By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Jan and Her Job
Author: Harker, L. Allen (Lizzie Allen), 1863-1933
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Jan and Her Job" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.


[Illustration: "But surely," said Peter, "I _am_ your job--part of it,









Copyright, 1917, by
Charles Scribner's Sons


Published March, 1917


                    F. R. P.

  "_Chary of praise and prodigal of counsel--
    Who but thou?_"
                                R. L. S.


  CHAPTER                                               PAGE

      I. JAN                                               1

     II. JAN'S MAIL                                       13

    III. BOMBAY                                           19

     IV. THE BEGINNING OF THE JOB                         39

      V. THE CHILDREN                                     52

     VI. THE SHADOW BEFORE                                62

    VII. THE HUMAN TOUCH                                  78

   VIII. THE END OF THE DREAM                             91

     IX. MEG                                              97

      X. PLANS                                           124

     XI. THE STATE OF PETER                              139

    XII. "THE BEST-LAID SCHEMES"                         149

   XIII. THE WHEELS OF CHANCE                            162

    XIV. PERPLEXITIES                                    173

     XV. WREN'S END                                      184

    XVI. "THE BLUDGEONINGS OF CHANCE"                    201

           ME"                                           212

  XVIII. MEG AND CAPTAIN MIDDLETON                       220

    XIX. THE YOUNG IDEA                                  240

     XX. "ONE WAY OF LOVE"                               252

    XXI. ANOTHER WAY OF LOVE                             261

   XXII. THE ENCAMPMENT                                  276

  XXIII. TACTICS                                         287

   XXIV. "THE WAY OF A MAN WITH A MAID"                  303

    XXV. A DEMONSTRATION IN FORCE                        325


  XXVII. AUGUST, 1914                                    351


  "But surely," said Peter, "I _am_ your job--part of it,
      anyway"                                 _Frontispiece_


  "It would make it easier for both of us if you'd face it,
      my dear"                                            66

  He washed his small sister with thoroughness and despatch,
      pointing out ... that he "went into all the
      corners"                                           156

  William rushed out to welcome the strangers. Two ...
      nice children                                      188




She was something of a puzzle to the other passengers. They couldn't
quite place her. She came on board the P. and O. at Marseilles. Being
Christmas week the boat was not crowded, and she had a cabin to herself
on the spar deck, so there was no "stable-companion" to find out
anything about her.

The sharp-eyed Australian lady, who sat opposite her at the Purser's
table, decided that she was not married, or even engaged, as she wore no
rings of any kind. Besides, her name, "Miss Janet Ross," figured in the
dinner-list and was plainly painted on her deck-chair. At meals she sat
beside the Purser, and seemed more or less under his wing. People at her
table decided that she couldn't be going out as a governess or she would
hardly be travelling first class, and yet she did not look of the sort
who globe-trot all by themselves.

Rather tall, slender without being thin, she moved well. Her ringless
hands were smooth and prettily shaped, so were her slim feet, and always
singularly well-shod.

Perhaps her chief outward characteristic was that she looked
delightfully fresh and clean. Her fair skin helped to this effect, and
the trim suitability of her clothes accentuated it. And yet there was
nothing challenging or particularly noticeable in her personality.

Her face, fresh-coloured and unlined, was rather round. Her eyes
well-opened and blue-grey, long-sighted and extremely honest. Her hair,
thick and naturally wavy, had been what hairdressers call "mid-brown,"
but was now frankly grey, especially round the temples; and the grey
hair puzzled people, so that opinions differed widely regarding her age.

The five box-wallahs (gentlemen engaged in commercial pursuits are so
named in the East to distinguish them from the Heaven-Born in the
various services that govern India), who, with the Australian lady, sat
opposite to her at table, decided that she was really young and
prematurely grey. Between the courses they diligently took stock of her.
The Australian lady disagreed with them. She declared Miss Ross to be
middle-aged, to look younger than she was. In this the Australian lady
was quite sincere. She could not conceive of any _young_ woman
neglecting the many legitimate means that existed of combating this most
distressing semblance--if semblance it was--of age.

The Australian lady set her down as a well-preserved forty at least.

Mr. Frewellen, the oldest and crossest and greediest of the five
box-wallahs, declared that he would lay fifteen rupees to five annas
that she was under thirty; that her eyes were sad, and it was probably
trouble that had turned her hair. At his time of life, he could tell a
young woman when he saw one. No painted old harridan could deceive
_him_. After all, if Miss Ross _had_ grey hair, she had plenty of it,
and it was her own. But Mr. Frewellen, who sat directly opposite her,
was prejudiced in her favour, for she always let him take her roll if it
was browner than his own. He also took her knife if it happened to be
sharper than the one he had, and he insisted on her listening to his
incessant grumbling as to the food, the service, the temperature, and
the general imbecility and baseness of his fellow-creatures.

Like the Ancient Mariner, he held her with his glittering spectacles.
Miss Ross trembled before his diatribes. He spoke in a loud and rumbling
voice, and made derogatory remarks about the other passengers as they
passed to their respective tables. She would thankfully have changed
hers, but that it might have seemed ungrateful to the Purser, into whose
charge she had been given by friends; and the Purser had been most kind
and attentive.

The Australian lady was sure that the Purser knew more about Miss Ross
than he would acknowledge--which he did. But when tackled by one
passenger about another, he was discreet or otherwise in direct ratio to
what he considered was the discretion of the questioner. And he was a
pretty shrewd judge of character. He had infinite opportunities of so
judging. A sea-voyage lays bare many secrets and shows up human nature
at its starkest.

Janet Ross did not seek to make friends, but kindly people who spoke to
her found her pleasant and not in the least disposed to be mysterious
when questioned, though she never volunteered any information about
herself. She was a good listener, and about the middle of any voyage
that is a quality supplying a felt want. Mankind in general finds his
own doings very interesting, and takes great pleasure in recounting the
same. Even the most energetic young passenger cannot play deck-quoits
all day, and mixed cricket matches are too heating to last long once
Aden is left behind. A great many people found it pleasant to drop into
a chair beside the quiet lady, who was always politely interested in
their remarks. She looked so cool and restful in her white frock and
shady hat. She did _not_ buy a solar topee at Port Said, for though this
was her first voyage she had not, it seemed, started quite unwarned.

In the middle of the Indian Ocean she suddenly found favour in the eyes
of Sir Langham Sykes, and when that was the case Sir Langham proclaimed
his preference to the whole ship. No one who attracted his notice could
remain in obscurity. When he was not eating he was talking, generally
about himself, though he was also fond of asking questions.

A short, stout man with a red face, little fierce blue eyes, a booming
voice, noisy laugh and a truculent, domineering manner, Sir Langham
made his presence felt wherever he was.

It was "her shape," as he called it, that first attracted his attention
to Miss Ross, as he watched her walking briskly round and round the
hurricane-deck for her morning constitutional.

"That woman moves well," he remarked to his neighbour; "wonder if she's
goin' out to be married. Nice-looking woman and pleasant, no frills
about her--sort that would be kind in illness."

And Sir Langham sighed. He couldn't take any exercise just then, for his
last attack of gout had been very severe, and his left foot was still
swathed and slippered.

There was a dance that night on the hurricane-deck, and Sir Langham,
while watching the dancers, talked at the top of his voice with the more
important lady passengers. On such occasions he claimed close intimacy
with the Reigning House, and at all times of day one heard such
sentences as, "And _I_ said to the Princess Henrietta," with a full
account of what he did say. And the things he declared he said, and the
stories he told, certainly suggested a doubt as to whether the ladies of
our Royal Family are quite as strait-laced as the ordinary public is led
to believe. But then one had only Sir Langham's word for it. There was
no possibility of questioning the Princess.

Presently Sir Langham got tired of trying to drown the band--it was such
a noisy band--and he hobbled down the companion on to the almost
deserted deck. Right up in the stern he spied Miss Ross, quite alone,
sitting under an electric light absorbed in a book. Beside her was an
empty chair with a comfortable leg-rest. Sir Langham never made any
bones about interrupting people. It would not, to him, have seemed
possible that a woman could prefer any form of literature to the charm
of his conversation. So with a series of grunts he lowered himself into
it, arranged his foot upon the rest, and, without asking permission, lit
a cigar.

"Don't you care for dancin'?" he asked.

She closed her book. "Oh, yes," she said, "but I don't know many men on
board, and there are such a lot of young people who do know one another.
It's pretty to watch them; but the night is pretty, too, don't you
think? The stars all seem so near compared to what they do at home."

"I've seen too many Eastern nights to take much stock in 'em now," he
said in a disparaging voice. "I take it this is all new to you--first
voyage, eh?"

"Yes, I've never been a long voyage before."

"Goin' to India, I suppose. You'd have started sooner if you'd been
goin' for the winter to Australia. Now what are you goin' to India

"To stay with my sister."

"Married sister?"


"Older than you, then, of course."

"No, younger."

"Much younger?"

"Three years."

"Is she like you?"

"Not in the least. She is a beautiful person."

"Been married long?"

"Between five and six years. I'm to take her home at the end of the cold

"Any kids?"


"And you haven't been out before?"

"No; this is my first visit."

"She's been home, I suppose?"

"Yes, once."

"Is her husband in the Army?"


Had Sir Langham been an observant person he would have noted that her
very brief replies did not exactly encourage further questions. But his
idea of conversation was either a monologue or a means of obtaining
information, so he instantly demanded, "What does her husband do?"

The impulse of the moment urged her to reply, "What possible business is
it of yours _what_ he does?" But well-bred people do not yield to these
impulses, so she answered quietly, "He's in the P.W.D."

"Not a bad service, not a bad service, though not equal to the I.C.S.
They've had rather a scandal in it lately. Didn't you see about it in
the papers just before we left?"

At that moment Sir Langham was very carefully flicking the ash from the
end of his cigar, otherwise he might have observed that as he spoke his
companion flushed. A wave of warm colour surged over her face and bare
neck and receded again, leaving her very pale. Her hands closed over the
book lying in her lap, as if glad to hold on to something, and their
knuckles were white against the tan.

"Didn't you see it?" he repeated. "Some chap been found to have taken
bribes over contracts in a native state. Regular rumpus there's been.
Quite right, too; we sahibs must have clean hands. No dealing with brown
people if you haven't clean hands--can't have rupees sticking to 'em in
any Government transactions. Expect you'll hear all about it when you
get out there--makes a great sensation in any service does that sort of
thing. I don't remember the name of the chap--perhaps they didn't give
it--do you?"

"I didn't see anything about it," she said quietly. "I was very busy
just before I left, and hardly looked at a paper."

"Where is your sister?"

"In Bombay."

"Oh, got a billet there, has he? Expect you'll like Bombay; cheery
place, in the cold weather, but not a patch on Calcutta, to my mind. I
hear the Governor and his wife do the thing in style--hospitable, you
know; got private means, as people in that position always ought to

"I don't suppose I shall go out at all," she said. "My sister is ill,
and I've got to look after her. Directly she is strong enough to travel
I shall bring her home."

"Oh, you _must_ see something of the social life of the place while
you're there. D'you know what I thought? I thought you were goin' out to
get married, and"--he continued gallantly--"I thought he was a deuced
lucky chap."

She smiled and shook her head. She was not looking at Sir Langham, but
at the long, white, moonlit pathway of foam left in the wake of the

"I say," he went on confidentially, "what's your Christian name? I'm
certain they don't call you Janet. Is it Nettie, now? I bet it's

"My _family_," said Miss Ross somewhat coldly, "call me Jan."

"Nice little name," he exclaimed, "but more like a boy's. Now, I never
got a pet name. I started Langham, and Langham I've stopped, and I
flatter myself I've made the name known and respected."

He wanted her to look at him, and leaned towards her: "Look here, Miss
Ross, I'm goin' to ask you a funny question, and it's not one you can
ask most women--but you're a puzzle. You've got a face like a child, and
yet you're as grey as a badger. What _is_ your age?"

"I shall be twenty-eight in March."

She looked at him then, and her grey eyes were so full of amusement
that, incredulous as he usually was as to other people's statements, he
knew that she was speaking the truth.

"Then why the devil don't you _do_ something _to_ it?" he demanded.

She laughed. "I couldn't be bothered. And it might turn green, or
something. I don't mind it. It began when I was twenty-three."

"_I_ don't mind it either," Sir Langham declared magnanimously; "but
it's misleading."

"I'm sorry," she said demurely. "I wouldn't mislead anyone for the

"Now, what age should you think _I_ am? But I suppose you know--that's
the worst of being a public character; when one gets nearly a column in
_Who's Who_, everybody knows all about one. That's the penalty of

"Do you mind people knowing your age?"

"Not I! Nor anything else about me. _I've_ never done anything to be
ashamed of. Quite the other way, I can assure you."

"How pleasant that must be," she said quietly.

Sir Langham turned and looked suspiciously at her; but her face was
guileless and calm, with no trace of raillery, her eyes still fixed on
the long bright track of foam.

"I suppose you, now," he muttered hoarsely, "always sleep well, go off
directly you turn in--eh?"

Her quiet eyes met his; little and fierce and truculent, but behind
their rather bloodshot boldness there lurked something else, and with a
sudden pang of pity she knew that it was fear, and that Sir Langham
dreaded the night.

"As a rule I do," she said gently; "but of course I've known what it is
to be sleepless, and it's horrid."

"It's hell," said Sir Langham, "and I'm in it every night this voyage,
for I've knocked off morphia and opiates--they were playing the deuce
with my constitution, and I've strength of mind for anything when I
fairly take hold. But it's awful. When d'you suppose natural sleep will
come back?"

She knew that he did not lack physical courage, that he had fearlessly
faced great dangers in many outposts of the world; but the demon of
insomnia had got a hold of Sir Langham, and he dreaded the night
unspeakably. At that moment there was something pathetic about the
little, boastful, filibustering man.

"I think you will sleep to-night," she said confidently, "especially if
you go to bed early."

She half rose as she spoke, but he put his hand on her arm and pressed
her down in her chair again.

"Don't go yet," he cried. "Keep on tellin' me I'll sleep, and then
perhaps I shall. You look as if you could will people to do things.
You're that quiet sort. Will me, there's a good girl. Tell me again I'll
sleep to-night."

It was getting late; the music had stopped and the dancers had
disappeared. Miss Ross did not feel over comfortable alone with Sir
Langham so far away from everybody else. Especially as she saw he was
excited and nervous. Had he been drinking? she wondered. But she
remembered that he had proclaimed far and wide that, because of his
gout, he'd made a vow to touch no form of "alcoholic liquor" on the
voyage, except on Christmas and New Year's Day. It was six days since
Christmas, and already Aden was left behind. No, it was just sheer
nervous excitement, and if she could do him any good....

"I feel sure you will sleep to-night," she said soothingly, "if you will
do as I tell you."

"I'll do any mortal thing. I've got a deck-cabin to myself. Will you
keep willin' me when you turn in?"

"Go to bed now," she said firmly. "Undress quickly, and then think about
nothing ... and I'll do the rest."

"You will, you promise?"

"Yes, but you must keep your mind a perfect blank, or I can't do

She stood up tall and straight. The moonlight caught her grey hair and
burnished it to an aureole of silver.

With many grunts Sir Langham pulled himself out of his chair. "No
smokin'-room, eh?"

"Good night," Miss Ross said firmly, and left him.

"Don't forget to ask your sister's husband about that chap in the
P.W.D.," he called after her. "He's sure to know all about it. What's
his name?--your brother-in-law, I mean."

But Miss Ross had disappeared.

"Now how the devil," he muttered, "am I to make my mind, _my_ mind, a
perfect blank?"

Two hours later Sir Langham's snores grievously disturbed the occupants
of adjacent cabins.

In hers, Miss Ross sat by the open porthole reading and re-reading the
mail that had reached her at Aden.



                                   _Bombay, December 13th._

      My Dear Jan,

      It was a great relief to get your cable saying definitely
      that you were sailing by the _Carnduff_. Misfortunes seem
      to have come upon us in such numbers of late that I dreaded
      lest your departure might be unavoidably delayed or
      prevented. I will not now enter into the painful question
      of my shameful treatment by Government, but you can well
      understand that I shall leave no stone unturned to reverse
      their most unfair and unjust decision, and to bring my
      traducers to book. Important business having reference to
      these matters calls me away at once, as I feel it is most
      essential not to lose a moment, my reputation and my whole
      future being at stake. I shall therefore, to my great
      regret, be unable to meet you on your arrival in Bombay,
      and, as my movements for the next few months will be rather
      uncertain, I may find it difficult to let you have regular
      news of me. I would therefore advise you to take Fay and
      the children home as soon as all is safely over and she is
      able to travel, and I will join you in England if and when
      I find I can get away. I know, dear Jan, that you will not
      mind financing Fay to this extent at present; as, owing to
      these wholly unexpected departmental complications, I am
      uncommonly hard up. I will, of course, repay you at the
      earliest possible opportunity.

      Poor Fay is not at all well; all these worries have been
      very bad for her, and I have been distracted by anxiety on
      her behalf, as well as about my own most distressing
      position, and a severe attack of fever has left me weak and
      ailing. I thought it better to bring Fay down to Bombay,
      where she can get the best medical advice, and her being
      there will save you the long, tiresome journey to
      Dariawarpur. It is also most convenient for going home. She
      is installed in a most comfortable flat, and we brought our
      own servants, so I hope you will feel that I have done my
      best for her.

      Fay will explain the whole miserable business to you, and
      although appearances may be against me, I trust that you
      will realise how misleading these may be. I cannot thank
      you enough for responding so promptly to our ardently
      expressed desire for your presence at this difficult time.
      It will make all the difference in the world to Fay; and,
      on her account, to me also.

      Believe me, always yours affectionately,

                                             HUGO TANCRED.

                                          _Bombay, Friday._

      Jan my dear, my dear, are you really on your way? And shall
      I see your face and hear your kind voice, and be able to
      cry against your shoulder?

      I can't meet you, my precious, because I don't go out. I'm
      afraid. Afraid lest I should see anyone who knew us at
      Dariawarpur. India is so large and so small, and people
      from everywhere are always in Bombay, and I couldn't bear

      Do you know, Jan, that when the very worst has happened,
      you get kind of numbed. You can't suffer any more. You
      can't be sorry or angry or shocked or indignant, or
      anything but just broken, and that's what I am.

      After all, I've one good friend here who knew us at
      Dariawarpur. He's got a job at the secretariat, and he
      tries to help me all he can. I don't mind him somehow. He
      understands. He will meet you and bring you to the
      bungalow, so look out for him when the boat gets in. He's
      tall and thin and clean-shaven and yellow, with a grave,
      stern face and beautiful kind eyes. Peter is an angel, so
      be nice to him, Jan dear. It has been awful; it will go on
      being awful; but it will be a little more bearable when you
      come--for me, I mean--for you it will be horrid. All of us
      on your hands, and no money, and me such a crock, and
      presently a new baby. The children are well. It's so queer
      to think you haven't seen "little Fay." Come soon, Jan,
      come soon, to your miserable                    FAY.

Jan sat on her bunk under the open porthole. One after the other she
held the letters open in her hand and stared at them, but she did not
read. The sentences were burnt into her brain already.

Hugo Tancred's letter was dated. Fay's was not, and neither letter bore
any address in Bombay. Now, Jan knew that Bombay is a large town; and
that people like the Tancreds, who, if not actually in hiding, certainly
did not seek to draw attention to their movements, would be hard to
find. Fay had wholly omitted to mention the surname of the tall, thin,
yellow man with the "grave, stern face and beautiful kind eyes." Even in
the midst of her poignant anxiety Jan found herself smiling at this. It
was so like Fay--so like her to give no address. And should the tall,
thin gentleman fail to appear, what was Jan to do? She could hardly go
about the ship asking if one "Peter" had come to fetch her.

How would she find Fay?

Would they allow her to wait at the landing-place till someone came, or
were there stringent regulations compelling passengers to leave the
docks with the utmost speed, as most of them would assuredly desire to

She knitted her brows and worried a good deal about this; then suddenly
put the question from her as too trivial when there were such infinitely
greater problems to solve.

Only one thing was clear. One central fact shone out, a beacon amidst
the gloom of the "departmental complications" enshrouding the conduct of
Hugo Tancred, the certainty that he had, for the present anyway, shifted
the responsibility of his family from his own shoulders to hers. As she
sat square and upright under the porthole, with the cool air from an
inserted "wind-sail" ruffling her hair, she looked as though she braced
herself to the burden.

She wished she knew exactly what had happened, what Hugo Tancred had
actually done. For some years she had known that he was by no means
scrupulous in money matters, and that very evening Sir Langham had made
it clear to her that this crookedness had not stopped short at his
official work. There had been a scandal, so far-reaching a scandal that
it had got into the home papers.

This struck Jan as rather extraordinary, for Hugo Tancred was by no
means a stupid man.

It is one thing to be pleasantly oblivious of private debts, to omit
cheques in repayment of various necessaries got at the Stores by an
obliging sister-in-law. One thing to muddle away in wild-cat
speculations a wife's money that, but for the procrastination of an
easy-going father, would have been tightly tied up--quite another to
bring himself so nearly within the clutches of the law as to make it
possible for the Government of India to dismiss him.

And what was he to do? What did the future hold for him?

Who would give employment to however able a man with such a career
behind him?

Jan's imagination refused to take such flights. Resolutely she put the
subject from her and began to consider what her own best course would be
with Fay, her nephew and niece, and, very shortly, a new baby on her

Jan was not a young woman to let things drift. She had kept house for a
whimsical, happy-go-lucky father since she was fourteen; mothered her
beautiful young sister; and, at her father's death, two years before,
had with quiet decision arranged her own life, wholly avoiding the
discussion and the friction which generally are the lot of an unmarried
woman of five-and-twenty left without natural guardians and with a large
circle of friends and relations.

It was nearly two o'clock when she undressed and went to bed, and before
that she had drafted two cablegrams--one to a house-agent, the other to
her bankers.



For Jan the next two days passed as in a more or less disagreeable
dream. She could never afterwards recall very clearly what happened,
except that Sir Langham Sykes seemed absolutely omnipresent, and made
her, she felt, ridiculous before the whole ship, by proclaiming far and
wide that she had bestowed upon him the healing gift of sleep.

He was so effusive, so palpably grateful, that she simply could not
undeceive him by telling him that after they parted the night before she
had never given him another thought.

When he was not doing this he was pursuing, with fulminations against
the whole tribe of missionaries, two kindly, quiet members of the
Society of Friends.

In an evil moment they had gratified his insatiable curiosity as to the
object of their voyage to India, which was to visit and report upon the
missionary work of their community. Once he discovered this he never let
them alone, and the deck resounded with his denunciations of all
Protestant missionaries as "self-seeking, oily humbugs."

They bore it with well-mannered resignation, and a common dislike for
Sir Langham formed quite a bond of union between them and Jan.

There was the usual dance on New Year's Eve, the usual singing of "Auld
Lang Syne" in two huge circles; and Jan would have enjoyed it all but
for the heavy foreboding in her heart; for she was a simple person who
responded easily to the emotions of others. Before she could slip away
to bed Sir Langham cornered her again, conjuring her to "will" him to
sleep and "to go on doin' it" after they parted in Bombay. He became
rather maudlin, and she seized the opportunity of telling him that her
best efforts would be wholly unavailing if he at all relaxed the
temperate habits, so necessary for the cure of his gout, that he had
acquired during the voyage. She was stern with Sir Langham, and her
admonitions had considerable effect. He sought his cabin chastened and

The boat was due early in the morning. Jan finished most of her packing
before she undressed; then, tired and excited, she could not sleep. A
large cockroach scuttling about her cabin did not tend to calm her
nerves. She plentifully besprinkled the floor with powdered borax, kept
the electric light turned on and the fan whirring, and lay down
wide-awake to wait for the dawn.

The ship was unusually noisy, but just about four o'clock came a new
sound right outside her porthole--the rush alongside of the boat bearing
the pilot and strange loud voices calling directions in an unknown
tongue. She turned out her light (first peering fearfully under her
berth to make sure no borax-braving cockroach was in ambush) and knelt
on her bed to look out and watch the boat with its turbaned occupants:
big brown men, who shouted to one another in a liquid language full of

For a brief space the little boat was towed alongside the great liner,
then cast off, and presently--far away on the horizon--Jan saw a streak
of pearly pinkish light, as though the soft blue curtain of the night
had been lifted just a little; and against that luminous streak were

In spite of her anxiety, in spite of her fears as to the future, Jan's
heart beat fast with pleasurable excitement. She was young and strong
and eager, and here at last was the real East. A little soft wind
caressed her tired forehead and she drank in the blessed coolness of the
early morning.

Both day and night come quickly in the East. Jan got up, had her bath,
dressed, and by half-past six she was on deck. The dark-blue curtain was
rolled up, and the scene set was the harbour of Bombay.

Such a gracious haven of strange multi-coloured craft, with its double
coast-line of misty hills on one side, and clear-cut, high-piled
buildings, domes and trees upon the other.

A gay white-and-gold launch, with its attendants in scarlet and white,
came for certain passengers, who were guests of the Governor. The police
launch, trim and business-like with its cheerful yellow-hatted sepoys,
came for others. Jan watched these favoured persons depart in stately
comfort, and went downstairs to get some breakfast. Then came the rush
of departure by the tender. So many had friends to meet them, and all
seemed full of pleasure in arrival. Jan was just beginning to feel
rather forlorn and anxious when the Purser, fussed and over-driven as he
always is at such times, came towards her, followed by a tall man
wearing a pith helmet and an overcoat.

"Mr. Ledgard has come to meet you, Miss Ross, so you'll be all right."

It was amazing how easy everything became. Mr. Ledgard's servants
collected Jan's cabin baggage and took it with them in the tender and,
on arrival, in a tikka-gharri--the little pony-carriage which is the
gondola of Bombay--and almost before she quite realised that the voyage
was over she found herself seated beside Peter in a comfortable
motor-car, with a cheerful little Hindu chauffeur at the steering-wheel,
sliding through wide, well-watered streets, still comparatively empty
because it was so early.

By mutual consent they turned to look at one another, and Jan noted that
Peter Ledgard _was_ thin and extremely yellow. That his eyes (hollow and
tired-looking as are the eyes of so many officials in the East) _were_
kind, and she thought she had never before beheld a firmer mouth or more
masterful jaw.

What Peter saw evidently satisfied him as to her common sense, for he
plunged _in medias res_ at once: "How much do you know of this
unfortunate affair?" he asked.

"Very little," she answered, "and that little extremely vague. Will you
tell me has Hugo come to total grief or not?"

"Officially, yes. He is finished, done for--may thank his lucky stars
he's not in gaol. It's well you should know this at the very beginning,
for of course he won't allow it, and poor Fay--Mrs. Tancred (I'm afraid
we're rather free-and-easy about Christian names in India)--doesn't know
the whole facts by a very long way. From what she tells me, I fear he
has made away with most of her money, too. Was any of it tied up?"

Jan shook her head. "We both got what money there was absolutely on my
father's death."

"Then," said Peter, "I fear you've got the whole of them on your hands,
Miss Ross."

"That's what I've come for," Jan said simply, "to take care of Fay and
the children."

Peter Ledgard looked straight in front of him.

"It's a lot to put on you," he said slowly, "and I'm afraid you'll find
it a bit more complicated than you expect. Will you remember that I'd
like to help you all I can?"

Jan looked at the stern profile beside her and felt vaguely comforted.
"I shall be most grateful for your advice," she said humbly. "I know I
shall need it."

The motor stopped, and as she stepped from it in front of the tall block
of buildings, Jan knew that the old easy, straightforward life was over.
Unconsciously she stiffened her back and squared her shoulders, and
looked very tall and straight as she stood beside Peter Ledgard in the
entrance. The pretty colour he had admired when he met her had faded
from her cheeks, and the face under the shady hat looked grave and

Peter said something to the smiling lift-man in an extremely dirty dhoti
who stood salaaming in the entrance.

"I won't come up now," he said to Jan. "Please tell Mrs. Tancred I'll
look in about tea-time."

As Jan entered the lift and vanished from his sight, Peter reflected,
"So that's the much-talked-of Jan! Well, I'm not surprised Fay wanted

The lift stopped. An elderly white-clad butler stood salaaming at an
open door, and Jan followed him.

A few steps through a rather narrow passage and she was in a large light
room opening on to a verandah, and in the centre stood her sister Fay,
with outstretched arms.

A pathetic, inarticulate, worn and faded Fay: her pretty freshness
dimmed. A Fay with dark circles round her hollow eyes and all the living
light gone from her abundant fair hair. It was as though her face was
covered by an impalpable grey mask.

There was no doubt about it. Fay looked desperately ill. Ill in a way
not to be accounted for by her condition.

Clinging together they sat down on an immense sofa, exchanging trivial
question and answer as to the matters ordinary happy folk discuss when
they first meet after a long absence. Jan asked for the children, who
had not yet returned from their early morning walk with the ayah. Fay
asked about the voyage and friends at home, and told Jan she had got
dreadfully grey; then kissed her and leant against her just as she used
to do when they were both children and she needed comfort.

Jan said nothing to Fay about _her_ looks, and neither of them so much
as mentioned Hugo Tancred. But Jan felt a wild desire to get away by
herself and cry and cry over this sad wraith of the young sister whose
serene and happy beauty had been the family pride.

And yet she was so essentially the same Fay, tender and loving and
inconsequent, and full of pretty cares for Jan's comfort.

The dining-room was behind the sitting-room, with only a curtain
between, and as they sat at breakfast Fay was so eager Jan should
eat--she ate nothing herself--so anxious lest she should not like the
Indian food, that poor Jan, with a lump in her throat that choked her at
every morsel, forced down the carefully thought-out breakfast and meekly
accepted everything presented by the grey-haired turbaned butler who
bent over her paternally and offered every dish much as one would tempt
a shy child with some amusing toy.

Presently Fay took her to see her room, large, bare and airy, with
little furniture save the bed with its clean white mosquito curtains
placed under the electric fan in the centre of the ceiling. Outside the
window was a narrow balcony, and Jan went there at once to look out; and
though her heart was so heavy she was fain to exclaim joyfully at the
beauty of the view.

Right opposite, across Back Bay, lay the wooded villa-crowned slopes of
Malabar Hill, flung like a garland on the bosom of a sea deeply blue and
smiling, smooth as a lake, while below her lay the pageant of the
street, with its ever-changing panorama of vivid life. The whole so
brilliant, so various, so wholly unlike any beautiful place she had ever
seen before that, artist's daughter she was, she cried eagerly to Fay,
"Oh, come and look! Did you ever see anything so lovely? How Dad would
have rejoiced in this!"

Fay followed slowly: "I thought you'd like it," she said, evidently
pleased by Jan's enthusiasm, "that's why I gave you this room. Look,
Jan! There are the children coming, those two over by the band-stand.
They see us. _Do_ wave to them."

The children were still a long way off. Jan could only see an ayah in
her white draperies pushing a little go-cart with a child in it, and a
small boy trotting by her side, but she waved as she was bidden.

The room had evidently at one time been used as a nursery, for inside
the stone balustrade was a high trellis of wood. Jan and Fay were both
tall women, but even on them the guarding trellis came right up to their
shoulders. Neither of them could really lean over, though Fay tried, in
her eagerness to attract the attention of the little group. Jan watched
her sister's face and again felt that cruel constriction of the throat
that holds back tears. Fay's tired eyes were so sad, so out of keeping
with the cheerful movement of her hand, so shadowed by some knowledge
she could not share.

"You mustn't stand here without a hat," she said, turning to go in. "The
sun is getting hot. You must get a topee this afternoon. Peter will take
you and help to choose it."

"Couldn't you come, if we took a little carriage? Does driving tire you
when it's cool?" Jan asked as she followed her sister back into the

"I never go out," Fay said decidedly. "I never shall again ... I mean,"
she added, "till it's all over. I couldn't bear it just now--I might
meet someone I know."

"But, Fay, it's very bad for you to be always indoors. Surely, in the
early morning or the evening--you'll come out then?"

Fay shook her head. "Peter has taken me out in the motor once or twice
at night--but I don't really like it. It makes me so dreadfully tired.
Don't worry me about that, Jan. I get plenty of air in the verandah.
It's just as pretty there as in your balcony, and we can have
comfortable chairs. Let's go there now. _You_ shall go out as much as
you like. I'll send Lalkhan with you, or Ayah and the children; and
Peter will take you about all he can--he promised he would. Don't think
I want to be selfish and keep you here with me all the time."

The flat, weak voice, so nervous, so terrified lest her stronger sister
should force her to some course of action she dreaded, went to Jan's

"My dear," she said gently, "I haven't come here to rush about. I've
come to be with you. We'll do exactly what you like best."

Fay clung to her again and whispered, "Later on you'll understand
better--I'll be able to tell you things, and perhaps you'll understand
... though I'm not sure--you're not weak like me, you'd never go under
... you'd always fight...."

There was a pattering of small feet in the passage. Little high voices
called for "Mummy," and the children came in.

Tony, a grave-eyed, pale-faced child of five, came forward instantly,
with his hand held out far in front of him. Jan, who loved little
children, knew in a minute that he was afraid she would kiss him; so she
shook hands with gentlemanly stiffness. Little Fay, on the contrary, ran
forward, held up her arms "to be taken" and her adorably pretty little
face to be kissed. She was startlingly like her mother at the same age,
with bobbing curls of feathery gold, beseeching blue eyes and a
complexion delicately coloured as the pearly pink lining of certain
shells. She was, moreover, chubby, sturdy and robust--quite unlike Tony,
who looked nervous, bleached and delicate.

Tony went and leant against his mother, regarding Jan and his small
sister with dubious, questioning eyes.

Presently he remarked, "I wish she hadn't come."

"Oh, Tony," Fay exclaimed reproachfully, "you must both love Auntie Jan
very dearly. She has come such a long way to be good to us all."

"I wish she hadn't," Tony persisted.

"_I_ sall love Auntie Dzan," Fay remarked, virtuously.

It was pleasant to be cuddled by this friendly baby, and Jan laid her
cheek against the fluffy golden head; but all the time she was watching
Tony. He reminded her of someone, and she couldn't think who. He
maintained his aloof and unfriendly attitude till Ayah came to take the
children to their second breakfast. Little Fay, however, refused to
budge, and when the meekly salaaming ayah attempted to take her, made
her strong little body stiff, and screamed vigorously, clinging so
firmly to her aunt that Jan had herself to carry the obstreperous baby
to the nursery, where she left her lying on the floor, still yelling
with all the strength of her evidently healthy lungs.

When Jan returned, rather dishevelled--for her niece had seized a
handful of her hair in the final struggle not to be put down--Fay said
almost complacently, "You see, the dear little soul took a fancy to you
at once. Tony is much more reserved and not nearly so friendly. He's
very Scotch, is Tony."

"He does what he's told, anyway."

"Oh, not always," Fay said reassuringly, "only when he doesn't mind
doing it. They've both got very strong wills."

"So have I," said Jan.

Fay sighed. "It was time you came to keep them in order. I can't."

This was evident, for Fay had not attempted to interfere with her
daughter beyond saying, "I expect she's hungry, that's why she's so
fretty, poor dear."

That afternoon Peter went to the flat and was shown as usual into the

Jan and the children were in the verandah, all with their backs to the
room, and did not notice his entrance as Jan was singing nursery-rhymes.
Fay sat on her knee, cuddled close as though there were no such thing as
tempers in the world. Tony sat on a little chair at her side, not very
near, but still near enough to manifest a more friendly spirit than in
the morning. Peter waited in the background while the song went on.

    I saw a ship a-sailing, a-sailing on the sea,
    And it was full of pretty things for Tony, Fay and me.
    There was sugar in the cabin and kisses in the hold----

"Whose kisses?" Tony asked suspiciously.

"Mummy's kisses, of course," said Jan.

"Why doesn't it _say_ so, then?" Tony demanded.

"Mummy's kisses in the hold," Jan sang obediently--

    The sails were made of silk and the masts were made of gold.
    Gold, gold, the masts were made of gold.

"What nelse?" Fay asked before Jan could start the second verse.

    There were four-and-twenty sailors a-skipping on the deck,
    And they were little white mice with rings about their neck.
    The captain was a duck, with a jacket on his back,
    And when the ship began to sail, the captain cried, "Quack! Quack!
    Quack! Quack!" The captain cried, "Quack! Quack!"

"What nelse?" Fay asked again.

"There isn't any nelse, that's all."

"Adain," said Fay.

"Praps," Tony said thoughtfully, "there was _some_ auntie's kisses in
that hold ... just a few...."

"I'm sure there were," said a new voice, and Peter appeared on the

The children greeted him with effusion, and when he sat down Tony sat on
his knee. He was never assailed by fears lest Peter should want to kiss
him. Peter was not that sort.

"Sing nunner song," little Fay commanded.

"Not now," Jan said; "we've got a visitor and must talk to him."

"Sing nunner song," little Fay repeated firmly, just as though she had
not heard.

"Not now; some other time," Jan said with equal firmness.

"Mack!" said the baby, and suited the action to the word by dealing her
aunt a good hard smack on the arm.

"You mustn't do that," said Jan; "it's not kind."

"Mack, mack, mack," in _crescendo_ with accompanying blows.

Jan caught the little hand, while Peter and Tony, interested spectators,
said nothing. She held it firmly. "Listen, little Fay," she said, very
gently. "If you do that again I shall take you to Ayah in the nursery.
Just once again, and you go."

Jan loosed the little hand, and instantly it dealt her a resounding slap
on the cheek.

It is of no avail to kick and scream and wriggle in the arms of a
strong, decided young aunt. For the second time that day, a vociferously
struggling baby was borne back to the nursery.

As the yells died away in the distance, Tony turned right round on
Peter's knee and faced him: "She does what she says," he remarked in an
awestruck whisper.

"And a jolly good thing too," answered Peter.

When Jan came back she brought her sister with her. Lalkhan brought tea,
and Tony went with him quite meekly to the nursery. They heard him
chattering to Lalkhan in Hindustani as they went along the passage.

Fay looked a thought less haggard than in the morning. She had slept
after tiffin; the fact that her sister was actually in the bungalow had
a calming effect upon her. She was quite cheerful and full of plans for
Jan's amusement; plans in which, of course, she proposed to take no part
herself. Jan listened in considerable dismay to arrangements which
appeared to her to make enormous inroads into Peter Ledgard's leisure
hours. He and his motor seemed to be quite at Fay's disposal, and Jan
found the situation both bewildering and embarrassing.

"What a nuisance for him," she reflected, "to have a young woman thrust
upon him in this fashion. It won't do to upset Fay, but I must tell him
at the first opportunity that none of these projects hold good."

Directly tea was over Fay almost hustled them out to go and buy a topee
for Jan, and suggested that, having accomplished this, they should look
in at the Yacht Club for an hour, "because it was band-night," and Jan
would like the Yacht Club lawn, with the sea and the boats and all the
cheerful people.

As the car slid into the crowded traffic of the Esplanade Road, Peter
pointed to a large building on the left, saying, "There's the Army and
Navy Stores, quite close to you, you see. You can always get anything
you want there. I'll give you my number ... not that it matters."

"I've belonged for years to the one at home," said Jan, "and I
understand the same number will do."

She felt she really could not be beholden to this strange young man for
everything, even a Stores number; and that she had better make the
situation clear at once that she had come to take care of Fay and not to
be an additional anxiety to him. At that moment she felt almost jealous
of Peter. Fay seemed to turn to him for everything.

When they reached the shop where topees were to be got, she heard a
familiar, booming voice. Had she been alone she would certainly have
turned and fled, deferring her purchase till Sir Langham Sykes had
concluded his, but she could hardly explain her rather complicated
reasons to Peter, who told the Eurasian assistant to bring topees for
her inspection.

Jan tried vainly to efface herself behind a tailor's dummy, but her back
was reflected in the very mirror which also reproduced Sir Langham in
the act of trying on a khaki-coloured topee. He saw her and at once
hurried in her direction, exclaiming:

"Ah, Miss Ross, run to earth! You slipped off this morning without
bidding me good-bye, and I've been wonderin' all day where we should
meet. Now let me advise you about your topee. _I'll_ choose it for you,
then you can't go wrong. Get a large one, mind, or the back of your nice
little neck will be burnt the colour of the toast they gave us on the
_Carnduff_--shockin' toast, wasn't it? No, not that shape, idiot ...
unless you're goin' to ride, are you? If so, you must have one of
each--a large one, I said--what the devil's the use of that? You must
wear it _well_ on your head, mind; you can't show much of that pretty
grey hair that puzzled us all so--eh, w'at?"

Jan had been white enough as she entered the shop, for she was beginning
to feel quite amazingly tired; but now the face under the overshadowing
topee was crimson and she was hopelessly confused and helpless in the
overpowering of Sir Langham, who, when he could for a moment detach his
mind from Jan, looked with considerable curiosity at Peter.

Peter stood there silent, aloof, detached; and he appeared quite cool.
Jan felt the atmosphere to be almost insufferably close, and heaved a
sigh of gratitude when he suddenly turned on an electric fan above her

"I think this will do," she said, in a faint voice to the assistant,
though the crinkly green lining round the crown seemed searing her very

Peter intervened, asking: "Is it comfortable? No ..." as she took it
off. "I can see it isn't. It has marked your forehead already. Don't be
in a hurry. They'll probably need to alter the lining. Some women have
it taken out altogether. Pins keep it on all right."

Thus encouraged, she tried on others, and all the time Sir Langham held
forth at the top of his voice, interrupting his announcement that he was
dining at Government House that very night to swear at the assistant
when he brought topees that did not fit, and giving his opinion of her
appearance with the utmost frankness, till Jan found one that seemed
rather less uncomfortable than the rest. Then in desperation she
introduced Sir Langham to Peter.

"Your sister-in-law looks a bit tucked up," he remarked affably. "We'd
better take her to the Yacht Club and give her a peg--she seems to feel
the heat."

Jan cast one despairing, imploring glance at Peter, who rose to the
occasion nobly.

"You're quite right," he said. "This place is infernally stuffy. Come
on. They know where to send it. Good afternoon sir," and before she
realised what had happened Peter seized her by the arm and swept her out
of the shop and into the front seat of the car, stepped over her and
himself took the steering-wheel.

While Sir Langham's voice bayed forth a mixture of expostulation and
assignation at the Yacht Club later on.

"Now where shall we go?" asked Peter.

"Not the Yacht Club," Jan besought him. "He's coming there; he said so.
Isn't he dreadful? Did you mind very much being taken for my
brother-in-law? He has no idea who he really is, or I wouldn't have let
it pass ... but I felt I could never explain ... I'm so sorry...."

Her face was white enough now.

"It would have been absurd to explain, and it's I who should apologise
for the free-and-easy way I carried you off, but it was clearly a case
for strong measures, or he'd have insisted on coming with us. What an
awful little man! Did you have him all the voyage? No wonder you look
tired.... I hope he didn't sit at your table...."

Once out of doors, the delicious breeze from the sea that springs up
every evening in Bombay revived her. She forgot Sir Langham, for a few
minutes she even forgot Fay and her anxieties in sheer pleasure in the
prospect, as the car fell into its place in the crowded traffic of the
Queen's Road.

Jan never forgot that drive. He ran her out to Chowpatty, where the
road lies along the shore and the carriages of Mohammedan, Hindu and
Parsee gentlemen stand in serried rows while their picturesque occupants
"eat the air" in passive and contented Eastern fashion; then up to Ridge
Road on Malabar Hill, where he stopped that she might get out and walk
to the edge of the wooded cliff and look down at the sea and the great
city lying bathed in that clear golden light only to be found at sunset
in the East.

Peter enjoyed her evident appreciation of it all. She said very little,
but she looked fresh and rested again, and he was conscious of a quite
unusual pleasure in her mere presence as they stood together in the
green garden, got and kept by such infinite pains and care, that borders
the road running along the top of Malabar Hill.

Suddenly she turned. "We mustn't wait another minute," she said. "You,
doubtless, want to go to the club. It has been very good of you to spend
so much time with me. What makes it all so beautiful is that everywhere
one sees the sea. I will tell Fay how much I have enjoyed it."

Peter's eyes met hers and held them: "Try to think of me as a friend,
Miss Ross. I can see you are thoroughly capable and independent; but,
believe me, India is not like England, and a white woman needs a good
many things done for her here if she's to be at all comfortable. I don't
want to butt in and be a nuisance; but just remember I'm there when the
bell rings----"

"I am not likely to forget," said Jan.

Lights began to twinkle in the city below. The soft monotonous throb of
tom-toms came beating through the ambient air like a pulse of teeming
life; and when he left her at her sister's door the purple darkness of
an Eastern night had curtained off the sea.



Fay was still lying on her long chair in the verandah when Jan got in.
She had turned on the electric light above her head and had, seemingly,
been working at some diminutive garment of nainsook and lace. She looked
up at Jan's step, asking eagerly, "Well, did you like it? Did you see
many people? Was the band good?"

Jan sat down beside her and explained that Peter had taken her for a
drive instead. She made her laugh over her encounter with Sir Langham,
and was enthusiastic about the view from Malabar Hill. Then Fay sent her
to say good night to the children, who were just getting ready for bed.

As she went down the long passage towards the nursery, she heard small
voices chattering in Hindustani, and as she opened the door little Fay
was in the act of stepping out of all her clothes.

Tony was already clad in pink pyjamas, which made him look paler than

Little Fay, naked as any shameless cherub on a Renaissance festoon,
danced across the tiled floor, and, pausing directly in front of her
aunt, announced:

"I sall mack Ayah as muts as I like."

The good-natured Goanese ayah salaamed and, beaming upon her charge,
murmured entire acquiescence.

Jan looked down at the absurd round atom who defied her, and, trying
hard not to laugh, said:

"Oh, no, you won't."

"I sall!" the baby declared even more emphatically, and, lifting up her
adorable, obstinate little face to look at Jan, nodded her curly head

"I think not," Jan remarked rather unsteadily, "because if you do,
people won't like you. We can none of us go about smacking innocent
folks just for the fun of it. Everybody would be shocked and horrified."

"Socked and hollified," echoed little Fay, delighted with the new words,
"socked and hollified!... What nelse?"

"What usually follows is that the disagreeable little girl gets smacked

"No," said Fay, but a thought doubtfully. "No," more firmly. Then with a
smile that was subtly compounded of pathos and confidence, "Nobody would
mack plitty little Fay ... 'cept ... plapse ... Auntie Dzan."

The stern aunt in question snatched up her niece to cover her with
kisses. Ayah escaped chastisement that evening, for, arrayed in a white
nighty, "plitty little Fay" sat good as gold on Jan's knee, absorbed in
the interest of "This little pig went to market," told on her own toes.
Even Tony, the aloof and unfriendly, consented to unbend to the extent
of being interested in the dialogue of "John Smith and Minnie Bowl, can
you shoe a little foal?" and actually thrust out his own bare feet that
Jan might make them take part in the drama of the "twa wee doggies who
went to the market," and came back "louper-scamper, louper-scamper."

At the end of every song or legend came the inevitable "What nelse?"
from little Fay--and Jan only escaped after the most solemn promises had
been exacted for a triple bill on the morrow.

When she had changed and went back to the sitting-room, dinner was
ready. Lalkhan again bent over her with fatherly solicitude as he
offered each course, and this time Jan, being really hungry, rather
enjoyed his ministrations. A boy assisted at the sideboard, and another
minion appeared to bring the dishes from the kitchen, for the butler and
the boy never left the room for an instant.

Fay looked like a tired ghost, and Jan could see that it was a great
effort to her to talk cheerfully and seem interested in the home news.

After dinner they went back to the sitting-room. Lalkhan brought coffee
and Fay lit a cigarette. Jan wandered round, looking at the photographs
and engravings on the walls.

"How is it," she asked, "that Mr. Ledgard seems to come in so many of
these groups? Did you rent the flat from a friend of his?"

"I didn't 'rent' the flat from anybody," Fay answered. "It's Peter's own
flat. He lent it to us."

Jan turned and stared at her sister. "Mr. Ledgard's flat!" she
repeated. "And what is he doing?"

"He's living at the club just now. He turned out when we came. Don't
look at me like that, Jan.... There was nothing else to be done."

Jan came back and sat on the edge of the big sofa. "But I understood
Hugo's letter to say...."

"Whatever Hugo said in his letter was probably lies. If Peter hadn't
lent us his flat, I should have had nowhere to lay my head. Who do you
suppose would let us a flat here, after all that has happened, unless we
paid in advance, and how could we do that without any ready money? Why,
a flat like this unfurnished costs over three hundred rupees a month. I
don't know what a furnished flat would be."

"But--isn't it ... taking a great deal from Mr. Ledgard?" Jan asked

Fay stretched out her hand and suddenly switched off the lights, so that
they were left together on the big sofa in the soft darkness.

"Give me your hand, Jan. I shall be less afraid of you when I just feel
you and can't see you."

"Why should you be afraid of me?... Dear, dear Fay, you must remember
how little I really know. How can I understand?"

Fay leant against her sister and held her close. "Sometimes I feel as if
I couldn't understand it all myself. But you mustn't worry about Peter's
flat. We'll all go home the minute I can be moved. He doesn't mind,
really ... and there was nothing else to be done."

"Does Hugo know you are here?"

Fay laughed, a sad, bitter little laugh. "It was Hugo who asked Peter to
lend his flat."

"Then what about his servants? What has he done with them while you are

"These are his servants."

"But Hugo said...."

"Jan, dear, it is no use quoting Hugo to me. I can tell you the sort of
thing he would say.... Did he mention Peter at all?"

"Certainly not. He said you were 'installed in a most comfortable flat'
and had brought your own servants."

"I brought Ayah--naturally, Peter hadn't an ayah. But why do you object
to his servants? They're very good."

"But don't they think it ... a little odd?"

"Oh, you can't bother about what servants think in India. They think us
all mad anyway."

There was silence for a few minutes while Jan realised the fact that,
dislike it as she might, she seemed fated to be laid under considerable
obligation to Mr. Peter Ledgard.

"Where is Hugo?" she asked at last.

"My dear, you appear to have heard from Hugo since I have. As to his
whereabouts I haven't the remotest idea."

"Do you mean to say, Fay, that he hasn't let you know where he is?"

"He didn't come with us to the flat because he was afraid he'd be seized
for debts and things. We've only been here a fortnight. He's probably
on board ship somewhere--there hasn't been much time for him to let me

Fay spoke plaintively, as though Jan were rather hard on Hugo in
expecting him to give his wife any account of his movements.

Jan was glad it was dark. She felt bewildered and oppressed and very,
very angry with her brother-in-law, who seemed to have left his entire
household in the care of Peter Ledgard. Was Peter paying for their very
food, she wondered? She'd put a stop to that, anyhow.

