of course was not possible. He
meant honestly and sincerely to keep straight; to do his duty by Daphne
and the child. But he was no plaster saint, and he could not afford to
give Chloe Fairmile too many opportunities. To break at once, to carry
off Daphne and leave Heston, at least for a time--that was the obviously
prudent and reasonable course. But in her present mood it was of no use
for him to propose it, tired as she seemed to be of Heston, and
disappointed in the neighbours: any plan brought forward by him was
doomed beforehand. Well then, let him go himself; he had been so unhappy
during the preceding weeks it would be a jolly relief to turn his back
on Heston for a time.

But as soon as he had taken his departure, Chloe perhaps would take
hers; and if so, Daphne's jealousy would be worse than ever. Whatever
deserts he might place between himself and Mrs. Fairmile, Daphne would
imagine them together.

Meanwhile, there was that Lilliput bond, that small, chafing
entanglement, which Chloe had flung round him in her persistence about
the letters. There was, no doubt, a horrid scandal brewing about Mrs.
Weightman, Chloe's old friend--a friend of his own, too, in former days.
Through Chloe's unpardonable indiscretions he knew a great deal more
about this lady's affairs than he had ever wished to know. And he well
remembered the letter in question: a letter on which the political life
or death of one of England's most famous men might easily turn,
supposing it got out. But the letter was safe enough; not the least
likely to come into dangerous hands, in spite of Chloe's absurd
hypotheses. It was somewhere, no doubt, among the boxes in the locked
room; and who could possibly get hold of it? At the same time he
realized that as long as he had not found and returned it she would
still have a certain claim upon him, a certain right to harass him with
inquiries and confidential interviews, which, as a man of honour, he
could not altogether deny.

A pheasant got up across a ploughed field where in the mild season the
young corn was already green. Roger shot, and missed; the bird floated
gaily down the wind, and the head keeper, in disgust, muttered bad
language to the underling beside him.

But after that Barnes was twice as cheerful as before. He whistled as he
walked; his shooting recovered; and by the time the dark fell, keepers
and beaters were once more his friends.

The fact was that just as he missed the pheasant he had taken his
resolution, and seen his way. He would have another determined hunt for
that letter; he would also find and destroy his own letters to
Chloe--those she had returned to him--which must certainly never fall
into Daphne's hands; and then he would go away to London or the North,
to some place whence he could write both to Chloe Fairmile and to his
wife. Women like Daphne were too quick; they could get out a dozen words
to your one; but give a man time, and he could express himself. And,
therewith, a great tenderness and compunction in this man's heart, and a
steady determination to put things right. For was not Daphne Beatty's
mother? and was he not in truth very fond of her, if only she would let
him be?

Now then for the hunt. As he had never destroyed the letters, they must
exist; but, in the name of mischief, where? He seemed to remember
thrusting his own letters to Chloe into a desk of his schoolboy days
which used to stand in his London sitting-room. Very likely some of hers
might be there too. But the thought of his own had by now become a much
greater anxiety to him than the wish to placate Chloe. For he was most
uncomfortably aware that his correspondence with Chloe during their
short engagement had been of a very different degree of fervour from
that shown in the letters to Daphne under similar circumstances. As for
the indelicacy and folly of leaving such documents to chance, he cursed
it sorely.

How to look? He pondered it. He did not even know which attic it was
that had been reserved at the time of the letting of Heston, and now
held some of the old London furniture and papers. Well, he must manage
it, "burgle" his own house, if necessary. What an absurd situation!
Should he consult his mother? No; better not.

       *       *       *       *       *

That evening General Hobson was expected for a couple of nights. On
going up to dress for dinner, Roger discovered that he had been banished
to a room on the farther side of the house, where his servant was now
putting out his clothes. He turned very white, and went straight to his
wife.

Daphne was on the sofa as before, and received him in silence.

"What's the meaning of this, Daphne?" The tone was quiet, but the
breathing quick.

She looked at him--bracing herself.

"I must be alone! I had no sleep last night."

"You had neuralgia?"

"I don't know--I had no sleep. I must be alone."

His eyes and hers met.

"For to-night, then," he said briefly. "I don't know what's the matter
with you, Daphne and I suppose it's no use to ask you. I thought,
yesterday--but--however, there's no time to talk now. Are you coming
down to dinner?"

"Not to dinner. I will come down for an hour afterwards."

He went away, and before he had reached his own room, and while the heat
of his sudden passion still possessed him, it occurred to him that
Daphne's behaviour might after all prove a godsend. That night he would
make his search, with no risk of disturbing his wife.

       *       *       *       *       *

The dinner in the newly decorated dining-room went heavily. Lady Barnes
had grown of late more and more anxious and depressed. She had long
ceased to assert herself in Daphne's presence, and one saw her as the
British matron in adversity, buffeted by forces she did not understand;
or as some minor despot snuffed out by a stronger.

The General, who had only arrived just in time to dress, inquired in
astonishment for Daphne, and was told by Roger that his wife was not
well, but would come down for a little while after dinner. In presence
of the new splendours of Heston, the General had--in Roger's
company--very little to say. He made the vague remark that the
dining-room was "very fine," but he should not have known it again.
Where was the portrait of Edward, and the full-length of Edward's father
by Sir Francis Grant? Lady Barnes drew herself up, and said nothing.
Roger hastily replied that he believed they were now in the passage
leading to the billiard-room.

"What! that dark corner!" cried the General, looking with both distaste
and hostility at the famous Signorelli--a full-length nude St.
Sebastian, bound and pierced--which had replaced them on the dining-room
wall. Who on earth ever saw such a picture in a dining-room? Roger must
be a fool to allow it!

Afterwards the General and Lady Barnes wandered through the transformed
house, in general agreement as to the ugliness and extravagance of
almost everything that had been done, an agreement that was as balm to
the harassed spirits of the lady.

"What have they spent?" asked the General, under his breath, as they
returned to the drawing-room--"thousands and thousands, I should think!
And there was no need for them to spend a penny. It is a sinful waste,
and no one should waste money in these days--there are too many
unemployed!" He drew up his spare person, with a terrier-like shake of
the head and shoulders, as of one repudiating Mammon and all its works.

"Daphne has simply no idea of the value of money!" Lady Barnes
complained, also under her breath. They were passing along one of the
side corridors of the house, and there was no one in sight. But Roger's
mother was evidently uneasy, as though Daphne might at any moment spring
from the floor, or emerge from the walls. The General was really sorry
for her.

"It's like all the rest of them--Americans, I mean," he declared; "they
haven't our sense of responsibility. I saw plenty of that in the
States."

Lady Barnes acquiesced. She was always soothed by the General's
unfaltering views of British superiority.

They found Daphne in the drawing-room--a ghostly Daphne, in white, and
covered with diamonds. She made a little perfunctory conversation with
them, avoided all mention of the house, and presently, complaining again
of headache, went back to her room after barely an hour downstairs.

The General whistled to himself, as he also retired to bed, after
another and more private conversation with Lady Barnes, and half an
hour's billiards with a very absent-minded host. By Jove, Laura wanted a
change! He rejoiced that he was to escort her on the morrow to the
London house of some cheerful and hospitable relations. Dollars, it
seemed, were not everything, and he wished to heaven that Roger had been
content to marry some plain English girl, with, say, a couple of
thousand a year. Even the frugal General did not see how it could have
been done on less. Roger no doubt had been a lazy, self-indulgent
beggar. Yet he seemed a good deal steadier, and more sensible than he
used to be; in spite of his wife, and the pouring out of dollars. And
there was no doubt that he had grown perceptibly older. The General felt
a vague pang of regret, so rare and so compelling had been the quality
of Roger's early youth, measured at least by physical standards.

       *       *       *       *       *

The house sank into sleep and silence. Roger, before saying good-night
to his mother, had let fall a casual question as to the whereabouts of
the room which still contained the _débris_ of the London house. He
must, he said, look up two or three things, some share certificates of
his father's, for instance, that he had been in want of for some time.
Lady Barnes directed him. At the end of the nursery wing, to the right.
But in the morning one of the housemaids would show him. Had she the
key? She produced it, thought no more of it, and went to bed.

He waited in his room till after midnight, then took off his shoes, his
pride smarting, and emerged. There was one electric light burning in the
hall below. This gave enough glimmer on the broad open landing for him
to grope his way by, and he went noiselessly toward the staircase
leading up to Beatty's rooms. Once, just as he reached it, he thought he
caught the faint noise of low talking somewhere in the house, an
indeterminate sound not to be located. But when he paused to listen, it
had ceased and he supposed it to be only a windy murmur of the night.

He gained the nursery wing. So far, of course, the way was perfectly
familiar. He rarely passed an evening without going to kiss Beatty in
her cot. Outside the door of the night-nursery he waited a moment to
listen. Was she snoozling among her blankets?--the darling! She still
sucked her thumb, sometimes, poor baby, to send her to sleep, and it was
another reason for discontent with Miss Farmer that she would make a
misdemeanour of it. Really, that woman got on his nerves!

Beyond the nursery he had no knowledge whatever of his own house. The
attics at Heston were large and rambling. He believed the servants were
all in the other wing, but was not sure; he could only hope that he
might not stumble on some handmaiden's room by mistake!

A door to the right, at the end of the passage. He tried the key. Thank
goodness! It turned without too much noise, and he found himself on the
threshold of a big lumber-room, his candle throwing lines of dusty light
across it. He closed the door, set down the light, and looked round him
in despair. The room was crowded with furniture, trunks, and boxes, in
considerable confusion. It looked as though the men employed to move
them had piled them there as they pleased; and Roger shrewdly suspected
that his mother, from whom, in spite of her square and business-like
appearance, his own indolence was inherited, had shrunk till now from
the task of disturbing them.

He began to rummage a little. Papers belonging to his father--an endless
series of them; some in tin boxes marked with the names of various
companies, mining and other; some in leather cases, reminiscent of
politics, and labelled "Parliamentary" or "Local Government Board."
Trunks containing Court suits, yeomanry uniforms, and the like; a medley
of old account books, photographs, worthless volumes, and broken
ornaments: all the refuse that our too complex life piles about us was
represented in the chaos of the room. Roger pulled and pushed as
cautiously as he could, but making, inevitably, some noise in the
process. At last! He caught sight of some belongings of his own and was
soon joyfully detaching the old Eton desk, of which he was in search,
from a pile of miscellaneous rubbish. In doing so, to his dismay, he
upset a couple of old cardboard boxes filled with letters, and they fell
with some clatter. He looked round instinctively at the door; but it was
shut, and the house was well built, the walls and ceilings reasonably
sound-proof. The desk was only latched--beastly carelessness, of
course!--and inside it were three thick piles of letters, and a few
loose ones below. His own letters to Chloe; and--by George!--the lost
one!--among the others. He opened it eagerly, ran it through. Yes, the
very thing! What luck! He laid it carefully aside a moment on a trunk
near by, and sat with the other letters on his lap.

His fingers played with them. He almost determined to take them down
unopened, and burn them, as they were, in his own room; but in the end
he could not resist the temptation to look at them once more. He pulled
off an india-rubber band from the latest packet, and was soon deep in
them, at first half ashamed, half contemptuous. Calf love, of course!
And he had been a precious fool to write such things. Then, presently,
the headlong passion of them began to affect him, to set his pulses
swinging. He fell to wondering at his own bygone facility, his own
powers of expression. How did he ever write such a style! He, who could
hardly get through a note now without blots and labour. Self-pity grew
upon him, and self-admiration. By heaven! How could a woman treat a
man--a man who could write to her like this--as Chloe had treated him!

The old smart revived; or rather, the old indelible impressions of it
left on nerve and brain.

The letters lay on his knee. He sat brooding: his hands upon the
packets, his head bowed. One might have thought him a man overcome and
dissolved by the enervating memories of passion; but in truth, he was
gradually and steadily reacting against them; resuming, and this time
finally, as far as Chloe Fairmile was concerned, a man's mastery of
himself. He thought of her unkindness and cruelty--of the misery he had
suffered--and now of the reckless caprice with which, during the
preceding weeks, she had tried to entangle him afresh, with no respect
for his married life, for his own or Daphne's peace of mind.

He judged her, and therewith, himself. Looking back upon the four years
since Chloe Fairmile had thrown him over, it seemed to him that, in some
ways, he had made a good job of his life, and, in others, a bad one. As
to the money, that was neither here nor there. It had been amusing to
have so much of it; though of late Daphne's constant reminders that the
fortune was hers and not his, had been like grit in the mouth. But he
did not find that boundless wealth had made as much difference to him as
he had expected. On the other hand, he had been much happier with Daphne
than he had thought he should be, up to the time of their coming to
Heston. She wasn't easy to live with, and she had been often, before
now, ridiculously jealous; but you could not, apparently, live with a
woman without getting very fond of her--he couldn't--especially if she
had given you a child; and if Daphne had turned against him now, for a
bit--well, he could not swear to himself that he had been free from
blame; and it perhaps served him right for having gone out deliberately
to the States to marry money--with a wife thrown in--in that shabby sort
of way.

But, now, to straighten out this coil; to shake himself finally free of
Chloe, and make Daphne happy again! He vowed to himself that he could
and would make her happy--just as she had been in their early days
together. The memory of her lying white and exhausted after child-birth,
with the little dark head beside her, came across him, and melted him;
he thought of her with longing and tenderness.

With a deep breath he raised himself on his seat; in the old Greek
phrase, "the gods breathed courage into his soul"; and as he stretched
out an indifferent hand toward Chloe's letters on the trunk, Roger
Barnes had perhaps reached the highest point of his moral history; he
had become conscious of himself as a moral being choosing good or evil;
and he had chosen good. It was not so much that his conscience accused
him greatly with regard to Chloe. For that his normal standards were not
fine enough. It was rather a kind of "serious call," something akin to
conversion, or that might have been conversion, which befell him in this
dusty room, amid the night-silence.

As he took up Chloe's letters he did not notice that the door had
quietly opened behind him, and that a figure stood on the threshold.

A voice struck into the stillness.

"Roger!"

He turned with a movement that scattered all his own letters on the
floor. Daphne stood before him--but with the eyes of a mad woman. Her
hand shook on the handle of the door.

"What are you doing here?" She flung out the question like a blow.

"Hallo, Daphne!--is that you?" He tried to laugh. "I'm only looking up
some old papers; no joke, in all this rubbish." He pointed to it.

"What old papers?"

"Well, you needn't catechize me!" he said, nettled by her tone, "or not
in that way, at any rate. I couldn't sleep, and I came up here to look
for something I wanted. Why did you shut your door on me?"

He looked at her intently, his lips twitching a little. Daphne came
nearer.

"It must be something you want very badly--something you don't want
other people to see--something you're ashamed of!--or you wouldn't be
searching for it at this time of night." She raised her eyes, still with
the same strange yet flaming quiet, from the littered floor to his face.
Then suddenly glancing again at the scattered papers--"That's your
hand-writing!--they're your letters! letters to Mrs. Fairmile!"

"Well, and what do you make of that?" cried Roger, half wroth, half
inclined to laugh. "If you want to know, they are the letters I wrote to
Chloe Fairmile; and I, like a careless beast, never destroyed them, and
they were stuffed away here. I have long meant to get at them and burn
them, and as you turned me out to-night----"

"What is that letter in your hand?" exclaimed Daphne, interrupting him.