"Jan"--she felt Fay lean a little closer--"don't be down on me. You've
no idea how hard it has all been. You're such a daylight person

"Hard on you, my precious! I could never feel the least little bit hard.
Only it's all so puzzling. And what do you mean by a 'daylight person'?"

"You know, Jan, for three months now I've been a lot alone, and I've
done a deal of thinking--more than ever in all my life before; and it
seems to me that the world is divided into three kinds of people--the
daylight people, and the twilight people and the night people."

Fay paused. Jan stroked her hot, thin hand, but did not speak, and the
tired, whispering voice went on: "_We_ were daylight people--Daddie was
very daylight. There were never any mysteries; we all of us knew always
where each of us was, and there were no secrets and no queer people
coming for interviews, and it wouldn't have mattered very much if
anyone _had_ opened one of our letters. Oh, it's such an _easy_ life in
the daylight country...."

"And in the twilight country?" asked Jan.

"Ah, there it's very different. Everything is mysterious. You never know
where anyone has gone, and if he's away queer people--quite horrid
people--come and ask for him and won't go away, and sit in the verandah
and cheek the butler and the boy and insist on seeing the 'memsahib,'
and when she screws up her courage and goes to them, they ask for money,
and show dirty bits of paper and threaten, and it's all awful--till
somebody like Peter comes and kicks them out, and then they simply fly."

In spite of her irritation at being beholden to him, Jan began to feel
grateful to Peter.

"Sometimes," Fay continued, "I think it would be easier to be a night
person. They've no appearances to keep up. You see, what makes it so
difficult for the twilight people is that they _want_ to live in the
daylight, and it's too strong for them. All the night people whom they
know--and if you're twilight you know lots of 'em--come and drag them
back. _They_ don't care. They rather like to go right in among the
daylight folk and scare and shock them, and make them uncomfortable. You
_can't_ suffer in the same way when you've gone under altogether."

"But, Fay dear," Jan interposed, "you talk as though the twilight people
couldn't help it...."

"They can't--they truly can't."

"But surely there's right and wrong, straightness and crookedness, and
no one _need_ be crooked."

"People like you needn't--but everybody isn't strong like that. Hugo
says every man has his price, and every woman too--Peter says so, too."

"Then Peter ought to be ashamed of himself. Do you suppose _he_ has his

"No, not in that way. He'd think it silly to be pettifogging and
dishonest about money, or to go in for mad speculations run by shady
companies; but he wouldn't think it _extraordinary_ like you."

"I'm afraid my education has been neglected. A great many things seem
extraordinary to me."

"You think it funny I should be living in Peter's flat, waited on by
Peter's servants--but what else could I do?"

Jan smiled in the darkness. She saw where her niece had got "what

"Isn't it just a little--unusual?" she asked gently. "Is there no money
at all, Fay? What has become of all your own?"

"It's not all gone," Fay said eagerly. "I think there's nearly two
thousand pounds left, but Peter made me write home--that was at
Dariawarpur, before he came down here--and say no more was to be sent
out, not even if I wrote myself to ask for it--and _he_ wrote to Mr.
Davidson too----"

"I know somebody wrote. Mr. Davidson was very worried ... but what _can_
Hugo have done with eight thousand pounds in two years? Besides his

"Eight thousand pounds doesn't go far when you've dealings with
money-lenders and mines in Peru--but _I_ don't understand it--don't ask
me. I believe he left me a little money--I don't know how much--at a
bank in Elphinstone Circle--but I haven't liked to write and find out,
lest it should be very little ... or none...."

"Mercy!" exclaimed Jan. "It surely would be better to know for certain."

"When you've lived in the twilight country as long as I have you'll not
want to know anything for certain. It's only when things are wrapped up
in a merciful haze of obscurity that life is tolerable at all. Do you
suppose I _wanted_ to find out that my husband was a rascal? I shut my
eyes to it as long as I could, and then Truth came with all her cruel
tools and pried them open. Oh, Jan, it did hurt so!"

If Fay had cried, if her voice had even broken or she had seemed deeply
moved, it would have been more bearable. It was the poor thing's
calm--almost indifference--that frightened Jan. For it proved that her
perceptions were numbed.

Fay had been tortured till she could feel nothing acutely any more. Jan
had the feeling that in some dreadful, inscrutable way her sister was
shut away from her in some prison-house of the mind.

And who shall break through those strange, intangible, impenetrable
walls of unshared experience?

Jan swallowed her tears and said cheerfully: "Well, it's all going to be
different now. You needn't worry about anything any more. If Hugo has
left no money we'll manage without. Mr. Davidson will let me have what I
want ... but we must be careful, because of the children."

"And you'll try not to mind living in Peter's flat?" Fay said, rubbing
her head against Jan's shoulder. "It's India, you know, and men are very
kind out here--much friendlier than they are at home."

"So it seems."

"You needn't think there's anything wrong, Jan. Peter isn't in love with
me now."

"Was he ever in love with you?"

"Oh, yes, a bit, once; when he first came to Dariawarpur ... lots of
them were then. I really was very pretty, and I had quite a little court
... but when the bad times came and people began to look shy at
Hugo--everybody was nice to me always--then Peter seemed different.
There was no more philandering, he was just ... Oh, Jan, he was just
such a daylight person, and might have been Daddie. I should have died
without him."

"Fay, tell me--I'll never ask again--was Hugo unkind to you?"

"No, Jan, truly not unkind. He shut me away from the greater part of his
life ... and there were other people ... not ladies"--Fay felt the
shoulder she leant against stiffen--"but I didn't know that for quite a
long time ... and he wasn't ever surly or cross or grudging. He always
wanted me to have everything very nice, and I really believe he always
hoped the mines and things would make lots of money.... You know, Jan,
I'd _rather_ believe in people. I daresay you think I'm weak and stupid
... but I can never understand wives who set detectives on their

"It isn't done by the best people," Jan said with a laugh that was half
a sob. "Let's hope it isn't often necessary...."

Fay drew a little closer: "Oh, you are dear not to be stern and

"It's not you I feel like scolding."

"If you scolded him, he'd agree with every word, so that you simply
couldn't go on ... and then he'd go away and do just the same things
over again, and fondly hope you'd never hear of it. But he _was_ kind in
lots of ways. He didn't drink----"

"I don't see anything so very creditable in that," Jan interrupted.

"Well, it's one of the things he didn't do--and we had the nicest
bungalow in the station and by far the best motor--a much smarter motor
than the Resident. And it was only when I discovered that Hugo had made
out I was an heiress that I began to feel uncomfortable."

"Was he good to the children?"

"He hardly saw them. Children don't interest him much. He liked little
Fay because she's so pretty, but I don't think he cared a great deal for
Tony. Tony is queer and judging. Don't take a dislike to Tony, Jan; he
needs a long time, but once you've got him he stays for ever--will you
remember that?"

Again, Jan felt that cold hand laid on her heart, the hand of chill
foreboding. She had noticed many times already that when Fay was off her
guard she always talked as though, for her, everything were ended, and
she was only waiting for something. There seemed no permanence in her
relations with them all.

A shadowy white figure lifted the curtain between the two rooms and
stood salaaming.

Jan started violently. She was not yet accustomed to the soundless naked
feet of the servants whose presence might be betrayed by a rustle, never
by a step.

It was Ayah waiting to know if Fay would like to go to bed.

"Shall I go, Jan? Are you tired?"

Jan was, desperately tired, for she had had no sleep the night before,
but Fay's voice had in it a little tremor of fear that showed she
dreaded the night.

"Send her to bed, poor thing. I'll look after you, brush your hair and
tuck you up and all.... Fay, oughtn't you to have somebody in your room?
Couldn't my cot be put in there, just to sleep?"

"Oh, Jan, would you? Don't you mind?"

"Shall I help her to move it?" Jan said, getting up.

Fay pulled her down again. "You funny Jan, you can't do that sort of
thing here. The servants will do it."

She sat up, gave a rapid, eager order to Ayah, and in a few minutes Jan
heard her bed being wheeled down the passage. Every room had wide
double doors--like French rooms--and there was no difficulty.

Fay sank down again among her cushions with a great sigh of relief: "I
don't mind now how soon I go to bed. I shan't be frightened in the long
dark night any more. Oh, Jan, you _are_ a dear daylight person!"



Jan made headway with Tony and little Fay. An aunt who carried one
pick-a-back; who trotted, galloped, or curvetted to command as an
animated steed; who provided spades and buckets, and herself, getting up
very early, took them and the children to an adorable sandy beach,
deserted save for two or three solitary horsemen; an aunt who dug holes
and built castles and was indirectly the means of thrilling rides upon a
real horse, when Peter was encountered as one of the mounted few taking
exercise before breakfast; such an aunt could not be regarded otherwise
than as an acquisition, even though she did at times exert authority and
insist upon obedience.

She got it, too; especially from little Fay, who, hitherto, had obeyed
nobody. Tony, less wilful and not so prone to be destructive, was
secretly still unwon, though outwardly quite friendly. He waited and
watched and weighed Jan in the balance of his small judgment. Tony was
never in any hurry to make up his mind.

One great hold Jan had was a seemingly inexhaustible supply of rhymes,
songs, and stories, and she was, moreover, of a telling disposition.

Both children had a quite unusual passion for new words. Little Fay
would stop short in the midst of the angriest yells if anyone called her
conduct in question by some new term of opprobrium. Ayah's vocabulary
was limited, even in the vernacular, and nothing would have induced her
to return railing for railing to the children, however sorely they
abused her. But Jan occasionally freed her mind, and at such times her
speech was terse and incisive. Moreover, she quickly perceived her power
over her niece in this respect, and traded on the baby's quick ear and

One day there was a tremendous uproar in the nursery just after tiffin,
when poor Fay usually tried to get the sleep that would partially atone
for her restless night. Jan swept down the passage and into the room, to
find her niece netted in her cot, and bouncing up and down like a
newly-landed trout, while Ayah wrestled with a struggling Tony, who
tried to drown his sister's screams with angry cries of "Let me get at
her to box her," and, failing that, vigorously boxing Ayah.

Jan closed the door behind her and stood where she was, saying in the
quiet, compelling voice they had both already learned to respect: "It's
time for Mummy's sleep, and how can Mummy sleep in such a pandemonium?"

Little Fay paused in the very middle of a yell and her face twinkled
through the restraining net.

"Pandemolium," she echoed, joyously rolling it over on her tongue with
obvious gusto.


"She kickened and fit with me," Tony cried angrily. "I _must_ box her."

"Pandemolium?" little Fay repeated inquiringly. "What nelse?"

"Yes," said Jan, trying hard not to laugh; "that's exactly what it was
... disgraceful."

"What nelse?" little Fay persisted. She had heard disgraceful before. It
lacked novelty.

"All sorts of horrid things," said Jan. "Selfish and odious and

"White bled, blown bled, ill-bled," the person under the net chanted.
"What nother bled?"

"There's well-bred," said Jan severely, "and that's what neither you nor
Tony are at the present moment."

"There's toas' too," said the voice from under the net, ignoring the
personal application. "Sall we have some?"

"Certainly not," Jan answered with great sternness. "People who riot and

"Don't like zose words," the netted one interrupted distastefully (R's
always stumped her), "naughty words."

"Not so naughty as the people who do it. Has Ayah had her dinner? No?
Then poor Ayah must go and have it, and I shall stay here and tell a
very soft, whispery story to people who are quiet and good, who lie in
their cots and don't quarrel----"

"Or blawl" came from the net in a small determined voice. She could not
let the new word pass after all.

"Exactly ... or brawl," Jan repeated in tones nothing like so firm.

"She kickened and fit me, she did," Tony mumbled moodily as he climbed
into his cot: "Can't I box her nor nothing?"

"Not now," Jan said, soothingly. Ayah salaamed and hurried away. She, at
all events, had cause to bless Jan, for now she got her meals with fair
regularity and in peace.

In a few minutes the room was as quiet as an empty church, save for a
low voice that related an interminable story about "Cockie-Lockie and
Henny-Penny going to tell the King the lift's fallen," till one, at all
events, of the "blawlers" was sound asleep.

The voice ceased and Tony's head appeared over the rail of his cot.

"Hush!" Jan whispered. "Sister's asleep. Just wait a few minutes till
Ayah comes, then I'll take you away with me."

Faithful Ayah didn't dawdle over her food. She returned, sat down on the
floor beside little Fay's cot and started her endless mending.

Jan carried Tony away with her along the passage and into the
drawing-room. The verandah was too hot in the early afternoon.

"Now what shall we do?" she asked, with a sigh, as she sat down on the
big sofa. "_I'd_ like to sleep, but I suppose you won't let me."

Tony got off her knee and looked at her gravely.

"You can," he said, magnanimously, "because you brought me. I hate bed.
I'll build a temple with my bricks and I won't knock it down. Not

And like his aunt he did what he said.

Jan put her feet up and lay very still. For a week now she had risen
early every morning to take the children out in the freshest part of the
day. She seldom got any rest in the afternoon, as she saw to it that
they should be quiet to let Fay sleep, and she went late to bed because
the cool nights in the verandah were the pleasant time for Fay.

Tony murmured to himself, but he made little noise with his stone
bricks. And presently Jan was sleeping almost as soundly as her
obstreperous niece.

Tony did not repeat new words aloud as did his sister. He turned them
over in his mind and treasured some simply because he liked the sound of

There were two that he had carried in his memory for nearly half his
life; two that had for him a mysterious fascination, a vaguely agreeable
significance that he couldn't at all explain. One was "Piccadilly" and
the other "Coln St. Aldwyn's." He didn't even know that they were the
names of places at first, but he thought they had a most beautiful
sound. Gradually the fact that they were places filtered into his mind,
and for Tony Piccadilly seemed particularly rural. He connected it in
some way with the duck-slaying Mrs. Bond of the Baby's Opera, a book he
and Mummy used to sing from before she grew too tired and sad to sing.
Before she lay so many hours in her long chair, before the big man he
called Daddie became so furtive and disturbing. Then Mummy used to tell
him things about a place called Home, and though she never actually
mentioned Piccadilly he had heard the word very often in a song that
somebody sang in the drawing-room at Dariawarpur.

Theatricals had been towards and Mummy was acting, and people came to
practise their songs with her, for not only did she sing herself
delightfully, but she played accompaniments well for other people. The
play was a singing play, and the Assistant Superintendent of Police, a
small, fair young man with next to no voice and a very clear
enunciation, continually practised a song that described someone as
walking "down Piccadilly with a tulip or a lily in his mediæval hand."

Tony rather liked "mediæval" too, but not so much as Piccadilly. A
flowery way, he was sure, with real grass in it like the Resident's
garden. Besides, the "dilly" suggested "daffy-down dilly come up to town
in a yellow petticoat and a green gown."

But not even Piccadilly could compete with Coln St. Aldwyn's in Tony's
affections. There was something about that suggestive of exquisite peace
and loveliness, no mosquitoes and many friendly beasts. He had only
heard the word once by chance in connection with the mysterious place
called Home, in some casual conversation when no one thought he was
listening. He seized upon it instantly and it became a priceless
possession, comforting in times of stress, soothing at all times, a sort
of refuge from a real world that had lately been very puzzling for a
little boy.

He was certain that at Coln St. Aldwyn's there was a mighty forest
peopled by all the nicest animals. Dogs that were ever ready to extend a
welcoming paw, elephants and mild clumsy buffaloes that gave good milk
to the thirsty. Little grey squirrels frolicked in the branches of the
trees, and the tiny birds Mummy told him about that lived in the yew
hedge at Wren's End. Tony had himself been to Wren's End he was told,
but he was only one at the time, and beyond a feeling that he liked the
name and that it was a very green place his ideas about it were hazy.

Sometimes he wished it had been called "Wren St. Endwyn's," but after
mature reflection he decided it was but a poor imitation of the real
thing, so he kept the two names separate in his mind.

He had added two more names to his collection since he came to Bombay.
"Mahaluxmi," the road running beside the sea, where Peter sometimes took
them and Auntie Jan for a drive after tea when it was high tide; and
"Taraporevala," who owned a famous book-shop in Medow Street where he
had once been in a tikka-gharri with Auntie Jan to get some books for
Mummy. Peter had recommended the shop, and the name instantly seized
upon Tony's imagination and will remain with it evermore. He never for
one moment connected it with the urbane gentleman in eyeglasses and a
funny little round hat who owned the shop. For Tony "Taraporevala" will
always suggest endless vistas of halls, fitted with books, shelves, and
tall stacks of books, and counters laden with piles of books. It seemed
amazing to find anything so vast in such a narrow street. There was
something magic about it, like the name. Tony was sure that some day
when he should explore the forest of Coln St. Aldwyn he would come upon
a little solid door in a great rock. A little solid door studded with
heavy nails and leading to a magic cave full of unimaginable treasure.
This door should only open to the incantation of "Taraporevala." None of
your "abracadabras" for him.

And just as Mummy had talked much of "Wren's End" in happier days, so
now Auntie Jan told them endless stories about it and what they would
all do there when they went home. Some day, when he knew her better, he
would ask her about Coln St. Aldwyn's. He felt he didn't know her
intimately enough to do so yet, but he was gradually beginning to have
some faith in her. She was a well-instructed person, too, on the whole,
and she answered a straight question in a straight way.

It was one of the things Tony could never condone in the big man called
Daddie, that he could never answer the simplest question. He always
asked another in return, and there was derision of some sort concealed
in this circuitous answer. Doubtless he meant to be pleasant and
amusing--Tony was just enough to admit that--but he was, so Tony felt,
profoundly mistaken in the means he sought. He took liberties, too;
punching liberties that knocked the breath out of a small boy's body
without actually hurting much; and he never, never talked sense. Tony
resented this. Like the Preacher, he felt there was a time to jest and a
time to refrain from jesting, and it didn't amuse him a bit to be
punched and rumpled and told he was a surly little devil if he attempted
to punch back. In some vague way Tony felt that it wasn't playing the
game--if it was a game. Often, too, for the past year and more, he
connected the frequent disappearances of the big man with trouble for
Mummy. Tony understood Hindustani as well as and better than English.
His extensive vocabulary in the former would have astonished his
mother's friends had they been able to translate, and he understood a
good deal of the servants' talk. He felt no real affection for the big,
tiresome man, though he admired him, his size, his good looks, and a way
he had with grown-up people; but he decided quite dispassionately, on
evidence and without any rancour, that the big man was a "budmash," for
he, unlike Auntie Jan, never did anything he said he'd do. And when,
before they left Dariawarpur, the big man entirely disappeared, Tony
felt no sorrow, only some surprise that having said he was going he
actually had gone. Auntie Jan never mentioned him, Mummy had reminded
them both always to include him when they said their prayers, but
latterly Mummy had been too tired to come to hear prayers. Auntie Jan
came instead, and Tony, watching her face out of half-shut eyes, tried
leaving out "bless Daddie" to see if anything happened. Sure enough
something did; Auntie Jan looked startled. "Say 'Bless Daddie,' Tony,
'and please help him.'"

"To do what?" Tony asked. "Not to come back here?"

"I don't think he'll come back here just now," Auntie Jan said in a
frightened sort of whisper, "but he needs help badly."

Tony folded his hands devoutly and said, "Bless Daddie and please help
him--to stay away just now."

And low down under her breath Jan said, "Amen."



Jan had been a week in Bombay, and her grave anxiety about Fay was in no
way lessened. Rather did it increase and intensify, for not only did her
bodily strength seem to ebb from her almost visibly day by day, but her
mind seemed so detached and aloof from both present and future.

It was only when Jan talked about the past, about their happy girlhood
and their lovable comrade-father, that Fay seemed to take hold and
understand. All that had happened before his death seemed real and vital
to her. But when Jan tried to interest her in plans for the future, the
voyage home, the children, the baby that was due so soon, Fay looked at
her with tired, lack-lustre eyes and seemed at once to become
absent-minded and irrelevant.

She was ready enough to discuss the characters of the children, to
impress upon Jan the fact that Tony was not unloving, only cautious and
slow before he really gave his affection. That little Fay was exactly
what she appeared on the surface--affectionate, quick, wilful, and
already conscious of her own power through her charm.

"I defy anybody to quarrel with Fay when she is willing to make it up,"
her mother said. "Tony melts like wax before the warmth of her
advances. She may have behaved atrociously to him five minutes
before--Ayah lets her, and I am far too weak with her--but if _she_
wants to be friends Tony forgets and condones everything. Was I very
naughty to you, Jan, as a baby?"

"Not that I can remember. I think you were very biddable and good."

"And you?"

Jan laughed--"There you have me. I believe I was most naughty and
obstreperous, and have vivid recollections of being sent to bed for
various offences. You see, Mother was far too strong and wise to spoil
me as little Fay is spoilt. Father tried his best, but you remember
Hannah? Could you imagine Hannah submitting for one moment to the sort
of treatment that baby metes out to poor, patient Ayah every single

"By the way, how is Hannah?"

"Hannah is in her hardy usual. She is going strong, and has developed
all sorts of latent talent as a cook. She was with me in the furnished
flat I rented till the day I left (I only took it by the month), and
she'll be with us again when we all get back to Wren's End."

"But I thought Wren's End was let?"

"Only till March quarter-day, and I've cabled to the agent not to
entertain any other offer, as we want it ourselves."

"I like to think of the children at Wren's End," Fay said dreamily.

"Don't you like to think of yourself there, too? Would you like any
other place better?"

Jan's voice sounded constrained and a little hard. People sometimes
speak crossly when they are frightened, and just then Jan felt the cold,
skinny hands of some unnameable terror clutching her heart. Why did Fay
always exclude herself from all plans?

They were, as usual, sitting in the verandah after dinner, and Fay's
eyes were fixed on the deeply blue expanse of sky. She hardly seemed to
hear Jan, for she continued: "Do you remember the sketch Daddie did of
me against the yew hedge? I'd like Tony to have that some day if you'd
let him."

"Of course that picture is yours," Jan said, hastily. "We never divided
the pictures when he died. Some were sold and we shared the money, but
our pictures are at Wren's End."

"I remember that money," Fay interrupted. "Hugo was so pleased about it,
and gave me a diamond chain."

"Fay, where do you keep your jewellery?"

"There isn't any to keep now. He 'realised' it all long before we left

"What do you mean, Fay? Has Hugo pawned it? All Mother's things, too?"

"I don't know what he did with it," Fay said, wearily. "He told me it
wasn't safe in Dariawarpur, as there were so many robbers about that hot
weather, and he took all the things in their cases to send to the bank.
And I never saw them again."

Jan said nothing, but she reflected rather ruefully that when Fay
married she had let her have nearly all their mother's ornaments, partly
because Fay loved jewels as jewels, and Jan cared little for them
except as associations. "If I'd kept more," Jan thought, "they'd have
come in for little Fay. Now there's nothing except what Daddie gave me."

"Are you sorry, Jan?" Fay asked, presently. "I suppose there again you
think I ought to have stood out, to have made inquiries and insisted on
getting a receipt from the bank. But I knew very well they were not
going to the bank. I don't think they fetched much, but Hugo looked a
little less harassed after he'd got them. I've nothing left now but my
wedding ring and the little enamel chain like yours, that Daddie gave us
the year he had that portrait of Meg in the Salon and took us over to
see it. Where is Meg? Has she come back yet?"

"Meg is still in Bremen with an odious German family, but she leaves at
the end of the Christmas holidays, as the girl is going to school, and
Meg will be utilised to bring her over. Then she's to have a rest for a
month or two, and I daresay she'd come to Wren's End and help us with
the babies when we get back."

Fay leant forward and said eagerly, "Try to get her, Jan. I'd love to
think she was there to help you."

"To help us," Jan repeated firmly.

Fay sighed. "I can never think of myself as of much use any more;
besides ... Oh, Jan, won't you face it? You who are so brave about
facing things ... I don't believe I shall come through--this time."

Jan got up and walked restlessly about the verandah. She tried to make
herself say, heard her own voice saying without any conviction, that it
was nonsense; that Fay was run down and depressed and no wonder; and
that she would feel quite different in a month or two. And all the time,
though her voice said these preposterously banal things, her brain
repeated the doctor's words after his last visit: "I wish there was a
little more stamina, Miss Ross. I don't like this complete inertia. It's
not natural. Can't you rouse her at all?"

"My sister has had a very trying time, you know. She seems thoroughly
worn out."

"I know, I know," the doctor had said. "A bad business and cruelly hard
on her; but I wish we could get her strength up a bit somehow. I don't
like it--this lack of interest in everything--I don't like it." And the
doctor's thin, clever face looked lined and worried as he left.

His words rang in Jan's ears, drowning her own spoken words that seemed
such a hollow sham.

She went and knelt by Fay's long chair. Fay touched her cheek very
gently (little Fay had the same adorable tender gestures). "It would
make it easier for both of us if you'd face it, my dear," she said. "I
could talk much more sensibly then and make plans, and perhaps really be
of some use. But I feel a wretched hypocrite to talk of sharing in
things when I know perfectly well I shan't be there."

"Don't you want to be there?" Jan asked, hoarsely.

[Illustration: "It would make it easier for both of us if you'd face it,
my dear."]

Fay shook her head. "I know it's mean to shuffle out of it all, but I
_am_ so tired. Do you think it very horrid of me, Jan?"

In silence Jan held her close; and in that moment she faced it.

The days went on, strange, quiet days of brilliant sunshine. Their daily
life shrouded from the outside world even as the verandah was shrouded
from the sun when Lalkhan let down the chicks every day after tiffin.

Peter was their only visitor besides the doctor, and Peter came
practically every day. He generally took Jan out after tea, sometimes
with the children, sometimes alone. He even went with her to the bank in
Elphinstone Circle, so like a bit of Edinburgh, with its solid stone
houses, and found that Hugo actually had lodged fifty pounds there in
Fay's name. The clerks looked curiously at Jan, for they thought she was
Mrs. Tancred. Every one in business or official circles in Bombay knew
about Hugo Tancred. His conduct had, for a while, even ousted the usual
topics of conversation--money, food, and woman--from the bazaars; and an
exhaustive discussion of it was only kept out of the Native Press by the
combined efforts of the Police and his own Department. Jan gained from
Peter a fairly clear idea of the _débâcle_ that had occurred in Hugo
Tancred's life. She no longer wondered that Fay refused to leave the
bungalow. She began to feel branded herself.

For Jan, Peter's visits had come to have something of the relief the
loosening of a too-tight bandage gives to a wounded man. He generally
came at tea-time when Fay was at her best, and he brought her news of
her little world at Dariawarpur. To her sister he seemed the one link
with reality. Without him the heavy dream would have gone on unbroken.
Fay was always most eager he should take Jan out, and, though at first
Jan had been unwilling, she gradually came to look upon such times as a
blessed break in the monotonous restraint of her day. With him she was
natural, said what she felt, expressed her fears, and never failed to
return comforted and more hopeful.

One night he took her to the Yacht Club, and Jan was glad she had gone,
because it gave her so much to tell Fay when she got back.

It was a very odd experience for Jan, this tea on the crowded lawn of
the Yacht Club. She turned hot when people looked at her, and Jan had
always felt so sure of herself before, so proud to be a daughter of
brilliant, lovable Anthony Ross.

Here, she knew that her sole claim to notice was that she had the
misfortune to be Hugo Tancred's sister-in-law. Fay, too, had once been
joyfully proud and confident--and now!

Sometimes in the long, still days Jan wondered whether their father had
brought them up to expect too much from life, to take their happiness
too absolutely as a matter of course. Anthony Ross had fully subscribed
to the R.L.S. doctrine that happiness is a duty. When they were both
quite little girls he had loved to hear them repeat:

    If I have faltered more or less
    In my great task of happiness;
    If I have moved among my race
    And shown no glorious morning face;
    If beams from happy human eyes
    Have moved me not; if morning skies,
    Books, and my food and summer rain
    Knocked on my sullen heart in vain;
    Lord, Thy most pointed pleasure take,
    And stab my spirit broad awake.

Surely as young girls they had both shown a "glorious morning face." Who
more so than poor Fay? So gay and beautiful and kind. Why had this come
upon her, this cruel, numbing disgrace and sorrow? Jan was thoroughly
rebellious. Again she went over that time in Scotland six years before,
when, at a big shooting-box up in Sutherland, they met, among other
guests, handsome Hugo Tancred, home on leave. How he had, almost at
first sight, fallen violently in love with Fay. How he had singled her
out for every deferent and delicate attention; how she, young,
enthusiastic, happy and flattered, had fallen quite equally in love with
him. Jan recalled her father's rather comical dismay and astonishment.
His horror when they pressed an immediate marriage, so that Fay might go
out with Hugo in November. And his final giving-in to everything Fay
wanted because Fay wanted it.

Did her father really like Hugo Tancred? she wondered. And then came the
certainty that he wouldn't ever have liked anybody much who wanted to
marry either of them; but he was far too just and too imaginative to
stand in the way where, what seemed, the happiness of his daughter was

"What a gamble it all is," thought Jan, and felt inclined to thank
heaven that she was neither so fascinating nor as susceptible as Fay.

How were they to help to set Hugo Tancred on his legs again, and
reconstruct something of a future for Fay? And then there always
sounded, like a knell, Fay's tired, pathetic voice: "Don't bother to
make plans for me, Jan. For the children, yes, as much as you like. You
are so clever and constructive--but leave me out, dear, for it's just a
waste of time."

And the dreadful part of it was that Jan felt a growing conviction that
Fay was right. And what was more, that Peter felt about it exactly as
Fay did, in spite of his matter-of-fact optimism at all such times as
Jan dared to express her dread.

Peter learned a good deal about the Ross family in those talks with Jan.
She was very frank about her affairs, told him what money she had and
how it was invested. That the old house in Gloucestershire was hers,
left directly to her and not to her father, by a curious freak on the
part of his aunt, one Janet Ross, who disapproved of Anthony's habit of
living up to whatever he made each year by his pictures, and saving
nothing that he earned.

"My little girls are safe, anyway," he always said. "Their mother's
money is tied up on them, though they don't get it except with my
sanction till my death. I can't touch the capital. Why, then, shouldn't
we have an occasional flutter when I have a good year, while we are all
young and can enjoy things?"

They had a great many flutters--for Anthony's pictures sold well among a
rather eclectic set. His portraits had a certain _cachet_ that gave them
a vogue. They were delicate, distinguished, and unlike other work. The
beauties without brains never succeeded in getting Anthony Ross to paint
them, bribed they never so. But the clever beauties were well satisfied,
and the clever who were not at all beautiful felt that Anthony Ross
painted their souls, so they were satisfied, too. Besides, he made their
sittings so delightful and flirted with them with such absolute
discretion always. The year that Hugo Tancred met Fay was a particularly
good year, and Anthony had bought a touring-car, and they all went up to
Scotland in it. The girls were always well dressed and went out a good
deal. Young as she was, Jan was already an excellent manager and a
pleasant hostess. She had been taking care of her father from the time
she was twelve years old, and knew exactly how to manage him. When there
was plenty of money she let him launch out; when it was spent she made
him draw in again, and he was always quite ready to do so. Money as
money had no charms for Anthony Ross, but the pleasures it could
provide, the kindnesses it enabled him to do, the easy travel and the
gracious life were precious to him. He abhorred debt in any form and
paid his way as he went; lavishly when he had it, justly and exactly

On hearing all this Peter came to the conclusion that Hugo Tancred was
not altogether to blame if he had expected a good deal more financial
assistance from his father-in-law than he got. Anthony made no marriage
settlement on Fay. He allowed her two hundred a year for her personal
expenses and considered that Hugo Tancred should manage the running of
his own house out of his quite comfortable salary. He had, of course, no
smallest inkling of Hugo's debts or gambling propensities. And all might
have gone well if only Anthony Ross had made a new will when Fay
married; a will which tied up her mother's money and anything he might
leave her, so that she couldn't touch the capital. But nothing of the
kind was done.

It never occurred to Jan to think of wills.

Anthony Ross was strong and cheerful and so exceedingly young at
fifty-two that it seemed absurd that he should have grown-up daughters,
quite ludicrous that he should be a grandfather.

Many charming ladies would greatly like to have occupied the position of
stepmother to "those nice girls," but Anthony, universal lover as he was
within strictly platonic limits, showed no desire to give his girls
anything of the sort. Jan satisfied his craving for a gracious and
well-ordered comfort in all his surroundings. Fay gratified his æsthetic
appreciation of beauty and gentleness. What would he do with a third
woman who might introduce discord into these harmonies?

Fay came home for a short visit when Tony was six months old, as Hugo
had not got a very good station just then. She was prettier than ever,
seemed perfectly happy, and both Anthony and Jan rejoiced in her.

After she went out the Tancreds moved to Dariawarpur, which was
considered one of the best stations in their province, and there little
Fay was born, and it was arranged that Jan and her father were to visit
India and Fay during the next cold weather.

But early in the following November Anthony Ross got influenza,
recovered, went out too soon, got a fresh chill, and in two days
developed double pneumonia.

His heart gave out, and before his many friends had realised he was at
all seriously ill, he died.

Jan, stunned, bewildered, and heart-broken, yet contrived to keep her
head. She got rid of the big house in St. George's Square and most of
the servants, finally keeping only Hannah, her old Scottish nurse. She
paid everybody, rendered a full account of her stewardship to Fay and
Hugo, and then prepared to go out to India as had been arranged. Her
heart cried out for her only sister.

To her surprise this proposition met with but scant enthusiasm. It
seemed the Tancreds' plans were uncertain; perhaps it might be better
for Fay and the children to come home in spring instead of Jan going out
to them. Hugo's letters were ambiguous and rather cold; Fay's a curious
mixture of abandonment and restraint; but the prevailing note of both
was "would she please do nothing in a hurry, but wait."

So, of course, Jan waited.

She waited two years, growing more anxious and puzzled as time went on.
Her lawyer protested unavailingly at Hugo's perpetual demands (of
course, backed up by Fay) for more and more capital that he might
"re-invest" it. Fay's letters grew shorter and balder and more
constrained. At last, quite suddenly, came the imperative summons to go
out at once to be with Fay when the new baby should arrive.

And now after three weeks in Bombay Jan felt that she had never known
any other life, that she never would know any other life than this
curious dream-like existence, this silent, hopeless waiting for
something as afflicting as it was inevitable.

There had been a great fire in the cotton green towards Colaba. It had
blazed all night, and, in spite of the efforts of the Bombay firemen and
their engines, was still blazing at six o'clock the following evening.

Peter took Jan in his car out to see it. There was an immense crowd, so
they left the car on its outskirts and plunged into the throng on foot.
On either side of the road were tall, flimsy houses with a wooden
staircase outside; those curious tenements so characteristic of the
poorer parts of Bombay, and in such marked contrast to the "Fort," the
European quarter of the town. They were occupied chiefly by Eurasians
and very poor Europeans. That the road was a sea of mud, varied by quite
deep pools of water, seemed the only possible reason why such houses
were not also burning.

Jan splashed bravely through the mud, interested and excited by the
people and the leaping flames so dangerously near. It was growing dusk;
the air was full of the acrid smell of burnt cotton, and the red glow
from the sky was reflected on the grave brown faces watching the fire.

Any crowd in Bombay is always extremely varied, and Jan almost forgot
her anxieties in her enjoyment of the picturesque scene.

"I don't think the people ought to be allowed to throng on the top of
that staircase," Peter said suddenly. "They aren't built to hold a
number at once; there'll be an accident," and he left her side for a
moment to speak to an inspector of police.

Jan looked up at a tall house on her left, where sightseers were
collecting on the staircase to get a better view. Every window was
crowded with gazers, all but one. From one, quite at the top, a solitary
watcher looked out.

There was a sudden shout from the crowd below, a redder glow as more
piled cotton fell into the general furnace and blazed up, and in that
moment Jan saw that the solitary watcher was Hugo Tancred, and that he
recognised her. She gave a little gasp of horror, which Peter heard as
he joined her again. "What is it?" he said. "What has frightened you?"

Jan pointed upwards. "I've just seen Hugo," she whispered. "There, in
one of those windows--the empty one. Oh, what can he be doing in those
dreadful houses, and why is he in Bombay all this time and never a word
to Fay?"

Jan was trembling. Peter put his hand under her arm and walked on with

"I knew he was in Bombay," he said, "but I didn't think the poor devil
was reduced to this."

"What is to be done?" Jan exclaimed. "If he comes and worries Fay for
money now, it will kill her. She thinks he is safely out of India. What
_is_ to be done?"

"Nothing," said Peter. "He'll go the very minute he can, and you may be
sure he'll raise the wind somehow. He's got all sorts of queer irons in
the fire. He daren't appear at the flat, or some of his creditors would
cop him for debt--it's watched day and night, I know. Just let it alone.
I'd no idea he was hiding in this region or I wouldn't have brought you.
We all want him to get clear. He might file his petition, but it would
only rake up all the old scandals, and they know pretty well there's
nothing to be got out of him."

"He looked so dreadful, so savage and miserable," Jan said with a

"Well--naturally," said Peter. "You'd feel savage and miserable if you
were in his shoes."

"But oughtn't I to help him? Send him money, I mean."

"Not one single anna. It'll take you all your time to get his family
home and keep them when you get there. Have you seen enough? Shall we go

"You don't think he'll molest Fay?"

"I'm certain of it."

"Please take me home. I shall never feel it safe to leave Fay again for
a minute."

"That's nonsense, you know," said Peter.

"It's what I feel," said Jan.

It was that night Tony's extempore prayer was echoed so earnestly by his



Three days later Jan got a note from Peter telling her that Hugo Tancred
had left Bombay and was probably leaving India at once from one of the
smaller ports.

He had not attempted to communicate in person or by letter with either
Jan or his wife.

Early in the morning, just a week from the time Jan had seen Hugo
Tancred at the window of that tall house near the cotton green, Fay's
third child, a girl, was still-born; and Fay, herself, never recovered
consciousness all day. A most competent nurse had been in the house
nearly a week, the doctor had done all that human skill could do, but
Fay continued to sink rapidly.

About midnight the nurse, who had been standing by the bed with her
finger on Fay's pulse, moved suddenly and gently laid down the weak hand
she had been holding. She looked warningly across at Jan, who knelt at
the other side, her eyes fixed on the pale, beautiful face that looked
so wonderfully young and peaceful.

Suddenly Fay opened her eyes and smiled. She looked right past Jan,
exclaiming joyfully, "There you are at last, Daddie, and it's broad

       *       *       *       *       *

For Jan it was still the middle of the Indian night and very dark

The servants were all asleep; the little motherless children safely
wrapped in happy unconsciousness in their nursery with Ayah.

The last sad offices had been done for Fay, and the nurse, tired out,
was also sleeping--on Jan's bed.

Jan, alone of all the household, kept watch, standing in the verandah, a
ghostly figure, still in the tumbled white muslin frock she had had no
time all day to change.

It was nearly one o'clock. Motors and carriages were beginning to come
back from Government House, where there was a reception. The motor-horns
and horses' hoofs sounded loud in the wide silent street, and the head
lights swept down the Queen's Road like fireflies in flight.

Jan turned on the light in the verandah. Peter would perhaps look up and
see her standing there, and realise why she kept watch. Perhaps he would
stop and come up.

She wanted Peter desperately.

Compassed about with many relatives and innumerable friends at home, out
here Jan was singularly alone. In all that great city she knew no one
save Peter, the doctor and the nurse. Some few women, knowing all the
circumstances, had called and were ready to be kind and helpful and
friendly, as women are all over India, but Fay would admit none but
Peter--even to see Jan; and always begged her not to return the calls
"till it was all over."

Well, it was all over now. Fay would never be timid and ashamed any

Jan had not shed a tear. The longing to cry that had assailed her so
continuously in her first week had entirely left her. She felt
clear-headed and cold and bitterly resentful. She would like to have
made Hugo Tancred go in front of her into that quiet room and forced him
to look at the girlish figure on the bed--his handiwork. She wanted to
hurt him, to make him more wretched than he was already.

A car stopped in the street below. Jan went very quietly to the door of
the flat and listened at the top of the staircase.

Steps were on the stairs, but they stopped at one of the flats below.

Presently another car stopped. Again she went out and listened. The
steps came up and up and she switched on the light in the passage.

This time it was Peter.

He looked very tired.

"I thought you would come," Jan said. "She died at midnight."

Peter closed the outer door, and taking Jan by the arm led her back into
the sitting-room, where he put her in a corner of the big sofa and sat
down beside her.

He could not speak, and Jan saw that the tears she could not shed were
in his eyes, those large dark eyes that could appear so sombre and then
again so kind.

Jan watched him enviously. She was acutely conscious of trifling things.
She even noticed what very black eyebrows he had and how--as always,
when he was either angry or deeply moved--the veins in his forehead
stood out in a strongly-marked V.

"It was best, I think," Jan said, and even to herself her voice sounded
like the voice of a stranger. "She would have been very unhappy if she
had lived."

Peter started at the cool, hard tones, and looked at her. Then, simply
and naturally, like a child, he took her hand and held it; and there was
that in the human contact, in the firm, comfortable clasp, that seemed
to break something down in Jan, and all at once she felt weak and faint
and trembling. She leaned her head against the pillows piled high in the
corner where Fay had always rested. The electric light in the verandah
seemed suddenly to recede to an immense distance and became a tiny
luminous pin-head, like a far lone star.

She heard Peter moving about in the dining-room behind and clinking
things, but she felt quite incapable of going to see what he was doing
or of trying to be hospitable--besides, it was his house, he knew where
things were, and she was so tired.

And then he was standing over her, holding a tumbler against her
chattering teeth.

"Drink it," he said, and, though his voice sounded far away, it was firm
and authoritative. "Quick; don't pretend you can't swallow, for you

He tipped the glass, and something wet and cold ran over her chin:
anything was better than that, and she tried to drink. As she did so
she realised she was thirsty, drank it all eagerly and gasped.

"Have you had anything to eat all day?" the dominating voice went on; it
sounded much nearer now.

"I can't remember," she said, feebly. "Oh, why did you give me all that
brandy, it's made me so muzzy and confused, and there's so much I ought
to see to."

"You rest a bit first--you'll be all right presently."

Someone lifted her by the knees and put the whole of her on the sofa. It
was very comfortable; she was not so cold now. She lay quite still and
closed her eyes. She had not had a real night's sleep since she reached
Bombay. Fay was always restless and nervous, and Jan had not had her
clothes off for forty-eight hours. The long strain was over, there was
nothing to watch and wait for now. She would do as that voice said, rest
for a few minutes.

There was a white chuddah shawl folded on the end of the sofa. Fay had
liked it spread over her knees, for she was nearly always chilly.

Peter opened it and laid it very lightly over Jan, who never stirred.

Then he sat down in a comfortable chair some distance off, where she
would see him if she woke, and reviewed the situation, which was
unconventional, certainly.

He had sent his car away when he arrived, as it was but a step to the
Yacht Club where he slept. Now, he felt he couldn't leave, for if Jan
woke suddenly she would feel confused and probably frightened.

"I never thought so little brandy could have had such an effect," Peter
reflected half ruefully. "I suppose it's because she'd had nothing to
eat. It's about the best thing that could have happened, but I never
meant to hocus her like this."

There she lay, a long white mound under the shawl. She had slipped her
hand under her cheek and looked pathetically young and helpless.

"I wonder what I'd better do," thought Peter.

Mrs. Grundy commanded him to go at once. Common humanity bade him stay.

Peter was very human, and he stayed.

About half-past five Jan woke. She was certainly confused, but not in
the least frightened. It was light, not brilliantly light as it would be
a little later on, but clear and opalescent, as though the sun were
shining through fold upon fold of grey-blue gauze.

The electric light in the verandah and the one over Peter's head were
still burning and looked garish and wan, and Jan's first coherent
thought was, "How dreadfully wasteful to have had them on all
night--Peter's electric light, too"--and then she saw him.

His body was crumpled up in the big chair; his legs were thrust out
stiffly in front of him. He looked a heartrending interpretation of
discomfort in his evening clothes, for he hadn't even loosened the
collar. He had thought of it, but felt it might be disrespectful to Jan.
Besides, there was something of the chaperon about that collar.

Jan's tears that had refused to soften sorrow during the anguish of the
night came now, hot and springing, to blur that absurd, pathetic figure
looped sideways in the big chair.

It was so plain why he was there.

She sniffed helplessly (of course, she had lost her handkerchief), and
thrust her knuckles into her eyes like any schoolboy.

When she could see again she noticed how thin was the queer, irregular
face, with dark hollows round the eyes.

"I wonder if they feed him properly at that Yacht Club," thought Jan.
"And here are we using his house and his cook and everything."

She swung her feet off the sofa and disentangled them from the shawl,
folded it neatly and sat looking at Peter, who opened his eyes.

For a full minute they stared at each other in silence, then he
stretched himself and rose.

"I say, have you slept?" he asked.

"Till a minute ago ... Mr. Ledgard ... why did you stay? It was angelic
of you, but you must be so dreadfully tired. I feel absolutely rested
and, oh, so grateful--but so ashamed...."

"Then you must have some tea," said Peter, inconsequently. "I'll go and
rouse up Lalkhan and the cook. We can't get any ourselves, for he locks
up the whole show every blessed night."

       *       *       *       *       *

In the East burial follows death with the greatest possible speed. Peter
and the doctor and the nurse arranged everything. A friend of Peter's
who had little children sent for Ayah and Tony and little Fay to spend
the day, and Jan was grateful.

Fay and her baby were laid in the English cemetery, and Jan was left to
face the children as best she could.

They had been happy, Ayah said, with the kind lady and her children.
Tony went straight to his mother's room, the room that had been closed
to him for three whole days.

He came back to Jan and stood in front of her, searching her face with
his grave, judging gaze.

"What have you done with my Mummy?" he asked. "Have you carried her away
and put her somewhere like you do Fay when she's naughty? You're strong

"Oh, Tony!" Jan whispered piteously. "I would have kept her if I could,
but I wasn't strong enough for that."

"Who has taken her, then?" Tony persisted. "Where is she? I've been
everywhere, and she isn't in the bungalow."

"God has taken her, Tony."

"What for?"

"I think," Jan said, timidly, "it was because she was very tired and ill
and unhappy----"

"But is she happier now and better?"

"I hope so, I believe she is ... quite happy and well."

"You're sure?" And Tony's eyes searched Jan's face. "You're sure _you_
haven't put her somewhere?"

"Tony, I want Mummy every bit as much as you do. Be a little good to
me, sonny, for I'm dreadfully sad."

Jan held out her hand and Tony took it doubtfully. She drew him nearer.

"Try to be good to me, Tony, and love me a little ... it's all so hard."

"I'll be good," he said, gravely, "because I promised Mummy ... but I
can't love you yet--because--" here Tony sighed deeply, "I don't seem to
feel like it."

"Never mind," said Jan, lifting him on to her knee. "Never mind. I'll
love you an extra lot to make up."

"And Fay?" he asked.

"And Fay--we must both love Fay more than ever now."

"I do love Fay," Tony said, "because I'm used to her. She's been here a
long time...."

Suddenly his mouth went down at the corners and he leant against Jan's
shoulder to hide his face. "I do want Mummy so," he whispered, as the
slow, difficult tears welled over and fell. "I like so much to look at

       *       *       *       *       *

It was early afternoon, the hot part of the day. The children were
asleep and Jan sat on the big sofa, finishing a warm jersey for little
Fay to wear towards the end of the voyage. Peter, by means of every
scrap of interest he possessed, had managed to secure her a three-berth
cabin in a mail boat due to leave within the next fortnight. He insisted
that she must take Ayah, who was more than eager to go, and that Ayah
could easily get a passage back almost directly with people he knew who
were coming out soon after Jan got home. He had written to them, and
they would write to meet the boat at Aden.

There was nothing Peter did not seem able to arrange.

In the flat below a lady was singing the "Indian Love Lyrics" from the
"Garden of Khama." She had a powerful voice and sang with considerable

    Less than the dust beneath thy chariot wheel,
    Less than the rust that never stained thy sword.

Jan frowned and fidgeted.

The song went on, finished, and then the lady sang it all over again.
Jan turned on the electric fan, for it was extremely hot, and the strong
contralto voice made her feel even hotter. The whirr of the fan in no
way drowned the voice, which now went on to proclaim with much _brio_
that the temple bells were ringing and the month of marriages was
drawing near. And then, very slowly and solemnly, but quite as loudly as
before, came "When I am dying, lean over me tenderly----"

Jan got up and stamped. Then she went swiftly for her topee and gloves
and parasol, and fled from the bungalow.

Lalkhan rushed after her to ask if she wanted a "tikka-gharri." He
strongly disapproved of her walking in the streets alone, but Jan shook
her head. The lift-man was equally eager to procure one, but again Jan
defeated his desire and walked out into the hot street. Somehow she
couldn't bear "The Garden of Khama" just then. It was Hugo Tancred's
favourite verse, and was among the few books Fay appeared to possess,
Fay who was lying in the English cemetery, and so glad to be there ...
at twenty-five.

What was the good of life and love, if that was all it led to? In spite
of the heat Jan walked feverishly and fast, down the shady side of the
Mayo Road into Esplanade Road, where the big shops were, and, just then,
no shade at all.

The hot dust seemed to rise straight out of the pavement and strike her
in the face, and all the air was full of the fat yellow smell that
prevails in India when its own inhabitants have taken their mid-day

Each bare-legged gharri-man slumbered on the little box of his carriage,
hanging on in that amazingly precarious fashion in which natives of the
East seem able to sleep anywhere.

On Jan went, anywhere, anywhere away from the garden of Khama and that
travesty of love, as she conceived it. She remembered the day when she
thought them such charming songs and thrilled in sympathy with Fay when
Hugo sang them. Oh, why did that woman sing them to-day? Would she ever
get the sound out of her ears?

She had reached Churchgate Street, which was deserted and deep in shade.
She turned down and presently came to the Cathedral standing in its trim
garden bright with English flowers. The main door was open and Jan went

Here the haunting love-lyrics were hushed. It was so still, not even a
sweeper to break the blessed peace.

Restlessly, Jan walked round the outer aisles, reading the inscriptions
on marble tablets and brasses, many of them dating back to the later
eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Men died young out in India
in those days; hardly any seemed to live beyond forty-two, many died in
the twenties. On nearly all the tablets the words "zeal" or "zealous"
regularly appeared. With regard to their performance of their duties
these dead and gone men who had helped to make the India of to-day had
evidently had a very definite notion as to their own purpose in life.
The remarks were guarded and remarkably free from exaggerated tributes
to the virtues they celebrated. One Major-General Bellasis was described
as "that very respectable Officer--who departed this life while he was
in the meritorious discharge of his duty presiding at the Military
Board." Others died "from exposure to the sun"; nearly all seemed to
have displayed "unremitting" or "characteristic zeal" in the discharge
of their duties.