"Oh, that has nothing to do with you--or me----" he said, hastily making
a movement to put it in his coat pocket. But in a second, Daphne, with a
cry, had thrown herself upon him, to his intense amazement, wrestling
with him, in a wild excitement. And as she did so, a thin woman, with
frightened eyes, in a nurse's dress, came quickly into the room, as
though Daphne's cry had signalled to her. She was behind Roger, and he
was not aware of her approach.

"Daphne, don't be such a little fool!" he said indignantly, holding her
off with one hand, determined not to give her the letter.

Then, all in a moment--without, as it seemed to him, any but the mildest
defensive action on his part--Daphne stumbled and fell.

"Daphne!--I say!----"

He was stooping over her in great distress to lift her up, when he felt
himself vehemently put aside by a woman's hand.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself, sir! Let me go to her."

He turned in bewilderment. "Miss Farmer! What on earth are you doing
here?"

But in his astonishment he had given way to her, and he fell back pale
and frowning, while, without replying, she lifted Daphne--who had a cut
on her forehead and was half fainting--from the ground.

"Don't come near her, sir!" said the nurse, again warding him off. "You
have done quite enough. Let me attend to her."

"You imagine that was my doing?" said Roger grimly. "Let me assure you
it was nothing of the kind. And pray, were you listening at the door?"

Miss Farmer vouchsafed no reply. She was half leading, half supporting
Daphne, who leant against her. As they neared the door, Roger, who had
been standing dumb again, started forward.

"Let me take her," he said sternly. "Daphne!--send this woman away."

But Daphne only shuddered, and putting out a shaking hand, she waved him
from her.

"You see in what a state she is!" cried Miss Farmer, with a withering
look. "If you must speak to her, put it off, sir, at least till
to-morrow."

Roger drew back. A strange sense of inexplicable disaster rushed upon
him. He sombrely watched them pass through the door and disappear.

       *       *       *       *       *

Daphne reached her own room. As the door closed upon them she turned to
her companion, holding out the handkerchief stained with blood she had
been pressing to her temple.

"You saw it all?" she said imperiously--"the whole thing?"

"All," said Miss Farmer. "It's a mercy you're not more hurt."

Daphne gave a hysterical laugh.

"It'll just do--I think it'll do! But you'll have to make a good deal
out of it."

And sinking down by the fire, she burst into a passion of wild tears.

The nurse brought her sal volatile, and washed the small cut above her
eyebrow.

"It was lucky we heard him," she said triumphantly. "I guessed at once
he must be looking for something--I knew that room was full of papers."

A knock at the door startled them.

"Never mind." The nurse hurried across the room. "It's locked."

"How is my wife?" said Roger's strong, and as it seemed, threatening
voice outside.

"She'll be all right, sir, I hope, if you'll leave her to rest. But I
won't answer for the consequences if she's disturbed any more."

There was a pause, as though of hesitation. Then Roger's step receded.

Daphne pushed her hair back from her face, and sat staring into the
fire. Everything was decided now. Yet she had rushed upstairs on Miss
Farmer's information with no definite purpose. She only knew that--once
again--Roger was hiding something from her--doing something secret and
disgraceful--and she suddenly resolved to surprise and confront him.
With a mind still vaguely running on the legal aspects of what she meant
to do, she had bade the nurse follow her. The rest had been half
spontaneous, half acting. It had struck her imagination midway how the
incident could be turned--and used.

She was triumphant; but from sheer excitement she wept and sobbed
through the greater part of the night.



PART III



CHAPTER IX


It was a cheerless February day, dark and slaty overhead, dusty below.
In the East End streets paper and straw, children's curls, girls'
pinafores and women's skirts were driven back and forward by a bitter
wind; there was an ugly light on ugly houses, with none of that kind
trickery of mist or smoke which can lend some grace on normal days even
to Commercial Street, or to the network of lanes north of the Bethnal
Green Road. The pitiless wind swept the streets--swept the children and
the grown-ups out of them into the houses, or any available shelter; and
in the dark and chilly emptiness of the side roads one might listen in
fancy for the stealthy returning steps of spirits crueller than Cold,
more tyrannous than Poverty, coming to seize upon their own.

       *       *       *       *       *

In one of these side streets stood a house larger than its neighbours,
in a bit of front garden, with some decrepit rust-bitten-railings
between it and the road. It was an old dwelling overtaken by the flood
of tenement houses, which spread north, south, east, and west of it. Its
walls were no less grimy than its neighbours'; but its windows were
outlined in cheerful white paint, firelight sparkled through its
unshuttered panes, and a bright green door with a brass knocker
completed its pleasant air. There were always children outside the
Vicarage railings on winter evenings, held there by the spell of the
green door and the firelight.

Inside the firelit room to the left of the front pathway, two men were
standing--one of whom had just entered the house.

"My dear Penrose!--how very good of you to come. I know how frightfully
busy you are."

The man addressed put down his hat and stick, and hastily smoothed back
some tumbling black hair which interfered with spectacled eyes already
hampered by short sight. He was a tall, lank, powerful fellow; anyone
acquainted with the West-country would have known him for one of the
swarthy, gray-eyed Cornish stock.

"I am pretty busy--but your tale, Herbert, was a startler. If I can help
you--or Barnes--command me. He is coming this afternoon?"

Herbert French pointed his visitor to a chair.

"Of course. And another man--whom I met casually, in Pall Mall this
morning--and had half an hour's talk with--an American naval officer--an
old acquaintance of Elsie's--Captain Boyson--will join us also. I met
him at Harvard before our wedding, and liked him. He has just come over
with his sister for a short holiday, and I ran across him."

"Is there any particular point in his joining us?"

Herbert French expounded. Boyson had been an old acquaintance of Mrs.
Roger Barnes before her marriage. He knew a good deal about the Barnes
story--"feels, so I gathered, very strongly about it, and on the man's
side; and when I told him that Roger had just arrived and was coming to
take counsel with you and me this afternoon, he suddenly asked if he
might come, too. I was rather taken aback. I told him that we were
going, of course, to consider the case entirely from the English point
of view. He still said, 'Let me come; I may be of use to you.' So I
could only reply it must rest with Roger. They'll show him first into
the dining-room."

Penrose nodded. "All right, as long as he doesn't mind his national toes
trampled upon. So these are your new quarters, old fellow?"

His eyes travelled round the small book-lined room, with its shelves of
poetry, history, and theology; its parish litter; its settle by the
fire, on which lay a doll and a child's picture-book; back to the figure
of the new vicar, who stood, pipe in hand, before the hearth, clad in a
shabby serge suit, his collar alone betraying him. French's white hair
showed even whiter than of old above the delicately blanched face; from
his natural slenderness and smallness the East End and its life had by
now stripped every superfluous ounce; yet, ethereal as his aspect was,
not one element of the Meredithian trilogy--"flesh," "blood," or
"spirit"--was lacking in it.

"Yes, we've settled in," he said quietly, as Penrose took stock.

"And you like it?"

"We do."

The phrase was brief; nor did it seem to be going to lead to anything
more expansive. Penrose smiled.

"Well, now"--he bent forward, with a professional change of
tone--"before he arrives, where precisely is this unhappy business? I
gather, by the way, that Barnes has got practically all his legal advice
from the other side, though the solicitors here have been coöperating?"

French nodded. "I am still rather vague myself. Roger only arrived from
New York the day before yesterday. His uncle, General Hobson, died a few
weeks ago, and Roger came rushing home, as I understand, to see if he
could make any ready money out of his inheritance. Money, in fact, seems
to be his chief thought."

"Money? What for? Mrs. Barnes's suit was surely settled long ago?"

"Oh, yes--months ago. She got her decree and the custody of the child in
July."

"Remind me of the details. Barnes refused to plead?"

"Certainly. By the advice of the lawyers on both sides, he refused, as
an Englishman, to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the Court."

"But he did what he could to stop the thing?"

"Of course. He rushed out after his wife as soon as he could trace where
she had gone; and he made the most desperate attempts to alter her
purpose. His letters, as far as I could make them out, were
heart-rending. I very nearly went over to try and help him, but it was
impossible to leave my work. Mrs. Barnes refused to see him. She was
already at Sioux Falls, and had begun the residence necessary to bring
her within the jurisdiction of the South Dakota Court. Roger, however,
forced one or two interviews with her--most painful scenes!--but found
her quite immovable. At the same time she was much annoyed and excited
by the legal line that he was advised to take; and there was a moment
when she tried to bribe him to accept the divorce and submit to the
American court."

"To bribe him! With money?"

"No; with the child. Beatty at first was hidden away, and Roger could
find no traces of her. But for a few weeks she was sent to stay with a
Mrs. Verrier at Philadelphia, and Roger was allowed to see her, while
Mrs. Barnes negotiated. It was a frightful dilemma! If he submitted,
Mrs. Barnes promised that Beatty should go to him for two months every
year; if not, and she obtained her decree, and the custody of the child,
as she was quite confident of doing, he should never--as far as she
could secure it--see Beatty again. He too, foresaw that she would win
her suit. He was sorely tempted; but he stood firm. Then before he could
make up his mind what to do as to the child, the suit came on, Mrs.
Barnes got her decree, and the custody of the little girl."

"On the ground of 'cruelty,' I understand, and 'indignities'?"

French nodded. His thin cheek flushed.

"And by the help of evidence that any liar could supply!"

"Who were her witnesses?"

"Beatty's nurse--one Agnes Farmer--and a young fellow who had been
employed on the decorative work at Heston. There were relations between
these two, and Roger tells me they have married lately, on a partnership
bought by Mrs. Barnes. While the work was going on at Heston the young
man used to put up at an inn in the country town, and talk scandal at
the bar."

"Then there was some local scandal--on the subject of Barnes and Mrs.
Fairmile?"

"Possibly. Scandal _pour rire_! Not a soul believed that there was
anything more in it than mischief on the woman's side, and a kind of
incapacity for dealing with a woman as she deserved, on the man's. Mrs.
Fairmile has been an _intrigante_ from her cradle. Barnes was at one
time deeply in love with her. His wife became jealous of her after the
marriage, and threw them together, by way of getting at the truth, and
he shilly-shallied with the situation, instead of putting a prompt end
to it, as of course he ought to have done. He was honestly fond of his
wife the whole time, and devoted to his home and his child."

"Well, she didn't plead, you say, anything more than 'cruelty' and
'indignities'. The scandal, such as it was, was no doubt part of the
'cruelty'?"

French assented.

"And you suspect that money played a great part in the whole
transaction?"

"I don't _suspect_--the evidence goes a long way beyond that. Mrs.
Barnes bought the show! I am told there are a thousand ways of doing
it."

Penrose smoked and pondered.

"Well, then--what happened? I imagine that by this time Barnes had not
much affection left for his wife?"

"I don't know," said French, hesitating. "I believe the whole thing was
a great blow to him. He was never passionately in love with her, but he
was very fond of her in his own way--increasingly fond of her--up to
that miserable autumn at Heston. However, after the decree, his one
thought was for Beatty. His whole soul has been wrapped up in that child
from the first moment she was put into his arms. When he first realized
that his wife meant to take her from him, Boyson tells me that he seemed
to lose his head. He was like a person unnerved and bewildered, not
knowing how to act or where to turn. First of all, he brought an
action--a writ of _habeas corpus_, I think--to recover his daughter, as
an English subject. But the fact was he had put it off too long----"

"Naturally," said Penrose, with a shrug. "Not much hope for him--after
the decree."

"So he discovered, poor old fellow! The action was, of course,
obstructed and delayed in every way, by the power of Mrs. Barnes's
millions behind the scenes. His lawyers told him plainly from the
beginning that he had precious little chance. And presently he found
himself the object of a press campaign in some of the yellow papers--all
of it paid for and engineered by his wife. He was held up as the brutal
fortune-hunting Englishman, who had beguiled an American heiress to
marry him, had carried her off to England to live upon her money, had
then insulted her by scandalous flirtations with a lady to whom he had
formerly been engaged, had shown her constant rudeness and unkindness,
and had finally, in the course of a quarrel, knocked her down,
inflicting shock and injury from which she had suffered ever since. Mrs.
Barnes had happily freed herself from him, but he was now trying to
bully her through the child--had, it was said, threatened to carry off
the little girl by violence. Mrs. Barnes went in terror of him. America,
however, would know how to protect both the mother and the child! You
can imagine the kind of thing. Well, very soon Roger began to find
himself a marked man in hotels, followed in the streets, persecuted by
interviewers; and the stream of lies that found its way even into the
respectable newspapers about him, his former life, his habits, etc., is
simply incredible! Unfortunately, he gave some handle----"

French paused a moment.

"Ah!" said Penrose, "I have heard rumours."

French rose and began to pace the room.

"It is a matter I can hardly speak of calmly," he said at last. "The
night after that first scene between them, the night of her fall--her
pretended fall, so Roger told me--he went downstairs in his excitement
and misery, and drank, one way and another, nearly a bottle of brandy, a
thing he had never done in his life before. But----"

"He has often done it since?"

French raised his shoulders sadly, then added, with some emphasis.
"Don't, however, suppose the thing worse than it is. Give him a gleam of
hope and happiness, and he would soon shake it off."

"Well, what came of his action?"

"Nothing--so far. I believe he has ceased to take any interest in it.
Another line of action altogether was suggested to him. About three
months ago he made an attempt to kidnap the child, and was foiled. He
got word that she had been taken to Charlestown, and he went there with
a couple of private detectives. But Mrs. Barnes was on the alert, and
when he discovered the villa in which the child had been living, she had
been removed. It was a bitter shock and disappointment, and when he got
back to New York in November, in the middle of an epidemic, he was
struck down by influenza and pneumonia. It went pretty hard with him.
You will be shocked by his appearance. Ecco! was there ever such a
story! Do you remember, Penrose, what a magnificent creature he was that
year he played for Oxford, and you and I watched his innings from the
pavilion?"

There was a note of emotion in the tone which implied much. Penrose
assented heartily, remarking, however, that it was a magnificence which
seemed to have cost him dear, if, as no doubt was the case, it had won
him his wife.

"But now, with regard to money; you say he wants money. But surely, at
the time of the marriage, something was settled on him?"

"Certainly, a good deal. But from the moment she left him, and the
Heston bills were paid, he has never touched a farthing of it, and never
will."

"So that the General's death was opportune? Well, it's a deplorable
affair! And I wish I saw any chance of being of use."

French looked up anxiously.

"Because you know," the speaker reluctantly continued, "there's nothing
to be done. The thing's finished."

"Finished?" French's manner took fire. "And the law can do _nothing_!
Society can do _nothing_, to help that man either to right himself, or
to recover his child? Ah!"--he paused to listen--"here he is!"

A cab had drawn up outside. Through the lightly curtained windows the
two within saw a man descend from it, pay the driver, and walk up the
flagged passage leading to the front door.

French hurried to greet the new-comer.

"Come in, Roger! Here's George Penrose--as I promised you. Sit down, old
man. They'll bring us some tea presently."

Roger Barnes looked round him for a moment without replying; then
murmured something unintelligible, as he shook hands with Penrose, and
took the chair which French pushed forward. French stood beside him with
a furrowed brow.