Jan sat down, and gradually it seemed as though the spirits and souls of
those departed men, those ordinary everyday men--whose descendants might
probably be met any day in the Yacht Club now--seemed to surround her in
a great company, all pointing in one direction and with one voice
declaring, "This is the WAY."

Jan fell on her knees and prayed that her stumbling feet might be
guided upon it, that she should in no wise turn aside, however steep and
stony it might prove.

And as she knelt there came upon her the conviction that here was the
true meaning of life as lived upon the earth; just this, that each
should do his job.



She walked back rather slowly. It was a little cooler, but dusty, and
the hot pavements made her feet ache. She was just wondering whether she
would take a gharri when a motor stopped at the curb and Peter got out.

"What are you doing?" he asked crossly. "Why are you walking in all this
heat? You can't play these games in India. Get in."

He held the door open for her.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Ledgard," Jan said, sweetly. "Is it worth while for
such a little way?"

"Get in," Peter said again, and Jan meekly got in.

"I was just coming to see you, and I could have taken you anywhere you
wanted to go, if only you'd waited. Why didn't you take a gharri?"

"Since you must know," Jan said, smiling at the angry Peter, "I went out
because I wanted to go out. And I walked because I wanted to walk."

"You can't do things just because you want to do 'em in this infernal
country--you must consider whether it's a suitable time."

Jan made no answer, and silence reigned till they reached the bungalow.

Peter followed her in.

"Where did you go?" he asked. "And why?"

"I went to the Cathedral, and my reason was that I simply couldn't stay
in the bungalow because the lady below was singing 'Less than the

"I know," Peter said grimly. "Just the sort of thing she would sing."

"She sang very well," Jan owned honestly, "but when Fay was first
engaged she and Hugo used to sing those songs to each other--it seemed
all day long--and this afternoon I couldn't bear it. It seemed such a
sham somehow--so false and unreal, if it only led--to this."

"It's real enough while it lasts, you know," Peter remarked in the
detached, elderly tone he sometimes adopted. "That sort of thing's all
right for an episode, but it's a bit too thin for marriage."

"But surely episodes often end in marriage?"

"Not that sort, and if they do it's generally pretty disastrous. A woman
who felt she was less than the dust and rust and weeds and all that rot
wouldn't be much good to a man who had to do his job, for she wouldn't
do hers, you know."

"Then you, too, think that's the main thing--to do your job?"

"It seems to me it's the only thing that justifies one's existence.
Anyway, to try to do it decently."

"And you don't think one ought to expect to be happy and have things go

"Well, they won't always, you know, whether you expect it or not; but
the job remains, so it's just as well to make up your mind to it."

"I suppose," Jan said thoughtfully, "that's a religion."

"It pans out as well as most," said Peter.

The days that had gone so slowly went quickly enough now. Jan had much
to arrange and no word came from Hugo. She succeeded in getting the
monthly bills from the cook, and paid them, and very timidly she asked
Peter if she might pay the wages for the time his servants had waited
upon them; but Peter was so huffy and cross she never dared to mention
it again.

The night before they all sailed Peter dined with her, and, after
dinner, took her for one last drive over Malabar Hill. The moon was
full, and when they reached Ridge Road he stopped the car and they got
out and stood on the cliff, looking over the city just as they had done
on her first evening in Bombay.

Some scented tree was in bloom and the air was full of its soft

For some minutes they stood in silence, then Jan broke it by asking:
"Mr. Ledgard, could Hugo take the children from me?"

"He could, of course, legally--but I don't for a minute imagine he will,
for he couldn't keep them. What about his people? Will they want to

"I don't think so; from the little he told us they are not very well
off. They live in Guernsey. His father was something in salt, I think,
out here. We've none of us seen them. They didn't come to Fay's
wedding. I gather they are very strict in their views--both his father
and mother--and there are two sisters. But Fay said Hugo hardly ever
wrote--or heard from them."

"There's just one thing you must face, Miss Ross," and Peter felt a
brute as he looked at Jan pale and startled in the bright moonlight.
"Hugo Tancred might marry again."

"Oh, surely no one would marry him after all this!"

"Whoever did would probably know nothing of 'all this.' Remember Hugo
Tancred has a way with women; he's a fascinating chap when he likes,
he's good-looking and plausible, and always has an excellent reason for
all his misfortunes. If he does marry again he'll marry money, and
_then_ he might demand the children."

"Perhaps she wouldn't want them."

"We'll hope not."

"And I can do nothing--nothing to make them safe?"

"I fear--nothing--only your best for them."

"I'll do that," said Jan.

They stood shoulder to shoulder in the scented stillness of the night.
The shadows were black and sharp in the bright moonlight and the
tom-toms throbbed in the city below.

"I wonder," Jan said presently, "if I shall ever be able to do anything
for you, Mr. Ledgard. You have done everything for us out here."

"Would you really like to do something?" Peter asked eagerly. "I
wouldn't have mentioned it if you hadn't said that just now. Would you
write pretty often? You see, I've no people of my very own. Aunts and
uncles and cousins don't keep in touch with one out here. They're kind,
awfully kind when I go home on leave, but it takes a man's own folk to
remember to write every mail."

"I'll write every mail," Jan promised eagerly, "and when you take your
next leave, remember we expect you at Wren's End."

"I'll remember," said Peter, "and it may be sooner than you think."

They sailed next day. Jan had spent six weeks in Bombay, and the whole
thing seemed a dream.

The voyage back was very different from the voyage out. The boat was
crowded, and nearly all were Service people going home on leave. Jan
found them very kind and friendly, and the children, with plenty of
others to play with, were for the most part happy and good.

The journey across France was rather horrid. Little Fay was as
obstreperous as Tony was disagreeably silent and aloof. Jan thanked
heaven when the crowded train steamed into Charing Cross.

There, at the very door of their compartment, a girl was waiting. A girl
so small, she might have been a child except for a certain decision and
capability about everything she did. She seized Jan, kissed her
hurriedly and announced that she had got a nice little furnished flat
for them till they should go to the country, and that Hannah had tea
ready; this young person, herself, helped to carry their smaller
baggage to a taxi, packed them in, demanded Jan's keys and announced
that she would bring the luggage in another taxi. She gave the address
to the man, and a written slip to Jan, and vanished to collect their
cabin baggage.

It was all done so briskly and efficiently that it left Ayah and the
children quite breathless, accustomed as they were to the leisurely
methods of the East.

"Who is vat mem?" asked little Fay, as the taxi door was slammed by this
energetic young person.

"Is she quite a mem?" suggested the accurate Tony. "Is she old enough or
big enough?"

"Who is vat mem?" little Fay repeated.

"That," said Jan with considerable satisfaction in her voice, "is Meg."



It was inevitable as the refrain of a _rondeau_ that when Jan said
"that's Meg" little Fay should demand "What nelse?"

Now there was a good deal of "nelse" about Meg, and she requires some
explanation, going back several years.

Like most Scots, Anthony Ross had been faithful to his relations whether
he felt affection for them or not; sometimes even when they had not a
thought in common with him and he rather disliked them than otherwise.

And this was so in the case of one Amelia Ross, his first cousin, who
was head-mistress of a flourishing and well-established school for
"young ladies," in the Regent's Park district.

She had been a head-mistress for many years, and was well over fifty
when she married a meek, small, nothingly man who had what Thackeray
calls "a little patent place." And it appeared that she added the
husband to the school in much the same spirit as she would have
increased the number of chairs in her dining-room, and with no more
appreciable result in her life. On her marriage she became Mrs.
Ross-Morton, and Mr. Morton went in and out of the front door,
breakfasted and dined at Ribston Hall, caught his bus at the North Gate
and went daily to his meek little work. It is presumed that he lived on
terms of affectionate intimacy with his wife, but no one who saw them
together could have gathered this.

Now Anthony Ross disliked his cousin Amelia. He detested her school,
which he considered was one of the worst examples of a bad old period.
He suspected her of being hard and grasping, he knew she was dull, and
her husband bored him--not to tears, but to profanity. Yet since she was
his cousin and a hard-working, upright woman, and since they had played
together as children in Scotland and her father and mother had been kind
to him then, he could never bring himself to drop Amelia. Not for worlds
would he have allowed Jan or Fay to go to her school, but he did allow
them, or rather he humbly entreated them, to visit it occasionally when
invited to some function or other. Jan's education after her mother's
death had been the thinnest scrape sandwiched between many household
cares and much attendance upon her father's whims. Fay was allowed
classes and visiting governesses, but their father could never bring
himself to spare either of them to the regular discipline of school, and
Cousin Amelia bewailed the desultory training of Anthony's children.

In 1905, Jan and Fay had been to a party at Ribston Hall: tea in the
garden followed by a pastoral play. Anthony was sitting in the balcony,
smoking, when the girls came back. He saw their hansom and ran
downstairs to meet them, as he always did. They were a family who went
in for affectionate greetings.

"Daddie," cried Fay, seizing her father by the arm, "one of the seven
wonders of the world has happened. We have found an interesting person
at Ribston Hall."

Jan took the other arm. "We can't possibly tell you all about it under
an hour, so we'd better go and sit in the balcony." And they gently
propelled him towards the staircase.

"Not if you're going to discuss Cousin Amelia," Anthony protested. "You
have carrying voices, both of you."

"Cousin Amelia is only incidental," Jan said, when they were all three
seated in the balcony. "The main theme is concerned with a queer little
pixie creature called Meg Morton. She's a pupil-governess, and she's
sixteen and a half--just the same age as Fay."

"She doesn't reach up to Jan's elbow," Fay added, "and she chaperons the
girls for music and singing, and sits in the drawing-class because the
master can't be quite seventy yet."

"She's the wee-est thing you ever saw, and they dress her in Cousin
Amelia's discarded Sunday frocks."

"That's impossible," Anthony interrupted. "Amelia is so massive and
square; if the girl's so small she'd look like 'the Marchioness.'"

"She does, she does!" Jan cried delightedly. "Of course the garments are
'made down,' but in the most elderly way possible. Daddie, can you
picture a Botticelli angel of sixteen, with masses of Titian-red hair,
clad in a queer plush garment once worn by Cousin Amelia, that retains
all its ancient frumpiness of line. And it's not only her appearance
that's so quaint, _she_ is quaint inside."

"We were attracted by her hair," Fay went on "(You'll go down like a
ninepin before that hair), and we got her in a corner and hemmed her in
and declared it was her duty to attend to us because we were strangers
and shy, and in three minutes we were friends. Sixteen, Daddie! And a
governess-pupil in Cousin Amelia's school. She's a niece of the little
husband, and Cousin Amelia is preening herself like anything because she
takes her for nothing and makes her work like ten people."

"Did the little girl say so?"

"Of course not," Jan answered indignantly, "but Cousin Amelia did. Oh,
how thankful I am she is _your_ cousin, dear, and once-removed from us!"

"How many generations will it take to remove her altogether?" Fay asked.
"However," she added, "if we can have the pixie out and give her a good
time I shan't mind the relationship so much. We _must_ do something,
Daddie. What shall it be?"

Anthony Ross smoked thoughtfully and said very little. Perhaps he did
not even listen with marked attention, because he was enjoying his
girls. Just to see them healthy and happy; to know that they were
naturally kind and gay; to hear them frank and eager and
loquacious--sometimes gave him a sensation of almost physical pleasure.
He was like an idler basking in the sun, conscious of nothing but just
the warmth and comfort of it.

Whatever those girls wanted they always got. Anthony's diplomacy was
requisitioned and was, as usual, successful; for, in spite of her
disapproval, Mrs. Ross-Morton could never resist her cousin's charm.
This time the result was that one Saturday afternoon in the middle of
June little Meg Morton, bearing a battered leather portmanteau and clad
in the most-recently-converted plush abomination, appeared at the tall
house in St. George's Square to stay over the week-end.

It was the mid-term holiday, and from the first moment to the last the
visit was one almost delirious orgy of pleasure to the little

It was also a revelation.

It would be hard to conceive of anything odder than the appearance of
Meg Morton at this time. She just touched five feet in height, and was
very slenderly and delicately made, with absurd, tiny hands and feet.
Yet there was a finish about the thin little body that proclaimed her
fully grown. Her eyes, with their thick, dark lashes, looked overlarge
in the pale little pointed face; strange eyes and sombre, with big,
bright pupil, and curious dark-blue iris flecked with brown. Her
features were regular, and her mouth would have been pretty had the lips
not lacked colour. As it was, all the colour about Meg seemed
concentrated in her hair; red as a flame and rippled as a river under a
fresh breeze. There was so much of it, too, the little head seemed bowed
in apology beneath its weight.

Yet for the time being Meg forgot to be apologetic about her hair, for
Anthony and his girls frankly admired it.

These adorable, kind, amusing people actually admired it, and said so.
Hitherto Meg's experience had been that it was a thing to be slurred
over, like a deformity. If mentioned, it was to be deprecated. In the
strictly Evangelical circles where hitherto her lot had been cast, they
even tried vainly to explain it away.

She had, of course, heard of artists, but she never expected to meet
any. That sort of thing lay outside the lives of those who had to make
their living as quickly as possible in beaten tracks; tracks so
well-beaten, in fact, that all the flowers had been trodden underfoot
and exterminated.

Meg, at sixteen, had received so little from life that her expectations
were of the humblest. And as she stood before the glass in a pretty
bedroom, fastening her one evening dress (of shiny black silk that
crackled, made with the narrow V in front affected by Mrs. Ross-Morton),
preparatory to going to the play for the first time in her life, she
could have exclaimed, like the little old woman of the story, "This be
never I!"

Anthony Ross was wholly surprising to Meg.

This handsome, merry gentleman with thick, brown hair as crinkly as her
own; who was domineered over and palpably adored by these two, to her,
equally amazing girls--seemed so very, very young to be anybody's

He frankly owned to enjoying things.

Now, according to Meg's experience, grown-up people--elderly
people--seldom enjoyed anything; above all, never alluded to their

Life was a thing to be endured with fortitude, its sorrows borne with
Christian resignation; its joys, if there were any joys, discreetly
slurred over. Joys were insidious, dangerous things that might lead to
the leaving undone of obvious duties. To seek joy and insure its being
shared by others, bravely and honestly believing it to be an excellent
thing, was to Meg an entirely unknown frame of mind.

After the play, in Meg's room the three girls were brushing their hair
together; to be accurate, Jan was brushing Fay's and Meg admiring the

"Have you any sisters?" Jan asked. She was always interested in people's

"No," said Meg. "There are, mercifully, only three of us, my two
brothers and me. If there had been any more I don't know what my poor
little Papa would have done."

"Why do you call him your 'poor little papa'?" Fay asked curiously.

"Because he is poor--dreadfully--and little, and very melancholy. He
suffers so from depression."

"Why?" asked the downright Jan.

"Partly because he has indigestion, _constant_ indigestion, and then
there's us, and boys are so expensive, they will grow so. It upsets him

"But they can't help growing," Fay objected.

"It wouldn't matter so much if they didn't both do it at once. But you
see, there's only a year between them, and they're just about the same
size. If only one had been smaller, he could have worn the outgrown
things. As it is, it's always new clothes for both of them. Papa's are
no sort of use, and even the cheapest suits cost a lot, and boots are
perfectly awful."

Meg looked so serious that Fay and Jan, who were like the lilies of the
field, and expected new and pretty frocks at reasonable intervals as a
matter of course, looked serious too; for the first time confronted by a
problem whose possibility they had never even considered before.

"He must be pleased with you," Jan said, encouragingly. "_You're_ not
too big."

"Yes, but then I'm not a boy. Papa's clothes would have made down for me
beautifully if I'd been a boy; as it is, they're no use." Meg sighed,
then added more cheerfully. "But I cost less in other ways, and several
relations send old clothes to me. They are never too small."

"Do you like the relations' clothes?" Fay asked.

"Of course not," said Meg, simply. "They are generally hideous; but,
after all, they cover me and save expense."

The spoiled daughters of Anthony Ross gazed at Meg with horror-stricken
eyes. To them this seemed a most tragic state of things.

"Do they all," Fay asked timidly, "wear such ... rich materials--like
Cousin Amelia?"

"They're fond of plush, as a rule, but there's velveteen as well, and
sometimes a cloth dress. One was mustard-coloured, and embittered my
life for a whole year."

Jan suddenly ceased to brush Fay's hair and went and sat on the bed
beside Meg and put her arm round her. Fay's pretty face, framed in
fluffy masses of fair hair, was solemn in excess of sympathy.

"I shouldn't care a bit if only the boys were through Sandhurst and
safely into the Indian Army--but I do hate them having to go without
nearly everything. Trevor's a King's Cadet, but they wouldn't give us
two cadetships ... Still," she added, more cheerfully, "it's cheaper
than anything else for a soldier's son."

"Is your father a soldier?" asked Jan.

"Oh, yes, a major in the Westshires; but he had to leave the Army
because of his health, and his pension is very small, and mother had so
little money. I sometimes think it killed her trying to do everything on

"Were you quite small when she died?" Fay asked in a sympathetic

"Oh, no; I was nearly twelve, and quite as big as I am now. Then I kept
house while the boys were at Bedford, but when they went to Sandhurst
poor little Papa thought I'd better get some education, too, and Uncle
John's wife offered to take me for nothing, so here I am. HERE, it's too
wonderful. Who could have dreamed that Ribston Hall would lead to this?"
And Meg snuggled down in Jan's kind embrace, her red hair spread around
her like a veil.

"Are some of the richly-dressed relations nice?" Jan asked hopefully.

"I don't know if you'd think them nice--you seem to expect such a lot
from people--but they're quite kind--only it's a different sort of
kindness from yours here. They don't laugh and expect you to enjoy
yourself, like _your_ father. My brothers say they are dull ... they
call them--I'm afraid it's very ungrateful--the weariful rich. But I
expect we're weariful to them too. I suppose poor relations _are_ boring
if you're well-off yourself. But we get pretty tired, too, when they
talk us over."

"But do you mean to say they talk you over _to_ you?"

"Always," Meg said firmly. "How badly we manage, how improvident we are,
how Papa ought to rouse himself and I ought to manage better, and how
foolish it is to let the boys go into the Army instead of banks and
things ... And yet, you know, it hasn't cost much for Trevor, and once
he's in he'll be able to manage, and Jo said he'd enlist if there was
any more talk of banks, and poor little Papa had to give in--so there it

"How much older are they than you?" Jan asked.

"Trevor's nineteen and Jo's eighteen, and they are the greatest darlings
in the world. They always lifted the heavy saucepans for me at Bedford,
and filled the buckets and did the outsides of the windows, and carried
up the coals to Papa's sitting-room before they went to school in the
morning, and they very seldom grumbled at my cooking...."

"But where were the servants?" Fay asked innocently.

Meg laughed. "Oh, we couldn't have any servants. A woman came in the
morning. Papa dined at his club, and I managed for the boys and me. But,
oh dear, they do eat a lot, and joints are so dear. Sheep's heads and
things pall if you have them more than once a week. They're such a mixty
sort of meat, so gummy."

"_I_ can cook," Jan announced, then added humbly, "at least, I've been
to classes, but I don't get much practice. Cook isn't at all fond of
having me messing in her kitchen."

"It isn't the cooking that's so difficult," said Meg; "it's getting
things to cook. It's all very well for the books to say 'Take' this and
that. My experience is that you can never 'take' anything. You have to
buy every single ingredient, and there's never anything like enough. We
tried being fruitarians and living on dates and figs and nuts all
squashed together, but it didn't seem to come a bit cheaper, for the
boys were hungry again directly and said it was hog-wash."

"Was your papa a fruitarian too?" Fay asked.

"Oh, no, he can't play those tricks; he has to be most careful. He never
had his meals with us. Our meals would have been too rough for him. I
got him breakfast and afternoon tea. He generally went out for the

Jan and Fay looked thoughtful.

       *       *       *       *       *

Amelia Ross-Morton was a fair judge of character. When she consented to
take her husband's niece as a governess-pupil she had been dubious as to
the result. She very soon discovered, however, that the small red-haired
girl was absolutely trustworthy, that she had a power of keeping order
quite disproportionate to her size, that she got through a perfectly
amazing amount of work, and did whatever she was asked as a matter of
course. Thus she became a valuable factor in the school, receiving
nothing in return save her food and such clothes as Mrs. Ross-Morton
considered too shabby for her own wear.

At the end of the first year Meg ceased to receive any lessons. Her day
was fully occupied in teaching the younger and chaperoning the elder
girls. Only one stipulation did she make at the beginning of each
term--that she should be allowed to accept, on all reasonable occasions,
the invitations of Anthony Ross and his daughters, and she made this
condition with so much firmness that Anthony's cousin knew better than
to be unreasonably domineering, as was her usual habit. Moreover, though
it was against her principles to do anything to further the enjoyment
of persons in a subordinate position, she was, in a way, flattered that
Anthony and his girls should thus single out her "niece by marriage" and
appear to enjoy her society.

Thus it came about that Meg went a good deal to St. George's Square and
nearly always spent part of each holiday with Fay and Jan wherever they
happened to be.

The queer clothes were kept for wear at Ribston Hall, and by
degrees--although she never had any money--she became possessed of
garments more suitable to her age and colouring.

Again and again Anthony painted her. She sat for him with untiring
patience and devotion. She was always entirely at her ease with him, and
prattled away quite simply of the life that seemed to him so
inexpressibly hard and dreary.

Only once had he interfered on her behalf at Ribston Hall, and then
sorely against Meg's will. She was sitting for him one day, with her
veil of flaming hair spread round her, when she said, suddenly, "I
wonder why it is incorrect to send invitations by post to people living
in the same town?"

"But it isn't," Anthony objected. "Everybody does it."

"Not in schools," Meg said firmly. "Mrs. Ross-Morton will never send
invitations to people living in London through the post--she says it
isn't polite. They must go by hand."

"I never heard such nonsense," Anthony exclaimed crossly. "If she
doesn't send 'em by post, how _does_ she send them?"

"I take them generally, in the evening, after school, and deliver them
at all the houses. Some are fairly near, of course--a lot of her friends
live in Regent's Park--but sometimes I have to go quite a long way by
bus. I don't mind that in summer, when it's light, but in winter it's
horrid going about the lonely roads ... People speak to one...."

Anthony Ross stepped from behind his easel.

"And what do you do?" he asked.

"I run," Meg said simply, "and I can generally run much faster than they
do ... but it's a little bit frightening."

"It's infernal," Anthony said furiously. "I shall speak to Amelia at
once. You are never to do it again."

In vain did Meg plead, almost with tears, that he would do nothing of
the kind. He was roused and firm.

He did "speak to Amelia." He astonished that good lady as much as he
annoyed her. Nevertheless Mrs. Ross-Morton used the penny post for her
invitations as long as Meg remained at Ribston Hall.

At the end of two years Major Morton, who had removed from Bedford to
Cheltenham, wrote a long, querulous letter to his sister-in-law to the
effect that if--like the majority of girls nowadays--his daughter chose
to spend her life far from his sheltering care, it was time she earned

Mrs. Ross-Morton replied that only now was Meg beginning to repay all
the expense incurred on her behalf in the way of board, clothing and
tuition; and it was most unreasonable to expect any salary for quite
another year.

Major Morton decided to remove Meg from Ribston Hall.

Many acrimonious letters passed between her aunt and her father before
this was finally accomplished, and Meg left "under a cloud."

To her great astonishment, her meek little uncle appeared at Paddington
to see her off. Just as the train was starting he thrust an envelope
into her hand.

"It hasn't been fair," he almost shouted--for the train was already
beginning to move. "You worked hard, you deserved some pay ... a little
present ... but please don't mention it to your aunt ... She is so
decided in her views...."

When Meg opened the envelope she found three ten-pound notes. She had
never seen so much money before, and burst into tears; but it was not
because of the magnitude of the gift. She felt she had never properly
appreciated her poor little uncle, and her conscience smote her.

This was at Christmas.

The weariful rich sat in conclave over Meg, and it was decided that she
should in March go as companion and secretary to a certain Mrs. Trent
slightly known to one of them.

Mrs. Trent was kindly, careless, and quite generous as regards money.
She had grown-up daughters, and they lived in one of the Home Counties
where there are many country-houses and plenty of sport. Meg proved to
be exceedingly useful, did whatever she was asked to do, and a great
many things no one had ever done before. She shared in the fun, and for
the first time since her mother died was not overworked.

Her employer was as keen on every form of pleasure as her own daughters.
She exercised the very smallest supervision over them and none at all
over the "quite useful" little companion.

Many men came to the easy-going, lavish house, and Meg, with pretty
frocks, abundant leisure and deliriously prim Ribston-Hallish manners,
came in for her full share of admiration.

It happened that at the end of July Anthony Ross came up to London in
the afternoon to attend and speak at a dinner in aid of some artists'
charity. He and Jan were staying with friends at Teddington; Fay, an
aunt and the servants were already at Wren's End--all but Hannah, the
severe Scottish housemaid, who remained in charge. She was grim and
gaunt and plain, with a thick, black moustache, and Anthony liked her
less than he could have wished. But she had been Jan's nurse, and was
faithful and trustworthy beyond words. He would never let Jan go to the
country ahead of him, for without her he always left behind everything
most vital to his happiness, so she was to join him next day and see
that his painting-tackle was all packed.

The house in St. George's Square was nominally shut up and shrouded in
dust-sheets, but Hannah had "opened up" the dining-room on Anthony's
behalf, and there he sat and slumbered till she should choose to bring
him some tea.

He was awakened by an opening door and Hannah's voice announcing, not
tea, but:

"Miss Morton to see you, sir."

There seemed a thousand "r's" in both the Morton and the sir, and
Anthony, who felt that there was something ominous and arresting in
Hannah's voice, was wide-awake before she could shut the door again.

Sure enough it was Meg, clad in a long grey dust-cloak and motor bonnet,
the grey veil flung back from a very pale face.

Meg, looking a wispy little shadow of woe.

Anthony came forward with outstretched hands.

"Meg, my child, what good wind has blown you here this afternoon? I
thought you were having ever such a gay time down in the country."

But Meg made no effort to grasp the greeting hands. On the contrary, she
moved so that the whole width of the dining-room table was between them.

"Wait," she said, "you mustn't shake hands with me till I tell you what
I've done ... perhaps you won't want to then."

And Anthony saw that she was trembling.

"Come and sit down," he said. "Something's wrong, I can see. What is

But she stood where she was, looking at him with large, tragic eyes;
laid down a leather despatch-case she was carrying, and seized the edge
of the table as if for support.

"I'd rather not sit down yet," she said. "Perhaps when you've heard what
I've got to tell you, you'll never want me to sit down in your house
again ... and yet ... I did pray so you'd be here ... I knew it was most
unlikely ... but I did pray so ... And you _are_ here."

Anthony was puzzled. Meg was not given to making scenes or going into

It was evident that something had happened to shake her out of her usual
almost cynical calm.

"You'd be much better to sit down," he said, soothingly. "You see, if
you stand, so must I, and it's such an uncomfortable way of talking."

She pulled out a chair and sat down at the table, took off her gloves,
and two absurd small thumbs appeared above its edge, the knuckles white
and tense with the strength of her grip.

Anthony seated himself in a deep chair beside the fireplace. He was in
shadow. Meg faced the light, and he was shocked at the appearance of the
little smitten face.

"Now tell me," he said gently, "just as little or as much as you like."

"This morning," she said hoarsely, "I ran away with a man ... in a

Anthony was certainly startled, but all he said was, "That being the
case, why are you here, my dear, and what have you done with him?"

"He was married...."

"Have you only just found that out?"

"No, I knew it all along. His wife is hard and disagreeable and older
than he is ... and he's thirty-five ... and they can't live together,
and she won't divorce him and he can't divorce her ... and I loved him
so much and thought how beautiful it would be to give up everything and
make it up to him."

"Yes?" said Anthony, for Meg paused as though unable to go on.

"And it seemed very wonderful and noble to do this, and I forgot my poor
little Papa and those boys in India, and you and Jan and Fay and ... I
was very mad and very happy ... till this morning, when we actually went
off in his car."

"But where," Anthony asked in a voice studiously even and quiet, "_are_
he and his car?"

"I don't know," Meg said hopelessly, "unless they're still at the place
where we had lunch ... and I don't suppose he'd stay there all this

Anthony felt a great desire to laugh, but Meg looked so woebegone and
desperately serious that he restrained the impulse and said very kindly:
"I don't yet understand how, having embarked upon such an enterprise,
you happen to be here ... alone. Did you quarrel at lunch, or what?"

"We didn't _have_ lunch," Meg exclaimed with a sob. "At least, I didn't
... it was the lunch that did it."

"Did what?"

"Made me realise what I had done, and go away."

"Meg dear," said Anthony, striving desperately to keep his voice steady,
"was it a very bad lunch?"

"I don't know," she answered with the utmost seriousness. "We hadn't
begun; we were just going to, when I noticed his hands, and his nails
were dirty, and they looked horrid, and suddenly it came over me that if
I stayed ... those hands...."

She let go of the table, put her elbows upon it and hid her face in her

Anthony made no sound, and presently, still with hidden face, she went
on again:

"And in that minute I saw what I was doing, and that I could never be
the same again, and I remembered my poor little dyspeptic Papa, and my
dear, dear brothers so far away in India ... and you and Jan and
Fay--_all_ the special people I pray for every single night and
morning--and I felt that if I didn't get away that minute I should

"And how did you get away?"

"It was quite simple. There was something wrong with the car (that's how
he got his hands so dirty), and he'd sent for a mechanic, and just as we
were sitting down to lunch, the waiter said the motor-man had come ...
and he went out to the garage to speak to him...."

"Yes?" Anthony remarked, for again Meg paused.

"So I just walked out of the front door. No one saw me, and the station
was across the road, and I went right in and asked when there was a
train to London, and there _was_ one going in five minutes; so I took a
ticket and came straight here, for I knew somehow, even if you were all
away, Hannah would let me stay ... just to-night. I knew she would ..."
and Meg began to sob feebly.

And, as if in response to the mention of her name, Hannah appeared,
bearing a tray with tea upon it. Hannah was short and square; she
stumped as she walked, and she carried a tray very high and stately, as
though it were a sacrifice. As she came in Meg rose and hastily moved to
the window, standing there with her back to the room.

"I thocht," said Hannah, as though challenging somebody to contradict
her, "that Miss Morton would be the better for an egg to her tea. She
looks just like a bit soap after a hard day's washing."

"I had no lunch," said a muffled, apologetic voice from the window.

"Come away, then, and take yer tea," Hannah said sharply. "Young leddies
should have more sense than go fasting so many hours."

As it was evident that Hannah had no intention of leaving the room till
she saw Meg sitting at the table, the girl came back and sat down.

"See that she gets her tea, sir," she said in a low, admonitory voice to
Anthony. "She's pretty far through."

The tray was set at the end of the table. Anthony came and sat down
behind it.

"I'll pour out," he said, "and until you've drunk one cup of tea, eaten
one piece of bread-and-butter and one egg, you're not to speak one word.
_I_ will talk."

He tried to, disjointedly and for the most part nonsense. Meg drank her
tea, and to her own amazement ate up her egg and several pieces of
bread-and-butter with the utmost relish.

As the meal proceeded, Anthony noted that she grew less haggard. The
tears still hung on her eyelashes, but the eyes themselves were a
thought less tragic.

When Hannah came for the tray she gave a grunt of satisfaction at the
sight of the egg-shell and the empty plates.

"Now," said Anthony, "we must thresh this subject out and settle what's
to be done. I suppose you left a message for the Trents. What did you
tell them?"

"Lies," said Meg. "He said we must have a good start. His yacht was at
Southampton. And I left a note that I'd been suddenly summoned to Papa,
and would write from there. They'd all gone for a picnic, you know--and
it was arranged I was to have a headache that morning ... I've got it
now with a vengeance ... It seemed rather fun when we were planning it.
Now it all looks so mean and horrid ... Besides, lots of people saw us
in his motor ... and people always know me again because of my hair.
Everyone knew him ... the whole county made a fuss of him, and it seemed
so wonderful ... that he should care like that for me...."

"Doubtless it did," said Anthony drily. "But we must consider what is to
be done now. If you said you were going to your father, perhaps the best
thing you can do is to go to him, and write to the Trents from there. I
hope you didn't inform _him_ of your intention?"

"No," she faltered. "I was to write to him just before we sailed ... But
you may be perfectly sure the Trents will find out ... He will probably
go back there to look for me ... I expect he is awfully puzzled."

"I expect he is, and I hope," Anthony added vindictively, "the fellow is
terrified out of his life as well. He ought to be horsewhipped, and I'd
like to do it. A babe like you!"

"No," said Meg, firmly; "there you're wrong. I'm not a babe ... I knew
what I was doing; but up to to-day it seemed worth it ... I never seemed
to see till to-day how it would hurt other people. Even if he grew tired
of me--and I had faced that--there would have been some awfully happy
months ... and so long as it was only me, it didn't seem to matter. And
when you've had rather a mouldy life...."

"It can never be a case of 'only me.' As society is constituted, other
people are always involved."

"Yet there was Marian Evans ... he told me about her ... she did it, and
everyone came round to think it was very fine of her really. She wrote,
or something, didn't she?"

"She did," said Anthony, "and in several other respects her case was
not at all analogous to yours. She was a middle-aged woman--you are a

"Perhaps, but I'm not an ignorant child...."

"Oh, Meg!" Anthony protested.

"I daresay about books and things I am, but I mean I haven't been
wrapped in cotton-wool, and taken care of all my life, like Jan and Fay
... I know about things. Oh dear, oh dear, will you forbid Jan ever to
speak to me again?"

"Jan!" Anthony repeated. "Jan! Why, she's the person of all others we
want. We'll do nothing till she's here. Let's get her." And he pushed
back his chair and rushed to the bell.

Meg rushed after him: "You'll let her see me? You'll let her talk to me?
Oh, are you sure?"

The little hands clutched his arm, her ravaged, wistful face was raised
imploringly to his.

Anthony stooped and kissed the little face.

"It's just people like Jan who are put into the world to straighten
things out for the rest of us. We've wasted three-quarters of an hour
already. Now we'll get her."

"Is she on the telephone?" asked the practical Meg. "Not far off?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Jan was quite used to being summoned to her father in a tremendous
hurry. She was back in St. George's Square before he started for the
dinner. Meg was lying down in one of the dismantled bedrooms, and when
Jan arrived she went straight to her father in his dressing-room.

She found him on his knees, pursuing a refractory collar-stud under the

"It's well you've come," he said as he got up. "I can't fasten my collar
or my tie. I've had a devil of a time. My fingers are all thumbs and I'm
most detestably sticky."

He told Jan about Meg. She fastened his collar and arranged his tie in
the neatest of bows. Then she kissed him on both cheeks and told him not
to worry.

"How can one refrain from worrying when the works of the devil and the
selfishness of man are made manifest as they have been to-day? But for
the infinite mercy of God, where would that poor silly child have been?"

"It's just because the infinite mercy of God is so much stronger than
the works of the devil or the selfishness of man, that you needn't
worry," said Jan.

Anthony put his hands on Jan's shoulders and held her away from him.

"Do you know," he said, "I shall always like Hannah better after this.
In spite of her moustache and her grimness, that child was sure Hannah
would take her in, whether any of us were here or not. Now, how did she

"Because," said Jan, "things are revealed to babes like Meg that are
hidden from men of the world like you. Hannah is all right--you don't
appreciate Hannah, and you are rather jealous of her moustache."

Anthony leant forward and kissed his tall young daughter: "You are a
great comfort, Jan," he said. "How do you do it?"

Jan nodded at him. "It will all straighten out--don't you worry," she

All the same, there was plenty of worry for everybody. The man, after
his fashion, was very much in love with Meg. He was horribly alarmed by
her sudden and mysterious disappearance. No one had seen her go, no one
had noticed her.

He got into a panic, and motored back to the Trents', arriving there
just before dinner. Mrs. Trent, tired and cross after a wet picnic, had,
of course, read Meg's note, thought it very casual of the girl and was
justly incensed.

On finding they knew no more of Meg's movements than he did himself, the
man--one Walter Brooke--lost his head and confessed the truth to Mrs.
Trent, who was much shocked and not a little frightened.

Later in the evening she received a telegram from Jan announcing Meg's

Jan had insisted on this, lest the Trents should suspect anything and
wire to Major Morton.

Mrs. Trent, quite naturally, refused to have anything further to do with
Meg. She talked of serpents, and was very much upset. She wrote a
dignified letter to Major Morton, explaining her reasons for Meg's
dismissal. She also wrote to their relative among the weariful rich,
through whom she had heard of Meg.

Meg was more under a cloud than when she left Ribston Hall.

But for Jan and Anthony she might have gone under altogether; but they
took her down to Wren's End and kept guard over her. Anthony Ross dealt
faithfully with the man, who went yachting at once.

Meg recovered her poise, searched the advertisements of the scholastic
papers industriously, and secured a post in a school for little boys, as
Anthony forced his cousin Amelia to give her a testimonial.

Here she worked hard and was a great success, for she could keep order,
and that quality, where small boys are concerned, is much more valuable
than learning. She stayed there for some years, and then her frail
little ill-nourished body gave out, and she was gravely ill.

When she recovered, she went as English governess to a rich German
family in Bremen. The arrangement was only for one year, and at its
termination she was free to offer to meet Jan and her charges.



"Now, chicks, this is London, the friendly town," Jan announced, as the
taxi drove away from Charing Cross station.

"Flendly little London, dirty little London," her niece rejoined, as she
bounced up and down on Jan's knee. She had slept during the very good
crossing and was full of conversation and ready to be pleased with all
she saw.

Tony was very quiet. He had suffered far more in the swift journey
across France than during the whole of the voyage, and it was difficult
to decide whether he or Ayah were the more extraordinary colour.
Greenish-white and miserable he sat beside his aunt, silent and

"Here's dear old Piccadilly," Jan exclaimed, as the taxi turned out of
St. James's Street. "Doesn't it look jolly in the sunshine?"

Tony turned even greener than before, and gasped:

"This! Piccadilly!"

This not very wide street with shops and great houses towering above
them, the endless streams of traffic in the road and on the crowded

"Did Mrs. Bond live in one of those houses?" he wondered, "and if so,
where did she keep her ducks? And where, oh, where, were the tulips and
the lilies of his dream?"

He uttered no sound, but his mind kept exclaiming, "This! Piccadilly?"

"See," said Jan, oblivious of Tony and intent on keeping her lively
niece upon her knee. "There's the Green Park."

Tony breathed more freely.

After all, there _were_ trees and grass; good grass, and more of it than
in the Resident's garden. He took heart a little and summoned up courage
to inquire: "But where are the tulips?"

"It's too early for tulips yet," Jan answered. "By and by there will be
quantities. How did you know about them? Did dear Mummy tell you? But
they're in Hyde Park, not here."

Tony made no answer. He was, as usual, weighing and considering and
making up his mind.

Presently he spoke. "It's different," he said, slowly, "but I rather
like to look at it."

Tony never said whether he thought things were pretty or ugly. All he
knew was that certain people and places, pictures and words, sometimes
filled him with an exquisite sense of pleasure, while others merely
bored or exasperated or were positively painful.

His highest praise was "I like to look at it." When he didn't like to
look at it, he had found it wiser to express no opinion at all, except
in moments of confidential expansion, and these were rare with Tony.

Meg had found them a nice little furnished flat on the fifth floor in
one of the blocks behind Kensington High Street, and Hannah must surely
have been waiting behind the door, so instantaneously was it opened,
when Jan and her party left the lift.

There were tears in Hannah's eyes and her nose was red as she welcomed
"Miss Fay's motherless bairns." She was rather shocked that there was no
sign of mourning about any of them except Jan, who wore--mainly as a
concession to Hannah's prejudices--a thin black coat and skirt she had
got just before she left Bombay.

Tony stared stonily at Hannah and decided he did not like to look at
her. She was as surprising as the newly-found Piccadilly, but she
gratified no sensuous perception whatsoever.

Ayah might not be exactly beautiful, but she was harmonious. Her body
was well proportioned, her sari fell in gracious flowing lines, and she
moved with dignity. Without knowing why, Tony felt that there was
something pleasing to the eye in Ayah. Hannah, on the contrary, was the
reverse of graceful; stumpy and heavy-footed, she gave an impression of
abrupt terminations. Everything about her seemed too short except her
caps, which were unusually tall and white and starchy. Her afternoon
aprons, too, were stiffer and whiter and more voluminous than those of
other folk. She did not regard these things as vain adornings of her
person, rather were they the outward and visible sign of her office as
housekeeper to Miss Ross. They were a partial expression of the dignity
of that office, just as a minister's gown is the badge of his.

By the time everyone was washed and brushed Meg returned with the
luggage and Hannah brought in tea.

"I thought you'd like to give the bairns their tea yourself the first
day, Miss Jan. Will that Hindu body have hers in the nursery?"

"That would be best," Jan said hastily. "And Hannah, you mustn't be
surprised if she sits on the floor. Indian servants always do."

"_Nothing_ she can do will surprise me," Hannah announced loftily. "I've
not forgotten the body that came back with Mrs. Tancred, with a ring
through her nose and a red wafer on her forehead."

Jan, herself, went with Ayah to the nursery, where she found that in
spite of her disparaging sniffs, Hannah had put out everything poor Ayah
could possibly want.

The children were hungry and tea was a lengthy meal. It was not until
they had departed with Ayah for more washings that Jan found time to
say: "Why don't you take off your hat, Meg dear? I can't see you
properly in that extinguisher. Is it the latest fashion?"

"The very latest."

Meg looked queerly at Jan as she slowly took off her hat.

"There!" she said.

Her hair was cropped as short as a boy's, except for the soft, tawny
rings that framed her face.

"Meg!" Jan cried. "Why on earth have you cut off your hair?"

"Chill penury's the cause. I've turned it into good hard cash. It
happens to be the fashionable colour just now."

"Did you really need to? I thought you were getting quite a good salary
with those Hoffmeyers."

"No English governess gets a _good_ salary in Bremen, and mine was but a
modest remuneration, so I wanted more. Do you remember Lady Penelope

"Hazily. She was pretty, wasn't she ... and very smart?"

"She was and is ... smarter than ever now--mind, I put you on your
honour never to mention it--_she's_ got my hair."

"Do you mean she asked you to sell it?"

"No, my child. I offered it for sale and she was all over me with
eagerness to purchase. Hair's the defective wire in her lighting
apparatus. Her own, at the best, is skimpy and straight, though very
much my colour, and what with permanent waving and instantaneous hair
colouring it was positively dwindling away."

"I wish you had let it dwindle."

"No, I rather like her--so I suggested she should give her own poor
locks a rest and have an artistic _postiche_ made with mine; it made
two, one to come and one to go--to the hairdresser. She looks perfectly
charming. I'd no idea my hair was so decent till I saw it on her head."

"I hope _I_ never shall," Jan said gloomily. "I think it was silly of
you, for it makes you look younger and more irresponsible than ever; and
what about posts?"

"I've got a post in view where it won't matter if only I can run things
my own way."

"Will you have to go at once? I thought, perhaps----"

"I wish to take this post at once," Meg interposed quickly, "but it
depends on you whether I get it."

"On me?"

"On no one else. Look here, Jan, will you take me on as nurse to Fay's
children? A real nurse, mind, none of your fine lady arrangements; only
you must pay me forty pounds a year. I can't manage with less if I'm to
give my poor little Papa any chirps ... I suppose that's a frightful lot
for a nurse?"

"Not for a good nurse ... But, Meg, you got eighty when you taught the
little boys, and I know they'd jump at you again in that school, hair or
no hair."

"Listen, Jan." Meg put her elbows on the table and leaned her sharp
little chin on her two hands while she held Jan's eyes with hers. "For
nine long years, except that time with the Trents, I've been teaching,
teaching, teaching, and I'm sick of teaching. I'd rather sweep a

"Yet you teach so well; you know the little boys adored you."

"I love children and they usually like me. If you take me to look after
Tony and little Fay, I'll do it thoroughly, I can promise you. I won't
teach them, mind, not a thing--I'll make them happy and well-mannered;
and, Jan, listen, do you suppose there's anybody, even the most
superior of elderly nurses, who would take the trouble for Fay's
children that I should? If you let me come you won't regret it, I
promise you."

Meg's eyes, those curious eyes with the large pupil and blue iris
flecked with brown, were very bright, her voice was earnest, and when it
ceased it left a sense of tension in the very air.

Jan put out her hand across the table, and Meg, releasing her sharp
little chin, clasped it with hers.

"So that's settled," Meg announced triumphantly.

"No." Jan's voice was husky but firm. "It's not settled. I don't think
you're strong enough; but, even so, if I could pay you the salary you
ought to have, I'd jump at you ... but, my dear, I can't at present. I
haven't the least idea what it will all cost, but the fares and things
have made such a hole in this year's money I'll need to be awfully

"That's exactly why I want to come; you've no idea of being careful and
doing things in a small way. I've done it all my life. You'll be far
more economical with me than without me."

"Don't tempt me," Jan besought her. "I see all that, but why should I be
comfortable at your expense? I want you more than I can say. Fay wanted
it too--she said so."

"Did Fay actually say so? Did she?"

"Yes, she did--not that you should be their nurse, we neither of us ever
thought of that; but she did want you to be there to help me with the
children. We used to talk about it."

"Then I'm coming. I must. Don't you see how it is, Jan? Don't you
realise that nearly all the happiness in my life--_all_ the happiness
since the boys left--has come to me through Mr. Ross and Fay and you?
And now when there's a chance for me to do perhaps a little something in
return ... If you don't let me, it's you who are mean and grudging. I
shall be perfectly strong, if I haven't got to teach--mind, I won't do
that, not so much as A.B.C."

"I know it's wrong," Jan sighed, "just because it would be so heavenly
to have you."

Meg loosed the hand she held and stood up. She lifted her thin arms
above her head, as though invoking some invisible power, stretched
herself, and ran round the table to kiss Jan.

"And do you never think, you dear, slow-witted thing, that it will be
rather lovely for _me_ to be with you? To be with somebody who is kind
without being patronising, who treats one as a human being and not a
machine, who sees the funny side of things and isn't condescending or
improving if she doesn't happen to be cross?"

"I'm often cross," Jan said.

"Well, and what if you are? Can't I be cross back? I'm not afraid of
your crossness. You never hit below the belt. Now, promise me you'll
give me a trial. Promise!"

Meg's arms were round her neck, Meg's absurd cropped head was rubbing
against hers. Jan was very lonely and hungry for affection just then,
timid and anxious about the future. Even in that moment of time it
flashed upon her what a tower of strength this small, determined
creature would be, and how infinitely hard it was to turn Meg from any
course she had determined on.

"For a little while, then," so Jan salved her conscience. "Just till we
all shake down ... and your hair begins to grow."

Meg stood up very straight and shook her finger at Jan. "Remember, I'm
to be a real, proper nurse with authority, and a clinical thermometer
... and a uniform."

"If you like, and it's a pretty uniform."

Meg danced gleefully round the table.

"It will be lovely, it is lovely. I've got it all ready; green linen
frocks, big _well_-fitting aprons, and such beautiful caps."

"Not caps, Meg!" Jan expostulated. "Please not caps."

"Certainly caps. How otherwise am I to cover up my head? I can't wear
hats all the time. And how could I ever inspire those children with
respect with a head like this? When I get into my uniform you'll see
what a very superior nurse I look."

"You'll look much more like musical comedy than sober service."

"You mistake the situation altogether," Meg said loftily. "I take my
position very seriously."

"But you can't go about Wren's End in caps. Everybody knows you down

"They'll find out they don't know me as well as they thought, that's

"Meg, tell me, what did Hannah say when she saw your poor shorn head?"

"Hannah, as usual, referred to my Maker, and said that had He intended
me to have short hair He would either have caused it not to grow or
afflicted me with some disease which necessitated shearing; and she
added that such havers are just flying in the face of Providence."

"So they are."

"All the more reason to cover them up, and I wish to impress the

"Those children will be sadly browbeaten, I can see, and as for their
poor aunt, she won't be able to call her soul her own."

"That," Meg said, triumphantly, "is precisely why I'm so eager to come.
When you've been an underling all your life you can't imagine what a joy
it is to be top dog occasionally."

"In that respect," Jan said firmly, "it must be turn and turn about. I
won't let you come unless you promise--swear, here and now--that when I
consider you are looking fagged--'a wispy wraith,' as Daddie used to
say--if I command you to take a day in bed, in bed you will stay till I
give you leave to get up. Unless you promise me this, the contract is

"I'll promise anything you like. The idea of being _pressed_ to remain
in bed strikes me as merely comic. You have evidently no notion how
persons in a subordinate position ought to be treated. Bed, indeed!"

"I think you might have waited till I got back before you parted with
your hair." Jan's tone was decidedly huffy.

"Now don't nag. That subject is closed. What about _your_ hair. Do you
know it is almost white?"

"And what more suitable for a maiden aunt? As that is to be my _rôle_
for the future I may as well look the part."

"But you don't--that's what I complain of. The whiter your hair grows
the younger your face gets. You're a contradiction, a paradox, you
provoke conjecture, you're indecently noticeable. Mr. Ross would have
loved to paint you."

Jan shook her head. "No, Daddie never wanted to paint anything about me
except my arms."

"He'd want to paint you now," Meg insisted obstinately. "_I_ know the
sort of person he liked to paint."

"He never would paint people unless he _did_ like them," Jan said,
smiling as at some recollection. "Do you remember how he utterly refused
to paint that rich Mr. Withells down at Amber Guiting?"

"I remember," and Meg laughed. "He said Mr. Withells was puffy and

       *       *       *       *       *

Tony had been cold ever since he reached the Gulf of Lyons, and he
wondered what could be the matter with him, for he never remembered to
have felt like this before. He wondered miserably what could be the
reason why he felt so torpid and shivery, disinclined to move, and yet
so uncomfortable when he sat still.

After his bath, on that first night in London, tucked into a little bed
with a nice warm eiderdown over him, he still felt that horrid little
trickle of ice-cold water down his spine and could not sleep.

His cot was in Auntie Jan's room with a tall screen round it. The rooms
in the flat were small, tiny they seemed to Tony, after the lofty
spaciousness of the bungalow in Bombay, but that didn't seem to make it
any warmer, because Auntie Jan's window was wide open as it would
go--top and bottom--and chilly gusts seemed to blow round his head in
spite of the screen. Ayah and little Fay were in the nursery across the
passage, where there was a fire. There was no fire in this wind-swept
chamber of Auntie Jan's.

Tony dozed and woke and woke and dozed, getting colder and more forlorn
and miserable with each change of position. The sheets seemed made of
ice, so slippery were they, so unkind and unyielding and unembracing.

Presently he saw a dim light. Auntie Jan had come to bed, carrying a
candle. He heard her say good night to the little mem who had met them
at the station, and the door was shut.

In spite of her passion for fresh air, Jan shivered herself as she
undressed. She made a somewhat hasty toilet, said her prayers, peeped
round the screen to see that Tony was all right, and hopped into bed,
where a hot-water bottle put in by the thoughtful Hannah was most

Presently she heard a faint, attenuated sniff. Again it came, this time
accompanied by the ghost of something like a groan.

Jan sat up in bed and listened. Immediately all was perfectly still.

She lay down again, and again came that sad little sniff, and
undoubtedly it was from behind the screen that it came.

Had Tony got cold?

Jan leapt out of bed, switched on the light and tore away the screen
from around his bed.

Yes; his doleful little face was tear-stained.

"Tony, Tony darling, what is the matter?"

"I don't know," he sobbed. "I feel so funny."

Jan put her hand on his forehead--far from being hot, the little face
was stone-cold. In a moment she had him out of bed and in her warm arms.
As she took him she felt the chill of the stiff, unyielding small body.

"My precious boy, you're cold as charity! Why didn't you call me long
ago? Why didn't you tell Auntie Jan?"

"I didn't ... know ... what it was," he sobbed.

In no time Tony was put into the big bed, the bed so warm from Auntie
Jan's body, with a lovely podgy magic something at his feet that
radiated heat. Auntie Jan slammed down the window at the bottom, and
then more fairness! She struck a match, there was a curious sort of
"plop," and a little fire started in the grate, an amazing little fire
that grew redder and redder every minute. Auntie Jan put on a blue
dressing-gown over the long white garment that she wore, and bustled
about. Tony decided that he "liked to look at her" in this blue robe,
with her hair in a great rope hanging down. She was very quick; she
fetched a little saucepan and he heard talking in the passage outside,
but no one else came in, only Auntie Jan.

Presently she gave him milk, warm and sweet, in a blue cup. He drank it
and began to feel much happier, drowsy too, and contented. Presently
there was no light save the red glow of the fairy fire, and Auntie Jan
got into bed beside him.

She put her arm about him and drew him so that his head rested against
her warm shoulder. He did not repulse her, he did not speak, but lay
stiff and straight with his feet glued against that genial podgy
something that was so infinitely comforting.

"You are kind," Tony said suddenly. "I believe you."

The stiff little body relaxed and lay against hers in confiding
abandonment, and soon he was sound asleep.

What a curious thing to say! Jan lay awake puzzling. Tragedy lay behind
it. Only five years old, and yet, to Tony, belief was a more important
thing than love. She thought of Fay, hectic and haggard, and again she
seemed to hear her say in her tired voice, trying to explain Tony: "He's
not a cuddly child; he's queer and reserved and silent, but if he once
trusts you it's for always; he'll love you then and never change."

Jan could just see, in the red glow from the fire, the little head that
lay so confidingly against her shoulder, the wide forehead, the
peacefully closed eyes. And suddenly she realised that the elusive
resemblance to somebody that had always evaded her was a likeness to
that face she saw in the glass every time she did her hair. She kissed
him very softly, praying the while that she might never fail him; that
he might always have reason to trust her.



Meanwhile Peter was making discoveries about himself. He went back to
his flat on the evening of the day Jan and the children sailed. Swept
and garnished and exceedingly tidy, it appeared to have grown larger
during his absence and seemed rather empty. There was a sense of
unfilled spaces that caused him to feel lonely.

That very evening he decided he must get a friend to chum with him. The
bungalow was much too big for one person.

This had never struck him before.

In spite of their excessive neatness there remained traces of Jan and
the children in the rooms. The flowers on the dinner-table proclaimed
that they had been arranged by another hand than Lalkhan's. He was
certain of that without Lalkhan's assurance that the Miss-Sahib had done
them herself before she sailed that very morning.

When he went to his desk after dinner--never before or after did Peter
possess such an orderly bureau--he found a letter lying on the
blotting-pad, and on each side of the heavy brass inkstand were placed a
leaden member of a camel-corps and an India-rubber ball with a face
painted upon it, which, when squeezed, expressed every variety of
emotion. These, Lalkhan explained, were parting gifts from the young
sahib and little Fay respectively, and had been so arranged by them just
before they sailed.

The day before Jan had told the children that all this time they had
been living in Peter's house and that she was sure Mummy would want them
to be very grateful (she was careful to talk a great deal about Mummy to
the children lest they should forget her); that he had been very kind to
them all, and she asked if there was anything of their very own they
would like to leave for Peter as a remembrance.

Tony instantly fetched the camel-corps soldier that kept guard on a
chair by his cot every night; that Ayah had not been permitted to pack
because it must accompany him on the voyage. It was, Jan knew, his most
precious possession, and she assured him that Peter would be
particularly gratified by such a gift.

Not to be outdone by her brother, little Fay demanded her beloved ball,
which was already packed for the voyage in Jan's suit-case.

Peter sat at his desk staring at the absurd little toys with very kind
eyes. He understood. Then he opened Jan's letter and read it through
quite a number of times.

"Dear Mr. Ledgard," it ran.

"Whatever Mr. Kipling may say of the Celt, the lowland Scot finds it
very difficult to express strong feeling in words. If I had tried to
tell you, face to face, how sensible I am of your kindness and
consideration for us during the last sad weeks--I should have cried. You
would have been desperately uncomfortable and I--miserably ashamed of
myself. So I can only try to write something of my gratitude.

"We have been your guests so long and your hospitality has been so
untiring in circumstances sad and strange enough to try the patience of
the kindest host, that I simply cannot express my sense of obligation;
an obligation in no wise burdensome because you have always contrived to
make me feel that you took pleasure in doing all you have done.

"I wish there had been something belonging to my sister that I could
have begged you to accept as a remembrance of her; but everything she
had of the smallest value has disappeared--even her books. When I get
home I hope to give you one of my father's many portraits of her, but I
will not send it till I know whether you are coming home this summer.
Please remember, should you do so, as I sincerely hope you will, that
nowhere can there be a warmer welcome for you than at Wren's End. It
would be the greatest possible pleasure for the children and me to see
you there, and it is a good place to slack in and get strong. And there
I hope to challenge you to the round of golf we never managed during my
time in India.

"Please try to realise, dear Mr. Ledgard, that my sense of your kindness
is deep and abiding, and, believe me, yours, in most true gratitude,

                                             "JANET ROSS."

For a long time Peter sat very still, staring at the cheerful,
highly-coloured face painted on Fay's ball. Cigarette after cigarette
did he smoke as he reviewed the experience of the last six weeks.

For the first time since he became a man he had been constantly in the
society of a woman younger than himself who appeared too busy and too
absorbed in other things to remember that she was a woman and he a man.

Peter was ordinarily susceptible, and he was rather a favourite with
women because of his good manners; and his real good-nature made him
ready to help either in any social project that happened to be towards
or in times of domestic stress. Yet never until lately had he seen so
much of any woman not frankly middle-aged without being conscious that
he _was_ a man and she a woman, and this added, at all events, a certain
piquancy to the situation.

Yet he had never felt this with Jan.

Quite a number of times in the course of his thirty years he had fallen
in love in an agreeably surface sort of way without ever being deeply
stirred. Love-making was the pleasantest game in the world, but he had
not yet felt the smallest desire to marry. He was a shrewd young man,
and knew that marriage, even in the twentieth century, at all events
starts with the idea of permanence; and, like many others who show no
inclination to judge the matrimonial complications of their
acquaintance, he would greatly have disliked any sort of scandal that
involved himself or his belongings.

He was quite as sensitive to criticism as other men in his service, and
he knew that he challenged it in lending his flat to Mrs. Tancred. But
here he felt that the necessities of the case far outweighed the
possibilities of misconception, and after Jan came he thought no more
about it.

Yet in a young man with his somewhat cynical knowledge of the world, it
was surprising that the thought of his name being coupled with Jan's
never crossed his mind. He forgot that none of his friends knew Jan at
all, but that almost every evening they did see her with him in the
car--sometimes, it is true, accompanied by the children, but quite as
often alone--and that during her visit his spare time was so much
occupied in looking after the Tancred household that his friends saw
comparatively little of him, and Peter was, as a rule, a very sociable

Therefore it came upon him as a real shock when people began to ask him
point-blank whether he was engaged to Jan, and if so, what they were
going to do about Tancred's children. Rightly or wrongly, he discerned
in the question some veiled reflection upon Jan, some implied slur upon
her conduct. He was consequently very short and huffy with these
inquisitive ones, and when he was no longer present they would shake
their heads and declare that "poor old Peter had got it in the neck."

If so, poor old Peter was, as yet, quite unconscious of anything of the

Nevertheless he found himself constantly thinking about her. Everything,
even the familiar streets and roads, served to remind him of her, and
when he went to bed he nearly always dreamed about her. Absurd,
inconsequent, unsatisfactory dreams they were; for in them she was
always too busy to pay any attention to him at all; she was wholly
absorbed by what it is to be feared Peter sometimes called "those
confounded children." Though even in his dream world he was careful to
keep his opinion to himself.

Why on earth should he always dream of Jan during the first part of the

Lalkhan could have thrown some light upon the subject. But naturally
Peter did not confide his obsession to Lalkhan.

Just before she left Jan asked Lalkhan where the sahib's linen was kept,
and on being shown the cupboard which contained the rather untidy little
piles of sheets, pillow-cases, and towels that formed Peter's modest
store of house linen, she rearranged it and brought sundry flat, square
muslin bags filled with dried lavender. Lace-edged bags with
lavender-coloured ribbon run through insertion and tied in bows at the
two corners. These bags she placed among the sheets, much to the wonder
of Lalkhan, who, however, decided that it was kindly meant and therefore
did not interfere.

The odour was not one that commended itself to him. It was far too faint
and elusive. He could understand a liking for attar of roses, of
jessamine, of musk, or of any of the strong scents beloved by the native
of India. Yet had she proposed to sprinkle the sheets with any of these
essences he would have felt obliged to interfere, as the sahib swore
violently and became exceedingly hot and angry did any member of his
household venture into his presence thus perfumed. Even as it was he
fully expected that his master would irritably demand the cause of the
infernal smell that pervaded his bed; so keen are the noses of the
sahibs. Whereupon Lalkhan, strong in rectitude, would relate exactly
what had happened, produce one of the Jan-incriminating muslin bags,
escape further censure, and doubtless be commanded to burn it and its
fellows in the kitchen stove. But nothing of the kind occurred, and, as
it is always easier to leave a thing where it has been placed than to
remove it, the lavender remained among the sheets in humble obscurity.

The old garden at Wren's End abounded in great lavender bushes, and
every year since it became her property Jan made lavender sachets which
she kept in every possible place. Her own clothes always held a faint
savour of lavender, and she had packed these bags as much as a matter of
course as she packed her stockings. It seemed a shame, though, to take
them home again when she could get plenty more next summer, so she left
them in the bungalow linen cupboard. They reproduced her atmosphere;
therefore did Peter dream of Jan.

A fortnight passed, and on their way to catch the homeward mail came
Thomas Crosbie and his wife from Dariawarpur to stay the night. Next
morning at breakfast Mrs. Crosbie, young, pretty and enthusiastic,
expatiated on the comfort of her room, finally exclaiming: "And how,
Mr. Ledgard, do you manage to have your sheets so deliciously scented
with lavender--d'you get it sent out from home every year?"

"Lavender?" Peter repeated. "I've got no lavender. My people never sent
me any, and I've certainly never come across any in India."

"But I'm convinced everything smelt of lavender. It made me think of
home so. If I hadn't been just going I'd have been too homesick for
words. I'm certain of it. Think! You must have got some from somewhere
and forgotten it."

Peter shook his head. "I've never noticed it myself--you really must be
mistaken. What would I be doing with lavender?"

"It was there all the same," Mrs. Crosbie continued. "I'm certain of it.
You must have got some from somewhere. Do find out--I'm sure I'm not
wrong. Ask your boy."

Peter said something to Lalkhan, who explained volubly. Tom Crosbie
grinned; he understood even fluent Hindustani. His wife did not. Peter
looked a little uncomfortable. Lalkhan salaamed and left the room.

"Well?" Mrs. Crosbie asked.

"It seems," Peter said slowly, "there _is_ something among the sheets.
I've sent Lalkhan to get it."

Lalkhan returned, bearing a salver, and laid on the salver was one of
Jan's lavender bags. He presented it solemnly to his master, who with
almost equal solemnity handed it to Mrs. Crosbie.

"There!" she said. "Of course I knew I couldn't be mistaken. Now where
did you get it?"

"It was, I suppose, put among the things when poor Mrs. Tancred had the
flat. I never noticed, of course--it's such an unobtrusive sort of

"Hadn't she a sister?" Mrs. Crosbie asked, curiously, holding the little
sachet against her soft cheek and looking very hard at Peter.

"She had. It was she who took the children home, you know."

"Older or younger than Mrs. Tancred?"


"How much older?"

"I really don't know," said the mendacious Peter.

"Was she awfully pretty, too?"

"Again, I really don't know. I never thought about her looks ... she had
grey hair...."

"Oh!" Mrs. Crosbie exclaimed--a deeply disappointed "Oh." "Probably much
older, then. That explains the lavender bags."

Silent Thomas Crosbie looked from his wife to Peter with considerable
amusement. He realised, if she didn't, that Peter was most successfully
putting her off the scent of more than lavender; but men are generally
loyal to each other in these matters, and he suddenly took his part in
the conversation and changed the subject.

Among Peter's orders to his butler that morning was one to the effect
that nothing the Miss-Sahib had arranged in the bungalow was to be
disturbed, and the lavender bag was returned to rejoin its fellows in
the cupboard.

It was four years since Peter had had any leave, and it appeared that
the lavender had the same effect upon him as upon Mrs. Crosbie. He felt
homesick--and applied for leave in May.



Peter had been as good as his word, and had found a family returning to
India who were glad to take Ayah back to Bombay. And she, though sorry
to leave Jan and the children, acquiesced in all arrangements made for
her with the philosophic patience of the East. March was a cold month,
and she was often rather miserable, in spite of her pride in her shoes
and stockings and the warm clothes Jan had provided for her.

Before she left Jan interviewed her new mistress and found her kind and
sensible, and an old campaigner who had made the voyage innumerable

It certainly occurred to Jan that Peter had been extraordinarily quick
in making this arrangement, but she concluded that he had written on the
subject before they left India. She had no idea that he had sent a long
and costly cable on the subject. His friend thought him very solicitous
for her comfort, but set it down entirely to her own merits and Peter's
discriminating good sense.

When the day came Jan took Ayah to her new quarters in a taxi. Of course
Ayah wept, and Jan felt like weeping herself, as she would like to have
kept her on for the summer months. But she knew it wouldn't do; that
apart from the question of expense, Hannah could never overcome her
prejudices against "that heathen buddy," and that to have explained that
poor Ayah was a Roman Catholic would only have made matters worse.
Hannah was too valuable in every way to upset her with impunity, and the
chance of sending Ayah back to India in such kind custody was too good
to lose.

Meg had deferred the adoption of the musical-comedy costume until such
time as she took over Ayah's duties. She in no way interfered, but was
helpful in so many unobtrusive ways that Jan, while she still felt
guilty in allowing her to stay at all, acknowledged she could never have
got through this time without her.

Fortunately the day of Ayah's departure was fine, so that while Jan took
her to her destination Meg took the children to spend the afternoon at
the Zoo. To escort little Fay about London was always rather an ordeal
to anyone of a retiring disposition. She was so fearless, so interested
in her fellow-creatures, and so ready at all times and in all places to
enter into conversation with absolute strangers, preferably men, that
embarrassing situations were almost inevitable; and her speech, high and
clear and carrying--in spite of the missing "r"--rendered it rarely
possible to hope people did not understand what she said.

They went by the Metropolitan to Baker Street and sat on one of the
small seats at right angles to the windows, and a gentleman wearing a
very shiny top-hat sat down opposite to them.

He looked at little Fay; little Fay looked at him and, smiling her
adorable, confident smile, leant forward, remarking: "Sahib, you wear a
very high hat."

Instantly the eyes of all the neighbouring passengers were fixed upon
the hat and its owner. His, however, were only for the very small lady
that faced him; the small lady in a close white bonnet and bewitching
curls that bobbed and fluttered in the swaying of the train.

He took off the immaculate topper and held it out towards her. "There,"
he said, "would you like to look at it?"

Fay carefully rubbed it the wrong way with a tentative woolly-gloved
finger. "Plitty, high hat," she cooed. "Can plitty little Fay have it to

But the gentleman's admiration did not carry him as far as this.
Somewhat hastily he withdrew his hat, smoothed it (it had just been
ironed) and placed it on his head again. Then he became aware of the
smiling faces and concentrated gaze of his neighbours; also, that the
attractive round face that had given him so much pleasure had exchanged
its captivating smile for a pathetic melancholy that even promised
tears. He turned extremely red and escaped at the next station.
Whereupon ungrateful little Fay, who had never had the slightest
intention of crying, remarked loftily: "Tahsome man dawn."

When at last they reached the Zoo Meg took it upon herself to
remonstrate with her younger charge.

"You mustn't ask strangers for things, dear; you really mustn't--not in
the street or in the train."

"What for?" asked Fay. She nearly always said, "What for" when she meant
"Why"; and it was as hard-worked a phrase as "What nelse?"

"Because people don't do it, you know."

"They do--I've heard 'em."

"Well, beggars perhaps, but not nice little girls."

"Do nasty little girls?"

"_Only_ nasty little girls would do it, I think."

Fay pondered this for a minute, then in a regretfully reflective voice
she said sadly: "Vat was a nasty, gleedy sahib in a tlain."

"Not at all," Meg argued, struggling with her mirth. "How would you have
liked it if he'd asked you to give him your bonnet 'to keep'?"

Little Fay hastily put up her hands to her head to be sure her bonnet
was in its place, then she inquired with great interest: "What's 'is
place, deah Med?"

"Deah Med" soon found herself followed round by a small crowd of other
sight-seers who waited for and greeted little Fay's unceasing comments
with joyful appreciation. Such popular publicity was not at all to Meg's
taste, and although the afternoon was extremely cold her cheeks never
ceased to burn till she got the children safely back to the flat again.
Tony was gloomy and taciturn. Nobody took the slightest notice of him.
Weather that seemed to brace his sister to the most energetic gaiety
only made him feel torpid and miserable. He was not naughty, merely
apathetic, uninterested, and consequently uninteresting. Meg thought he
might be homesick and sad about Ayah, and was very kind and gentle, but
her advances met with no response.

By this time Tony was sure of his aunt, but he had by no means made up
his mind about Meg.

When they got back to Kensington Meg joyously handed over the children
to Jan while she retired to her room to array herself in her uniform.
She was to "take over" from that moment, and approached her new sphere
with high seriousness and an intense desire to be, as she put it, "a
wild success."

For weeks she had been reading the publications of the P. N. E. U. and
the "Child-Study Society," to say nothing of Manuals upon "Infant
Hygiene," "The Montessori Method" and "The Formation of Character."
Sympathy and Insight, Duty and Discipline, Self-Control and Obedience,
Regularity and Concentration of Effort--all with the largest
capitals--were to be her watchwords. And she buttoned on her
well-fitting white linen apron (newest and most approved hospital
pattern, which she had been obliged to make herself, for she could buy
nothing small enough) in a spirit of dedication as sincere as that
imbuing any candidate for Holy Orders. Then, almost breathlessly, she
put her cap upon her flaming head and surveyed the general effect in the
long glass.

Yes, it was all very satisfactory. Well-hung, short, green linen
frock--was it a trifle short? Yet the little feet in the low-heeled
shoes were neat as the ankles above them were slim, and one needed a
short skirt for "working about."

Perhaps there _was_ a touch of musical comedy about her appearance, but
that was merely because she was so small and the cap, a muslin cap of a
Quakerish shape, distinctly becoming. Well, there was no reason why she
should want to look hideous. She would not be less capable because she
was pleasing to the eye.

She seized her flannel apron from the bed where she had placed it ready
before she went out, and with one last lingering look at herself went
swiftly to her new duties.

Tea passed peacefully enough, though Fay asked embarrassing questions,
such as "Why you wear suts a funny hat?"

"Because I'm an ayah," Meg answered quickly.

"Ayahs don't wear zose kind of hats."

"English ayahs do, and I'm going to be your ayah, you know."

Fay considered Meg for a minute. "No," she said, shaking her head.

"Have another sponge-finger," Jan suggested diplomatically, handing the
dish to her niece, and the danger was averted.

They played games with the children after tea and all went well till
bed-time. Meg had begged Jan to leave them entirely to her, and with
considerable misgiving she had seen Meg marshal the children to the
bathroom and shut the door. Tony was asked as a favour to go too this
first evening without Ayah, lest little Fay should feel lonely. It was
queer, Jan reflected when left alone in the drawing-room, how she seemed
to turn to the taciturn Tony for help where her obstreperous niece was
concerned. Over and over again Tony had intervened and successfully
prevented a storm.

Meg turned on the bath and began to undress little Fay. She bore this
with comparative meekness, but when all her garments had been removed
she slipped from Meg's knees and, standing squarely on the floor,

"I want my own Ayah. Engliss Ayah not wass me. Own Ayah muss come bat."

"She can't, my darling; she's gone to other little girls, you know--we
told you many days ago."

"She muss come bat--'_jaldi_,'" shouted Fay--"jaldi" being Hindustani
for "quickly."

Meg sighed. "I'm afraid she can't do that. Come, my precious, and let me
bathe you; you'll get cold standing there."

With a quick movement Meg seized the plump, round body. She was muscular
though so small, and in spite of little Fay's opposition she lifted her
into the bath. She felt Tony pull at her skirts and say something, but
was too busy to pay attention.

Little Fay was in the bath sure enough, but to wash her was quite
another matter. You may lead a sturdy infant of three to the water in a
fixed bath, but no power on earth can wash that infant if it doesn't
choose. Fay screamed and struggled and wriggled and kicked, finally
slipping right under the water, which frightened her dreadfully; she
lost her breath for one second, only to give forth ear-splitting yells
the next. She was slippery as a trout and strong as a leaping salmon.

Jan could bear it no longer and came in. Meg had succeeded in lifting
the terrified baby out of the bath, and she stood on the square of cork
defying the "Engliss Ayah," wet from her topmost curl to her pink toes,
but wholly unwashed.

Tony ran to Jan and under all the din contrived to say: "It's the big
bath; she's frightened. Ayah never put her in the big bath."

Meg had forgotten this. The little tin bath they had brought from India
for the voyage stood in a corner.

It was filled, while Fay, wrapped in a Turkish towel, sobbed more
quietly, ejaculating between the gurgles: "Nasty hat, nasty Engliss
Ayah. I want my own deah Ayah!"

When the bath was ready poor Meg again approached little Fay, but Fay
would have none of her.

"No," she wailed, "Engliss Ayah in nasty hat _not_ wass me. Tony wass
me, _deah_ Tony."

She held out her arms to her brother, who promptly received her in his.

"You'd better let me," he said to the anxious young women. "We'll never
get her finished else."

So it ended in Tony's being arrayed in the flannel apron which, tied
under his arm-pits, was not so greatly too long. With his sleeves
turned up he washed his small sister with thoroughness and despatch,
pointing out somewhat proudly that he "went into all the corners."

[Illustration: He washed his small sister with thoroughness and
despatch, pointing out ... that he "went into all the corners."]

The washing-glove was very large on Tony's little hand, and he used a
tremendous lot of soap--but Fay became all smiles and amiability during
the process. Meg and Jan had tears in their eyes as they watched the
quaint spectacle. There was something poignantly pathetic in the
clinging together of these two small wayfarers in a strange country, so
far from all they had known and shared in their short experience.

Meg's "nasty hat" was rakishly askew upon her red curls, for Fay had
frequently grabbed at it in her rage, and the beautiful green linen gown
was sopping wet.

"Engliss Ayah clying!" Fay remarked surprisedly. "What for?"

"Because you wouldn't let me bathe you," said Meg dismally. Her voice
broke. She really was most upset. As it happened, she did the only thing
that would have appealed to little Fay.

"Don't cly, deah Med," she said sweetly. "You sall dly me."

And Meg, student of so many manuals, humbly and gratefully accepted the

It had taken exactly an hour and a quarter to get Fay ready for bed.
Indian Ayah used to do it in fifteen minutes.

Consistently and cheerfully gracious, Fay permitted Meg to carry her to
her cot and tuck her in.

Meg lit the night-light and switched off the light, when a melancholy
voice began to chant:

"_My_ Ayah always dave me a choccly."

Now there was no infant in London less deserving of a choccly at that
moment than troublesome little Fay. "Nursery Hygiene" proclaimed the
undeniable fact that sweetmeats last thing at night are most injurious.
Duty and Discipline and Self-Control should all have pointed out the
evil of any indulgence of the sort. Yet Meg, with all her theories quite
fresh and new, and with this excellent opportunity of putting them into
practice, extracted a choccly from a box on the chest of drawers; and
when the voice, "like broken music," announced for the third time, "_My_
Ayah always dave me a choccly," "So will this Ayah," said Meg, and
popped it into the mouth whence the voice issued.

There was a satisfied smacking and munching for a space, when the voice
took up the tale:

"Once Tony had thlee----"

But what it was Tony once had "thlee" of Meg was not to know that night,
for naughty little Fay fell fast asleep.

       *       *       *       *       *

For a week Tony bathed his sister every night. Neither Jan nor Meg felt
equal to facing and going through again the terrors of that first night
without Ayah. Little Fay was quite good--she permitted Meg to undress
her and even to put her in the little bath, but once there she always
said firmly, "Tony wass me," and Tony did.

Then he burned his hand.

He was never openly and obstreperously disobedient like little Fay. On
the whole he preferred a quiet life free from contention. But very early
in their acquaintance Jan had discovered that what Tony determined upon
that he did, and in this he resembled her so strongly that she felt a
secret sympathy with him, even when such tenacity of purpose was most

He liked to find things out for himself, and no amount of warning or
prohibition could prevent his investigations. Thus it came about that,
carefully guarded as the children were from any contact with the fires,
Tony simply didn't believe what was told him of their dangers.

Fires were new to him. They were so pretty, with their dancing flames,
it seemed a pity to shut them in behind those latticed guards Auntie Jan
was so fond of. Never did Tony see the fires without those tiresome
guards and he wanted to very much.

One afternoon just before tea, while Meg was changing little Fay's
frock, he slipped across to the drawing-room where Auntie Jan was busy
writing a letter. Joy! the guard was off the fire; he could sit on the
rug and watch it undisturbed. He made no noise, but knelt down softly in
front of it and stretched out his hands to the pleasant warmth. It was
the sort of fire Tony liked to watch, red at the heart, with little
curling flames that were mirrored in the tiled hearth.

Jan looked up from her writing and saw him there, saw also that there
was no guard, but, as little Fay had not yet come, thought Tony far too
sensible to interfere with the fire in any way. She went on with her
writing; then when she looked again something in the intentness of his
attitude caused her to say: "Be sure you don't get too near the fire,
Tony; it hurts badly to be burned."

"Yes, Auntie Jan," Tony said meekly.

She wrote a few lines more, looked up, and held her breath. It would
have been an easy matter even then to dash across and put on the guard;
but in a flash Jan realised that to let Tony burn himself a little at
that moment might save a very bad accident later on. There was nothing
in his clothes to catch alight. His woollen jersey fitted closely.

Exactly as though he were going to pick a flower, with curved hand
outstretched Tony tried to capture and hold one of the dancing flames.
He drew his hand back very quickly, and Jan expected a loud outcry, but
none came. He sat back on the hearth-rug and rocked his body to and fro,
holding the burnt right hand with his left, but he did not utter a

"It does hurt, doesn't it?" said Jan.

He started at the quiet voice and turned a little puckered face towards
her. "Yes," he said, with a big sigh; "but I know now."

"Come with me and I'll put something on it to make it hurt less," said
Jan, and crossed to the door.

"Hadn't we better," he said, rather breathlessly, "put that thing on for
fear of Fay?"

Jan carefully replaced the "thing" and took him to her room, where she
bandaged the poor little hand with carron-oil and cotton-wool. The outer
edge was scorched from little finger to wrist. She made no remark while
she did it, and Tony leaned confidingly against her the while.

"Is that better?" she asked, when she had fastened the final safety-pin
in the bandage. There was one big tear on Tony's cheek.

"It's nice and cool, that stuff. _Why_ does it hurt so, Auntie Jan? It
looks so kind and pretty."

"It is kind and pretty, only we mustn't go too near. Will you be sure
and tell Fay how it can hurt?"

"I'll _tell_ her," he promised, but he didn't seem to have much hope of
the news acting as a deterrent.

When at bed-time Jan announced that Tony could not possibly bathe Fay
because he mustn't get his hand wet or disturb the dressing, she and Meg
tremblingly awaited the awful fuss that seemed bound to follow.

But Fay was always unexpected. "Then Med muss wass me," she remarked
calmly. The good custom was established and Meg began to perk up again.



Meg was out walking with the children in Kensington Gardens, and Hannah
was paying the tradesmen's books. It was the only way to make Hannah
take the air, to send her, as she put it, "to do the messages." She
liked paying the books herself, for she always suspected Jan of not
counting the change.

Jan was alone in the flat and was laying tea for the children in the
dining-room when "ting" went the electric bell. She opened the door to
find upon the threshold an exceedingly tall young man; a well-set-up,
smart young man with square shoulders, who held out his hand to her,
saying in a friendly voice: "You may just happen to remember me, Miss
Ross, but probably not. Colonel Walcote's my uncle, and he's living in
your house, you know. My name's Middleton ... I _hope_ you remember me,
for I've come to ask a favour."

As he spoke he gave Jan his card, and on it was "Captain Miles
Middleton, R. H. A.," and the addresses of two clubs.

She led him to the little drawing-room, bracing herself the while to be
firm in her refusal if the Walcotes wanted the house any longer, good
tenants though they were.

She was hopelessly vague about her guest, but felt she had met him
somewhere. She didn't like to confess how slight her recollection was,
for he looked so big and brown and friendly it seemed unkind.

He sat down, smoothed his hat, and then with an engaging smile that
showed his excellent teeth, began: "I've come--it sounds rather
farcical, doesn't it--about a dog?"

"A dog?" Jan repeated vaguely. "What dog?"

"Well, he's my dog at present, but I want him to be your dog--if you'll
have him."

"You want to give me a dog--but why? Or do you only want me to keep him
a bit for you?"

"Well, it's like this, Miss Ross; it would be cheek to ask you to keep a
young dog, and when you'd had all the trouble of him and got fond of
him--and you'll get awfully fond of him, if you have him--to take him
away again. It wouldn't be fair, it really wouldn't ... so...."

"Wait a bit," said the cautious Jan. "What sort of a dog is he ... if it
is a he...."

"He's a bull-terrier...."

"Oh, but I don't think I'm very fond of bull-terriers ... aren't they
fierce and doesn't one always associate them with public-houses? I
couldn't have a fierce dog, you know, because of the two children."

"They're always nice with children," Captain Middleton said firmly. "And
as for the pothouse idea--that's quite played out. I suppose it was that
picture with the mug and the clay pipe. He'd _love_ the children; he's
only a child himself, you know."

"A puppy! Oh, Captain Middleton, wouldn't he eat all our shoes and
things and tear up all the rugs?"

"I think he's past that, I do really--he'll be a year old on Monday.
He'll be a splendid watchdog, and he's not a bit deaf--lots of 'em are,
you know--and he's frightfully well-bred. Just you look at the
pedigree ..." and Captain Middleton produced from his breast-pocket a
folded foolscap document which he handed to Jan.

She gazed at it with polite interest, though it conveyed but little to
her mind. The name "Bloomsbury" seemed to come over and over again.
There were many dates and other names, but "Bloomsbury" certainly
prevailed, and it was evident that Captain Middleton's dog had a long
pedigree; it was all quite clearly set down, and, to Jan, very

"His points are on the back page," Captain Middleton said proudly, "and
there isn't a single one a perfect bull-terrier ought to have that
William Bloomsbury hasn't got."

"Is that his name?"

"Yes, but I call him William, only he is of the famous Bloomsbury
strain, you know, and one can't help being a bit proud of it."

"But," Jan objected, "if he's so well-bred and perfect, he must be
valuable--so why should you want to give him to me?"

"I'll explain," said Captain Middleton. "You see, ever since they've
been down at Wren's End, my aunt kept him for me. He's been so happy
there, Miss Ross, and grown like anything. We're stationed in St. John's
Wood just now, you know, and he'd be certain to be stolen if I took him
back there. And now my aunt's coming to London to a flat in Buckingham
Gate. Now London's no life for a dog--a young dog, anyway--he'd be
miserable. I've been down to Wren's End very often for a few days'
hunting, and I can see he's happy as a king there, and we may be ordered
anywhere any day ... and I don't want to sell him ... You see, I know if
you take him you'll be good to him ... and he _is_ such a nice beast."

"How do you know I'd be good to him? You know nothing about me."

"Don't I just! Besides, I've seen you, I'm seeing you now this
minute ... I don't want to force him on you, only ... a lady living
alone in the country ought to have a dog, and if you take William you
won't be sorry--I can promise you that. He's got the biggest heart, and
he's the nicest beast ... and the most faithful...."

"Are you sure he'll be quite gentle with the children?"

"He's gentle with everybody, and they're well known to be particularly
good with children ... you ask anyone who knows about dogs. He was given
me when he was three weeks old, and I could put him in my pocket."

Captain Middleton was rather appealing just then, so earnest and big and
boyish. His face was broad though lean, the features rather blunt, the
eyes set wide apart; clear, trustworthy, light-blue eyes. He looked just
what he was--a healthy, happy, prosperous young Englishman without a
real care in the world. After all, Jan reflected, there was plenty of
room at Wren's End, and it was good for the children to grow up with

"I had thought of an Airedale," she said thoughtfully, "but----"

"They're good dogs, but quarrelsome--fight all the other dogs round
about. Now William isn't a fighter unless he's unbearably provoked,
then, of course, he fights to kill."

"Oh dear!" sighed Jan, "that's an awful prospect. Think of the trouble
with one's neighbours----"

"But I assure you, it doesn't happen once in a blue moon. I've never
known him fight yet."

"I'll tell you what, Captain Middleton; let me keep him for the present,
till you know where you're going to be stationed, and then, if you find
you can have him, he's there for you to take. I'll do my best for him,
but I want you to feel he's still your dog...."

"It's simply no end good of you, Miss Ross. I'd like you to have him
though ... May I put it this way? If you don't like him, find him a
nuisance or want to get rid of him, you send for me and I'll fetch him
away directly. But if you like him, he's your dog. There--may I leave it
at that?"

"We'll try to make him happy, but I expect he'll miss you dreadfully....
I know nothing about bull-terriers; do they need any special

"Oh dear, no. William's as strong as a young calf. Just a bone
occasionally and any scraps there are. There's tons of his biscuits down
there ... only two meals a day and no snacks between, and as much
exercise as is convenient--though, mind you, they're easy dogs in that
way--they don't need you to be racing about all day like some."

The present fate of William Bloomsbury with the lengthy and exalted
pedigree being settled, Jan asked politely for her tenants, Colonel and
Mrs. Walcote, heard that it had been an excellent and open season, and
enjoyed her guest's real enthusiasm about Wren's End.

After a few minutes of general conversation he got up to go. She saw him
out and rang up the lift, but no lift came. She rang again and again.
Nothing happened. Evidently something had gone wrong, and she saw people
walking upstairs to the flats below. Just as she was explaining the
mishap to her guest, the telephone bell sounded loudly and persistently.

"Oh dear!" she cried. "Would you mind very much stopping a young lady
with two little children, if you meet them at the bottom of the stairs,
and tell her she is on no account to carry up little Fay. It's my
friend, Miss Morton; she's out with them, and she's not at all strong;
tell her to wait for me. I'll come the minute I've answered this
wretched 'phone."

"Don't you worry, Miss Ross, I'll stop 'em and carry up the kiddies
myself," Captain Middleton called as he started to run down, and Jan
went back to answer the telephone.

He ran fast, for Jan's voice had been anxious and distressed. Five long
flights did he descend, and at the bottom he met Meg and the children
just arrived to hear the melancholy news from the hall porter.

Meg always wheeled little Fay to and from the gardens in the funny
little folding "pram" they had brought from India. The plump baby was a
tight fit, but the queer little carriage was light and easily managed.
The big policeman outside the gate often held up the traffic to let Meg
and her charges get across the road safely, and she would sail serenely
through the avenue of fiercely panting monsters with Tony holding on to
her coat, while little Fay waved delightedly to the drivers. That
afternoon she was very tired, for it had started to rain, cold, gusty
March rain. She had hurried home in dread lest Tony should take cold. It
seemed the last straw, somehow, that the lift should have gone wrong.
She left the pram with the porter and was just bracing herself to carry
heavy little Fay when this very tall young man came dashing down the
staircase, saw them and raised his hat. "Miss Morton? Miss Ross has just
entrusted me with a message ... that I'm to carry her niece upstairs,"
and he took little Fay out of Meg's arms.

Meg looked up at him. She had to look up a long way--and he looked down
into a very small white face.

The buffeting wind that had given little Fay the loveliest colour, and
Tony a very pink nose, only left Meg pallid with fatigue; but she smiled
at Captain Middleton, and it was a smile of such radiant happiness as
wholly transfigured her face. It came from the exquisite knowledge that
Jan had thought of her, had known she would be tired.

To be loved, to be remembered, to be taken care of was to Meg the most
wonderful thing in the world. It went to her head like wine.

Therefore did she smile at Captain Middleton in this distracting
fashion. It started tremblingly at the corners of her mouth, and
then--quite suddenly--her wan little face became dimpled and beseeching
and triumphant all at once.

It had no connection whatsoever with Captain Middleton, but how was he
to know that?

It fairly bowled him, middle stump, first ball.

No one had ever smiled at him like that before. It turned him hot and
cold, and gave him a lump in his throat with the sheer heartrending
pathos of it. And he felt an insane desire to lie down and ask this
tiny, tired girl to walk upon him if it would give her the smallest

The whole thing passed in a flash, but for him it was one of those
illuminating beams that discovers a hitherto undreamed-of panorama.

He caught up little Fay, who made no objection, and ran up all five
flights about as fast as he had run down. Jan was just coming out of the

"Here's one!" he cried breathlessly, depositing little Fay. "And now
I'll go down and give the little chap a ride as well."

He met them half-way up. "Now it's your turn," he said to Tony. "Would
you like to come on my back?"

Tony, though taciturn, was not unobservant. "I think," he said solemnly,
"Meg's more tired nor me. P'raps you'd better take her."

Meg laughed, and what the rain and wind could not do, Tony managed. Her
cheeks grew rosy.

"I'm afraid I should be rather heavy, Tony dear, but it's kind of you to
think of it."

She looked up at Captain Middleton and smiled again. What a kind world
it was! And really that tall young man was rather a pleasant person. So
it fell out that Tony was carried the rest of the way, and he had a
longer ride than little Fay; for his steed mounted the staircase
soberly, keeping pace with Meg; they even paused to take breath on the
landings. And it came about that Captain Middleton went back into the
flat with the children, showing no disposition to go away, and Jan could
hardly do less than ask him to share the tea she had laid in the

There he got a shock, for Meg came to tea in her cap and apron.

Out of doors she wore a long, warm coat that entirely covered the green
linen frock, and a little round fur hat. This last was a concession to
Jan, who hated the extinguisher. So Meg looked very much like any other
girl. A little younger, perhaps, than any young woman of twenty-five
has any business to look, but pretty in her queer, compelling way.

That she looked even prettier in her uniform Captain Middleton would
have been the first to allow; but he hated it nevertheless. There seemed
to him something incongruous and wrong for a girl with a smile like that
to be anybody's nursemaid.

To be sure, Miss Ross was a brick, and this queer little servant of hers
called her by her Christian name and contradicted her flatly twice in
the course of tea. Miss Morton certainly did not seem to be downtrodden
... but she wore a cap and an apron--a very becoming Quakerish cap ...
without any strings ... and--"it's a d----d shame," was the outcome of
all Captain Middleton's reflections.

"Would the man never go?" Jan wondered, when after a prolonged and
hilarious tea he followed the enraptured children back to the
drawing-room and did tricks with the fire-irons.

Meg had departed in order to get things ready for the night, and he hung
on in the hope that she would return. Vain hope; there was no sign of

He told the children all about William Bloomsbury and exacted promises
that they would love him very much. He discussed, with many
interruptions from Fay, who wanted all his attention, the entire
countryside round about Wren's End; and, at last, as there seemed really
no chance of that extraordinary girl's return, he heaved his great
length out of his chair and bade his hostess a reluctant farewell
several times over.

In the passage he caught sight of Meg going from one room to another
with her arms full of little garments.

"Ah," he cried, striding towards her. "Good night, Miss Morton. I hope
we shall meet again soon," and he held out his hand.

Meg ignored the hand, her own arms were so full of clothes: "I'm afraid
that's not likely," she said, with unfeeling cheerfulness. "We all go
down to the country on Monday."

"Yes, yes, I know. Jolly part of the world it is, too. I expect I shall
be thereabouts a good deal this summer, my relations positively swarm in
that county."

"Good-bye," said Meg, and turned to go. Jan stood at the end of the
passage, holding the door open.

"I say, Miss Morton, you'll try and like my William, won't you?"

"I like all sensible animals," was Meg's response, and she vanished into
a bedroom.



"Don't you think it is very extraordinary that I have never had one line
from Hugo since the letter I got at Aden?" asked Jan.

It was Friday evening, the Indian mail was in, and there was a letter
from Peter--the fourth since her return.

"But you've heard of him from Mr. Ledgard," Meg pointed out.

"Only that he had gone to Karachi from Bombay just before Fay
died--surely he would see papers there. It seems so heartless never to
have written me a line--I can't believe it, somehow, even of Hugo--he
must be ill or something."

"Perhaps he was ashamed to write. Perhaps he felt you would simply
loathe him for being the cause of it all."

"I did, I do," Jan exclaimed; "but all the same he is the children's
father, and he was her husband--I don't want anything very bad to happen
to him."

"It would simplify things very much," Meg said dreamily.

Jan held up her hand as if to ward off a blow.

"Don't, Meg; sometimes I find myself wishing something of the kind, and
I know it's wrong and horrible. I want as far as I can to keep in the
right with regard to Hugo, to give him no grievance against me. I've
written to that bank where he left the money, and asked them to forward
the letters if he has left any address. I've told him exactly where we
are and what we propose to do. Beyond the bare facts of Fay's death--I
told him all about her illness as dispassionately as I could--I've never
reproached him or said anything cruel. You see, the man is down and out;
though Mr. Ledgard always declared he had any amount of mysterious wires
to pull. Yet, I can't help wondering whether he is ill somewhere, with
no money and no friends, in some dreadful native quarter."

"What about the money in the bank, then? Did you use it?"

Jan blushed. "No, I couldn't bear to touch his money ... Mr. Ledgard
said it was idiotic...."

"So it was; it was Fay's money, not his. For all your good sense, Jan,
sometimes you're sentimental as a schoolgirl."

"I daresay it was stupid, and I didn't dare to tell Mr. Ledgard I'd left
it," Jan said humbly; "but I felt that perhaps that money might help him
if things got very desperate; I left it in his name and a letter telling
him I had done so ... I didn't _give_ him any money...."

"It was precisely the same thing."

"And he may never have got the letter."

"I hope he hasn't."

"Oh, Meg, I do so hate uncertainty. I'd rather know the worst. I always
have the foreboding that he will suddenly turn up at Wren's End and
threaten to take the children away ... and get money out of me that way
... and there's none to spare...."

"Jan, you've got into a thoroughly nervous, pessimistic state about
Hugo. Why in the world should he _want_ the children? They'd be terribly
in his way, and wherever he put them he'd have to pay _something_. You
know very well his people wouldn't keep them for nothing, even if he
were fool enough (for the sake of blackmailing you) to threaten to place
them there. His sisters wouldn't--not for nothing. What did Fay say
about his sisters? I remember one came to the wedding, but she has left
no impression on my mind. He has two, hasn't he?"

"Yes, but only one came, the Blackpool one. But Fay met both of them,
for she spent a week-end with each, with Hugo, after she was married."

"Well, and what did she say?"

Jan laughed and sighed: "She said--you remember how Fay could say the
severest things in the softest, gentlest voice--that 'for social
purposes they were impossible, but they were doubtless excellent and
worthy of all esteem and that they were exactly suited to the _milieu_
in which they lived.'"

"And where do they live?"

"One lives at Blackpool--she's married to ... I forget exactly what he
is--but it's something to do with letting houses. They're quite well off
and all her towels had crochet lace at the ends. Fay was much impressed
by this, as it scratched her nose. They also gave you 'doylies' at
afternoon tea and no servant ever came into the room without knocking."

"Any children?"

"Yes, three."

"And the other sister?"

"She lives at Poulton-le-Fylde, and her husband had to do with a
newspaper syndicate. Quite amusing he was, Fay says, but very shaky as
to the letter 'H.'"

"Would they like the children?"

"They might, for they've none of their own, but they certainly wouldn't
take them unless they were paid for, as they were not well off. They
were rather down on the Blackpool sister, Fay said, for extravagance and
general swank."

"What about the grandparents?"

"In Guernsey? They're quite nice old people, I believe, but
curiously--of course I'm quoting Fay--comatose and uninterested in
things, 'behindhand with the world,' she said. They thought Hugo very
wonderful, and seemed rather afraid of him. What he has told them lately
I don't know. He wrote very seldom, they said; but _I've_ written to
them, saying I've got the children and where we shall be. If they
express a wish to see the children I'll ask them to Wren's End. If, as
would be quite reasonable, they say it's too far to come--they're old
people, you know--I suppose one of us would need to take them over to
Guernsey for a visit. I do so want to do the right thing all round, and
then they can't say I've kept the children away from their father's

"Scotch people always think such a lot about relations," Meg grumbled.
"I should leave them to stew in their own juice. Why should you bother
about them if he doesn't?"

"They're all quite respectable, decent folk, you know, though they
mayn't be our kind. The father, I fancy, failed in business after he
came back from India. Fay said he was very meek and depressed always. I
think she was glad none of them came to the wedding except the Blackpool
sister, for she didn't want Daddie to see them. He thought the Blackpool
sister dreadful (he told me afterwards that she 'exacerbated his mind
and offended his eye'), but he was charming to her and never said a word
to Fay."

"I don't see much sign of Hugo and his people in the children."

"We can't tell, they're so little. One thing does comfort me, they show
no disposition to tell lies; but that, I think, is because they have
never been frightened. You see, everyone bowed down before them; and
whatever Indian servants may be in other respects, they seem to me
extraordinarily kind and patient with children."

"Jan, what are your views about the bringing up of children?... You've
never said ... and I should like to know. You see, we're both"--here Meg
sighed deeply and looked portentously grave--"in a position of awful

They were sitting on each side of the hearth, with their toes on the
fender. Meg had been sewing at an overall for little Fay, but at that
moment she laid it on her knee and ran her hands through her cropped
hair, then about two inches long all over her head, so that it stood on
end in broken spirals and feathery curls above her bright eyes. In the
evening the uniform was discarded "by request."

Jan looked across at her and laughed.

So funny and so earnest; so small, and yet so great with purpose.

"I don't think I've any views. R. L. S. summed up the whole duty of
children ages ago, and it's our business to see that they do it--that's
all. Don't you remember:

    A child should always say what's true,
    And speak when he is spoken to,
    And behave mannerly at table:
    At least as far as he is able.

It's no use to expect too much, is it?"

"If you expect to get the second injunction carried out in the case of
your niece you're a most optimistic person. For three weeks now I've
been perambulating Kensington Gardens with those children, and I have
never in the whole course of my life entered into conversation with so
many strangers, and it's always she who begins it. Then complications
arise and I have to intervene. I don't mind policemen and park-keepers
and roadmen, but I rather draw the line at idly benevolent old gentlemen
who join our party and seem to spend the whole morning with us...."

"But, Meg, that never happens when I'm with you. I confess I've left
you to it this last week...."

"And what am I here for except to be left to it--I don't mean that
anyone's rude or pushing--but Miss Tancred _is_ so friendly, and I'm not
dignified and awe-inspiring like you, you great big Jan; and the poor
men are encouraged, directly and deliberately encouraged, by your niece.
I never knew a child with such a continual flow of conversation."

"Poor Meg," said Jan, "you won't have much more of it. Little Fay _is_ a
handful, I confess; but I always feel it must be a bit hard to be hushed
continually--and just when one feels particularly bright and sparkling,
to have all one's remarks cut short...."

"You needn't pity that child. No amount of hushing has any effect; you
might just as well hush a blackbird or a thrush. Don't look so worried,
Jan. Did Mr. Ledgard say anything about Hugo in that letter to-night?"

"Only that he was known to have left Karachi in a small steamer going
round the coast, but after that nothing more. Mr. Ledgard has a friend
in the Police, and even there they've heard nothing lately. I think
myself the Indian Government _wants_ to lose sight of Hugo. He's
inconvenient and disgraceful, and they'd like him blotted out as soon as

"What else does Mr. Ledgard say? He seems to write good long letters."

"He is coming home at the end of April for six months."

"Oh ... then we shall see him, I suppose?"

"I hope so."

Meg looked keenly at Jan, who was staring into the fire, her eyes soft
and dreamy; and almost as if she was unconsciously thinking aloud, she
said: "I do hope, if Hugo chooses to turn up, he'll wait till Mr.
Ledgard is back in England."

"You think he could manage him?"

"I know he could."

"Then let us pray for his return," said Meg.

The clock on the mantelpiece struck eleven.

"Bed-time," said Meg, "but I must have just one cigarette first. That's
what's so lovely about being with you, Jan--you don't mind. Of course
I'd never do it before the children."

"You wouldn't shock them if you did. Fay smoked constantly."

Meg lit her cigarette and clearly showed her real enjoyment. She had
taken to it first when she was about fifteen, as she found it helped her
to feel less hungry. Now it had become as much a necessity to her as to
many men, and the long abstinence of term-time had always been a

She made some good rings, and, leaning forward to look through them at
Jan, said: "By the way, I must just tell you that for the last three
afternoons we've met that Captain Middleton in the Gardens."


"And he talks everlastingly about his dog--that William Bloomsbury
creature. I know _all_ the points of a bull-terrier now--'Well-set head
gradually tapering to muzzle, which is very powerful and well-filled up
in front of the eyes. Nose large and black. Teeth dead-level and big'
... oh! and reams more, every bit of him accurately described."