"Well, here we are, Roger!--and if there's anything whatever in this
horrible affair where an English lawyer can help you, Penrose is your
man. You know, I expect, what a swell he is? A K. C. after seven
years--lucky dog!--and last year he was engaged in an Anglo-American
case not wholly unlike yours--Brown _v._ Brown. So I thought of him as
the best person among your old friends and mine to come and give us some
private informal help to-day, before you take any fresh steps--if you do
take any."

"Awfully good of you both." The speaker, still wrapped in his fur coat,
sat staring at the carpet, a hand on each of his knees. "Awfully good of
you," he repeated vaguely.

Penrose observed the new-comer. In some ways Roger Barnes was handsomer
than ever. His colour, the pink and white of his astonishing complexion,
was miraculously vivid; his blue eyes were infinitely more arresting
than of old; and the touch of physical weakness in his aspect, left
evidently by severe illness, was not only not disfiguring, but a
positive embellishment. He had been too ruddy in the old days, too
hearty and splendid--a too obvious and supreme king of men--for our
fastidious modern eyes. The grief and misfortune which had shorn some of
his radiance had given a more human spell to what remained. At the same
time the signs of change were by no means, all of them, easy to read, or
reassuring to a friend's eye. Were they no more than physical and
transient?

Penrose was just beginning on the questions which seemed to him
important, when there was another ring at the front door. French got up
nervously, with an anxious look at Barnes.

"Roger! I don't know whether you will allow it, but I met an American
acquaintance of yours to-day, and, subject to your permission, I asked
him to join our conference."

Roger raised his head--it might have been thought, angrily.

"Who on earth----?"

"Captain Boyson?"

The young man's face changed.

"I don't mind him," he said sombrely. "He's an awfully good sort. He was
in Philadelphia a few months ago, when I was. He knows all about me. It
was he and his sister who introduced me to--my wife."

French left the room for a moment, and returned accompanied by a
fair-haired, straight-shouldered man, whom he introduced to Penrose as
Captain Boyson.

Roger rose from his chair to shake hands.

"How do you do, Boyson? I've told them you know all about it." He
dropped back heavily into his seat.

"I thought I might possibly put in a word," said the new-comer, glancing
from Roger to his friends. "I trust I was not impertinent? But don't let
me interrupt anything that was going on."

On a plea of chill, Boyson remained standing by the fire, warming his
hands, looking down upon the other three. Penrose, who belonged to a
military family, reminded himself, as he glanced at the American, of a
recent distinguished book on Military Geography by a Captain Alfred
Boyson. No doubt the same man. A capable face,--the face of the modern
scientific soldier. It breathed alertness; but also some quality warmer
and softer. If the general aspect had been shaped and moulded by an
incessant travail of brain, the humanity of eye and mouth spoke dumbly
to the humanity of others. The council gathered in the vicarage room
felt itself strengthened.

Penrose resumed his questioning of Barnes, and the other two listened
while the whole miserable story of the divorce, in its American aspects,
unrolled. At first Roger showed a certain apathy and brevity; he might
have been fulfilling a task in which he took but small interest; even
the details of chicanery and corruption connected with the trial were
told without heat; he said nothing bitter of his wife--avoided naming
her, indeed, as much as possible.

But when the tale was done he threw back his head with sudden animation
and looked at Boyson.

"Is that about the truth, Boyson? You know."

"Yes, I endorse it," said the American gravely. His face, thin and
tanned, had flushed while Barnes was speaking.

"And you know what all their papers said of me--what _they_ wished
people to believe--that I wasn't fit to have charge of Beatty--that I
should have done her harm?"

His eyes sparkled. He looked almost threateningly at the man whom he
addressed. Boyson met his gaze quietly.

"I didn't believe it."

There was a pause. Then Roger sprang suddenly to his feet, confronting
the men round him.

"Look here!" he said impatiently. "I want some money at once--and a good
lot of it." He brought his fist down heavily on the mantelpiece.
"There's this place of my uncle's, and I'm dashed if I can get a penny
out of it! I went to his solicitors this morning. They drove me mad with
their red-tape nonsense. It will take some time, they say, to get a
mortgage on it, and meanwhile they don't seem inclined to advance me
anything, or a hundred or two, perhaps. What's that? I lost my temper,
and next time I go they'll turn me out, I dare say. But there's the
truth. It's _money_ I want, and if you can't help me to money it's no
use talking."

"And when you get the money what'll you do with it?" asked Penrose.

"Pay half a dozen people who can be trusted to help me kidnap Beatty and
smuggle her over the Canadian frontier. I bungled the thing once. I
don't mean to bungle it again."

The answer was given slowly, without any bravado, but whatever energy of
life there was in the speaker had gone into it.

"And there is no other way?" French's voice from the back was troubled.

"Ask him?" Roger pointed to Boyson.

"Is there any legal way, Boyson, in which I can recover the custody and
companionship of my child?"

Boyson turned away.

"None that I know of--and I have made every possible inquiry."

"And yet," said Barnes, with emphasis, addressing the English barrister,
"by the law of England I am still Daphne's husband and that child's
legal guardian?"

"Certainly."

"And if I could once get her upon ground under the English flag, she
would be mine again, and no power could take her from me?"

"Except the same private violence that you yourself propose to
exercise."

"I'd take care of that!" said Roger briefly.

"How do you mean to do it?" asked French, with knit brows. To be sitting
there in an English vicarage plotting violence against a woman disturbed
him.

"He and I'll manage it," said the quiet voice of the American officer.

The others stared.

"_You?_" said French. "An officer in active service? It might injure
your career!"

"I shall risk it."

A charming smile broke on Penrose's meditative face.

"My dear French, this is much more amusing than the law. But I don't
quite see where _I_ come in." He rose tentatively from his seat.

Boyson, however, did not smile. He looked from one to the other.

"My sister and I introduced Daphne Floyd to Barnes," he said steadily,
"and it is my country, as I hold,--or a portion of it--that allows these
villainies. Some day we shall get a great reaction in the States, and
then the reforms that plenty of us are clamouring for will come about.
Meanwhile, as of course you know"--he addressed French--"New Yorkers and
Bostonians suffer almost as much from the abomination that Nevada and
South Dakota call laws, as Barnes has suffered. Marriage in the Eastern
States is as sacred as with you--South Carolina allows no divorce at
all--but with this licence at our gates, no one is safe, and thousands
of our women, in particular--for the women bring two-thirds of the
actions--are going to the deuce, simply because they have the
opportunity of going. And the children--it doesn't bear thinking of!
Well--no good haranguing! I'm ashamed of my country in this matter--I
have been for a long time--and I mean to help Barnes out, _coûte que
coûte_! And as to the money, Barnes, you and I'll discuss that."

Barnes lifted a face that quivered, and he and Boyson exchanged looks.

Penrose glanced at the pair. That imaginative power, combined with the
power of drudgery, which was in process of making a great lawyer out of
a Balliol scholar, showed him something typical and dramatic in the two
figures:--in Boyson, on the one hand, so lithe, serviceable, and
resolved, a helpful, mercurial man, ashamed of his country in this one
respect, because he adored her in so many others, penitent and patriot
in one:--in Barnes, on the other, so heavy, inert, and bewildered, a
ship-wrecked suppliant as it were, clinging to the knees of that very
America which had so lightly and irresponsibly wronged him.

It was Penrose who broke the silence.

"Is there any chance of Mrs. Barnes's marrying again?" he asked.

Barnes turned to him.

"Not that I know of."

"There's no one else in the case?"

"I never heard of anyone." Roger gave a short, excited laugh. "What
she's done, she's done because she was tired of me, not because she was
in love with anyone else. That was her great score in the divorce
case--that there was nobody."

Biting and twisting his lip, in a trick that recalled to French the
beautiful Eton lad, cracking his brains in pupil-room over a bit of
Latin prose, Roger glanced, frowning, from one to the other of these
three men who felt for him, whose resentment of the wrong that had been
done him, whose pity for his calamity showed plainly enough through
their reticent speech.

His sense, indeed, of their sympathy began to move him, to break down
his own self-command. No doubt, also, the fatal causes that ultimately
ruined his will-power were already at work. At any rate, he broke out
into sudden speech about his case. His complexion, now unhealthily
delicate, like the complexion of a girl, had flushed deeply. As he spoke
he looked mainly at French.

"There's lots of things you don't know," he said in a hesitating voice,
as though appealing to his old friend. And rapidly he told the story of
Daphne's flight from Heston. Evidently since his return home many
details that were once obscure had become plain to him; and the three
listeners could perceive how certain new information had goaded, and
stung him afresh. He dwelt on the letters which had reached him during
his first week's absence from home, after the quarrel--letters from
Daphne and Miss Farmer, which were posted at intervals from Heston by
their accomplice, the young architect, while the writers of them were
hurrying across the Atlantic. The servants had been told that Mrs.
Barnes, Miss Farmer, and the little girl were going to London for a day
or two, and suspected nothing. "I wrote long letters--lots of them--to
my wife. I thought I had made everything right--not that there ever had
been anything wrong, you understand,--seriously. But in some ways I had
behaved like a fool."

He threw himself back in his chair, pressing his hands on his eyes. The
listeners sat or stood motionless.

"Well, I might have spared my pains. The letters were returned to me
from the States. Daphne had arranged it all so cleverly that I was some
time in tracing her. By the time I had got to Sioux Falls she was
through a month of her necessary residence. My God!"--his voice dropped,
became almost inaudible--"if I'd only carried Beatty off _then_!--then
and there--the frontier wasn't far off--without waiting for anything
more. But I wouldn't believe that Daphne could persist in such a
monstrous thing, and, if she did, that any decent country would aid and
abet her."

Boyson made a movement of protest, as though he could not listen any
longer in silence.

"I am ashamed to remind you, Barnes,--again--that your case is no worse
than that of scores of American citizens. We are the first to suffer
from our own enormities."

"Perhaps," said Barnes absently, "perhaps."

His impulse of speech dropped. He sat, drearily staring into the fire,
absorbed in recollection.

       *       *       *       *       *

Penrose had gone. So had Boyson. Roger was sitting by the fire in the
vicar's study, ministered to by Elsie French and her children. By common
consent the dismal subject of the day had been put aside. There was an
attempt to cheer and distract him. The little boy of four was on his
knee, declaiming the "Owl and the Pussy Cat," while Roger submissively
turned the pages and pointed to the pictures of that immortal history.
The little girl of two, curled up on her mother's lap close by, listened
sleepily, and Elsie, applauding and prompting as a properly regulated
mother should, was all the time, in spirit, hovering pitifully about her
guest and his plight. There was in her, as in Boyson, a touch of
patriotic remorse; and all the pieties of her own being, all the sacred
memories of her own life, combined to rouse in her indignation and
sympathy for Herbert's poor friend. The thought of what Daphne Barnes
had done was to her a monstrosity hardly to be named. She spoke to the
young man kindly and shyly, as though she feared lest any chance word
might wound him; she was the symbol, in her young motherliness, of all
that Daphne had denied and forsaken. "When would America--dear, dear
America!--see to it that such things were made impossible!"

Roger meanwhile was evidently cheered and braced. The thought of the
interview to which Boyson had confidentially bidden him on the morrow
ran warmly in his veins, and the children soothed him. The little boy
especially, who was just Beatty's age, excited in him a number of
practical curiosities. How about the last teeth? He actually inserted a
coaxing and inquiring finger, the babe gravely suffering it. Any trouble
with them? Beatty had once been very ill with hers, at Philadelphia,
mostly caused, however, by some beastly, indigestible food that the
nurse had let her have. And they allowed her to sit up much too late.
Didn't Mrs. French think seven o'clock was late enough for any child not
yet four? One couldn't say that Beatty was a very robust child, but
healthy--oh yes, healthy!--none of your sickly, rickety little things.

The curtains had been closed. The street children, the electric light
outside, were no longer visible. Roger had begun to talk of departure,
the baby had fallen fast asleep in her mother's arms, when there was
another loud ring at the front door.

French, who was expecting the headmaster of his church schools, gathered
up some papers and left the room. His wife, startled by what seemed an
exclamation from him in the hall outside, raised her head a moment to
listen; but the sound of voices--surely a woman's voice?--died abruptly
away, and the door of the dining-room closed. Roger heard nothing; he
was laughing and crooning over the boy.

    "The Pobble that lost his toes
    Had once as many as we."

The door opened. Herbert stood on the threshold beckoning to her. She
rose in terror, the child in her arms, and went out to him. In a minute
she reappeared in the doorway, her face ashen-white, and called to the
little boy. He ran to her, and Roger rose, looking for the hat he had
put down on entering.

Then French came in, and behind him a lady in black, dishevelled, bathed
in tears. The vicar hung back. Roger turned in astonishment.

"Mother! You here? Mother!"--he hurried to her--"what's the matter?"

She tottered toward him with outstretched hands.

"Oh Roger, Roger!"

His name died away in a wail as she clasped him.

"What is it, mother?"

"It's Beatty--my son!--my darling Roger!" She put up her hands
piteously, bending his head down to her. "It's a cable from Washington,
from that woman, Mrs. Verrier. They did everything, Roger--it was only
three days--and hopeless always. Yesterday convulsion came on--and this
morning----" Her head dropped against her son's breast as her voice
failed her. He put her roughly from him.

"What are you talking of, mother! Do you mean that Beatty has been ill?"

"She died last night. Roger--my darling son--my poor Roger!"

"Died--last night--Beatty?"

French in silence handed him the telegram. Roger disengaged himself and
walked to the fireplace, standing motionless, with his back to them, for
a minute, while they held their breaths. Then he began to grope again
for his hat, without a word.

"Come home with me, Roger!" implored his mother, pursuing him. "We must
bear it--bear it together. You see--she didn't suffer"--she pointed to
the message--"the darling!--the darling!"

Her voice lost itself in tears. But Roger brushed her away, as though
resenting her emotion, and made for the door.

French also put out a hand.

"Roger, dear, dear old fellow! Stay here with us--with your mother.
Where are you going?"

Roger looked at his watch unsteadily.

"The office will be closed," he said to himself; "but I can put some
things together."

"Where are you going, Roger?" cried Lady Barnes, pursuing him. Roger
faced her.

"It's Tuesday. There'll be a White Star boat to-morrow."

"But, Roger, what can you do? She's gone, dear--she's gone. And before
you can get there--long before--she will be in her grave."

A spasm passed over his face, into which the colour rushed. Without
another word he wrenched himself from her, opened the front door, and
ran out into the night.



CHAPTER X


"Was there ever anything so poetic, so suggestive?" said a charming
voice. "One might make a new Turner out of it--if one just happened to
be Turner!--to match 'Rain: Steam, and Speed.'"

"What would you call it--'Mist, Light, and Spring'?"

Captain Boyson leant forward, partly to watch the wonderful landscape
effect through which the train was passing, partly because his young
wife's profile, her pure cheek and soft hair, were so agreeably seen
under the mingled light from outside.

They were returning from their wedding journey. Some six weeks before
this date Boyson had married in Philadelphia a girl coming from one of
the old Quaker stocks of that town, in whose tender steadfastness of
character a man inclined both by nature and experience to expect little
from life had found a happiness that amazed him.

The bridegroom, also, had just been appointed to the Military
Attachéship at the Berlin Embassy, and the couple were, in fact, on
their way south to New York and embarkation. But there were still a few
days left of the honeymoon, of which they had spent the last half in
Canada, and on this May night they were journeying from Toronto along
the southern shore of Lake Ontario to the pleasant Canadian hotel which
overlooks the pageant of Niagara. They had left Toronto in bright
sunshine, but as they turned the corner of the lake westward, a white
fog had come creeping over the land as the sunset fell.