"I'm a little afraid of those teeth so 'dead-level and big'--I foresee

"Oh, no," said Meg easily. "He's evidently a most affectionate brute.
That young man puzzles me. He's manifestly devoted to the dog, but he's
so sure he'd be stolen he'd rather have him away from him down at Wren's
End than here with him, to run that risk."

"Surely," said Jan, "Kensington Gardens are some distance from St.
John's Wood."

"So one would think, but the rich and idle take taxis, and he seems to
think he can in some way insure the welfare of his dog through the
children and me."

"And what about the old gentlemen? Do they join the party as well?"

"Oh, dear no; no old gentlemen would dare to come within miles of us
with that young man in charge of little Fay. He's like your Mr.
Ledgard--very protective."

"I like him for being anxious about his dog, but I'm not quite so sure
that I approve of the means he takes to insure its happiness."

"I didn't encourage him in the least, I assure you. I pointed out that
he most certainly ought not to be walking about with a nurse and two
children. That the children without the nurse would be all right, but
that my being there made the whole thing highly inexpedient, and _infra

"Meg!... you didn't!"

"I did, indeed. There was no use mincing matters."

"And what did he say?"

"He said, 'Oh, that's all bindles'--whatever that may mean."

"You mustn't go to the Gardens alone any more. I'll come with you
to-morrow, or, better still, we'll all go to Kew if it's fine."

"I _should_ be glad, though I grudge the fares; but you needn't come. I
know how busy you are, with Hannah away and so much to see to--and what
earthly use am I if I can't look after the children without you?"

"You do look after the children without me for hours and hours on end. I
could never trust anyone else as I do you."

"I _am_ getting to manage them," Meg said proudly; "but just to-day I
must tell you--it was rather horrid--we came face to face with the
Trents in the Baby's Walk. Mrs. Trent and Lotty, the second girl, the
big, handsome one--and he evidently knows them...."

"Who evidently knows them?"

"Captain Middleton, silly! (I told you he was with us, talking about his
everlasting dog)--and they greeted him with effusion, so he had to stop.
But you can imagine how they glared at me. Of course I walked on with
Tony, but little Fay had his hand--I was wheeling the go-cart thing and
she stuck firmly to him, and I heard her interrupting the conversation
all the time. He followed us directly, I'll say that for him, but it was
a bad moment ... You see, they had a right to glare...."

"They had nothing of the kind. I wish I got the chance of glaring at
them. Daddie _saw_ Mrs. Trent; he explained everything, and she said she
quite understood."

"She would, to him, he was so nice always; but you see, Jan, I know what
she believes and what she has said, and what she will probably say to
Captain Middleton if she gets the chance."

Meg's voice broke. "Of course I don't care----"

She held her tousled head very high and stuck out her sharp little chin.

"My dear," said Jan, "what with my gregarious niece and my
too-attractive nurse, I think it's a good thing we're all going down to
Wren's End, where the garden-walls are high and the garden fairly large.
Besides all that, there will be that dog with the teeth 'dead-level and

"Remember," said Meg. "He treated me like a princess always."



It stands just beyond the village of Amber Guiting, on the side furthest
from the station, which is a mile from the village.

"C. C. S. 1819" is carved above the front door, but the house was built
a good fifty years previous to that date.

One Charles Considine Smith, who had been a shipper of sherry in
Billiter Street, in the City of London, bought it in that year from a
Quaker called Solomon Page, who planted the yew hedge that surrounds the
smooth green lawn seen from the windows of the morning-room. There was a
curious clause attached to the title-deeds, which stipulated that no
cats should be kept by the owner of Wren's End, lest they should
interfere with the golden-crested wrens that built in the said yew
hedge, or the brown wrens building at the foot of the hedges in the
orchard. Appended to this injunction were the following verses:

    If aught disturb the wrens that build,
    If ever little wren be killed
    By dweller in Wren's End--

    Misfortunes--whence he shall not know--
    Shall fall on him like noiseless snow,
    And all his steps attend.

    Peace be upon this house; and all
    That dwell therein good luck befall,
    That do the wrens befriend.

Charles Considine Smith faithfully kept to his agreement regarding the
protection of the wrens, and much later wrote a series of articles upon
their habits, which appeared in the _North Cotswold Herald_. He seems to
have been on friendly terms with Solomon Page, who, having inherited a
larger property in the next county, removed thence when he sold Wren's

In 1824 Smith married Tranquil Page, daughter of Solomon. She was then
thirty-seven years old, and, according to one of her husband's diaries,
"a staid person like myself." She was twenty years younger than her
husband and bore him one child, a daughter also named Tranquil.

She, however, appears to have been less staid than her parents, for she
ran away before she was twenty with a Scottish advocate called James

The Smiths evidently forgave the wilful Tranquil, for, on the death of
Charles, she and her husband left Scotland and settled with her mother
at Wren's End. She had two children, Janet, the great-aunt who left Jan
Wren's End, and James, Jan's grandfather, who was sent to Edinburgh for
his education, and afterwards became a Writer to the Signet. He married
and settled in Edinburgh, preferring Scotland to England, and it was
with his knowledge and consent that Wren's End was left to his sister

Janet never married. She was energetic, prudent, and masterful, having
an excellent head for business. She was kind to her nephews and nieces
in a domineering sort of way, and had always a soft place in her heart
for Anthony, though she regarded him as more or less of a scatter-brain.
When she was nearly eighty she commanded his little girls to visit her.
Jan was then fourteen and Fay eleven. She liked them because they had
good manners and were neither of them in the least afraid of her. And at
her death, six years later, she left Wren's End to Jan absolutely--as it
stood; but she left her money to Anthony's elder brother, who had a
large family and was not particularly well off.

That year was a good artistic year for Anthony, and he spent over five
hundred pounds in--as he put it--"making Jan's house habitable."

This proved not a bad investment, for they had let it every winter since
to Colonel Walcote for the hunting season, as three packs of hounds met
within easy reach of it; and although the stabling accommodation at
Wren's End was but small, plenty of loose boxes were always obtainable
from Farmer Burgess quite near.

Amber Guiting is a big village, almost a little town. It possesses an
imposing main street wherein are several shops, among them a stationer's
with a lending library in connection with Mudie's; a really beautiful
old inn with a courtyard; and grave-looking, dignified houses occupied
by the doctor, a solicitor, and several other persons of acknowledged

There were many "nice places" round about, and altogether the
inhabitants of Amber Guiting prided themselves, with some reason, on the
social and æsthetic advantages of their neighbourhood. Moreover, it is
not quite three hours from Paddington. You catch the express from the

Notwithstanding all these agreeable circumstances, William Bloomsbury
was very lonely and miserable.

All the friends he knew and loved had gone, leaving him in the somewhat
stepmotherly charge of a caretaker from the village, who was supposed to
be getting the house ready for its owner. To join her came
Hannah--having left her young ladies with an "orra-buddy" in the flat.
And after Hannah came the caretaker-lady did not stop long, for their
ideas on the subject of cleanliness were diametrically opposed. Hannah
was faithful and punctual as regarded William's meals; but though his
body was more comfortable than during the caretaker's reign, his heart
was empty and hungry, and he longed ardently for social intercourse and
an occasional friendly pat.

Presently in Hannah's train came Anne Chitt, a meek young assistant from
the village, who did occasionally gratify William's longing for a little
attention; but so soon as she began to pat him and say he was a good
dog, she was called away by Hannah to sweep or dust or wash something.
In William's opinion the whole house was a howling wilderness where
pails of water easily upset, and brooms that fell upon the unsuspecting
with resounding blows lay ambushed in unexpected places.

Men and dogs alike abhor "spring-cleaning," and William's heart died
within him.

There came a day, however, when things were calmer. The echoing,
draughty house grew still and warm, and a fire was lit in the hall.
William lay in front of it unmolested; but he felt dejected and lonely,
and laid his head down on his crossed paws in patient melancholy.

Late in the afternoon, there came a sound of wheels in the drive. Hannah
and Anne Chitt, decorous in black dresses and clean aprons, came into
the hall and opened the front door, and in three minutes William knew
that happier times were in store for him. The "station-fly" stopped at
the door, and regardless of Hannah's reproving voice he rushed out to
welcome the strangers. Two children, nice children, who appeared as glad
to see him as he was to see them, who wished him many happy returns of
his birthday--William had forgotten it was his birthday--and were as
lavish with pats and what little Fay called "stlokes" as Hannah had been
niggardly. There were also two young ladies, who addressed him kindly
and seemed pleasantly aware of his existence, and William liked young
ladies, for the three Miss Walcotes had thoroughly spoiled him. But he
decided to attach himself most firmly to the children and the very small
young lady. Perhaps they would stay. In his short experience grown
people had a cruel way of disappearing. There was that tall young man
... William hardly dared let himself think about that tall young man who
had allowed him to lie upon his bed and was so kind and jolly. "Master"
William had called him. Ah, where was he? Perhaps he would come back
some day. In the meantime here were plenty of people to love. William
cheered up.

[Illustration: William rushed out to welcome the strangers. Two ... nice

He wished to ingratiate himself, and proceeded to show off his one
accomplishment. With infinite difficulty and patience the Miss Walcotes
had taught him to "give a paw"; so now, on this first evening, William
followed the children about solemnly offering one paw and then the
other; a performance which was greeted with acclamation.

When the children went to the bathroom he somehow got shut outside. So
he lay down and breathed heavily through the bottom of the door and
varied this by thin, high-pitched yelps--which were really squeals, and
very extraordinary as proceeding from such a large and heavy dog.

"William wants to come in," Tony said. He still always accompanied his
sister to the bath.

Meg was seized with an inspiration. "I know why," she exclaimed. "He
expects to see little Fay in the big bath."

Fay looked from Meg to her brother and from her brother to Meg.

Another dismal squeal from under the door.

"Does he tluly espect it?" she asked anxiously.

"I think so," Meg said gravely, "and we can't let him in if you're going
to be washed in the little bath; he'd be so disappointed."

The little bath stood ready on its stand. Fay turned her back upon it
and went and looked over the edge of the big bath. It was a very big
bath, white and beautiful, with innumerable silvered handles that
produced sprays and showers and waves and all sorts of wonders. An
extravagance of Anthony's.

"Will William come in, too?" she asked.

"No; he'd make such a mess; but he'd love to see you. We'll all bathe
William some other time."

More squeals from outside, varied by dolorous snores.

"Let him in," said little Fay. "I'll show him me."

Quick as thought Meg lifted her in, opened the door to the delighted
William, who promptly stood on his hind legs, with his front paws on the
bath, and looked over the edge at little Fay.

"See me swim," she exclaimed proudly, sitting down in the water, while
William, with his tongue hanging out and a fond smile of admiration on
his foolish countenance, tried to lick the plump pink shoulders
presented to his view. "This is a muts nicer baff than the nasty little
one. I can't think what you bringed it for, deah Med."

"Deah Med" and Tony nodded gaily to one another.

Hannah had made William sleep in the scullery, which he detested. She
put his basket there and his blanket, and he was warm enough, but
creature comforts matter little to the right kind of dog. It's human
fellowship he craves. That night she came to fetch him at bed-time, and
he refused point-blank to go. He put his head on Meg's knee and gazed at
her with beseeching eyes that said as plainly as possible: "Don't banish
me--where you go I go--don't break my heart and send me away into the

Perhaps the cigarette smoke that hung about Meg gave him confidence. His
master smelt like that. And William went to bed with his master.

"D'you think he might sleep in the dressing-room?" Meg asked. "I know
how young dogs hate to be alone at night. Put his basket there,
Hannah--I'll let him out and see to him, and you could get him first
thing in the morning."

Hannah gave a sniff of disapproval, but she was always very careful to
do whatever Meg asked her at once and ungrudgingly. It was partly an
expression of her extreme disapproval of the uniform. But Meg thought it
was prompted entirely by Hannah's fine feeling, and loved her dearly in

Nearly all the bedrooms at Wren's End had dressing-rooms. Tony slept in
Jan's, with the door between left open. Fay's little cot was drawn up
close to Meg's bed. William and his basket occupied the dressing-room,
and here, also, the door was left open.

While Meg undressed, William was quite still and quiet, but when she
knelt down to say her prayers he was overcome with curiosity, and,
getting out of his basket, lurched over to her to see what she was
about. Could she be crying that she covered her face? William couldn't
bear people to cry.

He thrust his head under her elbow. She put her arm round his neck and
he sat perfectly still.

"Pray for your master, William," Meg whispered.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

"I like to look at it," said Tony.

"Oh, London may be very gay, but it's nothing to the countryside," sang

"What nelse?" inquired little Fay, who could never be content with a
mere snatch of song.

"Oh, there's heaps and heaps of nelse," Jan answered. "Come along,
chicks, we'll go and see everything. This is home, you know, where dear
Mummy wanted you to be."

It was their first day at Wren's End, and the weather was kind. They
were all four in the drive, looking back at the comfortable
stone-fronted Georgian house. The sun was shining, a cheerful April sun
that had little warmth in it but much tender light; and this showed how
all around the hedges were getting green; that buds were bursting from
brown twigs, as if the kind spring had covered the bare trees with a
thin green veil; and that all sorts of green spears were thrusting up in
the garden beds.

Down the drive they all four ran, accompanied by a joyfully galumphing
William, who was in such good spirits that he occasionally gave vent to
a solemn deep-chested bark.

When they came to the squat grey lodge, there was Mrs. Earley standing
in her doorway to welcome them. Mrs. Earley was Earley's mother, and
Earley was gardener and general factotum at Wren's End. Mrs. Earley
looked after the chickens, and when she had exchanged the news with Jan,
and rather tearfully admired "poor Mrs. Tancred's little 'uns," she
escorted them all to the orchard to see the cocks and hens and chickens.
Then they visited the stable, where Placid, the pony, was sole occupant.
In former years Placid had been kept for the girls to drive in the
governess-cart and to pull the heavy lawn-mower over the lawns. And
Hannah had been wont to drive him into Amesberrow every Sunday, that she
might attend the Presbyterian church there. She put him up at a
livery-stable near her church and always paid for him herself. Anthony
Ross usually had hired a motor for the summer months. Now they would
depend entirely on Placid and a couple of bicycles for getting about.
All round the walled garden did they go, and Meg played horses with the
children up and down the broad paths while Jan discussed vegetables with
Earley. And last of all they went to the back door to ask Hannah for
milk and scones, for the keen, fresh air had made them all hungry.

Refreshed and very crumby, they were starting out again when Hannah laid
a detaining hand on Jan's arm: "Could you speak a minute, Miss Jan?"

The children and Meg gone, Hannah led the way into the kitchen with an
air of great mystery; but she did not shut the doors, as Anne Chitt was
busy upstairs.

"What is it, Hannah?" Jan asked nervously, for she saw that this
summons portended something serious.

"It's about Miss Morton I want to speak, Miss Jan. I was in hopes she'd
never wear they play-acting claes down here ..." (when Hannah was deeply
earnest she always became very Scotch), "but it seems I hoped in vain.
And what am I to say to ither folk when they ask me about her?"

"What is there to say, Hannah, except that she is my dear friend, and by
her own wish is acting as nurse to my sister's children?"

"I ken that; I'm no sayin' a word against that; but first of all she
goes and crops her hair--fine hair she had too, though an awfu-like
colour--and not content with flying in the face of Providence that way,
she must needs dress like a servant. And no a weiss-like servant,
either, but one o' they besoms ye see on the hoardings in London wha act
in plays. Haven't I seen the pictures mysel'? 'The Quaker Gerrl,' or
some such buddy."

"Oh, I assure you, Hannah, Miss Morton in no way resembles those ladies,
and I can't see that it's any business of ours what she wears. You know
that she certainly does what she has undertaken to do in the best way

"I'm no saying a word against her wi' the children, and there never was
a young lady who gave less trouble, save in the way o' tobacco ash, and
was more ready to help--but yon haverals is very difficult to explain.
_You_ may understand, Miss Jan. I may _say_ I understand--though I
don't--but who's to make the like o' that Anne Chitt understand? Only
this morning she keeps on at me wi' her questions like the clapper o' a
bell. 'Is she a servant? If she's no, why does she wear servants' claes?
Why does she have hair like a boy? Has she had a fever or something
wrong wi' her heid? Is she one of they suffragette buddies and been in
prison?'--till I was fair deeved and bade the lassie hold her tongue.
But so it will be wherever Miss Morton goes in they fantastic claes.
Now, Miss Jan, tell me the honest truth--did you ever see a
self-respecting, respectable servant in the like o' yon? Does she _look_
like any servant you've ever heard tell of out of a stage-play?"

"Not a bit, Hannah; she looks exactly like herself, and therefore not in
the least like any other person. Don't you worry. Miss Morton requires
no explanation. All we must do is to see that she doesn't overwork

"Then ye'll no speak to her, Miss Jan?"

"Not I, Hannah. Why should I dictate to her as to what she wears? She
doesn't dictate to me."

This was not strictly true, for Meg was most interfering in the matter
of Jan's clothes. Hannah shook her head. "I thocht it my duty to speak,
Miss Jan, and I'll say no more. But it's sheer defiance o' her Maker to
crop her heid and to clothe herself in whim-whams, when she could be
dressed like a lady; and I'm real vexed she should make such an object
of herself when she might just be quite unnoticeable, sae wee and
shelpit as she is."

"I'm afraid," said Jan, "that Miss Morton will never be quite
unnoticeable, whatever she may wear. But don't let us talk about it any
more. You understand, don't you, Hannah?"

When Jan's voice took that tone Hannah knew that further argument was

Jan turned to go, and saw Tony waiting for her in the open doorway.
Neither of them had either heard or seen him come.

Quite silently he took her hand and did not speak till they were well
away from the house. Meg and little Fay were nowhere in sight. Jan
wondered how much he had heard.

"She's a very proud cook, isn't she?" he said presently.

"She's a very old servant," Jan explained, "who has known me all my

"If," said Tony, as though after deep thought, "she gets very
chubbelsome, you send for me. Then I will go to her and say '_Jāŏ!_'"
Tony followed this up by some fluent Hindustani which, had Jan but known
it, seriously reflected on the character of Hannah's female ancestry.
"I'll say '_Jāŏ!_'," he went on. "I'll say it several times very loud,
and point to the door. Then she'll roll up her bedding, and you'll give
her money and her chits, and she will depart."

They had reached a seat. On this Jan sank, for the vision of Tony
pointing majestically down the drive while little Hannah staggered into
the distance under a rolled-up mattress, was too much for her.

"But I don't want her to go," she gasped. "I love her dearly."

"She should not speak to you like that; she scolded you," he said
firmly. "She is a servant ... She _is_ a servant?" he added doubtfully.

"How much did you hear of what she said? Did you understand?"

"I came back directly to fetch you, I thought she _sounded_ cross. Mummy
was afraid when people were cross; she liked me to be with her. I
thought you would like me to be with you. If she was very rude I could
beat her. I beat the boy--not Peter's boy, our boy--he was rude to
Mummy. He did not dare to touch me because I am a sahib ... I will beat
Hannah if you like."

Tony stood in front of Jan, very earnest, with an exceedingly pink nose,
for the wind was keen. He had never before said so much at one time.

"Shall I go back and beat her?" he asked again.

"Certainly not," Jan cried, clutching Tony lest he should fly off there
and then. "We don't _do_ such things here at home. Nobody is beaten,
ever. I'm sure Peter never beats his servants."

"No," Tony allowed. "A big sahib must not strike a servant, but I can,
and I do if they are rude. She was rude about Meg."

"She didn't mean to be rude."

"She found fault with her clothes and her hair. She is a very proud and
impudent cook."

"Tony dear, you really don't understand. She wasn't a bit rude. She was
afraid other people might mistake Meg for a servant. She was all _for_
Meg--truly she was."

"She scolded you," he rejoined obstinately.

"Not really, Tony; she didn't mean to scold."

Tony looked very hard at Jan.

In silence they stared at one another for quite a minute. Jan got up off
the seat.

"Let's go and find the others," she said.

"She is a very proud cook," Tony remarked once more.

Jan sighed.

       *       *       *       *       *

That night while she was getting ready for bed Tony woke up. His cot was
placed so that he could see into Jan's room, and the door between was
always left open. She was standing before the dressing-table, taking
down her hair.

Unlike the bedrooms at the flat, the room was not cold though both the
windows were open. Wren's End was never cold, though always fresh, for
one of Anthony's earliest improvements had been a boiler-house and
central heating, with radiators set under the windows, so that they
could always stand open.

Jan had not put on her dressing-gown, and her night-dress had rather
short, loose sleeves that fell back from her arms as she raised them.

He watched the white arm wielding the brush with great pleasure; he
decided he liked to look at it.

"Auntie Jan!"

She turned and flung her hair back from her face in a great silver

"You awake, sonny! Did I make a noise?"

"No, I just woke. Auntie Jan, will Daddie ever come here?"

"I expect so."

"Well, listen. If he does, he shan't take your things, your pretty
twinkly things. I won't let him."

Jan stood as if turned to stone.

"He took Mummy's. I saw him; I couldn't stop him, I was so little. But
she _said_--she said it twice before she went away from that last
bungalow--she said: 'Take care of Auntie Jan, Tony; don't let Daddie
take her things.' So I won't."

Tony was sitting up. His room was all in darkness; two candles were lit
on Jan's dressing-table. He could see her, but she couldn't see him.

She came to him, stooped over him, and laid her cheek against his so
that they were both veiled with her hair. "Darling, I don't think poor
Daddie would want to take my things. You must try not to think hardly of

Tony parted the veil of hair with a gentle hand so that they could both
see the candles.

"You don't know my Daddie ... much," he said, "do you?"

Jan shuddered.

"I saw him," he went on in his queer little unemotional voice. "I saw
him take all her pretty twinkly things; and her silver boxes. I'm glad I
sleep here."

"Did she mind much?" Jan whispered.

"I don't know. She didn't see him take them, only me. She hadn't come to
bed. She never said nothing to me--only about you."

"I don't expect," Jan made a great effort to speak naturally, "that
Daddie would care about my things ... It's different, you see."

"I'm glad I sleep here," Tony repeated, "and there's William only just
across the passage."



They had been at Wren's End nearly three weeks, and sometimes Jan
wondered if she appeared to Tony as unlike her own conception of herself
as Tony's of his father was unlike what she had pictured him.

She knew Hugo Tancred to be dishonest, shifty, and wholly devoid of a
sense of honour, but she had up till quite lately always thought of him
as possessing a lazy sort of good-nature.

Tony was changing this view.

He was not yet at all talkative, but every now and then when he was
alone with her he became frank and communicative, as reserved people
often will when suddenly they let themselves go. And his very simplicity
gave force to his revelations.

During their last year together in India it was evident that downright
antagonism had existed between Hugo Tancred and his little son. Tony had
weighed his father and found him wanting; and it was clear that he had
tried to insert his small personality as a buffer between his father and

Jan talked constantly to the children of their mother. Her portraits,
Anthony's paintings and sketches, were all over the house, in every
variety of happy pose. One of the best was hung at the foot of Tony's
cot. The gentle blue eyes seemed to follow him in wistful benediction,
and alone in bed at night he often thought of her, and of his home in
India. It was, then, quite natural that he should talk of them to this
Auntie Jan who had evidently loved his mother well; and from Tony Jan
learned a good deal more about her brother-in-law than she had ever
heard from his wife.

Tony loved to potter about with his aunt in the garden. She worked
really hard, for there was much to do, and he tried his best to assist,
often being a very great hindrance; but she never sent him away, for she
desired above all things to gain his confidence.

One day after a hard half-hour's weeding, when Tony had wasted much time
by pulling up several sorts of the wrong thing, Jan felt her temper
getting edgy, so they sat down to rest upon one of the many convenient
seats to be found at Wren's End. Anthony hated a garden where you
couldn't sit comfortably and smoke, wheresoever the prospect was

Tony sat down too, looking almost rosy after his labours.

He didn't sit close and cuddly, as little Fay would have done, but right
at the other end of the seat, where he could stare at her. Every day was
bringing Tony more surely to the conclusion that "he liked to look at"
his aunt.

"You like Meg, don't you?" he said.

"No," Jan shook her head. "I don't like her. I love her; which is quite
a different thing."

"Do you like people and love them?"

"I like some people--a great many people--then there are others, not so
many, that I love--you're one of them."

"Is Fay?"

"Certainly, dear little Fay."

"And Peter?"

For a moment Jan hesitated. With heightened colour she met Tony's grave,
searching eyes. Above everything she desired to be always true and
sincere with him, that he might, as on that first night in England, feel
that he "believed" her. "I have every reason to love Mr. Ledgard," she
said slowly: "he was so wonderfully kind to all of us." She was
determined to be loyal to Peter with poor Fay's children. Jan hated
ingratitude. To have said she only liked Peter must have given Tony the
impression that she was both forgetful and ungrateful. She would not
risk that even though she might risk misunderstanding of another kind if
he ever repeated her words to anybody else.

Her heart beat rather faster than was comfortable, and she was thankful
that she and Tony were alone.

"Who _do_ you like?" he asked.

"Nearly everybody; the people in the village, our good neighbours ...
Can't you see the difference yourself? Now, you love your dear Mummy and
you like ... say, William----"

"No," Tony said firmly, "I love William. I don't think," he went on, "I
like people ... much. Either I love them like you said, or I don't care
about them at all ... or I hate them."

"That," said Jan, "is a mistake. It's no use to hate people."

"But if you feel like it ... I hate people if they cheat me."

"But who on earth would cheat you? What do you mean?"

"Once," said Tony, and by the monotonous, detached tone of his voice Jan
knew he was going to talk about his father, "my Daddie asked me if I'd
like to see smoke come out of his ears ... an' he said: 'Put your hand
here on me and watch very careful.'" Tony pointed to Jan's chest. "I put
my hand there and I watched and watched an' he hurt me with the end of
his cigar. There's the mark!" He held out a grubby little hand, back
uppermost, for Jan's inspection, and there, sure enough, was the little
round white scar.

"And what did you do?" she asked.

"I bit him."

"Oh, Tony, how dreadful!"

"I shouldn't of minded so much if he'd really done it--the smoke out of
his ears, I mean; but not one teeniest little puff came. I watched so
careful ... He cheated me."

Jan said nothing. What could she say? Hot anger burned in her heart
against Hugo. She could have bitten him herself.

"Peter was there," Tony went on, "and Peter said it served him right."

"Yes," said Jan, grasping at this straw, "but what did Peter say to

"He said, 'Sahibs don't cry and sahibs don't bite,' and if I was a sahib
I mustn't do it, so I don't. I don't bite people often."

"I should hope not; besides, you know, sometimes quite good-natured
people will do things in fun, never thinking it will hurt."

Tony gazed gloomily at Jan. "He cheated me," he repeated. "He said he
would make it come out of his ears, and it didn't. He didn't like
me--that's why."

"I don't think you ought to say that, and be so unforgiving. I expect
Daddie forgot all about your biting him directly, and yet you remember
what he did after this long time."

Poor Jan did try so hard to be fair.

"I wasn't afraid of him," Tony went on, as though he hadn't heard, "not
really. Mummy was. She was drefully afraid. He said he'd whip me because
I was so surly, and she was afraid he would ... I _knew_ he wouldn't,
not unless he could do it some cheaty way, and you can't whip people
that way. But it frightened Mummy. She used to send me away when he

Tony paused and knitted his brows, then suddenly he smiled. "But I
always came back very quick, because I knew she wanted me, and I liked
to look at him. He liked Fay, I suppose he liked to look at her, so do
I. Nobody wants to look at me ... much ... except Mummy."

"I do," Jan said hastily. "I like to look at you just every bit as much
as I like to look at Fay. I think you care rather too much what people
look like, Tony."

"It does matter a lot," Tony said obstinately.

"Other things matter much more. Courage and kindness and truth and
honesty. Look at Mr. Ledgard--he's not what you'd call a beautiful
person, and yet I'm sure we all like to look at him."

"Sometimes you say Peter, and sometimes Mr. Ledgard. Why?"

Again Jan's heart gave that queer, uncomfortable jump. She certainly
always _thought_ of him as Peter. Quite unconsciously she occasionally
spoke of him as Peter. Meg had observed this, but, unlike Tony, made no

"Why?" Tony repeated.

"I suppose," Jan mumbled feebly, "it's because I hear the rest of you do
it. I've no sort of right to."

"Auntie Jan," Tony said earnestly. "What is a devil?"

"I haven't the remotest idea, Tony," Jan replied, with the utmost

"It isn't anything very nice, is it, or nice to look at?"

"It might be," said Jan, with Scottish caution.

"Daddie used to call me a surly little devil--when I used to come back
because Mummy was frightened ... she was always frightened when he
talked about money, and he did it a lot ... When he saw me, he would
say: 'Wot you doing here, you surly little devil--listening, eh?'"
Tony's youthful voice took on such a snarl that Jan positively jumped,
and put out her hand to stop him. "'I'll give you somefin to listen

"Tony, Tony, couldn't you try to forget all that?"

Tony shook his head. "No! I shall never forget it, because, you see,
it's all mixed up with Mummy so, and you said"--here Tony held up an
accusing small finger at Jan--"you said I was never to forget her, not
the least little bit."

"I know I did," Jan owned, and fell to pondering what was best to be
done about these memories. Absently she dug her hoe into the ground,
making ruts in the gravel, while Tony watched her solemnly.

"Then why," he went on, "do you not want me to remember Daddie?"

"Because," said Jan, "everything you seem to remember sounds so unkind."

"Well, I can't help that," Tony answered.

Jan arose from the seat. "If we sit idling here all afternoon," she
remarked severely, "we shall never get that border weeded for Earley."

The afternoon post came in at four, and when Jan went in there were
several letters for her on the hall-table, spread out by Hannah in a
neat row, one above the other. It was Saturday, and the Indian mail was
in. There was one from Peter, but it was another letter that Jan seized
first, turning it over and looking at the post-mark, which was
remarkably clear. She knew the excellent handwriting well, though she
had seen it comparatively seldom.

It was Hugo Tancred's; and the post-mark was Port Said. She opened it
with hands that trembled, and it said:

      "MY DEAR JAN,

      "In case other letters have miscarried, which is quite
      possible while I was up country, let me assure you how
      grateful I am for all you did for my poor wife and the
      children--and for me in letting me know so faithfully what
      your movements have been. I sent to the bank for your
      letters while passing through Bombay recently, and but for
      your kindness in allowing the money I had left for my
      wife's use to remain to my credit, I should have been
      unable to leave India, for things have gone sadly against
      me, and the world is only too ready to turn its back upon a
      broken man.

      "When I saw by the notice in the papers that my beloved
      wife was no more, I realised that for me the lamp is
      shattered and the light of my life extinguished. All that
      remains to me is to make the best of my poor remnant of
      existence for the sake of my children.

      "We will talk over plans when we meet. I hope to be in
      England in about another month, perhaps sooner, and we will
      consult together as to what is best to be done.

      "I have no doubt it will be possible to find a good and
      cheap preparatory school where Tony can be safely bestowed
      for the present, and one of my sisters would probably take
      my precious little Fay, if you find it inconvenient to have
      her with you. A boy is always better at school as soon as
      possible, and I have strong views as to the best methods of
      education. I never for a moment forget my responsibilities
      towards my children and the necessity for a father's
      supreme authority.

      "You may be sure that, in so far as you make it possible
      for me to do so, I will fall in with your wishes regarding
      them in every way.

      "It will not be worth your while writing to me here, as my
      plans are uncertain. I will try to give you notice of my
      arrival, but may reach you before my next letter.

                           "Yours affectionately,

                                           "HUGO TANCRED."

Still as a statue sat Jan. From the garden came the cheerful chirruping
of birds and constant, eager questioning of Earley by the children.
Earley's slow Gloucestershire speech rumbled on in muffled _obbligato_
to the higher, carrying, little voices.

The whirr of a sewing-machine came from the morning-room, now the
day-nursery, where Meg was busy with frocks for little Fay.

In a distant pantry somebody was clinking teacups. Jan shivered, though
the air from the open window was only fresh, not cold. At that moment
she knew exactly how an animal feels when caught in a trap. Hugo
Tancred's letter was the trap, and she was in it. With the exception of
the lie about other letters--Jan was perfectly sure he had written no
other letters--and the stereotyped phrases about shattered lamps and the
wife who was "no more," the letter was one long menace--scarcely veiled.
That sentence, "in so far as you make it possible for me to do so, I
will fall in with your wishes regarding them in every way," simply meant
that if Jan was to keep the children she must let Hugo make ducks and
drakes of her money; and if he took her money, how could she do what she
ought for the children?

And he was at Port Said; only a week's journey.

Why had she left that money in Bombay? Why had she not listened to
Peter? Sometimes she had thought that Peter held rather a cynically low
view of his fellow-creatures--some of his fellow-creatures. Surely no
one could be all bad? Jan had hoped great things of adversity for Hugo
Tancred. Peter indulged in no such pleasant illusions, and said so.
"Schoolgirl sentimentality" Meg had called it, and so it was. "No doubt
it will be possible to find some cheap preparatory school for Tony."

Would he try to steal Tony?

From the charitable mood that hopeth all things Jan suddenly veered to a
belief in all things evil of her brother-in-law. At that moment she felt
him capable of murdering the child and throwing his little body down a
well, as they do in India.

Again she shivered.

What was she to do?

So helpless, so unprotected; so absolutely at his mercy because she
loved the children. "Never let him blackmail you," Peter had said.
"Stand up to him always, and he'll probably crumple up."

Suddenly, as though someone had opened shutters in a pitch-dark room,
letting in the blessed light, Jan remembered there was also a letter
from Peter.

She crossed the hall to get it, though her legs shook under her and her
knees were as water.

She felt she couldn't get back to the window-seat, so she sat on the
edge of the gate-table and opened the letter.

A very short letter, only one side of a page.


      "This is the last mail for a bit, for I come myself by the
      next, the _Macedonia_. You may catch me at Aden, but
      certainly a note will get me at Marseilles, if you are kind
      enough to write. Tancred has been back in Bombay and gone
      again in one of the smaller home-going boats. Where he got
      the money to go I can't think, for from many sources lately
      I've heard that his various ventures have been far from
      prosperous, and no one will trust him with a rupee.

      "So look out for blackmail, and be firm, mind.

      "I go to my aunt in Artillery Mansions on arrival. When may
      I run down to see you all?

                         "Yours always sincerely,

                                          "PETER LEDGARD."



The flap of the gate-leg table creaked under Jan's weight, but she dug
her heels into the rug and balanced, for she felt incapable of moving.

Peter was coming home; if the worst came to the worst he would deal with
Hugo, and a respite would be gained. But Peter would go out to India
again and Hugo would not. The whole miserable business would be
repeated--and how could she continue to worry Peter with her affairs?
What claim had she upon him? As though she were some stranger seeing it
for the first time, Jan looked round the square, comfortable hall. She
saw it with new eyes sharpened by apprehension; yet everything was
solidly the same.

The floor with its draught-board pattern of large, square, black and
white stones; the old dark chairs; the high bookcases at each side of
the hearth; the wide staircase with its spacious, windowed turning and
shallow steps, so easily traversed by little feet; the whole steeped in
that atmosphere of friendly comfort that kind old houses get and keep.

Such a good place to be young in.

Such a happy place, so safe and sheltered and pleasant.

Outside the window a wren was calling to his mate with a note that
sounded just like a faint kiss; such a tender little song.

The swing door was opened noisily and Anne Chitt appeared bearing the
nursery tea-tray, deposited it in the nursery, opened the front door,
thumped on the gong and vanished again. Meg came out from the nursery
with two pairs of small slippers in her hand: "Where are my children? I
left little Fay with Earley while I finished the overalls; he's a most
efficient under-nurse--I suppose you left Tony with him too. Such a lot
of letters for you. Did you get your mail? I heard from both the boys.
Ah, sensible Earley's taking them round to the back door. Where's
William's duster? Hannah does make such a fuss about paw-marks." And
Meg, too, vanished through the swing door.

Slowly Jan dragged herself off the table, gathered up her unread
letters, and went into the nursery. She felt as though she were
dreadfully asleep and couldn't awake to realise the wholesome everyday
world around her.

Vaguely she stared round the room, the most charming room in Wren's End.
Panelled in wood long since painted white, with two delightful rounded
corner cupboards, it gave straight on to the wrens' sunk lawn from a big
French window with steps, an anachronism added by Miss Janet Ross. Five
years ago Anthony had brought a beautiful iron gate from Venice that
fitted into the archway, cut through the yew hedge and leading to the
drive. Jan had given this room to the children because in summer they
could spend the whole day in its green-walled garden, quite safe and
shut in from every possibility of mischief. A sun-dial was in the
centre, and in one corner a fat stone cherub upheld a bath for the
birds. Daffodils were in bloom on the banks, and one small single tulip
of brilliant red. Jan went out and stood on the top step.

Long immunity from menace of any kind had made all sorts of little birds
extraordinarily bold and friendly. Even the usually shy and furtive
golden-crested wrens fussed in and out under the yew hedge quite
regardless of Jan.

Through an open window overhead came the sound of cheerful high voices,
and little Fay started to sing at the top of her strong treble:

    Thlee mice went into a hole to spin,
    Puss came by, and puss peeped in;
    What are you doing, my littoo old men?
    We're weaving coats for gentoomen.

"Is that what I've been doing?" thought Jan. "Weaving coats of many
colours out of happy dreams?" Were she and the children the mice, she

Marauding cats had been kept away from Wren's End for over a hundred
years. "The little wrens that build" had been safe enough. But what of
these poor human nestlings?

"Shall I come and help loo to wind up loo thleds?" sang little Fay. "Oh,
no, Missis Pussy, you'd bite off our heads!" And Tony joined in with a
shout: "Oh, no, Missis Pussy, you'd bite off our heads."

The voices died away, the children were coming downstairs.

Jan drank three cups of tea and crumbled one piece of bread and butter
on her plate. The rest of the party were hungry and full of adventures.
Before she joined Earley little Fay had been to the village with Meg to
buy tape, and she had a great deal to say about this expedition. Meg saw
that something was troubling Jan, and wondered if Mr. Ledgard had given
her fresh news of Hugo. But Meg never asked questions or worried people.
She chattered to the children, and immediately after tea carried them
off for the usual washing of hands.

Jan went out into the hall; the door was open and the sunny spring
evening called to her. When she was miserable she always wanted to walk,
and she walked now; swiftly down the drive she went and out along the
road till she came to the church, which stood at the end of the village
nearest to Wren's End.

She turned into the churchyard, and up the broad pathway between the
graves to the west door.

Near the door was a square headstone marking the grave of Charles
Considine Smith; and she paused beside it to read once more the somewhat
strange inscription.

Under his name and age, cut deep in the moss-grown stone, were the
words: "_Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not

Often before Jan had wondered what could have caused Tranquil, his wife,
to choose so strenuous an epitaph. Tranquil, who had never stirred
twenty miles from the place where she was born; whose very name, so far
as they could gather, exemplified her life.

What secret menace had threatened this "staid person," this prosperous
shipper of sherry who, apparently, had spent the evening of his life in
observing the habits of wrens.

Why should his gentle wife have thus commemorated his fighting spirit?

Be the reason what it might, Jan felt vaguely comforted. There was
triumph as well as trust in the words. Whatever it was that had
threatened him, he had stood up to it. His wife knew this and was proud.

Jan tried the heavy oak door and it yielded, and from the soft mildness
of the spring evening, so full of happy sounds of innocent life, she
passed into the grey and sacred silence of the church.

It was cold in the beautiful old fourteenth-century church, with that
pervading smell of badly-burning wood that is so often found in country
churches till all attempt at heating ceases for the summer. But nothing
could mar the nobility of its austerely lovely architecture; the
indefinable, exquisite grace that soothes and penetrates.

She went and knelt in the Wren's End pew where Charles Considine Smith's
vast prayer-book still stood on the book-board. And even as in the
Bombay Cathedral she had prayed that strength might be given to her to
walk in the Way, so now she prayed for courage and a quiet, steadfast

Her head was bowed and buried in her hands: "_My heart shall not
fear_," she whispered; but she knew that it did fear, and fear

The tense silence was broken by an odd, fitful, pattering sound; but
Jan, absorbed in her petition for the courage she could not feel, heard

Something clumsy, warm, and panting pushed against her, and she
uncovered her face and looked down upon William trying to thrust his
head under her arm and join in her devotions.

And William became a misty blur, for her eyes filled with tears; he
looked so anxious and foolish and kind with his tongue hanging out and
his absurd, puzzled expression.

He was puzzled. Part of the usual ritual had been omitted.

She ought, by all known precedents, to have put her arm round his neck
and have admonished him to "pray for his Master." But she did nothing of
the kind, only patted him, with no sort of invitation to join in her

William was sure something was wrong somewhere.

Then Jan saw Tony sitting at the far end of the seat, hatless, coatless,
in his indoor strap shoes; and he was regarding her with grave,
understanding eyes.

In a moment she was back in the present and vividly alive to the fact
that here was chilly, delicate Tony out after tea, without a coat and
sitting in an ice-cold church.

She rose from her knees, much to William's satisfaction, who did not
care for religious services in which he might not take an active part.
He trotted out of the pew and Jan followed him, stooping to kiss Tony as
she passed.

"It's too cold for you here, dear," she whispered; "let us come out."

She held out her hand and Tony took it, and together they passed down
the aisle and into the warmer air outside.

"How did you know I was here?" she asked, as they hurried into the road.

"I saw you going down the drive from the bathroom window, and so I
runned after you, and William came too."

"But what made you come after me?"

"Because I thought you looked frightened, and I didn't like it; you
looked like Mummy did sometimes."

No one who has seen fear stamped upon a woman's face ever forgets it.
Tony had watched his aunt all tea-time, and this quite new expression
troubled him. Mummy had always seemed to want him when she looked like
that; perhaps Auntie Jan would want him too. The moment his hands were
dried he had rushed past Meg and down the stairs with William in his
wake. Meg had not tried to stop him, for she, too, realised that
something worried Jan, and she knew that already there had arisen an
almost unconscious _entente_ between these two. But she had no idea that
he had gone out of doors. She dressed little Fay and took her out to the
garden, thinking that Tony and Jan were probably in the nursery, and she
was careful not to disturb them.

"Are you cold, Tony?" Jan asked anxiously, walking so fast that Tony
had almost to run to keep up with her.

"No, not very; it's a nice coldness rather, don't you think?"

"Tony, will you tell me--when Daddie was angry with you, were you never

Tony pulled at her hand to make her go more slowly. "Yes," he said, "I
used to feel frightened inside, but I wouldn't let him know it, and
then--it was funny--but quite sunn'ly I wasn't frightened any more. You
try it."

"You mean," Jan asked earnestly, "that if you don't let anyone else know
you are frightened, you cease to be frightened?"

"Something like that," Tony said; "it just happens."



Meg had worked hard and faithfully ever since Ayah left. Very soon after
she took over the children entirely she discovered that, however naughty
and tiresome they were in many respects, they were quick-witted and
easily interested. And she decided there and then that to keep them good
she must keep them well amused, and it acted like a charm.

She had the somewhat rare power of surrounding quite ordinary everyday
proceedings with a halo of romance, so that the children's day developed
into a series of entrancing adventures.

With Meg, enthusiastic make-believe had never wholly given place to
common sense. Throughout the long, hard days of her childhood and early
apprenticeship to a rather unkindly world she had pretended joyously,
and invented for herself all sorts of imaginary pleasures to take the
place of those tangible ones denied to her. She had kept the width and
wistfulness of the child's horizon with a good deal of the child's
finality and love of detail; so that she was as responsive to the drama
of common things as the children themselves.

Thus it came about that the daily donning of the uniform was in very
truth symbolic and inspiring; and once the muslin cap was adjusted, she
felt herself magically surrounded by the atmosphere most conducive to
the production of the Perfect Nurse.

For Tony and little Fay getting up and going to bed resolved themselves
into feats of delicious dexterity that custom could not stale. The
underneaths of tables were caves and dungeons, chairs became chariots at
will, and every night little Fay waved a diminutive pocket-handkerchief
to Tony from the deck of an ocean-going P. and O.

The daily walks, especially since they came to Wren's End, were filled
with hopeful possibilities. And to hunt for eggs with Mrs. Earley, or
gather vegetables with her son, partook of the nature of a high and
solemn quest. It was here Meg showed real genius. She drew all the
household into her net of interest. The children poked their busy
fingers into everybody's pies, and even stern Hannah was compelled,
quite unconsciously, to contribute her share in the opulent happiness of
their little world.

But it took it out of Meg.

For weeks she had been on the alert to prevent storms and tempests. Now
that the children's barometer seemed at "set fair" she suddenly felt
very tired.

Jan had been watching her, and on that particular Sunday, had she been
able to catch Meg before she got up, Jan would have dressed the children
and kept her in bed. But Meg was too nimble for her, washed and dressed
her charges, and appeared at breakfast looking a "wispy wraith."

She had slept badly; a habit formed in her under-nourished youth which
she found hard to break; and she had, in consequence, been sitting up in
bed at five in the morning to make buttonholes in garden smocks for

This would have enraged Jan had she but known it. But Meg, frank and
honest as the day in most things, was, at times, curiously secretive;
and so far had entirely eluded Jan's vigilance. By the time Anne Chitt
came with the awakening tea there wasn't a vestige of smock, needles, or
cotton to be seen, and so far lynx-eyed little Fay had never awoke in
time to catch her at it.

This morning, however, Jan exerted her authority. She slung the hammock
between two trees in the sunniest part of the garden; she wrapped Meg in
her own fur coat, which was far too big for Meg; covered her with a
particularly soft, warm rug, gave her a book, a sun-umbrella, and her
cigarette case; and forbade her to move till lunch-time unless it

Then she took the two children and William into Squire Walcote's woods
for the morning and Meg fell fast asleep.

Warm with the double glow that came from being wrapped in Jan's coat
because Jan loved her; lulled by the songs of birds and a soft, shy wind
that ruffled the short hair about her forehead, little Meg was supremely
happy. To be tired, to be made to rest, to be kissed and tucked in and
sternly commanded to stay where she was till she was fetched--all this,
so commonplace to cherished, cared-for folk, seemed quite wonderful to
Meg, and she snuggled down among the cushions in blissful content.

Meanwhile, on that same Sunday morning, Captain Middleton, at Amber
Guiting Manor, was trying to screw his courage up to the announcement
that he did not intend to accompany his aunt and uncle to church. Lady
Mary Walcote was his mother's only sister, and Mrs. Walcote, wife of
Jan's tenant, was one of his father's, so that he spoke quite truly when
he told Meg he had "stacks of relations down at Amber Guiting."

Colonel Walcote was much better off than his elder brother, the squire
of Amber Guiting, for he benefited by the Middleton money.

Miles Middleton's father was the originator of "Middleton's Made
Starch," which was used everywhere and was supposed to be superior to
all other starches. Why "Made" scoffers could never understand, for it
required precisely the same treatment as other starches. But the British
Public believed in it, the British Public also bought it in large
quantities, and George Middleton, son of Mutton-Pie Middleton, a
well-to-do confectioner in Doncaster, became an exceedingly rich man. He
did not marry till he was forty, and then he married "family," for Lady
Agnes Keills, younger daughter of Lord Glencarse, had a long pedigree
and no dower at all. She was a good wife to him, gentle, upright, and
always affectionate. She adored their only child, Miles, and died quite
suddenly from heart failure, just after that cheerful youth had joined
at Woolwich. George Middleton died some three years later, leaving his
money absolutely to his son, who came of age at twenty-five. And, so
far, Miles had justified his father's faith in him, for he had never
done anything very foolish, and a certain strain of Yorkshire shrewdness
prevented him from committing any wild extravagance.

He was generous, kindly, and keen on his profession, and he had reached
the age of thirty-two without ever having felt any overwhelming desire
to marry; though it was pretty well known that considerable efforts to
marry him suitably had been made by both mothers and daughters.

The beautiful and level-headed young ladies of musical comedy had failed
to land this considerable fish, angled they never so skilfully; though
he frankly enjoyed their amusing society and was quite liberal, though
not lavish, in the way of presents.

Young women of his own rank were pleasant to him, their mothers cordial,
and no difficulty was ever put in the way of his enjoying their society.
But he was not very susceptible. Deep in his heart, in some dim,
unacknowledged corner, there lay a humble, homely desire that he might
_feel_ a great deal more strongly than he had felt yet, when the time
and the woman came to him.

Never, until Meg smiled at him when he offered to carry little Fay up
that long staircase, had the thought of a girl thoroughly obsessed him;
and it is possible that even after their meetings in Kensington Gardens
her image might gradually have faded from his mind, had it not occurred
to Mrs. Trent to interfere.

He had seen a good deal of the Trents while hunting with the Pytchley
two winters ago. Lotty was a fearless rider and what men called "a real
good sort." At one time it had sometimes crossed Captain Middleton's
mind that Lotty wouldn't make half a bad wife for a Horse Gunner, but
somehow it had always stopped at the idea, and when he didn't see Lotty
he never thought about her at all.

Now that he no longer saw Meg he thought about her all day and far into
the night. His sensations were so new, so disturbing and unpleasant, his
life was so disorganised and upset, that he asked himself in varying
degrees of ever-accumulating irritation: "What the deuce was the

Then Mrs. Trent asked him to luncheon.

She was staying with her daughters at the Kensington Palace Hotel, and
they had a suite of rooms. Lotty and her sister flew away before coffee
was served, as they were going to a _matinée_, and Miles was left
_tête-à-tête_ with Mrs. Trent.

She was most motherly and kind.

Just as he was wondering whether he might now decently take leave of
her, she said: "Captain Middleton, I'm going to take a great liberty and
venture to say something to you that perhaps you will resent ... but I
feel I must do it because your mother was such a dear friend of mine."

This was a piece of information for Miles, who knew perfectly well that
Lady Agnes Middleton's acquaintance with Mrs. Trent had been of the
slightest. However, he bowed and looked expectant.

"I saw you the other day walking with Miss Morton in Kensington Gardens;
apparently she is now in charge of somebody's children. May I ask if you
have known her long?"

Mrs. Trent looked searchingly at Miles, and there was an inflection on
the "long" that he felt was in some way insulting to Meg, and he
stiffened all over.

"Before I answer that question, Mrs. Trent, may I ask why you should
want to know?"

"My dear boy, I see perfectly well that it must seem impertinent
curiosity on my part. But I assure you my motive for asking is quite
justifiable. Will you try not to feel irritated and believe that what I
am doing, I am doing for the best?"

"I have not known Miss Morton very long; why?"