But the daylight was still strong, the fog thin; so that it appeared
rather as a veil of gold, amethyst, and opal, floating over the country,
now parting altogether, now blotting out the orchards and the fields.
And into the colour above melted the colour below. For the orchards that
cover the Hamilton district of Ontario were in bloom, and the snow of
the pear-trees, the flush of the peach-blossom broke everywhere through
the warm cloud of pearly mist; while, just as Mrs. Boyson spoke, the
train had come in sight of the long flashing line of the Welland Canal,
which wound its way, outlined by huge electric lamps, through the sunset
and the fog, till the lights died in that northern distance where
stretched the invisible shore of the great lake. The glittering
waterway, speaking of the labour and commerce of men, the blossom-laden
earth, the white approaching mist, the softly falling night:--the
girl-bride could not tear herself from the spectacle. She sat beside the
window entranced. But her husband had captured her hand, and into the
overflowing beauty of nature there stole the thrill of their love.

"All very well!" said Boyson presently. "But a fog at Niagara is no
joke!"

The night stole on, and the cloud through which they journeyed grew
denser. Up crept the fog, on stole the night. The lights of the canal
faded, the orchards sank into darkness, and when the bride and
bridegroom reached the station on the Canadian side the bride's pleasure
had become dismay.

"Oh, Alfred, we shan't see anything!"

And, indeed, as their carriage made its slow progress along the road
that skirts the gorge, they seemed to plunge deeper and deeper into the
fog. A white darkness, as though of impenetrable yet glimmering cloud,
above and around them; a white abyss beneath them; and issuing from it
the thunderous voice of wild waters, dim first and distant, but growing
steadily in volume and terror.

"There are the lights of the bridge!" cried Boyson, "and the towers of
the aluminum works. But not a vestige of the Falls! Gone! Wiped out! I
say, darling, this is going to be a disappointment."

Mrs. Boyson, however, was not so sure. The lovely "nocturne" of the
evening plain had passed into a Vision or Masque of Force that captured
the mind. High above the gulf rose the towers of the great works,
transformed by the surging fog and darkness into some piled and castled
fortress; a fortress of Science held by Intelligence. Lights were in the
towers, as of genii at their work; lights glimmered here and there on
the face of the farther cliff, as though to measure the vastness of the
gorge and of that resounding vacancy towards which they moved. In front,
the arch of the vast suspension bridge, pricked in light, crossed the
gulf, from nothingness to nothingness, like that sky bridge on which the
gods marched to Walhalla. Otherwise, no shape, no landmark; earth and
heaven had disappeared.

"Here we are at the hotel," said Boyson. "There, my dear,"--he pointed
ironically--"is the American Fall, and there--is the Canadian! Let me
introduce you to Niagara!"

They jumped out of the carriage, and while their bags were being carried
in they ran to the parapeted edge of the cliff in front of the hotel.
Niagara thundered in their ears; the spray of it beat upon their faces;
but of the two great Falls immediately in front of them they saw nothing
whatever. The fog, now cold and clammy, enwrapped them; even the bright
lights of the hotel, but a stone's throw distant, were barely visible;
and the carriage still standing at the steps had vanished.

Suddenly, some common impulse born of the moment and the scene--of its
inhuman ghostliness and grandeur--drew them to each other. Boyson threw
his arm round his young wife and pressed her to him, kissing her face
and hair, bedewed by the spray. She clung to him passionately, trembling
a little, as the roar deafened them and the fog swept round them.

       *       *       *       *       *

As the Boysons lingered in the central hall of the hotel, reading some
letters which had been handed to them, a lady in black passed along the
gallery overhead and paused a moment to look at the new arrivals brought
by the evening train.

As she perceived Captain Boyson there was a quick, startled movement;
she bent a moment over the staircase, as though to make sure of his
identity, and then ran along the gallery to a room at the farther end.
As she opened the door a damp cold air streamed upon her, and the
thunder of the Falls, with which the hotel is perpetually filled, seemed
to redouble.

Three large windows opposite to her were, in fact, wide open; the room,
with its lights dimmed by fog, seemed hung above the abyss.

An invalid couch stood in front of the window, and upon it lay a pale,
emaciated woman, breathing quickly and feebly. At the sound of the
closing door, Madeleine Verrier turned.

"Oh, Daphne, I was afraid you had gone out! You do such wild things!"

Daphne Barnes came to the side of the couch.

"Darling, I only went to speak to your maid for a moment. Are you sure
you can stand all this damp fog?"

As she spoke Daphne took up a fur cloak lying on a chair near, and
wrapped herself warmly in it.

"I can't breathe when they shut the windows. But it is too cold for
you."

"Oh, I'm all right in this." Daphne drew the cloak round her.

Inwardly she said to herself, "Shall I tell her the Boysons are here?
Yes, I must. She is sure to hear it in some way."

So, stooping over the couch, she said:

"Do you know who arrived this evening? The Alfred Boysons. I saw them in
the hall just now."

"They're on their honeymoon?" asked the faint voice, after a just
perceptible pause.

Daphne assented. "She seems a pretty little thing."

Madeleine Verrier opened her tired eyes to look at Daphne. Mrs.
Floyd--as Daphne now called herself--was dressed in deep black. The
costly gown revealed a figure which had recently become substantial, and
the face on which the electric light shone had nothing left in it of the
girl, though Daphne Floyd was not yet thirty. The initial beauty of
complexion was gone; so was the fleeting prettiness of youth. The eyes
were as splendid as ever, but combined with the increased paleness of
the cheeks, the greater prominence and determination of the mouth, and a
certain austerity in the dressing of the hair, which was now firmly
drawn back from the temples round which it used to curl, and worn high,
_à la Marquise_, they expressed a personality--a formidable
personality--in which self-will was no longer graceful, and power no
longer magnetic. Madeleine Verrier gazed at her friend in silence. She
was very grateful to Daphne, often very dependent on her. But there were
moments when she shrank from her, when she would gladly never have seen
her again. Daphne was still erect, self-confident, militant; whereas
Madeleine knew herself vanquished--vanquished both in body and soul.

Certain inner miseries and discomforts had been set vibrating by the
name of Captain Boyson.

"You won't want to see him or come across him?" she said abruptly.

"Who? Alfred Boyson? I am not afraid of him in the least. He may say
what he pleases--or think what he pleases. It doesn't matter to me."

"When did you see him last?"

Daphne hesitated a moment. "When he came to ask me for certain things
which had belonged to Beatty."

"For Roger? I remember. It must have been painful."

"Yes," said Daphne unwillingly, "it was. He was very unfriendly. He
always has been--since it happened. But I bore him no malice"--the tone
was firm--"and the interview was short."

"----" The half inaudible word fell like a sigh from Madeleine's lips as
she closed her eyes again to shut out the light which teased them. And
presently she added, "Do you ever hear anything now--from England?"

"Just what I might expect to hear--what more than justifies all that I
did."

Daphne sat rigid on her chair, her hands crossed on her lap. Mrs.
Verrier did not pursue the conversation.

Outside the fog grew thicker and darker. Even the lights on the bridge
were now engulfed. Daphne began to shiver in her fur cloak. She put out
a cold hand and took one of Mrs. Verrier's.

"Dear Madeleine! Indeed, indeed, you ought to let me move you from this
place. Do let me! There's the house at Stockbridge all ready. And in
July I could take you to Newport. I must be off next week, for I've
promised to take the chair at a big meeting at Buffalo on the 29th. But
I can't bear to leave you behind. We could make the journey quite easy
for you. That new car of mine is very comfortable."

"I know it is. But, thank you, dear, I like this hotel; and it will be
summer directly."

Daphne hesitated. A strong protest against "morbidness" was on her lips,
but she did not speak it. In the mist-filled room even the bright fire,
the electric lights, had grown strangely dim. Only the roar outside was
real--terribly, threateningly real. Yet the sound was not so much fierce
as lamentable; the voice of Nature mourning the eternal flow and
conflict at the heart of things. Daphne knew well that, mingled with
this primitive, cosmic voice, there was--for Madeleine Verrier--another;
a plaintive, human cry, that was drawing the life out of her breast, the
blood from her veins, like some baneful witchcraft of old. But she dared
not speak of it; she and the doctor who attended Mrs. Verrier dared no
longer name the patient's "obsession" even to each other. They had tried
to combat it, to tear her from this place; with no other result, as it
seemed, than to hasten the death-process which was upon her. Gently, but
firmly, she had defied them, and they knew now that she would always
defy them. For a year past, summer and winter, she had lived in this
apartment facing the Falls; her nurses found her very patient under the
incurable disease which had declared itself; Daphne came to stay with
her when arduous engagements allowed, and Madeleine was always grateful
and affectionate. But certain topics, and certain advocacies, had
dropped out of their conversation--not by Daphne's will. There had been
no spoken recantation; only the prophetess prophesied no more; and of
late, especially when Daphne was not there--so Mrs. Floyd had
discovered--a Roman Catholic priest had begun to visit Mrs. Verrier.
Daphne, moreover, had recently noticed a small crucifix, hidden among
the folds of the loose black dress which Madeleine commonly wore.

       *       *       *       *       *

Daphne had changed her dress and dismissed her maid. Although it was
May, a wood-fire had been lighted in her room to counteract the chilly
damp of the evening. She hung over it, loth to go back to the
sitting-room, and plagued by a depression that not even her strong will
could immediately shake off. She wished the Boysons had not come. She
supposed that Alfred Boyson would hardly cut her; but she was tolerably
certain that he would not wish his young wife to become acquainted with
her. She scorned his disapproval of her; but she smarted under it. It
combined with Madeleine's strange delusions to put her on the defensive;
to call out all the fierceness of her pride; to make her feel herself
the champion of a sound and reasonable view of life as against weakness
and reaction.

Madeleine's dumb remorse was, indeed, the most paralyzing and baffling
thing; nothing seemed to be of any avail against it, now that it had
finally gained the upper hand. There had been dark times, no doubt, in
the old days in Washington; times when the tragedy of her husband's
death had overshadowed her. But in the intervals, what courage and
boldness, what ardour in the declaration of that new Feminist gospel to
which Daphne had in her own case borne witness! Daphne remembered well
with what feverish readiness Madeleine had accepted her own pleas after
her flight from England; how she had defended her against hostile
criticism, had supported her during the divorce court proceedings, and
triumphed in their result. "You are unhappy? And he deceived you? Well,
then, what more do you want? Free yourself, my dear, free yourself! What
right have you to bear more children to a man who is a liar and a
shuffler? It is our generation that must suffer, for the liberty of
those that come after!"

What had changed her? Was it simply the approach of mortal illness, the
old questioning of "what dreams may come"? Superstition, in fact? As a
girl she had been mystical and devout; so Daphne had heard.

Or was it the death of little Beatty, to whom she was much attached? She
had seen something of Roger during that intermediate Philadelphia stage,
when he and Beatty were allowed to meet at her house; and she had once
or twice astonished and wounded Daphne at that time by sudden
expressions of pity for him. It was she who had sent the cable message
announcing the child's death, wording it as gently as possible, and had
wept in sending it.

"As if I hadn't suffered too!" cried Daphne's angry thought. And she
turned to look at the beautiful miniature of Beatty set in pearls that
stood upon her dressing-table. There was something in the recollection
of Madeleine's sensibility with regard to the child--as in that of her
compassion for the father's suffering--that offended Daphne. It seemed a
reflection upon herself, Beatty's mother, as lacking in softness and
natural feeling.

On the contrary! She had suffered terribly; but she had thought it her
duty to bear it with courage, not to let it interfere with the
development of her life. And as for Roger, was it her fault that he had
made it impossible for her to keep her promise? That she had been forced
to separate Beatty from him? And if, as she understood now from various
English correspondents, it was true that Roger had dropped out of decent
society, did it not simply prove that she had guessed his character
aright, and had only saved herself just in time?

It was as though the sudden presence of Captain Boyson under the same
roof had raised up a shadowy adversary and accuser, with whom she must
go on thus arguing, and hotly defending herself, in a growing
excitement. Not that she would ever stoop to argue with Alfred Boyson
face to face. How could he ever understand the ideals to which she had
devoted her powers and her money since the break-up of her married life?
He could merely estimate what she had done in the commonest, vulgarest
way. Yet who could truthfully charge her with having obtained her
divorce in order thereby to claim any fresh licence for herself? She
looked back now with a cool amazement on that sudden rush of passion
which had swept her into marriage, no less than the jealousy which had
led her to break with Roger. She was still capable of many kinds of
violence; but not, probably, of the violence of love. The influence of
sex and sense upon her had weakened; the influence of ambition had
increased. As in many women of Southern race, the period of hot blood
had passed into a period of intrigue and domination. Her wealth gave her
power, and for that power she lived.

Yes, she was personally desolate, but she had stood firm, and her reward
lay in the fact that she had gathered round her an army of dependents
and followers--women especially--to whom her money and her brains were
indispensable. There on the table lay the plans for a new Women's
College, on the broadest and most modern lines, to which she was soon to
devote a large sum of money. The walls should have been up by now but
for a quarrel with her secretary, who had become much too independent,
and had had to be peremptorily dismissed at a moment's notice. But the
plan was a noble one, approved by the highest authorities; and Daphne,
looking to posterity, anticipated the recognition that she herself might
never live to see. For the rest she had given herself--with
reservations--to the Feminist movement. It was not in her nature to give
herself wholly to anything; and she was instinctively critical of people
who professed to be her leaders, and programmes to which she was
expected to subscribe. Wholehearted devotion, which, as she rightly
said, meant blind devotion, had never been her line; and she had been on
one or two occasions offensively outspoken on the subject of certain
leading persons in the movement. She was not, therefore, popular with
her party, and did not care to be; her pride of money held her apart
from the rank and file, the college girls, and typists, and journalists
who filled the Feminist meetings, and often made themselves, in her
eyes, supremely ridiculous, because of what she considered their silly
provinciality and lack of knowledge of the world.

Yet, of course, she was a "Feminist"--and particularly associated with
those persons in the suffrage camp who stood for broad views on marriage
and divorce. She knew very well that many other persons in the same camp
held different opinions; and in public or official gatherings was always
nervously--most people thought arrogantly--on the look-out for affronts.
Meanwhile, everywhere, or almost everywhere, her money gave her power,
and her knowledge of it was always sweet to her. There was nothing in
the world--no cause, no faith--that she could have accepted "as a little
child." But everywhere, in her own opinion, she stood for Justice;
justice for women as against the old primæval tyranny of men; justice,
of course, to the workman, and justice to the rich. No foolish
Socialism, and no encroaching Trusts! A lucid common sense, so it seemed
to her, had been her cradle-gift.

And with regard to Art, how much she had been able to do! She had
generously helped the public collections, and her own small gallery, at
the house in Newport, was famous throughout England and America. That in
the course of the preceding year she had found among the signatures,
extracted from visitors by the custodian in charge, the name of Chloe
Fairmile, had given her a peculiar satisfaction.

She walked proudly across the room, her head thrown back, every nerve
tense. Let the ignorant and stupid blame her if they chose. She stood
absolved. Memory reminded her, moreover, of a great number of kind and
generous things--private things--that she had done with her money. If
men like Herbert French, or Alfred Boyson, denounced her, there were
many persons who felt warmly towards her--and had cause. As she thought
of them the tears rose in her eyes. Of course she could never make such
things public.

Outside the fog seemed to be lifting a little. There was a silvery light
in the southeast, a gleam and radiance over the gorge. If the moon
struggled through, it would be worth while slipping out after dinner to
watch its play upon the great spectacle. She was careful to cherish in
herself an openness to noble impressions and to the high poetry of
nature and life. And she must not allow herself to be led by the casual
neighbourhood of the Boysons into weak or unprofitable thought.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Boysons dined at a table, gay with lights and flowers, that should
have commanded the Falls but for the curtain of fog. Niagara, however,
might flout them if it pleased; they could do without Niagara. They were
delighted that the hotel, apparently, contained no one they knew. All
they wanted was to be together, and alone. But the bride was tired by a
long day in the train; her smiles began presently to flag, and by nine
o'clock her husband had insisted on sending her to rest.

After escorting her upstairs Captain Boyson returned to the veranda,
which was brightly lit up, in order to read some letters that were still
unopened in his pocket. But before he began upon them he was seized once
more by the wizardry of the scene. Was that indistinct glimmer in the
far distance--that intenser white on white--the eternal cloud of spray
that hangs over the Canadian Fall? If so, the fog was indeed yielding,
and the full moon behind it would triumph before long. On the other
hand, he could no longer see the lights of the bridge at all; the
rolling vapour choked the gorge, and the waiter who brought him his
coffee drily prophesied that there would not be much change under
twenty-four hours.

He fell back upon his letters, well pleased to see that one among them
came from Herbert French, with whom the American officer had maintained
a warm friendship since the day of a certain consultation in French's
East-End library. The letter was primarily one of congratulation,
written with all French's charm and sympathy; but over the last pages of
it Boyson's face darkened, for they contained a deplorable account of
the man whom he and French had tried to save.

The concluding passage of the letter ran as follows:

     "You will scarcely wonder after all this that we see him very
     seldom, and that he no longer gives us his confidence. Yet both
     Elsie and I feel that he cares for us as much as ever. And, indeed,
     poor fellow, he himself remains strangely lovable, in spite of what
     one must--alas!--believe as to his ways of life and the people with
     whom he associates. There is in him, always, something of what
     Meyers called 'the imperishable child.' That a man who might have
     been so easily led to good has been so fatally thrust into evil is
     one of the abiding sorrows of my life. How can I reproach him for
     his behaviour? As the law stands, he can never marry; he can never
     have legitimate children. Under the wrong he has suffered, and, no
     doubt, in consequence of that illness in New York, when he was
     badly nursed and cared for--from which, in fact, he has never
     wholly recovered--his will-power and nerve, which were never very
     strong, have given way; he broods upon the past perpetually, and on
     the loss of his child. Our poor Apollo, Boyson, will soon have lost
     himself wholly, and there is no one to help.

     "Do you ever see or hear anything of that woman? Do you know what
     has become of her? I see you are to have a Conference on your
     Divorce Laws--that opinion and indignation are rising. For Heaven's
     sake, do something! I gather some appalling facts from a recent
     Washington report. One in twelve of all your marriages dissolved! A
     man or a woman divorced in one state, and still bound in another!
     The most trivial causes for the break-up of marriage, accepted and
     acted upon by corrupt courts, and reform blocked by a phalanx of
     corrupt interests! Is it all true? An American correspondent of
     mine--a lady--repeats to me what you once said, that it is the
     women who bring the majority of the actions. She impresses upon me
     also the remarkable fact that it is apparently only in a minority
     of cases that a woman, when she has got rid of her husband, marries
     someone else. It is not passion, therefore, that dictates many of
     these actions; no serious cause or feeling, indeed, of any kind;
     but rather an ever-spreading restlessness and levity, a readiness
     to tamper with the very foundations of society, for a whim, a
     nothing!--in the interests, of ten, of what women call their
     'individuality'! No foolish talk here of being 'members one of
     another'! We have outgrown all that. The facilities are always
     there, and the temptation of them. 'The women--especially--who do
     these things,' she writes me, 'are moral anarchists. One can appeal
     to nothing; they acknowledge nothing. Transformations infinitely
     far-reaching and profound are going on among us."

     "'_Appeal to nothing!_' And this said of women, by a woman! It was
     of _men_ that a Voice said long ago: 'Moses, because of the
     hardness of your hearts, suffered you to put away your wives'--on
     just such grounds apparently--trivial and cruel pretexts--as your
     American courts admit. 'But _I_ say unto you!--_I say unto
     you!_'...

     "Well, I am a Christian priest, incapable, of course, of an
     unbiassed opinion. My correspondent tries to explain the situation
     a little by pointing out that your women in America claim to be the
     superiors of your men, to be more intellectual, better-mannered,
     more refined. Marriage disappoints or disgusts them, and they
     impatiently put it aside. They break it up, and seem to pay no
     penalty. But you and I believe that they will pay it!--that there
     are divine avenging forces in the very law they tamper with--and
     that, as a nation, you must either retrace some of the steps taken,
     or sink in the scale of life.

     "How I run on! And all because my heart is hot within me for the
     suffering of one man, and the hardness of one woman!"

Boyson raised his eyes. As he did so he saw dimly through the mist the
figure of a lady, veiled, and wrapped in a fur cloak, crossing the
farther end of the veranda. He half rose from his seat, with an
exclamation. She ran down the steps leading to the road and disappeared
in the fog.

Boyson stood looking after her, his mind in a whirl.

The manager of the hotel came hurriedly out of the same door by which
Daphne Floyd had emerged, and spoke to a waiter on the veranda, pointing
in the direction she had taken.

Boyson heard what was said, and came up. A short conversation passed
between him and the manager. There was a moment's pause on Boyson's
part; he still held French's letter in his hand. At last, thrusting it
into his pocket, he hurried to the steps whereby Daphne had left the
hotel, and pursued her into the cloud outside.

The fog was now rolling back from the gorge, upon the Falls, blotting
out the transient gleams which had seemed to promise a lifting of the
veil, leaving nothing around or beneath but the white and thunderous
abyss.



CHAPTER XI


Daphne's purpose in quitting the hotel had been to find her way up the
river by the road which runs along the gorge on the Canadian side, from
the hotel to the Canadian Fall. Thick as the fog still was in the gorge
she hoped to find some clearer air beyond it. She felt oppressed and
stifled; and though she had told Madeleine that she was going out in
search of effects and spectacle, it was in truth the neighbourhood of
Alfred Boyson which had made her restless.

The road was lit at intervals by electric lamps, but after a time she
found the passage of it not particularly easy. Some repairs to the
tramway lines were going on higher up, and she narrowly escaped various
pitfalls in the shape of trenches and holes in the roadway, very
insufficiently marked by feeble lamps. But the stir in her blood drove
her on; so did the strangeness of this white darkness, suffused with
moonlight, yet in this immediate neighbourhood of the Falls,
impenetrable. She was impatient to get through it; to breathe an
unembarrassed air.

The roar at her left hand grew wilder. She had reached a point some
distance from the hotel, close to the jutting corner, once open, now
walled and protected, where the traveller approaches nearest to the edge
of the Canadian Fall. She knew the spot well, and groping for the wall,
she stood breathless and spray-beaten beside the gulf.

Only a few yards from her the vast sheet of water descended. She could
see nothing of it, but the wind of its mighty plunge blew back her hair,
and her mackintosh cloak was soon dripping with the spray. Once, far
away, above the Falls, she seemed to perceive a few dim lights along the
bend of the river; perhaps from one of the great power-houses that tame
to man's service the spirits of the water. Otherwise--nothing! She was
alone with the perpetual challenge and fascination of the Falls.

As she stood there she was seized by a tragic recollection. It was from
this spot, so she believed, that Leopold Verrier had thrown himself
over. The body had been carried down through the rapids, and recovered,
terribly injured, in the deep eddying pool which the river makes below
them. He had left no letter or message of any sort behind him. But the
reasons for his suicide were clearly understood by a large public, whose
main verdict upon it was the quiet "What else could he do?"

Here, then, on this very spot, he had stood before his leap. Daphne had
heard him described by various spectators of the marriage. He had been,
it seemed, a man of sensitive temperament, who should have been an
artist and was a man of business; a considerable musician, and something
of a poet; proud of his race and faith and himself irreproachable, yet
perpetually wounded through his family, which bore a name of ill-repute
in the New York business world; passionately grateful to his wife for
having married him, delighting in her beauty and charm, and foolishly,
abjectly eager to heap upon her and their child everything that wealth
could buy.

"It was Madeleine's mother who made it hopeless," thought Daphne. "But
for Mrs. Fanshaw--it might have lasted."

And memory called up Mrs. Fanshaw, the beautifully dressed woman of
fifty, with her pride of wealth and family, belonging to the strictest
sect of New York's social _élite_, with her hard, fastidious face, her
formidable elegance and self-possession. How she had loathed the
marriage! And with what a harpy-like eagerness had she seized on the
first signs of Madeleine's discontent and _ennui_; persuaded her to come
home; prepared the divorce; poisoned public opinion. It was from a last
interview with Mrs. Fanshaw that Leopold Verrier had gone straight to
his death. What was it that she had said to him?

Daphne lingered on the question; haunted, too, by other stray
recollections of the dismal story--the doctor driving by in the early
morning who had seen the fall; the discovery of the poor broken body;
Madeleine's blanched stoicism, under the fierce coercion of her mother;
and that strong, silent, slow-setting tide of public condemnation, which
in this instance, at least, had avenged a cruel act.

But at this point Daphne ceased to think about her friend. She found
herself suddenly engaged in a heated self-defence. What comparison could
there be between her case and Madeleine's?

Fiercely she found herself going through the list of Roger's crimes; his
idleness, treachery and deceit; his lack of any high ideals; his bad
influence on the child; his luxurious self-indulgent habits, the lies he
had told, the insults he had offered her. By now the story had grown to
a lurid whole in her imagination, based on a few distorted facts, yet
radically and monstrously untrue. Generally, however, when she dwelt
upon it, it had power to soothe any smart of conscience, to harden any
yearning of the heart, supposing she felt any. And by now she had almost
ceased to feel any.

But to-night she was mysteriously shaken and agitated. As she clung to
the wall, which alone separated her from the echoing gulf beyond, she
could not prevent herself from thinking of Roger, Roger as he was when
Alfred Boyson introduced him to her, when they first married, and she
had been blissfully happy; happy in the possession of such a god-like
creature, in the envy of other women, in the belief that he was growing
more and more truly attached to her.

Her thoughts broke abruptly. "He married me for money!" cried the inward
voice. Then she felt her cheeks tingling as she remembered her
conversation with Madeleine on that very subject--how she had justified
what she was now judging--how plainly she had understood and condoned
it.

"That was my inexperience! Besides, I knew nothing then of Chloe
Fairmile. If I had--I should never have done it."

She turned, startled. Steps seemed to be approaching her, of someone as
yet invisible. Her nerves were all on edge, and she felt suddenly
frightened. Strangers of all kinds visit and hang about Niagara; she was
quite alone, known to be the rich Mrs. Floyd; if she were attacked--set
upon----

The outline of a man's form emerged; she heard her name, or rather the
name she had renounced.

"I saw you come in this direction, Mrs. Barnes. I knew the road was up
in some places, and I thought in this fog you would allow me to warn you
that walking was not very safe."

The voice was Captain Boyson's; and they were now plain to each other as
they stood a couple of yards apart. The fog, however, was at last
slightly breaking. There was a gleam over the nearer water; not merely
the lights, but the span of the bridge had begun to appear.

Daphne composed herself with an effort.

"I am greatly obliged to you," she said in her most freezing manner.
"But I found no difficulty at all in getting through, and the fog is
lifting."

With a stiff inclination she turned in the direction of the hotel, but
Captain Boyson stood in her way. She saw a face embarrassed yet
resolved.

"Mrs. Barnes, may I speak to you a few minutes?"

Daphne gave a slight laugh.

"I don't see how I can prevent it. So you didn't follow me, Captain
Boyson, out of mere regard for my personal safety?"

"If I hadn't come myself I should have sent someone," he replied
quietly. "The hotel people were anxious. But I wished to come myself. I
confess I had a very strong desire to speak to you."

"There seems to be nothing and no one to interfere with it," said
Daphne, in a tone of sarcasm. "I should be glad, however, with your
permission, to turn homeward. I see Mrs. Boyson is here. You are, I
suppose, on your wedding journey?"

He moved out of her path, said a few conventional words, and they walked
on. A light wind had risen and the fog was now breaking rapidly. As it
gave way, the moonlight poured into the breaches that the wind made; the
vast black-and-silver spectacle, the Falls, the gorge, the town
opposite, the bridge, the clouds, began to appear in fragments,
grandiose and fantastical.

Daphne, presently, seeing that Boyson was slow to speak, raised her
eyebrows and attempted a remark on the scene. Boyson interrupted her
hurriedly.

"I imagine, Mrs. Barnes, that what I wish to say will seem to you a
piece of insolence. All the same, for the sake of our former friendship,
I would ask you to bear with me."

"By all means!"

"I had no idea that you were in the hotel. About half an hour ago, on
the veranda, I opened an English letter which arrived this evening. The
news in it gave me great concern. Then I saw you appear, to my
astonishment, in the distance. I asked the hotel manager if it were
really you. He was about to send someone after you. An idea occurred to
me. I saw my opportunity--and I pursued you."

"And here I am, at your mercy!" said Daphne, with sudden sharpness. "You
have left me no choice. However, I am quite willing."

The voice was familiar yet strange. There was in it the indefinable
hardening and ageing which seemed to Boyson to have affected the whole
personality. What had happened to her? As he looked at her in the dim
light there rushed upon them both the memory of those three weeks by the
seaside years before, when he had fallen in love with her, and she had
first trifled with, and then repulsed him.

"I wished to ask you a question, in the name of our old friendship; and
because I have also become a friend--as you know--of your husband."

He felt, rather than saw, the start of anger in the woman beside him.

"Captain Boyson! I cannot defend myself, but I would ask you to
recognize ordinary courtesies. I have now no husband."

"Of your husband," he repeated, without hesitation, yet gently. "By the
law of England at least, which you accepted, and under which you became
a British subject, you are still the wife of Roger Barnes, and he has
done nothing whatever to forfeit his right to your wifely care. It is
indeed of him and of his present state that I beg to be allowed to speak
to you."

He heard a little laugh beside him--unsteady and hysterical.

"You beg for what you have already taken. I repeat, I am at your mercy.
An American subject, Captain Boyson, knows nothing of the law of
England. I have recovered my American citizenship, and the law of my
country has freed me from a degrading and disastrous marriage!"

"While Roger remains bound? Incapable, at the age of thirty, of marrying
again, unless he renounces his country--permanently debarred from home
and children!"

His pulse ran quick. It was a strange adventure, this, to which he had
committed himself!

"I have nothing to do with English law, nothing whatever! It is unjust,
monstrous. But that was no reason why I, too, should suffer!"

"No reason for patience? No reason for pity?" said the man's voice,
betraying emotion at last. "Mrs. Barnes, what do you know of Roger's
present state?"

"I have no need to know anything."