"Do you know the people she is living with at present?"

Again that curious inflection on the "present."

"Oh, yes, and so do my people; they think all the world of her."

"Of Miss Morton?" Shocked astonishment was in Mrs. Trent's voice.

"I was not speaking of Miss Morton just then, but of the lady she is
with. I've no doubt, though," said Miles stoutly, "they'd think just
the same of Miss Morton if they knew her. They may know her, too; it's
just a chance we've never discussed her."

"It is very difficult and painful for me to say what I have got to say
... but if Miss Morton is in charge of the children of a friend of your
family, I think you ought to know she is not a suitable person to be
anything of the kind."

"I say!" Miles exclaimed, "that's a pretty stiff thing to say about any
girl; a dangerous thing to say; especially about one who seems to need
to earn her own living."

"I know it is; I hate to say it ... but it seemed to me the other day--I
hope I was mistaken--that you were rather ... attracted, and knowing
what I do I felt I must speak, must warn you."

Miles got up. He seemed to tower above the table and dwarf the whole
room. "I'd rather not hear any more, Mrs. Trent, please. It seems too
beastly mean somehow for me to sit here and listen to scandal about a
poor little unprotected girl who works hard and faithfully--mind you,
I've seen her with those children, and she's perfectly wonderful. Don't
you see yourself how I can't _do_ it?"

Mrs. Trent sat on where she was and smiled at Miles, slowly shaking her
head. "Sit down, my dear boy. Your feelings do you credit; but we
mustn't be sentimental, and facts are facts. I have every reason to know
what I'm talking about, for some years ago Miss Morton was in my

Miles did not sit down. He stood where he was, glowering down at Mrs.

"That doesn't brand her, does it?" he asked.

Still smiling maternally at him, Mrs. Trent continued: "She left my
service when she ran away with Mr. Walter Brooke--you know him, I think?
Disgraceful though it was, I must say this of him, that he never made
any concealment of the fact that he was a married man. She did it with
her eyes open."

"If," Miles growled, "all this happened 'some years ago' she must have
been about twelve at the time, and Brooke ought to have been hounded out
of society long ago."

"I needn't say that _we_ have cut him ever since. She was, I believe,
about nineteen at the time. She did not remain with him, but you can
understand that, naturally, I don't want _you_ to get entangled with a
girl of that sort."

Miles picked up his hat and stick. "I wish you hadn't told me," he
groaned. "I don't think a bit less highly of her, but you've made _me_
feel such a low-down brute, I can't bear it. Good-bye--I've no doubt you
did it for the best ... but----" And Miles fairly ran from the room.

Mrs. Trent drummed with her fingers on the table and looked thoughtful.
"It was quite time somebody interfered," she reflected. And then she
remembered with annoyance that she had not found out the name of Meg's

Miles strode through Kensington Gore and past Knightsbridge, when he
turned down Sloane Street till he came to a fencing school he
frequented. Here he went in and had a strenuous half-hour with the
instructor, but nothing served to restore his peace of mind. He was
angry and hurt and horribly worried. If it was true, if the whole
miserable story was true, then he knew that something had been taken
from him. Something he had cherished in that dim, secret corner of his
heart. Its truth or untruth did not affect his feeling for Meg. But if
it were true, then he had irretrievably lost something intangible, yet
precious. Young men like Miles never mention ideals, but that's not to
say that in some very hidden place they don't exist, like buried

All the shrewd Yorkshire strain in him shouted that he must set this
doubt at rest. That whatever was to be his action in the future he must
know and face the truth. All the delicacy, the fine feeling, the
sensitiveness he got from his mother, made him loathe any investigation
of the kind, and his racial instincts battled together and made him very
miserable indeed.

When he left the fencing school, he turned into Hyde Park. The Row was
beginning to fill, and suddenly he came upon his second cousin, Lady
Penelope Pottinger, sitting all alone on a green chair with another
empty one beside it. Miles dropped into the empty chair. He liked Lady
Pen. She was always downright and sometimes very amusing. Moreover she
took an intelligent interest in dogs, and knew Amber Guiting and its
inhabitants. So Miles dexterously led the conversation round to Jan and
Wren's End.

Lady Pen was looking very beautiful that afternoon. She wore a
broad-leaved hat which did not wholly conceal her glorious hair. Hair
the same colour as certain short feathery rings that framed a pale,
pathetic little face that haunted him.

"Talking of Amber Guiting," he said, "did you ever come across a Miss
Morton down there? A friend of Miss Ross."

Lady Pen turned and looked hard at him. "Oh dear, yes; she's rather a
pal of mine. I knew her long before I met her at the Ross's. Why, I knew
her when she was companion at the Trents, poor little devil."

"Did she have a bad time there? Weren't they nice to her?"

"At first they were nice enough, but afterwards it was rotten. Clever
little thing she is, but poor as a rat. What do you know about her?"

Again Lady Pen looked hard at Miles. She was wondering whether Meg had
ever given away the reason for that short hair of hers.

"Oh, I've met her just casually, you know, with Miss Ross. She strikes
me as a ... rather unusual sort of girl."

"Ever mention me?"

"No, never that I can remember. I haven't seen much of her, you know."

"Well, my son, the less you see of her the better, for her, I should
say. She's a clever, industrious, good little thing, but she's not in
your row. After all, these workin' girls have their feelin's."

"I don't fancy Miss Morton is at all the susceptible idiot you appear
to think her. It's other people's feelings I should be afraid of, not

"Oh, I grant you she's attractive enough to some folks. Artists, for
instance, rave over her. At least, Anthony Ross did. Queer chap, that;
would never paint me. Now can you understand any man in his senses
refusin' to paint me?"

"It seems odd, certainly."

"He painted her, for nothin' of course, over an' over again ... just
because he liked doin' it. Odd chap he was, but very takin'. You
couldn't dislike him, even when he refused to paint you. Awful swank
though, wasn't it?"

"Were his pictures of Miss Morton--sold?"

"Some were, I believe; but Janet Ross has got a lot of 'em down at
Wren's End. She always puts away most of her father's paintin's when she
lets the house. But you take my advice, Miley, my son: you keep clear of
that little girl."

This was on Thursday, and, of course, after two warnings in one
afternoon, Miles went down to Amber Guiting on Saturday night.

"Aunt Mary, it's such a lovely morning, should you mind very much if I
go for a stroll in the woods--or slack about in the fresh air, instead
of going to church?"

At the word "stroll" he had seen an interested expression lighten up
Squire Walcote's face, and the last thing he wanted was his uncle's
society for the whole morning.

"I don't feel up to much exercise," Miles went on, trying to look
exhausted and failing egregiously. "I've had rather a hard week in town.
I'll give the vicar a turn in the evening, I will truly."

Lady Mary smiled indulgently on this large young man, who certainly
looked far from delicate. But only a hard-hearted woman could have
pointed this out at such a moment, and where her nephew was concerned
Lady Mary's heart was all kindly affection. So she let him off church.

Miles carried out a pile of books to a seat in the garden and appeared
to be settled down to a studious morning. He waved a languid hand to his
aunt and uncle as they started for church, and the moment they were out
of sight laid down his book and clasped his hands behind his head.

The vicar of Amber Guiting was a family man and merciful. The school
children all creaked and pattered out of church after morning prayer,
and any other small people in the congregation were encouraged to do
likewise, the well-filled vicarage pew setting the example. Therefore,
Miles reckoned, that even supposing Miss Morton took the little boy to
church (he couldn't conceive of anyone having the temerity to escort
little Fay thither), they would come out in about three-quarters of an
hour after the bell stopped. But he had no intention of waiting for
that. The moment the bell ceased he--unaccompanied by any of the dogs
grouped about him at that moment--was going to investigate the Wren's
End garden. He knew every corner of it, and he intended to unearth Meg
and the children if they were to be found.

Besides, he ardently desired to see William.

William was a lawful pretext. No one could see anything odd in his
calling at Wren's End to see William. It was a perfectly natural thing
to do.

Confound Mrs. Trent.

Confound Pen, what did she want to interfere for?

Confound that bell. Would it never stop?

Yes it had. No it hadn't. Yes ... it had.

Give a few more minutes for laggards, and then----

Three melancholy and disappointed dogs were left in the Manor Garden,
while Miles swung down the drive, past the church, and into the road
that led to Wren's End.

What a morning it was!

The whole world seemed to have put on its Sunday frock. There had been
rain in the night, and the air was full of the delicious fresh-washed
smell of spring herbage. Wren's End seemed wonderfully quiet and
deserted as Miles turned into the drive. As he neared the house he
paused and listened, but there was no sound of high little voices

Were they at church, then?

They couldn't be indoors on such a beautiful day.

Miles whistled softly, knowing that if William were anywhere within
hearing, that would bring him at the double.

But no joyfully galumphing William appeared to welcome him.

He had no intention of ringing to inquire. No, he'd take a good look
round first, before he went back to hang about outside the church.

It was pleasant in the Wren's End garden.

Presently he went down the broad central path of the walled garden, with
borders of flowers and beds of vegetables. Half-way down, in the
sunniest, warmest place, he came upon a hammock slung between an
apple-tree not quite out and a pear-tree that was nearly over, and a
voice from the hammock called sleepily: "Is that you, Earley? I wish
you'd pick up my cigarette case for me; it's fallen into the lavender
bush just below."

"Yes, Miss," a voice answered that was certainly not Earley's.

Meg leaned out of the hammock to look behind her.

"Hullo!" she said. "Why are you not in church? I can't get up because
I'm a prisoner on _parole_. Short of a thunderstorm nothing is to move
me from this hammock till Miss Ross comes back."

Miles stood in the pathway looking down at the muffled figure in the
hammock. There was little to be seen of Meg save her rumpled, hatless
head. She was much too economical of her precious caps to waste one in a
hammock. She had slept for nearly two hours, then Hannah roused her with
a cup of soup. She was drowsy and warm and comfortable, and her usually
pale cheeks were almost as pink as the apple-blossom buds above her

"Do you want to sleep? Or may I stop and talk to you a bit?" Miles
asked, when he had found the somewhat battered cigarette case and
restored it to her.

"As I'm very plainly off duty, I suppose you may stay and talk--if I
fall asleep in the middle you must not be offended. You'll find plenty
of chairs in the tool house."

When Miles returned Meg had lit her cigarette, and he begged a light
from her.

What little hands she had! How fine-grained and delicate her skin!

Again he felt that queer lump in his throat at the absurd, sweet pathos
of her.

He placed his chair where he had her full in view, not too near, yet
comfortably so for conversation. Jan had swung the hammock very high,
and Meg looked down at Miles over the edge.

"It is unusual," she said, "to find a competent nurse spending her
morning in this fashion, but if you know Miss Ross at all, you will
already have realised that under her placid exterior she has a will of

"I shouldn't say _you_ were lacking in determination."

"Oh, I'm nothing to Jan. _She_ exerts physical force. Look at me perched
up here! How can I get down without a bad fall, swathed like a mummy in
wraps; while my employer does my work?"

"But you don't want to get down. You look awfully comfortable."

"I am awfully comfortable--but it's most ... unprofessional--please
don't tell anybody else."

Meg closed her eyes, looking rather like a sleepy kitten, and Miles
watched her in silence with a pain at his heart. Something kept saying
over and over again: "Six years ago that girl there ran off with Walter
Brooke. Six years ago that apparently level-headed, sensible little
person was dazzled by the pinchbeck graces of that epicure in
sensations." Miles fully granted his charm, his gentle melancholy, his
caressing manner; but with it all Miles felt that he was so plainly "a
wrong-'un," so clearly second-rate and untrustworthy--and a nice girl
ought to recognise these things intuitively.

Miles looked very sad and grave, and Meg, suddenly opening her eyes,
found him regarding her with this incomprehensible expression.

"You are not exactly talkative," she said.

"I thought, perhaps, you wanted to rest, and would rather not talk.
Maybe I'm a bit of a bore, and you'd rather I went away?"

"You have not yet asked after William."

"I hoped to find William, but he's nowhere to be seen."

"He's with Jan and the children. I think"--here Meg lifted her curly
head over the edge of the hammock--"he is the very darlingest animal in
the world. I love William."

"You do! I knew you would."

"I do. He's so faithful and kind and understanding."

"Has he been quite good?"

"Well ... once or twice he may have been a little--destructive--but you
expect that with children."

"I hope you punish him."

"Jan does. Jan has a most effectual slap, but there's always a dreadful
disturbance with the children on these occasions. Little Fay roars the
house down when William has to be chastised."

"What has he done?"

"I'm not going to tell tales of William."

Miles and Meg smiled at one another, and Walter Brooke faded from his

"Perhaps," he said, and paused, "you will by and by allow to William's
late master a small portion of that regard?"

"If William's master on further acquaintance proves half as loyal and
trustworthy as William--I couldn't help it."

"I wonder what you mean exactly by loyal and trustworthy?"

"They're not very elastic terms, are they?"

"Don't you think they mean rather the same thing?"

"Not a bit," Meg cried eagerly; "a person might be ever so trustworthy
and yet not loyal. I take it that trustworthy and honest in tangible
things are much the same. Loyalty is something intangible, and often
means belief in people when everything seems against them. It's a much
rarer quality than to be trustworthy. William would stick to one if one
hadn't a crust, just because he liked to be there to make things a bit
less wretched."

Miles smoked in silence for a minute, and again Meg closed her eyes.

"By the way," he said presently, "I didn't know you and my cousin Pen
were friends. I met her in the Park the day before yesterday. Her hair's
rather the same colour as yours--handsome woman, isn't she?"

Meg opened her eyes and turned crimson. Had the outspoken Lady Pen said
anything about her hair, she wondered.

Miles, noting the sudden blush, put it down to Lady Pen's knowledge of
what had happened at the Trents, and the miserable feelings of doubt and
apprehension came surging back.

"She's quite lovely," said Meg.

"A bit too much on the big side, don't you think?"

"I admire big women."

Silence fell again. Meg pulled the rug up under her chin.

Surely it was not quite so warm as a few minutes ago.

Miles stood up. "I have a guilty feeling that Miss Ross will strongly
disapprove of my disturbing you like this. If you will tell me which way
they have gone I will go and meet them."

"They've gone to your uncle's woods, and I think they must be on their
way home by now. If you call William he'll answer."

"I won't say good-bye," said Miles, "because I shall come back with

"I shall be on duty then," said Meg. "Good-bye."

She turned her face from him and nestled down among her cushions. For a
full minute he stood staring at the back of her head, with its crushed
and tumbled tangle of short curls.

Then quite silently he took his way out of the Wren's End garden.

Meg shut her eyes very tight. Was it the light that made them smart so?



Squire Walcote had given the Wren's End family the run of his woods,
and, what was even more precious, permission to use the river-path
through his grounds. Lady Mary, who had no children of her own, was
immensely interested in Tony and little Fay, and would give Jan more
advice as to their management in an hour than the vicar's wife ever
offered during the whole of their acquaintance. But then _she_ had a
family of eight.

But the first time Tony went to the river Jan took him alone; and not to
the near water in Squire Walcote's grounds, but to the old bridge that
crossed the Amber some way out of the village. It was the typical
Cotswold bridge, with low parapets that make such a comfortable seat for
meditative villagers. Just before they reached it she loosed Tony's
hand, and held her breath to see what he would do. Would he run straight
across to get to the other side, or would he look over?

Yes. He went straight to the low wall; stopped, looked over, leaned
over, and stared and stared.

Jan gave a sigh of relief.

The water of the Amber just there is deep and clear, an infinite thing
for a child to look down into; but it was not of that Jan was thinking.

Hugo was no fisherman. Water had no attraction for him, save as a
pleasant means of taking exercise. He was a fair oar; but for a stream
that wouldn't float a boat he cared nothing at all.

Charles Considine Smith had angled diligently. In fact, he wrote almost
as much about the habits of trout as about wrens. James Ross, the
gallant who carried off the second Tranquil, had been fishing at Amber
Guiting when he first saw her. Anthony's father fished and so did
Anthony; and Jan, herself, could throw a fly quite prettily. Yet, your
true fisherman is born, not made; it is not a question of environment,
but it is, very often, one of heredity; for the tendency comes out when,
apparently, every adverse circumstance has combined to crush it.

And no mortal who cares for or is going to care for fishing can ever
cross a bridge without stopping to look down into the water.

"There's a fish swimming down there," Tony whispered (was it instinct
made him whisper? Jan wondered), "brown and speckledy, rather like the
thrushes in the garden."

Jan clutched nervously at the little coat while Tony hung over so far
that only his toes were on the ground. She had brought a bit of bread in
her pocket, and let him throw bits to the greedy, wily old trout who had
defied a hundred skilful rods. On that first day old Amber whispered her
secret to Tony and secured another slave.

For Jan it was only another proof that Tony possessed a sterling
character. Since her sister's disastrous marriage she had come to look
upon a taste for fishing as more or less of a moral safeguard. She had
often reflected that if only Fay had not been so lukewarm with regard to
the gentle craft--and so bored in a heavenly place where, if it did rain
for twenty-three of the twenty-four hours, even a second-rate rod might
land fourteen or fifteen pounds of good sea-trout in an afternoon--she
could never have fallen in love with Hugo Tancred, who was equally
without enthusiasm and equally bored till he met Fay. Jan was ready
enough now to blame herself for her absorption at this time, and would
remember guiltily the relief with which she and her father greeted Fay's
sudden willingness to remain a week longer in a place she previously had
declared to be absolutely unendurable.

The first time Tony's sister went to Amber Bridge Meg took them both.
Little Fay descended from her pram just before they reached it,
declaring it was a "nice dly place to walk." She ran on a little ahead,
and before Meg realised what she was doing, she had scrambled up on to
the top of the low wall and run briskly along it till her progress was
stopped by a man who was leaning over immersed in thought. He nearly
fell in himself, when a clear little voice inquired, "Do loo mind if I
climb over loo?"

It was Farmer Burgess, and he clasped the tripping lady of the white
woolly gaiters in a pair of strong arms, and lifted her down just as the
terrified Meg reached them.

"Law, Missie!" gasped Mr. Burgess, "you mustn't do the like o' that
there. It's downright fool'ardy."

"Downlight foolardy," echoed little Fay. "And what nelse?"

According to Mr. Burgess it was dangerous and a great many other things
as well, but he lost his heart to her in that moment, and she could
twist him round her little finger ever after.

To be told that a thing was dangerous was to add to its attractions. She
was absolutely without fear, and could climb like a kitten. She hadn't
been at Wren's End a week before she was discovered half-way up the
staircase on the outside of the banisters. And when she had been caught
and lifted over by a white-faced aunt, explained that it was "muts the
most instasting way of going up tairs."

When asked how she expected to get to the other side at the top, she
giggled derisively and said "ovel."

Jan seriously considered a barbed-wire entanglement for the outside edge
of her staircase after that.

While Meg rested in the hammock Jan spent a strenuous morning in Guiting
Woods with the children and William. Late windflowers were still in
bloom, and early bluebells made lovely atmospheric patches under the
trees, just as though a bit of the sky had fallen, as in the oft-told
tale of "Cockie Lockie." There were primroses, too, and white violets,
so that there were many little bunches with exceedingly short stalks to
be arranged and tied up with the worsted provident Auntie Jan had
brought with her; finally they all sat down on a rug lined with
mackintosh, and little Fay demanded "Clipture."

"Clipture" was her form of "Scripture," which Auntie Jan "told" every
morning after breakfast to the children. Jan was a satisfactory
narrator, for the form of her stories never varied. The Bible stories
she told in the actual Bible words, and all children appreciate their
dramatic simplicity and directness.

That morning Joseph and his early adventures and the baby Moses were the
favourites, and when these had been followed by "The Three Bears" and
"Cock Robin," it was time to collect the bouquets and go home. And on
the way home they met Captain Middleton. William spied him afar off, and
dashed towards him with joyful, deep-toned barks. He was delighted to
see William, said he had grown and was in the pink of condition; and
then announced that he had already been to Wren's End and had seen Miss
Morton. There was something in the tone of this avowal that made Jan
think. It was shy, it was proud, it seemed to challenge Jan to find any
fault in his having done so, and it was supremely self-conscious. He
walked back with them to the Wren's End gate, and then came a moment of
trial for William.

He wanted to go with his master.

He wanted to stay with the children.

Captain Middleton settled it by shaking each offered paw and saying very
seriously: "You must stay and take care of the ladies, William. I trust
you." William looked wistfully after the tall figure that went down the
road with the queer, light, jumpetty tread of all men who ride much.

Then he trotted after Jan and the children and was exuberantly glad to
see Meg again.

She declared herself quite rested; heard that they had seen Captain
Middleton, and met unmoved the statement that he was coming to tea.

But she didn't look nearly so well rested as Jan had hoped she would.

After the children's dinner Meg went on duty, and Jan saw no more of the
nursery party till later in the afternoon. The creaking wheels of two
small wheelbarrows made Jan look up from the letters she was writing at
the knee-hole table that stood in the nursery window, and she beheld
little Fay and Tony, followed by Meg knitting busily, as they came
through the yew archway on to the lawn.

Meg subsided into one of the white seats, but the children processed
solemnly round, pausing under Jan's window.

"I know lots an' lots of Clipture," her niece's voice proclaimed proudly
as she sat down heavily in her wheelbarrow on the top of some garden
produce she had collected.

"How much do you know?" Tony asked sceptically.

"Oh, lots an' lots, all about poor little Jophez in the bullushes, and
his instasting dleams."

"Twasn't Jophez," Tony corrected. "It was Mophez in the bulrushes, and
he didn't have no dreams. That was Jophez."

"How d'you know," Fay persisted, "that poor little Mophez had no dleams?
Why _shouldn't_ he have dleams same as Jophez?"

"It doesn't say so."

"It doesn't say he _didn't_ have dleams. He _had_ dleams, I tell you; I
know he had. Muts nicer dleams van Jophez."

"Let's ask Meg; she'll know."

Jan gave a sigh of relief. The children had not noticed her, and Meg had
a fertile mind.

The wheelbarrows were trundled across the lawn and paused in front of
Meg, while a lively duet demanded simultaneously:

  {"_Did_ little Mophez have dleams?"
  {"_Didn't_ deah littoo Mophez have dleams?"

When Meg had disentangled the questions and each child sat down in a
wheelbarrow at her feet, she remarked judicially: "Well, there's nothing
said about little Moses' dreams, certainly; but I should think it's
quite likely the poor baby did have dreams."

"What sort of dleams? Nicer van sheaves and sings, wasn't they?"

"I should think," Meg said thoughtfully, "that he dreamed he must cry
very quietly lest the Egyptians should hear him."

"Deah littoo Mophez ... and what nelse?"

Meg was tempted and fell. It was very easy for her to invent "dleams"
for "deah littoo Mophez" lying in his bulrush ark among the flags at the
river's edge. And, wholly regardless of geography, she transported him
to the Amber, where the flags were almost in bloom at that moment, such
local colour adding much to the realism of her stories.

Presently William grew restless. He ran to Anthony's Venetian gate in
the yew hedge and squealed (William never whined) to get out. Tony let
him out, and he fled down the drive to meet his master, who had come a
good half-hour too soon for tea.

Jan continued to try and finish her letters while Captain Middleton,
coatless, on all-fours, enacted an elephant which the children rode in
turn. When he had completely ruined the knees of his trousers he arose
and declared it was time to play "Here we go round the mulberry-bush,"
and it so happened that once or twice he played it hand-in-hand with

Jan left her letters and went out.

The situation puzzled her. She feared for Meg's peace of mind, for
Captain Middleton was undoubtedly attractive; and then she found herself
fearing for his.

After tea and more games with the children Captain Middleton escorted
his hostess to church, where he joined his aunt in the Manor seat.

During church Jan found herself wondering uneasily:

"Was everybody going to fall in love with Meg?"

"Would Peter?"

"What a disagreeable idea!"

And yet, why should it be?

Resolutely she told herself that Peter was at perfect liberty to fall
in love with Meg if he liked, and set herself to listen intelligently to
the Vicar's sermon.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meg started to put her children to bed, only to find that her fertility
of imagination in the afternoon was to prove her undoing in the evening;
for her memory was by no means as reliable as her powers of invention.

Little Fay urgently demanded the whole cycle of little Mophez' dleams
over again. And for the life of her Meg couldn't remember them either in
their proper substance or sequence--and this in spite of the most
persistent prompting, and she failed utterly to reproduce the
entertainment of the afternoon. Both children were disappointed, but
little Fay, accustomed as she was to Auntie Jan's undeviating method of
narrating "Clipture," was angry as well. She fell into a passion of rage
and nearly screamed the house down. Since the night of Ayah's departure
there had not been such a scene.

Poor Meg vowed (though she knew she would break her vow the very first
time she was tempted) that never again would she tamper with Holy Writ,
and for some weeks she coldly avoided both Jophez and Mophez as topics
of conversation.

Meg could never resist playing at things, and what "Clipture" the
children learned from Jan in the morning they insisted on enacting with
Meg later in the day.

Sometimes she was seized with misgiving as to the propriety of these
representations, but dismissed her doubts as cowardly.

"After all," she explained to Jan, "we only play the very human bits. I
never let them pretend to be anybody divine ... and you know the
people--in the Old Testament, anyway--were most of them extremely human,
not to say disreputable at times."

It is possible that "Clipture's" supreme attraction for the children was
that it conveyed the atmosphere of the familiar East. The New Testament
was more difficult to play at, but, being equally dramatic, the children
couldn't see it.

"Can't we do one teeny miracle?" Tony would beseech, but Meg was firm;
she would have nothing to do with either miracles nor yet with angels.
Little Fay ardently desired to be an angel, but Meg wouldn't have it at
any price.

"You're not in the least _like_ an angel, you know," she said severely.

"What for?"

"Because angels are _perfectly_ good."

"I could _pletend_ to be puffectly good."

"Let's play Johnny Baptist," suggested the ever-helpful Tony, "and we
could pittend to bring in his head on a charger."

"Certainly not," Meg said hastily. "That would be a horrid game."

"Let me be the daughter!" little Fay implored, "and dance in flont of

This was permitted, and Tony, decorated with William's chain, sat
gloomily scowling at the gyrations of "the daughter," who, assisted by
William, danced all over the nursery: and Meg, watching the
representation, decided that if the original "daughter" was half as
bewitching as this one, there really might have been some faint excuse
for Herod.

Hannah had no idea of these goings-on, or she would have expected the
roof to fall in and crush them. Yet she, too, was included among the
children's prophets, owing to her exact and thorough knowledge of
"Clipture." Hannah's favourite part of the Bible was the Book of Daniel,
which she knew practically by heart; and her rendering of certain
chapters was--though she would have hotly resented the phrase--extremely

It is so safe and satisfying to know that your favourite story will run
smoothly, clause for clause, and word for word, just as you like it
best, and the children were always sure of this with Hannah.

Anne Chitt would listen open-mouthed in astonishment, exclaiming
afterwards, "Why, 'Annah, wot a tremenjous lot of Bible verses you 'ave
learned to be sure."

The children once tried Anne Chitt as a storyteller, but she was a

As she had been present at several of Hannah's recitals of the Three
Children and the burning fiery furnace, they thought it but a modest
demand upon her powers. But when--instead of beginning with the sonorous
"_Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations
and languages_"--when she wholly omitted any reference to "_the sound of
cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer_, and all kinds of
musick"--and essayed to tell the story in broad Gloucestershire and her
own bald words, the disappointed children fell upon her and thumped her
rudely upon the back; declaring her story to be "_kutcha_" and she,
herself, a _budmash_. Which, being interpreted, meant that her story was
most badly made and that she, herself, was a rascal.

Anne Chitt was much offended, and complained tearfully to Jan that she
"wouldn't 'ave said nothin' if they'd called 'er or'nery names, but them
there Injian words was more than she could abear."



Among the neighbours there was none more assiduous in the matter of
calls and other friendly manifestations than Mr. Huntly
Withells--emphasis on the "ells"--who lived at Guiting Grange, about a
couple of miles from Wren's End. Mr. Withells was settled at the Grange
some years before Miss Janet Ross left her house to Jan, and he was
already a person of importance and influence in that part of the county
when Anthony Ross and his daughters first spent a whole summer there.

Mr. Withells proved most neighbourly. He had artistic leanings himself,
and possessed some good pictures; among them, one of Anthony's, which
naturally proved a bond of union. He did not even so much as sketch,
himself--which Anthony considered another point in his favour--but he
was a really skilled photographer, possessed the most elaborate cameras,
and obtained quite beautiful results.

Since Jan's return from India he had completely won her heart by taking
a great many photographs of the children, pictures delightfully natural,
and finished as few amateurs contrive to present them.

It was rumoured in Amber Guiting that Mr. Withells' views on the
subject of matrimony were "peculiar"; but all the ladies, especially the
elderly ladies, were unanimous in declaring that he had a "beautiful

Mrs. Fream, the vicar's wife, timidly confided to Jan that Mr. Withells
had told her husband that he cared only for "spiritual marriage"--
whatever that might be; and that, as yet, he had met no woman whom he
felt would see eye to eye with him on this question. "He doesn't approve
of caresses," she added.

"Well, who wants to caress him?" Jan asked bluntly.

Meg declared there was one thing she could not bear about Mr. Withells,
and that was the way he shook hands, "exactly as if he had no thumbs. If
he's so afraid of touching one as all that comes to, why doesn't he let
it alone?"

Yet the apparently thumbless hands were constantly occupied in bearing
gifts of all kinds to his friends.

In appearance he was dapper, smallish, without being undersized, always
immaculately neat in his attire, with a clean-shaven, serious, rather
sallow face, which was inclined to be chubby as to the cheeks. He wore
double-sighted pince-nez, and no mortal had ever seen him without them.
His favourite writer was Miss Jane Austen, and he deplored the
licentious tendency of so much modern literature; frequently, and with
flushed countenance, denouncing certain books as an "outrage." He was
considered a very well-read man. He disliked anything that was "not
quite nice," and detested a strong light, whether it were thrown upon
life or landscape; in bright sunshine he always carried a white umbrella
lined with green. The game he played best was croquet, and here he was
really first class; but he was also skilled in every known form of
Patience, and played each evening unless he happened to be dining out.

As regards food he was something of a faddist, and on the subject of
fresh air almost a monomaniac. He declared that he could not exist for
ten minutes in a room with closed windows, and that the smell of apples
made him feel positively faint; moreover, he would mention his somewhat
numerous antipathies as though there were something peculiarly
meritorious in possessing so many. This made his entertainment at any
meal a matter of agitated consideration among the ladies of Amber

Nevertheless, he kept an excellent and hospitable table himself, and in
no way forced his own taste upon others. He disliked the smell of
tobacco and hardly ever drank wine, yet he kept a stock of excellent
cigars and his cellar was beyond reproach.

He had been observing Jan for several years, and was rapidly coming to
the conclusion that she was an "eminently sensible woman." Her grey hair
and the way she had managed everything for her father led him to believe
that she was many years older than her real age. Recently he had taken
to come to Wren's End on one pretext and another almost every day. He
was kind and pleasant to the children, who amused and pleased
him--especially little Fay; but he was much puzzled by Meg, whom he had
known in pre-cap-and-apron days while she was staying at Wren's End.

He couldn't quite place Meg, and there was an occasional glint in her
queer eyes that he found disconcerting. He was never comfortable in her
society, for he objected to red hair almost as strongly as to a smell of

He really liked the children, and since he knew he couldn't get Jan
without them he was beginning to think that in such a big house as the
Grange they would not necessarily be much in the way. He knew nothing
whatever about Hugo Tancred.

Jan satisfied his fastidious requirements. She was dignified, graceful,
and, he considered, of admirable parts. He felt that in a very little
while he could imbue Jan with his own views as to the limitations and
delicate demarcations of such a marriage as he contemplated.

She was so sensible.

Meanwhile the object of these kind intentions was wholly unaware of
them. She was just then very much absorbed in her own affairs and
considerably worried about Meg's. For Captain Middleton's week-end was
repeated on the following Saturday and extended far into the next week.
He came constantly to Wren's End, where the children positively adored
him, and he seemed to possess an infallible instinct which led him to
the village whensoever Meg and her charges had business there.

On such occasions Meg was often quite rude to Captain Middleton, but the
children and William more than atoned for her coldness by the warmth of
their welcome, and he attached himself to them.

In fact, as regards the nursery party at Wren's End, Miles strongly
resembled William before a fire--you might drive him away ninety and
nine times, he always came thrusting back with the same expression of
deprecating astonishment that you could be other than delighted to see

Whither was it all tending? Jan wondered.

No further news had come from Hugo; Peter, she supposed, had sailed and
was due in London at the end of the week.

Then Mr. Huntly Withells asked her one afternoon to bicycle over to see
his spring irises--he called them "_irides_," and invariably spoke of
"_croci_," and "_delphinia_"--and as Meg was taking the children to tea
at the vicarage, Jan went.

To her surprise, she found herself the sole guest, but supposed she was
rather early and that his other friends hadn't come yet.

They strolled about the gardens, so lovely in their spring blossoming,
and it happened that from one particular place they got a specially good
view of the house.

"How much larger it is than you would think, looking at the front," Jan
remarked. "You don't see that wing at all from the drive."

"There's plenty of room for nephews and nieces," Mr. Withells said

"Have you many nephews and nieces?" she asked, turning to look at him,
for there was something in the tone of his voice that she could not

"Not of my own," he replied, still in that queer, unnatural voice, "but
you see my wife might have ... if I was married."

"Are you thinking of getting married?" she asked, with the real interest
such a subject always rouses in woman.

"That depends," Mr. Withells said consciously, "on whether the lady I
have in mind ... er ... shall we sit down, Miss Ross? It's rather hot in
the walks."

"Oh, not yet," Jan exclaimed. She couldn't think why, but she began to
feel uncomfortable. "I must see those Darwin tulips over there."

"It's very sunny over there," he objected. "Come down the nut-walk and
see the _myosotis arvensis_; it is already in bloom, the weather has
been so warm.

"Miss Ross," Mr. Withells continued seriously, as they turned into the
nut-walk which led back towards the house, "we have known each other for
a considerable time...."

"We have," said Jan, as he had paused, evidently expecting a reply.

"And I have come to have a great regard for you...."

Again he paused, and Jan found herself silently whispering, "Curtsy
while you're thinking--it saves time," but she preserved an outward

"You are, if I may say so, the most sensible woman of my acquaintance."

"Thank you," said Jan, but without enthusiasm.

"We are neither of us quite young"--(Mr. Withells was forty-nine, but it
was a little hard on Jan)--"and I feel sure that you, for instance,
would not expect or desire from a husband those constant outward
demonstrations of affection such as handclaspings and kisses, which are
so foolish and insanitary."

Jan turned extremely red and walked rather faster.

"Do not misunderstand me, Miss Ross," Mr. Withells continued, looking
with real admiration at her downcast, rosy face--she must be quite
healthy he thought, to look so clean and fresh always--"I lay down no
hard-and-fast rules. I do not say should my wife desire to kiss me
sometimes, that I should ... repulse her."

Jan gasped.

"But I have the greatest objection, both on sanitary and moral grounds

"I can't imagine anyone _wanting_ to kiss you," Jan interrupted
furiously; "you're far too puffy and stippled."

And she ran from him as though an angry bull were after her.

Mr. Withells stood stock-still where he was, in pained astonishment.

He saw the fleeing fair one disappear into the distance and in the
shortest time on record he heard the clanging of her bicycle bell as she
scorched down his drive.

"Puffy and stippled"--"Puffy and stippled"!

Mr. Withells repeated to himself this rudely personal remark as he
walked slowly towards the house.

What could she mean?

And what in the world had he said to make her so angry?

Women were really most unaccountable.

He ascended his handsome staircase and went into his dressing-room, and
there he sought his looking-glass, which stood in the window, and
surveyed himself critically. Yes, his cheeks _were_ a bit puffy near the
nostrils, and, as is generally the case in later life, the pores of the
skin were a bit enlarged, but for all that he was quite a personable

He sighed. Miss Ross, he feared, was not nearly so sensible as he had

It was distinctly disappointing.

       *       *       *       *       *

For the first mile and a quarter Jan scorched all she knew. The angry
blood was thumping in her ears and she exclaimed indignantly at
intervals, "How dared he! How dared he!"

Then she punctured a tyre.

There was no hope of getting it mended till she reached Wren's End, when
Earley would do it for her. As she pushed her bicycle along the lane she
recovered her sense of humour and she laughed. And presently she became
aware of a faint, sweet, elusive perfume from some flowering shrub on
the other side of somebody's garden wall.

It strongly resembled the smell of a blossoming tree that grew on Ridge
Road, Malabar Hill. And in one second Jan was in Bombay, and was
standing in the moonlight, looking up into a face that was neither puffy
nor stippled nor prim; but young and thin and worn and very kind. And
the exquisite understanding of that moment came back to her, and her
eyes filled with tears.

Yet in another moment she was again demanding indignantly, "How dared

She went straight to her room when she got in, and, like Mr. Withells,
she went and looked at herself in the glass.

Unlike Mr. Withells, she saw nothing there to give her any satisfaction.
She shook her head at the person in the glass and said aloud:

"If that's all you get by trying to be sensible, the sooner you become a
drivelling idiot the better for your peace of mind--and your vanity."

The person in the glass shook her head back at Jan, and Jan turned away
thoroughly disgusted with such a futile sort of _tu quoque_.



Meg and the children, returning from their tea-party at the vicarage,
were stopped continually in their journey through the main street by
friendly folk who wanted to greet the children. It was quite a triumphal
progress, and Meg was feeling particularly proud that afternoon, for her
charges, including William, had all behaved beautifully. Little Fay had
refrained from snatching other children's belongings with the cool
remark, "Plitty little Fay would like 'at"; Tony had been quite merry
and approachable; and William had offered paws and submitted to
continual pullings, pushings and draggings with exemplary patience.

Once through the friendly, dignified old street, they reached the main
road, which was bordered by rough grass sloping to a ditch surmounted by
a thick thorn hedge. They were rather late, and Meg was wheeling little
Fay as fast as she could, Tony trotting beside her to keep up, when a
motor horn was sounded behind them and a large car came along at a good
speed. They were all well to the side of the road, but William--with the
perverse stupidity of the young dog--above all, of the young
bull-terrier--chose that precise moment to gambol aimlessly right into
the path of the swiftly-coming motor, just as it seemed right upon him;
and this, regardless of terrified shouts from Meg and the children,
frantic sounding of the horn and violent language from the driver of the

It seemed that destruction must inevitably overtake William when the car
swerved violently as the man ran it down the sloping bank, where it
stuck, leaving William, unscathed and rather alarmed by all the clamour,
to run back to his family.

Meg promptly whacked him as hard as she could, whereupon, much
surprised, he turned over on his back, waving four paws feebly in the

"Why don't you keep your dog at the side?" the man shouted with very
natural irritation as he descended from his seat.

"He's a naughty--stupid--puppy," Meg ejaculated between the whacks. "It
wasn't your fault in the least, and it was awfully good of you to avoid

The man started a little as she spoke and came across the road towards

Meg raised a flushed face from her castigation of William, but the
pretty colour faded quickly when she saw who the stranger was.

"Meg!" he exclaimed. "_You!_"

For a tense moment they stared at one another, while the children stared
at the stranger. He was certainly a handsome man; melancholy,
"interesting." Pale, with regular features and sleepy, smallish eyes set
very near together.

"If you knew how I have searched for you," he said.

His voice was his great charm, and would have made his fortune on the
stage. It could convey so much, could be so tender and beseeching, so
charged with deepest sadness, so musical always.

"Your search cannot have been very arduous," Meg answered drily. "There
has never been any mystery about my movements." And she looked him
straight in the face.

"At first, I was afraid ... I did not try to find you."

"You were well-advised."

"Who is 'at sahib?" little Fay interrupted impatiently. "Let us go
home." She had no use for any sahib who ignored her presence.

"Yes, we'd better be getting on," Meg said hurriedly, and seized the
handle of the pram.

But he stood right in their path.

"You were very cruel," the musical voice went on. "You never seemed to
give a thought to all _I_ was suffering."

Meg met the sleepy eyes, that used to thrill her very soul, with a look
of scornful amusement in hers that was certainly the very last
expression he had ever expected to see in them.

She had always dreaded this moment.

Realising the power this man had exercised over her, she always feared
that should she meet him again the old glamour would surround him; the
old domination be reasserted. She forgot that in five years one's
standards change.

Now that she did meet him she discovered that he held no bonds with
which to bind her. That what she had dreaded was a chimera. The real
Walter Brooke, the moment he appeared in the flesh, destroyed the image
memory had set up; and Meg straightened her slender shoulders as though
a heavy burden had dropped from them.

The whole thing passed like a flash.

"You were very cruel," he repeated.

"There is no use going into all that," Meg answered in a cheerful,
matter-of-fact tone. "Good-bye, Mr. Brooke. We are most grateful to you
for not running over William, who is," here she raised her voice for the
benefit of the culprit, "a naughty--tiresome dog."

"But you can't leave me like this. When can I see you again--there is so
much I want to explain...."

"But I don't want any explanations, thank you. Come children, we _must_

"Meg, listen ... surely you have some little feeling of kindness towards
me ... after all that happened...."

He put his hand on Meg's arm to detain her, and William, who had never
been known to show enmity to human creature, gave a deep growl and
bristled. A growl so ominous and threatening that Meg hastily loosed the
pram and caught him by the collar with both hands.

Tony saw that Meg was flustered and uncomfortable. "Why does he not go?"
he asked. "I thought he was a sahib, but I suppose he is the
gharri-wallah. We have thanked him--does he want backsheesh? Give him a

"He _does_ want backsheesh," the deep, musical voice went on--"a little
pity, a little common kindness."

It was an embarrassing situation. William was straining at his collar
and growling like an incipient thunderstorm.

"We have thanked you," Tony said again with dignity. "We have no money,
or we would reward you. If you like to call at the house, Auntie Jan
always has money."

The man smiled pleasantly at Tony.

"Thank you, young man. You have told me exactly what I wanted to know.
So you are with your friends?"

"I can't hold this dog much longer," Meg gasped. "If you don't
go--you'll get bitten."

William ceased to growl, for far down the road he had heard a footstep
that he knew. He still strained at his collar, but it was in a direction
that led away from Mr. Walter Brooke. Meg let go and William swung off
down the road.

"Shall we all have a lide in loo ghalli?" little Fay asked--it seemed to
her sheer waste of time to stand arguing in the road when a good car was
waiting empty. The children called every form of conveyance a "gharri."

"We shall meet again," said this persistent man. "You can't put me off
like this."

He raised his voice, for he was angry, and its clear tones carried far
down the quiet road.

"There's Captain Middleton with William," Tony said suddenly. "Perhaps
_he_ has some money."

Meg paled and crimsoned, and with hands that trembled started to push
the pram at a great pace.

The man went back to his car, and Tony, regardless of Meg's call to him,
ran to meet William and Miles.

The back wheels of the car had sunk deeply into the soft wet turf. It
refused to budge. Miles came up. He was long-sighted, and he had seen
very well who it was that was talking to Meg in the road. He had also
heard Mr. Brooke's last remark.

Till lately he had only known Walter Brooke enough to dislike him
vaguely. Since his interview with Mrs. Trent this feeling had
intensified to such an extent as surprised himself. At the present
moment he was seething with rage, but all the same he went and helped to
get the car up the bank, jacking it up, and setting his great shoulders
against it to start it again.

All this Tony watched with deepest interest, and Meg waited, fuming, a
little way down the road, for she knew it was hopeless to get Tony to
come till the car had once started. Once on the hard road again, it
bowled swiftly away and to her immense relief passed her without

She saw that Miles was bringing Tony, and started on again with little

Fury was in her heart at Tony's disobedience, and behind it all a dull
ache that Miles should have heard, and doubtless misunderstood, Walter
Brooke's last remark.

Tony was talking eagerly as he followed, but she was too upset to listen
till suddenly she heard Miles say in a tone of the deepest satisfaction,
"Good old William."

This was too much.

She stopped and called over her shoulder: "He isn't good at all; he's a
thoroughly tiresome, disobedient, badly-trained dog."

They came up with her at that, and William rolled over on his back, for
he knew those tones portended further punishment.

"He's an ass in lots of ways," Miles allowed, "but he is an excellent
judge of character."

And as if in proof of this William righted himself and came cringing to
Meg to try and lick the hand that a few minutes ago had thumped him so

Meg looked up at Miles and he looked down at her, and his gaze was
pained, kind and grave. _His_ eyes were large and well-opened and set
wide apart in his broad face. Honest, trustworthy eyes they were.

Very gently he took the little pram from her, for he saw that her hands
were trembling: "You've had a fright," he said. "I know what it is. I
had a favourite dog run over once. It's horrible, it takes months to get
over it. I can't think why dogs are so stupid about motors ... must have
been a near shave that ... very decent of Brooke--he's taken pounds off
his car with that wrench."

While Miles talked he didn't look at Meg.

"I say, little Fay," he suddenly suggested, "wouldn't you like to walk a
bit?" and he lifted her out. "There, that's better. Now, Miss Morton,
you sit down a minute; you've had a shake, you know. I'll go on with the

Meg was feeling a horrible, humiliating desire to cry. Her eyes were
bright with unshed tears, her knees refused to bear her. Thankfully she
sat down on the foot-board of Fay's little pram. The tall figure between
the two little ones suddenly grew blurred and dim. Furtively she blew
her nose and wiped her eyes. They were not a stone's throw from the
lodge at Wren's End.

How absurd to be sitting there!

And yet she didn't feel inclined to move just yet.

"'Ere, my dear, you take a sip o' water; the gentleman's told me all
about it. Them sort o' shocks fair turns one over."

And kind Mrs. Earley was beside her, holding out a thick tumbler. Meg
drank the deliciously cold water and arose refreshed.

And somehow the homely comfort of Mrs. Earley's presence made her
realise wherein lay the essential difference between these two men.

"He still treats me like a princess," she thought, "even though he
thinks ... Oh, what _can_ he think?" and Meg gave a little sob.

"There, there!" said Mrs. Earley, "don't you take on no more, Miss. The
dear dog bain't 'urted not a 'air of him. 'E cum frolicking in that
friendly--I sometimes wonders if there do be anyone as William 'ud ever
bite. 'E ain't much of a watchdog, I fear."

"He nearly bit someone this afternoon," Meg said.

"Well, I'm not sorry to yer it. It don't do for man nor beast to be too
trustful--not in this world it don't."

At the drive gate Miles was standing.

Mrs. Earley took the pram with her for Earley to clean, and Meg and
Miles walked on together.

"I'm sorry you've had this upset," he said. "I've talked to William like
a father."

"It wasn't only William," Meg murmured.

They were close to the house, and she stopped.

"Good night, Captain Middleton. I must go and put my children to bed;
we're late."

"I don't want to seem interfering, Miss Morton, but don't you let anyone
bully you into picking up an acquaintance you'd rather drop."

"I suppose," said Meg, "one always has to pay for the things one has

"Well, yes, sooner or later; but it's silly to pay Jew prices."

"Ah," said Meg, "you've never been poor enough to go to the Jews, so you
can't tell."

       *       *       *       *       *

Miles walked slowly back to Amber Guiting that warm May evening. He had
a good deal to think over, for he had come to a momentous decision. When
he thought of Meg as he had just seen her--small and tremulous and
tearful--he clenched his big hands and made a sound in his throat not
unlike William's growl. When he pictured her angry onslaught upon
William, he laughed. But the outcome of his reflections was this--that
whether in the past she had really done anything that put her in Walter
Brooke's power, or whether he was right to trust to that intangible
quality in her that seemed to give the direct lie to the worst of Mrs.
Trent's story, Meg appeared to him to stand in need of some hefty chap
as a buffer between her and the hard world, and he was very desirous of
being that same for Meg.

His grandfather, "Mutton-Pie Middleton," had married one of his own
waitresses for no other reason than that he found she was "the lass for
him"--and he might, so the Doncaster folk thought, have looked a good
deal higher for a wife, for he was a "warm" man at the time. Miles
strongly resembled his grandfather. He was somewhat ruefully aware that
in appearance there was but little of the Keills about him. He could
just remember the colossal old man who must have weighed over twenty
stone in his old age, and Miles, hitherto, had refused to buy a motor
for his own use because he knew that if he was to keep his figure he
must walk, and walk a lot.

Like his grandfather, he was now perfectly sure of himself; Meg "was the
lass for him"; but he was by no means equally sure of her. By some
infallible delicacy of instinct--and this he certainly did not get from
the Middletons--he knew that what the world would regard as a
magnificent match for Meg, might be the very circumstance that would
destroy his chance with her. The Middletons were all keenly alive to the
purchasing powers of money, and saw to it that they got their money's

All the same, a man's a man, whether he be rich or poor, and Miles still
remembered the way Meg had smiled upon him the first time they ever met.
Surely she could never have smiled at him like that unless she had
rather liked him.

It was the pathos of Meg herself--not the fact that she had to
work--that appealed to Miles. That she should cheerfully earn her own
living instead of grousing in idleness in a meagre home seemed to him
merely a matter of common sense. He knew that if he had to do it he
could earn his, and the one thing he could neither tolerate nor
understand about a good many of his Keills relations was their
preference for any form of assistance to honest work. He helped them
generously enough, but in his heart of hearts he despised them, though
he did not confess this even to himself.

As he drew near the Manor House he saw Lady Mary walking up and down
outside, evidently waiting for him.

"Where have you been, Miles?" she asked, impatiently. "Pen has been
here, and wanted specially to see you, but she couldn't stay any longer,
as it's such a long run back. She motored over from Malmesbury."

"What did she want?" Miles asked. "She's always in a stew about
something. One of her Pekinese got pip, or what?"

Lady Mary took his arm and turned to walk along the terrace. "I think,"
she said, and stopped. "Where _were_ you, Miles?"

"I strolled down the village to get some tobacco, and then I saw a chap
who'd got his motor stuck, and helped him, and then ..." Here Miles
looked down at his aunt, who looked up at him apprehensively. "I caught
up with Miss Morton and the children, and walked back to Wren's End with
them. There, Aunt Mary, that's a categorical history of my time since

Lady Mary pressed his arm. "Miles, dear, do you think it's quite wise to
be seen about so much with little Miss Morton ... wise for her I mean?"

"I hope I'm not the sort of chap it's bad to be seen about with...."

"Of course not, dear Miles, but, you see, her position...."

"What's the matter with her position?"

"Of course I know it's most creditable of her and all that ... but ...
when a girl has to go out as a sort of nursery governess, it is
different, isn't it, dear? I mean...."

"Yes, Aunt Mary, I'm awfully interested--different from what?"

"From girls who lead the sheltered life, girls who don't work ... girls
of our own class."