"It matters nothing to you? Nothing to you that he has lost health, and
character, and happiness, his child, his home, everything, owing to your
action?"

"Captain Boyson!" she cried, her composure giving way, "this is
intolerable, outrageous! It is humiliating that you should even expect
me to argue with you. Yet," she bit her lip, angry with the agitation
that would assail her, "for the sake of our friendship to which you
appeal, I would rather not be angry. What you say is monstrous!" her
voice shook. "In the first place, I freed myself from a man who married
me for money."

"One moment! Do you forget that from the day you left him Roger has
never touched a farthing of your money? That he returned everything to
you?"

"I had nothing to do with that; it was his own folly."

"Yes, but it throws light upon his character. Would a mere
fortune-hunter have done it? No, Mrs. Barnes!--that view of Roger does
not really convince you, you do not really believe it."

She smiled bitterly.

"As it happens, in his letters to me after I left him, he amply
confessed it."

"Because his wish was to make peace, to throw himself at your feet. He
accused himself, more than was just. But you do not really think him
mercenary and greedy, you _know_ that he was neither! Mrs. Barnes, Roger
is ill and lonely."

"His mode of life accounts for it."

"You mean that he has begun to drink, has fallen into bad company. That
may be true. I cannot deny it. But consider. A man from whom everything
is torn at one blow; a man of not very strong character, not accustomed
to endure hardness.--Does it never occur to you that you took a
frightful responsibility?"

"I protected myself--and my child."

He breathed deep.

"Or rather--did you murder a life--that God had given you in trust?"

He paused, and she paused also, as though held by the power of his will.
They were passing along the public garden that borders the road; scents
of lilac and fresh leaf floated over the damp grass; the moonlight was
growing in strength, and the majesty of the gorge, the roar of the
leaping water all seemed to enter into the moral and human scene, to
accent and deepen it.

Daphne suddenly clung to a seat beside the path, dropped into it.

"Captain Boyson! I--I cannot bear this any longer."

"I will not reproach you any more," he said, quietly. "I beg your
pardon. The past is irrevocable, but the present is here. The man who
loved you, the father of your child, is alone, ill, poor, in danger of
moral ruin, because of what you have done. I ask you to go to his aid.
But first let me tell you exactly what I have just heard from England."
He repeated the greater part of French's letter, so far as it concerned
Roger.

"He has his mother," said Daphne, when he paused, speaking with evident
physical difficulty.

"Lady Barnes I hear had a paralytic stroke two months ago. She is
incapable of giving advice or help."

"Of course, I am sorry. But Herbert French----"

"No one but a wife could save him--no one!" he repeated with emphasis.

"I am _not_ his wife!" she insisted faintly. "I released myself by
American law. He is nothing to me." As she spoke she leant back against
the seat and closed her eyes. Boyson saw clearly that excitement and
anger had struck down her nervous power, that she might faint or go into
hysterics. Yet a man of remarkable courtesy and pitifulness towards
women was not thereby moved from his purpose. He had his chance; he
could not relinquish it. Only there was something now in her attitude
which recalled the young Daphne of years ago; which touched his heart.

He sat down beside her.

"Bear with me, Mrs. Barnes, for a few moments, while I put it as it
appears to another mind. You became first jealous of Roger, for very
small reason, then tired of him. Your marriage no longer satisfied
you--you resolved to be quit of it; so you appealed to laws of which, as
a nation, we are ashamed, which all that is best among us will, before
long, rebel against and change. Our State system permits them--America
suffers. In this case--forgive me if I put it once more as it appears to
me--they have been used to strike at an Englishman who had absolutely no
defence, no redress. And now you are free; he remains bound--so long, at
least, as you form no other tie. Again I ask you, have you ever let
yourself face what it means to a man of thirty to be cut off from lawful
marriage and legitimate children? Mrs. Barnes! you know what a man is,
his strength and his weakness. Are you really willing that Roger should
sink into degradation in order that you may punish him for some offence
to your pride or your feeling? It may be too late! He may, as French
fears, have fallen into some fatal entanglement; it may not be possible
to restore his health. He may not be able"--he hesitated, then brought
the words out firmly--"to forgive you. Or again, French's anxieties
about him may be unfounded. But for God's sake go to him! Once on
English ground you are his wife again as though nothing had happened.
For God's sake put every thing aside but the thought of the vow you once
made to him! Go back! I implore you, go back! I promise you that no
happiness you have ever felt will be equal to the happiness that step
would bring you, if only you are permitted to save him."

Daphne was by now shaking from head to foot. The force of feeling which
impelled him so mastered her that when he gravely took her hand she did
not withdraw it. She had a strange sense of having at last discovered
the true self of the quiet, efficient, unpretending man she had known
for so long and cast so easily aside. There was shock and excitement in
it, as there is in all trials of strength between a man and a woman. She
tried to hate and despise him, but she could not achieve it. She longed
to answer and crush him, but her mind was a blank, her tongue refused
its office. Surprise, resentment, wounded feeling made a tumult and
darkness through which she could not find her way.

She rose at last painfully from her seat.

"This conversation must end," she said brokenly. "Captain Boyson, I
appeal to you as a gentleman, let me go on alone."

He looked at her sadly and stood aside. But as he saw her move
uncertainly toward a portion of the road where various trenches and pits
made walking difficult, he darted after her.

"Please!" he said peremptorily, "this bit is unsafe."

He drew her hand within his arm and guided her. As he did so he saw that
she was crying; no doubt, as he rightly guessed, from shaken nerves and
wounded pride; for it did not seem to him that she had yielded at all.
But this time he felt distress and compunction.

"Forgive me!" he said, bending over her. "But think of what I have
said--I beg of you! Be kind, be merciful!"

She made various attempts to speak, and at last she said, "I bear you no
malice. But you don't understand me, you never have."

He offered no reply. They had reached the courtyard of the hotel. Daphne
withdrew her hand. When she reached the steps she preceded him without
looking back, and was soon lost to sight.

Boyson shook his head, lit a cigar, and spent some time longer pacing up
and down the veranda. When he went to his wife's room he found her
asleep, a vision of soft youth and charm. He stood a few moments looking
down upon her, wondering in himself at what he had done. Yet he knew
very well that it was the stirring and deepening of his whole being
produced by love that had impelled him to do it.

Next morning he told his wife.

"Do you suppose I produced _any_ effect?" he asked her anxiously. "If
she really thinks over what I said, she _must_ be touched! unless she's
made of flint. I said all the wrong things--but I _did_ rub it in."

"I'm sure you did," said his wife, smiling. Then she looked at him with
a critical tenderness.

"You dear optimist!" she cried, and slipped her hand into his.

"That means you think I behaved like a fool, and that my appeal won't
move her in the least?"

The face beside him saddened.

"Dear, dear optimist!" she repeated, and pressed his hand. He urged an
explanation of her epithet. But she only said, thoughtfully:

"You took a great responsibility!"

"Towards her?"

She shook her head.

"No--towards him!"

Meanwhile Daphne was watching beside a death-bed. On her return from her
walk she had been met by the news of fresh and grave symptoms in Mrs.
Verrier's case. A Boston doctor arrived the following morning. The
mortal disease which had attacked her about a year before this date had
entered, so he reported, on its last phase. He talked of a few
days--possibly hours.

The Boysons departed, having left cards of inquiry and sympathy, of
which Mrs. Floyd took no notice. Then for Daphne there followed a
nightmare of waiting and pain. She loved Madeleine Verrier, as far as
she was capable of love, and she jealously wished to be all in all to
her in these last hours. She would have liked to feel that it was she
who had carried her friend through them; who had nobly sustained her in
the dolorous past. To have been able to feel this would have been as
balm moreover to a piteously wounded self-love, to a smarting and bitter
recollection, which would not let her rest.

But in these last days Madeleine escaped her altogether. A thin-faced
priest arrived, the same who had been visiting the invalid at intervals
for a month or two. Mrs. Verrier was received into the Roman Catholic
Church; she made her first confession and communion; she saw her mother
for a short, final interview, and her little girl; and the physical
energy required for these acts exhausted her small store. Whenever
Daphne entered her room Madeleine received her tenderly; but she could
speak but little, and Daphne felt herself shut out and ignored. What she
said or thought was no longer, it seemed, of any account. She resented
and despised Madeleine's surrender to what she held to be a decaying
superstition; and her haughty manner toward the mild Oratorian whom she
met occasionally on the stairs, or in the corridor, expressed her
disapproval. But it was impossible to argue with a dying woman. She
suffered in silence.

As she sat beside the patient, in the hours of narcotic sleep, when she
relieved one of the nurses, she went often through times of great
bitterness. She could not forgive the attack Captain Boyson had made
upon her; yet she could not forget it. It had so far roused her moral
sense that it led her to a perpetual brooding over the past, a perpetual
re-statement of her own position. She was most troubled, often, by
certain episodes in the past, of which, she supposed Alfred Boyson knew
least; the corrupt use she had made of her money; the false witnesses
she had paid for; the bribes she had given. At the time it had seemed to
her all part of the campaign, in the day's work. She had found herself
in a _milieu_ that demoralized her; her mind had become like "the dyer's
hand, subdued to what it worked in." Now, she found herself thinking in
a sudden terror, "If Alfred Boyson knew so and so!" or, as she looked
down on Madeleine's dying face, "Could I even tell Madeleine that?" And
then would come the dreary thought, "I shall never tell her anything any
more. She is lost to me--even before death."

She tried to avoid thinking of Roger; but the memory of the scene with
Alfred Boyson did, in truth, bring him constantly before her. An inner
debate began, from which she could not escape. She grew white and ill
with it. If she could have rushed away from it, into the full stream of
life, have thrown herself into meetings and discussion, have resumed her
place as the admired and flattered head of a particular society, she
could easily have crushed and silenced the thoughts which tormented her.

But she was held fast. She could not desert Madeleine Verrier in death;
she could not wrench her own hand from this frail hand which clung to
it; even though Madeleine had betrayed the common cause, had yielded at
last to that moral and spiritual cowardice which--as all freethinkers
know--has spoiled and clouded so many death-beds. Daphne--the skimmer of
many books--remembered how Renan--_sain et sauf_--had sent a challenge
to his own end, and defying the possible weakness of age and sickness,
had demanded to be judged by the convictions of life, and not by the
terrors of death. She tried to fortify her own mind by the recollection.

       *       *       *       *       *

The first days of June broke radiantly over the great gorge and the
woods which surround it. One morning, early, between four and five
o'clock, Daphne came in, to find Madeleine awake and comparatively at
ease. Yet the preceding twenty-four hours had been terrible, and her
nurses knew that the end could not be far off.

The invalid had just asked that her couch might be drawn as near to the
window as possible, and she lay looking towards the dawn, which rose in
fresh and windless beauty over the town opposite and the white splendour
of the Falls. The American Fall was still largely in shadow; but the
light struck on the fresh green of Goat Island and leaped in tongues of
fire along the edge of the Horseshoe, turning the rapids above it to
flame and sending shafts into the vast tower of spray that holds the
centre of the curve. Nature was all youth, glitter and delight; summer
was rushing on the gorge; the mingling of wood and water was at its
richest and noblest.

Madeleine turned her face towards the gorge, her wasted hands clasped on
her breast. She beckoned Daphne with a smile, and Daphne knelt down
beside her.

"The water!" said the whispering voice; "it was once so terrible. I am
not afraid--now."

"No, darling. Why should you be?"

"I know now, I shall see him again."

Daphne was silent.

"I hoped it, but I couldn't be certain. That was so awful. Now--I am
certain."

"Since you became a Catholic?"

She made a sign of assent.

"I couldn't be uncertain--I _couldn't_!" she added with fervour, looking
strangely at Daphne. And Daphne understood that no voice less positive
or self-confident than that of Catholicism, no religion less well
provided with tangible rites and practices, could have lifted from the
spirit the burden of that remorse which had yet killed the body.

A little later Madeleine drew her down again.

"I couldn't talk, Daphne--I was afraid; but I've written to you, just
bit by bit, as I had strength. Oh, Daphne----!"

Then voice and strength failed her. Her eyes piteously followed her
friend for a little, and then closed.

She lingered through the day; and at night when the June starlight was
on the gorge, she passed away, with the voice of the Falls in her dying
ears. A tragic beauty--"beauty born of murmuring sound--had passed into
her face;" and that great plunge of many waters, which had been to her
in life the symbol of anguish and guilt, had become in some mysterious
way the comforter of her pain, the friend of her last sleep.

A letter was found for Daphne in the little box beside her bed.

It ran thus:

     DAPHNE, DARLING,--

     "It was I who first taught you that we may follow our own lawless
     wills, and that marriage is something we may bend or break as we
     will. But, oh! it is not so. Marriage is mysterious and wonderful;
     it is the supreme test of men and women. If we wrong it, and
     despise it, we mutilate the divine in ourselves.

     "Oh, Daphne! it is a small thing to say 'Forgive!' Yet it means the
     whole world.--

     "And you can still say it to the living. It has been my anguish
     that I could only say it to the dead.... Daphne, good-bye! I have
     fought a long, long fight, but God is master--I bless--I adore----"

Daphne sat staring at the letter through a mist of unwilling tears. All
its phrases, ideas, preconceptions, were unwelcome, unreal to her,
though she knew they had been real to Madeleine.

Yet the compulsion of the dead was upon her, and of her scene with
Boyson. What they asked of her--Madeleine and Alfred Boyson--was of
course out of the question; the mere thought of that humiliating word
"forgiveness" sent a tingle of passion through her. But was there no
third course?--something which might prove to all the world how full of
resource and generosity a woman may be?

She pondered through some sleepless hours; and at last she saw her way
plain.

Within a week she had left New York for Europe.



CHAPTER XII


The ship on which Daphne travelled had covered about half her course. On
a certain June evening Mrs. Floyd, walking up and down the promenade
deck, found her attention divided between two groups of her
fellow-travellers; one taking exercise on the same deck as herself; the
other, a family party, on the steerage deck, on which many persons in
the first class paused to look down with sympathy as they reached the
dividing rail aft.

The group on the promenade deck consisted of a lady and gentleman, and a
boy of seven. The elders walked rapidly; holding themselves stiffly
erect, and showing no sign of acquaintance with anyone on board. The
child dragged himself wearily along behind them, looking sometimes from
side to side at the various people passing by, with eyes no less furtive
than his mother's. She was a tall and handsome woman, with extravagantly
marine clothes and much false hair. Her companion, a bulky and
ill-favoured man, glanced superciliously at the ladies in the deck
chairs, bestowing always a more attentive scrutiny than usual on a very
pretty girl, who was lying reading midway down, with a white lace scarf
draped round her beautiful hair and the harmonious oval of her face.
Daphne, watching him, remembered that she had see him speaking to the
girl--who was travelling alone--on one or two occasions. For the rest,
they were a notorious couple. The woman had been twice divorced, after
misdoings which had richly furnished the newspapers; the man belonged to
a financial class with which reputable men of business associate no more
than they are obliged. The ship left them severely alone; and they
retaliated by a manner clearly meant to say that they didn't care a
brass farthing for the ship.

The group on the steerage deck was of a very different kind. It was made
up of a consumptive wife, a young husband and one or two children. The
wife's malady, recently declared, had led to their being refused
admission to the States. They had been turned back from the emigrant
station on Ellis Island, and were now sadly returning to Liverpool. But
the courage of the young and sweet-faced mother, the devotion of her
Irish husband, the charm of her dark-eyed children, had roused much
feeling in an idle ship, ready for emotion. There had been a collection
for them among the passengers; a Liverpool shipowner, in the first
class, had promised work to the young man on landing; the mother was to
be sent to a sanatorium; the children cared for during her absence. The
family made a kind of nucleus round which whatever humanity--or whatever
imitation of it--there was on board might gather and crystallize. There
were other mournful cases indeed to be studied on the steerage deck, but
none in which misfortune was so attractive.

As she walked up and down, or sat in the tea room catching fragments of
the conversation round her, Daphne was often secretly angered by the
public opinion she perceived, favourable in the one case, hostile in the
other. How ignorant and silly it was--this public opinion. As to
herself, she was soon aware that a few people on board had identified
her and communicated their knowledge to others. On the whole, she felt
herself treated with deference. Her own version of her story was clearly
accepted, at least by the majority; some showed her an unspoken but
evident sympathy, while her wealth made her generally interesting. Yet
there were two or three in whom she felt or fancied a more critical
attitude; who looked at her coolly, and seemed to avoid her. Bostonian
Pharisees, no doubt!--ignorant of all those great expansions of the
female destiny that were going forward.

The fact was--she admitted it--that she was abnormally sensitive. These
moral judgments, of different sorts, of which she was conscious,
floating as it were in the life around her, which her mind isolated and
magnified, found her smarting and sore, and would not let her be. Her
irritable pride was touched at every turn; she hardly knew why. She was
not to be judged by anybody; she was her own defender and her own judge.
If she was no longer a symbolic and sympathetic figure--like that young
mother among her children--she had her own claims. In the secrecy of the
mind she fiercely set them out.

The days passed, however, and as she neared the English shores her
resistance to a pursuing thought became fainter. It was, of course,
Boyson's astonishing appeal to her that had let loose the Avenging
Goddesses. She repelled them with scorn; yet all the same they hurtled
round her. After all, she was no monster. She had done a monstrous thing
in a sudden brutality of egotism; and a certain crude state of law and
opinion had helped her to do it, had confused the moral values and
falsified her conscience. But she was not yet brutalized. Moreover, do
what she would, she was still in a world governed by law; a world at the
heart of which broods a power austere and immutable; a power which man
did not make, which, if he clash with it, grinds him to powder. Its
manifestations in Daphne's case were slight, but enough. She was not
happy, that certainly was clear. She did not suppose she ever would be
happy again. Whatever it was--just, heroic, or the reverse--the action
by which she had violently changed her life had not been a success,
estimated by results. No other man had attracted her since she had cast
Roger off; her youth seemed to be deserting her; she saw herself in the
glass every morning with discontent, even a kind of terror; she had lost
her child. And in these suspended hours of the voyage, when life floats
between sky and sea, amid the infinity of weaves, all that she had been
doing since the divorce, her public "causes" and triumphs, the
adulations with which she had been surrounded, began to seem to her
barren and futile. No, she was not happy; what she had done had not
answered; and she knew it.

       *       *       *       *       *

One night, a night of calm air and silvery sea, she hung over the ship's
side, dreaming rather miserably. The ship, aglow with lights, alive with
movement, with talk, laughter and music, glided on between the stars and
the unfathomable depths of the mid-Atlantic. Nothing, to north and
south, between her and the Poles; nothing but a few feet of iron and
timber between her and the hungry gulfs in which the highest Alp would
sink from sight. The floating palace, hung by Knowledge above Death,
just out of Death's reach, suggested to her a number of melancholy
thoughts and images. A touch of more than Arctic cold stole upon her,
even through this loveliness of a summer night; she felt desperately
unhappy and alone.

From the saloon came a sound of singing:

    _"An die Lippen wollt' ich pressen
      Deine kleine weisse Hand,
    Und mit Thränen sie benetzen
      Deine kleine weisse Hand."_

The tears came to her eyes. She remembered that she, too, had once felt
the surrender and the tenderness of love.

Then she brushed the tears away, angry with herself and determined to
brood no more. But she looked round her in vain for a companion who
might distract her. She had made no friends on board, and though she had
brought with her a secretary and a maid, she kept them both at arm's
length, and they never offered their society without an invitation.

What was she going to do? And why was she making this journey?

Because the injustice and absurdity of English law had distorted and
besmirched her own perfectly legitimate action. They had given a handle
to such harsh critics as Alfred Boyson. But she meant somehow to put
herself right; and not only herself, but the great cause of woman's
freedom and independence. No woman, in the better future that is coming,
shall be forced either by law or opinion to continue the relations of
marriage with a man she has come to despise. Marriage is merely
proclaimed love; and if love fails, marriage has no further meaning or
_raison d'être_; it comes, or should come, automatically to an end. This
is the first article in the woman's charter, and without it marriage
itself has neither value nor sanctity. She seemed to hear sentences of
this sort, in her own voice, echoing about windy halls, producing waves
of emotion on a sea of strained faces--women's faces, set and pale, like
that of Madeleine Verrier. She had never actually made such a speech,
but she felt she would like to have made it.

What was she going to do? No doubt Roger would resent her coming--would
probably refuse to see her, as she had once refused to see him. Well,
she must try and act with dignity and common sense; she must try and
persuade him to recognize her good faith, and to get him to listen to
what she proposed. She had her plan for Roger's reclamation, and was
already in love with it. Naturally, she had never meant permanently to
hurt or injure Roger! She had done it for his good as well as her own.
Yet even as she put this plea forward in the inner tribunal of
consciousness, she knew that it was false.

_"You have murdered a life!"_ Well, that was what prejudiced and
hide-bound persons like Alfred Boyson said, and no doubt always would
say. She could not help it; but for her own dignity's sake, that moral
dignity in which she liked to feel herself enwrapped, she would give as
little excuse for it as possible.

Then, as she stood looking eastward, a strange thought struck her. Once
on that farther shore and she would be Roger's wife again--an English
subject, and Roger's wife. How ridiculous, and how intolerable! When
shall we see some real comity of nations in these matters of
international marriage and divorce?

She had consulted her lawyers in New York before starting; on Roger's
situation first of all, but also on her own. Roger, it seemed, might
take certain legal steps, once he was aware of her being again on
English ground. But, of course, he would not take them. "It was never me
he cared for--only Beatty!" she said to herself with a bitter
perversity. Still the thought of returning within the range of the old
obligations, the old life, affected her curiously. There were hours,
especially at night, when she felt shut up with thoughts of Roger and
Beatty--her husband and her child--just as of old.

How, in the name of justice, was she to blame for Roger's illness? Her
irritable thoughts made a kind of grievance against him of the attack of
pneumonia which she was told had injured his health. He must have
neglected himself in some foolish way. The strongest men are the most
reckless of themselves. In any case, how was it her fault?

One night she woke up suddenly, in the dawn, her heart beating
tumultuously. She had been dreaming of her meeting--her possible
meeting--with Roger. Her face was flushed, her memory confused. She
could not recall the exact words or incidents of the dream, only that
Roger had been in some way terrible and terrifying.

And as she sat up in her berth, trying to compose herself, she recalled
the last time she had seen him at Philadelphia--a painful scene--and his
last broken words to her, as he turned back from the door to speak
them:--

"As to Beatty, I hold you responsible! She is my child, no less than
yours. You shall answer to me! Remember that!"

Answer to him? Beatty was dead--in spite of all that love and science
could do. Involuntarily she began to weep as she remembered the child's
last days; the little choked cry, once or twice, for "Daddy!" followed,
so long as life maintained its struggle, by a childish anger that he did
not come. And then the silencing of the cry, and the last change and
settling in the small face, so instinct already with feeling and
character, so prophetic of the woman to be.

A grief, of course, never to be got over; but for which she, Daphne,
deserved pity and tenderness, not reproaches. She hardened herself to
meet the coming trial.

       *       *       *       *       *

She arrived in London in the first week of July, and her first act was
to post a letter to Herbert French, addressed to his East-End vicarage,
a letter formally expressed and merely asking him to give the writer
"twenty minutes' conversation on a subject of common interest to us
both." The letter was signed "Daphne Floyd," and a stamped envelope
addressed to "Mrs. Floyd" was enclosed. By return of post she received a
letter from a person unknown to her, the curate, apparently, in charge
of Mr. French's parish. The letter informed her that her own
communication had not been forwarded, as Mr. French had gone away for a
holiday after a threat of nervous breakdown in consequence of overwork;
and business letters and interviews were being spared him as much as
possible. "He is, however, much better, I am glad to say, and if the
subject on which you wish to speak to him is really urgent, his present
address is Prospect House, St. Damian's, Ventnor. But unless it is
urgent it would be a kindness not to trouble him with it until he
returns to town, which will not be for another fortnight."

Daphne walked restlessly up and down her hotel sitting-room. Of course
the matter was urgent. The health of an East-End clergyman--already, it
appeared, much amended--was not likely to seem of much importance to a
woman of her temperament, when it stood in the way of her plans.

But she would not write, she would go. She had good reason to suppose
that Herbert French would not welcome a visit from her; he might indeed
very easily use his health as an excuse for not seeing her. But she must
see him.

By mid-day she was already on her way to the Isle of Wight. About five
o'clock she arrived at Ventnor, where she deposited maid and luggage.
She then drove out alone to St. Damian's, a village a few miles north,
through a radiant evening. The twinkling sea was alive with craft of all
sizes, from the great liner leaving its trail of smoke along the
horizon, to the white-sailed yachts close upon the land. The woods of
the Undercliff sank softly to the blues and purple, the silver streaks
and gorgeous shadows of the sea floor. The lights were broad and rich.
After a hot day, coolness had come and the air was delightful.

But Daphne sat erect, noticing nothing but the relief of the lowered
temperature after her hot and tiresome journey. She applied herself
occasionally to natural beauty, as she applied herself to music or
literature, but it is not to women of her type that the true passion of
it--"the soul's bridegroom"--comes. And she was absorbed in thinking how
she should open her business to Herbert French.

Prospect House turned out to be a detached villa standing in a garden,
with a broad view of the Channel. Daphne sent her carriage back to the
inn and climbed the steep drive which led up to the verandaed house. The
front garden was empty, but voices--voices, it seemed, of children--came
from behind the house where there was a grove of trees.

"Is Mr. Herbert French at home?" she asked of the maid who answered her
bell.

The girl looked at her doubtfully.

"Yes, ma'am--but he doesn't see visitors yet. Shall I tell Mrs. French?
She's in the garden with the children."

"No, thank you," said Daphne, firmly. "It's Mr. French I have come to
see, and I am sure that he will wish to see me. Will you kindly give him
my card? I will come in and wait."

And she brushed past the maid, who was intimidated by the visitor's
fashionable dress and by the drooping feathers of her Paris hat, in
which the sharp olive-skinned face with its magnificent eyes was
picturesquely framed. The girl gave way unwillingly, showed Mrs. Floyd
into a small study looking on the front garden, and left her.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Elsie!" cried Herbert French, springing from the low chair in which he
had been lounging in his shirt-sleeves with a book when the parlour-maid
found him, "Elsie!"

His wife, who was at the other end of the lawn, playing with the
children, the boy on her back and a pair of girl twins clinging to her
skirts, turned in astonishment and hurried back to him.

"Mrs. Floyd?" They both looked at the card in bewilderment. "Who is it?
Mrs. Floyd?"

Then French's face changed.

"What is this lady like?" he asked peremptorily of the parlour-maid.

"Well, sir, she's a dark lady, dressed very smart----"

"Has she very black eyes?"

"Oh yes, sir!"

"Young?"

The girl promptly replied in the negative, qualifying it a moment
afterward by a perplexed "Well, I shouldn't say so, sir."

French thought a moment.

"Thank you. I will come in."

He turned to his wife with a rapid question, under his breath. "Where is
Roger?"

Elsie stared at him, her colour paling.

"Herbert!--it can't--it can't----"

"I suspect it is--Mrs. Barnes," said French slowly. "Help me on with my
coat, darling. Now then, what shall we do?"

"She can't have come to force herself on him!" cried his wife
passionately.

"Probably she knows nothing of his being here. Did he go for a walk?"

"Yes, towards Sandown. But he will be back directly."

A quick shade of expression crossed French's face, which his wife knew
to mean that whenever Roger was out by himself there was cause for
anxiety. But the familiar trouble was immediately swallowed up in the
new and pressing one.

"What can that woman have come to say?" he asked, half of himself, half
of his wife, as he walked slowly back to the house. Elsie had conveyed
the children to their nurse, and was beside him.

"Perhaps she repents!" The tone was dry and short; it flung a challenge
to misdoing.

"I doubt it! But Roger?" French stood still, pondering. "Keep him,
darling--intercept him if you can. If he must see her, I will come out.
But we mustn't risk a shock."

They consulted a little in low voices. Then French went into the house
and Elsie came back to her children. She stood thinking, her fine face,
so open-browed and purely lined, frowning and distressed.

       *       *       *       *       *

"You wished to see me, Mrs. Barnes?"

French had closed the door of the study behind him and stood without
offering to shake hands with his visitor, coldly regarding her.

Daphne rose from her seat, reddening involuntarily.

"My name is no longer what you once knew it, Mr. French. I sent you my
card."

French made a slight inclination and pointed to the chair from which she
had risen.

"Pray sit down. May I know what has brought you here?"

Daphne resumed her seat, her small hands fidgeting on her parasol.

"I wished to come and consult with you, Mr. French. I had heard a
distressing account of--of Roger, from a friend in America."

"I see," said French, on whom a sudden light dawned. "You met Boyson at
Niagara--that I knew--and you are here because of what he said to you?"

"Yes, partly." The speaker looked round the room, biting her lip, and
French observed her for a moment. He remembered the foreign vivacity and
dash, the wilful grace of her youth, and marvelled at her stiffened,
pretentious air, her loss of charm. Instinctively the saint in him knew
from the mere look of her that she had been feeding herself on egotisms
and falsehoods, and his heart hardened. Daphne resumed:

"If Captain Boyson has given you an account of our interview, Mr.
French, it was probably a one-sided one. However, that is _not_ the
point. He _did_ distress me very much by his account, which I gather
came from you--of--of Roger, and although, of course, it is a very
awkward matter for me to move in, I still felt impelled for old times'
sake to come over and see whether I could not help you--and his other
friends--and, of course, his mother----"

"His mother is out of the question," interrupted French. "She is, I am
sorry to say, a helpless invalid."

"Is it really as bad as that? I hoped for better news. Then I apply to
you--to you chiefly. Is there anything that I could do to assist you, or
others, to----"

"To save him?" French put in the words as she hesitated.

Daphne was silent.

"What is your idea?" asked French, after a moment. "You heard, I
presume, from Captain Boyson that my wife and I were extremely anxious
about Roger's ways and habits; that we cannot induce him, or, at any
rate, we have not yet been able to induce him, to give up drinking; that
his health is extremely bad, and that we are sometimes afraid that there
is now some secret in his life of which he is ashamed?"

"Yes," said Daphne, fidgeting with a book on the table. "Yes, that is
what I heard."

"And you have come to suggest something?"

"Is there no way by which Roger can become as free as I now am!" she
said suddenly, throwing back her head.

"By which Roger can obtain his divorce from you--and marry again? None,
in English law."