"I don't know," Miles said thoughtfully, "that I should say Pen, for
instance, lives exactly a _sheltered_ life, should you?"

"Pen is married."

"Yes, but before she was married ... eh, Aunt Mary? Be truthful, now."

Miles held his aunt's arm tightly within his, and he stooped and looked
into her face.

"And does the fact that Pen is married explain or excuse her deplorable
taste in men? Which does it do, Aunt Mary? Speak up, now."

Lady Mary laughed. "I'm not here to defend Pen; I'm here to get your
answer as to whether you think it's ... quite fair to make that little
Miss Morton conspicuous by running after her and making her the talk of
the entire county, for that's what you're doing."

"What good old Pen has been telling you I'm doing, I suppose."

"I had my own doubts about it without any help from Pen ... but she said
Alec Pottinger had been talking...."

"Pottinger's an ass."

"He doesn't talk _much_, anyhow, Miles, and she felt if _he_ said

"Look here, Aunt Mary, how's a chap to go courting seriously if he
doesn't run after a girl?... he can't work it from a distance ... not
unless he's one of those poet chaps, and puts letters in hollow trees
and so on. And you don't seem to have provided any hollow trees about

"Courting ... seriously!" Lady Mary repeated with real horror in her
tones. "Oh, Miles, you can't mean that!"

"Surely you'd not prefer I meant the other thing?"

"But, Miles dear, think!"

"I have thought, and I've thought it out."

"You mean you want to _marry_ her?"

Lady Mary spoke in an awed whisper.

"Just exactly that, and I don't care who knows it; but I'm not at all
sure she wants to marry me ... that's why I don't want to rush my fences
and get turned down. I'm a heavy chap to risk a fall, Aunt Mary."

"Oh, Miles! this is worse than anything Pen even dreamt of."

"What is? If you mean that she probably won't have me--I'm with you."

"Of course she'd jump at you--any girl would.... But a little

"Come now, Aunt Mary, you know very well she's just as good as I am;
better, probably, for she's got no pies nor starch in her pedigree. Her
father's a Major and her mother was of quite good family--and she's got
lots of rich, stingy relations ... and she doesn't sponge on 'em. What's
the matter with her?"

"Please don't do anything in a hurry, dear Miles."

"I shan't, if you and Pen and the blessed 'county,' with its criticism
and gossip, don't drive me into it ... but the very first word you
either say or repeat to me against Miss Morton, off I go to her and to
the old Major.... So now we understand each other, Aunt Mary--eh?"

"There are things you ought to know, Miles."

"You may depend," said Miles grimly, "that anything I ought to know I
shall be told ... over and over again ... confound it.... And remember,
Aunt Mary, that what I've told you is not in the least private. Tell
Pen, tell Mrs. Fream, tell Withells, but just leave me to tell Miss
Ross, that's all I beg."

"Miles, I shall tell nobody, for I hope ... I hope----"

"'Hope told a flattering tale,'" said Miles, and kissed his aunt ... but
to himself he said: "I've shut their mouths for a day or two anyway."



It was the morning of the first Monday in June, and Tony had wandered
out into the garden all by himself. Monday mornings were very busy, and
once Clipture was over Jan and Meg became socially useless to any
self-respecting boy.

There was all the washing to sort and divide into two large heaps: what
might be sent to Mrs. Chitt in the village, and what might be kept for
the ministrations of one Mrs. Mumford, who came every Monday to Wren's
End. And this division was never arrived at without a good deal of
argument between Jan and Meg.

If Jan had had her way, Mrs. Mumford's heap would have been very small
indeed, and would have consisted chiefly of socks and handkerchiefs. If
Meg had had hers, nothing at all would have gone to Mrs. Chitt. Usually,
too, Hannah was called in as final arbitrator, and she generally sided
with Meg. Little Fay took the greatest interest in the whole ceremony,
chattered continually, and industriously mixed up the heaps when no one
was looking.

At such times Tony was of the opinion that there were far too many women
in the world. On this particular morning, too, he felt injured because
of something that had happened at breakfast.

It was always a joy to Meg and Jan that whatever poor Fay might have
left undone in the matter of disciplining her children, she had at least
taught them to eat nicely. Little Fay's management of a spoon was a joy
to watch. The dimpled baby hand was so deft, the turn of the plump wrist
so sure and purposeful. She never spilled or slopped her food about. Its
journey from bowl to little red mouth was calculated and assured. Both
children had a horror of anything sticky, and would refuse jam unless it
was "well covelled in a sangwidge."

That very morning Jan and Meg exchanged congratulatory glances over
their well-behaved charges, sitting side by side.

Then, all at once, with a swift, sure movement, little Fay stretched up
and deposited a spoonful of exceedingly hot porridge exactly on the top
of her brother's head, with a smart tap.

Tony's hair was always short, and had been cut on Saturday, and the hot
mixture ran down into his eyes, which filled him with rage.

He tried to get out of his high chair, exclaiming angrily, "Let me get
at her to box her!"

Jan held him down with one hand while she wiped away the offending mess
with the other, and all the time Tony cried in _crescendo_, "Let me get
at her!"

Little Fay, quite unmoved, continued to eat her porridge with studied
elegance, and in gently reproachful tones remarked, "Tony velly closs
littoo boy."

Jan and Meg, who wanted desperately to laugh, tried hard to look
shocked, and Meg asked, "What on earth possessed you to do such a

"Tony's head so shiny and smoove."

Tony rubbed the shiny head ruefully.

"Can't I do nuffin to her?" he demanded.

"No," his sister answered firmly, "loo can't, 'cos I'm plitty littoo

"Can't I plop some on _her_ head?" he persisted.

"It certainly seems unfair," Jan said thoughtfully, "but I think you'd
better not."

"It _is_ unfair," Tony grumbled.

Jan loosed his hands. "Now," she said, "you can do what you like."

Little Fay leaned towards her brother, smiling her irresistible,
dimpled, twinkling smile, and held out a spoonful of her porridge.

"Deah littoo Tony," she cooed, "taste it."

And Tony meekly accepted the peace-offering.

"You haven't smacked her," Jan remarked.

Tony sighed. "It's too late now--I don't feel like it any more."

All the same he felt aggrieved as he set out to seek Earley in the
kitchen garden.

Earley was not to be found. He saw Mrs. Mumford already hanging kitchen
cloths on a line in the orchard, but he felt no desire for Mrs.
Mumford's society.

Tony's tormented soul sought for something soothing.

The garden was pleasant, but it wasn't enough.

Ah! he'd got it!

He'd go to the river; all by himself he'd go, and not tell anybody. He'd
look over the bridge into that cool deep pool and perhaps that big fat
trout would be swimming about. What was it he had heard Captain
Middleton say last time he was down at Amber Guiting? "The Mayfly was

He had seemed quite delighted about it, therefore it must mean something

After all, on a soft, not too sunny morning in early June, with a west
wind rustling the leaves in the hedges, the world was not such a bad
place; for even if there were rather too many women in it, there were
dogs and rivers and country roads where adventurous boys could see life
for themselves.

William agreed with Tony in his dislike of Monday mornings. He went and
lay on the front door mat so that he was more than ready to accompany
anyone who happened to be going out.

By the time they reached the bridge all sense of injury had vanished,
and buoyant expectation had taken its place.

Three men were fishing. One was far in the distance, one about three
hundred yards up stream, and one Tony recognised as Mr. Dauncey,
landlord of "The Full Basket," the square white house standing in its
neat garden just on the other side of the bridge. The fourth gentleman,
who had forgotten his hat, and was clad in a holland smock, sandals,
and no stockings, leaned over luxuriously, with his elbows on the low
wall and his bare legs thrust out. He was very still, even trying not to
twitch when William licked his bare legs, as he did at intervals just to
show he was there on guard.

There had been heavy rain in the night and the water was discoloured.
Nobody noticed Tony, and for about an hour nothing happened. Then Mr.
Dauncey got a rise. The rigid little figure on the bridge leaned further
over as Mr. Dauncey's reel screamed and he followed his cast down

Presently, with a sense of irritation, Tony was aware of footsteps
coming over the bridge. He felt that he simply could not bear it just
then if anyone leaned over beside him and talked. The footsteps came up
behind him and passed; and William, who was lying between Tony's legs
and the wall, squeezed as close to him as possible, gave a low growl.

"Hush, William, naughty dog!" Tony whispered crossly.

William hushed, and drooped as he always did when rebuked.

It occurred to Tony to look after this amazing person who could cross a
bridge without stopping to look over when a reel was joyfully
proclaiming that some fisherman was having luck.

It was a man, and he walked as though he were footsore and tired. There
was something dejected and shabby in his appearance, and his clothes
looked odd somehow in Amber Guiting. Tony stared after the stranger,
and gradually he realised that there was something familiar in the back
of the tall figure that walked so slowly and yet seemed trying to walk

The man had a stick and evidently leant upon it as he went. He wore an
overcoat and carried nothing in his hand.

Mr. Dauncey's reel chuckled and one of the other anglers ran towards him
with a landing-net.

But Tony still stared after the man. Presently, with a deep sigh, he
started to follow him.

Just once he turned, in time to see that Mr. Dauncey had landed his

The sun came out from behind the clouds. "The Full Basket," the river,
brown and rippled, the bridge, the two men talking eagerly on the bank
below, the muddy road growing cream-coloured in patches as it dried,
were all photographed upon Tony's mind. When he started to follow the
stranger he was out of sight, but now Tony trotted steadily forward and
did not look round again.

William was glad. He had been lying in a puddle, and, like little Fay,
he preferred "a dly place."

Meanwhile, at Wren's End the washing had taken a long time to count and
to divide. There seemed a positively endless number of little smocks and
frocks and petticoats and pinafores, and Meg wanted to keep them all for
Mrs. Mumford to wash, declaring that she (Meg) could starch and iron
them beautifully. This was quite true. She could iron very well, as she
did everything she undertook to do. But Jan knew that it tired her
dreadfully, that the heat and the wielding of the heavy iron were very
bad for her, and after much argument and many insulting remarks from Meg
as to Jan's obstinacy and extravagance generally, the things were
divided. Meg put on little Fay's hat and swept her out into the garden;
whereupon Jan plunged into Mrs. Mumford's heap, removed all the things
to be ironed that could not be tackled by Anne Chitt, stuffed them into
Mrs. Chitt's basket, fastened it firmly and rang for Anne and Hannah to
carry the things away.

She washed her hands and put on her gardening gloves preparatory to
going out, humming a gay little snatch of song; and as she ran down the
wide staircase she heard the bell ring, and saw the figure of a man
standing in the open doorway.

The maids were carrying the linen down the back stairs, and she went
across the hall to see what he wanted.

"Well, Jan," he said, and his voice sounded weak and tired. "Here I am
at last."

He held out his hand, and as she took it she felt how hot and dry it

"Come in, Hugo," she said quietly. "Why didn't you let me know you were
coming, and I'd have met you."

The man followed her as she led the way into the cool, fragrant
drawing-room. He paused in the doorway and passed his hand across his
eyes. "It does bring it all back," he said.

He sat down in a deep chair and leaned his head against the back,
closing his eyes. Jan saw that he was thin to emaciation, and that he
looked very ill; shabby, too, and broken.

The instinct of the nurse that exists in any woman worth her salt was
roused in Jan. All the passionate indignation she had felt against her
brother-in-law was merged at the moment in pity and anxiety.

"Hugo," she said gently, "I fear you are ill. Have you had any

"I came by the early train to avoid ordering breakfast; I couldn't have
paid for it. I'd only enough for my fare. Jan, I haven't a single rupee

He sat forward in the chair with his hands on the arms and closed his
eyes again.

Jan looked keenly at the handsome, haggard face. There was no pretence
here. The man was gravely ill. His lips (Jan had always mistrusted his
well-shaped mouth because it would never really shut) were dry and
cracked and discoloured, the cheekbones sharp, and there was that deep
hollow at the back of the neck that always betrays the man in

She went to him and pressed him back in the chair.

"What do you generally do when you have fever?" she asked.

"Go to bed--if there is a bed; and take quinine and drink hot tea."

"That's what you'd better do now. Where are your things?"

"There's a small bag at the station. They promised to send it up. I
couldn't carry it and I had no money to pay a boy. I came the long way
round, Jan, not through the village. No one recognised me."

"I'll get you some tea at once, and I have quinine in the house. Will
you take some now?"

Hugo laughed. "Your quinine would be of no earthly use to me, but I've
already taken it this morning. I've got some here in my pocket. The
minute my bag comes I'll go to bed--if you don't mind."

Someone fumbled at the handle of the door, and Tony, followed by
William, appeared on the threshold.

Hugo Tancred opened his eyes. "Hullo!" he said. "Do you remember me,
young shaver?"

Tony came into the room holding out his hand. "How do you do?" he said

Hugo took it and stared at his son with strange glazed eyes. "You look
fit enough, anyhow," he said, and dropped the little hand.

"I came as quick as I could," Tony said eagerly to Jan. "But Mr. Dauncey
caught a trout, and I _had_ to wait a minute."

"Good heavens!" Hugo exclaimed irritably. "Do you all _still_ think and
talk about nothing but fishing?"

"Come," said Jan, holding out her hand to Tony, "and we'll go and see
about some breakfast for Daddie."

William, who had been sniffing dubiously at the man in the chair, dashed
after them.

As they crossed the hall Tony remarked philosophically: "Daddie's got
fever. He'll be very cross, then he'll be very sad, and then he'll want
you to give him something, and if you do--p'raps he'll go away."

Jan made no answer.

Tony followed her through the swing door and down the passage to speak
to Hannah, who was much moved and excited when she heard Mr. Tancred had
arrived. Hannah was full of sympathy for the "poor young widower," and
though she could have wished that he had given them notice of his
coming, still, she supposed him to be so distracted with grief that he
forgot to do anything of the kind. She and Anne Chitt went there and
then to make up his bed, while Jan boiled the kettle and got him some

While she was doing this Meg and little Fay came round to the back to
look for Tony, whom they found making toast.

"Who's tum?" asked little Fay, while Jan rapidly explained the situation
to Meg.

"Your Daddie's come."

Little Fay looked rather vague. "What sort of a Daddie?" she asked.

"You take her to see him, Tony, and I'll finish the toast," said Jan,
taking the fork out of his hand.

When the children had gone Meg said slowly: "And Mr. Ledgard comes

"He can't. I must telegraph and put him off for a day or two. Hugo is
really ill."

"I shouldn't put him off long, if I were you."

Jan seized the tray: "I'll send a wire now, if you and the children will
take it down to the post-office for me."

"Why send it at all?" said Meg. "Let him come."



It was a fortnight since Hugo Tancred arrived at Wren's End, and Jan had
twice put off Peter's visit.

During the first few days Hugo's temperature remained so high that she
grew thoroughly alarmed; and in spite of his protestations that he was
"quite used to it," she sent for the doctor. Happily the doctor in his
youth had been in the East and was able to reassure her. His opinion,
too, had more weight with Hugo on this account, and though he grumbled
he consented to do what the doctor advised. And at the end of a week
Hugo was able to come downstairs, looking very white and shaky. He lay
out in the garden in a deck-chair for most of the day and managed to eat
a good many of the nourishing dishes Hannah prepared for him.

It had been a hard time for Jan, as Hugo was not an invalid who excited
compassion in those who had to wait upon him. He took everything for
granted, was somewhat morose and exacting, and made no attempt to
control the extreme irritability that so often accompanies fever.

When the fever left him, however, his tone changed, and the second
stage, indicated by Tony as "sad," set in with severity.

His depression was positively overwhelming, and he seemed to think that
its public manifestation should arouse in all beholders the most
poignant and respectful sympathy.

Poor Jan found it very difficult to behave in a manner at all calculated
to satisfy her brother-in-law. She had not, so far, uttered one word of
reproach to him, but she _would_ shrink visibly when he tried to discuss
his wife, and she could not even pretend to believe in the deep
sincerity of a grief that seemed to find such facile solace in
expression. The mode of expression, too, in hackneyed, commonplace
phrases, set her teeth on edge.

She knew that poor Hugo--she called him "poor Hugo" just then--thought
her cold and unsympathetic because she rather discouraged his
outpourings; but Fay's death was too lately-lived a tragedy to make it
possible for her to talk of it--above all, with him; and after several
abortive attempts Hugo gave up all direct endeavour to make her.

"You are terribly Scotch, Jan," he said one day. "I sometimes wonder
whether anything could make you _really_ feel."

Jan looked at him with a sort of contemptuous wonder that caused him to
redden angrily, but she made no reply.

He was her guest, he was a broken man, and she knew well that they had
not yet even approached their real difference.

Two people, however, took Hugo's attitude of profound dejection in the
way he expected and liked it to be taken. These were Mr. Withells and

Mr. Withells did not bear Jan a grudge because of her momentary lapse
from good manners. In less than a week from the unfortunate interview in
the nut-walk he had decided that she could not properly have understood
him; and that he had, perhaps, sprung upon her too suddenly the high
honour he held in store for her.

So back he came in his neat little two-seater car to call at Wren's End
as if nothing had happened, and Jan, guiltily conscious that she _had_
been very rude, was only too thankful to accept the olive-branch in the
spirit in which it was offered.

He took to coming almost as often as before, and was thoroughly
interested and commiserating when he heard that poor Mrs. Tancred's
husband had come home from India and been taken ill almost immediately
on arrival. He sent some early strawberries grown in barrels in the
houses, and with them a note conjuring Jan "on no account to leave them
in the sickroom overnight, as the smell of fruit was so deleterious."

Hannah considered Hugo's impenetrable gloom a most proper and husbandly
tribute to the departed. She felt that had there been a Mr. Hannah she
could not have wished him to show more proper feeling had Providence
thought fit to snatch her from his side. So she expressed her admiration
in the strongest of soups, the smoothest of custards, and the most
succulent of mutton-chops. Gladly would she have commanded Mrs. Earley
to slay her fattest cockerels for the nourishment of "yon poor
heartbroken young man," but that she remembered (from her experience of
Fay's only visit) that no one just home from India will give a thank-you
for chickens.

Jan had cause to bless kind Mr. Withells, for directly Hugo was able for
it, he came with his largest and most comfortable car, driven by his
trustworthy chauffeur, to take the invalid for a run right into
Wiltshire. He pressed Jan to go too, but she pleaded "things to see to"
at home.

Hugo had seen practically nothing of Meg. She was fully occupied in
keeping the children out of their father's way. Little Fay "pooah
daddied" him when they happened to meet, and Tony stared at him in the
weighing, measuring way Hugo found so trying, but Meg neither looked at
him nor did she address any remark whatever to him unless she positively
could not help it.

Meg was thoroughly provoked that he should have chosen to turn up just
then. She had been most anxious that Peter should come. Firstly,
because, being sharply observant, she had come to the conclusion that
his visit would be a real pleasure to Jan, and secondly, because she
ardently desired to see him herself that she might judge whether he was
"at all good enough."

And now her well-loved Jan, instead of looking her best, was growing
thin and haggard, losing her colour, and her sweet serenity, and in
their place a patient, tired expression in her eyes that went to Meg's

She had hardly seen Jan alone for over a week; for since Hugo came
downstairs Meg had taken all her meals with the children in the nursery,
while Jan and Hugo had theirs in the rarely-used dining-room. The girls
breakfasted together, as Hugo had his in his room, but as the children
were always present there was small chance of any confidential

The first afternoon Mr. Withells took Hugo for a drive, Meg left her
children in Earley's care the minute she heard the car depart, and went
to look for Jan in the house.

She found her opening all the windows in the dining-room. Meg shut the
door and sat on the polished table, lit a cigarette and regarded her own
pretty swinging feet with interest.

"How long does Mr. Tancred propose to stay?" she asked.

"How can I tell," Jan answered wearily, as she sat down in one of the
deep window-seats. "He has nowhere to go and no money to go with; and,
so far, except for a vague allusion to some tea-plantation in Ceylon, he
has suggested no plans. Oh, yes! I forgot, there was something about
fruit-farming or vine-growing in California, but I fancy considerable
capital would be needed for that."

"And how much longer do you intend to keep Mr. Ledgard waiting for _his_

"It would be small pleasure for Mr. Ledgard to come here with Hugo, and
horrid for Hugo, for he knows perfectly well what Peter ... Mr. Ledgard
thinks of him."

"But if friend Hugo knew Mr. Ledgard was coming, might it not have an
accelerating effect upon his movements? You could give him his
fare--single, mind--to Guernsey. Let him go and stay with his people for
a bit."

Jan shook her head. "I can't turn him out, Meg; and I'm not going to let
Mr. Ledgard waste his precious leave on an unpleasant visit. If I could
give him a good time it would be different; but after all he did for us
while we were in Bombay, it would be rank ingratitude to let him in for
more worries at home."

"Perhaps he wouldn't consider them worries. Perhaps he'd _like_ to

Jan's strained expression relaxed a little and she smiled with her eyes
fixed on Meg's neat swinging feet. "He _says_ he would."

"Well, then, take him at his word. We can turn the excellent Withells on
to Hugo. Let him instruct Hugo in the importance of daily free
gymnastics after one's bath and the necessity for windows being left
open at the top 'day and night, but _especially_ at night.' Let's tell
that Peter man to come."

Jan shook her head.

"No, I've explained the situation to him and begged him not to consider
us any more for the present. We must think of the maids too. You see,
Hugo makes a good deal of extra work, and I'm afraid Hannah might turn
grumpy if there was yet another man to do for."

Meg thoughtfully blew beautiful rings of smoke, carefully poked a small
finger exactly into the centre of each and continued to swing her feet
in silence.

Jan leaned her head against the casement and closed her eyes.

Without so much as a rustle Meg descended from the table. She went over
to Jan and dropped a light kiss on the top of the thick wavy hair that
was so nearly white. Jan opened her tired eyes and smiled.

This quaint person in the green linen frock and big white apron always
looked so restfully neat and clean, so capable and strong with that
inward shining strength that burns with a steady light. Jan put her arms
round Meg and leaned her head against the admirable apron's cool, smooth

"You're here, anyway," she said. "You don't know how I thank God for

Meg held her close. "Listen to me," she said. "You're going on quite a
wrong tack with that brother-in-law. You are, Jan--I grieve to say
it--standing between him and his children--you don't allow him to see
his children, especially his adored daughter, nearly enough. Now that he
is well enough to take the air with Mr. Withells I propose that we allow
him to _study_ his children--and how can he study them if they are never
left with him? Let him realise what it would be if he had them with him
constantly, and no interfering aunt to keep them in order--do you
understand, Jan? Have you tumbled to it? You are losing a perfectly
magnificent opportunity."

Jan pushed Meg a little away from her and looked up: "I believe there's
a good deal in what you say."

"There's everything in what I say. As long as the man was ill one
couldn't, of course, but now we can and will--eh, Jan?"

"Not Tony," Jan said nervously. "Hugo doesn't care much for Tony, and
I'm always afraid what he may say or do to the child."

"If you let him have them both occasionally he may discover that Tony
has his points."

"They're _both_ perfect darlings," Jan said resentfully. Meg laughed and
danced a two-step to the door.

"They're darlings that need a good deal of diplomatic managing, and if
they don't get it they'll raise Cain. I'm going to take them down to the
post-office directly with my Indian letters. Why not come with us for
the walk?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Hugo quite enjoyed his run with Mr. Withells and Mr. Withells enjoyed
being consulted about Hugo's plans. He felt real sympathy for a young
man whose health, ruined by one bad station after another, had forced
him to give up his career in India. He suggested various ameliorating
treatments to Hugo, who received his advice with respectful gratitude,
and they arranged to drive again together on Saturday, which was next
day but one.

Hugo sought the sofa in the drawing-room for a quiet hour before dinner
and lit a cigar. He had hardly realised his pleasantly tired and rather
somnolent condition when his daughter entered carrying a large
Teddy-bear, two dolls, a toy trumpet and a box containing a wooden
tea-set. She dropped several of these articles just inside the door.
"Come and help me pick up my sings," she commanded. "I've come to play
wis loo, Daddie."

Hugo did not move. He was fond of little Fay; he admired her good looks
and her splendid health, but he didn't in the least desire her society
just then.

"Poor Daddie's tired," he said in his "saddest" tone. "I think you'd
better go and play in the nursery with Tony."

"No," said little Fay, "Tony's not zere; _loo_ mus' play wis me.
Or"--she added as a happy alternative--"loo can tell me sumfin

"Surely," said Hugo, "it's your bed-time?"

"No," little Fay answered, and the letters were never formed that could
express the finality of that "no," "Med will fesh me when it's time.
I've come to play wis _loo_. Det up, Daddie; loo can't play p'oply lying

"Oh, yes, I can," Hugo protested eagerly. "You bring all your nice toys
one by one and show them to me."

"'At," she remarked with great scorn, "would be a velly stupid game. Det

"Why can't Meg play with you?" Hugo asked irritably. "What's she doing?"

Little Fay stared at her father. She was unaccustomed to be addressed
in that tone, and she resented it. Earley and Mr. Burgess were her
humble slaves. Captain Middleton did as he was told and became an
elephant, a camel, or a polar bear on the shortest notice, moreover he
threw himself into the part with real goodwill and enjoyment. The lazy
man lying there on the sofa, who showed no flattering pleasure in her
society, must be roused to a sense of his shortcomings. She seized the
Teddy-bear, swung it round her head and brought it down with a
resounding thump on Hugo's chest. "Det up," she said more loudly. "Loo
don't seem to know any stolies, so you _mus'_ play wis me."

Hugo swung his legs off the sofa and sat up to recover his breath, which
had been knocked out of him by the Teddy-bear.

"You're a very rude little girl," he said crossly. "You'll have to be
punished if you do that sort of thing."

"What sort of sing?"

"What you did just now; it's very naughty indeed."

"What nelse?"

Little Fay stood with her head on one side like an inquisitive sparrow.
One of the things she had not dropped was the tin trumpet. She raised it
to her lips now, and blew a blast that went through Hugo's head like a

He snatched it from her. "You're not to do that," he said. "I can't
stand it. Go and pick up those other things and show them to me."

"Loo can see zem from here."

"Not what's in the box," he suggested diplomatically.

"I'm tah'ed too," she said, suddenly sitting down on the floor. "You
fesh 'em."

"Will you play with them if I do?"

She shook her head. "Not if loo're closs, and lude and naughty and ...

Hugo groaned and stalked over to collect the two dolls and the
tea-things. He brought them back and put them down on one end of the
sofa while he sat down at the other.

"Now," he said, "show me how you play with them."

His cigar had gone out and he struck a match to light it again. Little
Fay scrambled to her feet and blew it out before he had touched his
cigar with it.

"Adain," she said joyously. "Make anozer light."

He struck another match, but sheltered it with his hand till he'd got
his cigar going, his daughter blowing vigorously all the time.

"Now," she said, "you can be a nengine and I'll be the tlain."

Round that drawing-room the unfortunate Hugo ran, encouraged in his
efforts by blasts upon the trumpet. The chairs were arranged as
carriages, the dolls as passengers, and the box of tea-things was
luggage. None of these transformations were suggested by Hugo, but
little Fay had played the game so often under Meg's brilliant
supervision that she knew all the properties by heart.

At the end of fifteen minutes Hugo was thoroughly exhausted and audibly
thanked God when Meg appeared to fetch her charge. But he hadn't
finished even then, for little Fay, aided and abetted by Meg, insisted
that every single thing should be tidily put back exactly where it was

At the door, just as they were on the point of departure, Meg paused.
"You must enjoy having her all to yourself for a little while," she said
in honeyed, sympathetic tones such as Hugo, certainly, had never heard
from her before. "I fear we've been rather selfish about it, but for the
future we must not forget that you have the first right to her.... Did
you kiss your dear Daddie, my darling?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Through the shut door Hugo heard his daughter's voice proclaiming in
lofty, pitying tones, "Pooah Daddie velly stupid man, he was a velly bad
nengine, he did it all long."

"Damn!" said Hugo Tancred.

       *       *       *       *       *

During dinner that night Jan talked continually about the children. She
consulted Hugo as to things in which he took not the smallest interest,
such as what primers he considered the best for earliest instruction in
reading, and whether he thought the Montessori method advantageous or

As they sat over dessert he volunteered the remark that little Fay was
rather an exhausting child.

"All children are," Jan answered, "and I've just been thinking that
while you are here to help me, it would be such a good chance to give
Meg a little holiday. She has not had a day off since I came back from
India, and it would be so nice for her to go to Cheltenham for a few
days to see Major Morton."

"But surely," Hugo said uneasily, "that's what she's here for, to look
after the children. She's very highly paid; you could get a good nurse
for half what you pay her."

"I doubt it, and you must remember that, because she loved Fay, she is
accepting less than half of what she could earn elsewhere to help me
with Fay's children."

"Of course, if you import sentiment into the matter you must pay for

"But I fear that's just what I don't do."

"My dear Jan, you must forgive me if I venture to think that both you
and your father, and even Fay, were quite absurd about Meg Morton. She's
a nice enough little girl, but nothing so very wonderful, and as for her
needing a holiday after a couple of months of the very soft job she has
with you ... that's sheer nonsense."

There was silence for a minute. Hugo took another chocolate and said,
"You know I don't believe in having children all over the place. The
nursery is the proper place for them when they're little, and school is
the proper place--most certainly the proper place, anyway, for a boy--as
soon as ever any school can be found to take him."

"I quite agree with you as to the benefit of a good school," Jan said
sweetly. "I am painfully conscious myself of how much I lost in never
having had any regular education. Have you thought yet what preparatory
school you'd prefer for Tony?"

"Hardly yet. I've not been home long enough, and, as you know, at
present, I've no money at all...."

"I shall be most pleased to help with Tony's education, but in that case
I should expect to have some voice in the school selected."

"Certainly, certainly," Hugo agreed. "But what I really want to know is
what you propose to do to help me to attain a position in which I _can_
educate my children as we both should wish."

"I don't quite see where I come in."

"My dear Jan, that's absurd. You have money--and a few hundreds now will
start me again...."

"Start you again in what direction?"

"That's what we've got to thresh out. I've several propositions to lay
before you."

"All propositions will have to be submitted to Mr. Davidson."

"That's nonsense. You must remember that I could contest Fay's will if I
liked--it was grossly unfair to leave that two thousand pounds away from

"She left it to her children, Hugo, and _you_ must remember you spent
eight thousand pounds of her money."

"_I_ didn't spend it. Do you think _I_ benefited? The investments were
unfortunate, I grant you, but that's not to say I had it."

"Anyway that money is gone."

"And the sooner I set about making some more to replace it the better,
but I must have help."

"It takes every penny of my income to run things here."

"Well, you know, Jan, to be quite candid, I think it's rather ridiculous
of you to live here. You could let this place easily and for a good
rent. In a smaller house you'd be equally comfortable and in easier
circumstances. I'm not at all sure I approve of my children being
brought up with the false ideas they will inevitably acquire if they
continue to live in a big place like this."

"You see, Hugo, it happens to be my house, and I'm fond of it."

"No doubt, but if you make a fetish of the house, if the house stands in
the way of your helping your own flesh and blood...."

"I don't think I've ever refused to help my _own_ relations."

"Which means, I suppose, that your sister's husband is nothing to you."

Jan rose. "You are rather unjust, I think," she said quietly. "I must
put the children first."

"And suppose you marry----"

"I certainly wouldn't marry any man who would object to my doing all I
could for my sister's children."

"You think so now, but wait till a man comes along. You're just getting
to the age, Jan, when a woman is most apt to make a fool of herself over
a man. And, remember this, I'd much rather my children were brought up
simply with my people in Guernsey than that they should grow up with all
sorts of false ideas with nothing to back them."

Jan clenched her teeth, and though outwardly she was silent, her soul
was repeating, "I _will_ not fear," over and over again.

"Perhaps you are right, Hugo," she said quietly. "You must arrange as
you think best; only please remember that you can hardly expect me to
contribute to the keeping of the children if I am allowed no voice in
their upbringing. Have you consulted your parents as to their living
with them in Guernsey? Shall we go out? It's such a beautiful evening."

Hugo followed her into the hall and out into the garden. Involuntarily
he looked after her with considerable admiration. She held herself well,
that quiet woman. She waited for him in the drive, and as she did so
Tony's words came back to her: "I used to feel frightened inside, but I
wouldn't let him know it, and then--it was funny--but quite sunnly I
wasn't frightened any more. You try it."

       *       *       *       *       *

Jan had tried it, and, again to quote Tony, "it just happened."



Peter began to feel annoyed. More and more clearly did he realise that
his chief object in coming home was to see Jan again; and here was he,
still in London in the third week of June, and never so much as a
glimpse of her.

Her last letter, too, had postponed his visit indefinitely, and he
almost thought she was not treating him quite fairly. It was, of course,
a confounded bore that Hugo Tancred should have turned up just now, but
Peter saw no reason for staying away for ever on that account. He knew
Wren's End was a good-sized house, and though he appreciated Jan's
understanding of the fact that he wouldn't exactly choose to be a
fellow-guest with such a thoroughly bad hat as Hugo Tancred, still he
considered it was laying too much stress upon the finer shades of
feeling to keep him away so long.

His aunt was delighted to have him; London was very pleasant; he had
dined out quite a number of times, attended some big parties, seen all
the best plays, and bought or ordered all the new clothes he needed, and
a good deal that he didn't need at all. He had also bought a motor to
take out with him. It was more than time to get within range of the main
objective of his leave.

Suggestions that Jan _must_ have shopping to do and might as well come
up for a day or two to do it only elicited the reply that she had no
money for shopping and that it was most unlikely that she would be in
London again for ages.

She hadn't answered his last letter, either, which was another

Then came a letter with the Amber Guiting post-mark, and in a
handwriting he did not know--a funny little, clear, square handwriting
with character in every stroke.

He opened it and read:


      "It is just possible you may have heard of me from Mrs.
      Tancred or Miss Ross, but in case you haven't I will
      explain that I am nurse to the little Tancreds and that
      Miss Ross is my dearest friend. I think it would be a very
      good thing if you came down to see her, for her
      brother-in-law is here, and I am never quite sure what he
      might persuade her to do if he put the screw on about the
      children. There is a comfortable inn called 'The Green
      Hart,' and there's another called 'The Full Basket,' but I
      fear you'd not get a room there as it's very small and
      always chock-full at this time of year with fishing people.

      "You see, if you came down to 'The Green Hart,' Jan
      couldn't say anything, for you've a perfect right to stay
      there if you choose, and I know it would help her and
      strengthen her hands to talk things over with you. She has
      spoken much of your kindness to them all in India.

      "Do you fish, I wonder? I'm sure Squire Walcote would be
      amiable to any friend of Jan's.

                        "Believe me, yours truly,

                                        "MARGARET MORTON."

Peter put the letter in his pocket and left the rest of his
correspondence till after breakfast, and his aunt decided that he really
was a most amusing and agreeable companion, and that she must have been
mistaken last night in thinking he seemed rather depressed and worried.

After breakfast he went out to send a reply-paid telegram, and then to
the garage, where he kept his car. Among other places he drove to "Hardy
Brothers" in Pall Mall, where he stayed over an hour.

By the time he got back to Artillery Mansions it was lunch time. More
letters awaited him, also a telegram.

During lunch he mentioned casually that he was going down into the
country for the week-end to fish. He was going to motor down.

"Yes," in answer to his aunt's inquiry, "I do know people down there,
but I'm not going to stay with them. I'm going to the inn--one's freer,
you know, and if the sport's good I may stay on a few days."

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Withells came again for Hugo on Saturday morning and proposed a run
right over to Cheltenham for a rose show. Hugo declined the rose show,
but gratefully accepted the drive. He would potter about the town while
Mr. Withells inspected the flowers. The Grange head-gardener had
several exhibits, and was to be taken on the front seat.

They started soon after breakfast and would be gone the whole day, for
it was an hour and three-quarters run by road and two by train.

"I wish he had offered to take you," Jan said to Meg when the big motor
had vanished out of the drive. "It would have been so nice for you to
see Major Morton."

"And sit bodkin between Hugo and Mr. Withells or on one of those horrid
little folding-seats--no, thank you! When I go to see my poor little
papa I shall go by train by myself. I'll choose a day when their dear
father can help you with the children."

After lunch Meg began to find fault with Jan's appearance. "I simply
won't see you in that old grey skirt a minute longer--go and put on a
white frock--a nice white frock. You've got plenty."

"Who is always grumbling about the washing? Besides, I want to garden."

"You can't garden this afternoon. On such a lovely day it's your duty to
dress in accordance with it. I'm going to clean up my children, and then
we'll all go down to the post-office to buy stamps and show ourselves.
_You_ ought to call on Lady Mary--you know you ought. Go and change, and
then come and see if I approve of you. You might leave a card at the
vicarage, too. I know they're going to the rose show, so you'd be quite

"You're a nuisance, Meg," Jan complained. "Let you and little Fay go
swanking down the village if you like, but why can't you leave Tony and
me to potter comfortably in our old clothes?"

"I'm tired of your old clothes; I want you to look decent for once. You
haven't done anything I asked you for ages. You might as well do this."

Jan sighed. "It seems rather absurd when you yourself say every soul we
know will be at the flower show."

"I never said anything of the kind. I said Mrs. Fream was going to the
flower show. Hurry up, Jan."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Well, will I do? Will I satisfy the hedges and ditches, do you think?"
Jan asked later, as she appeared in the hall clad in the white raiment
Meg had commanded.

Meg turned her round. "Very nice indeed," she said. "I'm glad you put on
the expensive one. It's funny why the very plain things cost such a lot.
I like the black hat with your white hair. Yes, I consent to take you
out; I don't mind owning you for my missus. Children, come and admire
Auntie Jan."

Jan dutifully delivered a card at the vicarage, and the nursery party
left her to walk up the Manor drive alone. Lady Mary was in, and pleased
to see her, but she only stayed a quarter of an hour, because Meg had
made her promise to meet them again in the village. They were to have
tea in the garden with the children and make it a little festival.

What a funny little thing Meg was, she thought as she strolled down the
drive under the splendid beeches. So determined to have her own way in
small things, such an incarnation of self-sacrifice in big ones.

A man was standing just outside the great gates in a patch of black
shade thrown by a holly-tree in the lodge garden. Jan was long-sighted,
and something in the figure and its pose caused her to stop suddenly. He
wore the usual grey summer suit and a straw hat. Yet he reminded her of
somebody, but him she had always seen in a topee, out of doors.

Of course it was only a resemblance--but what was he waiting there for?

He moved out from the patch of shade and looked up the drive through the
open gates. He took off his hat and waved it, and came quickly towards

"I couldn't wait any longer," he said. "I won't be the least bit of a
nuisance. I've come to fish, and I'm staying at 'The Green Hart'.... And
how are you?"

She could never make it out, when she thought it over afterwards, but
Jan found herself standing with both her hands in his and her beautiful
black parasol tumbled unheeded in the dust.

"I happened to meet the children and Miss Morton, and they asked me to
tell you they've gone home. They also invited me to tea."

"So do I," said Jan.

"I should hardly have known Tony," he continued; "he looks capital. And
as for little Fay--she's a picture, but she always was."

"Did they know you?"

"_Did_ they know me!"

"Were they awfully pleased?"

"They were ever so jolly; even Tony shouted."

At the lodge they met the Squire. Jan introduced Peter and explained
that he had just come down for a few days' fishing and was staying at
"The Green Hart." The Squire proffered advice as to the best flies and a
warning that he must not hope for much sport. The Amber was a difficult
river, very; and variable; and it had been a particularly dry June.

Peter bore up under this depressing intelligence and he and Jan walked
on through warm, scented lanes to Wren's End; and Peter looked at Jan a
good deal.

Those who happened to be in London during the season of 1914 will
remember that it was a period of powder and paint and frankest
touching-up of complexions. The young and pretty were blackened and
whitened and reddened quite as crudely as the old and ugly. There was no
attempt at concealment. The faces of many Mayfair ladies filled Peter
with disrespectful astonishment. He had not been home for four years,
and then nice girls didn't do that sort of thing--much.

Now one of Jan's best points was her complexion; it was so fair and
fresh. The touch of sunburn, too, was becoming, for she didn't freckle.

Peter found himself positively thankful to behold a really clean face;
a face, too, that just then positively beamed with warm welcome and
frank pleasure.

A clean face; a cool, clean frock; kind, candid eyes and a gentle,
sincere voice--yes, they were all there just as he remembered them, just
as he had so often dreamt of them. Moreover, he decided there and then
that the Georgian ladies knew what they were about when they powdered
their hair--white hair, he thought, was extraordinarily becoming to a

"You are looking better than when I was in Bombay. I think your leave
must have done you good already," said the kind, friendly voice.

"I need a spell of country air, really to set me up," said Peter.

They had an hilarious tea with the children on the Wren's lawn, and the
tamest of the robins hopped about on the step just to show that he
didn't care a fig for any of them.

Meg was just going to take the children to bed when Mr. Withells brought
Hugo back. It was an awkward moment. Peter knew far too much about Hugo
to simulate the smallest cordiality; and Hugo was too well aware of some
of the things Peter knew to feel at all comfortable in his presence. But
he had no intention of giving way an inch. He took the chair Meg had
just vacated and sat down. Mr. Withells, too, sat down for a few
minutes, and no sooner had he done so than William dashed out from
amongst them, and, returning, was accompanied by Captain Middleton.

"No tea, thank you. Just got down from town, came with a message from
my uncle--would Miss Ross's friend care for a rod on the Manor water on
Monday? A brother officer who had been coming had failed at the last
minute--there was room for four rods, but there wasn't a chance of much

Miles was introduced to Peter and sat down by him. The children rushed
at Miles and, ably impeded by William, swarmed over him in riotous
welcome, wholly regardless of their nurse's voice which summoned them to

Meg stood waiting.

"Miss Morton's father lives in Cheltenham," Jan said to Mr. Withells,
who seemed rather left out. "She's going to see him on Tuesday--to spend
the day."

"Then," said Mr. Withells in his clear staccato, "she must take the
9.15--it's much the best train in the day. And the 4.55 back. No other
trains are at all suitable. I hope you will be guided by me in this
matter, Miss Morton. I've made the journey many times."

So had Meg; but Mr. Withells always irritated her to such an extent that
had it been possible, she would have declared her intention to go and
return by quite different trains. As it was, she nodded pleasantly and
said those were the very trains she had selected.

Miles thrust his head out from among the encompassing three and
respectfully implored Mr. Withells' advice about trains to Cricklade,
which lay off the Cheltenham route, even going so far as to note the
hours of departure and arrival carefully in a little book.

Finally Meg came and disencumbered Miles of the children and bore them

When her voice took on a certain tone it was as useless to cope with Meg
as with Auntie Jan. They knew this, and like wise children gave in

Elaborate farewells had to be said to everybody, and with a final warm
embrace for Miles, little Fay called to him "Tum and see me in my baff."

"Captain Middleton will have gone long before you are ready for that,"
Meg said inhospitably, and trying to look very tall and dignified she
walked up the three steps leading to the nursery. But it is almost
impossible to look imposing with a lagging child dragging at each hand,
and poor Meg felt that her exit was far from effective.

William settled himself comfortably across his master's knees and in two
minutes was snoring softly.

Miles manifested so keen an interest in Mr. Withells' exhibits (he had
got a second prize and a highly commended) that the kindly little man
was quite attracted; and when Miles inquired about trains to Cheltenham
he gave him precisely the same advice that he had given Meg.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

The station at Amber Guiting is seldom crowded; it's on a shuttle line,
and except on market-day there is but little passenger traffic.

Therefore a small young lady with rather conspicuously red hair, a neat
grey coat and skirt, a shady grey straw hat trimmed with white clover
and green leaves, and a green parasol, was noticeable upon the platform
out of all proportion to her size.

The train was waiting. The lady entered an empty third-class carriage,
and sitting in the corner with her back to the engine, shut herself in.
The train departed punctually, and she took out from her bag a note-book
which she studied with frowning concentration.

Ten minutes further down the line the train stops again at Guiting
Green, and here the young lady looked out of the window to see whether
anyone was travelling that she recognised.

There was. But it was impossible to judge from the young lady's
expression whether the recognition gave her pleasure or not.

She drew in her head very quickly, but not before she had been seen.

"Hullo, Miss Morton! Where are you going? May I get in here?"

"Aren't you travelling first?"

"Not a bit of it. Sure you don't mind? How jolly to have met you!"

Miles looked so smiling, so big and well turned out, and pleased with
life, that Meg's severe expression relaxed somewhat.

"I suppose," she said, "you're just going to the junction. But why come
to Guiting Green?"

"I came to Guiting Green because it's exactly four miles from the Manor
House. And I've walked those four miles, Miss Morton, walked 'em for
the good of my health. Wish it wasn't so dusty, though--look at my
boots! _I'm_ going to Cheltenham. Where are you going?"

"Cheltenham?" Meg repeated suspiciously. "What are you going to do

"I'm going to see about a horse--not a dog this time--I hear that
Smith's have got a horse that may suit me; really up to my weight they
say it is, so I took the chance of going over while I'm with my
uncle--it's a lot nearer than town, you know. But where are _you_

"I," said Meg, "am going to Cheltenham----"

"To Cheltenham!" Miles exclaimed in rather overdone astonishment. "What
an extraordinary coincidence! And what are _you_ going to buy in

"I am going to see my father. I thought I had told you he lives there."

"So you did, of course. How stupid of me to forget! Well, it's very
jolly we should happen to be going down together, isn't it?"

They looked at one another, and Miles laughed.

"I'm not at all sure that we ought to travel together after we reach the
junction, and I don't believe you've got a third-class ticket." Meg
looked very prim.

Miles produced his ticket--it _was_ third-class.

"There!" he said triumphantly.

"You would be much more comfortable in a smoker."

"So would you. We'll take a smoker; I've got the sort of cigarette you

At the junction they got a smoker, and Miles saw to it that they had it
to themselves; he also persuaded the guard to give Meg a square wooden
box to put her feet on, because he thought the seats were too high for

It seemed a very short journey.

Major Morton was awaiting Meg when they arrived; a little gentleman
immaculately neat (it was quite clear whence Meg got her love of detail
and finish)--who looked both washed-out and dried-up. He embraced her
with considerable solemnity, exclaiming, "God bless you, my dear child!
You look better than I expected."

"Papa, dear, here is Captain Middleton, a friend from Amber Guiting. We
happened to travel together."

"Pleased to meet you, sir," said the little Major graciously; and
somehow Miles contrived in two minutes so to ingratiate himself with
Meg's "poor little papa" that they all walked out of the station
together as a matter of course.

Then came the question of plans.

Meg had shopping to do, declared she had a list as long as her arm, but
was entirely at her father's disposal as to whether she should do it
before or after lunch.

Miles boldly suggested she should do it now, at once, while it was still
fairly cool, and then she could have all her parcels sent to the station
to meet her. He seemed quite eager to get rid of Meg. The little Major
agreed that this would be the best course. He would stroll round to his
club while Meg was shopping, and meet her when she thought she would
have finished. They walked to the promenade and dropped her at Cavendish
House. Miles, explaining that he had to go to Smith's to look at a
horse, asked for directions from the Major. Their way was the same, and
without so much as bidding her farewell, Miles strolled up one of the
prettiest promenades in England in company with her father. Meg felt
rather dazed.

She prided herself on having reduced shopping to a fine art, but to-day,
somehow, she didn't get through as quickly as usual, and there was a
number of items on her list still unticked when it was time to meet her
father just outside his club at the top of the promenade.

Major Morton was the essence of punctuality. Meg flew to meet him, and
found he had waited five minutes. He was not, however, upset, as might
have been expected. He took her to his rooms in a quiet terrace behind
the promenade and comfortably near his club. The sun-blinds were down
outside his sitting-room windows, and the room seemed cool and pleasant.

Then it was that Meg discovered that her father was looking at her in
quite a new way. Almost, in fact, as though he had never seen her

Was it her short hair? she wondered.

Yet that was not very noticeable under such a shady hat.

Major Morton had vigorously opposed the nursemaid scheme. To the
sympathetic ladies who attended the same strictly evangelical church of
which he was a pillar, he confided that his only daughter did not care
for "a quiet domestic life." It was a grief to him--but, after all,
parents are shelved nowadays; every girl wants to "live her own life,"
and he would be the last man to stand in the way of his child's
happiness. The ladies felt very sorry for Major Morton and indignant
with the hard-hearted, unfilial Meg. They did not realise that had Meg
lived with her father--in rooms--and earned nothing, the Major's
delicate digestion might occasionally have suffered, and Meg would
undoubtedly have been half-starved.

To-day, however, he was more hopeful about Meg than he had been for a
long time. Since the Trent episode he had ceased even to imagine her
possible marriage. By her own headstrong folly she had ruined all her
chances. "The weariful rich" who had got her the post did not spare him
this aspect of her deplorable conduct. To-day, however, there was a rift
in these dark clouds of consequence.

Captain Middleton--he only knows how--had persuaded Major Morton to go
with him to see the horse, had asked his quite useless advice, and had
subtly and insidiously conveyed to the Major, without one single
incriminating sentence, a very clear idea as to his own feelings for the
Major's daughter.

Major Morton felt cheered.

He had no idea who Miles really was, but he had remarked the gunner tie,
and, asking to what part of the Royal Regiment Miles belonged, decided
that no mere pauper could be a Horse-Gunner.

He regarded his daughter with new eyes.

She was undoubtedly attractive. He discovered certain resemblances to
himself that he had never noticed before.

Then he informed her that he had promised they would both lunch with her
agreeable friend at the Queen's Hotel: "He made such a point of it,"
said Major Morton, "I could hardly refuse; begged us to take pity on his
loneliness, and so on--and I'm feeling rather better to-day."

Meg decided that the tide of fate was too strong for her, she must just
drift with it.

It was a most pleasant lunch, save for one incident. Lady Penelope
Pottinger and her husband, accompanied by Lottie Trent and a man, were
lunching at another table.

Lady Penelope's party came in late. Miles and his guests had already
arrived at coffee when they appeared.

They had to pass Miles' table, and Lady Penelope stopped; so did her
husband. She shook hands with Meg. Miss Trent passed by with her nose in
the air.

Miles presented his relations to the Major and they passed on.

The Major was quite pleased and rather flattered. He had no idea that
the tall young woman with Lady Penelope had deliberately cut his host.
But Meg knew just why she had done it.

After lunch Miles very properly effaced himself, but made a point of
asking the Major if he might act as Miss Morton's escort on the journey
back to Amber Guiting.

The Major graciously accompanied Meg while she did the rest of her
shopping, and in the promenade they met the Pottinger party again.

The 4.55 was crowded. Miles collected Meg's parcels and suggested to the
Major that it would be less tiring for his daughter if they returned
first-class. Should he change the tickets?