"But there is--in Colonial law." She began to speak hurriedly and
urgently. "If Roger were to go to New Zealand, or to Australia, he
could, after a time, get a divorce for desertion. I know he could--I
have inquired. It doesn't seem to be certain what effect my action--the
American decree, I mean--would have in an English colony. My lawyers are
going into it. But at any rate there is the desertion and then"--she
grew more eager--"if he married abroad--in the Colony--the marriage
would be valid. No one could say a word to him when he returned to
England."

French looked at her in silence. She went on--with the unconscious
manner of one accustomed to command her world, to be the oracle and
guide of subordinates:--

"Could we not induce him to go? Could you not? Very likely he would
refuse to see me; and, of course, he has, most unjustly to me, I think,
refused to take any money from me. But the money might be provided
without his knowing where it came from. A young doctor might be sent
with him--some nice fellow who would keep him amused and look after him.
At Heston he used to take a great interest in farming. He might take up
land. I would pay anything--anything! He might suppose it came from some
friend."

French smiled sadly. His eyes were on the ground. She bent forward.

"I beg of you, Mr. French, not to set yourself against me! Of
course"--she drew herself up proudly--"I know what you must think of my
action. Our views are different, irreconcilably different. You probably
think all divorce wrong. We think, in America, that a marriage which has
become a burden to either party is no marriage, and ought to cease. But
that, of course"--she waved a rhetorical hand--"we cannot discuss. I do
not propose for a moment to discuss it. You must allow me my national
point of view. But surely we can, putting all that aside, combine to
help Roger?"

"To marry again?" said French, slowly. "It can't, I fear, be done--what
you propose--in the time. I doubt whether Roger has two years to live."

Daphne started.

"Roger!--to live?" she repeated, in horror. "What is really the matter?
Surely nothing more than care and a voyage could set right?"

French shook his head.

"We have been anxious about him for some time. That terrible attack of
septic pneumonia in New York, as we now know, left the heart injured and
the lungs weakened. He was badly nursed, and his state of mind at the
time--his misery and loneliness--left him little chance. Then the
drinking habit, which he contracted during those wretched months in the
States, has been of course sorely against him. However, we hoped against
hope--Elsie and I--till a few weeks ago. Then someone, we don't know
who, made him go to a specialist, and the verdict is--phthisis; not very
advanced, but certain and definite. And the general outlook is not
favourable."

Daphne had grown pale.

"We must send him away!" she said imperiously. "We must! A voyage, a
good doctor, a dry climate, would save him, of course they would! Why,
there is nothing necessarily fatal now in phthisis! Nothing! It is
absurd to talk as though there were."

Again French looked at her in silence. But as she had lost colour, he
had gained it. His face, which the East End had already stamped, had
grown rosy, his eyes sparkled.

"Oh, do say something! Tell me what you suggest?" cried Daphne.

"Do you really wish me to tell you what I suggest?"

Daphne waited, her eyes first imploring, then beginning to shrink. He
bent forward and touched her on the arm.

"Go, Mrs. Barnes, and ask your husband's forgiveness! What will come of
it I do not know. But you, at least, will have done something to set
yourself right--with God."

The Christian and the priest had spoken; the low voice in its intensity
had seemed to ring through the quiet sun-flooded room. Daphne rose,
trembling with resentment and antagonism.

"It is you, then, Mr. French, who make it impossible for me to
discuss--to help. I shall have to see if I can find some other means of
carrying out my purpose."

There was a voice outside. Daphne turned.

"Who is that?"

French ran to the glass door that opened on the veranda, and trying for
an ordinary tone, waved somebody back who was approaching from without.
Elsie came quickly round the corner of the house, calling to the
new-comer.

But Daphne saw who it was and took her own course. She, too, went to the
window, and, passing French, she stepped into the veranda.

"Roger!"

A man hurried through the dusk. There was an exclamation, a silence. By
this time French was on the lawn, his wife's quivering hand in his.
Daphne retreated slowly into the study and Roger Barnes followed her.

"Leave them alone," said French, and putting an arm round his wife he
led her resolutely away, out of sound and sight.

       *       *       *       *       *

Barnes stood silent, breathing heavily and leaning on the back of a
chair. The western light from a side window struck full on him. But
Daphne, the wave of excitement spent, was not looking at him. She had
fallen upon a sofa, her face was in her hands.

"What do you want with me?" said Roger at last. Then, in a sudden heat,
"By God, I never wished to see you again!"

Daphne's muffled voice came through her fingers.

"I know that. You needn't tell me so!"

Roger turned away.

"You'll admit it's an intrusion?" he said fiercely. "I don't see what
you and I have got to do with each other now."

Daphne struggled for self-control. After all, she had always managed him
in the old days. She would manage him now.

"Roger--I--I didn't come to discuss the past. That's done with. But--I
heard things about you--that----"

"You didn't like?" he laughed. "I'm sorry, but I don't see what you have
to do with them."

Daphne's hand fidgeted with her dress, her eyes still cast down.

"Couldn't we talk without bitterness? Just for ten minutes? It was from
Captain Boyson that I heard----"

"Oh, Boyson, was that it? And he got his information from French--poor
old Herbert. Well, it's quite true. I'm no longer fit for your--or
his--or anybody's society."

He threw himself into an arm-chair, calmly took a cigarette out of a box
that lay near, and lit it. Daphne at last ventured to look at him. The
first and dominant impression was of something shrunken and diminished.
His blue flannel suit hung loose on his shoulders and chest, his
athlete's limbs. His features had been thinned and graved and scooped by
fever and broken nights; all the noble line and proportion was still
there, but for one who had known him of old the effect was no longer
beautiful but ghastly. Daphne stared at him in dismay.

He on his side observed his visitor, but with a cooler curiosity. Like
French he noticed the signs of change, the dying down of brilliance and
of bloom. To go your own way, as Daphne had done, did not seem to
conduce to a woman's good looks.

At last he threw in a dry interrogation.

"Well?"

"I came to try and help you," Daphne broke out, turning her head away,
"to ask Mr. French what I could do. It made me unhappy----"

"Did it?" He laughed again. "I don't see why. Oh, you needn't trouble
yourself. Elsie and Herbert are awfully good to me. They're all I want,
or at any rate," he hesitated a moment, "they're all I _shall_
want--from now on. Anyway, you know there'd be something grotesque in
your trying your hand at reforming me."

"I didn't mean anything of the kind!" she protested, stung by his tone.
"I--I wanted to suggest something practical--some way by which you
might--release yourself from me--and also recover your health."

"Release myself from you?" he repeated. "That's easier said than done.
Did you mean to send me to the Colonies--was that your idea?"

His smile was hard to bear. But she went on, choking, yet determined.

"That seems to be the only way--in English law. Why shouldn't you take
it? The voyage, the new climate, would probably set you up again. You
need only be away a short time."

He looked at her in silence a moment, fingering his cigarette.

"Thank you," he said at last, "thank you. And I suppose you offered us
money? You told Herbert you would pay all expenses? Oh, don't be angry!
I didn't mean anything uncivil. But," he raised himself with energy from
his lounging position, "at the same time, perhaps you ought to know that
I would sooner die a thousand times over than take a single silver
sixpence that belonged to you!"

Their eyes met, his quite calm, hers sparkling with resentment and pain.

"Of course I can't argue with you if you meet me in that tone," she said
passionately. "But I should have thought----"

"Besides," he interrupted her, "you say it is the only way. You are
quite mistaken. It is not the only way. As far as freeing me goes, you
could divorce me to-morrow--here--if you liked. I have been unfaithful
to you. A strange way of putting it--at the present moment--between you
and me! But that's how it would appear in the English courts. And as to
the 'cruelty'--that wouldn't give _you_ any trouble!"

Daphne had flushed deeply. It was only by a great effort that she
maintained her composure. Her eyes avoided him.

"Mrs. Fairmile?" she said in a low voice.

He threw back his head with a sound of scorn.

"Mrs. Fairmile! You don't mean to tell me, Daphne, to my face, that you
ever believed any of the lies--forgive the expression--that you, and
your witnesses, and your lawyers told in the States--that you bribed
those precious newspapers to tell?"

"Of course I believed it!" she said fiercely. "And as for lies, it was
you who began them."

"You _believed_ that I had betrayed you with Chloe Fairmile?" He raised
himself again, fixing his strange deep-set gaze upon her.

"I never said----"

"No! To that length you didn't quite go. I admit it. You were able to
get your way without it." He sank back in his chair again. "No, my
remark had nothing to do with Chloe. I have never set eyes on her since
I left you at Heston. But--there was a girl, a shop-girl, a poor little
thing, rather pretty. I came across her about six months ago--it doesn't
matter how. She loves me, she was awfully good to me, a regular little
brick. Some day I shall tell Herbert all about her--not yet--though, of
course, he suspects. She'd serve your purpose, if you thought it worth
while. But you won't----"

"You're--living with her--now?"

"No. I broke with her a fortnight ago, after I'd seen those doctors. She
made me see them, poor little soul. Then I went to say good-bye to her,
and she," his voice shook a little, "she took it hard. But it's all
right. I'm not going to risk her life, or saddle her with a dying man.
She's with her sister. She'll get over it."

He turned his head towards the window, his eyes pursued the white sails
on the darkening blue outside.

"It's been a bad business, but it wasn't altogether my fault. I saved
her from someone else, and she saved me, once or twice, from blowing my
brains out."

"What did the doctors say to you?" asked Daphne, brusquely, after a
pause.

"They gave me about two years," he said, indifferently, turning to knock
off the end of his cigarette. "That doesn't matter." Then, as his eyes
caught her face, a sudden animation sprang into his. He drew his chair
nearer to her and threw away his cigarette. "Look here, Daphne, don't
let's waste time. We shall never see each other again, and there are a
number of things I want to know. Tell me everything you can remember
about Beatty that last six months--and about her illness, you
understand--never mind repeating what you told Boyson, and he told me.
But there's lots more, there must be. Did she ever ask for me? Boyson
said you couldn't remember. But you must remember!"

He came closer still, his threatening eyes upon her. And as he did so,
the dark presence of ruin and death, of things damning and irrevocable,
which had been hovering over their conversation, approached with
him--flapped their sombre wings in Daphne's face. She trembled all over.

"Yes," she said, faintly, "she did ask for you."

"Ah!" He gave a cry of delight. "Tell me--tell me at
once--everything--from the beginning!"

And held by his will, she told him everything--all the piteous story of
the child's last days--sobbing herself; and for the first time making
much of the little one's signs of remembering her father, instead of
minimizing and ignoring them, as she had done in the talk with Boyson.
It was as though for the first time she were trying to stanch a wound
instead of widening it.

He listened eagerly. The two heads--the father and mother--drew closer;
one might have thought them lovers still, united by tender and sacred
memories.

But at last Roger drew himself away. He rose to his feet.

"I'll forgive you much for that!" he said with a long breath. "Will you
write it for me some day--all you've told me?"

She made a sign of assent.

"Well, now, you mustn't stay here any longer. I suppose you've got a
carriage? And we mustn't meet again. There's no object in it. But I'll
remember that you came."

She looked at him. In her nature the great deeps were breaking up. She
saw him as she had seen him in her first youth. And, at last, what she
had done was plain to her.

With a cry she threw herself on the floor beside him. She pressed his
hand in hers.

"Roger, let me stay! Let me nurse you!" she panted. "I didn't
understand. Let me be your friend! Let me help! I implore--I implore
you!"

He hesitated a moment, then he lifted her to her feet decidedly, but not
unkindly.

"What do you mean?" he said, slowly. "Do you mean that you wish us to be
husband and wife again? You are, of course, my wife, in the eye of
English law, at this moment."

"Let me try and help you!" she pleaded again, breaking into bitter
tears. "I didn't--I didn't understand!"

He shook his head.

"You can't help me. I--I'm afraid I couldn't bear it. We mustn't meet.
It--it's gone too deep."

He thrust his hands into his pockets and walked away to the window. She
stood helplessly weeping.

When he returned he was quite composed again.

"Don't cry so," he said, calmly. "It's done. We can't help it. And don't
make yourself too unhappy about me. I've had awful times. When I was ill
in New York--it was like hell. The pain was devilish, and I wasn't used
to being alone, and nobody caring a damn, and everybody believing me a
cad and a bully. But I got over that. It was Beatty's death that hit me
so hard, and that I wasn't there. It's that, somehow, I can't get
over--that you did it--that you could have had the heart. It would
always come between us. No, we're better apart. But I'll tell you
something to comfort you. I've given up that girl, as I've told you, and
I've given up drink. Herbert won't believe it, but he'll find it is so.
And I don't mean to die before my time. I'm going out to Switzerland
directly. I'll do all the correct things. You see, when a man _knows_
he's going to die, well," he turned away, "he gets uncommonly curious as
to what's going to come next."

He walked up and down a few turns. Daphne watched him.

"I'm not pious--I never was. But after all, the religious people profess
to know something about it, and nobody else does. Just supposing it were
true?"

He stopped short, looking at her. She understood perfectly that he had
Beatty in his mind.

"Well, anyhow, I'm going to live decently for the rest of my time--and
die decently. I'm not going to throw away chances. And don't trouble
yourself about money. There's enough left to carry me through. Good-bye,
Daphne!" He held out his hand to her.

She took it, still dumbly weeping. He looked at her with pity.

"Yes, I know, you didn't understand what you were doing. But you see,
Daphne, marriage is----" he sought rather painfully for his words, "it's
a big thing. If it doesn't make us, it ruins us; I didn't marry you for
the best of reasons, but I was very fond of you--honour bright! I loved
you in my way, I should have loved you more and more. I should have been
a decent fellow if you'd stuck to me. I had all sorts of plans; you
might have taught me anything. I was a fool about Chloe Fairmile, but
there was nothing in it, you know there wasn't. And now it's all rooted
up and done with. Women like to think such things can be mended, but
they can't--they can't, indeed. It would be foolish to try."

Daphne sank upon a chair and buried her face in her hands. He drew a
long and painful breath. "I'm afraid I must go," he said waveringly.
"I--I can't stand this any longer. Good-bye, Daphne, good-bye."

She only sobbed, as though her life dissolved in grief. He drew near to
her, and as she wept, hidden from him, he laid his hand a moment on her
shoulder. Then he took up his hat.

"I'm going now," he said in a low voice. "I shan't come back till you
have gone."

She heard him cross the room, his steps in the veranda. Outside, in the
summer dark, a figure came to meet him. French drew Roger's arm into
his, and the two walked away. The shadows of the wooded lane received
them.

A woman came quickly into the room.

Elsie French looked down upon the sobbing Daphne, her own eyes full of
tears, her hands clasped.

"Oh, you poor thing!" she said, under her breath. "You poor thing!" And
she knelt down beside her and folded her arms round her.

So from the same heart that had felt a passionate pity for the victim,
compassion flowed out on the transgressor. For where others feel the
tragedy of suffering, the pure in heart realize with an infinitely
sharper pain the tragedy of guilt.


THE END



       *       *       *       *       *



                             BY THE SAME AUTHOR


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    Miss Bretherton
    Robert Elsmere
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    Sir George Tressady
    Helbeck of Bannisdale
    Eleanor
    Lady Rose's Daughter
    The Marriage of William Ashe
    Agatha
    Fenwick's Career
    Milly and Olly
    The Testing of Diana Mallory





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