The Major thought it a sensible proposition, especially with all those
parcels. Meg would pay Captain Middleton the difference.

Again an amiable porter secured them an empty carriage. The parcels
spread themselves luxuriously upon the unoccupied seats. The Major
kissed his daughter and gave her his benediction, shaking hands quite
warmly with her "pleasant young friend."

The 4.55 runs right up to the junction without a stop. Meg took off her
best hat and placed it carefully in the rack. She leaned her bewildered
head against the cushions and closed her eyes. She would drift with the
tide just a few minutes more, and then----

Miles put a box of groceries for Lady Mary under her feet. She smiled
faintly, but did not speak.

Presently she opened her eyes to find him regarding her with that
expression she had surprised once or twice before, and never understood.

"Tired?" he asked.

"Only pleasantly. I think I've only travelled first-class about five
times in my life before--and then it was with Mr. Ross."

"And now it's with me, and I hope it's the first of many."

"You say very odd things."

"What I mean isn't in the least odd--it's the most natural thing in the

"What is?"

"To want to go on travelling with you."

"If you're going to talk nonsense, I shall go to sleep again."

"No, I don't think I can allow you to go to sleep. I want you to wake up
and face facts."


"A fact."

"Facts are sometimes very unpleasant."

"I hope the fact I want you to face isn't exactly that--if it is ...
then I'm ... a jolly miserable chap. Miss Morton--Meg--you must see how
it is with me--you must know that you're dearer to me than anything on
earth. I think your father tumbled to it--and I don't think he minded
... that I should want you for my wife."

"My poor little papa would be relieved to think that anyone could...."

"Could what?"

"Care for me ... in that way."

"Nonsense! But I'm exceedingly glad to have met your father."


"Because I wanted to meet him."

"Again, why?"

"Because he's your father."

"Did you observe that Miss Lotty Trent cut you dead at the Queen's

"I did notice it, and, like you, I wonder why."

"I can tell you."

"I don't think you'd better bother. Miss Trent's opinion of me really
doesn't matter----"

"It was because you were with me."

"But what a silly reason--if it is a reason."

"Captain Middleton, will you answer a question quite truthfully?"

"I'll try."

"What have you heard about me in connection with the Trents?"

"Not much, and that I don't believe."

"But you must believe it, some of it. It may not be so bad--as it might
have been--but I put myself entirely in the wrong. I deceived Mrs. Trent
and I did a thing no girl in her senses ought to have done."

"Look here, Meg," said Miles, leaning forward. "I don't want to know
anything you don't choose to tell me; but since you _are_ on the
subject--what did happen between you and that ... and Walter Brooke?"

Meg, too, leant forward; the express swayed and lurched. Their faces
were very near; their eyes met and held each other in a long, searching
gaze on the one side and an answering look of absolute candour on the

"I promised to go away with him, and I went away a few miles, and
something came over me that I couldn't go any further, and I broke my
promise and ran away. Jan knows it's true, for it was to them I went.
But the Trents would never believe it, though Mr. Ross saw Mrs. Trent
herself, and told her exactly what had happened. And I daresay ... they
are quite justified."

"And how many times have you seen him since?"

"Never till the other day, when he nearly ran over William."

"And how long ago is it since all this happened?"

"Nearly six years."

"Don't you think it's about time you put it all out of your mind?"

"I had put it out of my mind ... till ... you came."

"It didn't make any difference to me."

"I shall never forget that," Meg said, so low that the rattle of the
train wholly drowned her remark, but it couldn't conceal her smile.

Miles lost his head. He kneeled down plump on the floor of that
compartment and took her in his arms and kissed her.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

"All the same, I don't believe I can marry you," she said later.

"Why on earth not?"

"Because I don't think I'm a suitable wife for you."

"Surely I'm the best judge of that."

"No, you're not a judge at all. You think you're in love with me...."

"I'm hanged if I do--I _know_."

"Because you're sorry for me----"

"On the contrary, I'm sorry for myself. I think you're a hard-hearted
... obstinate ... little...."

Mr. Withells would have been scandalised at the conduct of Miles. He
would undoubtedly have described it as both "insanitary and improper."

"Oh, please listen!" Meg gasped. "Perhaps a long time hence ... if
you're still of the same mind...."

"Anyway, may I tell people?"

"Not a soul. I won't have my Jan worried just now. I've undertaken those
children ... and she's having a bad time with that brother-in-law----"

"I say, Meg, what is it about that chap Tancred? I can't stick him....
Is he a bad egg, or what?"

"He is...."

"Poor Miss Ross! But why does she have him there?"

"Oh, it's a long story--and here we are at the junction, and I'm not
going on first to Amber Guiting--so there!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Jan in the pony-cart was waiting outside when Meg came from the little
station. Captain Middleton followed in her train, laden with parcels
like a Father Christmas.

He packed her and the parcels in, covered both the ladies with the
dust-holland, announced that he had bought a charger, and waited to get
into the Manor motor till they had driven out of the station.

They neither of them spoke till they had turned into the road. Then Jan
quoted softly: "When I go to see my poor little papa, I shall go by
train _by myself_."



Hugo was dissatisfied. So far, beyond a miserable ten pounds to buy some
clothes, he had got no money out of Jan; and he was getting bored.

To be sure, he still had most of the ten pounds, for he had gone and
ordered everything in the market-town, where the name of Ross was
considered safe as the Bank of England. So he hadn't paid for anything.

Then there was that fellow Ledgard--what did he want hanging about,
pretending to fish? He was after Jan and her money, that was his game.

But however clear Peter Ledgard's nefarious intentions might be, Hugo
confessed his sister-in-law puzzled him. She wasn't nearly as much
afraid of him as he had expected. She was always gentle and courteous,
but under the soft exterior he had occasionally felt a rock of
determination, that was disconcerting.

He had ceased to harp upon the string of his desolation. Somehow Jan
contrived to show him that she didn't believe in it, and yet she never
said one word to which he could take exception.

It was awkward that his own people were all of them so unsympathetic
about the children. His father and mother declared themselves to be too
old to undertake them unless Hugo could pay liberally for their board
and for a thoroughly capable nurse. Neither of his sisters would
entertain the idea at all; and both wrote pointing out that until Hugo
was able to make a home for them himself, he would be most foolish to
interfere with the arrangements of a devoted aunt who appeared not only
willing but anxious to assume their entire maintenance.

He had told his people that his health forced him to relinquish his work
in India. His brothers-in-law, although they had no idea of the real
cause, thought there was something fishy about this, and were

Peter got at the doctor, and the doctor declared sea-air to be the one
thing necessary to insure Hugo's complete restoration to health. Jan
happened to mention that her brother-in-law's people lived in Guernsey,
close to the shore. The doctor said he couldn't do better than go and
stay with them, and that the journey wouldn't hurt him a bit.

Still Hugo appeared reluctant to leave Wren's End.

Peter came one day and demanded a business talk with him. It was a most
unpleasant conversation. Peter declared on Jan's behalf that she was
quite ready to help him to some new start in life, but that if it meant
a partnership in any rubber plantation, fruit-farm, or business of any
sort whatsoever, the money required must be paid through her lawyer
directly into the hands of the planter, farmer, or merchant concerned.

Hugo declared such an offer to be an insult. Peter replied that it was
a great deal better than he deserved or could expect; and that he,
personally, thought Miss Ross very silly to make it; but she did make
it, and attached to its acceptance was a clause to the effect that until
he could show he was in a position to maintain his family in comfort, he
was to give their aunt an undertaking that he would not interfere with
her arrangements for the welfare of the children.

"I see no reason," said Hugo, "why you should interfere between my
sister-in-law and me, but, of course, any fool could see what you're
after. _You_ want her money, and when you've married her, I suppose my
poor children are to be thrown out into the street, and me too far off
to see after them."

"Up to now," Peter retorted, "you have shown no particular desire to
'see after' your children. Why are you such a fool, Tancred? Why don't
you thankfully accept Miss Ross's generous offer, and try to make a
fresh start?"

"It's no business of yours what I do."

"Certainly not, but your sister-in-law's peace and happiness is my
business, because I have the greatest admiration, respect and liking for

"_Les beaux yeux de sa cassette_," growled Hugo.

"You _are_ an ass," Peter said wearily. "And you know very little of
Miss Ross if you haven't seen by this time ..." Peter stopped.

"Well, go on."

"No," said Peter, "I won't go on, for it's running my horses on a rock.
Think it over, that's all. But remember the offer does not remain open

"Well, and if I choose to refuse it and go to law and _take_ my
children--what then?"

"No court in England would give you their custody."

"Why not?"

"Because you couldn't show means to support them, and we could produce
witnesses to prove that you are not a fit person to have the custody of

"We should see about that."

"Well, think it over. It's your affair, you know." And Peter went away,
leaving Hugo to curse and bite his nails in impotent rage. Peter really
was far from conciliatory.

Jan needed a fright, Hugo decided; that's what she wanted to bring her
to heel. And before very long he'd see that she got it. She shouldn't
shelter herself for ever behind that supercilious beast, Ledgard. Hugo
was quite ready to have been pleasant to Jan and to have met her more
than half-way if she was reasonable, but since she had chosen to bring
Ledgard into it, she should pay. After all, she was only a woman, and
you can always frighten a woman if you go the right way about it. It was
damned bad luck that Ledgard should have turned up just now. It was
Ledgard he'd got to thank that Fay had made that infamously unjust will
by which she left the remnant of her money to her children and not to
her husband. Oh yes! he'd a lot to thank Ledgard for. Well, he wouldn't
like it when Jan got hurt. Ledgard was odd about women. He couldn't
bear to see them worried; he couldn't bear to see Fay worried,
interfered then. A blank, blank, blank interfering chap, Ledgard was.
_What Jan needed was a real good scare._

They suggested Guernsey. Well, he'd go to Guernsey, and he wouldn't go
alone. Hugo thoroughly enjoyed a plot. The twilight world that had been
so difficult and perplexing to poor Fay had for him a sort of exciting
charm. Wren's End had become dreadfully dull. For the first week or two,
while he felt so ill, it had been restful. Now its regular hours and
ordered tranquillity were getting on his nerves. All those portraits of
his wife, too, worried him. He could go into no room where the lovely
face, with youth's wistful wonder as to what life held, did not confront
him with a reminder that the wife he had left to die in Bombay did not
look in the least like that.

There were few things in his life save miscalculation that he regretted.
But he did feel uncomfortable when he remembered Fay--so trustful
always, so ready to help him in any difficulty. People liked her; even
women liked her in spite of her good looks, and Hugo had found the world
a hard, unfriendly place since her death.

The whole thing was getting on his nerves. It was time to shuffle the
cards and have a new deal.

He packed his suit-case which had been so empty when he arrived, and
waited for a day when Peter had taken Jan, Meg and the children for a
motor run to a neighbouring town. He took care to see that Earley was
duly busy in the kitchen garden, and the maids safely at the back of the
house. Then he carried it to the lodge gate himself and waited for a
passing tradesman's cart. Fortune favoured him; the butcher came up with
(had Hugo known it) veal cutlets for Hugo's own dinner. Hugo tipped the
butcher and asked him to leave the suit-case at the station to be sent
on as carted luggage to its address.

Next morning he learned that Tony was to go with Earley to fetch extra
cream from Mr. Burgess' farm.

It was unfortunate that he couldn't get any of Tony's clothes without
causing comment. He had tried the day before, but beyond a jersey and
two little vests (which happened to be little Fay's), he had been unable
to find anything. Well, Jan would be glad enough to send Tony's clothes
when he let her know where they were to be sent. Tony had changed a good
deal from the silent, solemn child he had disliked in India. He was
franker and more talkative. Sometimes Hugo felt that the child wasn't
such a bad little chap, after all. But the very evident understanding
between Jan and Tony filled Hugo with a dull sort of jealousy. He had
never tried to win the child, but nevertheless he resented the fact that
Tony's attitude to Jan and Meg was one of perfect trust and
friendliness. He never looked at them with the strange judging, weighing
look that Hugo hated so heartily.

He strolled into the drive and waited. Meg and Jan were busy in the
day-nursery, making the little garments that were outgrown so fast.
Little Fay was playing on the Wren's lawn and singing to herself:

    The fox went out one moonlight night,
    And he played to the moon to give him light,
    For he had a long way to tlot that night
    Before he could leach his den-oh.

Hugo listened for a minute. What a clear voice the child had. He would
like to have taken little Fay, but already he stood in wholesome awe of
his daughter. She could use her thoroughly sound lungs for other
purposes than song, and she hadn't the smallest scruple about drawing
universal attention to any grievance. Now Tony would never make a scene.
Hugo recognised and admired that quality in his queer little son. He did
not know that Tony already ruled his little life by a categorical
imperative of things a sahib must not do.

At the drive gate he met Earley carrying the can of cream, with Tony
trotting by his side.

"I'm going into the village, Tony, and Auntie Jan says you may as well
come with me for company. Will you come?"

Tony looked dubious. Still, he remembered that Auntie Jan had said he
must try and be kind to poor Daddie, who had been so ill and was so sad.

"All right," he said with a little sigh, and took the hand Hugo held

"He'll be quite safe with me, Earley," Hugo said with a pleasant smile.
"Miss Ross knows I'm going to take him."

Nevertheless Earley went to the back door and asked Hannah to inform her
mistress that "Mr. Tancred had taken Mazter Tony along of 'im."

Hannah was busy, and serene in her conception of Hugo as the sorrowing
widower, did not think the fact that Tony had gone for a walk with his
own father was worth a journey to the day-nursery.

"How would you like a ride down to the junction?" Hugo said. "I believe
we could just catch a train if we take the omnibus at 'The Green Hart.'
I want to make inquiries about something for Auntie Jan."

Tony loved trains; he had only been twice to the junction since he came
to Wren's End; it was a fascinating place. Daddie seemed in an agreeable
mood this morning. Auntie Jan would be pleased that he should be nice to

It all fell out as if the fates had arranged things for Hugo. They saw
very few people in the village; only one old woman accompanied them in
the bus; he heard his father ask for a ticket to the junction, and they
arrived without incident of any kind.

The junction, however, was busy. There were quite a lot of people, and
when Hugo went to the ticket-office he had to stand in a queue of others
while Tony waited outside the long row.

Suddenly Tony began to wonder why his father should go to the
ticket-office at all to inquire for a parcel. Tony was observant, and
just because everything was so different from things in India small
incidents were impressed upon his mind. If his father was going on
anywhere else, he wasn't going; for Peter had promised to take them out
in his car again that afternoon. When Hugo reached the window of the
ticket-office Tony heard something about Paddington.

That decided him. Nothing would induce him to go to Paddington.

He pushed his way among the crowd and ran for dear life up the stairs,
and over the bridge to the other platform where the train for Amber
Guiting was still waiting, lonely and deserted. He knew that train. It
went up and down all day, for Amber Guiting was the terminus. No one was
on the platform as he ran along. With the sure instinct of the hunted he
passed the carriages with their shut doors. Right at the end was a van
with empty milk-cans. He had seen a porter putting them in the moment
the train stopped. Tony darted into the van and crouched down between
the milk-cans and the wall. He thought of getting into one of them. The
story of Morgiana and the Forty Thieves was clear in his mind, for Meg
had told it to them the night before. But the cans were so high and
narrow he decided that it was impossible. Someone slammed the door of
the van. There came a bump and a jar, and the train moved out onto a
siding till it should go back to Amber Guiting when the 1.30 from London
came in. Tony sat quite still in the dark, stuffy van. His little heart
was beating with hammer strokes against his ribs, but his face expressed
nothing but scorn.

Again his father had lied to him. Again he had said he was going to do
one thing when he fully intended to do another. The pleasantness, the
kindliness, the apparent desire for Tony's society were a cheat. Tony
spoke rapidly to himself in Hindustani, and by the time he had finished
expressing his views Hugo Tancred hadn't a shred of character left.

He didn't know when the train would go back to Amber Guiting. It might
not be till evening. Tony could wait. Some time it would go back, and
once in that dear, safe place all would be well.

He disliked the sound of Paddington; it had to do with London, he knew.
He didn't mind London, but he wasn't going there with his father, and no
Meg and no Jan and no little Fay and no kind sahibs who were _real_

He was very hungry, and his eyes grew a bit misty as he thought of
little Fay consuming scones and milk at the "elevens" Meg was always so
careful they should have.

A new and troubling thought perturbed him. Did Auntie Jan know he had
gone at all? Would she be frightened? Would she get that look on her
dear face that he couldn't bear to see? That Auntie Jan loved them both
with her whole heart was now one of the fixed stars in Tony's firmament
of beliefs. He began to think that perhaps it would be better for Auntie
Jan to give his father some of her twinkly things and let him go away
and leave them in peace; but he dismissed that thought as cowardly and
unworthy of a sahib.

Oh, dear! it was very long sitting in the dark, scrunched up behind
those cans. He must tell himself stories to pass the time; and he
started to relate the interminable legend of Cocky-locky and Henny-Penny
who by their superior subtlety evaded the snares set for them by
Toddy-Loddy the fox. He felt a sort of kinship with those harried fowls.
Gradually the constant repetition of the various other birds involved,
"Juckie-Puckie, Goosie-Loosie, Turkey-lurkey and Swannie-Lonnie," had a
soothing effect, and Tony fell asleep.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile Hugo had hunted through every corner of the four platforms; he
had even gone to look for the Amber Guiting train, but was told it
always was moved on to a siding directly it had discharged its

It was mysterious, it was profoundly annoying, but it was not, to Hugo,
alarming. He suspected that Peter Ledgard was in some way mixed up in
it; that he, himself, had been shadowed and that Peter had stolen Tony
in the crowd. In his mistrustful wrath he endowed Peter with such
abnormal foresight and acumen as he certainly did not possess.

It really was an impossible situation. Hugo could not go about asking
porters and people for a lost child, or the neighbourhood would be
roused. He couldn't go back to Wren's End without Tony, or there would
be the devil to pay. He even got a porter to look in every carriage of
the side-tracked train for a mythical despatch-case, and accompanied him
in his search. Naturally they didn't seek a despatch-case in the van.

He had lost his train, but there was another, very slow, about
three-quarters of an hour later, and this he decided to take. He would
telegraph to Jan from London. Somehow he was not in the least concerned
about the fate of Tony. Peter and Peter's car had something to do with
this mysterious disappearance. He was sure of that.

Well, if this particular deal had failed, he must shuffle the cards and
deal again. In any case Jan should see that where his children were
concerned he was not to be trifled with.

He was sorry, though, he had bought the half-ticket for Tony, and to ask
them to take it back might cause comment.

As the slow train steamed out from the junction Hugo felt a very
ill-used man.

       *       *       *       *       *

At eleven o'clock Anne Chitt brought in the tray with two cups of milk
and a plate of Hannah's excellent scones.

"Please go into the kitchen garden and ask Master Tony to come for his
lunch," Jan said.

Presently Anne returned. "Master Tony ain't in the garden, miss; and
'Annah says as 'e most likely ain't back yet, miss."

"Back! Back from where?"

"Please, miss, 'Annah says as 'is pa've took him with him down the

Jan laid her sewing on the table and got up.

"Is Earley in the garden?"

"Yes, miss. I ast Earley an' 'e says the same as 'Annah. Mr. Tancred
'ave took Master Tony with 'im."

Anne went away, and Jan and Meg, who had stopped her machining to
listen, stared at each other across the table.

"I suppose they'll be back directly," Jan said uneasily. "I'll go and
ask Earley when Hugo took Tony."

"He got up to breakfast to-day for the first time," Meg remarked

Jan went out into the Wrens' garden and through Anthony's gate. She
fumbled at the catch, for her hands trembled.

Earley was picking peas.

"What time did Mr. Tancred take Master Tony?" she asked.

"Just as we got back from fetchin' the cream, miss. I should say as it
was about 'alf-past nine. He did meet us at the lodge, and took the
young gentleman with 'im for company--'e said so."

"Thank you, Earley," Jan said quietly.

Earley looked at her and over his broad, good-natured face there passed
a shade of misgiving. "I did tell Hannah to let you know the minute I
cum in, miss."

"Thank you," Jan said again; "that's quite right."

"Be you feelin' the 'eat, miss?" Earley asked anxiously. "I don't think
as you ought to be out without an 'at."

"No, I expect not. I'll go and get one."

By lunch time there was still no sign of Hugo and Tony; and Jan was
certainly as much scared as even Hugo could have wished.

Meg had been down to the village and discovered that Hugo and Tony had
gone by bus to the junction in time for the 10.23.

Peter was playing golf with Squire Walcote on a little course he had
made in some of his fields. It was impossible to go and hunt for Peter
without giving away the whole situation, and Jan was loth to do that.

She and Meg stared at one another in dismayed impotence.

Jan ordered the pony-carriage; she would drive to the junction, leaving
a note for Peter at "The Green Hart," but it was only too likely he
would lunch with the Walcotes.

"You must eat something," said Meg. "There's a train in at a quarter to
two; you'd better meet that before you go to the junction; the guard
might be able to tell you something."

At lunch little Fay wept because there was no Tony.



"After all, you know," Meg said, with intent to comfort, "no great harm
can happen to Tony. Hugo will only take the child a little way off, to
see what he can get out of you."

"It's the moral harm to Tony that I mind," Jan answered sadly. "He was
getting so happy and trustful, so much more like other children. I know
his father has got him to go away by some ruse, and he will be miserable
and embittered because he has been cheated again."

"Shall you drive to the junction if you hear nothing at the station?"

"Yes, I think so, though I've little hope of learning anything there.
You see, people come there from three directions. They couldn't possibly
notice everybody as they do at a little station like this."

"Wait," said Meg, "don't go to the junction. Have you forgotten Mr.
Ledgard was to fetch us all at half-past two? He'll run you over in his
car in a quarter the time you'd take to go with Placid, and be some use
as well. You'd better come straight back here if you get no news, and
I'll keep him till you get back if he turns up first."

By this time the pony-cart was at the door. Meg helped Jan in, kissed
her, and whispered, "Cheer up; I feel somehow you'll hear something,"
and Jan drove off. She found a boy to hold the pony when she reached the
station, and went in. The old porter was waiting for the train, and she
asked if he happened to notice her little nephew that morning.

"Yes, miss, I did see 'un along with a holder gentleman unbeknownst to

Jan walked up and down in an agony of doubt and apprehension.

The train came in. There were but few passengers, and among them was
Miles, come down again for the week-end.

He greeted Jan with effusion. Had she come to meet anyone, or was it a

To his astonishment Miss Ross broke from him and rushed at the guard
right up at the far end of the train.

The guard evidently disclaimed all knowledge of the parcel, for Miles
saw him shaking his head vigorously.

"Any other luggage, sir?" asked the old porter, lifting out Miles'

"Yes, a box of rods in the van."

The old porter went to the end of the train near where Jan had been to
the guard three minutes before.

He opened the van door and nearly tumbled backward in astonishment, for
right in the doorway, blinking at the light, stood "Miss Rass' young

"Well, I am blessed!" exclaimed the porter, and lifted him out.

Tony was dreadfully dirty. The heat, the dust, the tears he had shed
when he woke up with the putting in of luggage at the junction and
couldn't understand what had happened to him, all combined to make him
about the most miserable-looking and disreputable small boy you could
imagine. He had left his hat behind the milk-cans.

Jan had gone out of the station. She had passed Miles blindly, and her
face caused that young man to whistle softly, just once. Then he dashed
after her.

"Your haunt bin askin' for you," the old porter said to Tony. "'Peared
to me she was a bit worried-like."

Tony moved stiffly down the little station, the old porter following
with Miles' luggage on a truck.

The ticket-collector stood in the doorway. Tony, of course, had none.
"Don't you say nothin'," whispered the old porter. "'Is haunt'll make it
good; there's some sort of a misteree."

Tony felt queer and giddy. Jan, already in her little pony-trap, had
started to drive away. Miles, waiting for his baggage beside his uncle's
car, saw the dejected little figure appear in the station entrance.

He let fly a real barrack-square bellow after Jan, and she pulled up.

She looked back and saw the reason for Captain Middleton's amazing roar.

She swung the indignant Placid round, and in two minutes she was out of
the pony-trap and had Tony in her strong arms.

Miles tipped the porter and drove off. He, too, realised that there was
some sort of a "misteree," something painful and unpleasant for Miss
Ross, and that she would probably prefer that no questions were asked.

Whatever mischief could that young Tony have been after? And dared Miles
call at Wren's End that evening, in the hope of a glimpse of Meg, or
would it look inquisitive and ill-bred?

Placid turned a mild, inquiring head to discover the reason for this new

When Jan, after paying Tony's fare back from the junction, had driven
away, the old porter, the ticket-collector, and the station-master sat
in conclave on the situation. And their unanimous conclusion was summed
up by the old porter: "Byes be a mishtiful set of young varmints, an' it
warn't no job for a lone 'ooman to 'ave to bring 'em up."

The lone woman in question held her reins in one hand and her other arm
very tightly round the dirty little boy on the seat beside her.

As they drove through the village neither of them spoke, but when they
reached the Wren's End Road, Tony burst into tears.

"I _am_ so hungry," he wailed, "and I feel so nasty in my inside."

       *       *       *       *       *

As Meg was putting him to bed that night she inquired if he had done
anything with his green jersey, for she couldn't find it.

"No," Tony answered. "I haven't had it for a long time--it's been too

"It's very odd," said Meg. "It has disappeared, and so have two vests
of little Fay's that I put in the nursery ottoman to mend. Where can
they be? I hate to lose things; it seems so untidy."

"I 'spect," said Tony, thoughtfully, "my Daddie took them. He'd never
leave without takin somefin."

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a dinner-party at the Manor House. Peter had come down from
town for it, and this time he was staying at Wren's End. Lady Penelope
and her husband were to dine and sleep at the Manor, likewise Miles, who
had come down with Peter; and Lady Pen contrived thoroughly to upset her
aunt before dinner, by relating how she had met Miles with Miss Morton
and her father in Cheltenham. And poor Lady Mary had been hoping that
the unfortunate affair would die a natural death. She had asked the
prettiest girl in the neighbourhood for Miles to take in, and now,
looking down the table at him, she would have said he was as
well-pleased with his neighbour as any young man could be. The Freams
were there and Mr. Withells, the pretty girl's mamma and a bride and
bridegroom--fourteen in all. A dangerous number to ask, the Squire had
declared; one might so easily have fallen through. No one did, however,
and Peter found himself allotted to Lady Penelope, while Jan's fate was
the bridegroom. "His wife won't be jealous of Miss Ross, you know," Lady
Mary had said while arranging her couples.

It happened that Peter sat opposite to Jan, and he surveyed her across
the sweet-peas with considerable satisfaction. He had never seen Jan in
what her niece bluntly called "a nekked dless" before. To-night she wore
black, in some soft, filmy stuff from which her fine arms and shoulders
and beautiful neck stood out in challenging whiteness. Her hair, too,
had "pretty twinkly things" in it, and she wore a long chain of small
but well-matched pearls, her father's last gift to her. Yes, Jan was
undoubtedly distinguished, and oh, thank heaven! she _had_ a clean face.

Beautiful Lady Pen was painted to the eyes, and her maid was not quite
skilful in blending her complexion rightly with her vivid hair;
beautiful hair it was, with a large ripple that was most attractive, but
Mr. Withells, sitting on the other side of Lady Pen, decided that he
didn't approve of her. She was flamboyant and daring of speech. She made
him nervous. He felt sincerely sorry for Pottinger.

Peter found Lady Pen very amusing, and perhaps she rather neglected her
other neighbour.

The dinner was excellent and long; and after it the ladies, when they
left the men to smoke, strolled about on the terrace, and Jan found
herself side by side with Lady Penelope.

"How's your little friend?" she asked abruptly. "I suppose you know my
cousin's playin' round?"

Jan was a little taller than Lady Pen, and turned her head slowly to
look at her: "I'm afraid I don't quite understand," she said.

"Surely," Lady Pen retorted, "you must have seen."

"If you mean that Captain Middleton admires Miss Morton, I believe he
does. But you see, to say that anyone is 'playing round' rather reflects
on me, because she is in my charge."

"I should say you've got a pretty good handful," Lady Pen said

"I don't think you quite understand Miss Morton. I've known her, as it
happens, known her well, for close upon nine years."

"And you think well of her?"

"It would be difficult to express how well."

"You're a good friend, Miss Ross. I had occasion to think so once
before--now I'm pretty sure of it. What's the sayin'--'Time tryeth

"Troth?" Jan suggested.

"That's it. 'Time tryeth troth.' I never was any good at quotations and
things. But now, look here, I'd like to ask you somethin' rather
particular ..." Lady Pen took Jan's arm and propelled her gently down a
side-walk out of earshot of the others. "Suppose you knew folks--and
they weren't exactly friends, but pleasant, you know, and all that, and
you were aware that they went about sayin' things about a third person
who also wasn't exactly a friend, but ... well, likeable; and you
believed that what the first lot said gave a wrong impression ... in
short, was very damaging--none of it any business of yours, mind--would
you feel called upon to do anything?"

The two tall women stopped and faced one another.

The moon shone full on Lady Pen's beautiful painted face, and Jan saw,
for the first time, that the eyes under the delicately darkened eyebrows
were curiously like Miles'.

"It's always tiresome to interfere in other people's business," said
Jan, "but it's not quite fair, is it, not to stand up for people if you
believe an accusation to be untrue--whether you like them or not. You
see, it may be such a serious thing for the person implicated."

"I believe you're right," said Lady Pen, "but oh, lord! what a worry it
will be."

Lady Mary called to them to come, for the bride was going to sing.

The bride's singing was not particularly pleasing, and she was followed
by Miles, who performed "Drake's Drum," to his aunt's rather uncertain
accompaniment, in a voice that shook the walls. Poor Mr. Withells fled
out by the window, and sat on the step on his carefully-folded
handkerchief, but even so the cold stones penetrated, and he came in

And after "Drake's Drum" it was time to go home.

Jan and Peter walked back through the scented night, Peter carrying her
slippers in a silk bag, for the sternly economical Meg wouldn't hear of
wasting good suède slippers at 22s. 6d. a pair by walking half a mile in
them, no matter how dry it was.

When all the guests had gone, Lady Pen seized Miles by the arm and
implored him to take her outside for a cigarette. "That little Withells
had given her the hump."

Lady Mary said it was bed-time and the servants wanted to lock up. The
Squire and Mr. Pottinger melted away imperceptibly to smoke in peace

Lady Pen, still holding Miles in an iron grip, pulled him over to the
door, which she shut, led him back, and stood in front of Lady Mary, who
was just going to ring for the servants to shut the windows.

"Wait a minute, Aunt Mary. I've got somethin' to say, and I want to say
it before Miles."

"Oh, don't let us go into all that to-night," Lady Mary implored, "if
what you have to say has anything to do with what you told me before

"It has and it hasn't. One thing I've decided is that I've got to tell
the Trents they are liars; and the other thing is that, though I
disapprove with all my strength of the game Miles is playing, I believe
that little girl is square...."

"You see," Lady Pen went on, turning to Miles, "I've repeated things to
Aunt Mary that I heard from the Trents lately--but I heard a different
story at the time--and though I think you, Miles, are throwing yourself
away, I won't be a party to spreadin' lies. Somethin' that _poudrée_
woman with the good skin said to-night made me feel a swab----"

"I'm glad you've spoken up like this, Pen," Miles said slowly, "for if
you hadn't, we couldn't have been friends any more. I promised Meg I
wouldn't tell anybody--but I've asked her to marry me ... and though she
isn't over keen, I believe I'll get her to do it some day."

"Isn't over keen?" Lady Mary repeated indignantly. "Why, she ought to be
down on her knees with joy!"

Miles laughed. "She's not a kneeling sort, Aunt Mary. It's I who'll have
to do the kneeling, I can tell you."

Lady Pen was looking straight at her cousin with the beautiful candid
eyes that were so like his own. "Just for curiosity," she said slowly,
"I'd dearly like to know if Meg Morton ever said anything to you about
me--anything rather confidential--I won't be offended, I'd just like to

"About you?" Miles echoed in a puzzled voice.

"About my appearance, you know--my looks."

"I think she called you good-looking, like everybody else, but I don't
remember that she was specially enthusiastic. To tell you the honest
truth, Pen, we've had other things to talk about than you."

"Now listen, you two," said Lady Pen. "That little girl is straight. You
won't understand, Miles, but Aunt Mary will. Meg Morton knew I was
against her--about you, Miles--women always know these things. And yet
she held her tongue when she could have said something true that I'd
rather not have talked about. You'll hold your tongue, old chap, and so
will Aunt Mary. I've got her hair; got it on this minute. That's why
she's such a croppy."

Lady Mary sat down on the nearest chair and sighed deeply.

"It's been a real satisfaction to me, this transformation, because I
know where it came from."

Miles took his cousin's hand and kissed it. "If somebody had to have it,
I'm glad it's you," he said.

"Yes, she's straight," Lady Pen repeated. "I don't believe there's many
girls who would have kept quiet--not when the man they cared about was
being got at. You may ring now, Aunt Mary. I'm through. Good night."

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

"Do you realise," said Peter as they turned out of the dark Manor drive
into the moonlit road, "that I've been here on and off over a month, and
that we are now nearly at the end of July?"

"You've only just come to _us_," said Jan. "You can't count the time you
stayed at 'The Green Hart' as a visit."

"And now I have come ... I'm not quite sure I've done wisely,

"Unless what?"

"Unless I can put something through that I came back from India to do."

Jan did not answer. They walked on in silence, and Peter looked at the

"I think," he said, "you've always had a pretty clear idea why I came
home from India ... haven't you?"

"It was time for your leave," Jan said nervously. "It isn't good to
stay out there too long."

"I shouldn't have taken leave this year, though, if it hadn't been for

"You've always been kind and helpful to me ... I hope it hasn't been
very ... inconvenient."

Peter laughed, and stopped in the middle of the road.

"I'm fond of fencing," he said lightly, "and free play's all very well
and pretty; but I've always thought that the real thing, with the
buttons off the foils, must have been a lot more sport than anything we
get now."

Again Jan was silent.

"You've fenced with me, Jan," he said slowly, "ever since I turned up
that day unexpectedly. Now, I want a straight answer. Do you care at
all, or have you only friendship for me? Look at me; tell me the truth."

"It's all so complicated and difficult," she faltered, and her eyes fell
beneath Peter's.

"What is?"

"This caring--when you aren't a free agent."

"Free fiddlestick! You either care or you don't--which is it?"

"I care a great deal too much for my own peace of mind," said Jan.

"I am quite satisfied," said Peter. And if Mr. Withells had seen what
happened to the "sensible" Miss Ross just then, his neatly-brushed hair
would have stood straight on end.

In the road, too!


AUGUST, 1914

"No," said Jan, "it would be like marrying a widow ... with

"But you don't happen to be a widow--besides, if you were, and had a
dozen encumbrances, if we want to get married it's nobody's business but
our own."

Peter spoke testily. He wanted Jan to marry him before he went back to
India in October, and if he got the billet he hoped for, to follow him,
taking the two children out, early in November.

But Jan saw a thousand lions in the way. She was pulled in this
direction and that, and though she knew she had got to depend on Peter
to--as she put it--"a dreadful extent," yet she hesitated to saddle him
with her decidedly explosive affairs, without a great deal more
consideration than he seemed disposed to allow her.

Hugo, for the present, was quiet. He was in Guernsey with his people,
and beyond a letter in which he directly accused Peter Ledgard of
abducting Tony when his father was taking him to visit his grandparents,
Jan had heard nothing.

By Peter's advice she did not answer this letter. But they both knew
that Hugo was only waiting to make some other and more unpleasant
demonstration than the last.

"You see," Jan began again, "I've got so many people to think of. The
children and Meg and the house and all the old servants.... You mustn't
hustle me, dear."

"Yes, I see all that; but I've got _you_ to think of, and if we're
married and anything happens to me you'll get your pension, and I want
you to have that."

"And if anything happened to me, you'd be saddled with the care of two
little children who've got a thoroughly unsatisfactory father, who can
always make life hateful for them and for you. No, Peter, it wouldn't be
fair--we must wait and see how things work out."

"At present," Peter said gloomily, "it looks as if things were working
out to a fair bust-up all round."

This was on the 30th of July.

Peter went up to London, intending to return on the first to stay over
the Bank Holiday, but he did not come. He wanted to be within easy reach
of recalling cablegram.

Meg got a wire from Miles on Saturday: "Try to come up for to-morrow and
Monday I can't leave town must see you."

And half an hour after it, came a note from Squire Walcote, asking her
to accept his escort, as he and Lady Mary were going up to the
Grosvenor, and hoped Meg would be their guest.

It was during their stay in London that Lady Mary and the Squire got the
greatest surprise of their whole lives.

Miles, looking bigger than ever in uniform, rushed in and demanded an
interview with Meg alone in their private room. He showed her a special
licence, and ordered, rather than requested, that she should marry him
at once.

"I can't," she said, "it's no use asking me ... I _can't_."

"Listen; have you any objection to me?"

Meg pulled a little away from him and pretended to look him up and down.
"No ... in fact ... I love every bit of you--especially your boots."

"Have you thought how likely it is that I may not come back ... if
there's war?"

"Don't!" said Meg. "Don't put it into words."

"Then why won't you marry me, and let me feel that, whether I'm killed
or not, I've had the thing I wanted most in this world?"

"Dear, I can't help it, but I feel if I married you now ... you would
never come back ... but if I wait ... if I don't try to grasp this
wonderful thing too greedily ... it will come to us both. I _daren't_
marry you, Miles."

"Suppose I'm all smashed up ... I couldn't ask you then ... suppose I
come back minus an arm or a leg, or blind or something?"

"If the least little bit of you comes back, I'll marry that; not you or
anyone else could stop me then."

"You'd make it easier all round if you'd marry me now...."

"That's it ... I don't want it to be easier. If I was your wife, how
could I go on being nurse to those children?"

"I wouldn't stop you--you could go back to Miss Ross and do just
exactly what you're doing. I agree with you--the children are

Meg shook her head. "No; if I was your wife, it wouldn't do. As it is
... the nursemaid has got her soldier, and that's as it should be."

"Will you marry me the first leave I get, if I live to get any?"

"I'll think about that."

He gave her the ring she had refused before. Such an absurd little ring,
with its one big sapphire set with diamonds, and "no backing to it,"
Miles said.

And he gave her a very heavy brass-studded collar for William, and on
the plate was engraved her name and address.

"You see," he explained, "Miss Ross would never really have him, and I'd
like to think he was your dog. And here's his licence."

Then Miles took her right up in his arms and hugged her close, and set
her gently down and left her.

That night he asked his uncle and a brother-officer to witness his will.
He had left most of his money among his relations, but twenty thousand
pounds he had left to Meg absolutely, in the event of his being killed
before they were married.

His uncle pointed out that there was nothing said about her possible
marriage. "She'll be all the better for a little money of her own if she
does marry," Miles said simply. "I don't want her to go mourning all her
days, but I do want the capital tied up on her so that he couldn't
waste it ... if he was an unfortunate sort of chap over money."

The Squire blew his nose.

"You see," Miles went on, "she's a queer little thing. If I left her too
much, she'd refuse it altogether. Now I trust to you, Uncle Edward, to
see that she takes this."

"I'll do my best, my boy, I'll do my best," said the Squire; "but I hope
with all my soul you'll make settlements on her yourself before long."

"So do I, but you never can tell in war, you know. And we must always
remember," Miles added with his broad, cheerful smile, "there's a good
deal of target about me."

Miles wrote to the little Major, a very manly, straightforward letter,
telling him what he had done, but swearing him to secrecy as regarded

He also wrote to Jan, and at the end, he said, "I am glad she is to be
with you, because you really apreciate her."

The one "p" in "appreciate" fairly broke Jan down. It was so like Miles.

Meg, white-faced and taciturn, went back to Wren's End on Tuesday night.
The Squire and Lady Mary remained in town.

In answer to Jan's affectionate inquiries, Meg was brief and
business-like. Yes; she had seen Miles several times. He was very busy.
No, she did not expect to see him again before ... he left. Yes; he was
going with the First Army.

Jan asked no more questions, but was quietly, consistently kind. Meg
was adorable with her children and surpassed herself in the telling of

The First Army left England for Flanders with the silence of a shadow.

But Meg knew when it left.

That night, Jan woke about one o'clock, conscious of a queer sound that
she could neither define nor locate.

She sat up in bed to listen, and arrived at the conclusion that it came
from the day-nursery, which was below her room.

Tony was sleeping peacefully. Jan put on her dressing-gown and went
downstairs. The nursery door was not shut, and a shaft of light shone
through it into the dark hall. She pushed it open a little way and
looked in.

Meg was sitting at the table, making muslin curtains as if her life
depended on it. She wore her nightgown, and over it a queer little
Japanese kimono of the green she loved. Her bare feet were pillowed upon
William, who lay snoring peacefully under the table.

Her face was set and absorbed. A grave, almost stern, little face. And
her rumpled hair, pushed back from her forehead, gave her the look of a
Botticelli boy angel. It seemed to merge into tongues of flame where the
lamplight caught it.

The window was wide open and the sudden opening of the door caused a
draught, though the night was singularly still.

The lamp flickered.

Meg rested her hand on the handle of the sewing-machine, and the
whirring noise stopped. She saw Jan in the doorway.

"Dear," said Jan gently, standing where she was, half in and half out of
the door, "are you obliged to do this?"

Meg looked at her, and the dumb pain in that look went to Jan's heart.

Jan came towards her and drew the flaming head against her breast.

"I'm sorry I disturbed you," Meg murmured, "but I was _obliged_ to do

William stirred at the voices, and turning his head tried to lick the
little bare feet resting on his back.

"Dearest, I really think you should go back to bed."

"Very well," said Meg meekly. "I'll go now."

"He," Jan continued, "would be very angry if he thought you were making
curtains in the middle of the night."

"He," Meg retorted, "is absurd--and dear beyond all human belief."

"You see, he left you in my charge ... what will he say if--when he
comes back--he finds a haggard Meg with a face like a threepenny-bit
that has seen much service?"

"All right, I'm coming."

When Meg got back to her room, she went and leaned over little Fay
sleeping in the cot beside her bed. Rosy and beautiful, warm and
fragrant, the healthy baby brought comfort to Meg's stricken heart.

Perhaps--who knows--the tramp of that silent army sounded in little
Fay's ears, for she stretched out her dimpled arms and caught Meg round
the neck.

"Deah Med!" she sighed, and was still.

William stood at attention.

Presently Meg knelt down by her bed, and according to the established
ritual he thrust his head into her encircling arm.

"Pray for your master, William," Meg whispered. "Oh, William, pray for
your master as you never prayed before."

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

The strange tense days went on in August weather serene and lovely as
had not been seen for years. Young men vanished from the country-side
and older men wistfully wondered what they could do to help.

Peter came down from Saturday to Monday, telling them that every officer
and every civilian serving in India was recalled, but he had not yet
learned when he was to sail.

They were sitting in the wrens' garden with the children.

"Earley's going," Tony said importantly.

"Earley!" Jan exclaimed. "Going where?"

"To fight, of course," little Fay chimed in.

"Oh, poor dear Earley!" Jan sighed.

"Happy, fortunate Earley," said Peter. "I wish I stood in his shoes."

Earley joined the Gloucesters because, he said, "he couldn't abear to
think of them there Germans comin' anigh Mother and them childring and
the ladies; and he'd better go and see as they didn't."

Mr. Withells called the men on his place together and told them that
every man who joined would have his wages paid to his wife, and his wife
or his mother, as the case might be, could stop on in her cottage. And
Mr. Withells became a special constable, with a badge and a truncheon.
But he worried every soldier that he knew with inquiries as to whether
there wasn't a chance for him in _some_ battalion: "I've taken great
care of my health," he said. "I do exercises every day after my bath;
I'm young-looking for my age, don't you think? And anyway, a bullet
might find me instead of a more useful man."

No one laughed then at Mr. Withells and his exercises.

Five days after the declaration of war Jan got a letter from Hugo
Tancred. He was in London and was already a private in a rather famous
cavalry regiment.

"They didn't ask many questions," he wrote, "so I hadn't to tell many
lies. You see, I can ride well and understand horses. If I get knocked
out, it won't be much loss, and I know you'll look after Fay's kiddies.
If I come through, perhaps I can make a fresh start somewhere. I've
always been fond of a gamble, and this is the biggest gamble I've ever

Jan showed the letter to Peter, who gave it back to her with something
like a groan: "Even the wrong 'uns get their chance, and yet I have to
go back and do a deadly dull job, just because it _is_ my job."

Peter went up to town and two days after came down again to "The Green
Hart" to say good-bye. He had got his marching orders and was to sail in
the _Somali_ from Southampton. Some fifteen hundred civilians and
officers serving in India were sailing by that boat and the _Dongola_.

By every argument he could bring forward he tried to get Jan to marry
him before he sailed. Yet just because she wanted to do it so much, she
held back. She, too, she kept telling herself, had her job, and she knew
that if she was Peter's wife, nothing, not even her dear Fay's children,
could be of equal importance with Peter.

The children and Meg and the household had by much thinking grown into a
sort of Frankenstein's monster of duty.

Her attitude was incomprehensible to Peter. It seemed to him to be
wrong-headed and absurd, and he began to lose patience with her.

On his last morning he sought and found her beside the sun-dial in the
wrens' garden.

Meg had taken little Fay to see Lady Mary's Persian kittens, but Tony
preferred to potter about the garden with the aged man who was trying to
replace Earley. William was not allowed to call upon the kittens, as
Fatima, their mother, objected to him vehemently, and Tony cared to go
nowhere if William might not be of the party.

Peter came to Jan and took both her hands and held them.

"It's the last time I shall ask you, my dear. If you care enough, we
can have these last days together. If you don't I must go, for I can't
bear any more of this. Either you love me enough to marry me before I
sail or you don't love me at all. Which is it?"

"I do love you, you know I do."

"Well, which is it to be?"

"Peter, dear, you must give me more time. I haven't really faced it all.
I can't do anything in such a hurry as that."

Peter looked at her and shook his head.

"You don't know what caring is," he said. "I can't stand any more of
this. Do you see that motto on the sun-dial: 'I bide my time'--I've read
it and read it, and I've said it over to myself and waited and hoped to
move you. Now I can't wait any more."

He kissed her, dropped her hand, and turning from her went out through
the iron gate and down the drive. For a moment Jan stood by the sun-dial
as though she, too, were stone.

Then blindly she went up the steps into the empty nursery and sat down
on an old sofa far back in the room. She leaned face-downward against
the cushions, and great, tearing sobs broke from her.

Peter was gone. He would never come back. She had driven him from her.
And having done so she realised that he was the one person in the world
she could not possibly do without.

Tony's own hen had laid an egg. Carrying it very carefully in a
cabbage-leaf, he went, accompanied by the faithful William, to show it
to Auntie Jan, and was just in time to see Peter going down the drive.

He went through the wrens' garden and in by the window. For a moment he
didn't see his aunt; and was turning to go again when a strange sound
arrested him, and he saw her all huddled up at the head of the sofa,
with hidden face and heaving shoulders.

He laid his egg on the table and went and pulled at her arm.

"What is the matter?" he asked anxiously. "And why has Peter gone?"

Jan raised her head; pride and shame and self-consciousness were dead in
her: "He's gone," she sobbed. "He won't come back, and I shall never be
happy any more," and down went her head again on her locked arms.

Tony did not attempt to console her. He ran from the room, and Jan felt
that this was only an added pang of abandonment.

Down the drive ran Tony, with William galumphing beside him. But William
was not happy, and squealed softly from time to time. He felt it unkind
to leave a poor lady crying like that, and yet was constrained to go
with Tony because Meg had left him in William's charge.

Tony turned out of the gate and into the road.

Far away in the distance was a man's figure striding along with
incredible swiftness. Tony started to run all he knew. Now, seldom as
William barked, he barked when people ran, and William's bark was so
deep and sonorous and distinctive that it caused the swiftly striding
man to turn his head. He turned his body, too, and came back to meet
Tony and William.

Tony was puffed and almost breathless, but he managed to jerk out: "You
must go back; she's ... crying dreadful. You _must_ go back. Go quick;
don't wait for us."

Peter went.

       *       *       *       *       *

Jan very rarely cried. When she did it hurt fiercely and absorbed all
her attention. She was crying now as if she would never stop. If people
seldom cry it has a devastating effect on their appearance when they do.
Jan's eyelids were swollen, her nose scarlet and shiny, her features all
bleared and blurred and almost scarred by tears.

Someone touched her gently on the shoulder, and she looked up.

"My dear," said Peter, "you must not cry like this. I was losing my
temper--that's why I went off."

Jan sprang to her feet and flung her arms round his neck. She pressed
her ravaged face against his: "I'll do anything you like," she
whispered, "if you'll only like it. I can't stand by myself any more."

This was true, for as she spoke her knees gave under her.

Peter held her close. Never had Jan looked less attractive and never had
Peter loved her more, or realised so clearly how dear and foolish and
wise and womanly she was.

"You see," she sobbed, "you said yourself everyone _must_ do his job,
and I thought----"

"But surely," said Peter, "I _am_ your job--part of it, anyway."

Jan sobbed now more quietly, with her head against his shoulder.

Tony and William came and looked in at the window.

His aunt was still crying, crying hard, though Peter was there close
beside her, very close indeed.

Surely this was most unreasonable.

"She said," Tony remarked accusingly to Peter, "she was crying because
you had gone, so I ran to fetch you back. And now I _have_ fetched you,
she's crying worse nor ever."

But William Bloomsbury knew better. William had cause to know the
solitary bitter tears that hurt. These tears were different.

So William wagged his tail and ran into the room, jumping joyously on
Peter and Jan.

[Transcriber's Note:

The following corrections were made:

p. 44: Daddy to Daddie, to match all other occurrences (Daddie was very

p. 113: log to long (long grey dust-cloak)

p. 113: froward to forward (Anthony came forward)

p. 118: bread-an-butter to bread-and-butter (several pieces of

p. 152: minunte to minute (pondered this for a minute)

p. 284: quit to quick ("I came as quick as I could,")

p. 318: fluttered to flattered (rather flattered)

Inconsistencies in hyphenation (e.g. country-side vs. countryside) have
not been changed. All dialect and "baby talk" has been left as in the
original. Two different types of thought breaks were used in the
original: extra whitespace between paragraphs (represented by 5 spaced
asterisks in this text) and a line of 8 spaced asterisks (left as in the
original.) Ellipses match the original, even when inconsistent. The
exception is when they occur at the end of a paragraph, where they are
always accompanied by a period.]

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Jan and Her Job" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.